Have you ever had an experience where you, or someone you know, has reacted in a situation purely because of a stereotype you or they may have created about a certain person, or a certain kind of people? Have you ever judged anyone, not by their own actions, but by the prevailing atmosphere surrounding such persons?
In short, have you ever been a Lizzy Bennet to a poor Mr. Darcy?
While I’ve had, sadly so, some experiences like that, the freshest is the one I’m narrating today.
A while back, me and my husband and our tot had gone out to a popular, busy mall in the neighborhood for some shopping. And as is the case in most such expeditions, it was mostly my desire to go out and shop for some knick-knacks for our house. So my dear, bored husband was just roaming around, pushing my daughter’s pushchair around the mall and hoping that I would just get done with my shopping so he could get back home to his PlayStation. Lucky for him, it was a small day at the Mall.
I came back with my purchases and we were about to sit down to order lunch, when we witnessed the following scene –
Two girls, decently dressed, in their early twenties were walking by, chit-chatting and window shopping. One of them, I’ll call her Curly Hair, was approached by a guy, I’ll call him Boy, about the same age as them, also decently dressed.
This is how the conversation between Curly Hair and Boy went –
Boy to Curly Hair – Umm…Excuse me! (Gives her a wide and friendly smile.)
Curly Hair – Yes? (Looks him up and down, clearly alarmed, shrinking from him, who is unknowingly invading her personal space. The other girl braces Curly Hair with her arm between Boy and Curly Hair, a protective stance.)
Boy – Hi! Could I talk to you… for a minute? (Looks from girl to girl, gauging if they were offended or if he could go on.)
Curly Hair – I’m not interested… Get lost!! (Literally shouts at him. The Boy is taken aback. Some other heads turn towards them. The Boy looks around, scared, ashamed, but tries again.)
Boy – But, I just wanted to talk… (Says so in a very gentle, passive tone)
Curly Hair – I told you I’m not interested… Just get lost! (Getting even more worked up, her voice rising with every word.)
Boy – Okay, okay… (Boy shakes his head in disgust and just walks away, out of the mall altogether.)
The two girls talk furiously about the incident, looking back every now and then, to see if the Boy is coming back.
Even half an hour later, while we were leaving, Curly Hair was still looking around trying to see if the Boy was coming back….
After we left, me and my husband had a furious debate all the way back home over which side was right. My Husband was fuming over how rude and judgmental the girls were, how this is mostly an ‘Indian’ thing, how girls demean guys for just being ‘guys’, how the fairer sex has created unreasonable stereotypes against the other gender. And I was trying to defend that by saying that the girls may have just been scared owing to the recent incidents in the country (the Bangalore Mass Molestation incident), or because of how generally such conversations turn out to be. I am saying ‘defend’ because I genuinely could not find reasons good enough to justify Curly Hair’s negative reaction to a guy who neither came across as lewd, nor tried to take advantage of her, nor looked like someone who indulged in singling out girls and scaring them off. He actually looked like a normal, well-behaved and well-meaning guy who was only trying to make conversation with a girl he fancied. And if I am to be very honest, had I been in her position, I would have said no too, BUT only after hearing him out, AND I would have been flattered that he found me attractive enough to come and talk to me.
There were so many other ways in which she could have reacted – she could have politely said no, or heard him out till he got done, or just smiled at him and told him that she wasn’t interested.
Why be rude right off the bat?!
Some of you may say the Boy was right and Curly Hair wrong; yet some may say it’s the other way around. And I’m generally the kind who defends my kind because women in our country are particularly wary of any men approaching them,
sometimes, make that mostly, for good reason, but in this case, I had to agree with my Husband. Not only was Curly Hair rude, had over-reacted, but she ensured that the Boy would forever carry a negative impression of girls, may have been scarred by the incident, or may be one of those unfortunate ones to get enraged about the incident and do something foolish. I think you can fathom what I’m talking about.
So am I saying “It’s Curly Hair’s fault?”
In some ways, yes, I am saying exactly that!
This is a plea, and an advice, to all the girls out there –
I know you get scared when incidents like these occur. You have good reasons to be, judging by the ‘indecent incidents’ reported by the dozen every day.
But PLEASE there’s no need to be rude to someone. There’s no need to let paranoia get hold of you. There is no need to live in fear. There’s no need to pander to stereotypes. And there definitely is no need, neither any justification for you to treat the other gender like they are criminals or subhumans.
Not all men are rapists, molesters or abusers. You have the brains and the comprehension to understand when you can turn down an amorous advance by a polite ‘no’, or when to be on your guard. Don’t use your femininity as an excuse for your bad behavior.
Use your judgment wisely and please, have some faith in humanity.
And this is my Apology to Men –
We may have been very unfair to you. We may have judged you by the far smaller number of miscreants among you. We may have called you names that you did not deserve at all. We may have created ideas about you that are downright disgraceful. And we are sorry for it…
No one, not man, not woman, deserves to be labelled, judged or shunned only because of the actions of another of his/her kind. That is just unfair, inhuman even.
Sometimes our demands from you become unjustified. So you end up having to defend not just your actions, but your own honour, your very gender itself. No one should have to go through that ignominy.
We are sorry and hope you won’t give up faith in us, unlike how we seem to be doing these days.
In the end, I’d like to leave you with this quote to mull over –
Have a Great Weekend!!
©Pradita Kapahi, 2017.
Picture Credits: http://www.pinterest.com