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     Volume 7 Issue 29 | July 18, 2008 |

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Cavemen in Our Midst

Srabonti Narmeen Ali

Being a woman in Dhaka often subjects you to a great deal of unwanted (and often quite disgusting) advances made by random men. While it proves to be irritating and, in some cases, traumatising for us to be receiving this unwelcome form of 'attention' -- especially when most of us just want to be left alone -- the truth is that it is possible, perhaps, to see the lighter side of such behaviour. Granted, most of us would rather do without this kind of entertainment, but since we know things are not going to change in the next 100 years or so, we might as well accept the fringe benefits of being a woman in Dhaka city, and rise above our ardent, but not so prudent 'admirers.'

In the meantime it is interesting that when studying the behavioral patterns of such men, we come to the not-so-surprising conclusion that class, education and background make no difference whatsoever when it comes to sleaziness. They are all, at the end of the day, the same, and when it comes down to it, their barbaric tendencies often rob them of their good sense and we are left with beings that have as much finesse as cavemen.

One of the most cringe-worthy types of cavemen are 'the kissers.' You know the type -- the kind that makes long-drawn out kissing noises when you walk by them. This is something that women come across everywhere, be it on the bus, walking on the street, getting into an elevator, or even dining at a fancy restaurant. And guess what? There is nothing you can do about it, because these men are not doing this to impress you, or even to express their feelings of attraction. No, this is what we call Bangali psychological warfare. This is the man's way of belittling you and showing you as much disrespect as he can. While it is infuriating to be at the tail end of it, when you understand just how idiotic the man looks puckering his lips and making a general fool out of himself in public, you just have to laugh (as hard as it sometimes is to not smugly slap that pucker off his face).

Then there is 'the chest bumper.' This creature also falls into other categories, such as 'elbow rubber' or even 'shoulder scraper.' These are the men that need to have some kind of physical contact with you, and so, in a very casual manner, do so by rubbing up against you, or standing too close to you. Some of them are downright offensive and actually attempt to grab other parts of your body, and again, we have no choice but to accept our fate rather than turn around and break his arm, or elbow, or whatever else. It sometimes helps to turn around and shout at them or tell them off, but then they get so damn happy that you are actually communicating with them that it kind of defeats the whole purpose.

Probably one of the most irritating types are 'the oglers.' They are most irritating because technically, they are not doing anything wrong. You can't really yell at someone for looking at you, unless of course you are in a place like New York City where looking at someone for more than five seconds is considered bad policy. With 'the kissers' and 'the chest bumpers', although we do not protest most of the time, the fact is that we can. With 'the oglers' we just have to accept that they are looking. Contrary to popular belief 'oglers' are not only found on the street. They can be found at a dinner with friends too. It's even worse then because they actually can talk to you and you have to accept that rather than looking in your eyes like a normal person would do, they are looking elsewhere.

One of the scariest types of such individuals, and probably the most dangerous out of the lot are 'the stalkers,' otherwise known as 'the followers.' They are everywhere. And what's worse, they know EVERYTHING about you. They will randomly call you, refusing to identify themselves, show up at the weirdest places and sometimes they will even go as far as to calling your parents. What makes 'the stalker' scary is that they have so much control over your peace of mind and you never know what they are capable of, since most of the time they are either people who have hidden identities, or people who you thought you knew, but later found out you were completely clueless about. These are the most mentally unstable out of the lot. Whether they are obsessive, crazy or just plain vindictive makes no difference. At the same time, the fact that this loser is calling you and breathing heavily or giving you missed calls kind of puts it all in perspective as to how pathetic he is.

As traumatising as it is for women, and as much as we hate it, the truth is that we cannot change the world in a day. Men will unfortunately be men and their barbarism will not stop because of one jhari, or one slap. It will take years and years to make them understand just how puerile their behaviour is. At the same time it puts women in a predicament. Should we just look the other way and subserviently ignore these men? Or should we turn around and let them have it? Either way the feelings of anger and indignation will not go away. Perhaps the only way to stop these losers is not to show our fear and disgust, because that is just the reaction that they are looking for. But for most women, taking the high road and walking away often not only seems impossible, but extremely unfair. As long as men continue to think they have the God-given right to mentally and physically torture women, we will be constantly fighting this battle of the sexes. It seems that although it is an intolerable process, we women will have to wait another century before our men finally evolve from being cavemen to human beings.

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