The Show Goes On But Can It Be Better?

In the last week, a young woman accused Shamir Reuben, a popular male poet, of trying to elicit nude pictures from her. The case has hit news headlines, caused a lot of shock, outrage, accusations, defensive statements and more in the poetry community in Mumbai. Since then, there have been other accusations and statements.

Soliciting nude pictures may be a socially taboo topic of discussion. But it’s not strictly speaking, illegal. The young woman says she was underage at the time though, which is what takes this into the realm of a crime.

The accused is a well-known face on the local Spoken Word/poetry scene. But this scene is a young one and still new to the limelight which has caused an outpouring of ‘I didn’t even know who this guy was until yesterday so why are they calling him famous?’ How well-known a person is or perceived to be, has nothing to do with the incident. Or does it? Shamir’s social currency as a known poet and a senior person in his company makes this an imbalance of power, with regards to the victim (who was a student and a new poet on the scene then). Harassment and abuse can both only happen in a situation where there is an imbalance of power/privilege. Her age and gender also make this complicated since articulating NO or even the fact that she was asked something she should not have – are difficult.

Shamir has been much admired for his work and his feminist viewpoints. This makes it a hard accusation to digest but also an easy one to turn into outrage. This uncontained mess of emotions has resulted in one of his female friends being harangued to the point of trolling, for her feminist views while having been friends with him. The meninist brigade is screaming for proof and about not ruining the man’s life. Blame and shame are being rained on everyone around with proportionately defensive reactions. We seem to be losing sight of the issue on hand, which is that a minor was asked and possibly coerced to send nude pictures.

I know Shamir slightly, having met him once and having admired his work often. Because this is happening in the space I frequent and love, this bothers me, yes. But perhaps because I cannot claim to be a close friend and also possibly because of the harassment I’ve faced as a woman through the last year and half, I’m not as shaken. I am relieved that we are finally talking about it, even as I’m saddened that an underage girl had to be harassed for the poetry circle to take cognizance of the issue.

I’ve been part of a number of discussions in the past few days about power, privilege, consent, harassment, abuse and more. It’s been hard, trying to keep my thoughts straight while respecting everyone concerned (because make no mistake, every human being deserves that) and also not adding to the uproar.

I was quoted in a Mumbai Mirror story titled ‘Sexual Misconduct Case: Working Towards A Safe Creative Community‘, where I’ve said,

Ramya said, “We’ve each experienced misogyny and silencing and (SXonomics) have come together because we want to do something about it. We are not here to police people, especially after an act has been committed – that is for the law authorities. But we’d like to make people conscious about how they think and treat each other, especially women. Lecturing doesn’t take one far so we’ve tried to bring out our messages in engaging ways, using what we do well – performance, writing and art.”

Some of us were quoted in a Mumbai Mirror story this weekend, about the way forward after the #ShamirReuben story broke out. I am deeply saddened that it had to come to this point – of underage girls being harassed, before the space that I love, was willing to take cognizance of the misogyny. But I'm relieved that it has finally forced out these long overdue conversations on abuse, gendering and the dirty politics of sex entering art and work. The story came out on Sat 10 Feb in Mumbai Mirror and is titled 'Sexual misconduct case: Working towards a safe creative community'. #gender #sexuality #sex #sextalk #harassment #abuse #gendering #genderpolitics #crimesagainstwomen #sexualharassment #consentviolation #mumbaimirror #pressmention

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

An earlier interview of mine was also quoted as part of a Mid-Day story covering the case.

“Spoken Word poetry is not a new art form. It has its roots in every oral performing tradition. But it has gotten a new lease of life. Currently, the popular flavour is for performances to sound angry and rage against something specific. With time, I think, these themes and tones will evolve too. All in all, I think we’re set for some very exciting times in storytelling, performance and art!”

And finally, the Kommune (Shamir’s now former workplace) invited me to participate in a discussion on building safer spaces within the performing circuit. A part of this discussion can be viewed on Facebook Live here.

Possibly, I sound pacifist. If you’ve ever read my work or seen any of my performances in the past two years, you’ll know that is not who I am. But I don’t see any point in adding further anger and outrage to this story. I am not one of the victims in this case so it does not feel right for me to co-opt their stories. All my anger and pain and outrage of the last two years only resulted in further attacks and in my being shut out of spaces. I have no desire to fight any more of those battles. But I am still invested in the stage, Mumbai’s stages. I want to spend my efforts and any influence I wield, in making this better, taking what we’ve all learnt as a community, from this unsavoury episode, to be more responsible and equal. I stand for equality and respect for all performers and artists.

