11.3.08

BLANK NOISE DELHI. MARCH 8. I NEVER ASK FOR IT







photo documentation: Abhishek Baxi and Jasmeen Patheja
They ran around-
Printing of stickers, photocopying letters- Aienla

Whistles and pamphlets - Chandrashekhar Bhattacharya

Blank Noise Action Hero, Atreyee Majumder shares her experience:

The March 8 intervention evoked in me a feeling I had forgotten about. A feeling that is a mix of power, amusement, cheekiness. Facilitated primarily by the act being a performance, as a group, though spread out. I have been in interventions before to know that the next time I am standing around in a crowded market, and a man comes really really close, I will still feel threatened. Coz that is my real life, with no sticker, no pamphlet/testimonial, no performative posture. So the intervention is invariably for me a treat- my day out for fun- I feel like saying out loud to those threatening shopkeepers giving me '' u think you re liberated? Let me show you...." looks that today if they mess with me, I have enough recourse to resort to. So I can stare back. Tomorrow I will again walk away with greater vigour.
Rest of my thoughts are still jumbled, will add to this soon.



Blank Noise Action Hero, Annie Zaidi shares her experience:

I had not been able the wear the exact garment I wore when I was last harassed, because this was in December-Jan and I was dressed in wollens. I high-neck sweater, jeans, a longer woolen jacket and sports shoes. To get an approximation in which I would not die in this weather, I had worn a full-sleeved, loose-ish shirt and jeans.
Wearing that garment, I didn't feel much. I was as covered as covered could be, but I did realise that if I had been wearing anything less - maybe a sleeveless shirt - or a skirt or even a saree, I would have been wondering whether it was because of my clothes, because the idea is just so deeply rooted in my head that somehow, I must be responsible.
I had been to two other interventions in Sarojini Nagar so was familiar with some of the dynamics of that space and was partially correct. What I was surprised by was the reactions from the men, which was only possible because our volunteers were mingling with them and eavesdropping on what the men said. Some of it was predictable stuff, but I was taken aback by some of it. I guess, I had assumed that the people who looked on and watched would at least feel apathetic, not hostile. The hostility was something I do not understand, because the only thing you can put it down to is malice and perhaps, a mixture of guilt and misogyny?
Engaging with the street: well, I have to confess I was a little bit distracted because we were in a clothes market and I was also looking around. But it was interesting too, because a lot of the shop-keepers around seemed hostile. Was it because they thought our activities would hurt their business?
Standing around was difficult because it was so crowded and there really was no place for cycles and bikes and carts and stalls to move between us. The letters worked, I think. They usually do, and if nothing, they break the taboo and silence surrounding sexual harassment, and that is the first step.



Sharad Kapoor and Nitin Sarin were our 'spies', disperesed in the public observing public reaction and making a note of it. Here's what they literally noted down-

* On being asked what you all were doing "yeh jo ladkion ke chedakhani hai unke lie kuch hai, hona kya hai insab se bhaisaab hindustan main, aaj tendulkar kal dhoni " ( these things come and go and no one pays heed to them)

* " Kyun bhai aurat nhn kar sakti kya yeh sab, unke lie bhi kuch hona chahiye "- ( don't women harass men on the streets? We need a campaign 'against' women as well.)

* A girl took the letter and just tore it part. ( we will address the why some women chose to tear and throw away the letter- what causes that reaction. Also note the reaction below).

* We noticed one of the girl who was given a letter, started laughing after reading the letter and said " pta nhn kya karte rehte hain, what's this shit"?


* A shopkeeper had a plaster on his hand and said" mere ko bhi saza mil chuko hai is cheez ki, aap hi karoge apko bhi yahan photo lagegi" showing me the pamphlet.

( he said- i have been punished for harassing women- pointing to the plaster on his hand. He told Sharad that if you sexually harass a woman, your photo will be printed on the pamphlet.)

Content:

The pamphlet being referred to is here

The three letters given to strangers were selected from participating blogger's testimonials from the 2006 blogathon. Annie Zaidi selected them.

