Even when they do it ‘right’ – They do it wrong.

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I had been meaning to write on the M.A.R.D. (literal: Man, acronym for: Men Against Rape and Discrimination) campaign (launched and promoted by Farhan Akthar)  after the Delhi incident took place. And it was about time, although such a horrible incident had to take place to shake our nation, while sexual violence against women were mostly brushed aside as a small column in newspapers before and not to mention that the root issue, misogyny and rape culture was not addressed by most people even in light of these events.

Before I begin, I have to say that I appreciate Farhan Akhtar’s good intentions and I do believe that he genuinely is interested in the cause of promoting women’s rights. Much before, I was happy to see him tweet against victim blaming multiple times most big ‘Bollywood stars’ just distance themselves from making any political statements and recently, his support of One Billion Rising campaign. Although to promote violence against putting the ‘true man’ rhetoric on pedestal is non constructive. What irritates me more is that he gets it partly, and agrees that patriarchal mindset is the problem, and still thinks  making posters like the one below is a good idea for an anti-rape campaign:

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This gender norm of mardangi (masculinity) is exactly what should be done away with, instead of stroking it further to promote women’s rights. This does nothing in addressing patriarchal gender norms. Although to their credit, they share some very good posts (along with some not so good ones, which still promotes the patriarchal  mindset) on their FB page, which I haven’t seen many such celebrity-endorsed campaigns (in India) do. Only if they had taken those seriously and done a serious re-evaluation on what they are promoting, this could have had some real good impact, but sadly fell short by a long way. You can read a detail critique of the campaign here, also addressed well by the video I had shared here. Oh and meanwhile could we please end the “maa behen” nonsense, once and for all? Because women deserve respect because they are people, not because they are some man’s mother or sister. This has been so since Bollywood films of 60’s (or earlier) and people won’t just let it go.

Moving past M.A.R.D., this is not just the case of one misdirected campaign. But people who care (or pretend to care) about women’s rights repeat the same mistakes again. Another example the Bhartiya Mahila Bank initiative, which is a project worth millions, for an exclusive women’s bank (read detailed critique here), which is one of the worst forms of tokenism. Apparently our government thinks gender segregation is a good idea, instead of promoting diversity, making these male dominated areas more accessible to women and taking measures to counter workplace harassment. One would have thought these people would have put more thought behind these projects before implementing them. To quote from this well written piece, “Segregating women into separate spaces is easy; giving them real equality is far more difficult.”

And then there is hilariously bad pretenders, Raj Thackeray recently asked Women to ‘Send bangles to Patil‘, because ladies, as you would have guessed, the worst insult to a man is to be called a woman. Questioning his ‘manhood‘ is the worst thing you can do. And far be it for me to care about what Raj or his cronies has to say, but this is not at all uncommon. This is exactly why I have such a big problem with the M.A.R.D. campaign and how they confirm this again, which really undo a lot of effort they put into this campaign.

What is the solution? I think Rahul Bose nailed it, gender equality should be compulsory part of curriculum. None of this ‘aurat maa hoti hai‘ nonsense, but a robust inclusive course which isn’t gender essentialist. And when you go ahead with some activism or ‘progressive‘ projects, put some thought behind as for what you are trying to achieve. Or else this could go all wrong – not only as just a wast of effort, but even reinforce the patriarchal norms that many activists are trying to counter.

Independence day thoughts

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Disclaimer: This may turn into a rant soon, so fair warning to all patriots and nationalists.

Alright. I, like any other average school going Indian kid, has been thoroughly spoon fed the greatness of our nation since childhood. I have, like everyone else, thoughtlessly mouthed our bizarrely worded pledge (…all Indians are my brothers and sisters..). I have also seen enough “Paki bashing“, through media and movies, which of course is supposed to give us some sense of superiority (or something). Or had my Facebook news feed full of images proclaiming superiority of our nation. None of this has made me feel anything. I don’t deny that it inevitably becomes a part of my identity, but I never have I been able to grasp the concept of how I have to be somehow proud of being born in a country through pure random chance.  Also, I get a good chuckle when some enlightened ‘peaceful‘ Indian comes in everywhere from the movies to the internets, and point out the people who fight in the name of religious superiority to remind that “we are all proud Indians and we should stay united..” (insert random ‘proud Indian’ statements here) – the irony of using one divisive ideology to combat another never ceases to amaze me.

