Call it what it is


Prithvi Acharya says can we please stop calling it “eve-teasing.”

Really. As an outsider it was easy for me to find that ridiculous trivialization shocking, but all the same, it’s possible to pull back and take a look at local trivializations too. Acharya says it’s time to do that now.

I take an exception to how practically everyone in India is framing an important national issue that pervades class, age and geography, and has been doing so for decades. I take a strong exception to the phrase ‘eve-teasing’. Yes, it’s a phrase that is used by the police, the news, and the activists alike. We’re constantly exposed to the euphemism – I don’t blame you for subconsciously having included it in your vocabulary. But enough is enough; it’s time we stopped ‘eve-teasing’.

Most glaringly, it trivializes what is – in no uncertain terms – sexual harassment. Notice how the phrase ‘street sexual harassment’ conjures up a very different image in your head than ‘eve-teasing’? This is by design. Euphemisms, historically, serve the specific purpose of replacing phrases, words, or concepts with ones that sound more acceptable or polite. Cat-calling and groping are never acceptable or polite. So even if you mean well, there is no reason to continue to frame them as if they could be.

And, honestly – teasing? That’s supposed to be for mutually enjoyed joking, not uninvited groping and leering.

One of the many examples of how both globally, and in India, we trivialize gender issues by presenting them with words and idioms that intentionally make them sound less polite, or less harsh than they are. It’s never ‘revenge porn’; it’s always ‘MMS’. It’s never ‘statutory rape’; it’s always ‘molestation’. And until very recently, it was hardly ever ‘rape’ and almost always ‘brutal assault’. If, as society, we want to address the problem of sex-crime in our country, we need to start admitting its extent and magnitude, and stop mollycoddling ourselves into believing that they’re only a minor grievance.

And it’s not just India and it’s not just sexual harassment. This is why I keep mentioning the murderers who massacred the people at Charlie Hebdo, and why I call Islamists Islamists and not “extremists.”

Down with euphemisms.


  1. Ray Moscow says

    The unsolicited touching, groping, etc make it assault and battery as well as harassment, I think. It’s a serious crime, not just ‘teasing’.

    When I worked in India nearly 30 years go, it was a common problem then, too (so I heard). Young men bragged about it.

  2. dshetty says

    As an outsider it was easy for me to find that ridiculous trivialization shocking
    The use is pervasive enough that I have never given it a second thought.

  3. opposablethumbs says

    Yes, “teasing” makes it sounds so harmless, something that might be almost friendly – at worst a bit annoying, perhaps … quite the well-chosen euphemism for what is actually sexual harassment and assault.
    This kind of use of language has to be among the clearest cases for making-strange as a really useful act in itself. It’s not “just” words.

  4. Crimson Clupeidae says

    I had not heard the term ‘eve teasing’ prior to this.

    Now I hate humans even more. 🙁

  5. opposablethumbs says

    Apologies for the OT comment; wondered if you had come across this –

    As the head of a national charity for Muslim women, Shaista Gohir is determined to give voice to those who need it to fight against abuse, persecution and inequality

    Article by Homa Khaleeli. Why muslim victims of sexual abuse are even less likely to go to UK authorities and/or be listened to.

    “Gohir is outraged that offenders can go unpunished because of the cultural emphasis on “honour”, and women’s role in upholding it, that means someone reporting the abuse of a girl could be accused of bringing “shame” on her family. “I wish the words shame and honour could be deleted,” she tells me. “That is the root of our problems – from forced marriages to not reporting domestic violence.”

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