Vantage point

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Blank Noise

I will be taking part in a great initiative called the The Blank Noise Project. This is how the project describes itself -

Street harassment is an offence. It has been granted normalcy due to its daily recurrence. Street harassment also known as eve teasing needs to be addressed on the streets. The project in its current phase seeks to build testimonies of street harassment in the public space and making them public. The project also seeks to recognize eve teasing as a crime, something that may be normal, but is unacceptable.

I agree completely. Eve-teasing, a term unique to India, is almost seen as normal due to its daily recurrence. And its daily recurrence is because it is seen as normal. The outrage against such incidents is not as widespread in the Indian society as it should be. And debate rgarding this topic doesn't reach a logical conclusion because some parties, often male as well as female, bring in points which don't add anything and end up being detours.

For instance, the standard point about how women should be cautious and dress carefully to avoid such attention. As far as caution is concerned, do you think women are dumb enough not to gauge what will be safe and what won't? Most if not all women, will be cautious about their clothing, their demeanour, etc in public. People who bring in points about how women should be cautious don't realise that women already are cautious, careful, at times a bit too much. And yet women get teased and harassed day in and day out.

Entering a debate about street harassment by saying "oh you should be careful with what you wear, how you walk, whether you are alone, what time you go out, which place you are at" is like going to someone whose house has been robbed and saying "you know, you should close the door".

Well, people get robbed inspite of closing doors, installing latches and even burglar alarms. So no one goes and gives them this advice. Yet when a woman is teased or even raped, this point of 'cautiousness' is brought up.

When someone's house is burgled, do people say to the house-owner "So sorry this happened to you. But you must understand. The robbers could not control themselves. Your being rich was too much of an enticement. It is natural for people without money to rob others. We must try to understand what drives robbers to steal."

I don't think anyone says so. Yes, people may go and research reasons behind crime. But no one is going to say all this to the house owner. He will get the sympathy and help he deserves, from by-standers, neighbours as well as cops.

But a victim of eve-teasing has to hear these homilies about how it is the basic nature of men to be aroused and violate women and hence women should be careful they don't end up enticing men. It is inappropriate, complete bullshit, and as I wrote some months back, very offensive to men.

The reason victims of robbery are treated as victims while victims of sexual harassment are treated as accomplices, is that robbery is considered wrong in our country. Whereas sexual harassment is considered very normal.

This post was meant to be just an intro to the blank project and a note that I will be making my contribution on 7th March. However it has stretched a bit longer than that.

I will make a separate post on the 7th. I will be writing from the perspective of a brother, a son, a boy-friend and how I feel about eve-teasing as someone who plays those roles. About how enraged and helpless someone like me feels when something like this happens and I am not around.

Meanwhile, do visit The Blank Noise Project and if you have a blog, join up as a participant. If you don't have a blog, what better reason to start one?