Friday, September 13, 2013

Eyes On My Body, Rage In My Head

Today there are celebrations across India -- the four rapists that brutally attacked a woman and her partner on a bus last year have been sentenced to death.

My friends are cheering. They post stuff and send me texts that justice is being served. But that euphoria seems more like tiger balm -- satisfying in a strange, tingly way, but only until it rubs off. Then you're just left with the ache.

There are some things that don't wash away. I resonate in part with this widely circulated essay from a an American student in India -- the constant feeling of eyes on your body is a silent, pervasive trauma. It's the kind of thing that turns your wonderment into dull, passive rage, your aimless saunter into a hurried walk.

It's not just an India problem. It's in my backyard and every country I've visited.

The worst moments for me were actually in Italy, where American study abroad kids can be like a drunken scar on the face of a beautiful city. But I wasn't drunk when I was followed for blocks down cobblestone streets, or when some guy pinned me against a wall in a club and stuck his hands down the waistline of my jeans.

I was told these weren't Italians. They were undocumented workers preying on American girls. But paperwork means nothing when you feel unwanted eyes and hands on your body.

In India, the frustration was paired with an experiment. I lived for a short while in the kind of community described in these context pieces about the Delhi rape. But it quickly became home, the stares become curiosity, and I had enough guardians in the families I knew that uneasiness became a thing of the past.

I became human there, in a slow and deliberate way. But only within that one square mile -- there were, of course, other times that shook me to the core.

This is not about  my story, though, it's a collective narrative. We don't get to write the plot through our single blogs and Facebook posts -- it's in the way boys are raised, and what girls see in the mirror. The way they sit together in school, and what it means to hold hands. The true meaning of consent.

Because until that happens, these stirring moments are not tipping points, they are just headlines. And I can safely say that's not justice.


jyotiajat said...

Thanks Ankita ! Your voice resonates with many more not only in India but around world.

My Voices said...

Resonates! How I wish people here get's time each boy is brought up differently at home and he is taught to accept NO as a answer.