Dear Stranger
I used to carefully calculate my outfit before leaving the house - I had to make sure my shirt wasn't too tight, my bra strap was safely invisible, my jeans weren't too low, my skirt wasn't too short - and despite the (positively oppressive) precautions I took, I still got pinched, poked, grabbed. Day after day after day.
No more.
Now I wear what I want because it doesn't make a difference. I didn't ask for it, I don't ask for it. I never will ask for it.
If you know what I am talking about, come stand with me anytime between 5 30- 6 30 pm this evening.
Today, I am wearing the clothes I wore when I had been sexually harassed/ violated/ ‘eve teased’ on the street.
There is no such thing as ‘asking for it’.
Sincerely,
( signed by the Action Hero).


Dear Stranger
In Delhi, I was warned against wearing shorts to the gym so I wore my track pants the first day. I almost passed out from the heat while working out and resolved to wear my shorts the next day onwards. I wasn’t about to let fear of being harassed interfere with something as mundane as a good workout. I came up with a theory that if I appeared confident and unafraid, no one would harass me. I glared at any men who came too close and sure enough nobody harassed me.
This gave me the confidence to venture out alone to Connaught Place. I wore a knee length skirt, hailed an auto rickshaw and made my way to meet my friends in CP. On my way there I noticed a man on a motorcycle driving beside me and staring. I didn’t give it much thought and just looked away. When I got off the man also got off his bike and accosted me. He asked me for my number. I was taken aback but thought he was on of those “I would like to be friends with you” guys. I walked in another direction but he wouldn’t go away. I was zigzagging through cars trying to get away. He shouted at me “What do you think you are? I know exactly what you do!” I was too confused to react. What did that guy mean? What give him any indication of “What I am?” I looked around at people thinking if they would protect me if he tried anything funny. Fortunately I spotted my friend and walked towards her. As I was telling her about the incident the man disappeared. She told me that while she was waiting for me in front of the Wimpy’s an uncle-ji tried to feel her up. She even pointed him out while we walked away.
On my way back I kept watching out for any motorcycle that stayed with us for more than a couple of miles. Nothing had changed since I was a fourteen year old girl afraid to walk home from my bus stop after school.
We weren’t asking for it. No matter what we wear, we NEVER ask for it.
If you know what I am talking about, come stand with me anytime between 5 30- 6 30 pm this evening.
Today, I am wearing the clothes I wore when I had been sexually harassed/ violated/ ‘eve teased’ on the street.
There is no such thing as ‘asking for it’.
Sincerely,




30 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:49 am

    A Bone-chilling tale of eve-teasing -

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Eve-teasing_row_on_Bhopal_Express/articleshow/2853507.cms

    ReplyDelete
  2. coffee boy10:37 am

    What is the content of the stickers, pamphlets and letters? Especially the letters.

    ReplyDelete
  3. coffee boy12:34 pm

    ***We noticed one of the girl who was given a letter, started laughing after reading the letter and said " pta nhn kya karte rehte hain, what's this shit"?***

    Me confesses that me is genuinely surprised and even a bit shocked.

    ReplyDelete
  4. coffeeboy! so glad you brought this up. yes initially it shocked us as well...but over the years we have begun to see laughter as that which takes place when one is experiencing discomfort? that that make sense now?
    denial. discomfort. hence laughter?
    it's more revealing than it is personally at 'us' as a group.

    The letters- yes. the letters will be shared here. now.

    ReplyDelete
  5. coffee boy10:36 am

    Yes it makes sense now. Strange are the ways of denial. Thanks for sharing the letters. I agree with the suggestion that they should be translated into Hindi and other local Indian languages so that they can be understood by a wider audience.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I could not agree more, and from what it sounds like- in both cities- the people who volunteered to handle it, forgot to do it.

    Volunteers are at it again. Abhishek has already translated the letters to hindi- or the next one. WE are gong to make sure that for the next intervention is 'perfectly' prepared. We are planning to do another perhaps 3 weeks from now.

    ReplyDelete
  7. coffee boy7:30 am

    I am unable to view the pamphlet. I tried using Firefox and Internet Explorer on multiple computers. Please try to fix it. Thanks.

    Regarding the letters, I have a suggestion - I think they have a mild upper class bias. (I am NOT accusing you of classism. Please read ahead to understand my intent.) You are talking about girls wearing shirts, jeans, skirts or shorts - a phenomenon which is more common among the relatively upper class. To balance it out you might just want to include salwar kameez and/or saree. The fact that even girls wearing traditional Indian dress (like salwar kameez) get eve-teased, might make even a shiv-sena moron think. Actually, I personally knew some male morons who thought that if a girl wears "man's clothes" (i.e., shirt & pants), she is automatically "asking for it" EVEN if she is completely covering herself. For such people, if they are told that even girls in salwar kameez are teased, then they "might" have a change of heart.

