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14

The Mumbai Slutwalk had died when the police required us to provide an undertaking on the letterhead of an NGO with details of the walk. We could have falsified it, but the fact is that it was purely a citizen's initiative, and there was no NGO involved enough for us to feel justified in representing ourselves on its letter head.

Other problems cropped up, and we decided to let things be.

Today, the Bangalore Slutwalk was cancelled. The update from the organizers says that their permission for peaceful assembly was withdrawn under objection and pressure from BJP and related organizations.

As the permission was withdrawn at the last minute, the organizers decided to land up at the venue to inform people arriving for the SlutWalk that it had been called off.

What followed is better than a hundred SlutWalks in making the point, but.... our media is oblivious.

This group of ex-protesters, now only updaters, dressed in jeans and T-Shirts, were arrested by the cops and taken on a long drive to some remote police station. Their phones were taken away and they were detained without explanation.

These people detained were directing people that the SlutWalk was cancelled. They were cooperating with the police. Some of those detained were walking away from the venue exactly as directed by the police when they were hauled back and arrested.

This, dear friends, was Bangalore's SlutWalk. A live demo by the cops of the need for a SlutWalk.

  • Moral Police had a problem with what they perceived as characterless behavior
  • They pressurized the government with threats of illegal action
  • As usual, the victim was suppressed to avoid a problem and permissions cancelled
  • Organizers were arrested in spite of co-operating
  • Protesters leaving the site were arrested because "they shouldn't have been there in the first place"

THIS is why slutwalks happen. Moral policing in society. Character judgments about women/men based on what goes on in the minds of those thinking about them. Morality being rigidly defined by whoever is able to bully the others. Bullying leading to comprehensive silencing of women asserting their constitutional rights that have been deprived. Government and police making absolutely no effort to safeguard those rights. Police actively persecuting those who attempted to assert themselves, even if they are fully cooperating.

Shows a dead society that will not let others live because they are not able to face the dirt in their own minds and would rather blame someone for it.

In my eyes, the Bangalore Slutwalk is a success.

I think, we have gone beyond the time for protest walks. The time is for us to live our realities, and insist that the police maintain law and order.

Update: Better coverage of Delhi's Slutwalk in San Francisco Chronicle. The messages are far more effectively conveyed true to the idea, so that the disparity in dress is not garish. Responsible, real. Good job! If this were being showed to India instead of the crap, we could have called this a really awesome event. However, I am becoming incr

As pictures come in from Delhi's slutwalk today, I can't but help worry that the walk gives a totally different message from that intended and reinforces the stereotypes it aims to challenge.

My main concerns:

  • The clothes: Two distinct patterns - Indian women covered up, foreigners bare. I am very concerned by this on several fronts. The most important being what does it project about foreigners. The first picture in the coverage by HT shows a girl writing slutwalk messages on a skimpily dressed foreigner's bare stomach. When I burst out in outrage on Twitter, some thought it was bare stomachs scandalizing me. Not true. It is the bare stomach of a foreigner being touched/written on, while Indian women are dressed conservatively as the defining picture of the event. Now, if Delhi has any problem after rapes in general, it is rapes of foreigners. What message does this picture convey about a foreigner's personal space? Is either writing slogans or foreigners the main thing about the slutwalk? This kind of masala journalism sells papers and prejudice at the same time. SHAME Hindustan Times!!!
  • There is a stark contrast among the foreigners and Indians when it comes to clothes. The Indian women are dressed MORE conservatively than on the streets. It is almost like they are trying to prove that they are not sluts and thus should not be raped. This, I think is a message that will add to judgments about clothing. WORSE than not having a slutwalk.
  • In the pictures, it is the men shown as vocal and the women quietly holding placards. Another message I'd like to have missed.
  • The foreigners look like the "item numbers" of the event. Attention getters, but not part of the real story. And that not being integrated with the local people is what is the real damage. The skimpily dressed people are not us. We are not dressed like that. We hold up placards saying don't rape us. An entire segment of Indian women who dress skimpily is totally unrepresented - worse, covered up.
  • The biggest mistake - the organizer of the slutwalk is totally covered up, devoid of makeup or any effort whatsoever to look appealing.
This coming after the threats to disrupt the walk comes off as totally wrong. Threaten us, and we will cover up.

