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Why My Paranoia And My Gender Go Hand In Hand

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By Nishtha Relan for Cake

I was at a guy-friend’s place in New Delhi, with his friends, when the paranoia first hit me. We were metaphorically high on good stuff and it was new for me to be an outsider in the company of unknown people in that state. My entire trip was a roller coaster of anxiety, and then I thought I heard someone say, “Man she’s got a rape-face!” as he looked at me, amused. A casual statement like that triggered in me a paranoia that knocked my breath out and left me feeling like I was going to be preyed upon by the men there. That’s what I remember from that day – a sense of humiliation at being seen terrified of something that does terrify me no end – the imminent, omnipresent threat of physical, sexual violence in its crudest form.


My first and the most hard-hitting thoughts during a trip would generally revolve around being irrationally uncertain of the intentions of the men I happened to be getting baked with, however familiar I was with them – quite natural, considering the brutally misogynistic space we live in. But the paranoia got worse. I remember freaking out, tripping with my boyfriend once, when I heard some footsteps stop outside the door, followed by the sounds of pictures being taken on a mobile phone. This anxiety eventually seeped into my daily life.

Consequently, I would feel acutely aware of the threat of violence and hatred in the most ordinary of things. While visiting my partner’s place, I noticed a perceptible shift in the gaze and the mannerisms of his neighbours over a period of a few months – whether it was a group of men whispering in Hindi, “It’s the bed mate!” or the nearby chemist once smirking and asking if I needed i-pill that day. I remember breaking down and wanting to leave everything behind in Delhi at that point of time.

Talking to my flatmate, I realised I am not alone I this. It’s the paranoia that haunts us after having seen two of our close friends go through shocking instances of sexual harassment in the lanes of Vijay Nagar, the part of Delhi I live in. My flatmate and I would wake up with terrible nightmares around that time, but I never had to ask her what it was she had dreamt; there was a silent acceptance of the terror we were both dealing with. Any sound or stray footsteps outside our flat, and we would both sit up, having already talked about the objects we would use to hit an intruder if we had to. Yet another night, while talking of getting a lock for the fence outside our door was when I could finally validate this paranoia, in her presence.

I live in a perpetual fear of something terrible happening, whether it’s the fear of being targeted with water balloons during the festival of Holi, or the fear of being raped or killed, when outside after the evening hours. There’s a fear of walking on the streets and being noticed by men as I adjust the neckline of my clothes. There is a fear of abortion of a foetus conceived without consent that wakes me up from my sleep in cold sweat. But there is so much more that cannot be written down. And I know that most women have felt this fear, in one form or the other.

We live such gendered lives! So much of what I live through, experience, think, and want is, in direct as well as in very complex, intricate ways, dictated to me by my gender AND my sex. I face the consequences of being a woman AND having a female’s body every living second, and how! I have been living like this for so long, but only after experiencing that paranoia, could I begin to comprehend how exhausting it is to live with this gender, despite the privileges I enjoy. Being a cisgender woman, I cannot even begin to imagine the kind of fears and anxieties that people of transgender or non-binary identities must have to face!

It is so important to raise our voices against this discrimination. It is important to talk about the intensity of what women feel because of certain gestures that some people find insignificant or funny. A lot of general anxiety that the individuals of under-privileged genders suffer from is often triggered by the inherent violence and the sense of entitlement that some men exhibit and possess over the women’s bodies, which many a times dictates a huge chunk of women’s quality of living. Our mental health, to a huge extent, is defined by our genders, and the way the external world wants to claim and threaten our bodies.

These fears have been voiced by many before me. The threat of violation is very real for many women, and those in privileged positions need to know this. Many women are afraid of men, and are being called hysterical for it, and that is extremely problematic. Men need to recognise the privilege they have over women, and people need to understand how such dynamics work across class, caste, race and gender.

It is the invisible, insignificant, every-day problems and disparities that make up the lived experience of one-half of the people of the world. Wouldn’t it be wise to understand these signs and work at effectively addressing this issue with as much detail as we can?

This article was originally published here on Cake.

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  1. B

    My paranoia and gender also go hand in hand. I fear being falsely accused of rape, molestation, dowry, and domestic violence. I fear losing my life, career, job, family, dignity, honour as a result.

  2. Spider-Man

    Another fake story by an attention seeker spreading rape hysteria. Feminists have nothing better to do.

    1. Human

      Spider-Man, this is her experience. You cannot deny anybody the right to express what they have experienced. Your experience is probably different and there is space for you to share that.

    2. Susaant Menon

      You are certainly right that one cannot deny the right to express what they have experienced. But in same breath I can also say that no one has right to generalize their paranoia and make a propaganda of it by saying it (the paranoia) to be experience of entire group of individuals, and certainly not when that group makes half the population of the world; women that is…..

      This whole business of feminism, that says stereotyping or typecasting a gender is bad and they are for equality, smells much more badly than the strongest smell in the animal kingdom (skunk’s anal spray) of hypocrisy as well as bigotry, when they want to retain the right to stereotype a whole gender as criminal minded misogynists and their own gender as perpetual victims whose necessarily harbor some manufactured, but justified paranoia. It is complete diservice to the bold, fiesty. hard-working women who strive forward in their life and take up challenges in life as challenges should be without paranoia.

