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So, the Delhi Slutwalk/Besharmi Morcha went off peacefully a little more than a week ago – despite opposition from some quarters. 700 people attended, which is not a small number, especially when you consider that this protest was organised by a small group of college students, with little access to mass media or any major campaign support.
I must confess that I was not a big supporter of Slutwalk to begin with. I have no issues at all with the objectives – Blank Noise has been doing excellent work on the same lines – it’s just that I felt the objectives would not be clear to potential participants. To me, the message was first and foremost this: My body is my own, and don’t you dare touch me without my consent. I felt that this message would get diffused as a right to wear ‘revealing’ clothes and be seen as the concern of an elite group. Not that women shouldn’t have the right to wear what we want, but it is not just about clothes – it is about finding any excuse at all to harass women – being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, being out at all – in a country like India, clothes are not the only or first justification used.
Curiously, a lot of the media coverage on Slutwalk Delhi mentions the clothes the participants were wearing – and in a ‘disappointed’ sort of way. Mint says, “…much to the chagrin of cameramen looking for ‘sexy’ footage, the volunteers were dressed conservatively in loose-fitting T-Shirts with the logo, ‘SlutWalk arthaat Besharmi Morcha 2011’, printed across.” One has to ask, t-shirts are “conservative” by whose standards? The judgement could have been skipped, methinks.
The Hindu is among the newspapers with a more neutral report on Slutwalk. The TOI report too was quite balanced – even though it mentions the lack of ‘skimpy clothes’, at least it has enough on the actual events at the protest. As for the Hindustan Times, while it’s Slutwalk report focuses on the event, they actually have a photo slideshow of participants called Delhi Slutwalk Style Parade – unbelievable, you’d think but no!
IBN says, “The general notion that went around was that women will be dressed skimpy and revealing clothes as was the trend in other editions of the walk. But ‘Besharmi Morcha’ saw women strutting the streets carrying off the usual plain look wearing simple jeans-shirts, salwar-kurta and shirts.” DNA says, “The rally was held amid tight security but unlike in other parts of the world, women participants didn’t dress provocatively here.” The Indian Express uses similiar language about provocative clothing.
Dear Journalists, Slutwalk was not about “dressing provocatively”. Slutwalk worldwide was about women’s right to live safe and unharassed – and women wore many different kinds of clothes at protests around the world. There is a fantastic blogpost here, This is what a slutwalk looks like, that documents the diversity of people and clothing at rallies around the world.
And finally, don’t our journalists see the irony of using language like ‘dress provocatively’ when reporting on a rally where the whole point is that it is criminals who attack, not victims or clothing that ‘provokes’?
Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas
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