Reyhaneh Jabbari’s will in a voice message to her mother

I don’t usually share links on my blog, but this is heartrending and fills me with sadness and uncontrollable rage at the same time. Also a signal boost for NCRI.

“The world allowed me to live for 19 years. That ominous night it was I that should have been killed. My body would have been thrown in some corner of the city, and after a few days, the police would have taken you to the coroner’s office to identify my body and there you would also learn that I had been raped as well. The murderer would have never been found since we don’t have their wealth and their power. Then you would have continued your life suffering and ashamed, and a few years later you would have died of this suffering and that would have been that.
However, with that cursed blow the story changed. My body was not thrown aside, but into the grave of Evin Prison and its solitary wards, and now the grave-like prison of Shahr-e Ray.
[…]
My kind mother, dear Sholeh, the one more dear to me than my life, I don’t want to rot under the soil. I don’t want my eye or my young heart to turn into dust. Beg so that it is arranged that as soon as I am hanged my heart, kidney, eye, bones and anything that can be transplanted be taken away from my body and given to someone who needs them as a gift. I don’t want the recipient know my name, buy me a bouquet, or even pray for me. I am telling you from the bottom of my heart that I don’t want to have a grave for you to come and mourn there and suffer. I don’t want you to wear black clothing for me. Do your best to forget my difficult days. Give me to the wind to take away.”

More Tabloid Misogyny from TOI

Deepika Padukone, Times of India, Objectification

How low could one of the worst popular tabloid newspapers in India go? Well  apparently a lot more lower than we had imagined. I don’t think I have to mention the whole incident again, you can read a summary of events here (and here’s a good piece on victim blaming and misogyny in light of recent events, viz. Deepika-TOI incident and victim blaming and harassment against Suzette Jordan).

It’s one thing to engage in complete violation of privacy, objectification and dehumanization of women through tabloid journalism, it’s worse when you ask a woman to “take it as a compliment😉 ” when she explicitly said that it’s dehumanizing and objectifying, but it’s a whole new level of douchebaggery when you follow it up with horrendous trite like this.

It’s basically entirely built on implicit slut shaming, and then rationalizing their shitty story. First they go on to rationalize their headline saying how sensationalized headlines aren’t uncommon (which was literally “OMG, Deepika Padukone’s Clevage show”) and then they dissect photoshoots Deepika had voluntarily taken part in, in an extremely crass and distasteful manner.

I think supposedly “one of the largest media houses in the world” would have people with half a brain to figure out the obvious, that she chose to voluntarily pose for those pictures, she felt comfortable about those. That’s her choice. We don’t even have to get into the murkier area of modelling industry/Bollywood etc. promoting objectification. This is clear as a crystal, and I’d have thought even if they were on a cocktail of heroin, meth and cocaine, they still would’ve been able to join the dots here.

But oh no – you, instead, poked into her real life, violated her privacy, and posted picture of her breasts in utterly dehumanizing way. The difference is as huge as harassing a woman and paying her a compliment. The original “article” was not only dehumanizing, but when it was pointed out to you multiple times, you still keep rationalizing this, and pile more misogynistic bullshit on top of that instead of, at the very least, offering a wholehearted apology and retraction. In fact, this new article explaining “their side” is so explicitly misogynistic, that the initial article pales in comparison.

But hey, by all means when a woman tells you how you feel dehumanized, you blame and shame her further and call her an attention whore (“Was deepika’s hypocrisy for publicity?” – nice touch).

Well done TOI, you’ve officially downgraded yourself further from the already horrendous TOIlet journalism you champion.

Motherhood and Benevolent Misogyny

 

Unpaid Housework

“These days, sexism is a bit like Meryl Streep, in a new film: sometimes you don’t recognise it straightaway. You can be up to 20 minutes in, enjoying all the dinosaurs and the spacefights and the homesick Confederate soldiers, before you go, “Oh my God — under the wig! THAT’S MERYL.” – Caitlin Moran

Although I’m no huge fan of Moran, the quote is bang on when it comes to benevolent misogyny. It’s still same old shit, just sugarcoated well enough for people to swallow en masse. In fact, sometimes it makes me wonder if it’s more toxic than your garden variety misogyny for the same reason.

