LET’S ALL THANK THIS PHOTOGRAPHER FOR MAKING HARASSMENT LOOK LIKE A STUPID FUCKING JOKE

So what does harassment look/feel like in India? Well, if you are an Indian woman, you’d say, someone’s grubby fingers running down your butt while you’re trying to stand straight in a crazy crowded train, right? Or waiting for an auto while some random dudes whoosh past you on a bike grinning and saying what they want to do to your breasts? Or just some middle aged man on the bus staring down your shirt like the secret behind Donald Trump’s orange wig lies inside your cleavage? And this is still just still the tip of the iceberg.

NO. Apparently, harassment looks like this.

Some woman lying on a sidewalk like she is having an epileptic fit and an old man — from a social strata that is definitely way less privileged that hers — staring at her in bewilderment. Now in an ideal world, no one would stare if you were an expensively-dressed kid lying on a footpath, making babies in an auto, throwing donuts at passerby, riding a goat or wearing a bird mask. Yes yes, where we are all in Woodstock and unicorns poop rainbows and dragons shower glitter and vodka popsicles — that is, indeed, the dream. But snap back and see what’s going on here — a photographer going out of her way to pull a stunt, which then uncritical writers in Feminizm Ze Shizzz AF websites will pick up and drool over. Because yeah, in any conceivable situation, women or men like the one in the picture are never found half lying on the pavement (when there’s a bench to sit) in their right mind. Not because of patriarchy, but because of common sense — those are nice shorts, the sidewalk is brimming with germs, bird poop and what not and they can afford far more comfortable places to sit like that in. A park for example. Enter old man, possibly wondering, WTF is even wrong with these rich kids. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. You’re mad if you cannot see she is the next Gloria Steinem.

The entire series, hailed as powerful and what not, in this ‘viral’ Buzzfeed article, has possibly one man staring at the legs of the girl. The rest of the pictures have men and women — from an economic group far less privileged than the photographer and the readers of Buzzfeed — looking into the camera (AND NOT AT THE GIRL). They have no clue they are being implicated as the perpetrators in this poor-people-make-rich-girls-uncomfortable photo series. Powerful, indeed.

Consider the breathtaking hypocrisy of the photo post and consequently websites which carried those pictures. It occurred to none of them that the photographer — some 19-year-old student called Priyanka Shah — conveniently left the ‘public places’ most frequented by her ilk — — and perhaps mine as well. What about swanky restaurants, coffee shops where we spend in a day more than what the men and women in the pictures earn in a day, pubs, discos, malls, ‘gated’ society running tracks, college campuses, posh parties, old school clubs and swanky department stores. As a woman who has lived in four metropolitan cities in her life, I can say, you get stared, ogled and basically made to feel like you haven’t worn enough clothes in EACH of these places. But hey, that would be brave and relevant, right? Looking into your own backyard, ripping down the face of gentility to reveal what festers underneath? But THAT is not convenient. What is convenient? Walk into a crowded bazaar with teeming number of people, click photos of men and women — most of who are actually amused and looking at the photographer out of curiosity — and declare, ‘bloody patriarchal harassers’. Because hey, they won’t find you on Facebook or on Buzzfeed and ask you to spill the truth. And the others — thanks to the suspicion rooted in ingrained Indian elitism — will readily believe that these people who don’t dress like you, must be creeps. And since we are in the business of making stuff viral, no reporter will ask them, but hey, why are your usual hang-outs not in your so-called ‘public spaces’? Hey, this man, these women, these vendors, they are looking at the camera — how are they making the woman uncomfortable? Or you have clearly cropped this picture to make it seem like the woman is checking out your subject, but anyone with more IQ than a fifth grader can see, she is looking past her, at something you have cropped out.

What is most infuriating about this post is how pathetic it makes our struggle for equal rights, safety and respect look like. There are real incidents of physical, verbal and psychological harassment that take place every day in India and everywhere else. Boobs get squeezed by random men, butts get pinched, people talk to your cleavage, stare at your knees. And these acts of violence are done by people across economic classes, all the time. And a stupid ass photo project like this, mentored by god knows who, and picked up as news by some others, actually makes feminism look like a witch-hunt and a Facebook pastime for Starbucks activists. These are just bad photos by a kid — not sure she has a mentor or this is a part of an academic project — but adults involved in the project should have sat her down and explained that this con doesn’t do anything for women’s rights. Well, yeah, you’re a step closer to a viral article, women’s rights activists a step behind in establishing disparity and violence as a real threat looming over women.

The photographer tells the websites that someone commented on her subject — ‘kaisa insaan hai (what kind of a human being) — anyone, familiar with the language and rhetoric of street harassment in India, would probably be laughing their gut out. That’s actually polite, compared to how our bodies are verbally ripped apart in public spaces. And most possibly a lie, manufactured to make a nice little revolting quote that’ll make people go — ‘gosh, so terrible’. Yes, what happens to us is terrible. And Indian women didn’t need a lie created with an expensive DSLR to tell the world what they already know. That’s not protest. That’s a scam.