Michaela Cross has described her experiences in India (username as RoseChasm).
India: The Story You Don’t Want to Hear
CNN put this on their main site – here
“Michaela Cross, an American student at the University of Chicago, has written a powerful account of her study abroad trip to India last year, during which she says she experienced relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse.“
Many people commented on the story sympathizing with her.
Janelle K. Eagle also narrated her story after reading Michaela’s account.
I sympathize with them too. Being an Indian woman I know how hard it is to not only travel alone, but sometimes even to be at ease at your own home.
Ironically I live in army cantonment, which consists of folks who fight for the mother land. But when I venture out on the mall road for my jogging, I am faced with many stares. Covered from neck to toe, wearing loose clothes and long t-shirt also doesn’t act as deterrent. I understand the stare of surprise / curiosity, since it is not very common in India for women to go jogging. But every woman knows the difference between that stare and the uncomfortable ones. Since this is cantt, I can question the guy, even get him scolded, but how long will I do that? Every time I run, do I spend my time on this? Or ignore them and enjoy my run?
Of course most of the “starers”, come from uneducated or less educated background. The strength of these men, lie in the fact that, they have nothing to lose. Nothing at all. If the news of his misbehavior spreads, then no one will think ill of him. It will be assumed that it was the girl’s/ woman’s fault.
While living in a posh multi-storey building, I was once cleaning my car – dressed from neck to toe, long t-shirt, loose clothes – goes without saying! The boy who does it, didn’t turn up, so I decided to do the job. The ‘security’ guards of 2-3 buildings thought it was show time for them. I scolded them and in foul mood returned to my flat. My flat mate (another girl) told me – ‘why did you have to clean the car yourself’.
You see, the general attitude is, when something bad happens towards a girl, people (this includes other women) don’t blame the guy. They say – what was she doing travelling on her own, what was she doing dressed like that, what was she doing riding in the bus so late in the night, what was she doing jogging on the road – so on. I am amazed… Is it so hard to see, that you are pointing at the victim.
There would not be a single woman in India who did not grow up learning things to guard herself. If this, then this, else this. We know all the tricks, we can smell trouble before it occurs and can steer our way out of it. It’s a veil we’ve learnt to put on. Not that this veil is fool proof, but it helps prevent bigger tragedies. But isn’t it sad, that there is a need to do this? Its in our blood now, we do it sub consciously, without giving it a thought.
Even when accompanied with my husband I’ve had men staring. And I try to distract him, so that he doesn’t see them, else there will be a street fight.
As Michaela Cross said in her account,
“There was no way to prepare for the eyes, the eyes that every day stared with such entitlement at my body, with no change of expression whether I met their gaze or not. Walking to the fruit seller’s or the tailor’s I got stares so sharp that they sliced away bits of me piece by piece“
Its an awful feeling. Most of my friends have learnt to ignore this, but I am still filled with anger and resentment. This is something I cannot get accustomed to, no matter what.
I have slapped men groping at me in darkness of cinema halls, I’ve screamed at cab driver’s for staring in the rear view mirror, I’ve seen my hubby beating men on the streets for passing sleazy remarks – but this was always accompanied with the fear of the backlash. I’ve felt terrorized at the thought that what if this guy tries to get back at me. Such is the state of affairs of justice, especially for crime against women.
Even now, writing this, I can hear the whispers – ‘Screamed at cab driver? – couldn’t she travel by car?; Groping in cinema hall – what kind of theater did she go to? ; Stares in army cantt? I wonder if they don’t have a gymnasium there …