Sexual Harassment

A photo posted by Chloe Dickson (@chloer.dickson) on

Someone touched my bottom today. At Amma’s birthday, a joyous celebration with 50,000 people attending. The worse about it, is that I expected and feared this event. Countdown: 11 days in India before being subjected to sexual harassment.

For sure, I was an easy prey. In everyday life at the ashram, there are many white people so the Indian don’t really pay attention to us. But here, with dozens of thousands of Indian attendees, we did get noticed. So the white blond girl, she will get her backside poked. Yeah, she is definitely provoking with this tunic that only covers her bottom and not her entire thighs. And she a westerner, they’re open about sex right?
The guys were “lucky”, I yelled behind me as soon as it happened, but it might have been the young jerks rushing in front of us. I was ready to swing my water bottle in the face of my harasser, but I could distinguish him in the crowd.

Every day, I have to be careful about my outfit: I have to cover my legs, my shoulders, my backside with a long tunic and my breasts shape with a shawl. Because showing some skin might be exciting and provoking for men. Dammit, I have to hide all of my body for my own safety, while MEN are not dealt with if they have unappropriate behaviour. And they get to wear “miniskirts”. They don’t have to hide their body that much.

I somehow knew it was going to happen at some point, and I am extremely angry and upset it happened. How come they can feel that it is normal to touch a women’s bottom? If you say that this is the way it is in India and I should just get over it, then you’re part of the problem.

(here I am assuming that it is a man given the context and the people surrounding me at the time it happened, but I would be as angry if it were a female aggressor)

Background picture: gender segregation for dishes. I shouldn’t judge but this feels like a pretty messed-up culture. I eat most of the time with a male friend, I think it is an inappropriate behaviour.

3 thoughts on “Sexual Harassment”

  1. Hey Chloe,

    India is NOT Beautiful: Hmm, I think that is a bit of an over statement ! I am sorry of your bad experience. The only logical reason to separate men and women for washing and food lines especially in university, temples and most public places is to prevent people from bumping into each other and accidentally touching each other or the unfortunate intentional incident ! This is infact gender equiality as both men and women follow the same rules ! Please remember the place you are in has a high flux of people moving in and put and the only way to have orderliness and sanity is to have such physical divisions. We are a culture that do respect women so I think India is ONE of the the most Beautiful Cultures in many aspects ! I have accidentally bumped into people in a crowded metro in Paris and it sometimes happens that I can’t even see the person to so say sorry in such chaos. It is sad to the see the shallowness in these kind of issues and it would better to be gentle in portraying issues and not to hurt sentiments of a country in general especially if you intend people like us to read or for other incoming EPFL Students. I would recommend you to have chat with the international team and I hope you got an induction lesson on the work environment you have been placed at. Even though there is no physical separation between the Ashram and University, I hope it is clear that they are 2 completely different working worlds and you are not obliged in any sort to participate in the Ashram activities. If you have any issues in anything kind contact us and we will sort things out to best of our ability. We constantly keep in touch with Amrita University and we are working on making these internships a very unique experience for your all. So I hope we can help you.

    Sorry if I am intruding your personal blog but I was curious to see how you were doing !

    Cheers,
    Raja

    1. Hi Raja! Thanks for coming on my blog! It is indeed my personal blog but as it is public you’re doing well in providing a different opinion on the matter.

      Of course saying that India is not beautiful is an overstatement. I wrote this post and composed this picture to make people react and question the problem I faced. The link with the picture can be misunderstood, for me the separate gender washing is not the problem, although to me it reflects the society I’m discovering. If I took the picture at a more crowded moment at lunchtime, you’ll see that the “girls” side is full of boys who don’t mind washing there, but girls washing on the “boys” side doesn’t seem to be an accepted behaviour. So I do keep bumping into guys at lunchtime because they come on “our” side. But this is not the big problem to me, just a small annoyance that builds up with many others.

      I hope you read my article thoroughly. The matter to me was not having separate gender washing. The matter was to get my bottom touched by a random stranger in the street who must have believed it was perfectly alright to do so. And that I was extremely afraid of this moment (I have been subjected to sexual harassment in Europe from about the age I started having breasts, so it is not specific to India; and many of my female colleagues from EPFL have faced similar issues), and my male friends never had this kind of worries. For me, sexual harassment is something I had to grow up with, that usually males do not even notice.

      I have written this article especially for my fellow EPFL students who may not be subject to these issues and need to understand them. If not for informing and educating people I could have kept this incident to myself. But again, I have been silent on these aggressions for 9 years and I don’t feel like keeping this to myself any more.

      Thank you for suggestion the chat with the international team. I have indeed had the introductory lesson which was a great way to understand the culture! As I live inside of the Ashram, for me it is a full part of this internship experience, as the rhythm of the Ashram does define my daily rhythm (meals, friends, conversation topics, etc.), and I am learning a great deal about spiritual matters here. I didn’t sign up for this but I am very curious and have been enjoying it so far.

      I hope you understand,
      Best,
      Chloe

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