"I Felt Eyes Piercing My Body" - A Female Indian Journalist Speaks Out About the Rape Case that Shook the World
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India, like all other countries, has a long history of women resisting patriarchy and sexual oppression. But beyond noisy marches, the individual emotional and mental journeys of resistance that women undergo, often daily, to walk around in society are rarely heard. And as I returned to my country, I found myself forced to seek out my identity as a so-called liberated Indian woman — even as I suddenly saw patriarchy and sexism everywhere around me.
Yet another girlfriend getting married only meant more questions about my own wedding, and thus my very worth. The elder aunts blessed my girlfriend as she got married. Even as my mother bragged to them about my recent success as a journalist, the only blessing I received from the elders was, “May you also get married soon and be happy.” A woman with laurels but no husband is a woman whose life is incomplete. It seemed that the purpose of my education was only to be able to attract a good groom who would make me happy. What is shocking was how most girls succumb to that propaganda: study hard, earn some good money, have a fat wedding and then be the good wife. Television shows continue to reinforce these ideas, even though women in my country have long been breaking boundaries, such as I did throughout my 20s. I even heard someone in my family, whom I love dearly, remark about another younger woman in our family, that “she cannot do anything fast in the kitchen. She is worthless.” This statement came even after the woman had dutifully given a boy child to the family, as the elder aunts would say.
At a bar with my girlfriends recently, I was scared to dance. I was worried that my friend was getting too drunk and that the men were staring at her. I reminded myself that I had the phone number to the nearest police station, yet I also remembered how the police would only tarnish us women for staying out late and drinking.
That night I was up until 4 a.m. wondering: Why was I so scared? Wasn’t I the one who had fought with men all the time? I remembered when I was at a crowded bus stop years earlier and a man touched my behind as he walked past. He turned around to see if I had noticed. I slowly walked behind him, trying not to lose sight of his white shirt amidst so many other white shirts in the crowd. I finally caught hold of his collar. I yelled out, “So you tried to touch me! I’ll show you!”
He began to beg, and he tried to touch my feet to ask for forgiveness. But in crouching down, he was able to free my grip and begin running. I yelled, “Catch him! Catch him!” A crowd followed him until a man nabbed him. I was so happy that he was caught. The taller man kept the molester’s collar in his grip, as he began to plead, “I have not stolen anything! Please let me go!” The man began to dig his hands into the molester’s pockets and upon finding nothing, looked at me, as though asking why I’d chased him. I was slapping the man and screaming, “Ask him where he touched me!” I kept punching him (which hurt me more than I had imagined) until I realized that the crowd had begun to dissipate. They were hoping that a thief had been caught; they were not interested in a molester. I wanted to drag him to the police station, but it would have been a 15 minute walk, and I knew that even the man who had nabbed him had begun to lose interest. Taking him to the police station would have been foolishness on my part since nobody would walk with me.