Why am I making such a big deal of clothes if they don't really matter? I am not making it. The big deal has already been made, which is why we see such a conservative choice of clothes. I am only calling it out as harmful to the message of the walk. I think it is important that this be noted that the slutwalk is not only about covered up women. You wouldn't like being raped while returning from the disco because you weren't in the slutwalk uniform, would you?

That said, I understand that this is the first slutwalk and that it happened is a big thing. Unfortunately, I think that now it becomes even more important to make sure that the right message reaches people. There are other things I saw that could be avoided in future walks, but this is not the time for them, will post separately.

I congratulate that it happened at all. It sets precedent for future walks to happen. Good. Now the trick is to make them happen at full power.

Now, the invitation is to see the slutwalk as a social intervention and not a masala event, or something that is okay if done halfway. Restraining conditions on the slutwalk and expecting the message to reach is like reigning in a thoroughbred and expecting it to win a race. The essence of a slutwalk is the right of a woman to wear what she likes, like the essence of a thoroughbred is in its speed.

If you believe in what you are doing, then there is no need to be apologetic about it. I am not saying parade skimpily dressed women, but the absence of skimpily dressed women totally is a big matter of concern, because then it is the message of clothes defining right to be safe that is getting promoted - quite the opposite of what is intended.

Also, the slutwalk is an intervention means that the message is crucial to change in society. It needs to ring loud and clear. If you are saying clothes don't matter, then there MUST NOT be recommendations of dressing conservatively.

Coming to the journalists. You guys are the eyes of the country. Few will see the walk live. Most will see what you choose to show. As memories fade, the only ones publicly preserved will be those in your archives. As such, you have an ethical responsibility to convey the spirit of an attempt at social change as transparently as possible. From the beginning, there has been this obsession with bare stomachs. Now, in an event of hundreds of people FROM Delhi, dressed in a certain manner, your opening picture is of a foreigner dressed not representatively of the crowd. Sure, include it. But as the FIRST picture that also gets used as a thumbnail to represent the coverage? What is it that is being conveyed here?

I suggest that there is a serious effort to contribute to social transformation and promoting social initiatives rather than pimping midriffs for a moment of attention and undermining their entire validity.

Beyond angry with the reporting. Bloody pimps.

4

Imagine this scenario.

An colleague in office has anger management issues. He's a great guy. Doesn't mean any harm, but he ends up hurting a lot of people who are on the receiving end. He alienates clients, he offends other employees, he leaves housekeeping in tears. He believes that is his style of speaking and refuses to change just because people can't take it.

One day, a large group of employees decide enough is enough, and make a presentation about effects of verbal abuse in the work place. It is not addressed to him, but it is a convincing affirmation of the right of employees to work without being attacked at whim. It describes the losses the organization faces in terms of productivity, organizational well-being, victimization and reputation.

What do you think happens after this? Do aggressive people become more conscious of their actions and their unpopularity? Do people find it easier to ask this person to behave when they feel hurt? Do people find it easier to speak up in aid of someone being attacked? Do people find it easier to establish norms of acceptable communication? Or do things remain as usual?

If you have a choice to empower or disempower that presentation, is it useful to debate the futility of challenging such people? Do the victims deserve that amplified voice?

My bet is that even if the presentation is addressed to no one specific, aggressive people in the office get the message that their actions are not acceptable. The massive opinions in disagreement of their attitude are visible indisputably. There is a trigger for re-evaluation of actions - which some may or may not take.

Another aspect is that with such powerful statement being made, people find it easier to ask abusers to back off if they get aggressive. With the problem established as a group problem, onlookers feel inclined to intervene and ask for appropriate behaviour rather than mind their own business - it is their organization that is being degraded - no longer a matter between two people. There is less hesitation to risk being the bad guy and confronting or filing a complaint. And the management, being made aware of the mood of a large section of the organization is less able to ignore the matter or play favorites.

