Category Archives: Harassment & abuse

Hey Men, Here’s A Women’s Day Gift From Me To You

Week 1 and here are the reactions to what happened last Monday.

From women:

“That’s harassment!”

“How awful! Don’t let this stop you from speaking up.”

“I didn’t realise how bad it was till you pointed it out and now I’m overwhelmed by how much condescension, invalidation and assaults men perpetrate daily on me.”

“We need to call it out.”

From men:

“I

will bash him up!”

“Smile! At least I care for you so not all men are like that.”

“I’m going to do a poem about women’s rights.”

“CLAP! CLAP! So true! You’re right! You’re the man”

– to the male feminist.

“The reason you get attacked is because you hate men.”

“Why don’t you engage in dialogue with these people instead of getting angry?”

“I am going to talk to the organisers and teach them how to deal with this guy.”

“I only said that as a joke and you should not mind it. Anyway the other host always says such things about you.”

– The host of the day.

“I have enough sisters and girlfriends who tell me I’m a great guy so I know I’m not a misogynist. You’re just being silly.”

– The other host

“Women’s Day is coming up.”

“You write poison against all mankind.”

“He’s just an immature kid.”

And once again, here’s the piece that got called ‘man-hater’ and resulted in a man harassing me in a crowded room. Feel free to prove your manliness by writing thinkpieces, poetry and having manels about women’s rights now. March 8 is just ten days away and you might have to listen to me or another woman for 24 whole hours! Hurry now!

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Sorry I Didn’t Wait Till 8 March To Speak

We’re leading up to the grand tamasha called Women’s Day where you can expect to see the world pat itself on the back for giving half its population one day. You’ll also find a lot of men applauding each other for being so considerate of women. And congratulating one another on what good men they are for allowing women a special day. And finally, refraining from PMS jokes for that one day. Well done, men.

Here is a piece that I performed this Monday. Before I went up on stage, I was announced as

‘That poet who the women will love and the men better beware because the poetry is going to slap them’.

Once I finished, I was asked why I disliked men so much. Then a young man I barely knew parked himself next to me and in the semi-darkness during the subsequent performances, proceeded to harass me on my social adjustment issues, my hatred of men and my problematic past. Of note, said young man is also a poet who is infrequent on the scene. He also has a bad stammer and earlier in the evening, I had applauded his performance because I know how much courage it takes to go up on stage. He did not however, feel equally kindly towards me. He also felt perfectly able to attack me in a place where I’m a regular and when I was surrounded by friends. This is not the first time men have behaved in such a manner on the performance/poetry scene and every single time I protested, I’ve been told that I was taking things too seriously or that ‘he’s just young’.

Here’s the piece I performed. Dare I point out that it doesn’t mention men anywhere?

After all, feminism is only feminism when a man speaks about it. A male feminist is a hero and a female feminist is nothing more than an angry, man-hating bitch. Thank you for putting me in my place, fellow poets.

It looks like the stage does not permit me to speak my mind so let me hide on my blog for as long as it takes for the trolls to find me. Tonight a lot of you stay up celebrating a god whose legacy includes blurring gender roles, assimilating the masculine and the feminine and indeed, expressing an open need of his equal half – his female partner and side. That’s it. Think about it. You can wish me on 8th March on the one day in the year I don’t have to apologise for not being male and then congratulate yourselves for doing so. Thank you.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Poem For An Ex I May Have Told You About

I had a chance to get this off my chest last year. I’m so grateful for the stage giving me a chance to voice things that had been eating away my insides for too long. I’ve been silenced by well-meaning friends and others who are just inconvenienced by anything other than my smiling face.  I felt like I owed it to myself to get it out and start 2017 on a fresh note. Noting it here for posterity.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Why I’m Not Protesting The #IndiasDaughter Ban

I woke up to find Twitter screaming about a new ban. This has been a week of outraging about bans, the last one being the ban on the production & possession of calf, cow and bullock meat, better know as #BeefBan. Today’s outrage was over the Indian government banning the BBC India documentary about the 2012 Nirbhaya rape. Much had been getting made over the fact that it included an interview with Mukesh Singh, one of the rapists.

