Monday, July 30, 2007

Blank Noise

I read about Project Blanknoise in Ms. Magazine and felt immensely proud of the amazing women who started this. Growing up in India, a girl is cautioned about undesired male attention even before she attains puberty and after getting a whole lot of it in the form of groping, touching, stalking and leering they turn conditioned to accept it as a fact of life.

Back in my day, I was considered dangerously bold because I stepped on the toes of a man with my stilettos in a crowded bus after being "eve-teased". He yelped in pain and I told him that was the only way I could stand unless he put some distance between us. My girlfriends were in awe of me but not everyone dared to fight back like I did.

My aunt and I once slapped a guy in a crowded marketplace until our hands turned blue. A ring of silent spectators had formed around us. Several of them wanted to know what exactly the guy had done - such voyeuristic curiosity followed by complete inaction was typical. We did not expect better.

While there were always a few "firebrands" who did not mind slapping a man publicly or screaming obscenities to call attention to the molester, the fear of consequences (or more accurately retribution) was too deeply ingrained for any of this to turn into a grassroots movement.

Something has changed in the positive direction within the last decade for women in India; they feel empowered enough to come up intervention strategies collectively. Maybe with the booming economy, more women are financially independent than ever before and like they say money talks. It definitely enhances confidence. This has been long overdue and I can't say how strongly I identify with the cause of Blank Noise. More power to these determined young women and may their tribe increase !

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