*DISCLAIMER: First and foremost, I want to make clear this is not an attack on men. I write this in a country where inequality is far more in your face on a daily basis. I have personally experienced sexism, groping, and objectifying stares on… a DAILY basis. The sad reality is that societal norms and expectations create this reality, not men themselves. And we (men and women) are at fault and fall victim to these “norms” and are equally responsible in the fight to change them. Thank-you to the millions and billions of beautiful men out there who shine amongst those whom we are meant to be “scared of.”
As I sit in the “women’s only” waiting room in the Agra train station of India, this deep sense of relief rushes over me. To think I feel more relief sitting on the ground of a filthy station waiting room floor waiting for my 3 hour delayed train, then I do getting on my train at the correctly scheduled time, is quite odd.
I feel this sense of freedom. This release of weight lifted off my shoulders. I finally feel carefree in a public space. To think all it took was being in a room full of only women. To think I didn’t even realise how much merely the presence of men suppresses my way of being, my sense of safety.
Suppression in it’s most mildest forms…
I go to lean over to grab something from my backpack. My almost instinctive reaction is to hold my top, in an attempt to not to invite any “unwanted attention” from merely a glimpse of my chest. Something that half the population has, yet somehow is still treated as taboo when seen.
I look up to see not one person flinch. No eyes wandering or scanning my body. No intimidating smirking. How liberating it feels! Something so minor, yet so significant.
I catch a woman’s eye contact across the room. No need to decide if her stare is curiosity or objectifying desires. So without contemplating if a smile is worth the risk of seeming “sexually interested”, I smile back, meeting her gentle eyes with mine.
I decide to lie down. Usually I would reconsider, as my bum could possibly be facing towards some men, inviting creepy stares. Not this time. No need to question if my loose, genie style pants I chose specifically to avoid this situation, may grip just enough on my bum that it reveals that I too, have an ass like every other woman and man on the planet. It would be shocking you see…may invite “unwanted thoughts” from “sexual predators.”
I hear a family laughing and giggling to my right. A teenage boy is among them, probably around my age or a few years younger.
I wonder if he feels intimidated?
You know, being in a room full of the opposite sex. I watch him further.
Completely and utterly relaxed. No guard up, and more importantly no no need for his guard to be up. No wandering eyes on his every move, no judgemental eyes scanning his choice of clothing or “choice” to be surrounded by the opposite sex. Nothing.
To think how I feel right now, surrounded by my own sex, is how he feels surrounded by his opposite? It just doesn’t match up.
That’s when it hit me.
For this small few hours inside the women’s only waiting room, I was given the opportunity to feel like a man. A taste of my ideal world, and a taste of a male’s reality. A man does not live in a perfect world, nor do I want to live in one. However what I do wish for is a world that does not need to segregate half of it’s population in order to remain safe from it’s other half.
Maybe only then, can the energy we put into our own ‘safety’, wellbeing or society ‘approval’, can be channelled within; to develop ourselves into better human beings, to meet our own standards, not men’s.
Now this piece was in no way directed at scaring women about travelling to India. It just happened to be in India, that the reality of so many women around our world was brought to the surface in my mind and reality. This post is not about India, it is far deeper than that, and I don’t intend on offending anyone.
It just as importantly is not an attack on a far more conservative culture than my own. It is an outsider’s perspective, being that I one day hope for a world where a woman can choose to be both conservative or not, without restrictions or judgement.
My goal is to merely bring to light a reality of not only foreign female travellers, but women all over the world alike. I would love nothing more for you share your opinions, feelings, thoughts, questions or experiences in the comment section below.