Sunday, July 29, 2007
We discussed how much time each member could afford to dedicate to BNP per week and based on the kind of commitment each of us promised, we evolved a core group of sorts, of members who are willing to be contacted on their phones at any time, who have regular and constant access to the internet and who can devote at least half an hour each day if necessary for BN work.
This group consists of
and Priyanka, Dibyajyoti, Dana and Shuktara are going to wait a week or two and see if the conditions are convenient for them to do the same. The core group will have to be in constant communication and make sure all the news and delegation of work reaches everybody.
The question of funds was raised and we agreed that it would make sense to eventually (perhaps after our first intervention) have a membership fee of Rs.10 a month to fund pamphlets, xeroxes etc.
Tamojoy also offered to provide corporate sponsorship in the form of t-shirts and a limited amount of cash (Rs. 10,000 approx.) provided that BN is ok with the corporate logo on the sleeves of the t-shirt (although the front and back can carry our own messages). He also has to find out if our non-NGO status will be a problem for the prospective sponsors.
WORK SET OUT FOR THE NEXT ONE WEEK
1. We have decided to carry the survey conducted at the previous meeting further this week. Members have chosen to work singly or in pairs, at assorted key junctions of the city, to ask a fixed set of questions. This questionnaire is being re-written and will be available for use by Wednesday night. Anuj remarked that we would have to note down the questions directed to us by the people we survey as well as the answers we get from them.
Tamojoy is going to ask about Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) permission to carry a small camera and microphone on the streets. We did this the previous time but since then it has come to our notice that we need municipal permission to do this on an extended basis.
2. Tamojoy is also going to find out as much as he can about how best we can liason with the Kolkata Police (KP) so that we face the minimum trouble from them during interventions and also hopefully receive help from them if necessary.
3. Tamojoy has also offered to locate, through his contacts, victims of stalking. Our aim is to sms them in a general sort of way, telling them about Blank Noise, and see if they get back to us. If even one of them does, we intend to try an intervention with the stalker and hopefully collect some data for our cause as well as help the victim out.
A sample sms: "Have you ever been stalked? If so, Blank Noise needs you. Contact us at [my number] or through our blog at [kolkata blog url]."
4. The executive Whiteliner buses plying important routes in the city are planning to have a paid newspaper rack. We propose having our questionnnaires/pamphlets there too, if the logistics can be worked. We will need to pick up the completed questionnaires from the terminus later, but this need not be a problem.
5. A skeleton questionnaire will be sent by Sunayana, to be checked and added to by all members, to have the actual questionnaire for the survey ready by Wednesday night. (Sorry guys, I know I'm late. Will send it in the afternoon. Got caught up in work.)
6. Members contributed a couple of ideas for scripts for the bus interventions. These will be worked upon by Sunayana with maybe some help from the others (online), and will hopefully one will be ready for group re-working for our next meeting.
The next meeting will be held on Sunday, August 5th. The venue will be announced later, but we would prefer to hold it in somebody's home, if that is possible.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Attendees were: --
1) Anuj Dasgupta
2) Dhruva Ghosh (new member)
3) Dibyajyoti Ghosh (new member)
4) Madhura Chakraborty (new member)
5) Saptarshi Chakraborty
The introductions were short. The attendees went through the Minutes of the last two meetings(7 and 14 July) once. Taking the points further, we came up with some ideas. These were:-
a) Photographing the molesters : Sunayana spoke to the Metro authorities. But they are reluctant to let us have a board near the ticket counter with pictures of the molesters as it might pose a security threat. But, like Sunayana rightly says 'the act of photography itself works as a deterrent'. For the time being, thus, we could post the pictures on the Blank Noise Blog.
Getting it to the newspapers will cost a fortune. We will have to wait until the project gains some popularity. Interventions will help us do that.
