Culture / Minutiae / Rights · March 12, 2006

“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.