Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Blank Noise Project

My Blank Noise Project Blogathon post is way overdue - so here it is.

The Project is based on (or rather, against) sexual harassment, or ‘eve-teasing’ as it is euphemistically known in India. Being a guy, I haven’t had too much first hand experience of the same, but I do have plenty of opinions nevertheless.

India ranks quite high on the global country wise list for number of sexual harassment cases. On par with some of the worst countries in the world in this respect. I am not going to quote any figures, but it’s evident that for a woman India isn’t the safest country in the world. Almost any Indian woman would assure you of this much. And so would a lot of the foreign tourists in the country. Most Western female tourists, who are traveling to India alone, are advised before they leave to wear a fake wedding ring and carry a photo of themselves with a man and a kid. And while pretending to be married like this might put off someone who starts to show too much unwanted interest in you, it will do little about the constant stares and unnecessary brushes and touches you will receive on the bus or even the sidewalk.

In order to counter this, or at least make a pretense of doing so, most Indian women are either advised to or coerced into taking defensive action. Wear clothes that are less revealing, don’t go out alone after dark, avoid looking at strangers in the eye, travel by a special car on trains which is reserved only for ladies, don’t talk to strangers, etc. This isn’t really taking on the problem at hand. It’s just finding an ad hoc solution to help you handle an unpleasant situation in front of you.

To understand how the entire problem can be improved in a constructive manner, one needs to understand the cause of the problem to begin with. Why do Indian men behave in this way? Sure, men in other countries are no saints either - some better, some worse - but let’s just take a look at India for now. There are two main reasons, in my opinion, for this behavior of Indian men.

The first reason is that India in general (and Indian men in particular) are, to use a term that I first came across on Vikrum’s blog, ‘sexually repressed’. What do I mean by this? I mean that sex and all topics related to it have become so taboo in India, that most Indians do not have a proper means of releasing their sexual feelings. There is also a huge deal of ignorance in matters related to the topic in India. So, when a thus sexually repressed man sees an opportunity for cheap thrills by grabbing the ass of the woman in front of him in a crowd, he does it. I am not defending him, only trying to put forth possible causes for the action.

The second important reason is that Indian society has for quite some time been one that looks down upon women. It’s a thoroughly male-dominated society, where women are denigrated, considered inferior and even unsuitable for certain tasks. Indian daughters are either killed before (or sometimes at) birth, or are made to feel inferior to their male siblings. Often it’s not just their male relatives but even their own mothers that are responsible for this. I can’t really blame them, society has ingrained it into them. But I can’t totally forgive them either.

By the time she grows up, an Indian girl has already been told quite clearly what her role in society is. Or at least what it’s supposed to be. The few who try to buck the trend and swim against the tide, soon realize that this isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Some give up, others fight on. With the odds always against them. I respect such people. Society, unfortunately, more often than not doesn’t.

And when one lives in a society that is this biased against women, it is fairly obvious that men will start trying to use women in whatever ways they can to satisfy themselves, without really thinking much about how the woman might feel. So even though he knows that his pressing himself against the woman next to him on the bus makes the woman feel uncomfortable and unpleasant, but he does it anyway because he figures that he is more important than her.

How do we go about combating this? Do we, as a society, become stricter? I think we need to go about it the other way. We need to become more liberal! We need to do away with the taboo on sex related matters as soon as we can. We need to stop acting like hypocritical prudes and claim that anything that has to do with sex and sexual liberation goes against the ‘Indian’ culture! India needs sexual liberation and pronto! Things are moving to a very slight extent in that direction, but far too slowly. And they’re also getting worse at the same time. It’s a case of ‘one step foward, two steps back’.

Some months ago, I had written this post, in which I spoke about Iceland. Like I said then, Iceland has one of the most liberal societies in the world, and the frequency of crimes against women is almost nil. Why? Not because they have strict laws against all of it! But because they are sexually liberated. There’s no pent-up sexual tension in them that releases itself in pathetic ways like sexual harassment. India would do well to try and follow suit.

18 comments:

KT said...

Why the fuck do you make everything about India? If you didnt know, the Blank Noise Project is NOT about bashing India.
:-(

Arnold said...

kt - i'm not bashing anything but sexual harassment.

MaK-D said...

okay flip side of the coin....teenage pregnancy may go up and the chances that most girls will end up being sluts...guys are anyway born sluts...