This doesn't happen because this is a company. It happens because this is how human beings are. If a threat is not directly relevant to us, we don't take risks in challenging it. Witness the different responses to Irom Sharmila's ten year fast against Army atrocities in the northeast, and Anna Hazare's war on corruption. For society to change in its tolerance of inappropriate behaviour, its members need to see that this is a degradation of society happening and damaging to them, not an incident limited to two people and irrelevant to them.

It isn't even about supporting the movement. It is simply being exposed to the protest. It  doesn't matter if I say "think of a pineapple" or "don't think of a pineapple". You think of a pineapple anyway.

That is why these protests are powerful enough to spread like wildfire around the world. They are life affirming, they are empowering, they are liberating. They have an impact on the awareness of people.

If you have heard them, if you have seen them, the next time you see someone harassing a woman, you recognize it. Even if you thought the protest was stupid, you clearly see that what is happening is wrong and your strong opinions in the interest of society and women make you want to do something about it. The chances of someone challenging the abuse rise considerably the more people who have debated the walk or seen it are around.

The chances become considerably higher that the victim is able to raise assistance from those around. At the same time, there is less of a feeling of impunity in an attacker who has seen his actions solidly condemned in public space. I think there is a good chance this makes the city at least a little safer for women.

This is why I invite even critics to be there to watch, even if they will not join.

The other thing is it creates awareness of projections (and I recommend that several slogans be designed with this in mind) and challenges false assumptions. A projection is when as a child your mother forced you to wear a sweater even if you were hot from playing, because she was sitting on the park bench and feeling cold. It was not your reality. It was hers. Similarly, a man with lust on his brain sees women as sexual objects whether they are flaunting their sexuality or not. There is a lot of data to support this.

What is shameless about a confident woman? The only thing wrong with her is that she is way out of legitimate reach of the lustful person making the comment. She isn't going to take bullshit, she is unlikely to be quiet and allow her space to be invaded, so she is cheap! In other words, sour grapes - "I could easily have her, but she's not worth it".

If clothes or provocative behaviour were the cause of rapes or harassment of women, there would be none in conservative societies where revealing clothing is out of the question. This is far from reality. It isn't about revealing clothes being an invitation - a truth most women know and every controlling person likes to deny, because that invalidates their control.

Also there are other "proofs" - kids, men, old people being raped, harassed, abused. Here are some nightmares for you.

Yet, the first question a victim fields is often "What were you wearing?". This is further victimizing by protectors who instead of supporting heap blame. Then there are family, friends and random society who think less of a victim for being attacked. It is as thought they unconsciously fear helplessness may be contagious and condemn what they fear. A woman is powerless to defend herself against the weight of collective judgments.

There is unconscious acceptance of criminal behaviour and defending it from those who would challenge it. A classic example is saying that a person flaunting valuables will get robbed and a woman flaunting her physical beauty will get raped. Forget rape, this person doesn't realize that he seems to be saying that it is natural for a person to get robbed because his belongings were visible! The criticism isn't actually supporting crime, it their own shame that they didn't fight it. Therefore, they say it is futile and recommend their response as ideal, because otherwise that is a reminder of their own submission or failure to challenge wrongs (read projection, again).

Another part of this is our own attitudes toward sexuality. Whom do you speak with, meet, return with, what time, etc is something you must hide or defend to remain respectable. Have an affair, and you must marry - people dating are socially the same as people engaged in most of India. Dating many people at once? Cheap! Slut! Whore! What was courtship has evolved into an ownership claim. You'd think its easier on the man, but they get labeled "users" if they simply change their mind about a girl they were dating and womanizers if they date more than one person.

Judgmental and controlling attitudes. In this women and men are equal victims of other women and men who appoint themselves moral police. Be it parents or random street romeos who think a woman seen going out with more than one boy is fair game to approach and she MUST accept their attentions. Because a woman is not a person, but a public object with everyone's opinion on her considered more valid than her own. Her having a preference on who to interact with is absurd to abusers.

