Thursday, March 08, 2007

Calling all men

I speed-read falstaff' s post here and I mostly agree. Sitting back and saying women "shouldn't have to suffer" is idealistic, and doesn't help. Solutions have to be sought or better defined. Obviously, it's easier said than done, and it's a still-evolving movement. The protests/making noise are but ways of empowerment- since the struggle is largely about that.

However, I see more efforts by men (in the form of long, well-thought rants, for example) at fault-finding in the ways that women protest, and very little to actually eliminate/reform the root cause. Sexist as it might sound, such posts seem almost "armchair-critic-esque" to me . It would be ideal if well-intentioned progressive men actually went out and tried to , for example, educate the male population at large. How come that never happens? How come all the flaws are pointed out in the ways of protest, the terms of protest, but nobody discusses as passionately the education of and/or punishment to the perpetrators? (besides those feminists shouting hoarse, of course)

Women are constantly fighting the problem, and yes, they have not arrived at the most fool-proof, ideal, balanced solutions, but you can't blame them. And while constructive criticism and calling out extreme approaches is as important, give women the credit to realise the errors in their approaches as they go along, and fix them. Meanwhile, fuel your efforts towards addressing the root cause, not the victims. I'd love to see lots of strong, open minded men taking to the streets and protesting against sexual harassment, picking out the offenders in public, raising their voice every time they witness an act, and thus show their support. Not only in telling the women where and how their protests are wrong or what words to keep or remove from their slogans. How is that helping? I look forward to the day a blogathon would link posts by men where they detail how they raised their voice against sexual harassment in public, in their real life. Utopian idealism?

20 comments:

shub said...

"I look forward to the day a blogathon would link posts by men where they detail how they raised their voice against sexual harassment in public, in their real life"
Very very idealistic sweetheart. For now, I'd be happy if just one guy, on his own volition raises his voice when he sees another making a lewd comment/gesture to woman /eve-tease etc in a crowded bus/train/on a road whatever, and not assume that it'll stop, or wait until the woman in question raises her voice. That'll be the day!

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

shub,
yeah, that will indeed be a start.

Anonymous said...

Women's Day especial??

witnwisdumb said...

"I'd be happy if just one guy, on his own volition raises his voice when he sees another making a lewd comment/gesture to woman /eve-tease etc in a crowded bus/train/on a road whatever" - I've already seen that happen, in fact on three separate occasions, and I'm quite surprised that you have never witnessed anything like that. I guess that sort of explains why many women believe all men are evil - they probably have never seen otherwise.

On one occasion, I was on a bus in the middle section, when something happened in the rear section. I'm not sure what the offender did, but a young woman who was standing next to the (seated) offender, had obviously gone red in the face. The odd part is, she hadn't made a noise, but a middle aged man sitting nearby started asking the offender what the hell he thought he was doing, whether he had any manners, and whether he had a mother(?!).

It snowballed into a big argument, and the offender ended up getting slapped and beaten by the old man, and even the conductor threatened to throw him out of the bus.

Falstaff said...

Just out of curiosity, can I take it that if I'd been a woman and had written that post you would have been whole-heartedly supportive? So the fact that I'm a guy somehow disqualifies me from being able to contribute in ways that you yourself agree are sensible? And why exactly is it so difficult for you to separate the logic of an argument from the person making it?

Look, I'd love to be able to say I've seen a woman being harassed and done something about it. Except I haven't, because the situation has never arisen. Maybe it's because I didn't get out much when I was in India and almost never used public transport. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the kind of perverts who harass women are careful about not trying anything unless the victim is alone or isolated. At any rate, I've never been in a position to stand up to a perp (though I certainly remember hearing guys in college brag about how they caught someone who was harassing women and gave him hell, so I'm reasonably sure it happens). Perhaps this makes me an armchair-critic. How does that make any of what I'm saying less valid?

Falstaff said...

