Museum of Rape Threats and Sexism is a digital installation created with crowd-sourced screenshots of rape threats and sexist comments that women have received online for raising their voices for social justice.
It is a crowd-sourced project where over 70 Indian women have contributed screenshots of harassment, rape threats, violence, sexist comments and incidences of receiving unsolicited images of genitalia.
It memorializes the verbal violence and visualizes the effect of violence and addresses the global menace of violence threats. Museum is part of a growing movement against sexual harassment and solidifies all women and their courage to speak against it, and in broader terms, the #MeToo movement.
On-line harassment including rape threats has become a new age mass crime that exists privately and is faced by a large number of women. These are not isolated incidents, and often the perpetrators escape from the clutches of law with impunity, through deliberate failure of mechanisms to address these crimes. Suffering in silence deprives women of their citizenship rights guaranteed by the constitution.
Museum is a form of social movement: it exposes structural violence and seeks to create an intervention into rape culture; not only displaying the threats but also the responses and resistances of women, many of whom have internalized the abuse as the new normal.
In a demonstrative sense it creates an ongoing, peaceful and democratic conversation about the digital violence women endure, and women can keep contributing their screenshots to the same.
This is my attempt to memorialize our collective past that delves into political violence. This memorialization and remembrance and our phone galleries become the spaces of contestation of our radically gendered histories, ideologies, subjectivities and imaginaries. The number of screenshots that women have contributed towards this project demonstrate the urgent need for such an intervention. The exhibition seeks to explore the dynamic ways through which affected communities can speak for themselves.
Created with screens and slides of rape threats and sexist comments that women receive on-line, for raising their voices for social justice, these have been crowd-sourced through a Google Form Link. Screenshots of verbal assaults, violence and harassment, incidences with pornographic images, unsolicited genital pix that women receive in their inboxes through social media are curated into motion graphic videos and projected simultaneously using 3 projectors. The screening viewers/visitors are given a Trigger Warning Note at the door, to protect them from viewing triggering content without their will. On entering the exhibit, the viewers roam around the exhibition-room, the room is vacant with nothing other than projectors placed.
It is an experiential walkaway. There is no sound. The tone of the exhibit is serious, yet calm.
I invite the viewers to experience a sense of trauma, yet only passively. The screenshots, although sourced over time, and through different individuals, when collated together evoke a sense of repulsion, outrage and hostility. The installation titled as a ‘museum’ presents itself as a visual archive of the subject, the vast expanse of not only data, proofs and records but also of inflicted emotions like trauma, pain, shame, conflict, rage, and verbal violence.
I began this project by writing a social media post on Facebook and Instagram, crowdsourcing screenshots from women around me. I forwarded a Google form link, and sent personal messages inviting screenshots and making conversation about this, it is an ongoing project. Several of them said they deleted, several of them engaged in conversations with the senders about the affect of the verbal abuse and did not let the incident traumatize them. A few of them did not want any conversation till they were comfortable recalling the incident, and a complete new category of women laughed off at the commonality of these incidences.
My idea was to explore connection, and create a lens for memorializing violence. The ethnography, overall, triggers action for the cause and becomes a strong indicator of where rape culture lies. It excavates the verbal violence from the normalization.
The visual media here not only brings the digital artifact (screenshot) into the physical space of the exhibition but also transcends the private into public. The messages and comments that are often received on private chats are enlarged and publically displayed (names of the senders are concealed). The act of viewing somebody else’s private chat and trespassing into somebody’s moment of shame and rage points out to how much more is hidden and endured. The metaphor of museum is then evoked to point out to the large amount of facts hidden.
Museum of Rape Threats and Sexism is a project that expands our understanding of sexual violence, gender based violence, victimhood and resistance and urges us to seek constitutional justice for the same.
Isha Yadav is Founder and Curator of Museum of Rape Threats and Sexism and PhD candidate in Women and Gender Studies at Ambedkar University Delhi. In her doctoral thesis she is exploring some of the art installations created around the world that report and challenge violence against women.
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