The Blank Noise Project is a community arts group that started in Bangalore and has spread to cities throughout India.
Their most active project at the moment is “I Never Asked For It”, demolishing the idea that women who experience street harassment (often called “eve-teasing”) are to blame because we’re dressed slutty.
“Blank Noise wants you to discard the clothes worn at the time you were sexually harassed on the streets. This collective building of an installation of clothes seeks, primarily, to erase the assumption that you ‘asked for it’ because of what you were wearing. The popular assumption is that the girl is to blame because she was ‘provocatively dressed’, implying that ‘immodest’ women are eve-teased. Clothes are contributed with a note by the volunteer which explains the circumstances under which they were harassed and includes a usually intimate description of what the participant was feeling, thus acting as an outlet for a kind of purging of experience as well.
We hope to collect 1,000 clothes and assemble them in a gigantic installation out on the streets in the major cities of India. The hope is that the clothes will act as a public testimony and rejuvenation of public memory, collectively defying the notion of ‘modesty’. Clothes are coming in from as far apart as Baramulla, Kashmir and Chennai, Tamil Nadu and include school uniforms and salwar kameez’s.”
Check out the project here.
My favourite past project of Blank Noise is actually the “museum of street weapons“! Basically a whole bunch of women send in the everyday objects and behaviours that can be converted into weapons and make them feel safe on the street. Bobby pins become daggers, bags become armour, the chili powder or insecticide you picked up when you were doing the shopping on the way home becomes tear gas.
a side note: feminists in Australia need to pay attention to projects happening overseas and projects that are driven by women of colour. so much of the way politicians and newspapers talk about violence against women is really racist, like the idea that we should invade Afghanistan to save women from the taliban (yeah, cause war is so good for women) or that Indigenous women in the NT need the army brought in to save them from Indigenous men (when in fact the majority of assaults on Indigenous women are from white men) or that Lebanese men are a sexual threat to white women in Australia. unfortunately feminist projects often replicate this kind of thinking — I’ve seen anti-harassment projects where white women are talking like Channel 9 presenters. let’s recognise the real enemies — sexism and racism.