Panel Discussion: Gender, Risk & Public Space; Date: 22nd March, 2015; Time: 14:00 @Paradigm Shift
In their ideal, cities allow the reimagining of selves, expanding the reach and grasp of one’s hopes. This is, however, a deeply gendered story.Spaces within the city present themselves differently depending on one’s gender or even just perceptions of it.Public spaces become conditionally public, marked by risks of violence that shape any negotiation (chosen or imposed) of mobility and freedom. This violence must be understood not just as spectacular incidents of sexual violence but as a set of everyday practices ranging from socio-cultural norms on honour and shame to legal codes against those who use public space as spaces of work and life, among others. In all of these, gender never acts alone – its intersections with class, caste, ethnicity, religion, ability and age, among others, together shape and determine the experience of men, women, and transgender people.
Particularly lately, notions of “safety” and “security” have come to dominate discussions on gendering the Indian city, underlined by tales of often horrific, but just as equally everyday,sexual harassment and violence. These are undoubtedly critical discussions. Yet it is imperative that they not be had in isolation. Feminist and queer politics have both long challenged the assumptions of the “menacing” public and the “safe” private, arguing against both ends of a false dichotomy as well as any easy delineation between the “public” and the “private” in the first place. They have shown that the slip from “safety” to deeply patriarchal constructions of honour and shame is a quick one, and that in the name of “protection,” different forms of violence emerge in their own right. They have reminded us that gender is irreducible to neat categories of “men” and “women.”
The conversation on safety has silenced many other conversations: on access, use, risk, and pleasure. The risk of encountering violence, especially on account of one’s gender, is used to justify the narrowing of the choices we make when living in a city. One is advised to keep safety in mind all the time; we strategize our comportment, clothing, work, living spaces and leisure activities with respect to safety. Each of us has a different ability and privilege to do so. Yet where in this imagination of a safe city is an imagination of equal access to space, of questions of equity and power as well as safety? Does the avoidance of risk inadvertently result in the perpetuation of unsafe cities? There is a case to be made for the subversion of such narratives and practices of safety, for moving past threats of violence and threats to honour, towards seeing risk as a choice that is willingly taken. What then does it mean to court risk in spite of gender barriers to public space, and how does courting risk also transform our public spaces?
Courting Risk- Gender, Public Space and Freedom is a three day inquiry into exploring notions of equity, access, risk, pleasure and violence in the contemporary Indian city.
Panel Discussion at Paradigm Shift is a part of the three day series. A panel of local experts will be exploring public space and how the risk of gendered violence produces conditional access to public space.
We on behalf of Institute for Human Settlements Trust & Paradigm Shift invite you for the panel discussion.
Date: 22nd March, 2015
Venue: Paradigm Shift, 3rd Floor, 8, Above GKB Opticals, 80 Feet Road, Koramangala-4th Block, Near Sony Signal, Bangalore-34