- Posted August 22, 2013 by
New York City, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
People who Generalize are Evil: My Response to Michaela Cross's Experiences in India
First of all, I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to Michaella Cross (RoseChasm). No woman should have to experience what she experienced ever in their life. I hope she recovers from her PTSD and goes on to live a long healthy happy life.
My name is Polly Hwang. I'm a Korean American female who was born in Seoul but brought up in Carlsbad, California. I currently live in NYC. Up til about 5 years ago, I had no experience or knowledge about India or Indians in any way. That all changed when I met the sweetest nicest man I know who happened to be a foreign student from India. He is now my boyfriend and also the father of my soon to be born child. My boyfriend was the person who persuaded me to join him on his trips to India and over the past 5 years, I have traveled and lived in India several times. During these times, I have walked alone in Indian streets and used public transportation by myself as well.
I have been fortunate in that I have not been molested or sexually harassed in anyway. That is not to say that I always had a pleasant time in India. As an American, I dislike the "staring culture" prevalent in India. Both Indian men and women will stare at you shamelessly when you walk by them. It was only after a few trips that I realized that they did not mean any harm. They were just curious of a foreign female walking their streets. However for anyone who is uncomfortable with staring, please don't visit India. I also didn't like the beggars constantly asking for money or the shopkeepers constantly asking you to check out their wares. However I attribute that to the intense poverty in India and don't get too offended over it.
Why was I not sexually harassed? It could be that I was just plain lucky. It could also be the fact that I took a lot of precautions to avoid dangerous areas, wear appropriate clothing, behave appropriately etc. Not to chastise Rose Chasm in anyway but she should not have been dancing in the Ganesha street festival known for its hordes of extremely drunk young men. She should not have stayed in cheap shady hostels in Goa which I'm sure had no positive online reviews. She should not be flipping fingers at locals and most importantly, she should have left after her first incident of sexual harassment, instead of staying for over 90 days and developing PTSD. I'm not victim shaming in any way, the pigs who tormented Rose Chasm take 100% of the blame. However as foreigners, it's our responsibility to be aware of how to behave and live in the local culture. University of Chicago may need to revise their cultural training program for the next batch of UC students being sent to India.
That being said, there is a problem with perverts harassing both Indian and foreign women in the streets of India. There is no use in trying to push this problem under the carpet, this problem needs to addressed aggressively by the Indian people, Indian government, and Indian police. I think one of the reasons is overpopulation. Let's say that 1% of every human male population are perverts and that there are 20 million Indian males in a small Indian city. That would mean that the small Indian city would also have 200, 000 perverts. 200,000 perverts in a small urban space is a terrifying thought.
The other issue is culture. Indians are discouraged from having premarital sex and from watching porn. This leads to a build-up of sexual frustration in young Indian males and females. Fortunately, Indian society is becoming more westernized and liberal and I hope this leads to the acceptance of premarital sex and porn in the future.
The Indian government needs to wake up to this issue. The best action we can do as foreigners is to stop visiting India and cancel all vacation plans in India. Once the Indian government starts losing billions of dollars in tourism revenues, it will wake up and be forced to do something. Indians in India (males and females) can be more vigilant in everyday life to stop these incidents and also work with local NGOs.
However, we need to keep in mind that there are over 500 million men in India and the vast majority of them are good decent people. Rose Chasm's personal experiences cannot and should not be used to generalize the whole of India or all Indian men. Just the fact that my experiences as a foreign woman in India were so different from RoseChasm shows that generalizing based on one person's experience is both silly and dangerous.
Although I'm sure this was not Rose Chasm's intention, the majority of Westerners/Americans are going to read her report and conclude that ALL Indian men are rapists/pigs etc. This is very wrong and untrue. By implying that every man she met in India is a pervert and by not giving any examples of good decent Indian men, she is indirectly stereotyping Indian men in a very harmful way.
Please do not generalize Indian men or indeed anyone. I know from personal experience in India and outside India that a lot of Indian men are decent good people. Please don't slander or pre-judge them. I speak especially to my fellow Americans who love to stereotype and generalize people because it makes it easier for them to compartmentalize and file away groups of people in their mind. Unfortunately, there are many ignorant Westerners/Americans who will believe in stereotypes and use it to harm groups of people.