Fighting like a girl


June 2015

The Art of Being ‘Careful’

Monica : Careful. Careful. CAREFUL!
Chandler : I’ll tell you what, for the rest of our lives, I’ll be careful until told otherwise.

Having just moved into a hostel, I’ve been trying to reconcile what is supposed to be a new found freedom with a set of rules and moral codes that I have never had to think about before. When to come home, what to wear, when to go out etc etc. While sitting with a few of my new classmates, one of them said- ” Yeah we can go out and all…but we were told not to wear shorts and skirts.”  I just nodded.

I went for a walk this evening with a friend. It was around five, there was still light out. I was in a good mood- I’d made a new friend, I felt like I was settling in-when we were stopped by who I am sure was a well meaning gentleman, and I was told that it wasn’t safe for women to be walking around in the evening. My (male) friend then assured him that I would be back in the hostel soon. I was totally zapped, I said that it wasn’t even dark yet, and we kept walking.

I didn’t appreciate being made to feel like I didn’t have an equal right to walk down that street, and I definitely didn’t appreciate being made to feel like a liabilty to the person I was with. But as always, we just accept it, and move on. Because, no, we don’t have the right to walk down the street, but apparently potential rapists do.

Now if there is anything I hate  more  than other people telling me how I am supposed to keep myself safe, it’s men telling me how I should keep myself safe. Because, here’s the thing- you aren’t giving me any new information. We women have spent the better part of our lives trying to keep ourselves safe. Being careful has become an art, manoeuvring the various boundaries that society has set for us. We know when and where we can wear shorts, when we need to carry a stole to cover ourselves, when we need to travel in cars and when we can take the metro. We know we need to carry pepper sprays or deodorants. we know we should go out in groups, we know by what time we need to be home.

Simply being alive puts us in a state of danger. We’ve been told to be careful as soon as we’ve been able to walk and talk-careful of strangers, careful of over-friendly uncles, careful of drivers, domestic helps, and the list goes on. It only gets worse when we’re older-that top is too low, that skirt is too short, carry a jacket, don’t leave your drink unattended, don’t come back alone, just don’t attract attention to yourself.

So don’t you fucking dare tell me what I need to be doing when you have the privilege of being a heterosexual man in India who has no goddamn idea what it feels like to be under threat every time you step out of your house.

Now I could go on and on about the same thing-I wonder when public spaces will be made more inclusive, I wonder when women are not going to be viewed as objects that need to be locked away from the lecherous male gaze. I wonder when I’ll have the freedom to do whatever I damn well please- until then, like Chandler, I guess I will be careful for the rest of my life, until told otherwise.


Love, Patriarchy and Other Drugs

I overheard a conversation at a parlour here a couple of weeks ago that has been on my mind ever since-a woman was getting her hair cut, and the hairdresser suggested that she highlight her hair blonde-to which the woman replied: ‘Oh no, he wouldn’t let me. He likes my hair dark.’ Then, laughingly, she added, ‘There is no me anymore’.

I was immediately taken back to a conversation I had with a friend a couple of months ago. She told me she was having problems with her boyfriend. She talked about how the only problem with her relationship was that he couldn’t control his temper. That he yelled at her whenever he got angry, he said a lot of horrible things to her and then apologised right after because of course he didn’t mean any of it, and then the cycle repeated itself. However, she added, it wasn’t all bad. ‘He’s great otherwise, you know. He lets  me wear whatever I want, and he doesn’t mind me hanging out with my guy friends.’ I remember wanting to grab her by the shoulders and shake her and tell her to run as far as possible from this guy. I found it ridiculous that someone as smart as her would put up with this kind of shit which was nothing short of emotional abuse.

Relationships are confusing, everything seems to be a grey area, and when a relationship ends, the person you thought was the love of your life suddenly becomes a stranger. It can all be quite overwhelming. As I sat with my coffee a couple of days ago and read a beautiful blog post on love written by my best friend ( , I thought about my relationships, the people who were once such a huge part of my life, and now play little or no part in it at all. I thought about my close friends, a group of smart, beautiful, opinionated women-who have each also been with men who have treated them as inferior, who felt they were entitled to pass judgment on their lives, to control them in insidious ways.

‘Don’t wear that.’ ‘Don’t drink’. ‘Don’t go out at night.’ ‘Don’t meet your friends so often’. ‘Don’t talk to that guy’. ‘If you’re going to be so focused on your career, how are you going to be a good wife?’ ‘Why are you using lipstick, are you trying to attract other men?’ ‘You’ve become too loose ever since you moved away from Calcutta’-just a few things we’ve been told by men we were once in love with.

Yes it is our patriarchal, misogynistic society (for lack of a better term) which teaches men that they have a right to control their partners-everything from the little choices to the big ones.

But what is it about love that turns even the smartest of us blind to these glaring faults in our partners? What is it about being in love that makes us put up with those precise things we swore we would never tolerate? And what is it about love that puts us in situations that we would scoff at others for being in? Perhaps its some kind of misplaced hope- Maybe he will change. Maybe this is the last time he’ll scream at me. Maybe this time his apology is genuine. Maybe he won’t cheat again. Maybe this will be the last time he hits me. We hurt ourselves over and over and over again, in little ways- Maybe he has just been busy, that’s why he didn’t reply, and in big ways-Maybe someday he will leave her for me, because of course  this is meant to be.

Its so easy for us to give others advice- ‘Just dump him’. ‘Cut him off’, and so on. Unfortunately though, relationships and people are more complicated than that. When misogyny, violence and simple disrespect comes from the person we love, lust and like, it can be hard to let go. Even otherwise, sometimes things just aren’t meant to be, and that can take months, sometimes years to come to terms with.

On a pleasant note, I will say that I do believe, and everyone should believe in love. Its a beautiful feeling and each one of us deserves exactly the kind of love we want-whether its the flowers-and-teddy bears-everyday kind or the eating- Chinese-take out-in-bed-in-pyjamas kind, or both. However, in the words of Maya Angelou- ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’


Blog at

Up ↑