I. do not leave the house without your weapons. and by weapons i mean, everything you have been taught about modesty. about embodying not-asking-for-it. breathe like it. walk like it. blink like it. bend your words, your stride, your gaze to fold into an instruction manual you inherited from your mother, who did so from her mother.
II. never breathe in completely. not in your father’s house, not in your lover’s embrace, and never, ever in your skin. breathing in complete volumes of air will only make you feel comfortable in the scent of your silence, make you feel as though you were meant for something bigger than the hands of men you’ve been taught not to resist, but be wary of nevertheless. do not make the mistake of thinking that you have any right to let this air make a home out of already shrinking lungs.
they don’t belong there any more than your own voice belongs to you,
any more than your own body belongs to you.
III. learn how to make knots out of perfectly ironed scarves. this is what will save you when you’re choking on the poison your mother so carefully calls her warnings. think of a different pattern every time she uses the phrases “it wasn’t his fault” or “you should’ve known better” or “what was she even wearing?” or anything that is not sweet enough to savour, but easy to swallow. always easy.
IV. keep two pieces of paper folded under your skin. one that says “the world is my muse” and another that says “in another universe, I am hers too.”
keep this as a reminder of all the things that got under your skin, before you even knew their name. of all the streetlights you stared into till the eyes slowly creeping their way into your spine decided that you’re not worth it anymore.
V. whatever happens, do not forget your privilege. yes, your privilege. it’s the screams you suppressed when you were 7 and your uncle’s hands too rough for your cotton skirt. your privilege is the steps you take to the bus stop below your house, without feeling like your being is the world’s way of apologizing for being beautiful, yet so cruel. it’s the seconds you’ve spent outside your father’s four walls and been lucky enough to stand inside them again. female privilege is realizing that there is no such thing as no. be grateful that you never really have to bother about consent, because you’ll always have men willing to sacrifice a lifetime of your voice, your skin, your reality for seconds of their feigned, self proclaimed supremacy.
By Sushmita Ghoshal