- Long term organizing -- "a collective called Blank Noise, which has been talking about sexual harassment in India for almost a decade now"
- Everyday people make a difference - "everyone contributes to – and can thus help change – a culture of sexism. . . . "
- The foundation of personal relationships and community -- "anonymous space for women to share their experiences."
- Effective organizing means listening -- "that wasn’t didactic"
- It's the quality of the event not the quantity of the people who show up that is important -- " about 30 showed up. “It’s easier to click ‘like’ and more difficult to get out on the street,” says Patheja. “But we don’t worry much about that anymore."
India anti-rape protesters: Don't just get angry, do something
By Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar, Correspondent / January 4, 2013
At a moment when many angry Indians are demanding that the rapists of a young woman who died this week be hung, one group encourages women to tackle social attitudes.
Among the many anti-rape protests that have been held in Indian cities over the past few weeks, something has stood out at a demonstration this week: Protest signs that didn’t cry shame or call for the death penalty, but pledged personal action.“I pledge to intervene when I see a woman being harassed,” read one slogan on signs held by both men and women on New Year's Day. Another sign held by a young woman read, “I pledge to stare back.”
The “Safe City Pledge” demonstrations were organized by a collective called Blank Noise, which has been talking about sexual harassment in India for almost a decade now. . . . Amid the calls for better policing to prevent violent crime against women, the group wanted to also highlight how everyone contributes to – and can thus help change – a culture of sexism. . . .
“Eve teasing,” the lighthearted term used for everything from lewd comments to groping to stalking, is so routine that when Patheja started Blank Noise as part of a virtual project at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore in 2003, she found few of her peers wanted to talk about it. “There was a sense that it was just part of life, that there was nothing you could do about it,” she says.
Patheja and others started a blog to provide an anonymous space for women to share their experiences. They also began organizing public events. The idea was not to be an advocacy group, says Patheja, but to “trigger a public dialogue that wasn’t didactic, through a series of approaches both blog-based and on-the-ground interventions.” Blank Noise also encouraged young women to confront street harassment in an effort to “reclaim the city.”
. . . . Today, the Blank Noise project has a presence across nine cities, hundreds of volunteers and a large Facebook presence, though getting boots on the ground remains a challenge. More than 10,000 people were invited via Facebook to take part in Tuesday’s protest across the country. In Mumbai, about 30 showed up. “It’s easier to click ‘like’ and more difficult to get out on the street,” says Patheja. “But we don’t worry much about that anymore. Even that one click means that someone has decided to engage.”
What is most important, she suggests, is the change she has seen in the past decade. Last month, the supreme court called for wide-ranging measures to curb harassment in public places. “There is now a greater willingness to talk about the issue,” she says, “and less of an inclination to trivialize it.”