The Blank Noise Project, India
The idea that the way a woman dresses can invite sexual harassment or rape is a familiar one. It is used in court and in the media to undermine survivors' allegations, and by perpetrators themselves to justify their actions.
The Blank Noise Project in India challenges this preconception, arguing that if this really is the case, then why do women in everyday, non-revealing clothing still have harassment stories to tell? The project interrogates the normalisation of 'eve-teasing' (the term used in India to refer to the public sexual harassment of women) as something women should either just ignore or learn to circumvent on the streets of India.
Blank Noise constructs its argument through a simple process of collecting visual evidence. The campaign asks women to tell their stories of harassment, with images of the clothes they were wearing at the time they were harassed, and the place where it happened. These are published on the Blank Noise blog and on Flickr, tweeted under the hashtag #INEVERASKFORIT, and used by supporters as profile photos on Facebook. Seen together, the images tell a new story.
The garments that women have been harassed in are listed, by percentage, on the Blank Noise blog. They range from button-up collared shirts and t-shirts to burkhas and saris – not miniskirts or shirts with plunging necklines, in other words (clothes often cited by perpetrators as 'invitations' to harass), but everyday wear. The places where harassment takes place are not dark back alleys, but busy streets. This evidence, then, automatically shifts the question of responsibility away from women and onto the men who harass them, as well as onto Indian society's dismissal of a serious issue as just 'normal' male behaviour.
Blank Noise was started by Jasmeen Patheja in August 2003 as a student project at the Srishti School of Art Design and Technology in Bangalore. In addition to its visual campaign, the project aims to foster discussion and build a supportive community around harassment in India. To do this, it has established three additional blogs: Action Heroes Blank Noise, and Blank Noise Spectators.
On 'Blank Noise Action Heroes', women from all over the world share their stories of how they have dealt with eve-teasing and sexual harassment. Here they write about their 'action hero moments' -- times when they have resisted or challenged harassment.
'Blank Noise Guys' allows men to show support for women, share their thoughts on eve-teasing, and also tell their own stories about times when they have intervened and protected women from harassment.
Blank Noise Spectators focuses on an often-overlooked question: why do spectators on the street consistently fail to act?
Indian Women Divided Over Slut Walk, Wall Street Journal India, 2011.
The Digital Tipping Point, The Center for Internet & Society, 2011.
Blank Noise Project - I Never Asked For It, Bitchmedia, 2009.