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May 7th, 2017

Mansplaining rape. In Delhi.

I am the uber-proud mother of a fearsomely intelligent, fearsomely independent daughter.

So when she whatsapped me asking if she could write a guest blog post about a guy “mansplaining how safe Delhi is for women”, I immediately accepted.  (And yes, obviously, my maternal antennae went up at the same time.)

Please read this, and then take a few minutes, if you will, to share your thoughts/experiences with everyone.

I’d be fascinated by your feedback – especially young women of my daughter’s age.

Anjulie, thank you for this.  As you said, “Seems topical given the whole verdict thing.” (That’s a reference to the death penalty awarded on Friday to the men who gang-raped and eviscerated a young woman of my daughter’s age, in south Delhi where we live…)

So, in a city with a frighteningly high rate of sexual attacks and a culture of gawping and groping and leering – I give you the views of a 26 year old young woman who lives in Delhi:

“Statistically speaking, no woman here is going to get raped tonight.”

This is what I was told last night, by a seemingly educated man, as he mansplained to me how Delhi is safe for women.

Of course, my snarky “explain to me how you, as a man, can tell me, as a woman, what it’s like for women to live in Delhi” was completely lost on him, drowned out by the music and the alcohol. But trust me on this – as a twenty six year old woman living in Delhi I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that Delhi is not safe for women.

Over the course of last night, at a club within a multi-starred hotel, three men felt empowered to touch or hold me as a way of introducing themselves (and no, I don’t mean a tap on my shoulder to get my attention). Three different men, all of whom reacted with the same bewildered expression when I objected, genuinely confused by my anger at their uninvited hands. As if my skirt meant I owed them a drink, my heels meant I owed them a dance, or my gender meant I owed them my time, my attention or my body.

For years, I’ve been told that I smile too much so I am easily approachable when we’re out. Last night, someone I’ve known for years but took a few seconds to recognize in the dark told me I have a “death stare” until I recognize the man talking to me. That’s what comes of being a woman in Delhi.

I notice but no longer react when people look at my friends or me. Perhaps that’s the most troubling element. The inherent misogyny within Delhi is so normalised that we don’t even get bothered by it anymore. Forget being bothered by them – the stares are expected. It’s part of life here.

All of this is absolutely not to say that all men here are like that. Last night, I was with a wonderful group of people, all of whom looked out for each other. And I’ve seen or experienced similar situations all over the world, with people feeling entitled to approach or touch someone who’s not interested. Unfortunately, this is unique neither to Delhi nor to men. But I think the difference that I’ve found between India and other countries in which I’ve lived is the normalisation. We roll our eyes at it and move from one side of the group to the other, rather than dealing with the deeper issue (which, I know, cannot be dealt with effectively at a night club at 2am).

I know this is a complex, intricate, tangled topic, and one rant does nothing to resolve it, but all of this venting is to say no, random man, Delhi is not safe. Perhaps you’re right; God knows I hope you’re right and no women at that club got attacked. But that doesn’t mean anything. If amongst the educated, well-travelled, culturally exposed Delhi-ites, men are confused when women stand up for the right not to have their bodies touched uninvited, what does that mean for the rest of the city?

22 comments to Mansplaining rape. In Delhi.

  • Lovely post Christine ! The ‘death stare’ is part of my DNA now. I too used to smile a lot when I came to a Delhi as a 16 year old.

  • Gurpreet what a city…I saw men sniggering at me today when I was out running. 6am on a Sunday. And at my age. For crying out loud…

  • You can’t walk anywhere without being sniggered at. Even in a nine yard sari, no matter if you think you are past the age of cat calls. But sadly, thats the obvious and you can protect yourself from it. The society men in clubs, office parties, hobby groups are the real predators.

