Piyali Sur


This article examines women’s negotiation of potential risks in public spaces in the urban city of Kolkata. The deliberate focus on the public is to demonstrate that the city has different meanings for women than men in terms of risk so that fear of rape in the city becomes a virtual threat in the lives of women. The fear may not be linked to the actual violence but to the potential for harm that is experienced by individual women. Feminist scholars have pointed out that narratives of crime and violence have always constructed the city as the space of danger for women while intimate danger within the home have significantly been trivialized and privatized. The focus of this article is to understand women’s behavioral response to the threat of crime in public spaces. This article attempts to understand the strategies used by women to avoid risk within the urban city of Kolkata. The strategies used to avoid risks of harm are informed by women’s class location and educational attainment. This study demonstrates that though women compromise on their freedom of mobility, self-expression and social experience to remain safe, women also take risks to access public spaces. By taking risks like being out alone late after dark, by engaging in ‘masculinized’ activities such as engaging in public drinking and dressing according to one’s choice that violates social codes, women resist fear, contest dominant conceptions of ‘appropriate’ feminine behavior and construct alternative meanings.

Author Biography

Piyali Sur is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Jadavpur University. Her doctoral dissertation was on fear of crime among employed women. At present she is working on masculinities and risk.