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The Forward Bend

The Forward Bend

I’ve experienced everything from catcalls to sexism at work and on the streets. I’m in a comfortable space right now. But you will assign me names because I’m not dressed appropriately. Or should I say, how you would like me to be or any woman for that matter? I have innumerous tales of occasions when I have felt objectified, from poor remarks to glaring stares on a trotting street – when my personality and experience are brought down to be female. I am sure that now when you look at me, you are objectifying me. Let me share my experience of the male gaze with you, the first time and the last time I faced it.

The First Time

I was around 14 or 15 years old when it happened to me for the first time. I had just finished my year ending exams and it was for the time that my parents had allowed me to enjoy the time by myself, outside.

I was walking down the street at the end of a dimly lit alleyway at night when a man came up behind me. He told me I was beautiful and asked me how old I was. I replied to him with a smile on my face because I was in a good mood having wrapped up the burden of exams, and being a friendly person, I didn’t mind talking to strangers. I was in a good mood; the weather was great. He asked me to do a few gymnastic positions in a way of a friendly dare and I duly obliged him with the Forward Bend position, holding my torso above the ground, resting my body weight on my head. Even as I was gloating at my physical abilities for holding position, I felt a cold hand running down my back.

For the first time I felt a strange chill run down my spine and I pushed my aggressor off & ran away even as he managed to mumble a muffled apology. It was for the first time I got so conscious of my body and all its components, it made me feel embarrassed to have them, made me want to vanish in thin air. I didn’t feel like anyone at that moment, just flesh without a face, no name. Somehow, I managed to convince myself it wouldnt happen again but deep down I had a voice telling me it wasn’t the last time.

The Latest Experience (Not the least)

The last time when a man objectified me was last night. I had just got off the train, and I was walking home. It was dark at about 10.30 pm. The route from the station to my home is lively. Even at 10:30 pm, there are lots of people on the streets. I plugged in my earphones and started walking, homeward bound. Even while doing so, I always glance over my shoulder to check for onoming traffic.

On one such occasion, I cast my eyes downward and happened to notice two shadows behind me. Glancing over behind, I speeded up the pace when I saw two men walking surpisingly close to me. I was visbily shaken by the closing distance between them and me, but fearing the worst, I waited for them to make the first move. I was surprised when one of them suddenly leaned over and moaned too close to my ear, “beautiful body.” I turned my back, clenched my jaw, and said nothing while I wanted to turn around and punch him in the face. But I didn’t; I wasn’t willing. In my heart I knew nothing would change. Whatever I told him, he wouldn’t think twice before crossing the line with another woman again. These were seasoned predators, at the very best I would be earning an enemy that I did not need.

That day I realized a female body might be a work of art but the world is not an art gallery.