If you’d like to talk about this, feel free to leave a public comment on this post or inbox my Facebook Page or the SXonomics Facebook Page. I’m still sorting through my thoughts about sexual politics that the accusations and counter-statements raise. I’ll write about this on XX Factor shortly.

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

LA-based GirlTalkHQ covers SXonomics: ‘Indian Band SXonomics Using Spoken Word Poetry To Talk Feminism & Fight The Patriarchy’

Late last month, LA-based GirlTalkHQ spotted SXonomics and carried our story:

“Indian Band SXonomics Using Spoken Word Poetry To Talk Feminism & Fight The Patriarchy”

They say of us,

“While SXonomics touch on topics that are universally understood, such as shaming other women for their choices, there are issues that are specifically directed toward an Indian audience. The two women have dissected the way sexism in India is deeply tied in with the caste system which discriminates against those of a lower socio-economic bracket. In this way they are reinforcing the notion of intersectionality, something today’s feminist movement can no longer ignore in order to stay relevant.”

They added to the Scroll.in story by also tracing our individual journeys through feminist viewpoints.

In many of our conversations, I find myself saying, “I’ve thought/felt this for years and I thought I was alone!”. Protesting rape culture disguised as romance. Hitting back at misogyny.

Surviving hate labels like MANHATER, BITCH and SLUT. Coping with harassment, abuse, discrimination, body shaming, social pressures. Searching in vain for role models. Watching yourself go from person to battleworn warrior. Choosing to be the social outcast in an unsafe environment, because the other choice is unfit for human dignity.

So much of SXonomics is about solidarity, about finally feeling NOT ALONE in a world intent on turning us into mute sex objects/caregivers. Our individual journeys have made us who we are and now the stage gives us a chance to brew these together into a potent mix that fights back at an oppressive system. And beyond that, standing together has given us a chance to remember that we are human beings beyond being crusaders and human beings must have fun, pleasure and inspiration. SXonomics is all of that.

SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Here’s our first event in February:

Alt-Valentine 5

SXArena: Alt-Valentine: A series of short events that combine performance, poetry, improv, roleplay, readings and audience interaction. Please contact Mr.Aniruddha Chatterjee at +91-99769118555 for details. The sessions are: The Third Wheel, Un-Valentined & Digital Dil.

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Groundhog Day

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Of Us

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

The Dust Bowl Of Life

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

If I Were To Speak At Mark Salling’s Funeral

Glee actor Mark Salling was found dead a few hours earlier. He was 35 and was found hanging in the woods. He was also weeks away from being jailed after being found in possession of child p0rnography. There has been a slew of hate messages of the ‘He deserved it’ kind on social media, in the past few hours. Which makes this story all the more horrific to me.

Child abuse is a terrible reality of our species. Can we allow ourselves to be softened, within a story of a powerful man who was a perpetrator? And yet, in taking on the monsters, do we not risk becoming those monsters ourselves? Mark Salling is dead. What further punishment can be meted out to him? Any hatred expressed now, lands squarely on his friends and family. Does anyone deserve to be punished for the crimes of a person they love?

*Image via Pixabay

Also, while this is not a popular idea, it is the fair one. Even pedophiles, rapists, terrorists and villains deserve the right to live. I do not believe that justice extends to the right to decide whether a person should live or not. Ironically a lot of the same systems that allow capital punishment also oppose abortion. You can’t selectively choose to wield power over life and death.

What is justice? Is it not different from punishment? Human beings, especially in large numbers may decide the fate of punishment. But justice, that is a higher force. Punishment and reparations are very poor human imitations or rather, temporary measures until justice can happen. Because justice is a force of nature, that happens – a systemic balance that may take some time, after oscillations and upsets.

Lest I be accused of insensitivity towards those affected by Mark Salling’s misdeeds, I’ll also say, I have experienced child abuse myself, at the hands of my music teacher when I was barely 10. It left scars. I saw him years later at the doctor’s clinic. He looked so frail, so tired and weak that all I could feel was pity. PITY. That’s all. And it wiped away any trace of other emotions I could summon up.

In The Lord of The Rings, Frodo tells Gandalf that Bilbo should just have killed Gollum when he had a chance. But, Gandalf tells him, pity stayed his hand and pity may have saved his life. I know this because it saved mine. The label of ‘Abuse Survivor’ does not define me or my actions. Abuse is just something that happened to me; it is not me. And I can trace it all back to that feeling I had when I saw my perpetrator. I allowed myself to feel towards him the way any decent human being would towards another, regardless of who they were or what they had done. And that allowed me to stay human, rather than a vessel of anger or hatred.

