by: Pia Mathur ,16 and Sabreen Sukhjia,16
All too often, we let the women around us define their self-worth by the way their body looks. We’re very quick to judge these women, label them as “artificial” and brush it off like it’s no big deal. We never stop to think about WHY this happens. The voices inside our head that tell us to cover up, or to be home by midnight, are nothing but a reflection and of how the world sees us – before anything, an object. A playground for your sexual desires. Catcalling is a phenomenon that has haunted the streets of New Delhi( the reigning crown holder of the worlds most unsafe city for women )since centuries. Women across generations are familiar with it and despite how traumatic and unfair it is it finds itself in the cusp of normalcy. Here are some anonymous incidents of some girls describing the first time they were exposed to the dark truth of the city they call home:
- It was New Years night and I was walking towards the common area where my parents were waiting for me. There was a group of boys and girls in the path, they were smoking and drinking. So I very politely asked them to move to a side so that I could cross. One of the guys said “sure baby” and then started making more comments on how I was looking, despite the fact that I was wearing an extremely decent dress. I said nothing and just brisk walked. What angered me the most was that none of their girlfriends stopped them, rather they were laughing too.
- In June 2019, I went for a run to the park behind my building at 7:00 pm. On my way back home at 7:30 pm, I realized I was being stalked. When I moved into the next lane, I was stopped in my tracks by an intimidating man almost twice my size. He questioned me, pestering me for my number and socials… and suddenly… I felt his hand on my waist. Instinctively, I grabbed his hand and started shaking it to prevent getting groped. I made small talk until I reached the gate. Upon spotting the guard, I called for help and ran home. I HAD NEVER BEEN MORE SCARED. I haven’t gone to the park ever since. No one should go through something like this, ever.
- This incident happened last year in the New Friends Colony Market, my mother and I were standing when 3 men sitting in a nearby car starting pointing at me and making sexual signs. Perhaps what scared me the most about this incident was the euphemism that despite the fact that there was an adult with me and I was “decently dressed “I still wasn’t safe.
- I was walking back from somewhere with my mom and at one point I had run ahead. There were a couple of guys there and they said stuff about how they want to be the first to get their hands down my shirt and that I’d be ‘nice and tight’ obviously I didn’t know what they meant back then but I remember running back to my mom. It’s annoying and frustrating how vivid the memory of that incident is in my mind even though it happened when I was 8 years old.
- It was early in the morning and I had gone out for a quick grocery run. As I left the shop, I saw a bunch of 20-year-old guys staring at me. I tried ignoring it, but then one of them started rhyming about the things he wanted to do with my body. I was 10. I remember wanting to say something but I didn’t, I thought they would follow me home.
- This happened back in 9 th grade my best friend and I were talking to a close friend of ours who we had known since we were kids, out of nowhere he shifted the conversation to breast sizes and started shaming my best friend for having “small boobs” before anyone of us could say anything he pointed at my breasts and said that they were big and the perfect ones. Both my best friend and I were left stunned not only because of the way we had been violated but the fact that it came from the last person we expected- our close friend who we had known for more than half of our lives. This incident really made us feel uncomfortable, we don’t talk to that person any more and have cut all ties with him.
- I left my boyfriend because i had started to lose feelings for him, later I fell for and started dating another guy, my ex-boyfriend’s friends texted me threatening messages calling me “Randi” and “Teri maa ki chut” however they unsend the texts before I could take screenshots and confront and report about it. To this day I face a lot of slut-shaming even though the breakup happened almost 3 years ago.
- I was 16. Travelling alone in the metro. Got down at Rajiv Chowk. 3 guys pushed me my bag fell. I bent down to pick it up. They were staring at my behind. They then poked each other and gave me a look, a disgusting one. On another instance, I had gone to a friends house and was wearing a slightly deep top. My friend’s dad poked him and gave me a disgusting look.
- When I was 12 I joined social media and I didn’t really know how to use it. My Instagram account was public and I didn’t think that would be a problem ( i had just joined and was having fun). There were some accounts which started commenting Inappropriate stuff even though it was clear from my pictures that I was a minor. There were comments about my body, my face and other extremely creepy stuff. I know this situation was my fault because my account was public and it would invite accounts like these but the most frightening thing that happened to me out of all was that one person sent me unsolicited nude pictures.
These stories are just a part of a very small chapter in a book of millions of pages.
A woman is catcalled, degraded, disrespected and objectified on a daily basis, be it at work or the comfort of her own house. Patriarchy is so deeply embedded in our society that every man, consciously or unconsciously, says or does something that shows patriarchy, and both the upbringing and their environment are to be blamed for it.
The worst part of the entire situation is that despite the amount of awareness that has been created, it is still so easy for people to use words like “rape”, as if it’s almost “cool” to say things like this. The amount of ignorance brimming within these people is just not acceptable. There is an extremely thin line between respectfully complementing someone and passing vulgar comments.
You will never hear a man complaining that he is scared that if he posts something against a woman on his Instagram stories, then she might track him down and throw acid on him. But a woman, no matter how emotionally, physically or mentally strong she is will always have a sense of fear in her about the fact that she might get sexually assaulted or thrown acid on if she raises her voice against a group of boys. And that is the hard and bitter truth of this patriarchal system we live in that would never change no matter how much awareness keeps being created.