N.B. For now, we are trying to get some write-ups or articles on BNP in Newpapers(or Radio channels?). Anyone who can help us do that should please contact Saptarshi (94334 68166 | firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sunayana( email@example.com)
b) Bus skits : Discussions on this issue were not very conclusive. However, Anuj pointed out that the skits should involve the actors discussing about some incident of eve-teasing. The idea is to get other people to speak out on the issue. But, actually enacting an incident of eve-teasing might be risky for more than one reason. Even if the passengers find out that the event was staged and the actor is spared, it might tell wrongly up on the image of BNP. Specially, because people have no idea of what Blank Noise is really about.
c) Skits to schools : It was already decided in the first meeting (7th July) that it was too early to approach school authorities, who are bound to be skeptical. I (Saptarshi) suggested we could get some school kids to attend our meets at times. This will prepare the stage for the school-skits later. We request the members to bring along their school-going brothers, sisters, cousins(class VIII and above) to the meets when they can. Or talk to them on these issues, encourage them to discuss this with their friends, etc.
d) All male adda :
"The idea is to question the male attendees on what they have experienced when they have tried to stop molestation; on how they feel and act when they are walking with a female friend who is molested in their company.Our aim is to understand why more men don't step in"...(From 7th July)But we realised that men who are attending Blank Noise meetings now, are probably those who are genuinely concerned and belong to the group Anuj refers to as 'The Converted'. And there is very little point in organizing an adda with these members. It would be like preaching to the converted. What we rather need now, is to get men, who hold opposing views to attend these meetings.
As to how this can be done, we had some rough ideas, but could not reach a conclusion. It struck us that if the men don't come to our meetings, we could go to them. We agreed that a weekly street skit would not be very difficult to do. This will consist of men from the streets asking questions on the issue and others replying to them. This will not only lead to a dialogue, but also keep the issue on the mind of the common man and get us some publicity. All we would need is a good amplifier with a microphone. Anuj also suggested we get some pamphlets with answers to some commonly used defenses(such as, provocative attire, etc)to be distributed at such skits.
More ideas on this topic are welcome and awaited.
e) Interventions : The first hurdle to a successful street intervention is that we need to increase our member strength. Numbers matter here. To do this we decided to start going to colleges with interactive question-answer sessions like the ones mentioned before. This will help us get more members quickly. We chalked out a rough order:
- JU Arts Department : Near the 4th Gate.
- JU Engineering Department : Near the Second Gate.
- Presidency College
We will need help from the students of different colleges in this regard. If you think you can arrange for a skit in your college please contact us.
f) Street Sexual Harassment Stories : We agreed that more women should be encouraged to come up with their stories of Street Sexual Harassment. These, besides being published on the blog, could be printed in the pamphlets or even a Newsletter, if possible.
g) Blank Noise on the Streets of Kolkata for the first time :
We realised that in order to start answering questions in the street-skits, we need to know the usual questions and accusations. Dhruva rightly pointed out that although all kinds of men indulge in Street Sexual Harassment, their defenses are more or less limited and identical. And we need to find out these defenses and ideas before we start answering them. The best way to do this is to get onto the streets and see what the common man's ideas of eve-teasing, the inflicter and the victim are.
We came up with some questions. Keeping Priyanka's suggestion from the last week in mind, we thought that the Jagannath Dey incident will be a good ice-breaker for most. And Dhruva suggested we end it with a harmless and broad question. So after a lot of inputs from Madhura and Dibyajyoti and minutes of fiddling with the order, this was how the final questionnaire looked like:
- You must have heard about the recent Jagannath Dey incident. Had you been in a similar situation what would you have done? Why?
- Why do you think women hardly ever register a complaint with the police after such incidents?
- If you heard that a woman in your locality has had to face Street Sexual Harassment, would you look at her somewhat differently? Why?
- Do you think staring at a woman is bad? Where do you draw the line? How much is too much?
- Do you think our streets are safe for women? Which parts of the city do you think are more unsafe?
- What do you think should be done to make the streets safer for women?
