‘What are you doing?’ a Poem on Women’s Safety, by Diana Cristurean


It has been a painful and extremely disappointing few weeks for women’s safety. Women from across the globe have come together in support of each other, but also in despair at the state of their rights and the endemic lack of respect from men.

On the 10th of March, a survey by UN Women UK revealed that 97% of women aged 18 to 24 have been sexually harassed. Two weeks later, the country was shaken to the core by the kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard, a thirty-three year old woman from London, who tragically had her life cut short while walking home. Then, a vigil held in rememberance of Sarah Everard was violently mishandled by the police, under the pretence that police was trying to “protect people’s health” during a pandemic. On top of everything, another survey (by the ONS) showed that nearly 25% of women over the age of 16 have been sexually assaulted, including attempts.

In light of these recent events and studies, there has been an outpour of women sharing their own stories of sexual harassment and assault online, united in the shared feeling of anger and exhaustion. Some women, have expressed themselves in other ways. One such woman, Diana Cristurean, has written an important poem about the reality of women’s day-to-day life.

Diana shared a few words on why she wrote ‘What are you doing?‘, a poem directed at men, about women’s struggle to live in an unsafe world.

“When the news of Sarah Everard’s murder reached me, like women all over the world, I was deeply saddened, terrified, and enraged. I thought about all the times it could have been me, all the times it could still be me—or my mother, girlfriend, neighbour.

Men bound through life while women walk a tightrope.

That fact has made itself abundantly clear to me. As women, we are expected by the victim-blaming culture of our society to not only endure gross atrocity, but to then also pay for mens’ actions ourselves with further trauma. There is no sense in this, only misdirection, injustice, and blatant disregard for our sense of well-being and safety.

And so, I found myself scribbling the beginnings of this poem on the back of a COVID-19 screening form while seated, most fittingly, in a women’s clinic. Choosing poetry as my medium back when I first started writing was an entirely subconscious decision. Perhaps I was drawn to its drama, how it can pack such a punch with only a few, right words—and I loved figuring out what those right words were.

In this piece in particular, echoing throughout it is the simple question “What are you doing?” aimed at the men in my life, but also intended for all men in general, in hopes of provoking a moment of reflection by illustrating, through means of juxtaposition in various everyday contexts, how our engagement with the same world as theirs, and its interaction with us, through no fault of our own, is markedly different, and dangerously so.”

What are you doing

what are you doing

when I am loading my pockets with pepper spray

and walking in the dark

through the neighborhood that raised me,

canister clutched in my palm

the whole way of my

pre-planned and pre-approved route,

inconspicuously tucked

within the sleeve of my jacket,

finger on the trigger,

keeping careful watch

of the shadows appearing and disappearing

on the pavement before me,


what are you doing

when I am wasting time

sifting through statistics,

weighing the odds

of the blade being turned upon me

if I choose to carry a folding knife

for my protection

except it’s not a waste of time

because it could make the difference

between me being here tomorrow

or not

what are you doing

when my father is telling me

I shouldn’t be wearing those kinds of skirts

and my mother is nodding sadly

alongside him in agreement,

staring at my knobbly bare knees

what are you doing

when I am screaming at you

to look around at the women

circling the parking lots

for a space closer to the grocery store

because a shorter distance means

we are prey for a shorter window of time

what are you doing

when my brother asks me

how my walk was

and I tell him it wasn’t a walk

but a funeral procession of my liberties

and a march for my rights

all in one

what are you doing

with all of this information?

what are you doing

about this now.

Diana Cristurean is a writer who frequently shares her poetry on Instagram @a_pen_and_some_words and Tumblr @a-pen-and-some-words. You can also find more of her writing at www.theminimalistmaterialist.squarespace.com

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