I’d be lying if I said that an uneasy feeling of being watched, observed and objectified does not follow me around no matter where I go and what I wear. And, sadly, I’m not alone. Facebook feeds were flooded with #MeToo posts last year - an uncomfortable, yet an extremely important reminder of how rampant sexual assault is; not just in India, but globally. Hyper-normalised and spoken about in hushed tones (if at all), this movement was significant because it was a powerful ‘fuck-you’ to the epidemic of “Log kya kahenge”. However, there’s a long way to go before we have similar meaningful dialogues about consent and a woman’s right to her own body and sexuality.
For instance, a few months ago the streets of Mumbai were flooded with vivid pink posters stating a very harsh, bold and uncomfortable truth - “A Woman Was Harassed Here”. ‘The Pink Posters’ began as a street art project led by Aqui Thama - one half of the Dharavi Art Project - and she used art to start a conversation about harassment and the illusion of safe spaces for women, both literally and metaphorically, in our society today. These hard-hitting posters marked areas in Mumbai where Aqui, or the women she knows, have experienced harassment - pretty much all over the city. Instead of initiating a conversation, the initiative faced immediate disapproval from a society that so often turns a blind eye to this harsh reality, and the posters were taken down.
That’s when Delhi-based fashion house and cultural platform NorBlack NorWhite (NBNW) intervened. Dior’s “We should all be feminist” collection and the all-black dress code (embellished with #TimesUp pins) at the Golden Globes this year emphasized all the wonderful ways in which fashion can become a tool of awareness and solidarity. Since its inception, NorBlack NorWhite has remained steadfast in its mission of ‘re-defining the stereotypes around a contemporary India’. From the streets to the tees, the conscientious label has created a capsule collection that features three designs in support of ‘The Pink Posters’ movement - one plain white T-shirt with a pink poster printed on it, one emblazoned with ‘A Woman Was Harassed Here’, and one with the same message in Hindi.
With this collaboration, they are encouraging women to stand up, speak up and tell their stories, not in hushed whispers but a loud, deafening roar that is near-impossible to ignore. The funds raised through the sales will support the efforts and cause of Dharavi Art Room that uses art as a tool for children and women to empower themselves – never asking for permission, never restricting their immense potential.
“This collaboration allows my work to be in spaces where the posters cannot be, addressing the same issue at its heart and dismantling it. My posters in the street were not tolerated for even half a day, but the t-shirts will not be removed,” stated Thami. On the road to raising awareness about the global sexual harassment and rape epidemic, NBNW also looped in Madam Gandhi, an electronic music artist and activist who writes music that encourages and celebrates the female voice, who wore the t-shirt at her shows in India.
Now more than ever, it is important to break the silence and create a safe place where women can exist without feeling threatened, whether it’s at the workplace, pitch-black gullies after hours and even our own homes. It is necessary for young girls and boys to know that this is not just how it is, nor how it is supposed to be.
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