• How have you felt every time you ignored a stranger's eyes stripping you naked?
  • How often have you been a mute witness or spectator to street sexual violence?
  • How often have you whistled, passed remarks, leched, intimidated a female stranger, just for 'fun'?

By sharing testimonials of participating bloggers and members archived at the Blank Noise blog I am not speaking of poor 'victims' and outsiders as a minority. Every woman, girl, young or elderly, from any socio economic background, any skin colour, any body type, 'pretty', 'fair', 'fat', 'ugly', 'slutty', 'modest', 'bitchy', 'smart', 'over-smart', 'shy', 'scared', 'bold' has experienced it. She could be walking alone, in a group, with her parents. It could be 6 am, 7 am, 9 am, 12 noon, 4 pm, 8 pm, 10 pm, and it could happen in your neighbourhood, right outside your house, in the outskirts of town, in the heart of the city. She could be dressed in a salwar kameez, a school uniform, a sari, a pair of jeans and still experience it. Blank Noise clothes campaign " I did not ask for it" has been receiving clothes worn by women at the time of sexual violence. Each sender is taking a stand when she sends in the garment- she says, ' I did not 'ask for it'.

As much as incidents of sexual violence that shock and make news call for an alert alarm, one cannot deny the fact that sexual violation on the streets takes place ever single day by almost every woman in a variety of different forms. It is accepted and normalized because it is 'expected'.

How does the public react to reported incidents of streets sexual violence/ 'eve teasing?' Does this mean more rules for the average Indian male's wife? daughter? sister? Or does this information manifest itself in the financially secure/ independent women incubating themselves in private transport, paying an extra fee per month to block unwanted phone stalkers, carrying pepper spray in bags, mobile phones and being on hyper alert each time they leave home?

Is the public ready to see women as autonomous citizens that can access public space, unapologetically? While I understand and am framed in the cultural construct of being someone's daughter, sister etc I also choose to see myself as a citizen, as a member of public as a non 'victim'. Is society also reinforcing belief systems of men as beings to fear and women as victims that need to be protected?

Protected from whom? Who are the offenders? Violators? Criminals? Perpetrators?

By 2004, 6 months into starting Blank Noise I was able to lift my camera to the 'perpetrator's' face and photograph him. There was a range of encounters. Not only was the camera a defence mechanism/ tool but also the point of dialogue and engagement with the 'offender'.

Since then I have photographed men from different socio economic background for a wide spectrum of 'eve teasing/ molestation' incidents.

At a traffic signal around noon, I see a man making 'sexual gestures' with his tongue towards me from his car window. Shocked, a few seconds later I begin to photograph him. He continues to make gestures, this time suggesting that I am 'mad' and drives off.

While distributing pamphlets in Majestic bus depot one evening, a hand comes to grope. Am already in the 'Blank Noise mode' and the camera is out. I reach out for his collar, pull him, get pushed in return but manage to photograph him. He disappears like most others into the crowd.

Sipping coffee in a café, I can feel someone's eyes on me. I return the look with a glare and ask him if he has a problem. He smiles, nudges his friend and says ' nothing, nothing at all'. This continues for 15- 20 minutes, at the end of which I hand him a Blank Noise pamphlet and photograph him. I spend the rest of the day answering his phone calls. " Sorry. It was only a crush. I liked your eyes. I am not the 'sexual' type of man. It was only a crush." I have to admit, he was not sexually intimidating, he was annoying.

While addressing street sexual harassment it is important to understand the context and the nature of the offence. While interviewing men on the streets of Delhi I got familiar with one kind of 'eve teaser'. He was the hopeless/ helpless wooer. There were a range of responses to the question " how have you approached a woman you are attracted to on the street", many people had responses that would be categorized as ' stalking, and 'unsolicited conversation'. From their point of view they had not committed an offence. A shopkeeper at Sarojini market said I will keep following her and approaching her " kabhi na kabhi toh hasseena maan jayegi". Another young man said he walks upto women and introduces himself, for which he has been slapped on several occasions( his peers added). Likewise one is familiar with love revenge stories behind the acid attacks. Once I met a girl whose throat had been slit for saying NO to a man who desired her. What are the cultural wooing references? With the idea and image of masculinity evolving what are the kind of men and male behaviour our society is creating?

This post has been published at blogbharti for their spotlight series.

Mail any question for Blank Noise to blurtblanknoise@gmail.com or please leave it in the comments section at this post


Anonymous said...

If I love a girl, how should I approach her without being considered an eve teaser?

Anonymous said...

Do you think some of the Tom and Jerry episodes are encouraging eve teasing?

J said...

i will be quick to reply this one- NO. The photos are not meant to be read literally. in the post I am also referring to the role of men as 'wooers'. They are however representing re inforced male behaviour..

J said...

