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.

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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.

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.

Remembering Carl Sagan

Happy Birthday Carl SaganToday (November 9th) is the 79th Birthday of Carl Sagan, eminent astronomer, humanist, and popular science writer. I intended to blog about Camus on his 100th Birthday (which was on 7th), as he is probably the philosopher who has influenced me the most on a personal level, but I think I owe Carl Sagan a post as my respect and adoration towards him is hard to describe.

I think there is a point in many people’s life when they do self introspection, and are left with a hell lot of unanswered questions and existential crisis hits them hard. I can’t speak for everyone, but that was true in my case too, and that was when I found Carl. His views have profoundly influenced me, and as most literature intended to inspire has no or little effect on the ever so cynical me, I should thank Sagan for putting me right on track, his words struck a chord with with me right away. I am against idolizing anyone, but Sagan is one such person I admire so much, to the point that you could say that I idolize him. His views on science, skepticism, humanism and other social issues are so profound, that it’s hard not to recommend his work to anyone.

Sagan, arrested during the protest at a nuclear site in Nevada

Sagan, arrested during the protest at a nuclear site in Nevada

He was also involved in various activism. Image on the left shows him being arrested anti-war activism in a nuclear testing site. Something we, who advocate for scientific progress (and rightly so) should always remember, the equal emphasis he placed on humanism and it’s core values. He was not only an activist, but in my view, in many ways, a rebel. Him, along with his wife Ann Druyan (whom I will hopefully write about later) were arrested three times at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. To quote Ann Druyan here:

During the 1980’s we were arrested three times at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site while protesting US underground nuclear testing. This kind of activism cost him many of the glittering prizes and honors that he might have gotten if he had played along with things he thought were wrong. He turned down three invitations to dine at the Reagan White House. He couldn’t be co-opted. His opposition to the Star Wars swindle drew a lot of fire. I wish the world had a Carl Sagan now to publicly argue against the new Star Wars proposals. He could spot the phony technical arguments of the Department of Defense and bust them publicly in a way that we could all grasp.
[..]

Carl took on the military-industrial complex. He campaigned around the world for an end to the production of weapons of mass destruction. To him it was a perversion of science. So yes, it’s true that Carl was frequently denounced by televangelists, astrologers and The Wall Street Journal. Even so, it wasn’t much of a price to pay. He was the happiest person I ever knew.

 He expressed his feminist perspectives quite clearly at various points of his life, and through his sole novel Contact, where the protagonist was a female scientist, which he co authored with Ann. Here is a great excerpt from his letter to Explorers Club, which used to be exclusively male till then:

When our organization was formed in 1905, men were preventing women from voting and from pursuing many occupations for which they are clearly suited. In the popular mind, exploration was not what women did. Even so, women had played a significant but unheralded role in the history of exploration — in Africa in the Nineteenth Century, for example. Similarly, Lewis and Clark were covered with glory, but Sacajewea, who guided them every inch of the way, was strangely forgotten. All institutions reflect the prejudices and conventions of their times, and when it was founded The Explorers Club necessarily reflected the attitudes of 1905.

He also argued for reproductive rights in Billions and Billions (which again, he co-authored with Ann Druyan). Some excerpts:
By far the most common reason for abortion worldwide is birth control. So shouldn’t opponents of abortion be handing out contraceptives and teaching school children how to use them? That would be an effective way to reduce the number of abortions.
[..]

In its first decade, the AMA began lobbying against abortions performed by anyone except licensed physicians. [..] Women were effectively excluded from the medical schools, where such arcane knowledge could be acquired. So, as things worked out, women had almost nothing to say about terminating their own pregnancies. It was also up to the physician to decide if the pregnancy posed a threat to the woman, and it was entirely at his discretion to determine what was and was not a threat. For the rich woman, the threat might be a threat to her emotional tranquility or even to her lifestyle. The poor woman was often forced to resort to the back alley or the coat hanger.

Here is his response the question about lack of diversity in Science education and it’s implications:

We also might ask how it is that of the first ten or twelve questioners only one was a woman in an audience in which women are much more strongly represented. These are wide-ranging, difficult questions. I don’t claim to have the answers except to say that I know of no evidence that women and what in the United States are called racial minorities are not as competent as anybody else in doing science. It has to do, I think, entirely, or almost entirely, with the built-in biases and prejudices of the educational system and the way the society trains people. Nothing more than that. Women, for example, who are told that they’re too stupid for science, that science isn’t for them, that science is a male thing, are turned off. And women who despite that try to go into science and then find hostility from the high school math teacher—“What are you doing in my class?”—find hostility from the 95 percent male science classes, with the kind of raucous male culture in which they find themselves excluded, those are powerful social pressures to leave science. I wrote a novel once, Contact, in which I tried to describe what women dedicated to science have to face, that men don’t, in order to make a career in science.

So yes, again it’s hard to put in words to what extent Sagan has influenced my life and my character development in the latter part of my life. And I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that.  So thanks for everything, Carl. You have taught be to be humble and skeptical, you’ve helped me lose a lot of prejudices and dogmas I had held, combat my existential struggles, and shape up the way I perceive the world.

Happy Birthday!

The Problem with Post-Modernists

Warning: I’m not planning to do a detailed academic analysis on Post Modernist philosophy itself, this are my views (or rant) on my personal blog, because I’m tired of reading this nonsense on a daily basis.

ETA since I got a few negative comments: Again, I can’t emphasize this enough – don’t take this as a critique of post-modernism itself, which was never my intention. 

pomo social construct

Last month, a blog was posted in CNN about a white woman who visited India and had horrible experience with sexual harassment over here. This was met by outrage from many parts, some having victim blaming overtones. Myself as a guy who lives in India, and most feminists I know of, found it very relatable and not even slightly hard to believe. That’s hardly the point. The point is, when a woman, regardless of her background, ethnicity or race, narrates her experience in India, deserves to be heard and understood. You can’t just go on to blame her or ask her to mince the words just because you are offended. And there was no reason to either, she was very polite and did not attempt to paint all Indian men by the same brush. This has been already discussed at IHM’s blog, you can read it there.