After this we collected the following details of all interviewees:
- Relationship Status
We interviewed around 15 people from various socio-economic backgrounds. We had a hidden sound recorder to record all the conversations. The people we interviewed included :-
- A Nepali Student, 20 year old, in a relationship
- A Man, married, 48 year old from the suburbs (and somewhat poor economic background, but who works here in Kolkata)
- A Couple, 21 year olds, College going, regulars at Someplace Else
- A balloon seller, 24 year old
- A very stylish guy, in dark glasses, single
- Three female tourists (Caucasians) from California, US, in their 20s
- Five engineering students, just out from Oly Pub (and hence speaking a lot. Male chauvinists)
Finally we briefed all of them about Blank Noise and how they could be a part of it too. Most of them said it was a very good effort. And promised to help spread the word.
I am currently trying to write down the conversations in detail. But as you will understand, it will take some time. Anyone interested in downloading the (.)WAV files (they are over a 100MB) may mail me for the same.
Reading clockwise starting from Shouvik in the brown t-shirt on the left:
Shouvik, Anupam (behind him), Shuktara, Anuj (shaven head), Monideepa, Sunayana, Priyanka, Tamojoy.
Perhaps it is apparent why we think Anuj would make an useful agent provocateur?
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
WHAT DID HE SAY AGAIN?
send us your list of strange, bizzare, disgusting, funny, humiliating words that have been used towards you when you were out on the streets.
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, subject titled, "excuse me?"
Your email responses will be put on the blog with photographic illustrations of the blog.
Do spread the word, email us no later than Aug 3rd. Let's build the 'eve teasing' vocab!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Apart from sending this email to all those who attended our last two meetings, I'm also sending it to Trina Nileena Banerjee and Ranjabati Das, since both have expressed interest in BN, but have been unable to attend the meetings thus far. Trina, Ranja -- Welcome to Blank Noise!
Minutes for Blank Noise Meeting on 14 July 2007 at T3
Meeting attendees were:
9. Shuktara10. Shouvik
Meeting began with attendees introducing themselves. Some of the attendees proceeded to discuss problems they had encountered/ continue to encounter in their neighborhoods:
Smriti: Lives in Jagu Bazaar and has faced instances of harassment there.
Monideepa: Lives near Kudghat, near the Tollygunge Studios and has been harassed by studio workers.
Following this we discussed possible interventions:
1. In the past, BN conceptualized an intervention where a large group of women, wearing whatever they felt comfortable in, congregated in a public space and openly stared at men. I (Shuktara) suggested we try doing something similar in areas like Jagu Bazaar, Esplanade, Park Circus. We decided that this would be more effective later, when we have more members (particularly female members).
2. Monideepa talked about how she has met with hostility from her neighbors. Often, she returns home late at night and, therefore, her neighbors assume she is a woman with "loose morals". We discussed what interventions we could use to make residents in our neighborhoods (the middle class in general?) more sensitive to sexual harassment in the city. We didn't come up with any definite mode of action to tackle this problem, but Sunayana suggested that we could perform interventions in areas where BN members live, and where they face harassment. To ensure the safety of the woman who lives in the area where the skit would be performed, she would not have to be a part of the intervention, unless she chose to be. In other words, if we were performing in Monideepa's neighborhood, M wouldn't have to be present with us.
3. We continued developing Anuj's idea of bus skits (See minutes for the 7/7 meeting). The following routes were suggested:
240 -- Along College St, Vivekananda Road
45 -- The length of Jadavpur? (Sunayana said that too many people would be getting off there, so we could consider doing something after 8B)
234 -- Beyond Padatik (Anupam said the best time to perform a skit on the Padatik-Sealdah route would be between 12 and 4 p.m.).
C8, C14/1 -- Whole trip. Between 5 and 7 p.m.
We need to start traveling these routes, this week preferably.
Stories for skits need to be worked on. One story idea was suggested by Sunayana. She described a personal experience where she and a friend gave a lift to three men around midnight in Sector 5 and they were drunk, which led to them harassing her . Other attendees suggested doing this skit later, since it could be misinterpreted and might work against what we want to say (Why did you give a lift to strangers?). Attendees agreed that the first skits we enact should have few gray areas and we should avoid (as much as possible) being implicated in acts of harassment. However, we were unable to come up with anything definite, story-wise.
