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Why Loiter? Loiter without purpose and meaning Loiter without being asked what time of the day it is why we are here what we are wearing and whom we are with That is when we will truly belong to the city and the city to us 188We believe that it is only by claiming the right to risk that women can truly claim citizenship To do this we need to redefine our understanding of violence in relation to public space to see not sexual assault but the denial of access to public space as the worst possible outcome for women viii ixWe also need to recognize another kind of risk the risk should women choose not to access public space than minimally of loss of opportunity to engage city spaces and the loss of experience of public spaces It also includes the risk of accepting the gendered status hierarchies of access to public space and in doing so reinforcing them 61This book written by three Indian women about women's public lives in Mumbai is a call to action Mumbai is often extolled as the most forward thinking city in India in terms of women's rights and public access and was therefore the perfect setting for the authors to show how the most modern city in India for women is still not good enough They argue that the women in Mumbai may appear to be modern and brazen but they actually operate according to very specific internal and external rules that negotiate how and when and where they may access the city These rules are created as the result of fear of both physical violence and damage to reputation Focusing on the safety of women as reason to keep them off the streets however harms women in a subtle but far reaching way First it promotes the idea that a women should be able to keep herself from harm and thus any harm she comes to is the result of her own lack of judgment Second it removes responsibility from the city itself to create infrastructure that supports women in public thus allowing the city to remain a hostile environment Third it neglects entirely the right of women to enjoy themselves in public in any way they see fit to have fun as the authors simply put itI bought this book in a shop in Mumbai while I was visiting the city This was my first experience of India My husband and I were there for his work for two weeks and I had my days free to explore on my own I had read all the warnings for solo women travelers in India and I was prepared for stares catcalls groping you name it What I was unprepared for was the overwhelming number of men on the streets relative to women As I ventured out on my first day alone I saw men everywhere; men idling on street corners men walking in packs men napping in their rickshaws men eating at roadside stands men stepping out of their sidewalk shanties wearing just a towel men sitting in their shop fronts men watching passersby I saw a few women it's true There was the wrinkled and skinny old woman in a sari picking through the garbage; there was the matronly woman walking with her child wearing it's tiny schoolbag on her shoulder; there was a woman who helped me find what I was looking for in the grocery store; there was even a woman about my age in western clothes heading into a maze of housing alleys that I had just gotten lost in Surely there were a few women on the streets but I counted them in individualities instead of types and I felt as if all the eyes I caught looking at me were maleIn discussing and researching this phenomenon with a friend in my first week I found a reference to this book and when I saw it a few days later in a bookstore I picked it up I finished reading it on the plane ride home As a religious conservative and political liberal I was both repelled and drawn in by the rhetoric of rebellion I found that I had to keep reminding myself that it was about India a very different culture than my own or I would take issue with the curt dismissal of family and religious values In my life the rules I was raised with protected me not from the physical violence of a hostile city but from the harsh realities of poor choices The authors' experience of this type of conservatism was drenched in the negativity of victim blaming and the heavy one sided responsibility of family honor Choice had little to do with it; women's personal freedoms hadn't extended that far One other point that I struggled with was the implication that sexual violence is eual to other physical violence This is never explicitly stated but neither it is acknowledged that the risk of sexual violence is a laden risk than the risk of other physical violence The authors' discussion of risk rests mainly on reputation; men run the risk of violence in the city too but for men an assault is just an assaulttheir social status will remain unaffected 59 On the other hand even when women are not assaultedbeing seen in public spacecould adversely affect not just their own reputation but also that of their families 59 The book suggests that choosing to take risks even of possible sexual violence in public spaces undermines a sexist structure where women's virtue is prized over their desires or agency 60 In other words the greater fear of sexual violence towards women than other physical violence towards men is a relic of antiuated values that value female virginity I suppose I had always suspected that sexual violence was worse than just being beaten up not because it deprived me of my virtue but because it was a deeper personal violation of my self my body and my expression of love in a way that other physical violence never could touch Perhaps this not true; may I never find out Perhaps the rights being fought for in this battle for risk are entirely worth the sacrifice Either way it is an interesting departure and one that left me with a strange aftertasteThe