Tuesday, March 14, 2006

freewheeling

the blank noise project blogathon triggered many thoughts in my head as i read each post. directly or tangentially, id like to explore some of the things that i noticed. im starting with a simple thing (its mid-week! :D) - ive lost count of the number of men who said "oh my god. i didnt know being a woman was like that". at the same time, someone mentioned how while it was understandable that women be suspicious of men at large, not being trusted is unpleasant when you're a genuinely decent guy. and so two trains of thought chugged side by side :-)

what makes a woman trust a man? in these times of escalating violence and crime, i suppose its something every woman spends time to think about at least once - you know, to sort of evolve a thumbrule for herself. i know ive come back to this question several times, because every time i get to know myself better i realise what i worked out so far wont quite do!

i guess we start out with the readymade axioms laid down for us - never trust strange men, blah blah. sometimes sudden potlums of wisdom are tossed our way - i still remember distinctly the time when out of the blue, my friends mother popped into our room to say "m___, never trust an older man. a guy your age only knows as much as you do. he can never hurt you that badly - beware of older men. theyll muck around with you emotionally, and thats much harder to recover from". ok, after meeting a revolting man who was 35-ish, with an adorable little daughter, i am wary of older men. in concept, middle aged men still give me the heebie jeebies. sure, there are exceptions - some of em are such terrific people... but what price misguided faith in mankind?

to establish context, by trust i do not mean discussing your most private problems, i mean simply the opposite of steeling yourself against a possible attack of any kind.

as far as ive observed from the women i know, there are these basic ways of dealing with this trusting a stranger business -

1. every man is suspect until proven innocent
2. no man is suspect, until he does something to make you uncomfortable
3. suspect or innocent according to some evaluation system. - who vouches for them, the company they keep, relationship with them and so on.

ive been down all three roads. while yes, its really awful for nice guys to be looked at with ill concealed apprehension and clubbed with the schmucks, its pretty hard for the user of such a system too. you just cant ever relax! all the time your systems are on high alert and you have to be watchful. if you happen to be an open, confiding sort of person, the worse for you.

there's also a twist possible to this, like "i will treat you as a nice guy - please prove my depressing conviction, that men in general are horrible, wrong". if the person does turn out to be not decent - its shatteringly disappointing. you feel so bitter!

if you trust every man on the other hand, youd obviously get hurt mighty soon and quite a bit. so scratch that option too.

whats left? well... the who-does-this-guy-hang-out-with does work to an extent, but you soon run up against a wall. men often have friends that theyre perfectly comfortable being with, but those friends are not meant to be introduced to women they know. so now you have to do an fbi sort of digging into the persons association with your friend... a subtle, "hey, i met this friend of yours" isnt always picked up by all men. so what, youre supposed to ask "hey, that friend of yours - is he sleazy or is he ok?". er... this is usable on some occasions, but mostly not!

sometimes we also each use personal detectors. i go by instinct quite a bit. i rationalise - if they work in this field, if this person likes them, they must be ok. i definitely go by hair - i know for sure when someone's touching my hair whether theyre ok or not! i feel awfully sick if someone shady touches my head. i judge when im being hugged. i judge when i see how their eyes wander when were out. i judge by the books and movies and songs they listen to. and i know damn well that none of this is unique – most of us women do it.

you make constant people assessments and evaluations every moment, without missing a beat on anything else. its not like theres a "case closed" either... there are very few men whom you can declare permanently safe - most are for the moment. for the circumstance. for the crowd. because youre as street smart as you are. because someone knows where you are or at least with whom.

being able to juggle such fine tuning with everything else and still functioning as a reasonably psychologically healthy person is, i think something to be respected and appreciated on one hand, not merely to be made the butt of "women are" jokes. on the other, its also food for thought that such paranoid behaviour has eventually become so normal – so common place and everyday an affair.

its complicated being a woman in a male dominated order that condones violence and harassment. if we didnt prove ourselves equal to the challenge every single day, we wouldnt be around, intact, for too long.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Rabin said...

m.,m.,m., i've agreed with most of your views but this post, I don't really know why but i find it to be in bad taste..but thats just me..

maybe, just maybe it's coz i'm a 'guy' and i need to be put on a scanner anytime i converse with another human being..

honestly how is this different from someone starting a conversatin with a 'women are'??

