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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Sunday, January 13, 2013


There’s plenty of advice out there for how women should stay safe; here are a few handy pointers for the men as well

Over the last month or so, Indian women have been inundated with gratuitous advice on how we should conduct themselves in public so as to keep themselves safe from sexual harassment and violence. Politicians, religious heads, media commentators, women’s rights activists, and well, pretty much anyone with a voice to be heard, has come up with new and innovative ways to keep the women in our society ‘safe’ from sexual crimes.

Right off the top of my head, these are some of the suggestions that have been offered in all seriousness. Women should not be allowed access to mobile phones. Co-education should be banned. Girls should be married off the moment they reach puberty to keep them safe from predators. Schoolgirls should wear overcoats over their uniforms to save them from the gaze of perverts. Teachers should wear lab coats to prevent male students leching at them. Working women should not be so adventurous as to travel back home alone from work late at night. Women should not wear skirts or other ‘revealing’ outfits because that just excites the men and provokes them into attacking them sexually. And certainly, women should not complain about being ‘raped’ if they willingly go out with men, because honestly, what were they expecting?

That is, by no means, an exhaustive list. But I guess you get the general drift. The message is clear and simple: stay covered up; stay at home; stay silent; and if you’re lucky, you may stay safe.

So it is in the same spirit that I now offer my own two bits of gratuitous advice to men as to how they should live their lives.

·  * First off, don’t ever venture out into the night alone. And most certainly, don’t head out with a group of male friends. If you are seen prowling the streets late at night, we will assume that you are up to no good. That you are, in fact, ‘asking’ to rape someone. So, be a dear and get home by 9 pm. If you do have to venture out after this ‘curfew’, then ask a woman – your wife, sister, mother, aunt, any other female relative – to accompany you. If you fail to do that, then be prepared to face the consequences. If you are out late at night and ‘cross’ that ‘Lakshman Rekha’ we will assume that you are Ravana and treat you accordingly.

·  * Be warned. If you dress in an ‘immodest’ manner, we’ll be judging you. Put away those shorts you wear to the beach/mall/gym to show off those hairy legs. Don’t wear those tight, crotch-hugging jeans. And button up that shirt while you’re at it; nobody wants to see that provocative expanse of chest. What kind of message are you sending anyway by flashing all that flesh? Cover up already. Don’t you know how to stay within your ‘maryada’?

·  * When it comes to socialising or making friends, stick to your own sex. It’s much safer that way. If you hang out with girls; go to the movies with them; party with them; or, God forbid, drink and dance with them, things will get tricky very quickly. So, don’t risk going out with a girl unless she is your sister or you intend to marry her (not if she is your sister, of course). If you do, then we will know just how dodgy your ‘morals’ are. And that may well destroy your marriage prospects. Nobody wants to get hitched to ‘that kind of guy’, you know.

·  * While we are on the subject of marriage, do try and enter the holy state of matrimony as early as possible. It’s best if you are hitched by 21 but we will allow you some leeway till around 25. If you hit the age of 30 without acquiring a wife then we will assume that there is something seriously wrong with you. And if you are still single at 35, or worse still, at 40, it will be taken as a given that you are either sexually depraved or morally deviant.

·  * Don’t rock the boat. If someone passes a snide comment, makes a personal remark, invades your personal space, touches you inappropriately, makes unwanted sexual advances, just ignore it. If the harassment persists, submit meekly. Don’t make a scene. Don’t raise your voice. Stay silent and pray that it goes away. But never – no matter what the provocation – retaliate or even react. Just go with the flow. Because if you stand up for yourself, there is every likelihood that you will be ground into the dust.

Okay then, that’s my five-point ‘advisory’ to all men. And now here’s a question for all the men who have persisted in reading thus far: how offended are you by all the ‘suggestions’ listed above? Very offended indeed, I’m guessing.

Good. Now you know how every woman feels when she hears people holding forth on how she needs to do a, b, and c (and avoid e, f, and g) to keep herself ‘safe’. And maybe that will teach all of you ‘experts’ out there to shut the hell up.


Vibrant People I Meet in Life said...

I truely enjoyed reading every bit of the article...truely inspired to write a blog on this :)

beyondpinkindia said...

Seema, that was a truly kita (Kick in the ass) piece. You should try and make it go viral so that many more people, especially men, read it. I think you should get it translated and place it in journals and newspapers in the hinterland.

Mohamed said...

"If you dress in an ‘immodest’ manner, we’ll be judging you"

Where do men get a chance to dress immodestly? Men are not allowed to wear sleeveless and spaghetti straps. And the "shorts" that men wear are longer than the skirts that women wear.

"If someone passes a snide comment, makes a personal remark, invades your personal space, touches you inappropriately, makes unwanted sexual advances, just ignore it" - so many times in the bus women have shouted at men for no fault of the men just because the bus is crowded and women are blocking the way and the men have to push through to get out of the bus. But I have never seen men shouting at women even when the women use the shoulders of the men as support for themselves to lean on. So men are already pretty much putting up with crap the way you are telling, just that media never reports it since it is men to whom it happens. I have even seen cases where old women actually tell men in the handicapped seats to get up, but just keep quiet when some young girl is sitting on the seat and the old women just go standing on the bus. It is only old Muslim men who tell Muslim women to get up from the handicapped seats so that they can sit on the seats that are rightfully theirs.