Monday, July 04, 2011

Brazen Feminist's take on Slutwalk Delhi

It’s not as easy as choosing between a pink lehenga and blue jeans with climate control factored in. What-to-wear is a finely calibrated decision. I think of whether to take an auto or a cab, train or bus. I think of where I’m headed, at what station to get off, at what time.

And despite all this, even if my legs and arms are fully-covered, even if no cleavage or belly is on display, I’m afraid. Even this great bustling insomniac city will not let me be.

Nobody has accused me of dressing ‘slutty’. But every day of my adult life, I have had to protect myself from the aftermath of random strangers on the street attacking, abusing or threatening me. Note: I am not saying I protect myself from attacks. What I’m protecting myself from is the aftermath. From people who will say that my clothes were provocative, that the time of the night and my being alone was an invitation to assault.

So yes, I get the sentiment that makes a bunch of women in Canada declare: Yeah, we’re slutty, so what? So what if we sleep around? So what if we wear tiny skirts and high heels? So what if men look at us and want us? Is the police force trying to tell us that rape is alright? Are you saying we deserve to be hurt?
And yet, when I heard that someone was organising a Slutwalk in Delhi, a part of me went sort of quiet...

On the other hand, if boundaries are to be pushed, someone has to take some risks. Jasmeen Patheja, founder of the Blank Noise Project (a group I’ve been part of since 2006) points out that Slutwalks are a kind of performance. There is an element of fiction here. And it is a fiction that sells. The media is lapping up the story of provocatively-dressed women demanding their right to provoke. Cameras focus on women wearing bras (clearly, feminists with arsonist tendencies are ancient history) so that ‘skimpy clothes’ are not just the first thing we see. They’re the only thing.
... Meanwhile, the fiction has whipped up a storm even before the fact has materialised. Celebrity columnist Shobhaa De has dissed the proposed event for being an ‘attention-seeking protest … neither workable, nor desirable.’ Seema Goswami drew up a damnable analogy. She compares a woman who attracts attention to a house that’s unlocked and therefore likely to get burgled.

All of which is making me pricklier and pricklier.

I now find myself wanting to get into arguments about ‘workability’. Is the only workable solution finding a rich man who provides us with a glass bubble to commute in and bodyguards to fend off assaults? As for seeking attention, that’s the bloody point!

Anger and pain are at the heart of every movement, but when we march, we must sometimes wear the boots of provocation. Slutwalk is designed to provoke. 

Read the full piece here:

1 comment:

Aneela Z said...

Annie, I am at the stage of life when I would rather the young and the select(city)champion the cause of outing their inner-wear rather than getting into "modesty is a pearl"... at the very least this means they are reading up on what is happening in the rest of the world, and yippee! following the news.

Considering in my part of the world the young are embracing the (suicide)jacket, I welcome any effort to start thinking about other articles of clothing! Sue is right, the problematic among us will make their MMS, forward their crude jokes but hopefully next year or the year after that some might get the message. Seriously at this stage ANYTHING is welcome, I will always have a problem with the labels-- sluts, beysharam, what have you but if this leads to a different discourse at some stage good for them.

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