Vinayak has been very busy with his work as a curator for a photo exhibition on Fear and Gender at 1 Shanti Road in collaboration with Shrishti School of Design. Endless discussions with him over our morning cup of tea opened my eyes to views of so many men I hang out with or men I see all around me. Opinions like a girl in jeans can’t be taken home, a respectable girl should not go to a pub, essentially a local wine shop which is frequented by men from all sections of society.
The objective of this event was to showcase and create awareness about places which are off limit to women because there is a fear element attached to it. Places like deserted roads, alleys, paan shops, wine shops, meat shops, places where women in particular will not feel safe.
This event is on till 2nd Feb at 1 Shanti Road, Bangalore and I happened to go there yesterday. What really caught my attention were these strips of fabric on which comments from the “aam janta” were scribbled and to which some paper pieces with drawings also hung. The scribbles were hilarious to apathetic. 1 read, “Aurat itni sundar hai ki uski izzat nahi kar sakte hai.” “Women are so pretty that one cant respect them.” For most men the idea of an ideal woman was their mother and then I quipped, “if all women became mother figures would there be no rapes any more?” I guess the answer will still be “NO” . There would still be rapes because rape, molestation is not where lust leads you to. Rape is a sport for thrill and vengeance seekers. Its like a hunting sport where you hunt a tiger for thrill and machismo and not for its meat.
Anyway, coming back to the event, as I was talking about the scribbles; most of which were written by men who we see everyday. According to them they were ok with a saree clad woman but they can’t bring a girl home who wore a jeans, another one read, “they would want to teach lessons to woman who disrespect the culture”. Now this brings me to another question, “What is culture?” I read in my days of learning Sociology that culture includes everything that surrounds a human, from the food he eats to the electronic gadgets that he uses. But I guess for most of us culture is synonymous to Morality. Makeup, western clothes, freedom of choice and movement perhaps are all immoral acts that is why the Mangalore incident happened and will keep happening. I don’t know if men feel threatened when they see girls moving about freely without fearing their presence. Most of the Indian men have been accused of sexual deprivation which is why their sexual maturity is that of an adolescent. But the question is why is it such a taboo. On one hand we talk about mother being the ideal woman for most men and on the other hand they cant keep their eyes off a girl who is skimpily dressed. Its like they dream of biting into a succulent chicken leg while they are chewing a drumstick in their sambhar.
I guess fear is a means to control. Fear of being raped, being groped, fear of being called a bad woman are all tools to make sure that woman remain in the confines of what is accepted by the social norms as set by people to suit their convenience.
Vinayak suggested that more interventions are needed at these off limit places so that girl don’t fear these places anymore. My take is; girls should start frequenting all such so called No No places so that men become used to seeing them everywhere. Getting used to something acts as a great immune booster. Its like homeopathy treatment. Use the same poison to kill the poison.
The above painting was made by me as my interpretation of this concept of Fear and Gender. The painting is semi abstract and metaphorical in nature. Acrylic on Canvas. With a woman’s womb on the left and a man’s penis on the right with fangs all ready to bite. There are hands all over which are like the people of the social realm that we live in. I have used different colours on the hand to show different classes of people. The black outline is a symbol of the strong demarcation that society has, the clear rules of do’s and don’ts. The eyes on the hand all facing the woman are like vigilant moral policing to make sure women don’t deviate from their set path. The snake and the apples are like biblical interpretation of the same idea. Religion also plays its role in making sure woman are made to follow rules. It is blamed on the woman to lure the man with the apple but I feel the apples which I have depicted as breast would have lured men nevertheless because a woman does not need to lure a man with anything she is born with it. To be blamed for every wrong that a man does to her.