Night Action in Vasant Vihar!
1] Sparse attendance was, er, an under-statement. However, thinking back to the evening, I realise that sparse attendance was not the problem, given our agenda - of putting up posters and stencilling. Vasant Vihar the Priya complex esp, is a place where most women do feel safe. There isn't much groping etc. But even within safe areas, there are pockets of discomfort. For instance, there are benches and sort-of squares/round platforms (?) where young people sit. Girls will sit there in groups or with male friends but never alone.
My thought - do we want to tackle this sort of discomfort, as opposed to active eve-teasing/harassment, at this stage?
2] Once outside the complex, the roads were completely deserted, from a feminine perspective. We did not attract that much unwanted attention because we were three women accompanied by four men. But there was no other woman out on the roads at that time, though this is a residential area, more or less, and it was only 10 pm. We did talk to people who came up to ask what we were upto. (Since there was a BBC radio guy there, with a mike in his hand, that led to a different kind of conversation.
Abigail adds: having someone from BBC with a microphone led to a somewhat different interaction--but it was interesting as during these actions we often do not engage with the public. A few men on the street were interviewed regarding their views on eve-teasing, whether they thought the way we were approaching the problem was correct, etc.
One of the men said that in his 23 years he has never eve-teased a girl. When asked how he would react the next time a woman was teased in front of him, if he would speak up, he said he could--but what can one person say or do? He can speak up but it won't change the fact that everyone else is still taking part in it or still silently watching. He also mentioned cases of violence against those who spoke out against harassment when it happened with the women in their family.
Another man was of the opinion that men will not eve-tease in a public place, that the presence of the public will stop them. But "agar by chance" it happens all the woman has to do is say something and they will come to her aid.
The comments made I thought were generally positive, even if they tended to be of the nature, "I've heard it happens" or "occasionally it happens...").
Back to Annie:
3] Good moment - a car full of drunk young men slowed down near us while we were stencilling near a bus-stop. One young chap got down to talk to me. I read out some of the testimonials we were painting on the roads. He asked to be allowed to spray-paint (and did a good job). His friends in the car were acting dismissing and tittering. He turned around and told them "It happened to my sister too." That, rather effectively, shut them up.
4] Unpleasant moment - one of the stops where we put posters turned out to be a sort of hangout place for another bunch of teenaged boys - this is where they hid their cache of booze, we think. They were already somewhat drunk, perhaps, or perhaps were annoyed with us for being in their way... they passed some comments, after reading the poster. Like, "Oh, so you are not allowed to touch, to look, to whistle... make sure you don't whistle, yaar, but what you should do is go up to the girl, tell her to make friendship; that's what you should do." This was not, strictly speaking,a wrong thing to say, but was said with a smirk and with deliberate sarcasm.
How is one to deal with responses like that? Should we deal with them at all?
5] I think we need to work out different strategies for different areas of action. We need to think of doing more than just putting up posters or stencils or testimonials at night. Maybe build up an idea (and material) bank. Anybody who has new ideas could mail Jasmeen and let's see if something workable works out.
These are: Annie Zaidi and Abigail Crisman's thoughts, Melissa Zuroff's photos.
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