nationalismoct[1]Of course, that might all be narrow minded, cynical me who don’t just “get it”. What worries me, is when all this propaganda and nationalism breeds intolerance. A good example last year was actress and model Gehna Vasisht getting attacked for wearing a bikini with Indian flag – and not one source have I found to date condemning physical violence against her. All I saw were how she was doing this for cheap publicity stunt – perhaps she was. But does that really matter? Is it such a hard thing to understand that violence against women is wrong regardless of her supposed intentions or your beliefs?  And at the time, I happened to see an FB page sharing the same, congratulating her attackers for beating her black and blue. And the number of likes and shares that received was unbelievable. When a shred of cloth trumps basic human rights, then maybe it’s time to re-examine your core beliefs and moral stance.

So it would seem that Independence day is another great day for us to brush the issues of misogyny, homophobia, oppression against non believers and minorities, casteism etc which still remains to chain us. aside and be proud of our inherent national superiority. Maybe I am generalizing. Maybe I am being cynical. But I have seen nothing much to that effect. I’m desperately hoping that I’m very, very wrong, but sadly that hasn’t been the case (aside a few exceptions like this). At least maybe it’s worth re-examining if that which supposedly unites you divides you more than anything. Maybe it’s not just the colonial forces we need to be free from, as we are still chained by the aforementioned issues. When we begin to address those, then maybe I’ll cheer you along with the whole ‘Proud Indian’ chants and whatnot.

What am I doing, ruining your good national holiday. Happy Independence Day everyone!

Human Rights Violations against a lesbian couple in Kerala, India (Video with ENGLISH Subtitles)

Reblogging for Signal boost.

Praja Rajakiya Vedike ಪ್ರಜಾ ರಾಜಕೀಯ ವೇದಿಕೆ

 

Lesbian couple from Kerala, India, Sruthi and Saranya, both aged 21 years, are denied their rights to live together and to make their choice. They are abused, intimidated and are persecuted. Join the voices that are demanding protection of their rights.

Sruthi, BT Venkatesh (senior advocate and human rights activist) and Manohar Elavarthi spoke in this video.

 

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When will our Sex Negativity and Hypocrisy end?

While watching the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, one thing I genuinely appreciated it for was the portrayal of marital rape. The scene is where Milkha Singh’s sister (played by Divya Dutta) is raped by her husband. Not just the fact that it showed something that most mainstream films refuse to address, but the way how it is portrayed as well was commendable. Her husband is shown as otherwise “well mannered bloke” – not the evil mythical rapist that waits women in the dark alleys during nights (which is ignored by most people as rape is often committed by perpetrators who are close to the victim). Anyways, IHM has a blog post here with some good comments, which I would recommend reading.

Now back to the post. When I was casually browsing through one of the frequently visited film review blogs, I saw this comment over there:

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So apparently, the guy thinks it was a “sex scene” between her and her husband and showing it would “uncomfortable” to kids. Now I’m not blaming the guy, because he’s not the problem, he’s just the symptom of it. I have lost count of people who fail to understand the concept of marital rape and how wives can still be raped by their husbands.  I won’t get into the territory of movies where rapist marries the victim and it all gets fair and square in the end. Lumping any discussion regarding sex as vulgar is pretty convenient. But what is okay though, is the terrible objectification of women that’s being passed on as item song (the name says it all – where woman is considered an “item“), which has no relevance to the story, but mandatory to most movies these days. Promoting the worldview of woman being just a piece of flesh is perfectly fine, but oh no, god forbid let anyone see any healthy and extremely relevant portrayal of a heinous act on screen. This is not just limited to movies. People are perfectly fine with slut shaming women, but healthy discussion of sex or rape is not necessary at all. That’s all a given, as we are all enlightened beings already. There is no need for any “vulgar” discussions like that. That would be against our great culture and what not. Never go near the issues of misogyny, rape culture etc.

What we can do though, is get morally outraged when rapes are rampant and demand him to be hung or to be castrated. Our one sized solution for all problems. Why bother with all the hard part of having addressing the underlying problems at all?  Right fellas?