My first instinct might have been to cry ‘Down with the ban!’ given we’re rapidly becoming a country that bans things for reasons that seem unjust, biased and regressive. But something held me back, possibly a couple of conversations I had earlier this week. So this is what I posted to Facebook this morning. I’ve spent the day defending this stance, trawling through the sewage of male bullying online (#NAMALT, regionalist abuse, patriarchal statements etc). I’ve had heated conversations with people, mostly outside this country whose stance sounds convenient and armchair philosopher style apathetic. I’ve debated with friends and peers within this country who hold other viewpoints. And I’m so worn down by this.

Three hours after I stopped watching the Twitter streams, I still can’t stop the ringing in my ears that says WE FAILED HER. WE FAIL WOMEN. THIS COULD HAVE BEEN ME. THIS COULD BE ME. I’m going to say no more. Here goes –

I don’t think the ‘India’s Daughter’ film should be available for viewing. True, this is censorship and as a writer, I should oppose that.

But this is a country where politicians say women should not be given mobile phones, where godmen decree that eating chowmein leads to rape, where girls who were raped & hung, are accused of enticing the perpetrators. We prove time and again, that we are a culture that hates women with a passion that surpasses all logic and justice.

We are also the same country where hundreds of young men drew lit matchsticks across their tongues, in blind imitation of a fictitious character in a Bollywood movie.

Rape culture & misogyny are deeply embedded in our psyche. I think this documentary will be seen for what it is, by a few who already think that way, so it’s just preaching to the converted. For the rest, I think it will only humanize a monster and glorify his actions. I fear to think of what a world of me-toos will look like.

Can’t you just see the average boy on the road thinking, “Usne to saaf bola, girls deserve this for going out after 9”? I can.

Edit: I found the actual documentary as well as number of excerpts & analysis about it on Youtube. Take a look down the comments there to see how India responds. It’s sickening.

Edit 2: Watched the whole documentary. Utterly sickened. First by reliving the incident and then realising that the entire video is just one long ‪#‎PovertyPorn‬ saga. It doesn’t present any new facts, needlessly highlights tear-jerker sequences around the rapists and offers no real value except repeating the dysfunctional mindset of this country. Watch it if you enjoy real life tragedies being exploited for a privileged audience’s entertainment.

You’ll find plenty of material about why the ban should be lifted. Here’s just one more voice that matches what I had to say and this time, it comes from a man: A Short Rant On The Longest Known Evil.

Buzzfeed’s Imaan Sheikh & Rape Culture

A few years ago, I dated someone who got a lot of attention for his loud views on women’s rights, gay rights and child abuse. He also frequently said things like ‘faggotty shit’ and ‘Don’t be such a vagina’ and ‘stop PMSing all over the place’. When I pointed out these fallacies, he called me uncool because I didn’t get it. And when I pressed on, he insisted that joking about something reduced its sting.

This afternoon, Imaan Sheikh (Buzzfeed’s current darling) got into a conversation on Twitter. I’ve been a fan of her take on popular Bollywood. But this screenshot of her tweets from 2012 stopped me dead in my tracks. It made me want to throw up.

I tweeted about this tagging her and she replied. Here is the conversation we had.

Let’s talk about rape humour. Rape is an act of extreme brutality and violence carried on women in systematic and fully-supported ways, in every part of the world. It is aimed at and usually succeeds in leaving a woman stripped of health, self-esteem, dignity, emotional stability and security. Rape culture is all the conversations, rituals and social practices that simultaneously encourages the propagators and demonises the victims. Joking about rape makes it exactly that — a joke. It trivialises the victim’s trauma, minimises all the work being done to overturn it and permits propagators & supporters to go along in the notion that their actions are ‘cool’ or okay.

Now let’s look at Imaan Sheikh. I got the distinct impression that I was being indulged the way a troublesome but not quite trolley minion would be, on Twitter. Imaan’s attitude to the whole thing seemed to be “What that again? Aren’t you guys over it? How uncool of you. Still, I will deign to respond because you know, you guys do read my stuff.”

