Image: The author next to a mural painted by them

This is a very unhelpful, if not damaging, guide for women wanting to be flâneuses.

At times, despite the apparatuses designed to keep one submissive, tame, and in their lane, an emergent need might arise to go out on a stroll.

When the foundations of one’s culture are built on the service and servitude of the few, the seemingly mundane act of even walking turns political as access to the public space is deeply interlocked with one’s position in society.

The following is a personal and graphic account of some steps the writer employs for flaneuring in their city. Bear in mind what works for them, might not for you. Proceed with caution. Know that the writer is in desperate need of therapy.

PRECAUTIONS FOR FLANEURING
- When born, do not get assigned female
- do not be born into an oppressed caste
- do not be born poor  
- do not be born queer
- do not be born a minority
- do not be born disabled

Walk.

Walk and trace your hands over your body, digging in, clawing at the eyes which adorn you. Pierce and peel your skin back. This tender, honour-bound, rueful, vexed exterior. Peel it back in hopes to rid yourself of the greedy gazes threatening to set your altar ablaze. Fail. Feel them wearing you down still. Trace them one by one. The concern guised surveillance by the family; the penetrating assumptions of the neighbours; the perception of strangers, their consummating glance waiting to pounce. Seen, categorised, and labelled by all. Understood by none.

Tear apart tissue from tissue. Let blood spill and let it carry with it the unsolicited souvenirs men (and women) have bestowed upon you. Excavate all meat till you rid  yourself of the gaze and start to feel your bones. Bury them. Scatter yourself far and wide, abandon your human endeavours. Turn into a ghost.

Take no lit paths, and no longer be vigilant. Forget walking in pairs and groups. There will be no looking people in the eye. No more pepper spray, clenched cell phone, or live updates.

Walk.

Walk and find yourself in strange abandoned places—places you pace back and pace forth in, that shower you in shallow pools of sweet sweat left unswept by your disintegrating hands; arms; legs. Disassociate.

Walk, nonetheless.

Walk out of the room when a drunk family friend touches you in your sleep when you weren’t old enough to comprehend what was happening. Walk out of the metro at an undiscovered station prompted by a sickening humping bulge at your behind. Jump out of the moving car somewhere along NH9 when your mother’s lover kisses you and places a hand on your inner thigh. Let go of the dark guilt.

Do not let the question of your safety be the hammer stomping down. Do not let it be the tool they use to further their casteism or Islamophobia.

Reveal it all, conceal nothing, disrupt the illusion of safety. Run forth and run free, run flaring in your skin; home was never a safe place to be. Embrace the (destructive and liberating) act of not giving a fuck. Let your meat hang, your nakedness prowling loud enough to blind the Sun. Conceal nothing. There is nothing that scares a man as much as a shameless woman prioritising her own pleasure. Challenge the very structures which keep dominant-caste cis-males in power. Renounce all that is expected of you.

Reveal the graveyard built upon the landscape you possess—where the numbed down dead parts of you loiter. For your sake, allow yourself to let go of them and go forth to haunt the ones responsible. Strip down to the knucklebones and let your ghosts go on a rampage in the city.

Go back to before you paid the price of your ancestral sins. Before you were ever implicated in the crime of being recognised as a woman. Before life—its red and brown sprinkles—started to drip out of you.

Remember the reckless abandon, the mastery with which you roamed the streets as a kid. When each pillar, gate, or walkway would be your throne. Embody them. Brick by brick, build yourself up.

Abandon and disown; hell, get a restraining order against your fears. Pay no attention to the male author sitting in your ear describing the length of your skirt, or the dance of your voluptuous breasts as you walk.

Resent the idea of what is wrong. There exists no wrong time, no wrong space, no wrong clothes. Be against purpose; against justifications; and explanations. Start answering intrusions simply with “because I want to”. Repeat, I do not wish to explain anything to anyone any longer.”

Exploit your privilege, if you have any. Empower your girlfriends to rebel against the repressive forces of family and society and caste. Ask the privileged to disavow the comforts of their private cars and to occupy the public sphere. Be stuck in a polarity if they are hesitant in doing so—what of historical accountability? You have no right to drag others into your river. Oblige no one to follow, just as no one had forced this rebellion upon you. As long as there are fearless women reclaiming the streets, there will be women waiting to be radicalized by their light.

Image Credit: Kevin Jones on Flickr

Channel the revolutionary sisters who came before you. Carry out acts of reclaiming public spaces made unsafe for you. Paint with your anxiety fuelled hands. Carry the acts out even when they feel hollow and performative.

Put out a warning for all to see. You were made to create, not procreate. Watch the ones watching you. Shame the ones shaming you. Destroy the cult of the past, it’s obsession with repressive tradition, one walk at a time. Challenge the capitalist system feeding unrealistic expectations of productivity, do not accept the guilt it pushes on to you; challenge the culture which frowns upon the human act of seeking pleasure. Rid your city of its sexist notions, take a piss on each well-meant attempt at disciplining you.

Look at yourself. You are not yet exhausted. You will not give them the satisfaction. You know nothing of weariness, or fear, for your heart rages on fire, on hatred, on anger. Do not confuse this with apathy. You do not have the privilege to alienate yourself from the ongoing struggle and just be a bystander. Redefine flaneuring. Do not be detached. Move beyond binaries. Observe. Absorb. Project.

Be a constant source of discomfort for existing apparatuses.  

Walk on.

Rage on!

"Painted on Holi. I wanted Holika to look over me and for the mural to look over her. It set no wrongs right, and she was set ablaze later that evening." (Image Credit: Author)