Friday, October 17, 2008

Walking the Talk

First, go check this poster out. You can read the post and the reactions here.

If we start out with the basic assumption that the city you live in is as much yours as it is anybody else's, live they and their ancestors there ever so much longer than you and yours; if we agree that it is a basic human right to be able to walk down the street without having to cross your arms across your breasts or swinging your body from side to side to avoid contact with the crowds: what, then, are you doing to defend or exercise this fundamental human right of ownership?

I am not preaching on a soapbox here, nor am I asking you to do any of the brave/dangerous/foolish/misguided (take your pick) things that I do. But I am asking that you insist on your right to your own city streets. You don't have to push and fight and scream perhaps, if somebody invades your privacy. In fact, very few of us are brave enough to do that, and I myself only manage it some of the time. But you can convince yourself that the road is not for others to dictate to you. If you can rid your own mind of this vague discomfort or fear, you will be doing your bit for your city.

When I went to Singapore, I remember how Ravi and I got really late at the zoo. I came back home at midnight, and part of the way I was on my own in the MRT. I revelled in the feeling of safety that I had in this unknown land. There were girls everywhere, on their own or in groups, wearing all manners of dresses and hemlines, and nobody gave me a second look, far less a call as I walked down the silent stretch from the station to my friend's house, where we were staying.

That is what I want in my own city. It may not happen in my lifetime, but that does not mean I shall stop trying. I'm a more conservative dresser these days and I do travel much less than I used to. But I try to go out late at night if I want to, to wear what I want to wear when I want to wear it. And when I walk down the streets, I do try not to worry too much about what somebody else says/whispers/sings. It's not enough, I do understand, but what is? What more should I be doing? What are you doing to exercise your rights to walk freely down your roads?


Ritu said...

Hmmm too far out, one cant do it today or even in the next 5 years. Invitation to get raped or have acid thrown on oneself

Rohini said...

Well, what people say or think never bothers me much. It's what they might do that I can't be as unconcerned about. As an example, a group of us went to a newly opened discothèque the other day (which we decided was more of a high class pick-up joint than anything else). Now I was rather skimpily dressed and was the subject of many a lecherous gaze. Didn't bother me. Couple of guys tried to pick me up and were told to f*** off. Didn't bother me either. But I wore what I wore and went where I went because I was in a group of trusted friends, men and women and that gave me a sense of security. Would I have dressed that way if I was going alone somewhere
- no way!

The Orange Cat said...

I'm not a woman, so I can't fully comprehend, but when a woman is by such jerks, why doesn't she just call the Police?
Oh right. I just realized how dumb what I just said is.
Why is it that women in this country are treated more like commodities than living, breathing human beings?

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Very interesting experiment Sue. I hope to read a follow-up on their findings...

dipali said...

Yes, that is the difference I think between desh and abroad.These lines just came to me:

Walking proud and free
on my city streets
With a song in my head.
And a swing to my feet
My thoughts all my own
My feelings upbeat
That's what I want
That's what I need
No touches on my butt
No gaze on my bust
Admiring looks maybe
But no unwanted lust
That's what I want
That's what we need
To be able to walk tall
On our city's streets.

Sue said...

Ritu -- You only do what you are comfortable doing. Just don't feel apologetic about walking down the streets. All the poster has are suggestions, but feel free to find what you are comfortable with. Anyhow, never thought of you as somebody who feels apologetic in the first place!

Ro -- It's what I do, too. Match my dress according to the company I'm keeping. This is slightly different. It's about not being apologetic about whatever you're wearing. It's about the mindset. Having done it, I know how tremendously empowering it can be.

Sue said...

Orange Cat -- Funnily enough, the police have thus far been helpful to me. Maybe I've not made any major demands on them. Maybe I've been lucky.

M4 -- Oh they've been doing this for years now. Check out the rest of the blog.

Dipali -- Oooh, nice rhythm to that one. May I send it on to Blank Noise? Or at least, post it at your place.

dipali said...

Sue, you're welcome!