"Eve Teasing" - A crime against women

I've been reading the "Blank Noise Project" - and it sort of clarified something I've wondered about over the last two years, about Indian men. The Indian men that I've met (and I've met quite a few here in Fresno, for various reasons) sometimes seem odd to me. Not due to cultural differences, I can handle that, but due to how they speak about or act toward women.

It appears to me that there is a Bollywood and tradition influenced culture of tactlessness and abuse toward women by men in India. India calls it "Eve Teasing" to openly grope women on the street. I don't claim to understand it, but the small amount of reading I've done on the "Blank Noise Project" and some other blogs seem to say that young Indian men have the impression that if they are a mixture of bold, aggressive, and goofy that young women will find them endearing. This seems to have lead to a culture of groping from which no Indian woman escapes.

While reading these blogs, it brought into sharp focus a conversation I had two years ago - and explained a lot of that conversation to me. I've reconstructed this from memory, but I believe it is still accurate of what was said:

He's an acquaintance of sorts, a likeable guy. He's from India and he came to America to study and work. Maybe I met him on campus, maybe somewhere else. It doesn't matter really. I'll call him Pavan. Our circumstances threw us together for several hours a week for a period of months.

Pavan is brilliant, but naive in the way that many young Indian men seem to be when they first come to America. I sort of understand naivety - I was once young and naïve in South Korea. But for a young Indian man in America, naïve seems to mean that he is completely ignorant about women.

In one of our fairly rare moments when we had time to talk about more than software and electronics, he mentioned to me that he was having a hard time meeting girls. They seemed to avoid him, he told me, in clubs, on the street, in malls. Apparently Pavan was a distressing mix of aggressive and clueless when it came to meeting women. He would step up to some girl in the mall, and ask her if she'd want to have a soda or coffee with him. Perhaps some people could pull that off, but Pavan isn't one of them - from talking to him it seemed he sort of 'ambushed' the girl out of the blue, asking her only because she was attractive.

"Where can I go to meet girls, Mark?" He asked me, "I think American girls are all stuck up or prejudiced, they don't want to talk to a brown guy."
"Where have you tried meeting girls?"
"You know, normal places like the clubs."
"Pavan that may be normal to some, but not to all. Do you like to drink? Do you enjoy drinking?"
"I hate drinking. I usually just get a soda."
"Are you a good dancer? Do you love to dance?"
"Not really."
"Then a woman that is comfortable in such an environment may not have much in common with you," I said. "What do you like to do? What do you love?"
"I like rock climbing, and bicycling."
"Then you should join clubs that do that sort of thing; the women you meet there will have something in common with you."
"But there aren't many pretty girls in that. I want a woman that's 'fun'."
"Stop looking, Pavan, and start doing the things that you enjoy. If you're doing something that makes you happy, something that women share an interest in, then your joy will attract women who will be interested in making you part of their life."
"Whoa, Mark, I don't want to get married, I just want to 'fool around' a little! You know where I can find women like that?"
"Yes, but it will cost you $20 to $300 an hour, depending on the quality of woman you want." I said with clear disgust.
"No, what are you talking about? A prostitute! No way man! I just want a girlfriend!"
"No you don't, Pavan, because if you wanted a girlfriend, you would start with a 'friend'. You want to qualify the relationship up front with someone who 'puts out'. You can find girls who act like that, but the odds are you won't like them."
"Why not? If she's beautiful and doesn't mind fooling around with me…"
"Pavan, the reason why girls won't talk with you is because you're acting like a predatory jerk. They can sense that a mile away. Grow up!"

That sort of ended our conversation.

At the time I thought it was, 'just Pavan'. Now, after reading "The Blank Noise Project" I have to wonder if Pavan was more the norm than I thought. Perhaps his attitude wasn't just him, but a reflection of the overall attitude in his homeland? I don't like to think this is true, but I now believe it is.

What is equally distressing to me is that I now recall stories of groping on crowded busses and subway trains in South Korea and Japan. There was a culture of that in the 80's and 90's when I lived in those countries. I'm told that the young people in South Korea have managed to reduce that a lot by being vocal about it when it happens, but I'm sure it still happens.

