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When feminist ideals of freedom to choose clash with the ground realities of gender violence, do we all become hypocrites? This piece about the safety of women will hit too close to home, and hard.
There are days when I am at constant battle with myself. I’ll explain what I mean, just bear with me.
I am against victim-blaming. I know that it is never ever a victim’s fault. Never. I know that clothes don’t cause rape; I know that it is my right to go where I want, be with whoever I want, wear whatever I, want and do whatever I want. And when idiotic men tell women to not wear jeans or shorts for safety, I get angry. Very angry. But when I am out in the city, my feminist ideals clash with my need to protect myself.
If I get late coming back home, I prefer to spend some extra cash and book myself a cab or stay at a friend’s place. I prefer not to come back home at 11:30 pm all by myself even though I know I have the right to be out at night like any man does. I choose not to wear shorts if I suspect I won’t have a friend drop me home at the end of an evening. I carry a jacket in my bag on days I wear a top that shows some skin. I decline invites when I am not sure how I’ll get home.
I didn’t really want to spend that money, I love wearing shorts, and I might even have enjoyed that party. Nobody asked me to not go. But I still choose to do these things. And you know what? I even hate myself for doing it.
I hate that everything I just confessed to, goes against everything I believe in, and though this isn’t exactly victim-blaming, it is no better. Who am I even kidding? I know very well that none of these things I do—like texting my boyfriend the license number of the cab I’m in—would do me any good if someone were to actually decide to assault me. It might make the job of finding the perpetrator easy, but it won’t really stop him from doing it.
I think that I’ll be okay if a male friend drops me home, but both Jyoti and the survivor of the Shakti Mills gangrape were with a male companion who were beaten up in the process—one man can’t fight off five. I think if I cover myself up, I would attract less attention, even though I know that my clothes have absolutely no bearing on the workings of a sick, criminal mind.
I think if I cover myself up, I would attract less attention, even though I know that my clothes have absolutely no bearing on the workings of a sick, criminal mind.
At times like these, I am basically falling back on all the misogynistic moral policing that boils my blood. Sure, it’s not khap panchayat bad—I eat chowmien and wear jeans—but it’s bad.
I know gender policing is a disgusting way to control and subjugate women and make them believe it’s their fault. But I have been self-policing myself ever since I grew up. I don’t really wear whatever I want or go wherever I want. No. I decide what I’m going to wear according to my mode of transport on that particular day. I set my curfews myself so that I don’t end up trying to look for an auto home late night.
Because my safety is my priority. Not the Government’s and not Delhi Police’s. It ought to be their priority as well and I should feel safe in my city, but it’s not and I don’t.
Because there are disgusting people out there—people who rape little kids, people who throw acid at girls, people who just want to touch you in public because that somehow gives them a high.
Because there are parents who brought up their sons to believe that women are inferior to them and their daughters to ‘toe the line’, because if girls get raped, they’re taught that it’s their fault.
Because this country does not respect women. This country doesn’t protect its women. I know this sounds neurotic, but I don’t want to be a number in a statistic.
The point is that at times, I don’t feel safe doing the things I know I have the right to do, because this is not a perfect world. And I choose to cover myself or find another option. And even though I know that none of these are going to stop an assaulter, I still do them to make myself believe that I’ll be safe.
Does that make me a hypocrite?
Pic credit: LotusCaroll (Used under a CC license)
Bookworm, feminist, foodie--not particularly in that order. Twitter: @sweta_pal89
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