“Now listen to me very carefully. Here’s a can of pepper spray and you will make sure that you carry it with yourself wherever you go. Put it in your bag and do not ask me questions. Oh and here’s a Swiss knife that you should keep. Stop making faces as this is for your safety. We are not paranoid parents, just concerned.”
These were my mother’s emphatic words when I arrived in the capital in the month of January. This paranoia, or so I would like to believe, was induced by the horrific gang rape that occurred in Delhi on the 16th of December, 2012. I felt like an armed solider as I carried these contraptions with me, thinking that the situation would become better and hoping that I would not need these things in the long run. Time has flown, everything is pretty much the same, but the hope lingers.
I have to admit that I detest calling myself a feminist, as for some reason or the other; it is a label I am not entirely proud of. The number of females (and males) who have started to brand themselves as feminists do so without realizing the enormity of the concept. But I cannot bring myself to deny the fact that I am somehow conditioned to think along the lines of a woman who would ideally be known as a staunch believer of feminism. And that probably is the reason why issues concerning the fairer sex get all my attention. Every time I type the word ‘women’ into Google, ‘women’s safety’ is one of the first things it decides to show me. Upon clicking on the aforementioned option, I am introduced to a plethora of websites which offer tips on how we could protect ourselves from the prying hands of a dangerous male. Of late, during my online shopping sprees, I often end up discovering the several pepper sprays available in the market, most of which promise to be strong enough to knock out an attacker. I would then primarily like to question why these cans are mostly pink in colour when the act associated with them is supremely violent. But then that is a different story altogether.
The feasibility of these safety devices has baffled me time and again. And then there is also this inherent fear in the minds of most women- “Will I be able to procure the pepper spray which lies deep inside some corner of my bag, just in time to blind my attacker? Will the hair-clip cum knife prove to be useful or will it end up harming me instead?” What appals me is the fact that we live in a society where instead of combating the problem of rape, the rape culture to be specific, we advocate means by virtue of which women can keep themselves secure.
No, I do not want to carry pepper sprays and pocket knives to protect myself when I walk on the streets of the capital or any city for that matter. I want men to understand that I have committed no crime by being a woman. I want them to understand that I am a free citizen with certain rights, just like them, and they therefore are not supposed to harm me. I have done nothing wrong. I am not living in a forest inhabited by wild animals, so why do I need weapons to keep myself safe?
I believe that the problem lies in the fact that women have been perceived as weak and subordinate since time immemorial. Rape is all about asserting power more than anything else. Rape, more often than not is all about blaming the victim and making ridiculous statements such as “Well, she asked for it.”
We have countless debates on equality of genders, so why don’t we come up with a tit for tat-like solution? If skirts cause rape, we should probably ask men to stop wearing boxers, shorts and vests as we shall then have every reason in the world to rape them. I would then suggest that men also carry these weapons with them all the time. What if women are overpowered by their lust one fine day and decide to rape them? Males should also make sure they are protected. And if you are doubtful of the physical power that females possess, you probably have never heard of Wonder Woman and her embodiments in our society.
It all zeroes down to one question: Why should we ask girls to protect themselves and not ask men to stop raping girls? But then, I believe we have a long way to go before we see the day when people finally understand this simple concept. Sigh, I should probably brace myself with my stun gun now, as the naysayers are coming.