In 2003, the Blank Noise Project was launched. Blank Noise must exist because of horrifying levels of street harassment, from verbal taunts to assault. The work is focused in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi.
What are the women fighting?
Seven years later, again in Bombay, after swearing to travel only in the ladies compartment of the local train, I learnt yet another lesson : some 'ladies' compartments turn into a free-for-all feel-up-jam-session after nine o'clock at night.
Suddenly, there were men's crotches pressing into my face, my knees and my shoulders. I stood up and fought my way to the door. Only to be surrounded by half a dozen men offering to 'get me out safely'. As the train stopped, half a dozen men got on, half a dozen got off. Trapped between them for a few seconds, I lost count of how many hands felt me up.
I cried tears of rage - if only that train hadn't moved away... I wanted badly to drag at least one of them off that train and smash his skull on the nearest railway track.
Of course, it isn't just a battle against men who think it's their right to assault women. Some "innocent" men think the women are too uppity in their complaining:
I remember reading a post on the Blank Noise blog last year: The author sounded like a fire breathing feminist, righteously declaring that all men are evil (something along the same lines), and some of them look at women and having dirty thoughts about them, while they have no right to do so (I think she used the expression 'lecherously ogle'). If my memory does not fail me, Greatbong left a really amusing comment explaining that anyone had a right to look at any one else, and of course, a right to think whatever he/she wanted to about whoever they were looking at. Boy, that sure was funny. [Full disclosure: I consider observing female specimens of the human species from a respectable distance, and appreciating their beauty, a completely above-board, and a rather agreeable activity]
The Blank Noise Project faces quite a battle when people equate women's experience with harassment to men's experience. Maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe the writer quoted above has had his breasts grabbed repeatedly. Maybe he lives with the constant fear of rape. Maybe he's been sitting on his brain for far too long.
This post is about hope and optimism. What women face in street harassment is outrageous and inexcusable. But women, and some men, have banded together to fight for the basic right to be free of attack. Yesterday, activists held the Blank Noise Blog-a-thon. Women continue to fight. Happy International Women's Day!
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