Sunday, June 29, 2014

Not a good enough Alibi

We were having one of those Saturday nights, where we had a big group of people (from the Quora meetup) who decided to get out for a drink with last minute plans. As expected, we didn't really get a table in most bars and since we were a big group, we were desperate for a bar that seated us. Walking down Church Street, a friend spotted Alibi, the restobar and it seemed like they had a few tables that would accommodate a large group. My friends and I had a decent time for about the first two hours talking, eating, drinking and laughing.

While we were about to leave, and I was standing next to my table discussing with my friends about our cab options, I felt this guy's hand brush against my behind as he walked out. Startled, I wheeled around, and saw him walk off nonchalantly like nothing happened. I wasn't entirely sure whether his brush was accidental (because it was a narrow space between two tables that I was standing in) or intentional. Since he had already left, I didn't mull over it too much and ignored it (stupid, I know).

And while I was continuing to talk to my friends, this man returned only to grope my butt. I felt it this time, and it was no accidental brush. I caught him immediately and asked him what he thought he was doing. In response, he simply smirked. Infuriated, I got into an argument with him, only to be interrupted by his best friend who seemed even angrier because I falsely accused his friend of molesting me.

Seriously, WHY would I want to make this stuff up? Does anyone out there think women enjoy making a scene and involving multiple people in telling them how we were felt up?

The friend kept getting extremely defensive with every dialogue he spewed and began to yell, to which of course, I also felt an appropriate amount of yelling on my part was required. No one is going to tell me to shut up when someone violates my space.

Meanwhile, the molester is watching the argument between his friend and me spin out of control and stands as mute witness to the spectacle.

The head waiter, Sam (or so he claims his name was), steps in and hears both sides of the argument. He then proceeds to politely ask the molester to pay his bill and leave. When I protest at this extremely kind treatment meted out to the molester, Sam the head waiter starts bellowing at me, asks me to get out, and even threatens me by saying that he will make things worse for me. I asked him what he meant by that, and I said I was ready to go to the police. That's when he pretty much told me to get out. In the meanwhile the molester has conveniently slipped away and I was too engrossed in my conversation with the staff to notice. This happens while Sam is yelling the hell out of me - he literally gets 3 inches close to my face and his body language suggested that he might physically strike me at any moment. The Manager of Alibi then steps in, and then he starts yelling at me (it seems to be Alibi staff policy now) and says that I should have expected this because I was "dancing". He also explicitly stated that it wasn't the molester's fault. Pretty much all the Alibi staff members got together and started yelling at me and my friends raising a clamour, while the molester was treated as a gentleman till the time he left.

So let's get this straight, someone assaults me. I fight back. Management interferes, starts to blame me for what happens to me, tells me that it's not the guy's fault. Not just this, the management then misbehaves with me, while constantly bellowing at me because I was "creating a scene" and was "taking it too personally", and asked me to leave immediately. I was kicked out of Alibi by the waiters and management because I was molested by a man who happened to slip away while they were vociferously indulging in victim shaming. He got away scot-free and is likely to repeat it again because even when a woman did question him, he realized that everyone was going to blame the victim instead and it will be far easier for him to escape it. I, the victim, got treated like a criminal while the management treated the molester as a gentleman. Does that even make sense?

The behaviour doled out to me and my friends by the management was reprehensible. Victim blaming is such a real and common thing, and it happens so often that we have become indifferent towards it. The management was obviously trying desperately to protect their reputation and wanted to get me out of there. But the fact that they had the manager vehemently believing that my dancing was a cause of the molester's vile behaviour and with one of the waiters screaming in my face because I demanded justice was deplorable.

I walked away, in absolute disgust. We have discussions, we rally at protests, we teach men to respect women, we ask women to never suffer in silence and make some noise, and when we do, this is what happens. It was simply far easier to take the side of the molester and blame it on the victim for her clothes, for being at a bar, for being out late at night, or in this case, dancing (seriously, at best case I was just 'moving' a bit. And I haven't seen anyone ever at a bar standing or sitting in attention position throughout their stay there while the music is playing).

If "dancing" is against the rules, so is sexual assault! Why are we continuing to defend such heinous acts? Why do we try to shut the women who do speak up? Why do we transfer the blame to the victim?

I feel violated. Disgusted. Cheated. And I shouldn't be. But I am. Millions of women go through far worse situations everyday and when we stand up for ourselves, this is what we get treated with.

