Have you ever felt uncomfortable in a public bus realizing a man staring at you since the past 20 minutes of your bus ride? Have you ever tried to hide yourself under your schoolbag only because you don’t want your male teacher’s gaze on your crotch? Have you met a middle aged man staring at you in the middle of the road?
I bet you have and I know because I have!
Even today, when we talk about women empowerment and feminism, not much has changed when it comes to women and staring. Women are ogled at as if we were a piece of meat. Be it on the roads or on our front porch, bus or tuition, we receive nasty stares that make our stomachs lurch. The gawking business on street is not just uncomfortable but downright revolting. It’s a mark of how, even today, women are seen as nothing but objects up for consumption and that is no news to us. We face that every day for the major half of our lives.
These stares and gawks make us uncomfortable and affect the way we walk and talk in their presence. We tend to become conscious, distressed and uncomfortable in our own shoes. Our body language changes and that is exactly what we don’t want. But why do I say that? What should women do if not be uncomfortable?
I might sound extremely brave and naïve to you when I say what I am about to say, but it is worth every minute that you have spent thinking how to hide of some sleazy man staring at you. But before that it will be prudent to point out how our body language changes when we become uncomfortable under stares.
When you or your friend is being stared at, you might notice the following behavioral patterns:
- Getting extremely conscious.
- Scrutinizing whether there is something wrong with the dress or hair.
- Avoiding eye contact with people
- Getting distressed about the fact that you are being looked at.
- Hunching and ducking your face showing signs of distress and low self confidence
- Hiding yourself discreetly behind something
These are some of the actions that you might notice doing yourself or by somebody in front of you. Truly speaking, many would even advice to keep the gestures and postures closed, and hide behind something, avoiding eye contact with the gawker. That is a very common among women and it resembles the ‘Ostrich phenomenon’. But, doing that does not mean that the dirty gazes have stopped coming your way, which is why closing ourselves up being distressed because of the uncomfortable creepy gaze from men is just a ‘No Go!!!’.
People, who stare deliberately, take pride in making women uncomfortable. It gives them comfort to see that their gaze has somehow affected us and their discomfort makes the woman all the more “alluring” to them. They try all the more to be visible while throwing nasty stares at you. It gives them the satisfaction of having an effect on you. It gives them a sense of “superiority” making them all the more powerful and lethal.
However, they are stopped, and I am talking through experience, only if their stares are given back to them.
This might seem scandalous to you, but it is true.
Here, I have to tell you a story. I have, very unsurprisingly, been stared at for long time durations in public bus, school, roads, shops, etc. A younger me would get uncomfortable with that kind of glances and stares. But one day with extreme fury she decided to keep staring at the gawker in a public bus with a stern face. And, to her surprise, he had stopped staring!
Since then, as I grew up, I was a little apprehensive about doing it because that took a lot of courage to stare at men with dirty looks in their eyes. But again, the stares on my way were not decreasing by the day. Another incident of stares and gawks made me sick to my stomach and I didn’t know if it would work, but I mustered up some courage and stared right back at the man as if he were no better than stinking poo. It worked again and since then it has always and not only for me but for many other girls.
So how did my behavior and body language and stern eye contact do the trick?
Extremely stern, loathsome angry stares affect gawkers and make them conscious. After receiving such looks, they become self-conscious and fear for their well-being. They feel threatened of powerful women and they know that they might be in trouble if their action doesn’t stop. This is because a suppressed fear of being harassed in public distresses them and with that fear and uncertainty, they stop gazing.
So how should one behave when one is stared? Here are some tips and tricks!
Do not be afraid!
I repeat! Do not be afraid. The more you get intimidated the more they stare.
Do not avoid eye contact.
Do not try and hide behind things or people to avoid eye contact. If you are not affected by such stares you might not have to resort to this, but if you are, then hiding will only lead them on.
Do not be conscious
Slouching and being conscious of your body, hair, clothes and makeup is seen as a submissive trait which satisfies the gawkers. Being conscious and fidgety would indicate that the gaze makes you uncomfortable which is not what we are looking for.
Have a strong posture and body language
Sit/stand upright so that you have a tall and strong looking posture. Strong dominating posture is intimidating for men who stare.
Glare back at the gawker with a furious look on your face. That would indicate that you are strong and can take actions in order to stop him from staring.
Tell people around you
Speak to the people around you and make it a point to be visible while you tell others that a man is staring at you. That would scare the ogling man and he would shy away from staring in the fear of being challenged in public.
If you are with friends and family, you could ask them for help. But more importantly, if the situation gets out of hand you should seek help.
DID YOU KNOW?
Section 294 of the IPC also considers any obscene act done in public or reciting obscene ballads in public, caused to annoy others, punishable.
Also, recently, Rishi Raj Singh, Kerala’s senior IPS officer and Excise Commissioner, stated his ‘14-second-staring-rule’ that would land up a man in jail for staring at a woman more than 14 seconds. Though no such law mentioning a time duration exists in the IPC, legal experts have pointed out that staring can be considered offensive when a woman is stared at with an explicit sexual intention deeming it to be voyeurism under Section 354D.
The important thing that comes from all of it is that we must not submit to others’ vulgarities. We must be strong and we must take a righteous stand for ourselves and for others.
Read More: Sexual Abuse of the Girl Child