wonderful thing about this book is its frank and practical discussion of urban planning in regards to creating a safe environment for all of the inhabitants of the urban space The authors had conducted a research study called the Gender and Space project discussing the ways that disadvantaged demographics mainly but not solely women utilized the city The research results deviate from urban planning orthodoxy; design for beautification often neglects comfort and safety and measures to keep out undesirables often results in blocking access for desirables as well In Mumbai specifically the streets crowded with sidewalk shanties design horror are busy and lit and filled with the sounds of families at night making them an instinctively safer path for women walking alone at night than sidewalks leading past clean new buildings whose sleek and modern lines turn forbidding and too uiet in the dark Simply the existence of well lit parks with benches and without tall corralling fences and the installation of clean well lit unlocked at night female public toilets would go a long way towards making the city inviting to women and discouraging situations where women get harrassed 98 The last section in the book is devoted to a discussion of the ways that different female demographics can pursue pleasure and fun in the city and how the pursuit of fun is a fundamental right The authors push back on the idea that women can't ask for than the basic survival freedoms they already have and argue that women aren't truly eual in a society that denies them fun There are a couple over simplified moralizing moments such as stereotyping women who have left careers for motherhood and there is a welcome slackening of the call to Rebellion when discussing the sensitive and valid because they are Other? religious beliefs of the Muslim community Again I needed to remind myself that the women in India are operating under a different level of protectionism than I ever did regardless of my conservative religious upbringing It is not our intention to romanticize risk itself the authors argue 61 but they come close when they ask uestions such as Is it possible for good girls to have fun? and the follow up Is the answer then to be 'bad' girls? 169 70 I think their point is to highlight the undesirable cultural bias around the labels good girl and bad girl but there also seems to be direct encouragement to disregard parental strictures as the outdated morals of a clinging and dangerous patriarchyThis book was a highly engaging and worthwhile read that challenged many of my assumptions both about the nature of women's rights struggles around the world and about the value of risk vs protectionism I think that the argument of this book We believe that it is only by claiming the right to risk that women can truly claim citizenship would prove unspectacular in America but I believe that it is a powerful stance in the India of today i’ve never read a book that encompasses the GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS vibe Phenomenal The ideas presented in the book are phenomenal and the arguments made are impressive It's very recently that feminists have taken up subjects of female pleasure and most of it confines itself to sexual pleasure But why confine pleasure to just sexual pleasure? Loitering as kind of pleasure is rarely given much due and moving around without purpose is still uestionedAlthough the book speaks about women's freedom to loiter it at no point disregards others' access to public space including the so called predators The premise of the book is very inclusive becuase no one group can claim access for itself without claiming it for all others An excellent book well researched and thought provoking The idea that women have a right to take risks to loiter and denying them that is to deny them citizenship is truly commendable The book also argues that keeping women 'safe' in sheltered spaces limiting their access to public spaces is a kind of violence similar to the kind they may face otherwise As an Indian woman brought up in Mumbai I could definitely identify with all the points raised A must read for sure Why doing nothing is a radical act for India's women – photo essay‘Leisure is a feminist issue’ says Surabhi Yadav whose photography project captures carefree moments of women around herby Jessie McDonaldMain image A group of women on an outing to a sacred tree Photograph Courtesy of Surabhi YadavThu 17 Sep 2020 Surabhi Yadav’s mother Basanti died Yadav realised she had never really known her “I knew her as my mother but nothing else” she says “I asked one of her friend’s how she remembered her and she told me ‘She was the funniest and goofiest in our group’ Those were not words I associated with my mother I thought of her as a very serious person”Her father was the “funny one” she thought although her mother never appreciated his humour “Now as an adult I understand that part of it is that my father’s jokes were often sexist often at her expense” Ruchika climbing trees Venu enjoys her time at a picnic with her friend SunilRuchika hangs from a tree while Venu and her friend Sunil have fun at a picnicIt was a way of imagining things her mother might have enjoyed and expressing regret at what she might have missed that led Yadav 30 to start photographing the carefree moments of women around her women hanging upside down from trees enjoying ice lollies dancing applying hennaThe growing collection of photos – of friends family and strangers – became the Basanti women at leisure project “Basanti my mother’s name means ‘spring’ a time that allows flourishing I think leisure does exactly that”Shot on Yadav’s phone the photos are decidedly ordinary “One person uipped that there is nothing special about this project It has photos