Women’s experiences of reclaiming public spaces has been historically very finite and minimal but whatever it has been and howsoever it came into being, it must be held dear to all our hearts, celebrated as collective efforts of weaving love, sisterhood, solidarity and treasured as acts of immense political significance which will threaten the entire set-up of patriarchy. Women Walk At Midnight is one such effort by a women’s collective which organizes midnight walks in different cities of our country. For them, what remains constant in all of these walks is the desire to interact with the city and the company of different women who make it a fun experience to walk during the night. They carry with themselves poetries of rebellion, songs of freedom and a sense of political assertion of their identities.
The configuration of patriarchy works best by putting restrictions on female sexuality which in turn is checked by putting restrictions on female mobility in different places at different times of the day. While society continue to reiterate men will be men, women sit locked up inside their rooms in denial of their basic needs to walk past the lanes opposite their homes or even look around to feel and comprehend the world in moonlit silence.
Reclaiming the night through marches have happened across the world, wherein women have come out on streets at night in resistance to protest against rampant instances of sexual harassment and to demonstrate that women united can resist fear and violence. Under the web of safety, patriarchy is let to thrive to maintain the social order which will continue to oppress women. However, women have realised this in different parts of the world and decided to rise against it in rage, in desire of love and freedom.
While society continue to reiterate men will be men, women sit locked up inside their rooms in denial of their basic needs to walk past the lanes opposite their homes or even look around to feel and comprehend the world in moonlit silence.
“The gaze on the mass of women traversing the city at a time and place that they are not ‘supposed’ to be, by onlookers, to my mind mimics the act of taking the stage, for people to see. Of course, one hopes that this will, one day, not be a jaw dropping spectacle for the city, that we will just be in our city, our home,” writes Mallika Taneja one of the team members of Women Walk at Midnight. Women are always told to be cautious and observant at night. These are all ways by which society creates the rhetoric of safety and regulates women’s movement and hence, any fight for freedom must include the fight for the freedom of movement first.
After the brutal rape and murder of Jyoti Pandey, the country was enraged and hundreds of people came out on streets to walk in protest, in mourning and in ire. Mallika recalls that she walked from JNU to Munirka wherein stage were set up for performances and Maya Krishna Rao performed the piece ‘Walk’. That performance kind of stayed with her and she understood the politics of walking and the significance of it in these times.
For them it is about building a community for a women only space where women can roam around, sing, act, love, share, exist and access the night free of uncomfortable gazes that tells them their ‘supposed’ limitations.
“We’re looking at centuries of regressive partriarchal ideology that has seeped into our behaviour, our policies, our city planning, structures and so much more that adds up to impact women’s experiences in the city. And there is no singular experience of being a woman in the city. To some women it is difficult to walk at night, to some it is terrifying and to several others, unimaginable!,” says a team member of Women walk at Midnight.
For them it is about building a community for a women only space where women can roam around, sing, act, love, share, exist and access the night free of uncomfortable gazes that tells them their ‘supposed’ limitations. Delhi is the place where most of their walks happen. Sometimes it happens in Bangalore too. “The walks are now run by a team of women and so, it is changing shape, form and sprouting in other cities. Each walk comes with its own set of experiences, but it’s interesting to see all of it come together,” says Women walk at Midnight.
They started September with a walk in Bangalore and they have another walk coming up in Malviya Nagar! Sometimes there are only four women, sometimes it can go upto 10-15 which depends on various circumstances, however when women walk together, they never fail to derive strength for one another. How peacefully threatening it must would have been for this patriarchal society to see women organizing, confiding in one another, dancing and looking at moon in the middle of the night at the streets you never let them loiter?
You can find and follow them on their Instagram page.
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