A video by Sharman Joshi was shared by The Logical IndianI intend to rant a bit about this page later, but they are, in my opinion, very faux liberal and now and then posts misogynistic/anti feminist drivel. You can see a sample of their latest of their misogynistic bullshit (although again, wrapped in all the apparent “good intentions” in the world) here:

Anyway, coming to video:

And as the comments suggest, conceptually, it seems to be a rip off of this highly problematic advert. However when this gets “indianized” and has been released as some sort of PSA – well that sucks real bad.

The video is basically Sharman asking his colleagues/workmates how they feel about someone working day in and day out, tirelessly, ghade ghade garmi mein (standing all day in extremely hot conditions). And then when they get tired of his “riddle” and asks him, whether his “dad will work for free” – and then he goes: “..my dad won’t, but my mom does”. Then it goes all sappy and everyone realizes how awesome mothers are and motherhood is and it’s all boo-fucking-hoo.

The part where he says that his dad won’t, that – that precisely is the problem. This is where such normalization of such “struggles”  through imposing such notions of “motherhood” comes in. As in the implication of how these “struggles” of housework is somehow part and parcel of “motherhood”, what better way to reinforce gender roles? “Mere papa nahi karte” – the problem is very much that, how about we focus on that instead?

To be clear, I’m not intending to generalize or imply that no women choose housework. However India especially does have a HUGE problem with disproportionate number of women doing all the housework and hardly many men. This disproportionate nature of women doing all the housework should make it painfully obvious these are not just women ‘choosing’ to do housework, but rather something they’re burdened with.

What irritated me more was the fact that how the description even goes on to say “I have often seen that people do something for their mothers on Mother’s Day and then forget about it” – well what did YOU have in mind while making the video (aside from hits)?

And no, shedding faux tears and telling her “I love you Mom” doesn’t make it all magically go away. As the comments on the FB posts suggest, it just plays right into the mindset that these are all “natural part of motherhood”. And that makes it a crappy “PSA” video, afterall.

Viral Campaigns Gone Wrong

Viral video campaigns india

You know what gets my goat? The trend of a bunch of videos masquerading as “progressive” ending up screwing things so bad, that you want to tear your hair out. Especially those about sensitive topics like rape without much thought being put behind them.


The video above was passed on as some sort of a “social experiment” – while I feel if anything it’s an extremely poorly thought out “experiment”. The only thing that’s worth emphasizing in this video is if they could establish that none of the people who left called the cops. However in the given hypothetical, it’s extremely dangerous to thoughtlessly intervene – not just for them, but it could put the victim’s life at risk too. So one could understand why someone wouldn’t directly intervene in such a situation.

No excuse to not call the cops again, but that doesn’t seem to be their point when they ask: “Who was the real culprit? The beast inside the car or those who just walked off?” (to spell it out, it IS the “beast” regardless) Since it says “someone called the cops” – what if it was one of those who “shamelessly” fled the scene? They should have clarified these important aspects if one was to take this remotely seriously. And it was just a poor way to demonstrate the public apathy towards rape victims , which indeed is a problem.

And behold, it gets worse.

Let’s ignore the crass title for a second here (“Will you marry a raped girl?” – seriously?) – the video, while again, highlights the extremely misogynistic mindset of people at the beginning, goes on to state how they’ve found some “heroes” too. There’s nothing “heroic” about being a decent human being and not a misogynistic ass. While it’s a good change considering general perception towards rape victims in our society, posing it as somehow “heroic” is very problematic and perpetrates the existing notion that they’re doing some sort of “sacrifice” by marrying a rape victim. I don’t know if I can even give credit to them here for being “well intentioned”.

And finally this is the latest video that falls prey to the same thoughtlessness (although admittedly to a much lesser degree than the previous one) albeit having good potential is this video that’s gone viral oflate:


The video comes so close to properly acknowledging male privilege and ends up being borderline patronizing, essentialist, objectifying, despite the good intentions. No, women are not all “beautiful” or “sexy” – and they don’t have to be. They are NOT a monolith. They’re as complex and diverse as men are – that’s the message we should be conveying, instead of being extremely patronizing.

