Citizen Matters and Just Femme organised a panel discussion on ‘Making Bengaluru women-friendly‘ at the pEtE Maatu film festival last weekend.
At the discussion, panelists engaged the audience with passion and assertion. Cutting across view points, almost all panelists laced their words with their own experiences and that made the entire interaction real and on the ground, as opposed an academic dialogue.
However one issue that did emerge and did not get enough attention was the gap between the author panelist C K Meena and fellow panelists Deepika Nagabushan and Siri Srinivas. Deepika and Siri are youngsters in their twenties. Meena, with good response from the audience, asked young Bengaluru women to stop complaining, ‘get with it’ and ‘poke male abusers with an umbrella when they misbehaved’. She also pointed out that ‘there were men and men’ and that society at large was not full of saints.
Deepika and Siri on the other hand, were challenging the status quo itself. They felt they had a right to not have to be worried about such behaviour itself. They felt that it was simply not acceptable to be fondled, touched, groped and more, independent of whether a girl was particularly vulnerable to it or otherwise. They challenged that on the face of it. Siri for example pointed out that the only reason she felt safe in Bengaluru was that she had wired her outdoor life and timing to ensure safety, which in effect meant loss of some freedom.
Cities in particular are expected to afford women more freedom, said filmmaker-journalist Prakash Belawadi at the same event.
That this difference in views between the likes of Meena and Deepika-Siri showed up in a public discussion at ‘modern’ Bengaluru, tells us one thing: There is a split in current-day womens’ perceptions on the matter, even in cities. Some women are not seeing this as a problem to resolved, perhaps because they have internalised their experiences so deeply. They expect to be pawed, hit back if they can, and try to live with it.
But is that really an acceptable status quo? ⊕