      Remember life is not all about individual pursuit of happiness, nor it is about complying to the group/society’s norms….It is somewhere in between. And for not being able to get oneself rid of paranoia of one’s own mind, no one has a right to try and normalize and generalize the paranoia by injecting into the collective psyche of their gender…… Imagine what will happen, if men start doing that. As I have experienced as a man and as a human being very similar experiences of millions of experiences of other men, the brutal inhuman torture at the hands of women, I can very well tell you that if men start doing the same thing as this woman and others are doing in the name of feminism, women’s paranoia would be put to shame…… So, please don’t (a request) generalize and support such crap in the name of individual freedom and rights.

  3. Monistaf

    Sounds like a case of irrational paranoia to me. Just because you are afraid, it does not necessarily mean that there is something to be afraid of. There are parts of your article that could be offensive to someone reading it, but you have every right to express your feelings. The question is whether you will afford that same privilege of freedom of expression in a public space to the people on the streets that you walk. The right to offend, goes both ways.

  4. Susaant Menon

    Miss or whatever your name is (not mentioning your name, as you might get fearful of me calling out your name on online forum and fear being accused of online harassment as well as getting a tag of potential rapist) – You need help…. And there are good psychiatric institutions in and around Delhi— Because if you are allowed to write stuff like this without getting proper treatment, you would endanger many more lives and relationships of both men and women than you think you are capable off…. This is not to say that I am asking for a ban on your writing. I am completely in sync positively with freedom of expression and other such ideas…….

    If you can think straight for a moment and read what you have written —- For example 1) Our mental health, to a huge extent, is defined by our genders —- Are you referring to only women here, or also Men by saying “our”……. Because if you meant men as well (50% of world population and population of Delhi included here, then what you said is very true……. But if you only thought of women, then definitely you are hallucinating, because you consider only women to be humans, and men to be some sort of aliens….. There is the first clue to your problem….. 2) Men need to recognize the privilege they have over women, and people need to understand how such dynamics work across class, caste, race and gender. —– If the statement 1) of yours as pointed above is true and you thought about Men in the “our” you mentioned there, then let me tell you, my story in short, which you wouldn’t believe, and yet I am surviving without paranoia, even 1 millionth of what you have expressed here. But I could have manufacture a paranoia and sold it like a victim of unimaginable torture in the hands of women like you and demand even the UNO to intervene…….And please be mindful, no brains had been given the right to say, that man’s paranoia is criminal wrongand a woman’s paranoia is real, so that everyone should work to relieve her off it, at least in the feminist world where they define themselves by the swear word of equality of gender….. I am just doing a selfless and thankless service to you by pointing that out. —

    My story echoing the story of counteless other men like me (and even women who happened to be our near and dear ones) if you are reading this by now — I married (aaranged), got separated with 5 days, broke my neck in a train accident, threatened with jail term, formalized separation within 1.5 months, got first contact from still (not divorced wife) by 3rd month of marriage, kept in touch and took her back by 9th month despite my parents objections, had to shift back from new job to Delhi to her parent’s house due to her torture within a year of marriage without job here, got a job, became a father of one of the smartest boy, had to endure the scene of my wife sexually exploiting my infant son just to get me annoyed, saw a middle aged neighbouring aunty poking my infant sons genital with stick for fun, was raped on more than 2 occasions by wife (yes, physically raped by strangulation, threatening using misuse of law and expletives that one cannot hear, much less tolerate), beaten, kicked, bitten occasionally, scratched almost daily, thrown out of house twice, threatened with suicide and murdering as well estrangement from my child, threatened with possibilty of adulterous behavior, forced to bu a house in joint name when I was not ready to due to finances, threatened with possibility of implicating my parents and brother, then finally the last few straws — Committing adultery and claiming it purposefully and trying to assault me with knife to make me physically harm her, which I didn’t, and forcefully took the child away from me, and in connivance with police fellows and her parents, threw me into jail (18 days), implicated my parents and brother as well (who were not even here)……..And now for 6 years, dragging the case, allienated my kid, bought 3 sets of my lawyers, got converted to a sect of Christianity which pays well for each conversion, threatened to baptise my son (convert him), living with another guy and her parents in the house I bought, filed multiple cases, destroyed my brother’s marriage, claimed in court premises that I would see my just small child to grow up to become rapist so that I can feel threatened, claimed that her God is more powerful than my God ……………

    Despite, all this, I haven’t even remotely started hating women for just for being women. I know it was not short, but I tried my level best….. Now, if u have read all this, do you think criminality has any gender and do you think men just live through their lives laughing all the moments of it and torturing women as if that’s why they are born…………. I don’t know you, but I can only write you to try and bring you down from your pedestal which you have created in the name of victimhood and justified paranoid illusions of being a women to a saner and much bright world…… A world which despite what I have gone through looks more positive than negative, and where cooperation and understanding between genders is required much more than blatant spreading of one sided paranoia to divide and conquer few grams of gold funded through funding agencies, which milk everyone for their selfish benefits…….

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