It makes for an extremely dysfunctional and depressing society in terms of living.

A slutwalk creates a space to examine all these inequities and create space for breaking through oppressive social narratives holding many people hostage.

The slutwalk is creating vital debates, triggering  thought, forcing new considerations and challenging dysfunctional and hurtful assumptions. It challenges the status quo that is not working. This helps a society become more thinking, more tolerant and also more intelligent, because freedom is a state of being, not subject. Thinking openly about one thing makes it likely people think openly about more things and increasingly arrive at better thought out understandings.

But one of the greatest achievements of the slutwalk is that it says things individual victims cannot assert. It gives them the freedom to speak out and make it clear that they were victimized for something that was not their fault. It gives them the freedom to say this openly and aloud without fear of being silenced. It makes people feel less victimized and more heard. And it is not only about women. Not at all. Anyone with a wish to live larger than allowed has hit this wall and often fallen back hurt. Others broke through and are scarred for life.

If nothing else, for this alone, it would be worth it to gift women, men, children, old people, alternative sexualities and other assorted people who have known helplessness and violations this day of being able to live free under the sky and be heard and be respected for who they are.

It would be a healing of us all.

2

On comments and other dialogue around the slutwalk think this is a misguided movement. Never mind that it spread like wildfire around the world because people saw its significance. "misguided" is an incredibly patronizing way to describe what essentially amounts to a difference of opinion. It is quite unrealistic as well, to assume that people who have devoted significant amounts of time thinking about the protest, its impact, its need, its origin, its name..... are somehow stupider than you, because you have decided. This is not a voice of wisdom, and it polarizes a dialogue, where the core need for greater dignity is actually not disputed at all. I hope people are better able to verbalize specifics, so that we all gain from the thoughts and conversations generated.

The assumptions that there will be women in various stages of nudity is something I find really strange. But even if it were true, clothes used AS a protest certainly cannot be called daily wear. I cannot imagine how people think that their world is going to be flooded with women flaunting skimpily dressed bodies and invading their space. Really, this is the realm of wishful thinking. Where are these women going to come from? Who are these women going to be who will overnight change their fear for safety to become provoking?

There are those fixated on what the walk is not. For example, it does not do anything for the minorities. Or that the Dantewada women gain nothing from this. Or vicious contempt that it is a "middle-class" thing of no use to the poor. I'd like to respond that middle-class women are people too. They have every right to protest something that is an issue for them. It is not their responsibility to protest every injustice against women ever in this country. As far as I know, the slutwalk is extremely inclusive of gender, caste, class, age, etc. I accept that some women from minority communities or repressed lower class/caste communities may not feel comfortable attending. The critics miss the point. The protest is still useful for a massive number of women, and the social change it aims for helps all women in the society, not just those who walked. If the streets become safer, even a little, even lower class women who did not feel comfortable attending the walk are safer.

The other thing is about villages and small towns where the protest doesn't reach. I think this is flat out wrong. Thoughts percolate. Delhi took the initiative, now there are noises in Mumbai about a slutwalk. Soon other cities may follow. If big cities do it, in a couple of years, larger towns may think of organizing their own, and so on. The other difference is that the big cities also are houses of media, which is a very big factor in influencing thought. If the media in the cities finds value in evolving attitudes toward women, those attitudes are going to reach in different forms to homes across the country - through the kind of stories of films, language used in soap operas, sensitivity shown in news reporting, coverage of the walks, debates and discussions on TV.... the possibilities are endless. It is futile to expect a switch be thrown that updates the entire country in one shot, and it is futile to say it will have no impact just because other areas are not directly addressed. We, as a country are connected. Thoughts travel.

The protest is that women DON'T need to be provoking to be objectified and abused, and the comments certainly seem to be illustrating the point. I am yet to find a single supporter of the slutwalk saying that the streets should be filled with near naked women. It is a tribute to the nudity obsessed mind that a stray mention in the variety of clothes possible has been made into the uniform, or that of all the hundreds of pictures of slutwalks around the world, the only ones being reacted to are ones with skimpily dressed women.

