Dear Men, Do You Have ANY Idea What Women Go Through Everyday Just To Stay Safe??

Women are NOT safe in India, and men have NO clue how we plan every time we go out of our safe spaces. This is no country for women.

Trigger warning: This speaks of sexual assault, rape culture, and gangrape, and may be triggering for survivors.

Yet another horrific sexual assault has been committed against a woman in India. As always, men are advising women on how they should take adequate precautions. Adequate precautions? Do men have any idea what women go through everyday?

First answer these simple questions

Let’s ask a couple of questions to understand how women and men navigate the world differently, shall we?

What do you do when your 2-wheeler stalls on a highway at 9 pm?

If you are male, you walk to the nearest toll booth and try to find someone who can help you fix it the bike. Or you stand on the road, thumb a lift, and return the next day with a mechanic.
If you are female, you wonder how to save yourself from rape. [Disha, a veterinary doctor from Hyderabad couldn’t save herself].

When you are booking a hotel room in a place you are unfamiliar with what do you look for?

If you are male, you look at photographs of the rooms. You check if there is a pool or a gymnasium. You read reviews of the food. You check out the view and the location.
If you are female, you go through reviews from other women to see if the place is safe.

When you want to go for a run, what do you do?

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If you are male, you wear your running clothes, lace up your shoes, turn on the Garmin and go.
If you are female, you check if there are people about, you send a quick WA message to your friends to see if anyone wants to run with you, you pull up an emergency contact number on your phone, you hold your housekey in your fist so you can use that as a weapon if needed. And then you decide running on a treadmill is safer than running on the road.

No, men have no idea how much women need to think before doing things that they take for granted. Yet, women know it is never enough.

Women are always scared

When we wave goodbye to a friend at the metro station, we say, “text me when you get home.” And if she doesn’t, we start worrying and call to check if she reached home safe. And the moment she picks up the phone we say, “next time you forget to text after reaching home, I will kill you.”

When we take a cab from the airport late at night, we pretend to take a photograph of the licence plate and send it to a friend, so the driver knows there is a record of us being in his cab. When we find the driver checking the mirror too often, we often dial a number and have imaginary conversations with people. Sometimes, we even carry a hot beverage with us, so we can throw it on the face of the driver if things get out of hand.

Our family is scared for us

The last time I visited my father in law, he yelled at me because I chose to walk home from the metro station at 8:30 pm. “If you had called me, I would have driven down and picked you up”, he told me. He was nearing 80 then, but he was willing to get out of his warm home in a Delhi winter because he was terrified of what could happen to a woman walking 600 meters through a residential area.

We worry for our colleagues

When my female colleagues travelled alone by overnight train, I would call them before going to bed so my phone number would be at the top of the call list in case something happened to them. I never even thought of doing that for my male colleagues.

Women choose not to do things that men take for granted

We never step out alone for a smoke. We take someone with us because we are scared.

We are terrified of being the only female on a train or bus. Paradoxically, we are even more scared of being the only woman in a ladies compartment because what if a man jumps on at the last moment and does something to us?

Men never know the fear we constantly live with

They can never understand what we go through every day while just going about our daily life. They will never know that we are constantly in fight or flight mode, and the toll it takes on our physical and mental health.

So, dear men, please don’t tell us to “take precautions”- we already do. If you want to help, be better allies. Listen to women when they articulate their concerns regarding women’s safety. Explain to other men why they should change certain behaviours. Don’t be a silent observer when a woman is in trouble and is appealing for help. Teach your sons and nephews, brothers and cousins, father and uncles the meaning of consent. Understand consent yourself.

Thank you.

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About the Author

Natasha Ramarathnam

Natasha works in the development sector, where most of her experience has been in Education and Livelihoods. She is passionate about working towards gender equity, sustainability and positive climate action. And avid reader and occasional read more...

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