Before Thin Lines, the ways in which I reflected on themes of sexual harassment, gender and sexuality was limited: the occasional insightful op-ed, townhalls and campaigns, flexible banter in friends’ rooms.
The past weekend proved constructive in shaking that up. I learned that I don’t even need to sit down to engage with these serious matters. The walk used Cubbon Park instrumentally -- moving through pigeons, lovers’ spots and creaky bamboo groves to think through public space, relationships and power dynamics. It played with my associations between focus and posture, sense of importance and movement, isolation and loneliness. The act of walking through public space, listening and conducting a full group helped me ask questions about the gendered nature of control: would I feel less nervous and unsure if I wasn’t woman, if I hadn’t been harassed, if I hadn’t been leched at in the same park?
The visual storytelling workshop made me dive into these pasts. I was able to share stories I didn’t initially want to acknowledge or invite back into my life. Watching everyone share their most intimate, difficult or heartwarming parts made me eager to work with my experiences.
My story wasn’t just mine, but at the same time, it was more mine than it had ever been. The next step involved contemplating emotions of fear and panic, but also sharing other points in life where I feel the polar opposite. I was able to ask the question: What would it feel like to be cosy and comfortable in public space?
There’s something to be said about working with your hands in an increasingly digital age. Gripping Fevistick took me back to my schooldays. What was it like to sit with crayons and be near-oblivious to your gender? I don’t remember, but I took what I had and made a collage. This was a gently mediated process -- Masa facilitated stream of consciousness writing, trust exercises and group sharing.
What was most hopeful was the space that Masa carved out for us, and that we maintained for each other. Always taking our consent to prod, always making sure we are comfortable. While also giving us tools and techniques to work with various mediums, the workshop gave me a space to just be with my story, not push it away or live in alarm. The environment was one of empathy and non-entitlement. Participants could share their stories to the extent that they feel comfortable; nobody would demand to know the details. This solid solidarity-building amongst strangers made the creation process friendly and liberating. Others worked with photographs, with video and reflective digital collages.
It didn’t matter if they were “good”. We were to let go of any standards for our own work. It just mattered that we processed our own stories. That we channeled our emotions. Given that the only answers offered to people who have experienced sexual harassment, assault or other traumas are silence or legal recourse, this emotional caretaking towards a past event is crucial for individual lives and current discourse. I felt like I was grooming my story. Like I was bathing it, dressing it up, chasing its mischief down the hall, and tucking it in bed.
Healing is not linear. But the workshop underlined that whether or not we emerge as superheroes in our own stories, we can certainly create from our past, reframe and reimagine it. It helped that I could always make a fresh start. I could always make a new attempt. All in all, Thin Lines reminded me of what our lives could look like if we just learned to be tender with each other and make more art.