With only a couple of weeks left in China, I am starting to acknowledge all the small things that I will miss when I leave. The biggest of them all is probably the freedom I feel here as a girl/woman (I still refer to myself as a girl, but after seeing an awesome #90skidswillmarry hashtag on a friend’s Facebook wall, I realized I should transition to calling myself a woman).

  • Women here wear whatever they want, most of them wear what’s probably even taboo in India.
  • My female colleagues go back home after midnight on their own.
  • I have seen girls travelling alone, drowse off and sleep on a public bus at 10pm.
  • I have seen women public bus drivers.
  • On a village bus, the conductors (ticket persons) were all woman.
  • On a village bus, I saw two women transfer a bulk of goods on their own. No one seemed surprised (except me) or offered a hand.
  • I saw a woman driving a tractor.
  • Women cycle around wearing mini skirts.
  • Women learn and practice dance at public parks.
  • Women dry their inner wear outside their house on full display to everyone.
  • Women sit and play cards with men at local shops on the street.
  • Women stand around in the crowd looking over a chess game on the street.
  • Women drink alcohol with men on restaurant tables laid out on the street.

Now they have the richest self-made women ever!

I have been feeling safer than I felt even in the US where cat-calling does occur frequently enough to be noticed. It is really hard to put in words how I feel when I roam the city here.

In all my time here, there are a lot of things which haven’t happened which are shamefully “normal” in India. 

  • Not a single guy has even ogled me. Guys have stared a lot at me, but there’s a difference in ogling and staring. They stare but when I notice it and we have eye contact, they look down or look away. The staring is because I look alien here, almost everyone stares at me. 
  • I haven’t seen a single guy ogle/cat-call/follow/stare at a girl.
  • No guy has bumped into me even while walking along extremely narrow paths.

Anything more extreme than these, I haven’t even bothered to look for, here.

I spoke to as many Chinese colleagues about it as possible. All seemed to take it for granted. I don’t think they can even relate to the horrors in India. A friend shared this recently. I usually don’t get emotional about them, but after my experience here, I was disgusted by how “normal” these are to us Indian women.

I have been exposed to some traditions of old China, during the kings, through museums, an opera and a TV drama. The society was very male-dominated: the kings had a bunch of concubines just to give birth to a heir, women did not have property rights, rights to kill women who brought shame, women cannot show even their feet to men other than the husband (I am sure some of these are wrong, this is based on what I had been able to understand). One of my colleagues also told about rampant female feticide till the government made it illegal. Sounds similar to India! The transformation from that to what I see now is amazing and beautiful. It is a real shame that India is stuck.

Now, there are still issues like the lack of women in higher positions, some patriarchy in the tradition, etc. There is always scope to improve. But, in everyday life, it is amazing here. China ranks 37 in Gender Inequality Index, better than US’s 43. India is at 125!

(To all the Indians who say we should be thankful we are not lower than 125, well, why do you not say this when your kid gets a C: we should be thankful it is not a D, keep getting a C! Why do you ask for a B or an A?)

I was walking on the road yesterday and I thought “If I could, I think I would learn Chinese, give up Indian food, just to be able to walk this free”.

I was telling a friend about how bad it was in India and he seemed very surprised. Then I saw the post by my friend and I started thinking about how bad it really is:

Personal experience:

  • Ogled: Numerous times
  • Cat-called: Numerous times
  • Whistled at: Numerous times
  • Men driving their bikes towards you to scare you: Numerous times
  • Brushing against you while walking: Numerous times
  • Going out of their way to grab your body parts: Once
  • Rubbing against you in confined spaces: Once (it was so bad, I had to get off the bus before my stop)
  • Trying to take photographs of you: Numerous times
  • Following: None
  • Flashing: Once
  • Staring all the time on rear view mirror: Numerous times
  • Touching themselves in front of you: Once
  • Holding hand while taking money: None

Know someone personally:

  • Domestic Abuse: Yes
  • Dowry Abuse: No
  • Female Feticide: No
  • Sexually Abused: Yes
  • Raped: No

This is after the fact that I have family and friends who are extremely respectful of women. Also, I travel safe, avoid night travel, avoid travelling alone, wear “covering” clothes, etc. 

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One thought on “Free.

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