Trigger Warnings abound, the reader has asked to remain anonymous but wishes to tell us a story… I have edited it for spelling and helped by westernising the language since the reader’s first language isn’t English and when Indians write they often use colloquialisms but it’s a voice that I feel that we must all hear. (Thank you Anonymous Reader). Many people asked what does this have to do with Atheism, but this is a primarily Hindu method of keeping women “safe”.
For many young women the first sexual menace is not the stranger but a family member. Sometimes it’s your father, your uncle or your grandfather. I was lucky, none of these things happened to me. However as I grew up I learnt about it from them. My grandfather was a “traditional” Indian. We lived as a group in a joint family. And growing up I can remember the scoldings I got for my dress or my uppity and modern “talk”. That the only way to defend myself from the ever present danger of men was by conducting and dressing myself with modesty and by shutting up and being invisible. I was not equal to man and I couldn’t even pretend to be an equal. Even eye contact was “shameful”.
All the women in the house jumped at his authority, the fear he evoked in them was the best way of dealing with the situation in his mind. I suppose he saw this as a way to protect us and to demonstrate the reason to fear men…
If you are unaware of how the protocol in such a family works then don’t be. It’s a ridiculous dance of the purdah system. A ballet of unknown and pointless rules. For example, my aunt wasn’t allowed to stay in the same room as my grandfather. If my grandfather arrived she would be given a hissed warning and she would quickly cover her hair with her sari and run to another room as fast as she could. In order to talk to him, she would have to talk to one of her sons or her husband to deliver a message.
I know this must sound ridiculous to your readers and even yourself but you must have noticed it when you visit houses.
We do this because of a rigid tradition. There should be no relationship between father-in-law and daughter-in-law because there is a fear that such an interplay would cause sexual attraction and rapes. Our modest dress and invisibility is to create a Curtain to protect us because we are told that a woman exposed to men is in danger.
But that’s how women see it, the men see it as any visible woman is available. The reason that women fear the gaze of a man is because there is something to fear. The notion is that “good” women will hide from men, that any woman who isn’t is clearly a woman of poor virtue who wants to be touched. This is a view that’s death to modern women. We want to be as visible as men and the curtain has been pulled down. We go to school, college and to socialise with friends. We want to watch movies, we want to date men and choose our own husbands. We want to be free, but this puts us in the firing line of “tradition”. And tradition says that we are shameless. We are sluts and touching us is not rape or harassment but what we want and deserve. It’s why Indian men are fascinated with “westerners”, because they see all their women as sluts because they are more empowered than us. Many are puzzled when western women fight back after being touched or leered at, because an Indian woman won’t.
This mentality is pervasive throughout Indian society. Remarks made after the Delhi Rape made it abundantly clear that women aren’t going to be treated fairly.
We have marched on the streets because we are angry but it’s only the rich who are. We need a bigger response, it’s a step forward but we must keep walking forwards. We have torn aside the curtain to realise it was hypocrisy. Avicenna used the words “Victorian Morals” but this is far deeper than that. We need real laws and to stop blaming the victim for the sins of the accused.
I feel fear when I walk around India. I once had to travel in a train where there were only men in the compartment, I automatically was nervous and hunched down. I even felt the need to cover my head and face.
Don’t Look At Me. I am Invisible. I don’t want to be invisible or silent any more.