4. Tomojoy suggested car stickers to carry on the BN message "What are you looking at?" This was decided after discussing the staring, honking, tailing and 'accidental' bumping that women drivers in this city face. We decided even strips of paper ("What are you looking at?") cellotaped to the inside of the driver's window may do the trick.
5. He also suggested that we use the SMS to conduct polls, pass the word etc. Please contact him for clarification. His email id is email@example.com.
Priyanka emailed Sunayana after the meeting and said we could incorporate the Jagannath Dey incident in our skits, since it is fresh in public memory. It would work as a crowd-puller, and we could use it as a jumping board to address issues like a) Why no one does anything when a girl is being assaulted, b) Why no one helps the stray people who try to protest when they witness a woman being assaulted and c) Has eve teasing become such an accepted practice that people ignore it.
Sue also adds, d) Why do the women consistently refuse to come forward? How can we sensitise them?
Next meeting was scheduled for Sunday 22nd at Selimpur, but because Sue is sick, she won't be able to attend, and, therefore, the location of the meeting will have to be changed. Additionally, I (Shuktara) cannot attend any meeting this week, because I am swamped in work assignments. Dana, Anuj -- would you like to coordinate a meeting this week to work on the skits and develop stories? Both of you could work out the logistics over email.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
I play the role of a facilitator.
Photographing the molesters who are found in public transport, especially the Metro (I have personally found that photographing works best on the Metro, whereas whipping out a camera phone in public buses tends to alienate public sympathy rather than otherwise). We thought about asking the Metro authorities if we may put up a notice board with the photographs we take, next to some key ticket counters.
Do you think it alienates public sympathy due to the economic difference? who owns a cell phone with a camera and who doesnt? can you elaborate?
your objective here being to: 'catch' the perpetrator?
My questions: who is the 'perpetrator?' yes we all have experienced anger and been violated by a stranger, but it is important to understand- really to understand where he is coming from. However it is good to carry a 'weapon' of defense.
So many of the 'eve teasers' are/ could also be harmless wooers- who dont , really really dont know any other way to approach a woman.
( i did some audio interviews in delhi with men on the streets)
Many of them are sexual bullies/ thrusting power, searching the vulnerable- we need to hear from them as well.
the challenge is- how do we approach them? is there a them? how many kinds 'them' are there?
The reason why I have put the photos of people who have molested me , on the blog is because it really is a range of events/ the nature of street harassment differs from time to time, the kind of 'perpetrator' shifts again.
There is no one kind of perpetrator, just like there is no one kind of terrorist. :)
Forming one (perhaps more) all male addas. Women may attend but not participate, and will attend only on that condition. The idea is to question the male attendees on what they have experienced when they have tried to stop molestation; on how they feel and act when they are walking with a female friend who is molested in their company. We thought of having Anuj working as an agent provacateur (he says his appearance will be of help) and stirring things up by taking the viewpoint of the molesters. We are considering Coffee Pai as an avenue perhaps (suggestions welcome). How about aiming for this by the end of July?
Adda discussions sound like a great idea. What's Anuj's appearance like? Please send me photos of everyone- so that it can be uploaded on the flickr blog. I think the adda idea can be stretched- we can just document discussions that men are having about 'eve teasing'/ street sexual harassment.
I believe that the power of our project lies in the testimonials we build. Testimonials of men and women about their experiences ont he street. Somewhere the idea is to build the testmimonials and to appropriately communicate them.
I dont see Blank Noise as an aggressive project, however sometimes we may use guerilla tactics.. The focus is on transferring, healing, building, sharing and understanding. Whether it is through the clothes we collect, or the street actions we do. etc
Bus skits. After identifying routes and times when the bus is full but still offers some space for performance, Anuj suggested having two, perhaps three 'performers' (that is us) discussing an issue pertaining to street sexual harrassment loudly, and throwing open the discussion to our fellow travellers. Also possible on the local trains, but will need much more work.
