Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SlutWalk (?) Bangalore planning meeting

No one actually recommends walking in those heels; they do look pretty, though.

So, the Slutwalk. This is where it started: in summation: a Toronto policeman told a safety class that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."

In the world where we live, we take precautions. We do this for reasons of common sense, or fear, or because our personal styles insect with a life of taking precautions. Sometimes, we don't take precautions. We wear what we want, even if someone is going to say, That's provocative - sometimes because we want to be provocative. We drink, we walk the streets after dark, we have jobs and transport and we take advantage of our ability to move about freely. Sometimes, bad things happen - actually, no, let's rephrase that: Sometimes, people do bad things, and they sometimes do those bad things to us. The basic point of the Slutwalk is this: That the police, the public, the media, the society around us, should not use our attire as reasons to hold us responsible for someone else's actions against us, and further they should use use these as reasons to excuse or validate the actions of our assaulters.

To sum up: don't blame the victim. don't excuse the perpetrator. He is not "like that only". Don't police the victims. Police the assaulter.

It is a sad fact that in a world that is mostly, informally or formally, structured around patriarchal gender lines, a woman can be called a slut for any number of reasons - not all of them having anything to do with her sexual activity. She is rarely called a slut admiringly. She is not given the same admiration, she has not the same coolth - again, I am talking about the application of the label, not her actual behaviours - as a man who, for instance, is a stud, or even a womaniser. We can reclaim the label - we can say, I am happy to dress this way, I am happy to have sex, I am happy to have sex with several people over the course of time - or at once. We can reclaim the label, be proud to be sluts. We can eschew the label - we can say, I am not promiscuous, my clothing, my drinking, my travelling alone, does not mean that I have sex at all or out of careful relationship bounds. But none of this is the central point of a Slutwalk. The central point is this: In a case of assault, the action was not invited. No one asks to be raped.You do not get to excuse the rapist by implying that the woman asked for it, or is at fault for it. The rapist, the assaulter, is the only person responsible for his (and in this sort of case, it is usually a man, and there is room for argument later about statistics and the like) crime, the harm he did.

To repeat: Don't blame the victim. Don't call them sluts and think that the rape, the assault, was bound to happen. Don't blame the victim, don't excuse and validate the assaulter.

In Toronto, women took to the streets, dressed varyingly, "normally", "provocatively", to make the statement that no one asks to be raped, no matter her attire; "Yes" is not merely the absence of "No", that clothing is a superficial message at best, and not about (or just about) a woman's willingness to have sex with anyone in general, or the men who approach her in particular.  They also organised open debates, workshops on gender sensitisation and the like, but the Walk was the Event, the centerpiece of the campaign. Their website is taking forever to load on my browser, but here is the link.  SlutWalk Toronto: BECAUSE WE'VE HAD ENOUGH.

Following the Toronto Slutwalk in April, there have been rallies around the world, with the campaigns spreading to Asia, and now India. Delhi had a walk at the end of July - have a look at the site for the Besharmi Morcha.

Quick and dirty arguments for a "Slut"Walk and against.

But! Now there are people who are hoping to organise a SlutWalk, and satellite activities, in Bangalore. This is the official Facebook Portal for the Bangalore SlutWalk.

The first meeting was yesterday, at ALF. There seemed to be three main initiators: Dhillan Mowli, our own Sowmya, and someone whose name (I am not sure, I am a horrible person!) is probably Shonali.

[Let's ignore all the arguments for and against the campaign having a man in the collective helm for now. Let's also ignore arguments of male privilege, how we don't need a man to validate our voices and choices. It's an argument for later, and a moot discussion until more has been accomplished. Or not.]

[So long as it's not ignored forever.]

Not much has been decided. DM had a truly excessive list of things we could do associated with the walk - plays, street plays, films, photography exhibitions, music events, school and campus outreach programmes, open panel discussions.

It was a fairly long discussion, and I am not going to go through it all. Here are some of the main points, and main decisions we did manage to reach:

  • we're going to avoid a narrative of victimisation. The Walk, and associated events, are to be about our voices and choices, about the appropriate taking and apportioning of responsibility. 
  • we need to figure out precisely what we are targeting: violence in public spheres, private spheres? Violence against women, children? 
  • the concepts of consent - the giving, the denying, the requesting of it. A large part of or concern as feminists, individualists and as human beings is to ensure that people can clearly say, No. Or Yes. Or "Would you?" As women we have the right, and as citizens and social beings we have the duty, to exercise these privileges. We don't, very often. We're raised, conditioned to be nice, to be polite, to not make scenes. But sometimes, it's necessary. Make a scene, darlings, raise your voices. Ask for what you want! Accept what you want that is offered! Give what you want to give! And say No - and let's work on making sure that that No is heard.
  • The school/campus outreach programmes. They need a lot of work, to be structured, to have people who know what the hell they're doing - and if they're not just limited to December, we need more manpower and more training and people with skills. This is not stuff to be trifled with just because we have good intentions.
  • The word "Slut" - is this what we want? Is it context appropriate? Moral policing in India works along different narratives and terminology, with the same final effect. We need to name our SlutWalk something that connects with us in our contexts, without losing sight of our basic goal. This means we want to try to keep it a bilingual campaign, too.
  • Communication, networking with the police and the media. Reminding ourselves and the public that we have instance-specific reasons in Bangalore and Karnataka (remember Mangalore and what started there. Remember the recent Darshan horrors.) to conduct a campaign that speaks out against victim blaming, moral policing and assaulter-excusing.
  • We want this campaign to be inclusive. We do not want a one day spectacle that can be dismissed as "upper-middle-class women dressing up because they want to be able to dress up" - though we want that too. We want all women to be safe on the streets, without fear that they will blamed for being assaulted - this means we need to network harder with people outside of the internet platforms that have informed us of the SlutWalks so far.
Of immediate concern:
  • DECEMBER 4th. We walk.
  • So much of what we need to do begins with figuring out what we want to do, what our specific aims and goals are. We want to be done with that in two weeks or less.
  • We meet again on MONDAY, OCTOBER 10TH, 5 pm at ALF.
That's it for now. There's a lot of work to be done, and a lot of principle to be negotiated. Contact Sowmya or the the Facebook SlutWalk Bangalore Portal for more information or to volunteer!

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    I'm a fourteen year old girl from Bangalore, and I am pleased to say that there has been a lot of interest over the slut walk here, in our school. A bunch of students want to ask permission from our school administrators to allow someone from the slutwalk guild to come and address us. I was wondering, that if we have permission, would any one of the organisers be willing to give a speech at our school..?