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.

of being a weirdo magnet

This morning, as I drove to work, I was especially happy because there were none of the obvious signs of the migraine. No sensitivity to light or sound, no throbbing vein in the temple threatening to burst.

Today is going to be a good day, I thought, as soon as I woke up. So I decided to enjoy my drive. I left home early, drove slowly, savoring every turn, every beautiful flower on the roadside.

As my car rolled to a halt on a signal that was about to turn red, the guy driving the car behind me Continue reading of being a weirdo magnet

of hangups

You remember how, when you were young, calendars were meant to be hung on the wall. You liked being the one to see it first – to check if they had mountains, or flowers or deities on them. You always hated the ones with the deities; the house was full of their pictures anyway!
As soon as a new calendar arrived, you’d turn to February. Your birth month. The picture on this one was always the best. Next, you’d go to October. Your brother’s birth month. You’d show it to him, but he would be unimpressed. He didn’t care much for calendars anyway.
Dadi would look for a clean spot on the wall in the kitchen and hang it there, out of your reach. You’d loiter around for a while, but eventually forget all about it.
At the beginning of every month, dadi would take you to the kitchen, where the calendar was hung. Smiling, she’d tear out the first page from the calendar, almost in slow motion. She’d look at you intently as she gave you that old, yellowing month, stained with turmeric and oil and memories. You’d hold the sheet in your hands, look at the new, glossy picture that had just been revealed, and wink gleefully.

Continue reading of hangups

of aggression

You’re crossing the chauraha near Sector 18. Playing with your phone, too. Yes, you do realize you’re behaving like a retard, but you want to do it anyway. So, you’re walking along, playing with your phone. A Scorpio literally pulls out of the Max Hospital driveway and speeds its way into the road. The fucktard sees you but instead of stopping, he keeps going, and you’re still walking. Continue reading of aggression

of impulses

Let’s go, you say at two a.m. on a Friday night, almost pukish at the thought of spending another weekend in Delhi.  Let’s get out. We never do anything impulsive, you say. Chalo, he says. Abhi? You can’t believe you’re actually doing this.

Five minutes later, you’re packing an overnight bag and dumping it in the boot of your one-year-old-highway-virgin car, double-checking to make sure you have all your papers in place, and driving off.

Where to, he asks. You name the first place that pops into your head at that moment. Kasauli it is.

Thirty minutes later, you stop over at a tiny little eatery on the road and announce do chai, ek aloo parantha. You fall asleep as you wait. When you wake up, he’s watching you intently.

Within seconds you are both smiling and holding hands, Hindi-picture style.

You finish your paranthas and chai and head home.