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Genderlog @genderlogindia
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I am not going to kick-off or start-off or begin the topic of this week. :p I am going to dwell, rustle, ripple, dance, dive, feel, caress, breathe through it. Everyday moments as Feminist Spaces. 1/n
Many years back, I was living in the South Indian city of Coimbatore. I was teaching at a University there after returning from United States. I was a solo woman in her late-thirties, living alone. In the campus, I was the only such woman that I knew of. 2/n
I sensed the difference acutely. During weekends I would travel to the main city (I was living in the outskirts) to watch a movie and eat out. At the restaurants, I was often the only woman eating alone. 3/n
The attendants used to ask if I was expecting someone, families nearby sometimes turned around to watch me eat alone. Even if nobody asked/stared, I was acutely aware that I was different and uncomfortable. My brain did the fill-in-the-blanks. 4/n
I was miserable and angry. I felt like a burden on the space, an intrusion. I am not sure exactly when that changed but it did. And this is how it did. 5/n
Instead of allowing myself to be the object of other's gaze (in my mind), I became the witness/storyteller of other people/beings moments. I turned outwards. 6/n
I had training in ethnographic research and I had practice in entering and being with persons of other cultures, of observing, of being open, of self-reflexivity, and being curious. 7/n
I activated my ethnographer-persona. Except that now I had no research agenda. No specific thing I was looking for. I was simply present to others. 8/n
What emerged in that process, in my openness to be present for others, was my own beliefs of Utopia -- an ability to hold the other sacred, to search for what is beautiful, to connect sans social categories, at least in that moment of experience. 9/n
What emerged without me realising it at that time, that when I lifted my face, turned outwards, and received the world, I had ceased to give others power over how I lived or what I did. I was now in joy and I was doing certain things easily. 10/n
For example, I started to visit restaurants gleefully, hoping interesting people would walk in and do interesting things. When there was no customers, the attendants, the ones who swept the floor or tables, cash clerks/managers all became an area of curiosity. 11/n
And because I was curious, I sat differently, I positioned my seat differently, I looked differently. It had an effect. Folks began to warm up easily to me. I could make friends with anyone I chose within few minutes. 12/n
Curiosity is a wonderful quality. It is the quality of a toddler, of an infant. Just before we were told/given other messages. Just before we began to develop our beliefs of right and wrong, dos and don'ts. 13/n
Curiosity comes from a space of power. I can be curious about you only when I am not afraid of you, threatened by you, intimidated by you. I can be curious when I have nothing to prove to you, nothing tangible to benefit except perhaps future possibilities. 14/n
For me being curious also ended mind-chatter, the negative self-talk. I was free of the moments when the society/culture/customs invaded my inner recess. Instead I had stepped into a different role -- that of a storyteller. 15/n
Over the years, I honed the skills of being present, of being a joyful and compassionate witness and most easily I began to reclaim spaces. 16/n
I was travelling often now. No, not to far off cities or countries. But travelling sometimes just in the road outside my home, or to tea shop just outside the campus, sometimes from across my window, sometimes in buses/trains and sometimes in bus-stands and train stations. 17/n
I was travelling in my backyard. I was travelling my home, my heart, my being. 18/n
You see, irrespective of who says what, does what, demands what, ignores how, castigates how, fixes how, this moment, this very moment-- I can choose how I plan to feel and what I want to attend to in the world around me. And in this moment, I am free. 19/n
My first bachelor's degree was in Zoology (we studied a bit of physiology on the way). Then I diverted to humanities. Whereas I have experienced benefits of each area of study, I am sad they are segregated. 20/n
At the centre of each of our universe is Us. Us in this human body. The bodies are different but I assume all of us have some common level of brain and heart function, some level of body function that allows us to sensorily experience the world, process and interpret it, 21/n
Brain is a feminist organ. 22/n
When I examined it-- the neural circuits, the different parts of the organ, the cells-- and the "I" that both shapes it and is shaped by what it processes, I found that it is a wonderful space where I could enact revolution. 23/n
And that I could use the brain process and my ethnographer training to engage with the world radically. Over the coming week, I will showcase some of the ways I did that and share some stories. 24/n
In the meantime, if you have stories to share on the theme "Everyday moments as Feminist Spaces", please tweet them to this handle.
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