And while India is one of the worst place for women to be in, Saudi Arabia is NOT a safe place for women – it’s a far worse misogynistic dole than ours. There’s some perception among people that because of the harsh (and barbaric) punishments in Saudi Arabia it’s somehow “safer” for women. No it isn’t.  Rape is horribly underreported in Saudi Arabia and statistics on rape isn’t available for comparison.  

This video is perhaps most disappointing as it seeks to make a strong and relevant point and loses track big time.

So am I saying that these campaigns are useless? No, and at the same time I’m someone who thinks that projects like these are a good medium to nudge people in the right direction – it’s a good starting point. Which is why I so wish that they would put some thought into these things instead of thoughtlessly making problematic token videos that caters to the more progressive demographic (this being a fine example of how to do it right).

End of rant.

When Fanaticism and Misogyny Intersect

Sharapova Sachin

I am an ardent Cricket fan. I have greatest respect for Sachin Tendulkar, who is truly one of the legends of the game. But I have never been fond of the cult like fanatics who froth at mouth at the slightest semblance of criticism. This is hardly limited to Sachin of course, any popular star – Rajnikanth, SRK – choose your pick. These people just brainlessly attack anyone who doesn’t remotely agree with their perspective. I get the being passionate aspect of it, for sure but losing all perspective and frothing at their mouths? Not so much.

It should hardly be a surprise why Maria Sharapova, who is a Tennis star and Russian, wouldn’t know Sachin – especially since cricket is hardly a popular sport in Russia (or globally, as compared to Football etc.). But oh no, she is just not allowed to not know Sachin, because fuck logic.

A lot of innocuously funny (albeit childish) remarks may be dismissed as innocent trolling, but this was just the tip of the iceberg. Her page was flooded with misogynist comments and is still being done so. I’m borrowing this assimilated screenshot by India Commenting FB page:

Sharapova Misogyny

(for non hindi speakers: randi=whore)

These are not even a fair indicator of the a minor percentile of the misogynist crap that’s being dumped there. I just can’t be bothered to screencap these douchebaggery – basically the more “innocent” comments are the ones which spams Sachin’s achievements over and over again and the ones which claims that she’s just lying. Then there’s direct death threats, slut shaming etc. If you really have the time and patience, go through it here in the comments section.

And people continued slut shaming, calling her “bitch”, a “porn star” etc. on twitter – in and outside the by now popular #whoissharapova hashtag which I have no intention of linking here.

When exactly did being a fan become equivalent to a brainless moron? Or more importantly, a misogynist douchebag? How exactly are you putting your legend you worship so dearly in a good light by doing all this? Zombies on their slower days are capable more rational thought than these bunch.

This whole incident sums up everything that’s wrong with our society – mob like mentality and misogyny. And the intersection of both was very hard and shameful to watch for me as an Indian and an ardent cricket fan myself.

Seriously, sort your shit out people. I don’t care how much you worship any sports star, it’s not okay to dehumanize someone under any pretext, much less for the blasphemous crime of not knowing a sports star regardless of how much of a legend he may be. Just think about that for a second and calm the fuck down. Thank you.

On Preity Zinta, Misogyny and Intersectionality

Preity Zinta

Recently, Preity Zinta lodged a formal complaint against her ex Ness Wadia, for alleging intimidation during the IPL. You can read the full content of her official complaint here.

Now it’s very brave of a woman to come forward and do this in India, considering proportion of the misogyny and how inevitably worse it gets in proportion when you’re a celebrity who is in the spotlight. And to put things in context, she’s also someone who refused to retract from her testimony in 2003 Bharat Shah Case while major figureheads in Bollywood “chickened out”.

Later on she posted this status asking people and media to stop humiliating her over this :

Every human being has a limit to how much they can take ; some of us foolishly call it strength and try to look ahead focusing on the positives of work and life. All these years i have never said anything about him in the media but now i have no choice.