I have written extensively in support of the walk and I remain convinced that no matter what the result, it is still a step ahead. I am not a feminist. I am a believer that hidden dysfunctional dynamics in our society need to be brought on the table for change to happen - for men, women, kids, politics, terrorism, education, police, healthcare.... anything. Wrong doings thrive out of sight. I don't see this as a "women's issue" at all. I see this as a big social concern - an increasingly unsafe, judgmental and intolerant environment. And women may be its most common victims, but the decay ranges from politics to education. The questioning of the right to pass judgments is going to create awareness on judgments in other areas too (a guess based on my study of people, not data)

About the name, I think the name needs to be one used as a judgment. This is a protest, not a popularity contest. If naari shakti variety names were reality, the protest would not be needed at all. If calling to naari shakti type attitudes were effective, the protest wouldn't be needed either. We have been tossing rhetoric about women's power for ages. Everything should have been sorted, no? No. It takes all kinds of messages to reach all kinds of people. The protest takes the reality happening in streets, trains, buses, homes, markets, offices, colleges.... and places it firmly in public view. Look. this is happening.

There is no one format that says, "Look, this is how you should protest, and no other". For those stuck on the idea of nudity and it creating a dangerous world seriously need to read up on the twelve Manupuri activists defiantly stripped naked to protest rapes by the Indian Army. Yes. Totally naked, on the street. According to your logic, Manipur would be the rape capital of India. Not true. Statistics show that that one protest was more effective than anything else done so far. And yes, for those who don't know, Manipur IS in India. This is not an imported "neo-feminist farce".

The discomfort is natural when a massive bluff is called. the bluff that women are respected, when they are not. There is similar discomfort around other massive calls to face reality. I see it as a good sign, because the message is reaching, even if it isn't understood yet.

14

No. It is the attitude that is insulting to women. The name is just a word.

We have a lot of tongue wagging happened in our country about naari shakti and such nonsense. Truth is, it is a lot of fragrant air, but when you're walking down the street, that isn't who you are. You ARE "maal", "item", "sexy" (in a lusty, invasive way). No one is looking at you with respect. They are calculating your bra size. They are wondering how they can brush past you so that they can rub themselves against you. There are people scanning the street for eye candy and it isn't about the girl being cheap - it is about entertainment. We women are entertainment for whoever wants to take a mental masturbation trip right there on the road. And the irony is that we are the ones labeled "cheap", "whore", "Besharam", etc.

It is the dirt in the heads of the predators in the society that we are forced to carry. It has nothing to do with clothes. Your mother in her most ordinary clothes has people rubbing their bodies against her in a bus. There are small girls and boys raped. There are communities that will order women raped - for crimes they didn't commit, but their "men" did. There are women who suffer acid attacks for being beautiful. There are women who get violently raped. There are 10 year old girls who get dragged under escaping cars of eve-teasers who get scarred for life. There are accusations that these people invited trouble on themselves.

You have policemen not taking complaints seriously. You have policemen blaming women for the clothes they wore if they get raped, when they know full well it is women in conservative clothes getting raped more. You have eve-teasers enjoying full freedom and the support of silence in a society and you have generations of women unsafe on the streets.

If you think this is naari shakti, you are out of your freaking mind. This is the women of the country being entertainment in a bloodsport. The name reflects that, not a fantasy of how this creep show should be called. And it seems it also makes people angry if this truth is called out. People think you are shameless for the choice of name of your protest. They want you to continue pretending some bullshit concepts that they will go "accha-accha theek hai" and on their way home, see if they are finally able to grab the butt of their neighbour's daughter.

The names are correct because they reflect reality. They are ugly, because they reflect reality. That is our reality - we are ugly with our women, even though we have created some very nice sounding words to cover it up with.

