Thursday, November 3, 2016


Men Who Stare At Women

I was recently contacted by an independent filmmaker who made a film called "Men Who Stare At Women". She asked me to share it to give more exposure. Here is what she had to say:

In this video, we have basically walked down the streets of Mumbai and confronted those men who stared blatantly at us women. Just to be clear, this wasn't them just checking us out. This was a predatory stare - I am sure you have seen this yourself. Our concept was simple - we just wanted to know why they stared so. Was it that a woman walking down the streets was a relatively uncommon sight? Was it just poor social conditioning?

But the responses we got were just not what we were expecting. To an extent, even threatening. We even saw one man justifying rape! All starting from a simple so-called harmless stare.

So the reason I am writing to you now is because I want to share this video far and wide. This is not just a mentality that exists in India's daughter. This is a mentality that seems to permeate through all layers of society. And we need to be aware of it. And we need to be wary of it.

I would request you to please watch the video and if you find it acceptable, please share it on your blog. This is a message that needs to be spread. And this is a mindset that needs to change.

I realize that just an 8 minute video cannot change the world. But if we all do our little bit - whatever we can - then surely it will. As filmmakers, this was, for us, the most natural course to follow. And we hope that it helps, in whatever little way. " 

The film really struck me because I did experience "eve teasing" or the proper name for it, sexual harassment when I went to India. In the 2 months that I was there, I got to experience the beauty of the country I was born in and connect with my heritage through the wonderful festivals, street food and encountered how my extended family welcomed us with open arms even though we hadn't see them in a decade. I got to know the simple, open and friendly nature that Indian people have and what it means to be hospitable. 

There is a phrase that I read of that said "You don't turn from a girl into a woman until you have been eve-teased. Then you will finally be a woman". I certainly experienced this downside too. Everywhere I went it seemed like only men were on the streets, walking around freely. This is why Indian feminists have been "loitering" too to take back public spaces from men. There was also a certain air of entitlement that oozed from these men, from the unabashed way they would smile and wink at me after I caught them staring at me to the way they spread their legs and extended their arms without concern for anyone else on transportation. They were confident because they knew the system was skewed towards them and they wouldn't get any punishment for what they did. 

Only that kind of confidence could propel a man to wink at me WHEN I WAS WITH MY MOM or follow after me on a motorcycle when I was in a rickshaw. I know what that man thinks because his consciousness and thinking is spread all over India. He doesn't mind following me when he's interested, for him it's something casual and a part of everyday life. 

I salute the women of India because I could not live a life being reminded of how much of a woman I was, both in body and mind, both outside the home and inside. From the exclamations of my uncle when he commented on how a girl was playing cricket with the boys to my mother telling me to look down and not confront the men who stared at me, this type of thinking followed me everywhere. I suspect this is why the majority of Indian women are so feminine and even "motherly", not because they were born that way but because it was molded into them by the treatment and messages they received of how women are born a certain way and that is the way the world works. 

It takes a great deal of courage to be yourself when anything outside the realm of how you are supposed to be is considered masculine.