All of us have things in our past we aren’t thrilled about. But aren’t there degrees to even what parts of that can be brushed away as ‘I was young and stupid’? I cannot imagine rape humour ever being okay, especially when propagated by an educated, savvy woman.

This last because, the onus of standing for women’s rights falls to us even more than it does to other factions of society. Women on the internet, especially highly influential ones, enjoy the kind of freedom that is a privilege, not a basic right for most women. These women also inevitably become role models for younger women and prototypes for the image of strong women. What does it say about strong, influential women when one of them supports rape culture?

I’m afraid Imaan, this is one of those massive blunders that you are going to have to keep apologising for, for the rest of your life. I hope this happens because if it doesn’t, it means our world continues to believe that rape is a minor infraction. And that is not going to be a good world for either you or I to live in, Imaan.

Ladies Compartment

The myth about Mumbai’s gender-seggregated spaces

Mumbai is considered India’s safest city for women. All public transport facilities include spaces allocated for women only. Mumbai trains have 2 coaches reserved for women only. Buses have a two-seater bench for women only. And the recent addition to public infrastructure, the Mumbai metro has recently announced a separate coach for women only.

 

Less than a month since its introduction, the resentful murmuring has already begun. I heard a friend complain about women who were travelling in what he called the ‘men’s coaches’ since there were designated spaces for them, already. This is something every female train traveller hears often.

Today, I took the metro and spotted this message emblazoned across the seperating tape.

“We know you are special, so an exclusive zone for you. Ladies Only.”

 

Mumbai Metro — Ladies section

I’d like to say thank you to the Mumbai Metro for putting this up. It highlights the problem and makes it easier for me to explain.

The point is not that women are special. We do not believe we are. How can we, when the whole world, starting from family, to classmates, to fellow commuters, to strangers on the road, to colleagues let us know that we are not? Being subjected to 24×7 scrutiny and moral judgement does not make us ‘special’, it makes us prisoners. Ajmal Kasab’s every move was scrutinised and you know who he was.

What is worse is that this differentiated treatment is neither our fault nor under our control. I have refused the ‘ladies’ seat’ on buses several times. I have waived ‘special rights’ offered to women in lines. Only to be told every single time that I am imposing and intruding into men’s territory. Whether it is a physical boundary or a mental one, gender seggregation does not come from women. It is a restriction imposed on us, under threat of moral censure and physical danger, if violated.

The common myth is that trains are divided into ‘ladies compartments’ and ‘gents compartments’. No, they are not. Mumbai trains have a ladies compartment among several other ‘general compartments’. Buses have ‘ladies seats’ among general seating.

To come back to the accusations of life being easier for women because of these gender-seggregated spaces, and that hated label of ‘special for women’ — why should I feel bad about an inelegant solution offered by society to my sex because of the crimes of your sex?

I would also like to point out that the city is not really safer because of these gender seggregated spaces. Women have been attacked and pushed off these very trains. Every single woman who travels by buses has a story of being rubbed up against and even groped by bus conductors and fellow passangers. Anyone who has travelled regularly by the ladies compartment in trains will know not to stand next to the separating grill, since intrusive hands and fingers come groping through them. Last year’s gangrape at Raghuvanshi Mills and the almost daily reportage of horrific rapes, acid attacks and crimes against women in this city should dispel any notions of how ‘safe’ Mumbai is for women.

Gender-seggregated spaces do not exist because women are special or consider ourselves so. They exist because certain MALE miscreants consider themselves special and deny us access to a safe, respectful space. Can we please stop acting as if it is a privilege extended to women and see it for what it is — a consolation prize for the actual human right to safety?

Men Are Just As Misinformed About Their Rights As Women

I know most women are unaware or misinformed about their rights. The right to say no, the right to birth control, the right to a woman cop’s presence. Then I just came up against a conversation started by a woman who talked about her right to have her bra strap peek out without having to be harassed. And a man asked “So you can show but we can’t look? Just asking.” And it made me realise that men are just as misinformed about their rights.