Arnold said...

mak-d - teenage pregnancy need not go necessarily go up, if proper precautions are taken... and i'm not sure wht exactly u mean by the term "slut"?

MaK-D said...

well slut is a sexually immoral female...basically sleeps with every guy in sight ...things will become kinda like in other countries....just have to decide whether we want that or not... like every thing else sexual liberation has ts pros and cons...
which comes out on top...wait and watch

Arnold said...

mak-d - yes, it does have it's pros and cons, and i think the former outweigh the latter. you're right, one does have to think about wht one wud consider immoral... but i think those decision need to be made by individuals themselves and not by the government or any other body... and we need to respect everyone else's right to make their own call on that...

KT said...

So even though he knows that his pressing himself against the woman next to him on the bus makes the woman feel uncomfortable and unpleasant, but he does it anyway because he figures that he is more important than her.

Not quite. I don't think a molestor has such thoughts. Its about carnal gratification, plain and simple. The superiority complex that you speak of probably does play a part, but not the way you describe it.

Arnold said...

kt - hmmm.. maybe not.. but the important point is tht it does play a part.

ishita said...

ummm...talkin and being open abt sex will leave more girls pregnant???...

i rem (and i can only cite personal examples) wen i ws a teen and my mom talked to me abt sex...she talked abt safe sex! of owning up...of being responsible for my actions...she said it simply...it'll feel so good;-)...but this is what it comes along with...etc etc...(it was a longg talk and i had questions galore!)...

she made a lot of sense to me...and i think more parents talking about it...will make a difference...(i know in couple of years from now i will be having a similar conversation with my son too)....

but arnold u have a point abt the conditioning of the male psyche here...(or anywhere!)...and sadly, it has nothing to do with what women wear...how they luk...their marital status....it's about men wanting to satisfy their urge...

Arnold said...

ishita - exactly, like i said earlier, "being more open about sex" need not necessarily increase teen pregnancies if done correctly. that's the important thing - to do it right.

and yeah, bringing sex out into the open should hopefully reduce that pent-up "urge" that you are referring to... which can only be a good thing...

the wannabe indian punkster said...

I totally agree with you.
I kinda think good SEX education is long overdue in Indian schools.
There is no sex education in schools and girls and guys mingling is considered close to a crime( I know its ridiculous) in most schools AND to top it off the movies we watch show the hero first harassing the girl horribly with his cronies, and then she falls in love with him because hes so MACHO!
These are some of the basic reasons affecting the "street harasser's" psyche.
Obviously the "eve-teaser" becomes so desparate, he resorts to groping/pinching/whatever in public.
We should deal with this in a grassroots level. If education statrts in middle school...wouldnt it be better?
After all it all boils down to RESPECT for a woman dosent it?
cheers!
Megha

FateGlimpse said...

the problem in non-sexually liberated countries is that women are objectified, to be used whenever, wherever, however. feelings just don't matter, except (hopefully) when the woman in question happens to be related to you. it's disheartening to see that even today, women are used like mere props in adverts, movies, music videos,etc. the situation's stuck in a slippery rut, you inch forward a bit, and slip back to square one. it hasn't changed for decades and it's not going to change very soon.
what's heartening is that the current educated class is protesting against these violations more robustly. one way of capitalising on this is to spread the message. even a regular discussion with peers on sexual harassment rather than sex could make a small difference. the educated males need to be vociferous about their stand on this topic. and girls be aware, be prepared, and fight.

Arnold said...

megha - amen to tht!

fateglimpse - amen to you as well!

read my latest post on the matter though...

nina said...

i soooo agree with u...forget actual sex..even talkin bout it is taboo here...if people talk bout it i dont think that there would be so much pent up feeling shit...if parents n kinds were more open to discussing this and if sex education actually happened here then i think things would change for the better...also people need to be sensitised to the other gender...both need to be seen as equals...one is not over the other!!

Arnold said...

nina - that's exactly what we need.. more talk and sex education...

nina said...

ya...but try tellin ppl here that...they jumped on khushboo's throat for sayin have safe sex if u havin sex!!! (bangs head against wall!!!)

Arnold said...

nina - u know, i used to think tht chennai would hv been quite progressive in such matters... but i feel the past few months have changed my opinion quite a bit... sad but true.. :(

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