Sometimes facebook can do wonderful things. I came across today a volunteer-run participatory project called Blank Noise, that takes a fairly sophisticated stand against eve teasing in Indian cities. They organize events and explore street dynamics and recognize eve teasing as street sexual harassment or violence. Fantastic. Of course the cause I support. But what made it appealing was the sense that the project is ongoing and fairly open. They question everything - from the very definition of eve teasing, to its source, its legitimate response, and they even question the use of violence (also pepper spray) against it. What makes it more interesting is an underlying academic interest in understanding street dynamics and people's perception of public spaces.
When I was going through their website, I noticed on the side a little blurb that asked '...do we accept it, because we expect it?' I didnt think about it for more than a second, but when it sunk in, it really sunk in. I dont think as a Delhi-ite, I've questioned it, ever. I remember spending hours hating myself for having chosen to wear a particularly bright colour, or a moderately fitted jeans, or even hating my body type, but I dont remember questioning it. I remember having felt proud for being able to stare back, or being able to abuse someone on a bus, or even hit back an old man, but I cant remember not blaming myself for it. I cant remember not feeling ashamed and scarred for it. And all of this combined with a subtle acceptance of that feeling. Yikes! So much so that I remember having felt borderline unattractive when I walked down the streets of New York or Boston or Paris, just because no one stared at me. And despite all that I feel more at home and more at ease walking down the streets of Delhi than New York?? That makes no sense to me. But reading about this project made me feel a lot better, and I'm glad they gave a public forum to what I thought all along to be a personal and private reaction.
This week they urge women to unapologetically believe, (and I quote):
No matter what I’m wearing, I NEVER 'ASK FOR IT'.
No matter what my body type or size is, I NEVER 'ASK FOR IT'.
No matter where I am, I NEVER 'ASK FOR IT'.
No matter when I am out, I NEVER 'ASK FOR IT'.
No matter the fact that I was alone, I NEVER 'ASK FOR IT'.
No matter what language I’m using or my skin colour, I NEVER 'ASK FOR IT'.