I don’t want to be another angry woman on the internet.
But I am.
I decided to go for a walk today at 7.30 AM. I was still in my street when I got a call from my mom asking me “Why did you go out wearing shorts? Couldn’t you have worn a sale-”. I cut the call. I was wearing knee-length shorts and a loose unisex t-shirt. I figured I’ll blend right into the scene once I reach the park.
But I didn’t.
Every guy on the street felt entitled enough to eye-fuck my chest as I walked past. Every guy. It was truly horrendous. One auto driver instead of speeding away after dropping off someone behind me decided to slowly accelerate keeping his vehicle parallel to me for as long as possible while keeping his eyes on me. I hope he punctures his eyeballs and lives a long painful life.
I wish I was exaggerating or that I looked incredibly irresistible — trust me, wrong on both counts.
This is Chennai 2020. I’m fucking disappointed.
Maybe I had been cooped up inside for so long I forgot how common it is to get eye-fucked by a stranger on the road. It’s practically a rite of passage for most girls. Maybe all those men had been cooped up inside for so long that they forgot what real women look like. Maybe they were admiring my outfit. Light blue with orange is a daring combo.
One guy who was walking at a faster pace than me raced past me, slowed down, and hung back until I overtook him so he could take a second look. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK? This ploy was so obvious, I actually stopped right there, turned around, and stared at him until he picked up his pace. A half-decent guy would have spent a few more calories, finished the lap (it’s a circular park), and come around to “meet” me organically. My ass demands some dignity, sheesh. ATLEAST TRY TO HIDE WHAT A DEPRAVED DESPICABLE DEGENERATE YOU ARE!
That’s when I realized the men weren’t admiring my fashion choices.
The fact was, the population was 95% male in that park today morning. The only other girls were kids, grandmas trying to keep fit and two girls who were wearing …yep, salwars. With dupattas. Pinned on them.
I tried scowling at the men but I had a mask on, so I had to emote with just my eyes. I opened them super wide but they weren’t looking at my eyes, were they?
I don’t want to be an angry woman on the internet but crossing my arms on the street feels like I’m letting the patriarchy win and the discomfort somehow makes me feel angry at my own principles. And my inner turmoil feels extra insignificant knowing that guys on the street don’t give a rat’s shit about what I feel when I catch them with their eyes down.
It’s second nature to most men. They think it’s a victimless crime.
Lol, who am I kidding? They don’t think, they just care about getting their jollies. If it’s not me, it’s some other girl.
There is something visceral about being eyed like a piece of meat, the initial shame, the struggle to find your inner feminist, a mental check to throw out the victim-blaming mindset that’s been institutionalized into our culture — you aren’t the pig, a grappling desire to cause physical harm to the asshole and finally an evolutionary avoidance of confrontation because the system is rigged against us and I’m definitely not going to come out of this looking good.
Yep, I have literally had a stranger take a picture of me on a public train. On two separate occasions, years apart. Didn’t confront either of them.
I don’t want to be another angry woman on the internet but when you’re in that situation with only a cocktail of overwhelming helplessness and teeth grinding cheek-warming rage to keep you company — it sucks. And writing about it helps.
So I saw this tweet some time ago and it hit me that it’s the perfect analogy for male privilege.
Girls as young as 5-year-olds who are taught to sit with their legs closed learn about the male gaze when they barely know the difference between male and female. While boys are coddled by their mommies and grow into stunningly oblivious 25-year-olds who go “bUT tHeRe aRE adVaNtagES tO BeiNg a GiRl toO *eyebrow raise* *eyebrow raise*” when their female friends complain about dress codes and unsolicited eye-fucking. Shut your hole. Just shut it.
When a girlfriend rants, the least you can do is show some empathy. It could be a public masturbator, a random grandpa on the road giving you fashion advice (“wEaR a DuPpaTta, mY cHiLd”), an asshole groping you on public transport, or your neighbor fat shaming you. Trust me, all of us have heard these stories a million times. But it’s not like you get used to it. Every rage is personal.
I don’t want to be another angry woman on the internet because rants on the internet have standards now and what happened to me is practically prosaic. As disgusting as it is in isolation, doesn’t it sound practically kind when I put it up next to women getting raped and burned? Nobody wants to be called a whiny Karen.
As a girl, have you ever thought that the solution to leering could actually be more leering? It’s 2020 and India isn’t even ready for boobs. We’re only used to seeing skin on whitewashed North Indian women in our Tamil films. We need to normalize fat brown girls wearing t-shirts and shorts without a dupatta — not just on Instagram where only the woke kids your age can see it but on the streets too.
I know ‘focusing on the next generation’ sounds fancy but if you plan to step out into real life (read streets) you’ll realize that change should happen across all classes and ages. I don’t care if it’s slow, change usually is. I just need it to exist.
If the whole street is filled with breasts, they no longer seem like a big deal. Something Indian men learn when they step outside India.
Now, we can get this #LeerAtMe movement going if only we can eliminate the threat of groping, rapes, murders, acid attacks, and public masturbation.
Did you feel hopeful for a moment? Bet you forgot that men are animals.
I don’t want to be an angry woman on the internet but I’m only moderately overweight and if I have such a tough time going out in shorts in Kodambakkam, I can’t imagine how annoying it must be for women larger than me in more high-risk places.
I don’t want to be another angry woman on the internet because I know I have normalized such behavior and I would have forgotten this feeling by tomorrow morning.
I don’t want to be another angry woman on the internet because I’m familiar with the inevitable wave of futility and insignificance once I hit the publish button.
Another post, another woman. Well, what’s new?