  • Great post, Christine. I think, it is the normalisation that is disturbing here. That someone can stare at you/touch you and that entitlement over a woman’s body is disconcerting. Also, I have to curtail my free spirit in India. I remember first time being abused in an office situation and when I filed a complaint to the HR, I was told by “her” that it was all my fault.Apparently, I laughed too much and made eye contact with men.

  • It is a common experience – the pathetic mansplaining included. We have taught ourselves not to smile…in fact I find I carry an armour around, everything is a battle of sorts…and there are only losers.

  • Sapna yes, that reining in of spontaneity is deeply disturbing & saddening

  • Yasmin & Gurpreet – how sad that smiling, that most normal of human reactions, is so misconstrued here

  • Yes and that we go out of our way to look unapproachable..hostile almost

  • You’re right Yasmin…I hadn’t thought about it in so many words, but yes, one has to appear almost hostile…

  • Once a friend and I were discussing friendships with males, (my friend is a divorce) and she was observing on the fact that how she has been subjected to comments by females about the friendship. The guy is married, you are a divorce, so you are a predator. All that was happening was they were getting along well like she does with her female friends. So it’s also the society that forces you to check your otherwise harmless behavior.

  • Yes that was my thought on reading your daughter’s excellent writing – how sad that a friendly smile is misinterpreted.

  • How well written.
    Another excellent observation is how as women we pass on this subliminal message to our sons when we denigrate, judge & label women who r ‘different’ from us in the guise of gossip

  • The article was spot on. The sad reality is that when we did start out, we were standing up to things and having a voice, but both changed and this deep frustration has somehow made all of us just want to ignore it. It is such a common experience that at times, we don’t just have the energy to deal with it. It has made us mentally exhausted.
    I know more of the ‘intellect’ lot who get offended when their advance are stopped or a girl says no to them. It’s like in their head they think, “gosh, I have a penis and I am educated. So I do have the right to inappropriately address my fellow female friends.” Being educated somehow is a justification for them. It is shitty.
    And in today’s youth circles, you are welcomed if you are a fellow female bashing, mysogist ‘bitch’.
    I have to stop myself from wanting to bash up every guy who whistles and calls me names on the street because i am worried I might be the next victim.
    I drive a two wheeler, everyday somehow overtakes me while calling me all sorts of derogatory terms. And I just stare dead ahead.
    This is the bleak reality we, in Delhi, are living in.

    P.s. your daughter’s blog is powerful and precise. Love it!

  • I can so relate to this. Very on-point and sadly true. Can recall various instances where I’ve been mansplained how safe Delhi is or even been mocked or reprimanded for not wanting to stay out after dark. Thank you for writing this .

  • A resounding YES to every word of this. Luckily I feel that a new kind of man is slowly beginning to emerge, at least here in America, who actually gets it. Not just about the rape, but about all the micro aggressions that lead up to that tip of the iceberg which is rape. Taking credit for a woman’s ideas. making jokes about PMS. Calling their exes crazy. I feel like there are a handful of men I know who actually understand the real ramifications of all of this, and the number is growing. Which isn’t to say we don’t still have a VERY long way to go. But any progress is progress.

  • Spot On article by Anjulie .
    While traveling back to India , I always have to remind my pre-teens not to pack their shorts or short- skirts and not to talk to strangers , don’t dance around on the road and being careful lists goes on and on and it saddens me when I have to ask them to subdue their very basic nature .

  • Spot on ! And sadly sadly true !

  • Feel like killing them. Shared.

  • Jane

    Looks like that wonderful daughter of yours has inherited your brilliant writing gene! And yes, the accepting staring is normal is worrying. Much prefer the in you face “whar are you looking at” South London response. If you have the energy, Anjulie, keep challenging

  • Thank you Anjulie for writing this. Thank you Christine for posting it.
    I empathise. To be on high alert, en guard at every moment is tiring. To create a hostile exterior goes against my nature. Because of disrespect to my personal space it has to be so.
    And yet by certain bodies they try to mansplain it all away. I despair.

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