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Loitering’s backstory

Sonia first became a believer in loitering while freelancing in India. In her reporting, which frequently hovered on the relationship between safety and freedom, she came across the book, Why Loiter?: Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets. The authors Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade argued that one of the reasons public space often feels hostile to women has to do with the way their presence in public is often policed. If there’s no purpose to why women are out — running an errand, shopping, etc. — then many people, regardless of gender, might not feel there’s a reason for them to be out in the first place.

What women need to do, the authors argued, is flip the narrative on who controls their presence. Women must stake their claim to public space — in other words, loiter. It is by loitering that space becomes theirs.

If loitering is really, as this article puts it, just being, it becomes a critical question of who gets to control your right to belong in a specific place. As loitering has received renewed attention in the U.S. amidst rising homelessness and some peoples’ discomfort at the presence of black residents, for example (see the story about “BBQ Becky,” the white woman who called the cops on a black family barbecuing in Oakland, Calif.), it becomes all the more important to recognize and advocate for your right to be (see the follow up story of Oakland organizing a “Barbecuing while black” party — effectively, a political statement on loitering).

What began as a mini pod questioning the influence of space — whether physical, virtual or emotional — in our lives, Loitering is now a mini pod newsletter taking you to a specific place (often with a specific person), and allowing the space for some ideas that might not otherwise come across your radar.

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