Sunday, December 23, 2012

"Don't make a big deal out of it, deal with it"

The first time was when I was 19,  in a BTS bus from KR Market to Jayanagar. Men were sitting on seats which are normally reserved for women. There was this 70+ year old woman standing next to me, and I wanted her to sit. I asked the guys to vacate. "Are you women to be sitting on the ladies seat?," I asked. "Come outside, we'll show you how much of men we are," they taunted. I am not making this up. I went and complained to the conductor of the bus, because I was still a firebrand then. The conductor said, "Madam, don't make a big deal out of it." I still remember it, because this was the first time I was scared for my safety and life. I knew the threats were real.  I reported it to my mother, she said, she'd been through this, it's normal, and I should carry a safety pin, poke them or pinch them hard. But I need to deal with it.

The other time, imprinted firmly in my memory, is when a friend said, "Women need to be made to feel cheap."  He was three whiskys down, I'd just had a beer, non-kosher for women.  I got very angry, obviously, and stomped off the pub.The other friend who was with us, he begged me to come back. His response was, "Don't make a big deal out of it." Deal with it.

Yesterday, someone posted something excruciatingly misogynistic on my FB feed:  that women should dress "decently", so as to not "tempt the monsters," quoting "indian culture" and all such things thereof. I argued all I could on FB, and the chap said, he'll "allow" his wife to wear anything in Singapore, India is a different story, "I won't be comfortable". "We must be decent". "India won't change, but we must be aware of our safety ourselves". When I pointed out that in Singapore, women wear what they want, he replied, "Singapore doesn't have monsters." I've been quiet through everything so as to be age appropriate, but I just couldn't take it and ranted in person and said that I wanted to slap the chap, and explain with the fact that,for that girl, her innards were mutilated and she may not be able to have another meal, and the fact that it's december in delhi and she couldn't have been more than covered. I was received with the now familiar response, "Don't make a big deal out it." And. Errrrr, "Deal with it."

Why shouldn't I make a big deal out of it? Tell me one good reason not to. Tell me one good reason why I should deal with it. In this day and age, people have lost jobs because of saying something remotely racist, this-ist or that-ist, and if you think I should keep shut because this is normal and I shouldn't be making a big deal out of it ? Why shouldn't this guy lose his job? Why shouldn't he be publicly shamed?

I've been molested, I've been pinched and groped and grabbed and abused. Tell me one Indian woman who can claim to not have been through this. But we never make a big deal out of it. Because we shouldn't, we can't, we must not. Because being born a woman means you accept that this is a part and parcel of life. And deal with it.

I am thoroughly saddened now. I am sad I can walk around  wearing anything in Singapore, but I have to endure this every single time I visit India. I am sad I know such people. I don't want to talk to them. And as far as India is concerned, I don't ever want to return, even to visit. I want to wear what I want, say what I want, do what I want. I am tired of dealing with it.
 And you deal with it.