of feminism and checklists

You’d remember that I wrote about an IPS officer’s friendly checklist for women who want to stay safe.

Someone left the following comment for me there, and my response was so long-winded, I thought it might just be better to write a new post.

And then there was the fact that this way you can actively engage in the conversation and tell me what you think.

Here’s what TheKomentor had to say:

Though I can sympathize with the fact that you were injured in an accident, I really don’t find anything wrong with that police list. Those are just common sense instructions that every woman can follow to have a better chance of staying safe in public places. And it isn’t like the police are shirking their responsibilities; they are just saying you can stay safe even without them if you do those things. Of course everyone of us wants the freedom to dress and behave and live our lives the way we want to, but the fact of the matter is that freedom is oftentimes just a word — we, both men and women, are living under limitations, and we are safer when we stay within those limitations. It is like saying I should have the freedom to touch fire, and then blaming others when I get burned.

Let’s talk about her perspective, point-by-point.

I really don’t find anything wrong with that police list.

Take a closer look.

Police

  1. What does he mean by ‘dress decently’? What is less provocative? A saree that leaves my midriff exposed or jeans and a t-shirt? Who is to say rapists will have exactly the same sense of fashion and modesty that I do?
  2. About being well-behaved – should I be greeting potential rapists with my hands folded? Or is he implying that women walk around “inviting” men through provocative gestures?
  3. If I can’t travel in crowded buses/trains, should I be boarding nearly empty buses/trains? Isn’t that what Nirbhaya did? I’m confused. Are you?

Those are just common sense instructions that every woman can follow to have a better chance of staying safe in public places.

Yes. I agree. I proactively do most of the things on that list. These things are not necessarily making us safe, because we do get “eve-teased” in broad daylight and in groups, but I’m with you on this one.

Most Indian women would agree that we’ve been forced to become street smart. We know, just by means of a quick glance, who is looking at us and how. We don’t go to ‘wine shops’, we don’t step out in the dark without male escorts, and we wear shrugs and leggings with dresses when we step out even if at the cost of looking like buffoons. We’re already doing all that.

But we don’t need a police officer to tell us these things. Unless, of course, they are talking to a specific woman who likes to walk around naked and dances provocatively in a crowded bus full of lusty men in the middle of the night, and then asks why she got raped. That woman, my friend, should be the poster girl for this checklist. Do you know her?

And it isn’t like the police are shirking their responsibilities; they are just saying you can stay safe even without them if you do those things.

Ummm… nope. What they are saying is: boys will be boys, and women just have to work around that.

They are making it our responsibility to stay safe. If something untoward happens, the same guy will first ask the victim where she was, what she was doing there at that time of the day/night, whom she was with, whether her family knows she hangs around with boys, etc. More questions will follow, centered around this checklist – ‘what were you wearing’ will be something that will finally make it the victim’s fault.

Of course everyone of us wants the freedom to dress and behave and live our lives the way we want to, but the fact of the matter is that freedom is oftentimes just a word — we, both men and women, are living under limitations, and we are safer when we stay within those limitations.

I disagree. Vehemently.

Just because it’s a bad world does not mean we have to live with it. Things will only get better if we take a stand, and I don’t mean just women.

We ALL have to stop saying these checklists make sense. Because they don’t make any sense because when they come from other people, they’re coming from someone who believes in victim blaming and slut shaming.

I’m not ok with that. I will do what I need to do to stay safe. I don’t need the police to tell me what I should do to not be raped. What I do need them to tell me is what they are doing to keep me safe. See what I mean?

My freedom is just a word until I believe it’s just a word.

It is like saying I should have the freedom to touch fire, and then blaming others when I get burned.

I don’t even feel like dignifying this with a response.


I know, I know, I have got to stop the sermonizing. But I can’t help it. There’s so much going on in our world these days, I can’t be an ostrich anymore. I think it’s time we stopped and thought about how little ‘friendly suggestions’ like this are adding to the gender issues we already have.

What do you think?

Please play nice. Just because you disagree with someone’s views does not mean you have to be disrespectful.

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of scars in love

But hey, the good thing is, I’m a dad now, he says with a bright smile on his face, trying to put off talking about unhappiness for another time. You’re usually trying not to yawn or roll your eyes when people talk about how unhappy they are. I understand, you say, but you never mean it.

But this day is different. Continue reading of scars in love

of re-membering

Less than an hour after you’ve published your first post, you’re wondering if it’s too soon to write again. Maybe it is. If people knew who you were, they would totally judge you; but the truth is they don’t, so you can forgive yourself for feeling almost smug as you start typing.

You love, love, love being able to say whatever you want. You’ve never felt this liberated before!

So you make a list of things you can finally talk about:

  • What a coward you are! You still smile nervously when you run into your cousins, but do not have the courage to tell them you remember.
  • How fiercely protective you have been of your nieces; you won’t even let them sit in your husband’s lap.
  • How you really feel about all the men you’ve been with, and the women you fancied.
  • How you didn’t know how to pronounce chic until, like, two weeks ago.
  • You real first kiss. The one nobody knows about.
  • The real reason why your marriage broke up.

Here you choke. Warm, wet inhibitions begin to flow through your eyes and you cry like you have never cried before.

Maybe someday you will write a book about the mess that has been your life.

of memories long forgotten

It’s strange how the sight of a blue-white hawaii chappal under a teakwood dining table can break your heart and mend your life all at once.

A quaint little Sarojini Nagar house on the ground floor with a big-ass teakwood dining table and yellowish-white curtains. A seven-year old version of you lying on the floor, naked. Your twelve year old cousin grinning as he watches his brother dry-hump you. Your eye focused on the blue-white hawaii chappal under the dining table.

The crying after, the pain, the horror of it all. No wonder your seven-year old brain blocks it out.

Years later, the memory just comes flooding back on a lazy Sunday morning as you’re sipping chai that your cousin just brought you and your eye wanders to a hawaii chappal under the dining table. That dining table.

And what do you do? Start blogging about it. Anonymously.

The chai just sits there in the mug long after you’ve left.

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