The male gaze: ‘Hey, it’s a girl! and it’s a hilly chick!!’


Ever since I had taken admission to the university, I could feel dozens of eyes were following me. Be it while I walk down the corridors of the university library, or loitering around the faculty buildings. The eyes were gazing at me with an expression that they found something peculiar.

Many of the girls, of course Bengali, said they have nearly same experience for being a girl. But, my experience was totally different from them. ‘Hey, it’s a girl! and it’s a hilly chick!!,’ whispered the eyes among themselves. Moments after, the eyes get voices in commanding physiques. And the sentence remain almost the same to each of the voices, ‘I want to be a friend of yours. Cause I am very much interested about “upajatis”.’

Every indigenous girl faces such annoying experience, no matter in which institution they are studying. To many of the readers it might sound quiet normal. But, believe me, for us – most of the time – it is simply embarrassing. Because of the attitude and the body- language of the speaker.

To those who want have the ‘charm’ of having an indigenous friend, a small tip for you – just be friendly. You do not need to mention why you want to be friend. Come out of your preconceptions. You never tried to explain to a woman of your community when you had approached her why you wanted to be friends with her.

Let me explain- what is your urge behind having an indigenous charm? First of all – Is it curiosity? You do not know anything about us? So, you think gradually and you will get informed everything? Ask yourselves – how far your preconceptions are true?

From my very own experiences, most of you grew up with some ridiculous ideas, peculiar impressions.

‘Do you have bathrooms?’ ‘Do you use salt and oil in cooking?’ ‘Hey! I have heard that you eat cockroaches alive?’ ‘Don’t you face any problem socially if you choose to live with your partner?’ were the questions I had faced in past five years. Same is the experience of each indigenous man and woman on campus.

Just go through the above questions again. Do you think any of these question shows any respect? How would you feel if you were asked an insensitive question about your culture?

There are approximately 75 ethnic minority groups who introduce themselves as ‘Adivasi’. We have different values, different language, different culture, customs and habits. We are different from you in many things.

But you like to see the difference as something ‘exceptional’. Why? Why such an idea continues to be rooted among you ? What is the exception?

WE have our own languages and alphabets , don’t you?

WE have our own cuisine, clothing and habits, don’t you?

WE have our own social, religious and natural values and rituals, don’t you?

Yes, we are different. Moreover, we have a very smaller population compared to you. Diversity is the beauty. Plurality is the strength. If you and we could join hands, it would strengthen us. If we push ourselves away it invites rift and chaos.

We are proud of being Bangladeshi citizen, as are you. So, to the  readers, start treating us as you treat yourselves.

We practice our culture but it becomes insanely intolerable when we hear from the mainstream to behave in a particular way. None of us wants to hear from you, ‘Hey! Chakma, behave like Chakmas.’

Help us to raise our voice and to live with dignity.

3 comments

  1. I not only fully agree with your views, I also respect it. The problem is that the brutal majorities, all over the world, have converted diversity to difference to their benefit.

    Can I share?

  2. [Admin Note] To the Pahari man who posted a comment which was not allowed through due to sexist, misogynist and violent language, your post further underlines the point about the male gaze. In your case, it is the gaze of a Pahari male, and there can be complex motivation for inter-race male-on-male tensions (although not in your case, since your slang-fest was so banal), but women’s bodies are only the battleground for you, sans their own agency.

  3. I’ve only just come across this post I’m sorry to say but I understand a little of what you write here. Many of my closest friends are Santals – moreover they are women too! This has not been by design but just as life progessed they have been important to me. I’m not very good at sticking to the ‘roles’ society imposes on us and I don’t seem to be very good at it as a ‘bideshi’ man in Bangladesh either!

    As a bideshi, I get a huge amount of unwanted attention and constant inane questions from jubokra who gather in their dozens to hear the ‘white monkey’ speak. While I will not ever experience your problems of being a woman in a patriarchal society, I can, at least, get an inkling of that unwanted gaze.

    But for what little it is worth, as a male and therefore part of the collective group that give such offence, I aplogise on behalf of the males in the country who just don’t know how to behave nicely. Thankfully there are many who do though – I get the feeling you are much more aware of that than I…

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