Gauahar Khan slapped: The issue is not her short skirt but the man's mentality

  • Jyoti Sharma Bawa, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 02, 2014 14:28 IST

My first reaction after I hear of a woman molested in a busy area is to go blank. Because that’s what family/society/lawmakers/preservers of the said law have said and re-said over the years: If something like this happens, somewhere it is the woman’s fault.

It is your fault that you dressed in jeans. It was your fault that you were out late at night. It was your fault that you looked provocative.

Maybe our fault is that we are women and we demand respect when we are out there in the public space with men. And you know what, we are not sorry for that.

So, this Monday morning when I saw the old trope of it being the woman’s fault all over again in headlines about Gauahar Khan, I decided not to blank it out. The headlines read: 'Man slaps Gauahar Khan for dressing in skimpy clothes/short dress/mini skirt'.

This is how it happened: A member of the audience started teasing Khan while she was on the stage of India’s Raw Star, to which she protested. An argument ensued. Things turned ugly when the man touched the actor inappropriately and then slapped her.

The 24-year-old man later told police he objected to the ‘skimpy’ clothes the actor was wearing. Her being a Muslim and dressing so was apparently another reason behind the attack.

Ah, the double-pronged sword of derision and going against the tenets of your religion. Suddenly, an absolute nobody is allowed to deride and scorn an actor who is known for her forthright views and reduce her to tears.

The disturbing issue is that women across the country face something similar every day.

For those like the Rohtak bravehearts who hit back at men trying to harass them as a busload of people watched, there are thousands of other women who avert their gaze, shut their ears and rush towards safety.

And every single one of those girls knows that home may provide them safety but nothing can help with the gnawing uneasiness and guilt inside. What did I do to deserve that?

She may be a successful professional, a meritorious college student, a multitasking housewife or a celeb – as in this case -- but every time she averts her eyes, she loses a chunk of her self respect.

It is for the sake of all of them that we need to say Gauahar was not slapped because of the way she was dressed but because that man is a moron. Or as Farhan Akhtar, known for his initiative Men Against Rape and Harassment, wrote on Twitter, “Dearest natural selection, please help us out-evolve morons like the one who slapped Gauhar Khan. Sincerely...”

Because that’s the only way: A new man who is in step with the woman of today. A woman who has had enough of the predatory male gaze, of men trying to grab her even as others watch on and being told what she is allowed to do or not do.

It’s not Gauahar’s fault that the man was an idiot. And it is not mine or yours either but it will be if we stay silent.

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