Women of India: Speaking out against harassment isn’t easy–not even in the USA!

After the brutal rape and murder of a medical student on a bus, the world watches as India “wakes up” to the notion of sexual abuse and harassment of women. The term “Eve Teasing” is making its way into the modern lexicon. The BBC defines it as “referring to a wide variety of behavior including molestation, flashing or any verbal/physical sexual street harassment that falls short of rape. An archaic term, the ‘Eve’ part comes from the Old Testament and describing harassment as “teasing” makes it sound almost like a mild romantic overture that should be tolerated – which of course it should not.”

From Minnesota, it’s easy to wonder, “Is it really that bad?” On one hand, India seems so modern with its notable accomplishments in science and technology. On the other, it seems decades behind in its attitudes towards women. In a globalizing world, those attitudes affect all of us– even yoga teachers in Minneapolis!

I refer to my previous post in which I recounted my workshop last November with Indian Guru, Jawahar Bangera at the Iyengar Yoga Center of Minneapolis.  Read it an see how a potentially wonderful workshop was transformed into a shaming tutorial, culminating in a reprimanding slap on the backside of your truly by the guest instructor.

Worse, in a room of 21st Century American Women and a couple of men, no one felt the need to speak out or come to my rescue.  They all saw it and certainly heard the slap in a quiet room.  I manged to snark something out, but it wasn’t the same. Girlpower and feminism had left the building (if they were ever there in the first place).  And, when I thought the person in charge was coming to apologize, it turned out he felt the need to reprimand me for being in the wrong class–even though I had “cleared” it w/ another organizer in advance. He then called in another woman “for backup” whom I’m pretty sure saw the incident as well. She was poised to argue the bullet points on the workshop flyer –in spite of the obvious “elephant in a diaper in the room” :  I had just been slapped! Hello!?

So, as we sit here in the comfort of our Western culture with all of its laws and protections, we have to appreciate how difficult it is for our sisters in India to organize and verbalize and change their country.  And, we have to be critical of ourselves. Do we just assume that the fight for equality and against harassment is over?  Maybe our generation doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation of our feminist predecessors. I say, better WOMAN UP!

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