So here is my attempt to dispel some misinformation for men:

  • You do NOT have the right to harass a woman, no matter what she is wearing.
  • You do NOT have the right to stare at her in a way that she considers offensive.
  • You do NOT have the right to insinuate that it is her fault.
  • You have the ‘freedom of speech’ right that we all have. But ‘freedom of speech’ means that you have the right to speak your piece as long as it does not hurt anybody. Insinuations like these do hurt women.
  • Women have the same right to that freedom of speech as you do. If you feel you have the right to tell me I’m blowing things out of proportion, I have the right to tell you that you’re wrong and a misogynist.
  • The statement “Just asking” does NOT automatically waive the ‘does not hurt anybody’ clause in ‘freedom of speech. 

*I apologise for this not being a comprehensive list. There is much misinformation and I’m doing my part to dispel it.

Wake Up And Smell The Bruises

I was with a friend last evening, driving around within a residential area’s bylanes, when we saw something. A couple was standing by the side of the road, clearly arguing. The guy, who was much taller and broader than the girl, was holding both her hands, while the girl seemed to be feebly protesting and trying to shake him off. They were both dressed well and looked like they were in their 20s. The girl was not shouting, screaming or crying. But she was not smiling or laughing either, which is what made me think that this wasn’t friendly fooling around.

My friend noticed it as well and after a few seconds hesitation, we doubled back. As we watched from a slight distance, the pair seemed to join in a hug, after which the girl broke free. I saw her push him back roughly and quickly cross the lane. The guy didn’t seem perturbed and the girl didn’t run. But she turned several times and the look on her face was one of fear. It was past 11 at night. There were several autorickshawallas on the road as well as stray pedestrians.

My friend had a brainwave. Instead of outright butting in, he stopped and asked her for directions to a restaurant close by. She seemed startled, then collected herself and shook her head and said she didn’t know. The guy, who had been watching this, crossed the road immediately and demanded to know what happened. My friend repeated his question. The guy just turned and walked away. We waited till the girl walked on and turned into one of the gates in the lane. The guy continued walking further down the road.

My words don’t prove conclusively that the guy was harassing the girl. But I know what I saw. I know the sense of danger I felt emanating from the situation. I know that unmistakeable instinct that women develop, that I felt, about trouble. There was definitely something off about the situation. The girl’s expression and then the look of relief on her face even in answering a simple question were one clue. The guy’s instant intrusion, demanding to know what was going on and then his turning and walking away, as if he had only wanted to check we weren’t interfering and that done, he could walk away – that’s another clue.

It’s possible that they might have been a couple and arguing. The girl did not ask for help. And none of the people around offered or even seemed to notice that she might need it. But this is a problem. I have been in that very situation. Just because a man is your boyfriend, friend, lover, colleague or acquaintance, does not mean that he might not pose a threat to you. In all the autorickshawallas around who were watching the ‘tamasha’ when it got a bit louder, I saw the same thing. I sensed it in my own self in those few seconds before my friend and I decided to turn back to see if the girl needed help. It was this thought:

“Why interfere in a couple’s problems?”

I am glad that we did. I am glad that I had a male friend with me. I don’t know if I would have had the nerve to interfere otherwise. If I had done so, I don’t know if I might have courted further danger for myself and for the girl. And finally, I’m very glad for my friend’s diplomatic but careful management of the situation. His action registered in a non-threatening, unobtrusive way, that somebody was watching. I’d like to think that’s why the guy rushed to find out what was happening and then bolted, albeit feigning nonchalance.

I’d love to believe that all of this was in my mind and I was seeing evil where there was none. Unfortunately, I see too much violence on a daily basis and too much unseeing all around. Something else occurred me, right when this was happening. I remember seeing this video about a social experiment, which revealed people’s unequal attitudes towards violence against each gender. It showed how people noticed and offered help when a woman was attacked by a man but didn’t care or laughed when a man was being attacked by a woman.

What struck me even then, was that in India, it wouldn’t happen. In India, people do not interfere even when they see a man committing an act of violence against a woman. It’s not even equal opportunity violence tolerance in India. Violence against women is actively encouraged (what, you haven’t seen the latest Salman Khan movie?) and nurtured. It’s cherished as a show of masculinity. And the reverse, no, I’m afraid it’s not tolerated. The same all-influential Bollywood movies also show how a hero loses his head, after he is slapped by a woman, in a justified manner since ‘she must be put in her place’.

