Saturday, November 18, 2006

fe-male, part one

One Sunday evening, I took two of my girls out so we could reclaim our streets.
Were you there?

It's been six days since that memorable evening. It took me that long to get around to writing about it. Sometimes things fill your head up so completely and so conflictingly, that you need to take time out just to get all your feelings in order. I came home Sunday night and sat in front of the computer for half an hour before I realized I wasn't going to be writing anything about it just then.

There were only the three of us that afternoon; my sister, my niece and I (16-18-21; 21 till Monday, anyway :) )
We walked down to Brigade road from Union Street, two long girls and their dumpy escort; step-walking "Ginger" on the footpath. We ate at McDonald's and slipped over to Pecos and then walked along to India Coffee /House half an hour early.
And my own long girl ate eggs while I had a coffee and thought of the three other times I'd been there before.

And one by one all the others came, and then followed the introductions and the instructions and the vegetable cutlets. We folded up testimonials from women who'd written in to the Blank Noise Project back in March. We spoke about why we were there. Everyone said the same things - "we felt we needed to be a part of this", they said. My sister made a little speech that showed how young she was, and how impressionable; while I sat thinking of the things that brought people together.

We went out half an hour before the intervention was to take place to try and spread the message around. We were to hand out those letters to women on the street; letters that began with incidents of sexual harassment in the street actually experienced - leering, pinching, stroking, exposing; and which ended: "If you know what I'm talking about, come join us on the railing on Brigade Road between five thirty and six thirty today."

Just giving out those letters was a revelation. I walked along the street, uncomfortably conscious of exposed calves and emphasized bosom. I walked along with thirty folded letters in my hands, looking for women to give them to. I never imagined how hard it would be. So many women simply put a hand out and said "No"; every Caucasian I asked did it, and I was torn between shame and anger.
A pretty girl walked along with her head down as men around her gave second glances, and I tried to give her a letter. I knew she wouldn't take one, though; from the beginning I'd known it; and all I could think was, You're one of the people this is for.

I discovered a way to make people take the letters instead of dismissing them as flyers and petitions.
I don't care if you take this or not, I told them silently. I'm just wandering along this road slightly inappropriately dressed; and I'm not going to stand here waiting to see if you read what I'm giving you. This isn't a request for money. This is just a letter I'm going to slip into your hand on my way to somewhere more important I have to be.
I told them all this in my head, and then I gave them each a letter as I passed them; casually handed it to them as I walked on by. "Just take a look at this", I'd say as I handed it to them, and then I'd be gone, on my way.
I don't know how many of those letters were read and how many ended up on the footpath.

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