The slutwalk is a protest, not a popularity contest. The idea is not that you like the name we choose, but that you understand why it is so. I hate the name too. Which is exactly why it must stay - the ugly truth slapping our face. If women were respected, the protest would be unnecessary. And so would an ugly name.

Here are some of the prevalent objections I came across about the slutwalk, since I started speaking up in support:

  1. Women parading naked on the streets is going to increase harassment. I have no clue why these depraved minds imagine only naked women, but whatever, that is their imagination, and it can only be countered by reality as it unfolds. However, I refuse to rule out nudity, unlikely as I think it will happen. Whoever thinks it will make things more dangerous needs to study the impact of the activists stripping naked in protest of rapes. It worked better than all previous protests combined. So yeah, they became safer.
  2. Why do you want the women to dress cheaply? I don't want anyone to dress cheaply, but I refuse to label anyone's choice of clothes as cheap.  This is exactly the thinking being questioned. What they wear is their right. I may or may not like their choices, and that is my business. They are not required to pander to my desires. Nor is my  choice somehow more respectable than another's.
  3. Feminists and assorted bold women have made life unsafe for all women. Not true. They have protested what is happening, not created the incidents they protest. As for protesting increasing violence against women.... you'll need to show me some statistics, because I think this is a load of bull shit.
  4. It is useless. Men will not change. This is self-defeating. And it is insulting to our men to call them incapable of doing the decent thing. Not to mention this is outright acceptance of victimization of women. Quoting slightly modified from another post, :"It is an age-old trick to prevent protest by brainwashing/dominating someone into believing it is futile. I hope you see through it... They have been intellectually and emotionally abandoned as animals and unquestioningly pampered for having dicks. No one expects better, so they have no need to think that any change is needed. It is different from not able to change."
  5. The slutwalk trivializes an important issue and damages the women's cause. I am a scientist by nature. I work with observations, not imagination or assumptions. I see this protest already effective because of the amount of reactions it has caused in society. In support, in opposition, in being vocally neutral.... that only happens when a call for change creates turmoil in minds. If it was useless, futile, etc... it wouldn't get so much attention. It would yawn and sink. Also, I fail to see the trivializing. It takes some of the ugliest attitudes of society and puts them on the table - how is that trivial? I think those calling it trivial need to think more about what is happening in the world around them.
  6. I don't support all this victimization of women, I am not a woman. This is irrelevant to me. Dream on, unless you are saying that you don't give a damn that your daughter, sister, wife, mother, girl friend, school teacher, etc are routinely harassed. If you don't support these attitudes, all the more reason for you to walk in support and serve as a role model. Think beyond your couch for once.
  7. It will destroy our society if women start wearing whatever they want. Good morning. Women often wear whatever they want. The idea of the protest is to prevent their victimization for it. I don't see how this will destroy society.
  8. If you think encouraging nudity is.... ever wonder why your mind shorts and is unable to progress beyond the nudity? THAT is what we are protesting. Get the fuck off your obsession with us nude. It is not your business. If it gives you an uncontrollable urge to start raping people, I suggest that you close your eyes tightly that day. Or walk in the protest and learn a more respectful way of being.
  9. I don't think this is the best way... Every way doesn't have to meet your approval. You really need to stop having such a high opinion of yourself that anyone thinking differently cannot be allowed.
  10. I am scared my daughter, wife, etc will suffer at the hands of lecherous spectators of the protest. All the more reason for you to walk along them and keep them safe and endorse their call for dignity.
  11. You call this Satyagraha? You must be joking. Actually, I am not. If the Satyagraha is about the right to insist peacefully and protest injustice, I see this as a far more fundamental satyagraha than a freedom struggle or fight against corruption. It is about the right of women to not be victimized. For children to not be used for sexual attacks. To not be objectified. To not be an entire country's porn projection. It protests hate crimes pretending to be moral policing, repressing half the country's population and spreading moral decay in the pretense of moral superiority.

These are the most common ones picked from tweets, comments, emails and other conversations. If you find more, let's use the comments to get talking about this. The more important ones, I'll add to the post as updates, so people find them easily.