10 Micro-Aggressions That Every Woman Has To Deal With

How many of these have happened to you?

By Raashi Srivastav.

They are underneath the surface and largely go unnoticed, but are always there: these are the micro-aggressions that we have to deal with everyday. And they come from every direction from relatives that we know well to randoms we encounter on the street. These aggressions are so concealed that it is difficult for us to take action against them, and simultaneously are enough to break out spirits daily. Here are some real anecdotes and aggressions that we face:

Check Your FB “Other Inbox.”

“I received a phone call once. It was evident to me from the beginning that the person on the other line was not sober. I asked him who he wanted to speak to, he slurred, ‘Jee aapse hi baat karni hai’. This went on for three days but I chose to not tell my parents.”

Have you ever logged onto Facebook and received an unsolicited message from a complete stranger attempting to “become friends” with you? Many female social media users have complained of receiving unwanted attention and have had to repeatedly block people from contacting them. The internet is filled with harassers who are dedicated to making women uncomfortable from behind their computer screens. Anonymous phone calls are also a regular feature.

Who Just Touched Me?

“I was with my sister and we were travelling in the metro. It was very chaotic. This guy standing behind me was very keen on getting as close to me as possible. I was on the verge of shouting but the man stepped off the train before I could confront him. I did get a good look at the bastard’s face. He was drunk and grinning.”

Personal space of women is continually invaded in public spaces. Whether it is somebody getting too close for comfort on the bus or while standing in a queue to get things done, crowded environments turn into golden opportunities for harassers to satisfy their lecherous urges. Being among a large group of people offers them anonymity. And when caught, they can always retort with, “Madam, dikh nahi raha? Jagah nahi hai kahin aur khade hone ki. ”

The Sweet Sound Of Harassment

“Not that this is the only time that has happened to me, but this is the most recent. I was travelling by train and decided to step off at a station at which the train had stopped for a while. Some idiot spotted me and began singing, while giving me the most vile look possible. I didn’t quite catch the lyrics. I immediately turned around and went back to my seat on the train. I sat there, hoping he wouldn’t follow me and wishing the train would resume moving.”

The streets are littered with Roadside Romeos, gifted with the singing ability of tone-deaf crows and possessing the knowledge only of songs that succeed in creeping out women. These men are always on the lookout to harass an unsuspecting woman passing by. This kind of seemingly harmless (“Madamji, gaana hi toh gaa rahe hai”) harassment is undoubtedly something that every woman has experienced.

I Am Watching You

“I commute by auto to college everyday and never fail to notice the driver turn the mirror towards me so that he can “secretly” peek at me during the ride. It makes me feel violated and uncomfortable, but there is very little I can do because I have to get to school and the auto is the only way I can travel there. So essentially, I have to endure these types of harassment everyday just to get an education.”

Unwanted advances from poorly behaved auto/taxi drivers are also something that many women have to face in their daily commute. There are drivers who try to sneak a peek through the rear-view mirror, and others who pass inappropriate remarks or feel entitled to starting a conversation under the guise of being polite. If you ask any woman who travels in public transport, alone or with others, she will tell you how often she is subjected to this.

Your “Short Skirt” Was Asking For It

“A waiter at a restaurant was hovering around my table and wouldn’t stop looking at my chest. Sad thing is, my first thought was, ‘Why did I wear such a low-cut top in the first place?’ Now I realise that it shouldn’t matter what I wear. His eyes shouldn’t stray to my chest under any circumstances.”

Being made to feel conscious of their attire is another micro-aggression that women have to face (and consequently brush off) everyday. Harassers often attempt to justify their actions by claiming that it is the woman’s fault for wearing clothes that will bring attention to her. They are often successful in making women ashamed about their choice of clothing.

Girls Should Only Travel At Certain Hours

“There is a small kirana store near my home, and I would often visit it. Once, when I was alone in the shop, the usually nice and friendly shopkeeper beckoned me closer and said ‘You shouldn’t be out at a time like this.’”

Since we were alone in the shop, this made me distinctly uncomfortable. Instead of telling him it was none of his business, I took my things and left. I have stopped visiting the shop unless necessary. When I do, I don’t make eye contact or talk to the shopkeeper.” Women are often persecuted for being alone in public spaces. A woman by herself is considered an easy target and a harasser relishes in capitalising on her fear by following or simply staring at her.

You Go, I Follow

“I am afraid of entering public toilets alone now. I was nearly followed into one by a man. He was aware that there was no one else inside. Fortunately, the cleaning lady rushed in right after I did. I’ve heard of this before but I did not expect it to happen to me. I know that some of my friends were harassed by men standing outside the changing rooms in a clothes store. There is something about small, closed spaces. It’s ridiculous.”

Being followed into an elevator or stalked on the way home are examples of incidents that take place far more often than we’d like them to.

Harassing You Is In My Job Description

“I was getting a head massage from a guy once. His hands drifted from my scalp to my shoulders and were creeping downwards towards my chest. That is when I snapped and told him to get his hands off me.”

Harassment also takes place at doctors’ clinics, physiotherapy centres, beauty parlours etc. The harassers in these scenarios exploit the fact that their job requires them to make physical contact with you. It is difficult to call them out on their actions because they claim that they are simply doing what they are supposed to.

It Is All In The Spirit Of Holi

“Holi used to be my favourite holiday until I came of age. One year, a group of boys from my class used it as an excuse to throw water on me so that they could catch a glimpse of my body. I was terrified and remember running home, completely embarrassed.”

Holi is a nightmare for a number of women. It starts a few days in advance; being pelted with water balloons and the lewd catcalls- all in the “spirit” of Holi. It gets infinitely worse on the day of the festival as playing Holi is used as a garb by harassers to unashamedly molest women. While men are also subject to their fair share of indecencies, it is mainly women who the harassers seek to prey upon.

Harass And Run

“I was walking to the market and was talking on the phone to a friend. A guy went past me on his bike and slapped my butt. I was so confused as to what happened. I thought maybe it was an accident but I shouted out nevertheless. Not many people were around- only a couple of construction workers. I thought it wise not to create a scene.”

Being on a moving vehicle reduces the chances of confrontation and allows the harasser an easy escape. Walking down a street and suddenly being groped by a man zooming away on a bike is an incident that has horrified many women.

What could help change these? Would speaking out and talking about it together help? How many of these have happened to you?

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