P.S. I'm not sure what you mean by educating perpetrators. If we could identify them, we would punish them, no?

shub said...

@witwisndumb, "I've already seen that happen, in fact on three separate occasions, and I'm quite surprised that you have never witnessed anything like that." That is heartening indeed. From all the instances that I've been at the receiving end in, and from the stories I've heard from friends and read of eve-teasing, I'm sorry I can only say what you mentioned is more an exception than the norm.
Hats off really to the men who actually stand up and so something about it...may their tribe increase.
No, I don't think all men are evil. That would be crass generalisation. Yeah quite a nice percentage of them are sick pervs though.

@TGFI, sorry about ranting here

Basanti said...

Female foeticide, domestic violence, sexual harrassment.. all of this is prevalent in India (I will talk about India, and not the rest of the world).

This is the urban, educated India of 2007.

I've read articles where people in metros harass the daughter in law for dowry, and force her to go for sex determination of the unborn child.. and if the child is a girl, they either force her to go for abortion, or if she sticks by her decisions, she is ill-treated, and often physically abused. All this in educated families.

I recently read about a woman who had to go through all this, and surprisingly, her father in law is a Superintendent in Police or some such Law keeper. The girl has now given birth to her baby girl, and has filed a complaint against her in-laws.

I am not sure what point I am trying to tell here, but it is just disgusting to live in this society which is full of hypocrites.

More than education, it is the awareness and sensitivity that is needed.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

anony,
no, just rant.

witsnsumb
thats great. you are right, i haven't seen that many. i have seen a few, though, but as shub said, they are more rare. and no, i am not saying "all men are evil" - i am exhorting those men that are clearly supportive to go that extra length to do their bit.

falstaff,
I already support your argument, that the movement must go beyond where it is at right now- and i support it coming from you, a guy. I do not deem you less qualified in making those observations. I just think that the fault-finders of womens' movements, BNP, what-have-you seem to dwell on the inadequacies of such movements- nobody talks about reforming the general public. What I mean by that is it is not enough to wait for an event to occur to punish them- surely a bigger change in attitude, sensitivities, awareness is required, but i seldom see posts on those.

Armchair critics could also be right in their criticisms-
why men are "armchair critics" and women are not? well- in general, women deal with this issue on a daily basis, men, if affected by it, are only indirectly so.(in general). so i do not discount your points because you are a man. i think that men can do much more to show their support beyond finding faults with projects such as BNP.

shub,
rant away.

basanti,
yeah. thanks, sensitivity, awareness are better words than "education".

Rebellion said...

Dunno about other countries but will such a day ever come in India? Negativity creeps in much faster out here! Lets just hope for the best.. Amen!

KK said...

@ reform :

Instead of turning these issues into a male / female thing, might it not be a more prosaic endeavour if every female were to approach each harassment instance on its own merit ( or demerit for that matter ) and handles it effectively then and there itself, carrying no emtional baggage therefrom?

It might not be the exact equivalent, but consider a Southie male having to travel through mofussil towns in UP / Bihar or Haryana / Punjab - the guy has a tough time from the local males. If the Southie is of the same disposition as most of the harassed females are, you end up with the guy waxing ineloquently about the aggression / hostility / violence of the average Northerner and the misery of existince of someone as "cultured" as he in those states. If, however, he takes charge, there is rarely any residual issue.

I have not read Falstaff's post, but we have yet to see females effectively take charge of such situations. Maybe it is just a characteristic of the present day transition in the gender equations - females are jumping the gun at Assertion of their selves / identities ( at least verbally ), but they are yet to take the step of actually taking control of such situations.

My point? Females who take charge have two distinct advantages - "harassment by males" is not as much of a gender issue as for the others and they tend to send out no-nonsense vibes ( which works wonderfully well ).

?

Neihal said...

