On the front page of the NYT on September 16, the story “On India’s Railways, Women Find New Peace in the Commute” (by Jim Yardley), about a pilot program introducing commuter trains exclusively for female passengers — “Ladies Specials” in India’s four largest cities. These trains give women respite from public harassment by men, a practice known as eve-teasing (also spelled Eve-teasing or eve teasing or Eve teasing).

There’s a lot to dislike in the euphemism eve teasing. Teasing is a mild term indeed for aggressive insulting, catcalling, groping, and the like. And the reference to the biblical Eve deflects the offense from the perpetrators by suggesting that the objects of the offense are temptresses. So it’s “just fun”, and anyway, they bring it on themselves — attitudes that the women in question most definitely do not share.

The term originates in Indian English, and the practice is widespread in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. It’s generally believed that the incidence of eve-teasing has dramatically increased as women appeared in increasing numbers in universities and in the work force and, generally, as independent actors in public life. And its appearance in movies and music videos (where it’s often framed as an overture to romance) has probably fostered its spread in real life.

The OED (draft entry of March 2006) has cites for the synthetic compounds eve-teasing and eve-teaser from 1960 (from a single issue of the Times). Many early cites have the words in quotation marks, suggesting that they had only recently come into widespread use.

So the synthetic compounds have been around for some time, and we can wonder if they’ve gone down the path to back-formation, of a verb to eve-tease. The verb is here:

Sanjay said that he passes comments at girls to please them, for Subash it was to get attention from the opposite sex whereas for Manish … it is just fun and it remains fun only when he gets to eve tease from a distance, like when he is on a bus or when he has a group of friends. (link) [from Nepal]

Me or my brother always had to accompany my sisters to the grocery shops because there was a particular stretch where the guys loitering around would try to eve tease my sisters…. (link) [from India]

Rawalpindi cops enjoy watching women being eve-teased (link) [from Bangladesh]

Girl commits suicide after being eve teased (link) [from India]

One Response to “Eve-teasing”

  1. mollymooly Says:

    The book of Genesis has less cultural resonance for anglophone South Asians than most anglophones.

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