Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sexual Harassment

A group of bloggers in India have come up with a commendable blog-a-thon initiative called the Blank Noise Project. The idea is to get as many bloggers as possible to write about sexual-harrassment-on-the-streets and post it by Tuesday, 7th March. It is hoped that the coming together of so many different voices - cutting across gender, race, culture, language and countries - will, somehow, raise greater awareness of the problem as it exists, and succeed in painting sexual harassment for what it really is - a criminal offence.

It's a great idea but the problem is, the boundary lines of sexual harassment are not clearly defined as we would like it to be, and this creates its own difficulties. If one has to define it as a criminal activity, then, one has to know the (immoral) parametres within which it resides. Not an easy task if one probes the issue under a microscope and ask some unsettling questions.

Where does admiring a girl end and sexual harassment actually begin? What is that thin line that divides the terribly romantic from the hopelessly depraved? When does a seemingly innocent touch become a humiliating gesture? Why do women erect these barricades of self-defense when a man looks at them admiringly? And why - on earth - do men inspire such low confidence when they approach women with hearts full of love and passion?

The last question is easy to answer because men, in general, have had such a miserable track record as far as promoting gender equality is concerned. Somehow we have goofed up so royally that women have no choice but simply misunderstand our motives. After all, some of the most vocal men have proved to be those who allow their crotch or their hands to do the talking, and others who may not be so explicit in their gesture but are those who firmly believe that a woman's place is at the bottom rung of the ladder.

So where does that leave the rest of us who think differently? Do we have to first apologise on behalf of our gender and then state our case? Sometimes it may seem we have to do just that to make our presence and argument palatable but I disagree. I don't think we have to adopt this 'poor-me-am-just-the-oddest-man-alive' approach and say that we are sorry for all the scums of the earth. Why should we apologise for them? Why should we bear responsibility for their actions? Why should they be our definition?

Alright, I just needed to get that off my system.

But going back to those other questions, I guess, we need some clarity or we'll continue wading through the muddle till kingdom come. Or will we really?

At the end of the day, it's pointless for us to break our heads and try and come up with a precise answer because it is simply not possible. There is bound to be someone who'll take offence at something or the other. Codes of conduct usually have that kind of effect upon those who are obsessed with legalese. And the end result is a petrified society that's afraid to fully and freely express itself emotionally. At least, in the matters of love.

So what is a man going to do if he is interested in a woman? What methods would he have to adopt to impress his heart-throb without running the risk of being accused as a lecher? Is it possible to be hopelessly romantic without being perceived seriously annoying?

Yes, it's possible. And the one word to make that happen is, respect. A man - any man, really - must learn to respect not just the woman he is interested in, but all women who manage to inhabit his vicinity. Respect is not a complicated word or one that requires a PhD in behavioural psychology to figure out its intricate details. Respect is all about 'doing to others what you want to be done to you'. Respect is all about treating a woman like the human being she is, created by God in His image and worthy of honour. Respect is knowing that giving space to the other person is as much important as the need to draw the person closer.

Respect is all about...
not grabbing a woman's breasts just because they are there,
not undressing her with one's glares and crippling her confidence in the process,
not pinching her buttocks because one feels like it,
not stalking her on a 24/7 basis and leaving her a nervous wreck,
not making cat calls or wolf whistles at her for one simple reason: she is not a dog but a person,
not assuming she is an easy lay just because she turns you on,
not making any presumptions inspired by wet dreams.


But most important of all, respect is ALL about knowing when a woman says no she means no. Period. A woman's 'no' is not 'maybe' or an orgasmic 'yes' but it is a down-right categorical NO. Quite simple to understand, right. Sadly it isn't. Most men have trouble understanding this concept and, hence, they resort to harassment as a way to reach out to women. Of course, some men harass because they are basically warped and looney or both. But there are many others who don't have a clue about how to behave themselves in front of a woman. They need the fear of God put in their hearts, and to be constantly reminded that their actions are a criminal offence and inexcusable.

Will this bring about change? I am not sure but I hope it will because the present situation is very frightening for millions of women to whom this is a reality they have to endure everyday.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

3 comments:

Jasmeen said...

hi

i request you not to apologize on behalf of men.this is not a man vs woman issue only, its a societal problem, so instead of taking it personally, lets see how we can all be co workers in addressing eve teasing,

best,

Blank Noise Project

Ashish Gorde said...

But if you read it carefully, you'll see that I haven't apologised on behalf of men... in fact, I'm not keen on doing so either because men who harass cannot (and should not) be used as representatives of the male gender. The problem, I agree, is a lot deeper than a simple man vs woman thing... at the end of the day, all we need is a little respect for each other. That's only the first step.

Pincushion said...

First time here and I am glad I dropped by. Some very interesting observations here and maybe I'll add my two bits!
I understand your stand about not apologising and I agree that respect is the key; the problem as I see it (having been at the receiving end of some of the worst harrassment, esp at work) is that, once one has been subject to that kind of humiliation, one becomes wary and therefore suspicious of even the most 'romantic' of gentlemen! I think theres a saying in Marathi thats very apt..to the effect that once..one has been scalded by hot milk..one approaches even buttermilk with caution!