In ELLE: On womanly anxieties

This was published in this month’s ELLE magazine. I’m not really sure how to describe “this”. An opinion piece, perhaps. ELLE asked me to write something on women in the context of the increased awareness of the kind of violence that is regularly inflicted upon women. I wasn’t sure about writing this. I remember thinking, when I started writing, if there was any point to writing this … stuff. There was so much being said and so little being heard. So few of us had real insight. Most of us were masquerading our despair as insight. But after dithering for a bit, I decided to sit down and write it anyway. Why? Because there’s been so much silence on all the unpleasant things that hover around women for so many years, perhaps a little noise isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Someone asked me the other day, in an attempt to crack a joke, “Is everything with your byline going to smack of feminism?”
I, however, was not in a particularly funny mood that day. So I replied with a earnest and growly, “I certainly hope so.”
“But why do you want to narrow-focus so much? Why can’t you go beyond women?”
“Do you go around asking male writers and journalists why they write about men?”
“Are you PMS-ing?”
“If I am, do you think it would really help to calm me down by asking that particular question?”

Marinated in exchanges like the one above, here’s the piece that I wrote for ELLE.

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Ours is a sense of social order pivoted upon women’s fear. Is it possible to not be afraid of the looming threat of violence and intimidation that almost all of us face on a daily basis? Probably not. But it is possible to not let that fear paralyse us. Our outrage at incidents of violence against women should strengthen us, rather than make us weaker and more paranoid about our surroundings. Strip rape of its terrible psychological pincers and reduce it to a series of physical, bodily injuries – it will hurt, perhaps horribly, but the body can heal. Treat the violence and harassment as something that makes you more determined to claim your space, instead of shrouding you in shame and insecurity. We are not victims. We’re women, and we’ve held on to our pride despite centuries of misogyny and violence.


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