First things first
Yeh lavang latika kya hoti hai...kabhi nahi suna...but sounds bhery tasty :D

haan ab about this post...
yup.....very utopian and very idealist.....but thats good for a start....I think if we wish to improve things...we will have to make the next woman around us stronger and aware...if we all can do that....it wil help.
what say you ?
:)

Neihal said...

dibbe ka nahi, mithai ka fotu dekhane ka hai..!!

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

aarti,
i think there are a good number of men who do not support sexual harassment. They need to be more vociferous in public. and sexual harassment is not confined to areas where these men do not make an appearance, I am sure.

kk,
It is hard to not turn an issue of sexual harassment into a male/female thing, but perhaps that is the more objective way of looking at it.
However, I am not sure how, as a woman, (especially living in a crowded city in India and taking public transport everyday) I can simply handle the overtures effectively on a day to day basis and move on without "carrying emotional baggage". It is exactly thoughts like that that imply that the harassment is going to go on, we just have to learn to deal with it. I don't agree.

I also don't agree that females do not "Effectively take charge". I have witnessed and practised all kinds of "taking charge"- shouting back, ignoring, etc. etc. It works sometimes, sometimes it doesn't. Which again means that the root cause needs to be addressed.

neihal,
http://living.oneindia.in/cookery/sweet-tooth/indian-sweets/lavang-latika.html
a bit late to post the photos of the mithai. ;)
Yes, I agree, women empowering other, younger women is always good.

KK said...

Hmmm...putting it lightly - Dogs chase cats ( I have a dog and pretty big fellow too :) till they get clawed.

The reason for pointing this out is that you do see some women, especially up north, who deal with men and their overtures quite "effectively" as I mentioned. And some of them even manage to develop a sense of humour about the whole thing ( regardless of how serious the issue might be ). It is just that they do not feel as ill-equipped to deal with such situations as most seem to do...

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

again, i don't think it is an issue of feeling "ill-equipped". i think most women learn to deal with these effectively- it is survival skill, and given the recalcitrant general population of offenders, one has no choice but to learn to deal with it.

i don't believe that that should mean we stop complaining. "Effectively dealing" doesn't seem to stop the offenders from continuing to harass others. and harassment spans a large spectrum, some that can be laughed off, and others, more tragic and more gory. the victims also span a large spectrum- older women who've learned to "Deal with it" and an innocent 8 year old girl being subjected to her first encounter of sexual harassment. why should that happen? and why shouldn't they be questioned?

Supremus said...

Interesting. Why only on woman's day do both men and women come up with such posts :-). Somehow I haven't read enough posts about women who've faced such a situation - everyone of course seems to write about "someone else" who's lived through it and how it is so wrong bla bla...

Sorry, I have actually not met women in my life who (a) have faced such situations or (b) who've not had the guts to stand right up and kick the guys in their balls.

S

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

I think the BNP blogathon links tons of personal accounts. go read them if you aren't convinced.

Sorry, I have actually not met women in my life who (a) have faced such situations or (b) who've not had the guts to stand right up and kick the guys in their balls.

little confused here: a and b are not mutually exclusive- you've had to have met someone who faced such a situation to know that they had the guts to kick the guy, right?

Atticus Finch said...

Thinkin of a nice excuse and can muster none... Good post. Really sets one thinking...

Jai_Choorakkot said...

It can be difficult.

I have seen a couple of incidents where a guy bumped into a girl and walked away really fast. Nobody could react, and it was hard to tell even whether it was deliberate. Only the girl would know where she was touched.

Another time, a bus conductor boarded from the front entrance (reserved for ladies) with some double-entendre comments to the hapless ladies crowded there.

It would have been difficult to challenge him; he would have claimed that he was in single -entendre mode and *you* were sick to think otherwise.

But it was sickening to watch other guys in the bus listening to and enjoying his harassment.

I think clear or sustained violation will not go unpunished especially if the lady flags an objection but I am not confident with the memory of those leering few in the bus that day.

regards,
Jai