Photography: The Blank Noise Project

Blank noise image

The idea that the way a woman dresses invites sexual harassment or rape is a familiar one. It is used as a means to undermine survivors' allegations in court cases, in the media and by perpetrators themselves to justify their actions. The Blank Noise Project in India challenges these preconceptions, arguing that if this is really the case, then why do women in everyday, non-revealing clothing still have harassment stories to tell? It interrogates the normalisation of “eve-teasing” (term used in India to refer to public sexual harrassment of women) as something women should just ignore and learn to circumvent on the streets of India.

How it works
Women tell their stories of harrassment with images of the clothes they were wearing at the time, and of the places where it happened, which are publicised online via the Blank Noise blog, Flickr, tweeted under the hashtag #INEVERASKFORIT and used as supporters' profile photos on Facebook. Blank Noise also collects the garments people sent in city-to-city travelling art exhibitions in India. The garment, according to the Blank Noise Project, functions as a testimony to the assault, as “your truth, your witness, your evidence, your memory”, exhibited together to create a collective story for all women.

Why we like it
The campaign challenges the notion that a woman, how she dresses or where she goes can be blamed for her sexual harrassment. The garments that women have been harassed in are polled on the Blank Noise blog, and they range from button-up collared shirts and t-shirts to burkhas and saris. These are not mini-skirts and plunging necklines but everyday wear and the places where the harrassment occurs are not dark back alleys but busy streets. This evidence then automatically shifts the question away from women to the perpetrators and to Indian society's dismissal of this serious issue as 'normal' male behaviour.

This campaign empowers women by urging them to turn the garment or the location, that they might ordinarily associate with shame and guilt, into a tool for raising awareness about an issue that affects all women. The visuals of the campaign work because they evoke the emotions and personal stories behind each woman's experience more than a graph of sexual harrassment statistics ever could. Blank Noise also organises street-based interventions and public actions to allow women to use public space more confidently.

Category: Visualisation of Women's Rights worldwide

Year: 2003 - ongoing

Source: Blank Noise Project

Links: Watch a short video interview