Attended by about 15 young people, mostly students, the workshop began with a mapping exercise where participants were asked to place categories of city dwellers where they would 'most likely' be found on a neighbourhood map provided, at a time of day stated. The resource persons then asked participants to justify why they had placed the 'single woman' there, or the 'group of teenage boys' in the other place. This led neatly into a discussion of why women don't like to be (or to be seen) in ceratin places. As one of the participants put it "Every action of ours is judged and commented on." Interestingly, the issues that came up in the discussion crystallised around the notion of 'perception' -- a middle class girl's reaction to being looked at by men depends largely on what 'class' she perceives them to belong to -- and the accompanying preconceptions she harbours, and vice versa. Women waiting alone tend to use 'props' of various kinds -- phones, large bags, books, etc. to 'legitimise' their occupying public space and to make it clear that they have a 'purpose'! The participants then played a game of 'take A Stand' where they tried to win people over to their side while taking opposing views on an issue.
Shilpa and Sameera talked about 'denaturalising' definitions -- the definition of slut, for example; or feminism. Interspersed with more map drawing and readings from the book, the workshop wound its way -- loitered on...? -- around discussions on inclusive urban and building design, gender-based differences on the notion of safety, how media resports issues, what recourse women and men have when threatened, socio-economic class and access to public spaces etc. With participants sharing their own stories and experiences, and with several participants having already read the book 'Why Loiter?' the discussions were nuanced and challenging.
Open Space is grateful to IMDR for providing us space to hold this workshop.