To stare or not to stare?

A recent video(read: sting operation) posted by Youth Ki Awaaz concerning a young woman walking around CP in a pair of shorts and a shirt has sparked a great deal of debate as to what the video really conveyed. Some say the woman went through a horrific ordeal and it is a video bound to scare women all over the country, while some merely question the relevance of it all. In the video, we see some men steal a glance at her, while some stare for longer than necessary and “check her out”, in a creepy, shudder-worthy way. But the question is: are we overreacting?

I’m an averagely attractive girl living in Delhi. I know how it feels to be stared and ogled at and, simply, to feel unsafe in one’s own skin.

But to be honest, people look at people. People notice people. People stare at people. It is one thing to ogle, another to stare(refer to a dictionary). One could stare out of appreciation, one could stare out of wonder, one could stare out of disgust, one could stare lecherously. It is only the latter that classifies as “ogling”.

Yes, they look. Yes, some stare. Yes, you feel like throwing your pair of stilettos at their transfixed faces. Yes, we DEFINITELY have to teach our men not to ogle. That goes without question. But how about if we introspect and learn to differentiate between a passing glance and a lingering stare, eh?

Firstly, you have to realise if you want to wear attire that is even the slightest bit revealing or even if it simply makes you look good, PEOPLE WILL LOOK. It’s human nature! Whether in our country or abroad, you will be noticed, maybe in an appreciative way, maybe in a lustful way. It happens everywhere. You have pretty legs and want to wear shorts, well, be prepared to be noticed! And stop complaining ’cause people look. That’s what they DO. You’d look at a cute guy with his abs bulging against his well-fitted t-shirt, wouldn’t you? Heck, you’d stare too. Even if with more subtlety.

Similarly, had the men in question been “good looking” and better dressed, the woman in question would feel valued; she’d feel like she’d been taken notice of. She’d think of it as a compliment. And she would’ve returned the glance. Maybe an exchange of smiles would’ve taken place as well. It wouldn’t have been creepy at all.

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Staring at someone doesn’t exactly objectify them. We have to remember the underlying nature of our society. A few years back, seeing a young woman in shorts in a marketplace was a novelty, even in Delhi. It is only in recent times that horizons have expanded, that people have started accepting “western” wear, that parents have started allowing their daughters to wear summer dresses. I know a lot who still don’t, and they are well-off, perfectly modern families. Indian culture, even with the permeation of Bollywood into all spheres of life, is still uncomfortable with shorts and short skirts i.e. legs visible in any form. Yes, the mindset MUST be changed, the people MUST be educated and reprimanded. But more than calling them rapists, how about focusing on teaching them some manners? After all, we were taught in school that to stare was socially incorrect, and hence, we refrain from it. How do you propose to change in such a short time span, the mindset/behaviour/habits of more than a Billion people, most of which do not live/have not grown up in Urban cities and are not used to the life we privileged few lead? What Indian men(and women, too. A LOT of them) lack is common courtesy and decent social behavior, which is what they need to be taught.

Such change can’t happen overnight. It will take time. It has already begun.

It is worth remembering that it is the masses that make up any country/institution. As for India, the people we see fighting for what they want to wear, where and when they want to go etc. are the privileged few who can afford to even think of it. There are women in this country who would rejoice wearing a Burkha their entire life if only it would get them out of the families they are in, the households, the villages. There are such atrocities committed against women in this country that would render this whole discussion irrelevant.

I do not mean to say that the men in this video were not creepy; some of them sure as hell were! But instead of calling every man who notices a female’s presence a rapist, learn to distinguish between the (male)victims and the real threats. Focus on the bigger picture and fight for change and education. Behavioural reforms will follow in their own good time.

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16 thoughts on “To stare or not to stare?

  1. Article like this would be an appropriate definition if one chose to debate this topic. Was it right for the ‘Sub-Editor’ of Youth Ki Awaaz to raise a delicate issue for one section and controversial for the other in such an ignorant way?
    War of words was unnecessary on YKA.

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    1. The issue in itself is real; it is a problem women face every single day, every moment they spend outside their homes. It happens, we get it. But oh for God’s sake, stop calling it “mental rape”. They behave as though it’s limited only to India and men don’t have the right to notice a woman. Feminism is all fine, but people forget what it’s really about and immaturely fight over unnecessary issues.

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  2. Agreed Rads.
    Every man knows it happens. Change is needed. But you and I -people who know the difference between right /wrong know what to do.
    Millions don’t. You put up a very good point.

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  3. Finally someone who has raised written alot of sense… Thank you.
    “If she shows, she means look…if she covers she means look away!!” -E.Siddiqui

    If a girl is actually wearing a deep-neck while her cleavage is clearly visible..she is completely doing that for men to notice….Im sure her reason is not for fresh air to go in when the temperature is less than 20 degrees!!
    For eg if i drive a ferrari i will definitely wanna drive around, showing it off and not covering its body!! 😀 (just a thought..i don’t own one )

    A desi grows up watching Bolly movies where the heroine looks all hot n sexy… he must have rewinded a love scene 10 times when his parents are away… then he gets to see hot women on the streets… he will eventually look cause this is live…mind will say lottery..lottery..lottery!! (FYI, titanic was the only movie i watched alone 😀 )

    On the other hand its not important that a girl’s attire leads to a rape. Rape is performed by unethical people who need to be castrated once they are done with their inhuman acts!!

    A gurl will ‘show’ if she wishes to and we may glance or look….lets keep the stares for our girlfriends/wives…!!

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    1. Haha, yes. Everyone wants to be noticed when they look good, particularly by the opposite sex(or the same, idk). But the line between wanted and unwanted attention blurs at many places and differs from person to person.

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  4. Ah !! the much needed sense which was absent in the video is thankfully available in these words :p
    Thankyou so much for being a part of this never ending battle and this attempt to restore the sense and balance is highly appreciated.

    I very well know how bad the situation is when anybody stares at you because I have been on the receiving end sometimes. I’m a photographer with shoulder length hair and 7 months old beard so I do not fit in the “normal” category of guys according to many. I have noticed girls and men staring at me whenever I board a metro. Maybe they might find my look funny or whatever but many a times a particular person wont stop scanning me top to bottom. I’m not being a self proclaimed hot dude in town but that scan bothers me when I’m just being myself and doing nothing to offend them. So I enjoy scaring them by staring back for double the time they did.

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  5. I love this article Aradhana. I have lived in India and I am currently lving in Canada. There are a lot of guys who look at girls here too. And then there are those that ogle at them. It is the same thing and it happens everwhere. I look at girls sometimes too. When I see a girl that is exceedingly beautiful or I think that she is someone I would like talk to, it just happens. There are also guys who ogle stupidly with drool(not really) pouring out of their mouths and I can see how that can be uncomfortable.
    I like how you pointed out that it automatically becomes acceptable to some women when it is an attractive guy that is looking at you. It becomes something to brag about and tell your friends. Just by doing that, they are implying a contradiction to their staunch feminist beliefs. Extremism of any kind is silly. Even if it concerns feminism. We’re humans. We are silly and imperfect no matter how good we can be, People forget to take that into account.

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    1. Precisely! People forget the human factor and form this Utopia where nobody looks at anyone except with a George Clooney-ish smile. Everyone is not the same; all our minds function differently. There may be some creepos out there who deserve to be kicked in the right places but that doesn’t mean we need to generalize it to all men, and limit it to Indian men in particular.
      We have the absolute right to our thoughts and opinions, as long as they do not hurt anybody.

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  6. Well written and video like this seems to humiliate the whole community of male.Girls also stare at boys but nobody make an issue about that…

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