It was rather unprecedented, so Smitha Rana thought she was imagining it. A hand was groping her from behind the seat on an aircraft. Minutes later, it happened again. This time, Rana gathered all her courage and raised an alarm in mid-flight. She even managed to get a complaint registered with the flight authorities. Shocked, since the culprit was “someone like her”, Rana, an ‘Action Hero’ on the Blank Noise blogspot, says “exposing him” made her feel better.
Exactly what Jasmeen Patheja had been hoping for, ever since she conceptualised the blog as a public arts project against sexual violence on streets. “I wanted to create a dialogue about what we face in everyday life on the streets. Women need to come out and realise that it is a big deal,” says Patheja, 28. Over the years — it started in 2003 as a college project — Patheja’s Blank Noise has been trying to create a debate, a dialogue about ‘eve-teasing’ and how to deal with it. “Testimonials on the blog show how women have been living in denial. It made me realise that from a nine-year-old to a 60-year-old, it could happen to anyone, anywhere,” she says. The blog became a movement of sorts. Its participants have not only been active on the net — with the comfort of anonymity — but have also come out on the streets, painted graffiti, and even donned T-shirts with quirky slogans confronting the violators.
Of late though, Patheja has crossed over to the other side and is interacting with men. “The idea is to try and understand their psyche. It has made me empathise with some,” she says. Many a time, she feels, they are “just trying to woo a woman”.
But that isn’t always the case. “A man from a higher echelon of society will try to violate a lower class woman since he can bully her. A man from the lower economic strata wants to put the high-class woman ‘in her place’,” she says. The difference in cultural backgrounds makes it difficult for a woman to deal with her offender. “There are many grey areas when it comes to dealing with men and women. Let’s make a beginning by talking about it.”