This Illustrated Series Is Using Instagram to Spark Social Change

‘The Student’s Guide To Sexual Harassment’ is a tongue-in-cheek take by Sharath Ravishankar to raise awareness about mismanaged #MeToo claims.

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30 January 2019, 10:13am

When words fall short, pictures pick up where they left off. This is how art found its way into conversations around #MeToo, be it by inviting people to be part of the cultural reckoning or as an outlet against silent suffering. This also happens to be the case with the new series ‘The Student’s Guide To Sexual Harassment’ by @shirtshanks , a 23-year-old Bengaluru-based illustrator named Sharath Ravishankar, currently doing the rounds in social media circles.

Infused with irony and important events organised in a timeline, it is Ravishankar’s effort to contribute to the controversial case which saw Symbiosis Law School (SLS) Hyderabad shutting out two students who took a stand against sexual harassment accusations against a college professor, in October 2018. “It’s a lot easier to capture people’s attention [through pictures] than by just making them read text,” says Ravishankar, who recently completed a degree in illustration and animation from the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad.

In a pursuit to fight for justice for the fourth year LLB students—23-year-old Apoorva Yarabahally from Tumkur, Karnataka and 21-year-old Snighda Jayakrishnan from Kerala—who have now filed a writ petition in the Telangana High Court in a bid to complete their course, Ravishankar has turned the duo’s arduous experience into informative art. The series attempts to raise awareness about the girls being mistreated and even allegedly threatened by college authorities after they wrote a letter to Maneka Gandhi, the Minister of Women and Child’s Development, about institutional mismanagement of sexual harassment claims made by four fellow female students.

He’s kept the colour scheme simple to emphasize details of the situation through bold text. It’s Ravishankar’s first informative, text-incorporated series. He conceptualised and created it by flipping detailed discussions with the accused students into coherent and easily consumable content for the Instagram generation, who easily fall prey to ‘scrollers’ fatigue’.

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The six-part illustration serialises the events that unfolded following this, including instances in which the girls say they were pressured with the threat of rustication unless they deleted the social media call-outs against their professor Srinivas Methuku (even anonymous ones); negligible replies to their letter saying the professor had been ‘reprimanded’ for his behavior; and a disciplinary committee hearing that took place not because of the posts but because of the girls’ ‘low attendance’ and ‘past misconduct’. Yarabahally also says that the college put out a ‘statement of truth’ on the university website and in newspaper advertisements narrating their version of the events, that misrepresented the students in the situation and unfairly revealed confidential information.

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To combat this, Ravishankar came up with a creative strategy to make readers gravitate towards a petition created by Jhatkaa.org to help the students. So far, this movement has led to the dismissal of the accused professor, acquired 1,750 signatures of its targeted count of 5,000 to provide justice, and created quite the storm on Twitter with over a hundred Tweeples calling out the college’s questionable move.

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Ravishankar’s purpose is to educate folks on social media and to contribute to a culture where young people can employ a visual format to draw attention to such cases, and keep the conversation going. “Every educational institution is getting so industrialised, and all the decision-making happens so far up in the hierarchy that the students have no say in it,” says the artist. “It’s very mechanised, inhuman and doesn’t care too much about the people who actually matter, which we need to change.”

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Follow Shamani Joshi on Instagram .

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