It’s a redundant phrase. I’ve lived my entire life being careful, preserving myself in pursuit of reaching old age; I don’t need to be told. But the words are not a command, they are a reminder. There is danger. There are monsters lurking in the shadows. Every evening stroll and leisurely wander free from conflict lulls us into a false sense of security- it wouldn’t, couldn’t, happen to us. I tell my sisters to be careful because it’s all I can do. I cannot control the monsters. I remind them to be careful in the hope it will heighten their senses, awaken them to the horrors that lie just beyond the locked door. Not that it will make a difference.
I remind them to be careful in spite of the fact that being careful doesn’t save lives, not when they’re women and not when our threat can be so easily camouflaged. It is invisible, it lies within creatures who present to the world as just another stranger. How can I be careful when I don’t know who to avoid? If I hide away you say I am too cautious. But no matter where I am, I am unsafe. We’ve been following the rules and it hasn’t helped, the rules are not enough. ‘Be careful’ is not enough.
37 of us die every single day. In this time of wearing masks and protecting the vulnerable, another pandemic rages, unspoken and uncontrolled. The perpetrators walk among us, they look ordinary, presumed safe. That is their power. I’m left paralysed by the news of another one of us, beaten and left for dead by a man she’d never laid eyes on before. A brutal punishment for the crime of existing in this body she didn’t ask for. She deserved more. She deserved to live freely, participate in the world without fear. You failed her.
I’m sick and tired of taking my life into my hands every time I step outside, handing it to the men who surround me and hoping that they treat it with kindness. I am sick and tired because no matter what I do, no matter how careful I am, I am not in control of what happens to me. This life that I have protected for so long can be taken away from me at any moment, for no reason other than my audacity to exist as a woman. How dare I? Walk home? Run by the canal? Leave the house?
They were careful.