When I was a young woman growing up in South Texas in the ‘70s, it was always clear to me (from my mother, and daily life) that I had to be wary of men.
I have very vivid memories of walking to the Circle K to get a Coke or candy or what not when I was very young—from probably ten through my teens—and getting “catcalled” (younger readers may need to Google that), propositioned, offered rides. In the Circle K itself, it wasn’t all that unusual to get pinched or poked, or for men to rub up against me. I was often referred to as “sweetheart,” “sugar,” or worse. I didn’t understand these things at that age. I only knew they scared me. As I grew older, I learned what it was exactly that I was scared of–and it made me angry.
I’m old enough to remember when self-serve gas appeared at that Circle K (as opposed to full service, where an attendant would pump it for you) (again, you can Google it). For the first few years of my driving, men would frequently offer to pump gas for me.
Of course, the feminist movement was young then, and I was in the South. But if I had to pin a moment when things really started to change, when the daily indignities that women had to endure began to subside, it was the brutal rape of a young professional woman jogging in Central Park in 1989, and the truly tragic trial that followed.
While we were in India, I thought much about the consciousness-raising that followed the Central Park rape, the fact that so many women, new to the professional workforce, recognized themselves in the victim, and then recognized the dangers of the anger that followed. She was young, educated, and just out for a jog. The backlash and arrests that followed represent a terrible moment in America, and caused much soul-searching. It seemed to me that women (and men) in India are reacting in much the same way. A recent story in The Los Angeles Times resonates with similarities with women in America, in the early stages of the feminist movement:
Rape cases have been a fixture in India’s headlines for years, but the brutal attack in December hit a deep nerve. Many young women saw themselves in the victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student of modest means who moved to New Delhi to chase the Indian dream — and gain independence in the process.
If India’s young women manage to rise in the aftermath of the rape and subsequent death of the New Delhi rape victim, if they claim their place as equals, it seems to me their voices will move India into a new and promising role on the world stage. In gaining their independence, they will gain a new level of independence for their country.
They have been taught well the way of peaceful protest, and taught us in the States in turn. I’ve attended many “Take Back the Night” marches in my time that looked exactly like this photo from the Times. I’ve seen the look of determination you see in this photo on the faces of women standing next to me.
We’ve been deliberating here on the Confluence Countdown how to report on this pivotal moment in the country that we owe so much to in our own lives, and have grown to love. I decided to respond with hope and encouragement—in this new moment of equality in America—to my sisters in India, to look to the future, and know you are on the side of history.
Posted by Bobbie