I have been beaten, slapped and punched by men, men who were supposed to be close to me. Some of these have happened in public. Not once has a person ever interfered. I’ve even been told that I should not be such a feminist, that I should learn to forgive and forget. And memorably, two so-called friends badgered me for a month about my hostile attitude to men. When I told them that I had been subjected to violence by men, both of them shrugged and said, “So?”

I don’t want to end this post as a rant. But let me propose a few ideas instead.

  1. If you know a woman you believe to be strong, do not assume that she is invulnerable to threat. Do not judge her for needing your help. The world is not an equal place. I might go so far to say that the more openly ‘strong’ a woman is, the greater her chances of falling victim to violence. There just are that many men around who are threatened by a woman’s strength or independence.
  2. Do not feel that it is not your place or job to interfere. A crime is a crime, regardless of who commits it. Rough handling of a human being, without their consent is a crime. If you see it happening and you allow it to pass unchecked, you are accessory to that crime.
  3. This is one place where you can, should, err on the side of caution. If you interfere, the worst that happens is you are insulted or ridiculed. If you do not interfere, a human being might suffer violence and damage, something you could have prevented by didn’t.
  4. If you are not in a position to interfere for some reason, don’t give up. Be innovative like my friend was. The ‘Bell Bajao’ campaign was based on this idea. Disrupt the situation, make it clear that somebody is watching. At least, it should diffuse the situation at that moment. It always helps to have the police station’s number. Call and report what you’re seeing. The police do respond. They will not make life miserable for you, for reporting it.
  5. If it feels rough, it is violence. Don’t overthink the boundaries. It’s not that difficult. If the person does not seem to be enjoying it or looks distressed, assume it is an attack. Here’s an indicative list I found on ADaring which defines domestic violence: You are facing domestic violence if your partner:
    domestic-violence-300x128

    *Image courtesy ADaring.

    1. Calls you names, insults you, puts you down and does not allow you to go to work or school.
    2. Prevents you from seeing your family members or friends.
    3. Is too possessive and jealous and constantly accuses you of infidelity.
    4. Gets angry every time he consumes alcohol or drugs.
    5. Threatens you with weapons or violence.
    6. Hits, kicks, chokes, slaps or torchers you or your children or pets.
    7. Forces you to have sexual relationship with him/her.
    8. Blames you for everything and says that you deserve being punished.

I ask you this, as a woman who lives in a world that is dangerous for her. I am asking to share in the privilege you enjoy. I am asking you to help me have my basic right to safety. And just in case you need a reminder of how ‘normal’ domestic violence can look, here’s a Violence Awareness campaign that Norway is running:

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You Secretly Hate Women

It’s not new that women are routinely harassed online and subjected to abuse, condescension and objectification. For one, I don’t think the ‘It’s the internet. Not all men are like this.’ attitude is permissible.

Now, Secret. I am horrified at the levels of malice, misogyny and hate messages directed at women on this. This includes posters, commenters and known women who aren’t necessarily on the thread. You know why this horrifies me so much? Because these attitudes reside in the heads of people I know – classmates, friends, lovers, colleagues.

I walk among would-be rapists, murders and Nirbhaya-attackers. I’m talking about you.

A Woman’s Right To Say No, Just No

A womans right to say no just no

*Image (without text) via Ambro on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here’s the latest accusation that falls on me – RUDE. Also, inconsiderate, unkind, impolite. Hang on, who is calling me all these names? Yes, men. But what kind of men? Men I’ve said NO to.

These are NO to sexual advances. NO to implied interest. NO to having to listen to them at 5 a.m. NO to pandering to their delusions. NO to lying about what I think of them (“Tell me honestly!”). NO to letting them get away with sexist remarks. NO to whining about how men have it worse off than women (“Women getting beaten? So what, I’ve also been beaten.”).

It takes everything I have to not throw something at these people. It takes every minute of my good breeding to not rip open their fallacies. It takes every ounce of meditation/yoga/self-help/improvement/healing activities I’ve ever done to not yell at them. I reign it all in and say, “No.”

