Some dedicated readers of this blog – yes, that’s you two – might remember that I wrote a while ago about a book called “Flaneuse”, where the author suggested that women walking aimlessly was somehow subversive. I recall saying that I wasn’t sure I agreed with this theory and it sparked a small debate amongst some friends of mine. We are still yet to come to a conclusion.
However, I noticed a review of Flaneuse on Guardian Online next to an article about women in India being encouraged to walk the streets and reclaim their right to do so in the face of shocking violence and abuse that many women in India face on a daily basis. What struck me was the coincidence of all this, as I’m currently reading a book about a man walking through Delhi (where everyone drives or takes the Metro, apparently) in the style of a flaneur. It seems that walking really is subversive after all – especially if you live in India.
The book I’m reading, Delhi by Sam Miller, is written by a white man living in Delhi with his Indian wife and two young children. I doubt very much he has suffered the sexual harassment any number of Western women in India suffer – let alone that which their Asian sisters have to put up with – yet I was amazed that even he was treated as suffering from some form of lunacy. For reasons that I can’t fathom, people don’t walk in Indian cities (a fact that, on the whole, I can testify to. They’re all on mopeds.) and public transport, although good, is horribly overcrowded. Only the very rich can afford to drive but what’s the point when the roads are frequently gridlocked. Wouldn’t walking make more sense?
For women, obviously, the issue of sexual violence comes to the fore and if a woman chooses to walk alone, she is considered something of a target. Now I admit I have a real issue with this, partly because I’m female and partly because I love walking, but it really is so darned unfair that to get from A to B at any time of day or night, we must always be accompanied. WHY? One can’t even risk a taxi cab in some places, because the drivers aren’t always only after the fare…
Reading all of this has left me wondering of the author of Flaneuse perhaps had a point and I’d simply not grasped it. Either way, I can see this debate continuing for some time yet.