Coz you are so very

I just watched Pink and like most others, enjoyed it. But this is not a review. This is just a collection of thoughts. Every few months I end up recalling something from my eventful past – and this is one such.
( SPOILER ALERT)

There’s a scene where one of the girls’ faces is morphed onto that of a sex worker’s (discussion about why that is so chee chee, for another post) and the image passed around her office. That hit pretty close home.

It was the year 2000, when I was home for a break, and my parents casually tossed me an envelope that had been couriered to them. It had black and white printouts of my face, morphed onto a naked body. The body was too, err, well endowed to be mistaken for my 43 kilo self. Nonetheless, it was a horrific sight for any parent to be faced with and once again I am floored by how amazing my parents are, to have dealt with it the way they did. There was no melodrama. They just told me that I had clearly pissed someone off, so to watch out for more serious, physical harm. I assured them that I was unharmed and would stay alert, and the matter ended there.

A few days later, the images got more obscene, more graphic, sometimes my skinny brown face on massive white women’s bodies, emailed to me. I figured it was the same guy/s. I asked a few tech savvy friends to help me (I don’t think there was much in the way of a cyber crime cell in those days) and they traced the emails back to a most insignificant classmate. In fact, when they named him, I had to rack my brains to recall his face.
The story is such a stereotype, it almost writes itself – it is always the quiet insignificant type that burn with this sort of rage, because indifference is so hurtful. And because I chose to be friends with other boys, but not him. He was interested, I wasn’t. In fact I hadn’t even recognised his overtures for what they were and I suppose that is what was most galling. He’d waited four years to serve me his revenge, cold. I had the usual gang of friends offer to beat him up for me, but I’d been away from U.P. long enough to not take up the offer. He got tired of mailing me naked women. I forgot about him.

Today the movie reminded me of those who worry about our images being misused. Mine were misused 16 years ago when it was unheard of and to say I was devastated, would be understating it. I’m pretty much forged by fire now. (How did he find my pictures? I am guessing he got them off Orkut, off a common friend’s album.) I refuse to let the paranoia of pictures being misused, ruin my time and space online. I trust that my kids’ pictures are safe among those I trust enough to add on FB. To me this victim blaming of why-did-you-put-it-up-on-the-internet is no better than those who ask you why you went out late at night, wore a short skirt, or had a few drinks.

This is the internet, it is here to stay as a part of our kids’ lives, and I’m not going to tell my daughter to hide her image on Facebook because someone will photoshop her face on to a duck or a naked body. I’m going to let her know that worse might happen, and the only thing she can do is hold her head high, steel her spine, and say FUCK IT (Ooh, this is a first for me!) . I feel much safer and better for doing so myself. Sticks, stones and morphed images won’t break my bones. And it’s strange to say there is no loss of honour for a woman, in getting raped, while behaving like it is the end of the world if someone photoshops her image. We’re giving our girls contradictory messages. If someone does that, he’s a dick, just like the guy down the road who flashes you. Can’t put life on hold for it, so live it the way you want, fearlessly.

And while the movie ran on, I experienced what is common for most of us women. Manspreading. The guy on my right took over the common arm, and then stuck a leg out in front of my seat so that I was forced to squeeze into the OA. I didn’t realise that I was doing so, because we’re so used to making ourselves shrink and disappear. Move off the sidewalk, wear a veil so that you become faceless.I don’t think the guy meant to harass me – it was just his male sense of entitlement. He didn’t even *think* before spreading out. It didn’t bother him that his elbow was touching mine, his ankle bumping my knee. It was for me to move away.

The OA noticed it, and was about to tell the man to shove off and give me my space, when something snapped and I pushed back – it was my fight. It was a small thing, but a big one for me because I’m always so careful not to give offence – what if I’ve misunderstood? I defiantly crossed an ankle over my knee so that the sole of my shoe was almost at his knee, almost invading his space. He moved away. The OA saw that I was fine, grinned, and got back to the movie.

This is so much more about good manners than anything else. We were raised to be considerate, to not take up more space than we require, to never put our feet up on a table or stick our legs out so that our shoe soles faced anyone. Fighting back requires us to put our manners aside. And this is a hard line to walk. I find it really hard to teach my kids that they needn’t be polite to people who make them uncomfortable, because this is not a lesson that I have internalised yet.

PS: This song played in my head right through. Aerosmith’s Pink

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