    Of course, ultimately I leave it to your wisdom since you people are more experienced.

    PS: Good to hear that your next intervention is in 3 weeks.

    ReplyDelete
  8. coffee boy7:38 am

    Hey, one more thing. What are the whistles for?

    ReplyDelete
  9. for in case something untoward happens. the whistle is blown and the group gathers around the person who caused the alarm. sometimes they all surround him.

    ReplyDelete
  10. and- it is a siren. at 6 30 participants from all cities blew the whistle as they left hte site.

    incase of situation- the whistle becomes a defense alarm and a siren for alert./ to draw attention

    ReplyDelete
  11. hmm i did remember leaving a comment here but i don't see it anymore. my question was ... why did those girls rip the letters? i hope this comment will be approved by the blog author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. im sorry roop rai- almost all comments get published, am surprised yours did not.

    to answer your question-
    people may tear off the letters for a range of reasons- to deny that it- happens and call it 'rubbish'., the point is that it evokes a strong reaction from the receiver- the person laughs off( denial)- tears the letter(denial) , walks on( indifference) or joins us. it is obvious that the receiver experiences discomfort and is provoked by the content of the letter

    hope this makes sense?
    just to add- this is the similar reaction from across cities- some people tear off the letter.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Is there any scope for Gandhigiri in changing a person from an "eve-teaser" to an "eve-respecter"?

    Any thoughts? Anyone?

    ReplyDelete
  14. you tell us ignoramus.

    ReplyDelete
  15. also- the pamphlet link is now working

    ReplyDelete
  16. Jasmeen,

    The reason I didn't want to give out the ideas is simple... I want to see if there is anyone else who thinks on those lines, and if they do so, how are they thinking. In case no one has thought of it also, it is fine. I would want to see where thinking on these lines could take us.

    Why Gandhigiri?

    Irrespective of what people feel about Gandhi, the fact remains that his method caught the attention of the Indian psyche in a very unique way. Hence, is there anyway of exploiting that facet of Indians to get more persons to consider BNP and its efforts?

    ReplyDelete
  17. I really like what you're doing and how you're doing it.

    From my experience, I too think that the material should be in the local language. The pamphlet is well-intentioned but I don't think it is simple enough to get the message across. I think it needs to be simpler and more emotive.

    I have some ideas that I'll send to you.

    ReplyDelete
  18. hie,
    Great blog,
    wrote few about it on my blog.
    Do check it out,
    tshharmangalmuses.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. Well... Gandhigiri might work... but I would like to point out one thing... that this sort of a thing only works when there is a full public backing. That is to say: Numbers do have safety in them... in this case... it sure has more effect. What I could make of the whole event was.. that despite everything... the numbers were few. But, I am sure that for the next intervention there would be much more in the offing...we really need get the masses together for this cause... and I think that media can do the work here...!!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. @Sakshi

    Thank you for your response to "Gandhigiri".. when you say, that this sort of a thing only works when there is a full public backing, are you referring to Gandhigiri or to the efforts of BNP?

    Also, what is your idea of Gandhigiri in this context?

    ReplyDelete
  21. I've sent you my idea for the pamphlet. Meanwhile, I was wondering about whether you've thought of going to colleges and gaining some numbers that way.

    I also think, like someone said before, that we need a broader cross-section of people. What about older women?

    ReplyDelete
  22. @ Ignoramus

    Interesting idea. Never thought about it till I saw your post. When you talk about Gandhi's methods, do you mean we should try to appeal to the conscience of eve-teasers? Or General public? Or men in general? Or even other women, considering the fact that some of them are tearing the letters or laughing at them? Or all these groups? (Sorry about the number of questions).

    I feel Gandhiji's methods will work only if the perpetrators have conscience. Consider, for example, a man like Hitler with almost zero conscience. I seriously doubt if such methods will work on people like Hitler. Fortunately, not many are like Hitler (or at least that is what I am assuming).