9:49 pm  
Blogger m. said...

im merely pointing out how ridiculous the current social system is. women feel stressed out because they have to keep looking over their shoulders, men feel stressed out because theyre constantly watched - nobody feels safe, everyone's privacy is violated... what the hell are we upholding patriarchy for?!
of course, the alternative would be to think "things have been that way for ages now, so lets be eternally damned" .

9:56 pm  
Blogger Wrong number said...

Why can't a woman be more like a man?
I know I'll be misinterpreted, but that is my stand? As a guy I dont treat women any better or any worse than I treat men. I may be rude, discourteous and upsetting. The point, as Shaw once put it, "is not about having good manners or bad manners or any particular sort of manners". It is about having the same set of manners for every human: Like heaven; (if you believe in things like that) where there are no second-class coaches and one one soul is as good as another.
Why should I be on watch? Why shoud it make a difference to me how my actions are interpreted, if they are not interpreted according to my intentions? If I choose to swear, why should that choice be tempered by the presence of women? If I choose to wear shorts or a basketbal jersey that shows my shoulder-blades, why should that be construed as an insult to or offence against womankind?
The hate eve-teasers because they create a mental block in women that causes women to judge me and my actions, not based on the standards I set for myself but based on thier own prejudices.
I'm not a flirter. I express a keen interest in brains. Why should I ever have to state explicitly that I'm not flirting?

12:55 am  
Blogger m. said...

why no saale, you neednt go out of your way to make flowery speeches. by all means, treat a woman the same way that you would treat a man.

im merely talking about trust keeping in mind that theres a phenomenal number of men who see a woman and think its ok to feel her up, pinch her breast, make lewd remarks, throw acid on her, molest or rape her.

if they would treat her with the same neutrality and leave her alone, excellent.

please understand that for many, if not most of us, its not about a tirade against men - if it were, we wouldn't bother trying to figure who is decent and who is not. we'd simply slap a one-size-fits-all label and end it there.

1:09 am  
Blogger Anurag said...

Ahem, just wanted to politely point out that 35 is not middle age. I am fast approaching that number, and I don't think I am middle aged. You could probably use a euphemism like late youth. :(

1:56 am  
Blogger m. said...

LOL... im so sorry anurag!! i just read that sentence again - i didnt realise it was all running together like that... let me hastily clarify: i meant if a 35 year old could be so perverted, i was well able to believe aunty's theory about 55 year old guys!
(and NB: the CONCEPT of middle aged guys freaks me out occasionally... but there are some very nice ones in my life that i refrain from chucking rotten tomatoes at :D)

2:57 am  
Blogger Senthil said...

I have recently been labelled "Gallant" by a lady, so right now I'm busy strutting around... now where'd my horse go?

6:49 am  
Blogger karmic_jay said...

M, good post. I don't always agree with everything you may have to say, but that's the part about being openminded. I try to see things thru a different perspective.
I hate all those men who have caused women to have a jaded/jaundiced opinion about men. I am old enough not sure if I fall in to middle age yet. Anyways, I trust people to judge me for what I am, on my actions, beliefs and not just a category. I try to do the same too.
Also perversion does not neccesarily have anything to do wtih middle aged, can happen with younger folks no?
Living in a western society where women don't have to deal with the indignites that you and other have spoken of is a lot easier both for men and women.
*A* tells me how here in the US she will always get stared at or looked at differently by desi men as opposed to non desis. Something never change eh?
Just my 2cents.

7:07 am  
Anonymous grace said...

Lovely blog.

Karmic-jay, I have to differ with your view that western women don't have to deal with those type of indignities. Street harrassment and sexual harassment are as much a problem in the U.S. for instance, as it is in India. There may not be acid-throwing in the U.S., but there a lot other local twists. I have organized against street harassment in the U.S. and believe me, it is a problem! Try checking out streetharassmentproject.org.

3:25 am  

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