It makes me wonder how prevalent this is in America?

Just some friendly advice guys - she's a person; and making her feel threatened by your unwanted advances, no matter what she looks like or how she's dressed, is NOT okay.

Grow up, already.


Scientia said...

Holy cow. Erm. Pun unintended.

My parents and my husband are from the same hundred-acre village in Kerala (south India), so this is a subject that, over my lifetime, has gotten considerable airplay. I'm probably, in fact, going to post to my blog on this- too bad I missed the blogathon, but speaking up helps no matter when you do it. Thank you for doing so.

Sigh. Brief summary- I spent a year in India continuously, and between other summer vacation visits have probably spent another year there. This kind of assault, therefore, has been a problem for me on and off since I was 12.

I'll expound further on my blog, but I was born here, and was a tomboy. My solution to this problem was a hard elbow or fist to the solar plexus, and occasionally to the arm or chin. I didn't bother being subtle about it either. Hey, if your hands (or anything else) are purposefully on my body without my permission, you’re fair game for the same treatment from me. And because the game these guys play requires that they never acknowledge they're playing, they couldn't respond.

Obviously, for a lot of reasons, a lot of the women who suffer from this kind of molestation feel that striking back, physically or otherwise, isn't an option- like many other victims of sexual molestation, they feel ashamed. I’m so very, very glad that’s no longer universal- that at least there’s a public acknowledgement that this is a problem.

Scientia said...

Separate subject. Your, um, 'friend' Pavan. Yeah, he's a jackass. And yeah, he's the norm.

Now, I know and am related to several guys born and raised in India, including my husband, and have at one time or another considered most of them friends. The one thing almost every one had in common (guess who the exception is) is that when they left India they went beserk and tried to get laid as often as possible.

They weren't subtle, or tactful, or charming about it either- and, like Pavan, got offended when their tactless, charmless, hopeless waste-of-time advances were rejected. I can't figure out if it's that they have absolutely no experience of dealing with women as independent, equal human beings, or that they really are just hopeless wastes of time for an independent, intelligent female. Unfortunately, both seem to be true.

A sentence exculpating my husband, though- he's the exception to a great many (though not all) of the Indian male stereotypes, including this one- he treats women with respect.

Mumbai Monsoon said...

The moment you start making condescending statements towards all Indian men in general, you've approached the problem the wrong way. Those who grope or chance a feel are in a category of their own and need to be dealt with accordingly. Being vocal is the first step and as you noticed in South Korea and Japan, it will hopefully effect a change in India as well.

As far as Pavan is concerned. I don't know. Yes, there are lots of guys who are looking for a casual shallow relationship, but does that make them jackasses? There are plenty of women as well who enjoy a certain degree of physical intimacy without wanting to get involved in serious realtionships? I'm not calling them all sluts.

I believe, for innate personal reasons of their own, people look for certain things in a partner or in a relationship. It's really none of our business and we most certainly do not have any right to judge them for it.

However, as far as the question of sexual harrasment is concerned. I am willing to bet that Pavan will not resort to stepping up in a bus and grabbing some girl's breasts. But there are people who do, and they are the ones who need to be stopped.

Anonymous said...


I’m not really sure what your point is here.

From reading your blog I see that you are well acquainted with ‘eve teasing’ in India. As you said yourself, you have yet to find one single woman who has NOT been abused in this way.

This, to me, indicates a deep failure prevalent throughout the Indian culture. Not one to be calling the pot black, I freely admit that my own (American) culture has, or had, cultural failures of similar magnitude in other women’s issues. (Abuse of women in America tends to be of the unequal pay or promotion for equal work, or the denial of basic reproductive health services.)

Yes there are good Indian men that will defend a woman’s right to dress as she likes, to come and go as she likes, without fear of abuse. And we both know that there are men in India who abuse women. I’m not sure if either is the norm. I think that the norm is that most men keep silent, unless it happens to a woman close to them.

Yes, women speaking out will reduce the problem. But the problem won’t go away until the quiet majority also learns to speak out.