Saturday, February 10, 2007

The day I became a 'babe'

The other day I felt what it was like to be a woman, and I didn't like it.

A total stranger messaged me on Yahoo, and expected me to respond. I ignored, but the man wouldn't take no for an answer. He persisted with his entreaties and then, finally, asked, 'what's up with you, babe?'

This was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I was angry and furious. So far I kept refusing him with a polite 'no' but this had gone too far. How dare he calls me a 'babe'? How did he simply assume that I was a woman? Or that I like being called a 'babe' if I was a woman? Who gave him the right to talk to me like that?

I blocked him but he kept finding a way of coming back and pestering me or - to be precise - hitting on me. I don't know what gave him the idea that I was some sort of a femme fatale, or that femme fatales enjoy such insane levels of attention. But he was relentless, and I felt.. humiliated.

And then, I realised that many women go through the same - or worse - humiliation on a daily basis. If I felt bad about this man's virtual invasion of my personal space, then, what about all those women who have to endure the leering and catcalls of strange men on a daily basis? Why strange men alone, but aren't there many in offices and social circles who feel it is their divine right to analyse a woman's anatomy in great detail and then fornicate with their gaze?

I know many women who feel uncomfortable walking the streets alone because of the way some men stare at them or hit on them. And there are others who hate going to their offices because of the way some colleagues give them the looks. It's rather sad that women have to go through this kind of ordeal almost daily, and I'm amazed at how some of them have managed to control their fury and not give in to the violent response, which these men deserve.

Obviously, the problem has more to do with upbringing than cultural factors that are usually blamed for such behaviour. Culture is easy to blame if it's the 'other' at fault because it leaves our culture safe from any accusation. Now I don't deny that there are certain cultures that have a deeply ingrained male chauvinism at a very foundational level but that's a whole different can of worms that I'd like to get into at some later day. However, whatever be the culture, I'm sure, good parenting is a more effective method in teaching young boys how to treat girls with respect. It starts young. If children are taught the value of respecting each other, then, they'll grow up with a more wholesome value system when they are adults. They are unlikely to think of women as objects to humiliate but as people to honour and respect. At least, that's what one hopes, but that'd be a worthy goal to pursue.

As for me, I could only look for ways to 'ignore' this pest and he, being a virtual creature, I knew there was a degree of safety because I knew that he wouldn't be able to attack me in real life. But for many women, this kind of horror is not a virtual experience... it is for real. And if my experience is any indication, then, I'd hate to be in their shoes because it's truly scary.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

4 comments:

gautami tripathy said...

You really hit the nail on the head. I hate being called as babe, baby, honey, sweetie or any such innane stuff. Despite repeated remainders some men persist in addresing in such a way.

It is very humiliating but some men just do not understand. May be it is a cultural thing. My point is why Indian's are going the American way?

Antonia said...

what an apt description of how it really is. Your post is a proof that communication between the sexes is possible in a non-degrading way. Thanks for writing this.

tolerantguy said...

This sort of thing has happened to me too...Isn't it amusing rather than degrading?

Quicksilver! said...

This is very well-written, empathetic writing, Ashish.

And I so agree with you when you say “Obviously, the problem has more to do with upbringing than cultural factors that are usually blamed for such behaviour”

The sad thing is, in a virtual world you can log off instantly, not so easy in day to day life.

Than you for understanding.