Dear Ms Sonnal Pardiwala I don’t buy your arguments but would you please buy a pepper spray?

This is a response to a blog that appeared in the Quint after the mass molestation in Bengaluru on the New Year Eve.

Written by Nandini Rathi | New Delhi | Updated: January 5, 2017 8:40 pm
benagluru mass molestation, bengaluru molestation, bengaluru women molestation, bengaluru new year mass molestation, mg road brigade road molestations, bangalore mass molestation, bengaluru shame, india news, latest news In our country, girls and women don’t even come borderline close to feeling secure in public spaces, where there are equally entitled to be as citizens of this country, like their male counterparts.

Ms. Pardiwala,

I have found bits and pieces of your opinion in many online conversations and thought it worthwhile to respond. I am afraid I find it inconsistent.

Yes, I have had to endure pinching and grabbing on railway stations. But whenever a guy acted smart, I have used my sandals or my verbal weapons. Over the years, I have realised this: Being safe is an option not to be confused with rights.

You share that like any woman, you have had to suffer groping and that you have always managed to protect yourself. Is it not because these acting-smart guys tried to infringe upon your right to not be touched inappropriately against your will? Didn’t you teach them a lesson because they did something wrong?

You say you do not justify molestation and claim that it’s “fashionable to blame men and their mindsets”. Yet, you choose to ignore that molestation takes place because many men carry thinly veiled misogyny in their minds. By that logic, do you not blame the guys who felt entitled to take advantage of crowds to grope you? Are you saying that being in a crowd or a mob means the individual’s actions are not his own doing, and thus absolved? There is no mindset problem apparent in attempting to “act smart”?

I would really like to know how you propose to battle misogyny without touching any men or mindsets.

When you step out onto the street, you are fraught with an incumbent risk. You may meet with an accident. That’s why there are footpaths and zebra crossings. You may slip on the road if it is wet! Will you then blame the road because it is wet?

Accidents and slippery, wet roads don’t target any gender. Molestation usually does. It’s a crucial difference, which I am sorry you missed.

But the question that arises is: Why were they – both men and women – out on the streets?

Weren’t there enough pubs or restaurants where they could’ve gone to enjoy themselves?

… if I know I am slightly tipsy and others are likely to be tipsier than me, it is best I stick to familiar people and environs.Why venture into unfamiliar areas and expect strangers to behave decently with me?

Is it possible to not pass through any streets, if one revels in pubs, restaurants or other venues? MG Road is hardly a strange environ, but a prime location of Bangalore with plenty of appropriate celebration venues that you refer to.

In Delhi NCR, if I chose a classy, aptly secure pub in Hauz Khas village for carefree, drunken New Year revelry, I would still have to leave it at some point circa 2 AM. At that point, it’s unlikely that my cab would arrive right at the doorstep. Even if I wished to – one cannot avoid walking across that stretch of the road that would be filled with hoards of potentially drunk, rowdy members of the male species. Hopefully I won’t be alone, but even that would not ensure no-groping if we are suddenly outnumbered.

What if your average weapons like sandals and words were not sufficient then? Clearly, in a mob, they won’t be. “Precautions and rights are different things”, you say. How do you so easily separate precautions from the right to reach home safely? Because, in my experience, the line between safe and unsafe is frequently blurred, yet unavoidable.

While battling misogyny, let us not give way to misandry.

The anger is not about just this particular incident. In our country, girls and women don’t even come borderline close to feeling secure in public spaces, where there are equally entitled to be as citizens of this country, like their male counterparts. Is it fair of you to brand a genuine anger for that as “fashionable” male bashing? Do most of these girls not have fathers, brothers, male friends, boyfriends or husbands who would not have behaved like the hooligans did? Do most women not understand the difference between men who compose friends and family and men who compose mobs that try to molest them? So I beg to strongly disagree with the blanket charge of misandry you level against those who speak up against horrific, shameful incidents.

There might be a few politically incorrect statements – intentional and unintentional – but I can assure you they are fewer and far less visible than the victim-blaming statements righteously made by visible spokespeople that decry women’s freedom of movement and dress – on national television.

Why blame public servants who are ill-equipped to deal with a massive number of people not fully in control of themselves?

Um, because that was their job? Why are they ill-equipped, Ms. Pardiwala and should they continue to be? Should the inadequacy of the state continue? While defense spending is a hot button issue, this is not even a marginal subject that the politicians talk about in their election manifestos.

You have got to want to see a problem, in order to want to solve it.

No one wants to be touched and felt up against their will. But there is no crowd in which (heterosexual) men will have to worry about being targeted sexually, no matter what their attire or drink factor.

If there was ever a dream, I dream of a country where women don’t have to run for cover and be invisible from the streets like cinderellas at the stroke of midnight when their fellow male citizens can revel on unfazed. That is only possible if we acknowledge that there is something significantly wrong with the mindsets who populate the molesting mobs.

Changing attitudes is a slow process, I understand that. But some enlightened countries have come quite far and set neat examples. So I request you, Ms. Pardiwala, to think bigger and beyond. Let’s think of an India where girls and women are at least almost as safe as their male counterparts, where safe places are not so strictly confined to four-walled enclosures.

If I were to give one lesson to my child in the light of these events, this is what I would say. If you must party, why not do it in a place where security and accountability measures are firmly in place?

Aside from teaching your child where to party and where not, you could maybe pay attention to what cues he or she gets from their environment and what they learn from their books about boys and girls. You could deconstruct popular media and even textbooks for them, and discuss, and debate and clarify when it objectifies girls and their roles.

Maybe help them distinguish that girls usually don’t step out after dark in our times because of sick mindsets of some men who can attempt to injure, grope and violate their bodies – and not because the girls do not have a complete right to. You could make sure that they know that a woman’s place is where she wants it to be.

Did someone say pepper spray? I do not know where one can buy it. I do not earn enough to afford a bodyguard. I learnt martial arts as a hobby in my twenties, though.

Good for you if you still remember those chops. Would you please buy a pepper spray? Those are available online.

 

The Sonnal Pardiwala opinion published on Quint can be read at http://www.thequint.com/blogs/2017/01/04/bengaluru-shame-you-can-chose-to-be-safe-dont-blame-the-mob-new-year-eve-molestation-gender-issue-womens-safety

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