college fests

My pre-infatuation with college fests began long back when my elder sister detailed her excitement about hers when she was in Lady Shri Ram College. Fests would be the nights I wouldn’t have to abide by the curfew laid in place and go to great concerts for free (FREE!). I have romanticized concerts as long as I can remember.

But here is the thing, there is a tiny detail about these college fests, a detail to which I had to feign indifference to, but in the wake of the watershed #metoo movement, do not have to settle for half-baked rationalizations.

The detail is this – I have been groped during college fests – multiple times. So have most of my female friends and acquaintances.

The accountability in this particular instance is harder to pursue. College fests generally entail a lot of hype and thousands from different colleges flock to your campus, especially on the third day when generally a bigger star comes to perform.

It’s hard to spot the perpetrator, but even when you do it is even harder to bring them to justice. I have witnessed several instances where the woman was vilified for complaining about being molested to the authorities.

It’s hard to spot the perpetrator, but even when you do it is even harder to bring them to justice.

Almost every woman I know had a similar incident to recount – they were casually groped, felt violated and could not pursue further action due to how we collectively treat victims of sexual violation.

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The Aziz Ansari case is a brilliant example of how vocabulary falls short in addressing instances of violence that are sexual in nature but not necessarily the kind of sexual violence we are used to recognizing in mainstream media.

Sexual harassment of this nature is so normalized in college fests that it fails to incite a deep reaction.

In my college, which is Hindu College, there is a women-only section right near the stage, which is separated by barricades from the general area. This women-only section was created keeping in mind this is a space where women can feel safe and enjoy without having to think about rampant sexual harassment.

If you, however, choose to go to the general section anyway, you do so ‘at your own risk’, in the language of men who apparently have no agency over their actions and have effectively rejected the model of consent and respectability.

Also Read: All Hindu College Cares About Is Their Bhai’s Election | #MakeMyCampusSafe

Someone might get very inappropriate with you, test your patience and when you finally speak against this abhorrent behaviour, you are vilified because you did not choose to go to the women-only section and are now stopping ‘men from being men’.

This has actually happened.

A woman once during my college fest felt uncomfortable because one guy came close to her and started emulating her moves. She moved and he followed her to wherever she decided to go.

She finally threatened him when she got tired of the mindless harassment and told him she would complain to the authorities. He called her a prude and told her if she found such harmless behaviour unacceptable she should have gone to the women’s section.

This is only one of the several incidents I am familiar with.

Sexual harassment of this nature is so normalized in college fests that it fails to incite a deep reaction.

These incidents are commonplace, and generally, when I have found myself in the middle of discussions where women share their experiences, the general feeling is – expressing anger is passed off as an overreaction.

Women are constantly made to internalize guilt for speaking against dangerous behaviour, but there is nothing done to address this behaviour which comes from male entitlement.

When will we stop holding women accountable for dangerous behaviour men exhibit?

How long is the discomfort around the conversation about sexual violation going to last?

And these are not rhetorical questions.

Also Read: Let’s Talk About How DU Women’s Hostel Fees Are Sexist

This piece is part of our series #MakeMyCampusSafe in collaboration with Newslaundry.

Featured Image Credit: India Times

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