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.