So dear women of Bangalore, you must already be doing this for good reason, but just in case you do plan to visit Alibi, I suggest otherwise. If anything does happen to you here, be rest assured that the Alibi management will yell at you, get in your face and tell you that it's your fault (they might threaten to make things worse for you as well). And oh, the perpetrator will be let off no questions asked as long as they pay their bill. *applause*

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On clothing and respect

Dear Mom who's biting her tongue,

This open letter to you is simply a response to the appalling blog post that you published on your web site a few hours back. Yes, the blog post where you so kindly expressed your disgust over the fact that a teenage girl chose to wore short shorts to Starbucks.

First off, I a̶m̶ was a huge fan of yours. I find you incredibly fun and wonderfully real. Which is why writing this is tougher than I thought it would be. In your latest post quite admirably titled "Dear teenage girl who’s wearing hooker shorts", you say quite a few things. And some things that are uncalled for. And some things that are outright WRONG. Yes, wrong. Because you, like millions of people in this world chose to slut shame a young girl, a teenager, for her choice of clothing.

Imagine my absolute shock when I read this bit of your post - "Yup, somewhere in Utah there’s a boy who’s mentally undressing a girl who’s wearing a floor-length flannel dress with an ugly braid in her hair. All you’re doing by wearing less clothing is making teenage boys work less and training them to be lazy."

Are you serious?

Teenage girls choosing to wear what they want makes boys work less? Is that the best defense you have? Do you think the ONLY reason teenage girls wear shorts is to earn attention from boys? Do you remember being a teenager? Did you forget all those times you wore shorts because damn, it was a hot day? Because it was comfortable? Do you remember wearing tank tops? Do you think every time women wear something, it has to be for a guy? Did you forget she could choose to dress simply for herself?

And you say dressing in shorts makes boys lazy. And he isn't going to work for it. Enlighten me, what is your point here? That a boy is going to respect you more if your legs are covered up? That girls who show more skin are less worthy of respect purely based on their clothing? Is that the actual message you want to send out to girls (and their mothers) everywhere? And I'm curious, do boys actually respect you more if you're covered from head-to-toe? If how it holds is that the amount of clothing is equivalent to respect, I think we all missed the bus on that one.

It may have also escaped your notice, but girls don't exist to be an object of male attention. You can't jump in and say that the only reason a girl wore a particular outfit was to attract a boy's interest. You're a woman, haven't you dressed several times only for your sake and comfort and not for someone else's? And this was at Starbucks, a coffee shop. She has every right to be comfortable in her outfit. Why police it?

Even if the girl chooses to be sexually promiscuous or show off her legs to get attention from boys, it's none of your business. We shouldn't be shaming girls for the choices they make. I thought women were uniting worldwide in getting people to stop slut shaming, not blame clothing for rape, etc., but you seem to be doing a fine job yourself in choosing to be judgmental over a pair of shorts.

Wearing short shorts does not mean someone is a hooker, and she definitely didn't deserve that name from you. What can you tell when you see someone wearing shorts (man or woman)? That it's hot and they felt like wearing it. Literally, that's it. I didn't think glancing at a teenage girl's clothing was sufficient enough to cast aspersions on her morality.

WHY are you sexualizing women's bodies so much? The media does it enough for us. Some stupid politicians do it for us. Weird rapping music stars do it for us. You're a woman so many look up to and respect in the social media scene and yet, you chose to shame a girl for her choices.

To top it off, this is the description you used to post it on Facebook:

Source: Official Facebook page of Baby Sideburns

Skanky slutbag. Wow. I'm younger than you and have probably never heard that phrase in my life but kudos to you for calling a teenage girl that on your Facebook page with nearly 200K followers.

What a girl chooses to wear is her business. Not yours, not mine. But hers alone. If her clothing bothered you so much, you should have just looked away. But you decided to write a blog post about how judgmental you are on a teenager's clothing.

The world isn't safe for girls, I agree. But what you're effectively communicating with this blog post is that a woman who wears less clothes isn't worthy of respect, isn't worthy of a man, and this might loosely translate into "Rape is caused when women dress provocatively". Not for you, not for me, but for someone else, it might.

The message shouldn't be "Cover yourself up". The message should be "Respect everyone equally". The more you propagate the former message, the more you let your kids and people around you believe that women's clothing is linked to morality, to promiscuity, to rapes and ultimately make them believe that women bring this upon themselves because of the clothes they wear.

You're witty, you're smart, you're beautiful. But don't choose to shame anyone for their choices in clothing (or anything for that matter). I can't remember the last time a teenage boy was shamed for wearing his pants too low but the comments on your FB thread clearly show how many people condemn a teenage girl for wearing shorts.

Shaming someone for their choices is never alright. Always, always remember that. And, while you're at that, maybe you could stand up for more women. We could do with some more solidarity.

A 25-year-old who loves to wear shorts and will wear them as long as she has legs.