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.
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.