Saturday, July 14, 2007

My response to the Kolkata meet


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/?


dipali said...

This morning's TOI Kolkata has an extremely distressing article on the front page wherein a young man who protests molestation in a bus is beaten up for his pains. Everyone else just sat and watched. His friend who supported him was also injured.
Attended part of the meet on Saturday, somehow believing that Kolkata was safer than other metros.
Totally shaken out of that complacency now.

Sue said...

Dipali -- This is what we are trying to fight: the apathy that is taking over the city. This disconnect between 'our' problems and 'their' problems.