Thanks for the question blue flame- that's a tricky one and has created much debate on the blog's comment section in the past.

it really is contextual. it depends on how you approach- what is the tone, the context. one has to instinctively soak in the dynamics of the situation and then decide the move.

Ofcourse many people have met in public- which brings us to our next blog event proposed by hemangini...

you CAN tell if someone is attracted to you- their openness/ willingness should perhaps be your first step before approach?

Am curious to see what the others have to say to this...

Anonymous said...

To blue flame -

Talk to one of her female friends first.

Sakshi said...

When we talk of the acid attacks or likewise when a woman says no, I think that it is because basically when a man is refused what he wants his mardaangi... which is all he has coz that is his ego... is challenged. So, to just show off his strength these attacks happen.
And when you talk about... talking to me and why they stare etc... I feel that most of the men think... that its the so called provocative dressing that calls for all the trouble for a woman.

Anonymous said...

Burning Question 1:

Look at the pictures from your “walk the night”-


In some of the pictures, (especially the ones of young adult girls), the tip of the Blank Noise arrow ends right near the breast region. It is as if the arrow is pointing towards that region. (An innocent coincidence or deliberate?) And you claim that the aim of the arrow is to make men look at your faces. Which planet are you living on?

Burning Question 2:

Look at the pictures of your T-shirts -


This sure is going to attract the attention of even an innocent eye towards the breast region. Did it ever occur to you that the question 'KYA DEKH RAHE HO?' on the T-shirts can be interpreted as an open invitation to look at the breasts? (At least for the sake of reading what is written). And you claim that it is meant to be a response to staring auto-wallahs? Are you serious? Who got this idea anyway? Most traditional Indian girls would think twice before wearing these T-shirts.

Such “solutions” look more like childish pranks rather than serious attempts to address eve-teasing.

Burning Question 3:

When do you plan to answer the burning questions that you received?

J said...

to all above- the rarely asked burning questions will be answered in a week. sorry . with organizing events for march 8- we got a bit delayed in reverting to this blog post- its coming up- that's a promise.

Anonymous said...

I also have a few burning questions to ask.

(1) Do you believe that you are being extremely unfair to the people pictured in your "Unwanted" section ? They have no chance to reply to your charges.
(2) Do you think that if someone is committing a crime or an eve-teasing incident by merely looking at you ?
(3) If the answer to (2) is Yes, then do you think, you are also committing a crime or an adam-teasing incident by looking at the man while he was looking at you ?
(4) Do you censor comments that do not have any obscenities but denounce the approach that you are taking ?
(5) Do you not think that you are committing several illegal acts when you put up defamatory photographs of people based on your subjective analysis of the situation ?

Thank you.

- A rational, liberal man

Ashraf's Pen said...

I am someone who supported your blog in 2006 but now I do disagree with where u are taking the debate.

What is eve-teasing?
Where exactly is the line crossed?
Because just looking at a girl cannot be a crime.

If there is a pretty girl I would gaze at her appreciating the beauty. In fact many times I go and put in a line of praise to the lady herself,"Excuse me, but I have to say you are looking very pretty"? Th girl normally says thanks and it ends. I don't end up in jail.

I will take two test cases "Take a pretty girl and take a disfigured guy. Seat them both in a restaurant. Both will get stared at."

Now the question is is the crime equally sever in both cases.

Would you deny that gals would stare at a handsome guy in a restaurant.

So can that guy take a pic of the gal and post it as unwanted.

What is a simple lack of social skills becomes eve-teasing.

I am not justifying eve-teasing. "Hang the bastards for all I care".
The attempt by some elements to blame women for sexual crimes is an unforgivably atavistic move.There can be simply no justification for crimes against women.Harassment is harassment and if its against women ,its even more henious.

But let every stare not be a crime.

You yourself called the antics of one guy as annoying.

The other day I saw a group of gals stare at me and then laugh out loud for whatever reason. It was repeated and it was annoying as hell.

So set the bar a little higher else rather than making eve-teasing a crime ,you will end up forever debating what constitutes eve-teasing .Dont find non-existent enemies and dangers.

For as Eisenhower said"There can be no winning the war of the sexes.There is too much fraternizing with the enemy"

J said...

Hi Ashraf's pen

by posing the questions you are not disagreeing with us but questing precisely what we are attempting to as well.

every stare is not a crime- let us be able to distinguish the nature of the stare/ gaze/ look/ glance

it is also important to know or understand where the one that feels victimized is coming from- where are her perceptions stemming from.

blank noise attempts to bring different perceptions to dialogue.

when i describe someone's behaviour as annoying- it is in retrospect- ater reflection i was able to distinguish between feeling sexually intimidated by a male stranger vs being annoyed/ irritated by a male stranger. both should not have happened. nor should have the group of girls laughed at you or stared at you- but for you= was that annoying or intimidating or sexually threatening?