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Which male is to be trusted?

Illus: for TH

Illus: for TH  

In this time of egregious offences against women, some touch-and-go experiences

As I leave after a philosophy lecture, a man I only just met there asks me where I live. I clam up for a minute, and then tell him that it is an inappropriate question to ask a woman at 8 p.m. He replies that I am carrying emotional baggage as he meant to be caring of me. I feel the usual frustration at being blamed by men for setting boundaries as a woman. I think being caring in India is often used as a cloak for being curious.

I lately see myself reacting to strange men and strange situations with fear. My experiences have validated the society’s view that women best avoid the unknown. I think there is a lack of awareness and empathy on the part of men on certain aspects of a woman’s life, which is well- known to her sisters. That strangers in public spaces are not to be engaged with is a well known maxim. The New Year’s-eve molestation of women in Bengaluru brings this issue glaringly to the forefront. However, approaching known men is also quite awkward at times. In fact, negotiating men and connections can get so confusing that there is a tendency on a woman’s part to declare all men questionable until proved otherwise.

I used to think older men safe, the friends of fathers. One of them, whose daughter was my age, asked me if I would dress up for him. That hit me out of the blue. There was a neighbour uncle, a grandfather even, who kept insisting he would visit my house when no one else was around. I didn’t have the courage to question him further on his intentions. I keep my distance from older men now, make sure to always address them as “uncle”, and preferably meet them only when their wives are around.

I used to also think that married men were safe to talk to. Recently, the husband of a friend sent me an inappropriate message about my Facebook photo. One man kept saying he wanted to go for massages with me while I was his wife’s therapist. I cut that unfortunate lady abruptly out of my life, for no fault of hers.

Before you get the idea that I am myself a bombshell, let me set the record right. I am just the average-looking adult woman with maybe a sense of style. Men in general, it seems to me, are often led by uncontrollable sexual urges that they really have to work to keep in check. There are the good men, the ones that extend respect to women, treat them right and are safe. However, I doubt whether even the good men are aware of this part of an adult woman’s life, the need to respond to the scary sexual energies of men all around her in society.

Dating has arrived suddenly in India with the Internet. Tradition is merging with modernity. Matrimonial sites, however conservative they may sound, can themselves be a risk for a woman. One can date a guy from a matrimonial site and be forced into starting a physical relationship with him, with marriage itself becoming a mirage. Dating apps such as Tinder make communication between men and women more honest and less hypocritical. Romance seems to have become old-school.

Hookups, that is, sexual liaison for a short time, seem to be the popular demand. If indeed our young women are bold enough to venture out with unknown men into awkward places facing social disrepute, I have only to recommend they be given an award for bravery. Personally, I do not think the satisfaction worth it, but again, my thoughts seem to have become old-school and passe.

I can immediately hear the elders telling us that the sexual energy is the reason for the separation of the sexes in some schools, and early marriage. So that the adult woman can live a life of respect and dignity. Indeed I agree that a good marriage can be a boon.

However, should a woman live in a straightjacket so as to live with dignity? Does not a woman deserve to be at least as free as the man and as safe? Is it not the responsibility of the man, being the physically stronger gender, to treat those less strong appropriately?

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 7:24:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/Which-male-is-to-be-trusted/article17014333.ece

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