I also lived with an abuse survivor, years later and was in turn subjected to many forms of violence by him. My feelings about this are complex since the situation is so complex. In my better moments, I strive to see him the way I saw my music teacher. I fail, most of the time. Maybe we get weaker as we get older, or just more set in the ways we feel. It’s not easy living in a world that demands a black-and-white narrative. More than once I’ve felt pressured to admit that he’s a rogue, a villain, a monster deserving of nothing any human being would. But how can I forget that there is something human in him too? Monsters don’t toss and turn at night, plagued by harsh memories. Monsters don’t have breakdowns in everyday challenges. Monsters don’t struggle to breathe. Monsters don’t cry in the darkness when they think no one can see them. I think I retain these memories so I can tap into them when I’m feeling particularly hateful towards him and this happens often too.

Triggers are the worst part of surviving any trauma because they pull you back to the scene of the crime, long after your visible wounds have healed (or are supposed to have). Every mention or reference to abuse or violence takes me back to one or both of these men. When there have been too many such (and given that these are hot issues in everything from media, poetry, performance and law, it’s often), I explode into a mess of rage.

I cannot avoid triggers for long or realistically. It will mean cutting out vital parts of my life and that brings its own resentment. No, for me, redemption sounds like being able to look villainy in the eye and not be cowed by it. This means facing the villains and being able to see them as more. This is an ideal, mind you, and I fail often and badly at it.

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Read The Legend

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

SXonomics in DNA AfterHours: ‘ These Bands Are Giving Out A Strong Message In Music/

I’ve been relatively quiet this month, on the blog. But the words have been hard at work. My collaboration with Dr.Ishmeet Nagpal, SXonomics, has gone on to the next level. We decided to take January to take stock, figure out where we wanted to go next. And maybe as a sign from the universe, we’ve started getting noticed and counted in some very flattering worlds.

DNA reached out to us for a chat about our work. It was so heartening to know that someone somewhere thinks we’re doing something right, and not being foolish to do what we do. They featured us in a story about performing bands using art to further social messages. Do we do that? Yes, yes, we do and not just with music. But sometimes, you need the world to tell you that it sees you, as you are. Thank you, Dhaval Roy, for seeing us for our true work.

The story is ‘These bands are giving out a strong message in music‘ and we’ve been quoted as saying,

“Spoken word feminist party SXonomics use satire, improv, poetry, music and audience-inclusive performance to project feminism as a fun and relevant way of life, while sparring with “patriarchy, toxic gender roles, relationship politics and mental monsters”, like founders Dr Ishmeet Nagpal and Ramya Pandyan tell us. “

“SXonomics, on its part, is alarmed by the things that have been passed off as culture, romance and poetry. “Problematic messages in Bollywood where a woman’s consent is not respected — like, ‘Tu haan kar ya na kar’ and many other such things are a matter of concern. Films are a huge influence on the common man’s way of thinking,” says Ramya.”

For SXonomics, the goal of their caricatures, poetry and collaborations is to prompt people to think about the current state of affairs in the country. “We want to create reference points in our listeners’ heads and make them realise when something wrong happens. Many of them have come up to us and said that our pieces like Shaadi Ka Laddu and Chaar Log (a satire on chaar log kya kahenge?/ what will people say) keep coming up in their daily lives,” says Ishmeet. Ramya adds that many of their listeners (including men and women) have told them how their performance has been an eye-opener to many aspects that existed in their lives but they were unmindful of.

Ishmeet says that when a message is propagated through music or any other art form, it is likelier to stay longer with people and make an impact.

We’ve been quoted alongside bands like Kerala’s black metal caste protest band Willuwandi, Buddhist Dalit rights activist rock band, Dhamma Wings, McLeod Ganj’s JJI Exile Brothers who sing about Tibetan freedom, Imphal Talkies‘ work on North East India’s insurgency and Aisi Taisi Democracy‘s satire. It’s a privilege, an honour even, to be counted among people who are crusading for these causes using art and performance.

Thank you every one of you who has listened to, read, clapped/snapped for, sung along with, commented, liked, talked about or even thought about what each of us has had to say. You make what we all do, possible. You make it a world that can be shaped by artists and love and passion, not just guns and politics. You allow us to believe the world can be made a better place, one song, one poem, one beat at a time. Thank you.

SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Press Clipping

===============================================================

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.