What are some of the consequences? Let’s look at the past month.

Man 1 whined for 4 solid hours about acquaintances who according to him, were ‘saying things’ about him and a girl he liked who was cosying up to someone else. He bitched about her, moralised about PDA, listed out what his sister, best friend, mentor, former boss all had to say. And he asked me what I thought. 5 a.m. and I told him to just stop worrying about what everyone else said and live his own life. The next morning I was hit by a barrage of angry messages, ranging from “I thought you would be kind to me.” to “You used me.” It went on for 90 minutes, I kid you not. I was in a meeting, so I couldn’t pick up the phone and tell him to shut it. Instead, my phone and my peace of mind was sullied by a 31 year old man who got angry that I said NO, I don’t want to listen to you.

Man 2 had been making all manner of sexist comments couched in polite, benign language for months, things I opposed but in a friendly manner. He attacked me for weeks over ‘how hostile I was to men’ in my writing. His comments were directed to my fiction pieces where a man was a villain or a victim or a bystander (Here are the stories he objected to, on the grounds that they were hostile to men: L, N, R, W). He also took objection to the fact that my writing was ‘bitter’ (specifically this piece, where I talk about a city, not a man). He informed me that women were considerate. Then he declared that I wasn’t actually a woman. And he ended with saying that that everybody else around also thought so and didn’t like being around me. An over 50 year old man who got upset because I said NO, I don’t agree with you.

Man 3 badgered me for friendship or a conversation. I told him thank you, but no thank you. Why, what is so bad about me, he wanted to know. I’m not interested, I said. Idiot, he called me. An indeterminately aged stranger who abused me because I said NO, I’m not interested.

Man 4 is a stranger I had to contend with, in the swimming pool today. I’ve been swimming for over 20 years and have a mean rhythm of my own. I don’t talk to anybody, I’m not a part of any class and I don’t go with friends. I practice alone and at the time, was hanging by the edge of the pool, catching my breath. He splashed over in my direction clumsily (a beginner) and stopped mid-splash thrice and stared openly in my direction. I swum away as fast as I could. At the deep end, when I was practising my dives, he swum over and grinned. I ignored him and continued to jump off the board and swim back to the ladder to try again. Then he tried speaking to me. It was something along the lines of “You didn’t do that dive properly, no?” I didn’t reply, just turned away and continued. Someone else I recounted this to, said I should have just said “I know you want to talk to me and I appreciate it. But I don’t want to talk to you.” I want to ask why? What gives a stranger the right to think it’s okay to approach a lone woman and interrupt her in what is obviously a solo activity? And why am I supposed to be polite to him? Also, I believe response (any sort) is actually likely to encourage a man like this. What is this Hassi toh phassi attitude? Even smiling to soften the NO is likely to be taken as something else. So, why should I?

I have a lot of men in my life, a father, several good friends. It bothers me that I have to explain that I am a normal, functioning person with healthy relationships but I do. I get people telling me that I should learn to be ‘diplomatic’. Women tell me, men don’t like hearing no, you have to be careful when you say it to them. I have men saying women should be nicer because ‘Hey, I am a nice guy, I’m not like that’.

I’ve been taken in by the maths of it myself. Obviously not every man is likely to behave like that. But most of them (in my experience) do. Besides, what obligation do I have, other than a firm NO? Why am I supposed to dress it up in consideration and politeness and sweetness and diplomacy? If I’m saying NO, I have decided that I do not want to spend any more time or energy on that situation or person. Why am I having to spend it anyway or be treated like a deviant when I don’t? What is my obligation to assess whether the man in front of me is (as the pattern proves) unable to handle a no, or a adult human being? That problem is his, not mine.

Perhaps I am making a mistake in saying NO to a person. But that is my choice and right to make. I don’t understand this blaming of the ‘few bad men’ for a woman’s saying NO. Every man is a great guy in his own eyes. That’s got nothing to do with my right to say No to him. I am not required to offer him a nicer NO than I offer other people.

I demand my right to say NO. Without explanation. Without sweetness and cupcakes. No means NO. Just NO.

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