    Forget Hitler. When someone eve-teases in a group, his individual conscience gets suppressed by peer pressure. You will understand what I am talking about if you are a former perpetrator. Appealing to the group conscience is not an easy job.

    Please let me know what you think. Exchanging novel or innovative ideas is better than keeping them to oneself. What say you?

    ReplyDelete
  23. @Coffee Boy.

    I agree that exchanging ideas is good. But, I want to wait on this particular thing, for one reason. But for LRMB, Gandhigiri wouldn't be so well known today. Gandhigiri is not just about Ahimsa, for if it were only about Non-violence, most of us are Gandhians. Gandhigiri is more than non-violence. Anyways, let me answer some of your questions here.

    I thought of Gandhigiri in the context of transforming AN eve-teaser into A eve-respecter. I suppose that answers your question regarding group behavior. I concede, that you cannot change that. But then, change of people is always at the individual level, and group transformation never happens, when the change is for the positive. It is easy to brainwash thousands of people to take up arms and fight with one fiery speech (the way Hitler did), but if you need to convince all of them to trun over a new leaf and adopt a cleaner way of living, it has to be at an individual level.

    This rule applies to everything - corruption, traffic discipline, cleanliness, and so on and so forth.

    Hence, I am convinced about one thing, that if BNP has to really solve the problem of eve-teasing, it must focus its attention on transforming the despicable eve-teaser, into a human being. One by one. Note down my words here... unless this is done, things won't change.

    And this is where I feel Gandhigiri can work.

    Secondly, whether Gandhigiri would work with a person like Hitler. Probably not. But then, not everyone is a Hitler, and not everyone is without conscience. Let me say this, at the risk of opening a pandora's box, I don't feel that eve-teasers who indulge in pinching and groping in crowded places are not so hardended, and so devoid of conscience that they cannot be changed. Please note that they do it in crowded places, which by itself shows that they are cowards, and are actually ashamed to do it. (I know ladies here may not agree) Gandhigiri can certainly work here.

    For that matter, if you can separate each member of a group of eve-teasers, Gandhigiri can work there as well.

    The reason I recommend Gandhigiri is that, BNP has to grow. It started off to raise its voice against the evil of sexual harassment. It was like a cry of a baby in pain. But the baby cannot keep crying. It has to grow, evolve, and mature. It has to learn to get what it wants, in a calm, planned way. For that, an approach of confrontation will work counter-productive. A mature, balanced, multi-pronged approach is a must.

    And, Gandhigiri, I suggest, should be another of these weapons, among the others.

    ReplyDelete
  24. someone define 'gandhigiri'.

    ReplyDelete
  25. @Jasmeen..

    Isn't that someone supposed to be me?

    But then, I don't want to do that. Everyone has some idea of what it is. Why not people think based on that?

    All I am saying is, Gandhigiri can work. I leave it for people to think about that.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Gandhigiri as I understand is more than non-violence as very rightly described by 'Coffee boy'.

    It is the way of making your opponent feel ashamed by protesting in a subtle, satirical and non-violent manner. Hitting out at someone without actually coming to blows!

    In this particular issue, I guess using phamplets is an effective way where we can have the photo of eve-teasers and distribute it..
    Also I came through a concept of Gandigiri Cards on one site which I found very creative. Its an initiative launched by Papam (http://www.papam.in/greetingdetailsphoto.aspx?OccassionID=34)

    Gandhigiri on a whole is a good concept and will work only when we are in nummbers!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Now a days there are lots of restrictions for girls only to save themselves. But if we r fully aware about what is sexual harassment we can easily takle with it. Everyone have their own presonal life without restriction. With the help of pria NGO we can have a wast knowledge about Sexual harassment. It helped me a lot to for my daily life.....

    ReplyDelete
  28. In some other countries, ladies wore clothes that no body parts can be seen except the eyes. They practice on believing in this that they couldn't wear any dresses except for their traditional dress until they get married. They truly respect their women. But in some, sexual harassment is being done to the ladies yet it is punishable by law.

    ReplyDelete
  29. When there is an incident of Eve Teasing.. most of the people around behave like silent spectators and even enjoy when a girl dares to fight back. There is very less moral support and a victim of eve teasing gets looks as if eve teasing is a socially accepted act. I think if eve teasing is a crime, not fighting back and being a silent spectator is also a crime..

    ReplyDelete