of such ordinary moments To that I emphatically agree” she says“But just because it is ordinary doesn’t mean it’s accessible to most “Time is a feminist issue Leisure is a feminist issue It essentially tells you who can afford it It’s a reflection of your social and economic standingWomen enjoying their time together at a Hindu festival Hartalika TeejSociologist Shilpa Phadke agrees The co author of Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets which celebrates loitering as a radical act says “Leisure or perhaps importantly the possibility of just doing nothing especially in public is a deeply feminist issue It indicates a claim to the city the right to be out for fun to hang out to belong to the city”More people are fighting for that right she adds Across south Asia feminist movements such as Blank Noise Girls at Dhabas Pinjra Tod and the Why Loiter? campaign are demanding greater access to public spaces for women and nonbinary peopleTalk of oppression freedom and rights usually centres around big violent issues says Yadav “What we don’t often talk about is that oppression works in everyday mundane things It is driven by controlling what you eat who you talk to who you love how you love If oppression is about curtailing freedom of being then I feel leisure is such a good answer to that”Women singing at night to celebrate Janmasthami a Hindu festival celebrating Krishna’s birth Right Rinki tries to learn English by reading a novelLack of leisure time is often felt acutely by rural women she adds Basanti’s work managing a household of six in Khargone a small town in Madhya Pradesh central India was largely taken for grantedIt’s a familiar narrative Around the world women do three times cooking cleaning and caring for relatives than men A 2014 study found that women in India averaged six hours of unpaid work a day compared with 36 minutes for men Sushma a teacher spends time with her family Sneha applies a face mask for her partner Sourabh Pooja hennas Alka’s hairSushma a teacher spends time with her family; Sneha applies a face mask for her partner Sourabh; Pooja hennas Alka’s hair“The economy never ceases to reuire labour by women” says Prof Savita Singh a feminist poet and theorist at Indira Gandhi National Open University Delhi “You have to nurture your children your husband your husband’s family“Then there is the additional factor of caste If you’re a Dalit it is very hard You are supposed to be slaving all the time in the most punishing way But even middle class women are not released from domestic burdens from the importance of educating and bringing up children ‘Good’ women work to have a ‘good’ family”Religion played a role in creating leisure time for women in Yadev’s community “It would not be common to see a group of women sitting in a courtyard in a village like men do all the time – they sit outside and talk in the middle of the day But on religious occasions you would see them women sitting under sacred trees talking and singing” she says “Women would come together and make food for everyone for special occasions It’s a lot of work but there’s so much singing and dancing involved Preparing for a funeral feastDespite the “overwhelmingly” positive response a few people were concerned that some of the photos glorify religious practices that simultaneously burden women with societal expectations“They also uestioned if it should be even considered leisure when women are shown working hard in kitchens or managing households – succumbing to gender stereotypes” says Yadav“I have to gently remind them that I can’t enter someone else’s context with the righteousness of ‘my feminism is better than theirs’ or my judgment on what is ‘real’ leisure Listening to someone else’s narrative about their freedom is my feminist principle to live by” Taking time out on the stairs of a fort Rinki works on her eyebrows during lockdown Sushma and Asha catch up Ice cream on a hot summer afternoonTaking time out on the stairs of an old fort; Rinki works on her eyebrows during lockdown; Sushma and Asha catch up before it’s time to cook the evening meal; ice cream on a hot summer afternoonYadav’s life is “poles apart” from her mother’s She was the first person in her village to go to university – she studied at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and UC Berkeley California – or travel abroad She recently founded a social enterprise creating employment opportunities for young women and transgender people in rural India Sajhe Sapne“My life is way freer than my mother’s I read a lot I write a lot I travel a lot My mother did none of that“If I was paying attention I don’t know what I would have known about her The I grow up and the I see myself as a woman the I miss her” Insightful Presenting an original take on women’s safety in the cities of twenty first century India Why Loiter maps the exclusions and negotiations that women from different classes and communities encounter in the nation’s urban public spacesBasing this book on than three years of research in Mumbai Shilpa Phadke Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade argue that though women’s access to urban public space has increased they still do not have an eual claim to public space in the city And they raise the uestion can women’s access to public space be viewed in isolation from that of other marginal groupsGoing beyond the problem of the real and implied risks associated with women’s presence in public they draw from feminist theory to argue that only by celebrating loitering—a radical act for most Indian women—can a truly eual global city be created a very beautifully worded work clear and precise and on the spot on narrating how women have to use the public spaces world over

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