This is an idea that has come up a couple of times. At Blank Noise we may collaborate with people involved with street theater, but we havent taken that up as a form as yet.
Here's what we did in the mumbai trains and the buses in bangalore. We hopped on and read out a letter to the captive audience.
The letter was a testimonial of street harassment. As one person read it out the other members of blank noise handed out pamphlets. This was done at the bus stand. in two mins we would jump out of the bus. It took only 4 people to do this action.
I could also see us sitting next to strangers in the bus and reading out a letter. 7-10 people sitting standing between different groups of strangers and reading a testimonial over and over again until the next bus stop. The testimonials were from the blogathon- translated from english into the local language concerned.
I would request everyone to look at the form of intervnetion that Blank Noise has adapted int he past.
They are up on the blog. Please discuss it in todays meeting. PLease read the blog- the past.
We are addressing street sexual harassment but HOW is the question. At Blank Noise the process is constantly evolving, its slow too, but we are deliberate about the form we chose- so dont hold onto a form just yet- think about and write about what you want to ask- what are the questions? What are your questions about street sexual harassment?
Good luck with today's meeting!
Congratulations! We are in Kolkata!
Am ccing this email to Hemangini Annie Sujata and Abby. All four have been strongly associated with Blank Noise.
About the costs for the meeting: when people meet they are requested to pay for their own tea/ coffee/ anything
when we have pamphlets to be made/ etc please do the following
1. keep the bill- I will settle the overdues- incase...
2. ideal scenario-
split costs amongst willing group members- the hyd group contributed Rs. 50 each and pamphlets were done. however this is an ideal scenario and we need to think of how each city can make some money.
3. strategize - this will evolve over time- accepting donations/ ideas for this are welcome.As I see it, there will be a group of people that will play the role of fund raising- this on another email.
4. We are not an ngo yet- and in process of re structuring ourelves. We have come so far on people's energy. committment and enthusiasm. We start with that and eventually move towards structure and sustainibilty/?
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
1. Dana Roy
2. Shuktara Lal
3. Anuj Dasgupta
4. Anupam Kenji Himora Das Adhikari
5. Saptarshi Chakraborty
6. Sunayana Roy (it was at her place)
After introductions were performed, the group sat down with the questionnaire circulated last week (for the 30th June meeting). Eventually we discussed all the ideas that we had, and how we could work them out. These were:
a) Photographing the molesters who are found in public transport, especially the Metro (I have personally found that photographing works best on the Metro, whereas whipping out a camera phone in public buses tends to alienate public sympathy rather than otherwise). We thought about asking the Metro authorities if we may put up a notice board with the photographs we take, next to some key ticket counters.
b) Forming one (perhaps more) all male addas. Women may attend but not participate, and will attend only on that condition. The idea is to question the male attendees on what they have experienced when they have tried to stop molestation; on how they feel and act when they are walking with a female friend who is molested in their company. We thought of having Anuj working as an agent provacateur (he says his appearance will be of help) and stirring things up by taking the viewpoint of the molesters. We are considering Coffee Pai as an avenue perhaps (suggestions welcome). How about aiming for this by the end of July?
Our aim is to understand why more men don't step in, and hopefully sensitise them on the role they can play if they are bold enough.
c) Bus skits. After identifying routes and times when the bus is full but still offers some space for performance, Anuj suggested having two, perhaps three 'performers' (that is us) discussing an issue pertaining to street sexual harrassment loudly, and throwing open the discussion to our fellow travellers. Also possible on the local trains, but will need much more work.
d) We also discussed the option of taking such semi-skits to schools but decided that can only be done at a later stage.
The next meeting has been fixed for Saturday, 14th July 2007, at T3 (Park Street) from 3 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Please don't be late because it is not easy to get any work done there once the crowds start coming in.
Points for the next meeting:
i) Fixing logistics for a, b and c.
ii) Enrolling new members
iii) Collecting information about who can help us out
Bring anybody you think would be interested. Since it is already Tuesday, please contact them at your earliest convenience so that they can adjust their schedules accordingly.