Friday, August 23, 2013

Fear of being a woman

Late last night, I was out at a friend’s gig, when I heard someone somewhere around me say ‘another rape, man; this time in Bombay’. I rolled my eyes and thought, ‘not again,’ and ignored it. I didn’t pause to find out more, I didn’t even pause to give it more than that first thought. As quickly as I could, I threw it out of my head.

This morning, on my way to work, I looked at my twitter timeline that was flooded with news of the #mumbaigangrape and as I read and read, I cried and cried.

I cried because I felt that girl’s pain (even if it was a fraction of it). I cried because I felt her fear. I cried because I felt MY fear. And I cried because I was ashamed.

I was ashamed that I hadn’t paid that comment last night any attention. I was ashamed because I threw away the thought that entered my mind. I was ashamed because I couldn’t even swallow or acknowledge what had happened.

I’ll tell you why I did it though- discarded the mention of that rape- no, it wasn't because I've become numb or indifferent. It was because if and when I let it sink in, the fear that goes down my spine is almost unbearable. It makes me want to go back in time to my mother’s womb, when they still hadn't figured out what my sex was. It makes me want to never do anything again. Never step out of the house, never dream, never dare to live. Because being a woman in this country, and to a large extent, in this world, is a curse. It’s one of those things that you just have to live with. As is the constant fear.

I ask my male friends, colleagues- do you know what it feels like? Most say ‘I’m sure it’s terrible,’ and make tsk tsk sympathetic noises (no disrespect to them). And some others honestly tell me with sadness in their eyes, that no, they can’t imagine what it feels like.

Well, I’ll tell you what it could feel like- it’s like walking in a lone street, in a strange country, where no one understands you or speaks your language, with your passport, your money and all that you consider yours in the middle of the night. All senses heightened, alert, knowing that you have to be extra careful until morning comes, and it’s safe again.

That’s what it feels like ALL the time for women. Except that there is no when morning comes.

We’re expected to be careful at all times. We’re expected, and do, watch our back at all times. Our sixth senses are on high alert, our eyes constantly making sure it’s taking in everything it possibly can in, and around, our periphery. Making sure there is nothing, and no man waiting to pounce at you, from the corner or from right out in front of you.

It’s so exhausting. It’s so nervewrecking. It’s disgusting, and depressing.

You put us on a pedestal and then drag us down. You make us the symbols of human future- the holy bearers of generations to come. And then you want to show us that in fact, you’re the one with the power- If you put us on that pedestal, then you can drag us down. You feel compelled almost, to prove to us that you’re superior.

I’m sick of it. Don’t put me on a pedestal. If I could give you my child bearing capacities, I would. If I could give you the empathy and the skill I have to bring up and nurture your children to carry forward your name into the future, I would. I’ll put you on the highest pedestal there is if you will leave me alone. I’ll put you on that pedestal if all that matters to you is that you come out glorious, more powerful and superior.

Please don’t glorify me, I beg you. Don’t call me holy, don’t think I’m better than you. I don’t want to live in constant fear of you raping me, taking away the only thing that you think will strip me naked and put me in my place.