I humbly request the media and my supporters to pls focus on the issue and the incident that happened in Wankade and not turn this and me into a TV soap. This is not easy for me and my intention is not to harm anyone but simply to protect myself and to stand up for myself. I don’t want any sympathy from anyone but i will sincerely appreciate it if people do not try to take away my dignity in the process of my fight for respect at my workplace. I think after all these years i deserve it and I’m not asking for too much.

Now unsurprisingly, many people characterized this as “celebrity drama” (because what’s more fun for a woman here than reporting harassment right?) and rest, as evident from the comment section (lead by “Masculinists”) are engaging in blatant misogynistic douchebaggery calling her a “gold digger” and accusing her of lying. Business as usual.

Most of this backlash seems to be born out of the usual, garden variety misogyny, which comes with the notion that since it has to be her simply “whining” about it, because her ex harassing her is nothing but a woman making a “big deal” out of a spat between her ex. But female celebrities being at the worse end of it in many ways because people can’t stand the thought of a successful woman, being able to stand up for herself and not putting up with this shit.

However there’s another section of people who shame her for lodging a complaint because “little girls are raped and hanged for nothing”:

 

Now this is a whole different type of douchebaggery. There were a bunch of comments on Preity Zinta’s original status which said more or less the same (which seems to be cleaned up now) – i.e. how she should stop making a “big deal” of harassment while worse things are happening in the country.

The worst thing about these comments are, ironically, how they smack of classism – i.e. turning rape of underprivileged women/children to our own desi version of “starving children in Africa have it worse” meme. While class (along with caste etc.), no doubt, plays a huge role in discrimination against women (and intersectionality is hence important) using this to put a woman down is not only terribly misogynistic, but also incredibly classist. Discrimination faced by underprivileged women are not some sort of leverage for you to trivialize misogyny.

What this case reflects is how, even for a female celebrity with class privilege, has put up with this terrible level of misogyny for merely filing a formal complaint against harassment. And the same people who create an environment where misogyny is desensitized wonder where all these “monsters” who commit these “brutal rapes” come from.

 

No Country for Women

Douchebag Duo - Mulayam and Abu

Douchebag Duo – Mulayam Singh Yadav and Abu Azmi

What on earth is going on here?

First Mulayam Singh Yadav made the remarks of how “boys will be boys” when it comes to rape, and perpetrated the rape myth of how women “friendzone” men and level false rape charges against them. Then Abu Azmi followed suit (for worse) by remarking how survivors are too guilty in rape and should be hanged along with the rapist. And then he had the nerve, after spewing all this bronze age rubbish, to say that “here, nothing happens to the woman..”

(Oh by the way, slight heads up Abu, considering we’re a secular nation – well at least in theory anyway – is it okay if I don’t give a shit about your sickening misogyny, which you present in the guise of “religious belief”? Thank you.)

These are not even worth commenting on. Actually, there is nothing to comment on, you just read the remarks of these two and get depressed. Or queasy. Or both. It’s out there in plain sight.

However, the most horrifying part about this is, how they have absolutely no shame or reservations in making in these remarks. Let that be anyone, politicians or authorities. And this is despite having two of the most publicized rape cases all over the world last year couple of years. Last year, the defense lawyer in the much publicized Delhi Gang rape case, openly said that he would burn his daughter if she were to have premarital sex and urged other parents to adopt the attitude. This is one among more blatantly chilling examples of how deep rape culture and misogyny runs here.

The problem, aside from having such misogynistic windbags like these peddling rape culture, is primarily the social setting that breeds rape culture which gives them the confidence that they could get away with such remarks. They don’t even try to make an effort to hide their vile misogyny. Because they very well know that this is not something that people would react to all that much, and even if they react, they are confident that people will move on. And sadly, they would be right.

We are disproportionately outraged over everything. Over politics. Over religion. Even over cricketers who fail to perform. But what about women? Why should we really care about them? Why should we care about addressing a social system which gives douchebags like these excellent platform to openly promote rape culture without shame?

I guess it’s about time we’ve openly admitted this.

Women, we don’t give a shit about you. Thank you very much.