My grandparents live 70 km to the right and my in-laws live 60 km to the left from where my parents’ stay when we’re in India. Which means long drives have become such a mainstay in my life that I have my favourite sights and pit stops bookmarked. Like the shops with heavily plagiarised names of social media networks and barbershops that Brad Pitt and Cindy Crawford unwittingly endorse. Certain traditions have continued over the years, like staying up for the bridge that reminds me of incessant backseat singing, or the strip of road flanked by trees and mountains that remind me of waking up groggy with my face buried in my grandmother’s lap. When I wasn’t travelling with my grandparents or parents, it was with my husband and child. Sometimes it was the sweet solitary drive with a driver, free of conversation, and free to daydream about the day ahead and reminisce about the days past.
On one such road this past month, a girl no older than I am, was travelling with her driver. I imagine she looked at the landmarks that had become her bookmarks on a road often travelled. At a pit stop she perhaps didn’t remember, her driver took it upon himself to let in four other men, who then horrifically molested and abused her for more than an hour while the car drove on.
The fact that she is a movie star doesn’t make this sick, sick, sick act any more or any less deserving of attention. The fact that this happens regularly does.
This news isn’t new, just another version. From the brutal rape, murder and assault of innumerable girls and women from 2 years of age to 60, we are not numb – we are seething with an unfathomable rage that threatens to destroy everything in our sight.
Every time I looked at the Hindu Goddess Kali, I felt a sense of disconnect with the all-consuming angry eyes, the chain of skulls and the trident piercing through a demon’s throat.
Not any more.
That is every woman today, even if she is smiling or crying outwardly.
This Women’s Day, I urge the men in my life to give the Hallmark holiday more meaning. While our sisters in the US go on the Day Without A Woman Strike, I’m asking every man I know to #ShowSomeRespect. Fuck the breakfast in bed and spa vouchers. Fuck the red roses and decorative mugs. Show the women in your life some respect.
Reach out to 10, 5, heck even 1 woman and tell her why you respect her. Because no matter how softly she giggles, she is made of a metal you haven’t even heard of yet. Because no matter how quickly she breaks into tears, she wipes them away and gets shit done.
Because she has to work twice as hard as you do to get the same recognition, while fighting off gropers and patriarchy with her elbows.
Because it isn’t about how hard she toils in the kitchen or how well she takes care of you – it’s why she does what she does, and you may never understand it.
So tell her. Tell her that you see it and respect it. She doesn’t need your protection or approval; she needs you to accept that she is equal and should be treated as such.
Then seek out 10 of your male friends and tell them to #ShowSomeRespect. Call your friends out on their sexist jokes and tell them you don’t appreciate it. Prove to the world that there’s more to locker room talk than vulgarity. Talk about your female classmates, workmates and friends. Talk about their achievements, strength and resilience.
Enough is enough is enough. No more women getting raped. No more putting women “in their place”. No more nagging wife jokes. No more talking over women. No means no.
No, Indian cinema, if her skin is exposed, it is NOT completely acceptable or even hilarious to grab it.
No, Hollywood, the damsels are not in distress.
No, music industry, her arse is not yours to smack.
And no, society, she is not yours to take.
Start now. Whether you make your pledge public or private, make it count. Get out there and #ShowSomeRespect.