Coming to the central point, postmodernism. I have never been impressed by postmodernist philosophy in general (I have respect, but although I don’t want to imply that their entire field is obsolete without proper exploration on my part, needless to say the sort of nonsense from many postmodernists is getting far too much for me to tolerate. Alan Sokal did a good take-down on the anti-intellectualism that plagues postmodernist philosophy in his book “Fashionable Nonsense, but that is not again my central point. This blog is to discuss about how some post-modernists get it so wrong, you can’t sometimes even tell the difference between a post modernist and a misogynist. And when that happens, you’re doing it wrong. Period.

1. Victim Blaming

This was posted on a tumblr, and was posted in relation to the RoseChasm article I mentioned:

shitpomossay1

Post-modernist nonsense exhibit 1: Victim Blaming

“Yet another deeply obnoxious, racist, classist and douchey, white woman’s account of her experience in India. […] There are ways to tell this story without being colonizing, white supremacist piss hole. Find that way or shut the fuck up.”

I saw absolutely nothing generalizing or unbelievable about her account. Why should a woman watch her mouth to stroke your post modernist sensibilities to narrate her terrible experience of sexual harassment? And what’s worse, this is riddled with personal attacks towards her. Yes, it is important that woman of color be heard, absolutely. How does that make this venomous personal attack on a person who faced sexual harassment okay? So extending the same reasoning, should non-dalit women be allowed to speak in India? Would you say the same shit to them? This is just downright misogynist douchebaggery. Oh no, we have to take everything as white savior complex, completely ignore the fact that this was a victim narrating her personal experience.  Just write a post-modernist guideline that women ought to follow from now on to speak of their personal experiences, I’m sure they would be very grateful for that.

This is the worst form of post-modernism, which is, in my view, anti-feminist and misogynist.  And this runs so deep down, where being offended  and having an us vs them mentality is good enough to rant on about anything.

2. Cultural reappropriation

shitpomossay2

PoMo exhibit 2: Racism

Now we come to the so called ‘cultural appropriation’ issue, in this case apparently the burning issue seems to be: “Should you wear a Bindi?” First of all, for all the things Po-mos say about racism, this post is ironically racist and such a sweeping generalization. Not all desi woman who wear bind wear them “cheap ugly looking desi chappals” – in fact many women who wear bindi probably from middle-upper middle class. And many of the women who do so themselves use these fairness creams. That is just the colorism they have internalized, and unfortunately confirm to. It’s an amazing leap of logic that you just made there.

And I am thankful that people from the west don’t make a fuss out of all this “cultural re-appropriation”, because we do that ourselves, if you are even aware of that. We’re not some monolithic group that wear “cheap ugly desi chappals” along with bindis. Bollywood actresses wear bindis. Upper class and caste women wear bindis.  I haven’t seen many Indians getting ‘hurt‘ in India because some white women wore a bindi here, and we’re a very sensitive bunch when it comes down to religious and cultural sentiments. But regardless, being offended is not good enough reason to refrain from doing anything. Because especially living in India, I know very well how that is used to shut down any debate. If you offend any religious sentiments, you’re screwed. And that has worked out great for us, as you can see. You may find it silly, or you may not like it, but that does not make it inherently racist. That is just irrational prejudice, nothing else.

3.  Savior Complex and Western Allies

This is a more sensitive issue, and I hope I get the nuances right here. I agree that racism in the west is not a trivial issue to this date, and I get that white savior complex might well exist and be very prevalent. But here is something many people just annoyingly go overboard with again:

PoMo exhibit 2: White Savior Complex

PoMo exhibit 3: Savior Complex

Now here comes the oft repeated phrase: “we do not need saving“. I repeatedly hear this, that “we do not need saving” strawman. What is the point of this? I mean I could say that to any activist. That “women don’t need saving” or “LGBT people don’t need saving” – and you would rightly call bullshit on that. Homophobia is terribly prevalent in Islamic communities, that’s just a reality. And I don’t see how accepting that is a problem – and I would go so far to say that acknowledging the problem exists and is widespread is the first step.

Progressive Muslims (reformists) are still in the minority, and they’re mostly the ones who are vocal about LGBT activism. So yes, allies are important. At least in my view. This kind of broad and unhelpful rhetoric just negatively affects LGBT activism in Muslim communities. And I’m just pointing out Muslim communities in this specific case, that applies to a broader context too. And it’s hard to tell if it’s a satire or real thing (spoiler alert: it is real) when you say things like “”We” are not helpless objects for you to (hyper)sexualize and prey upon with your colonial gazes.” – seriously?

Yes stereotypes are bad, and should be done away with. I appreciate that. But how about some nuance? Or being more specific and conflating strawman arguments with genuine issues that should not be brushed under the rug? I love how “hyper sexualization by colonial gazes” is an acceptable statement, but criticism of veil as a form of sexualization is “orientalist and offensive“.

And I could go on. This is just me talking from a feminist perspective and me randomly choosing a few examples to present a case.

When you yourself engage in black and white thinking whilst criticizing black and white thinking, that’s the epitome of irony. Issues in the so called “third world countries” are that bad. Ignoring that because you’re “offended” is just counter productive. And it’s not just white people, anyone who doesn’t confirm to this absurd and irrational west bashing, and black and white thinking are subject of this nonsense as well. Recently I had the misfortune to read this horrible article attacking Tehmina Kazi, Director of British Muslims for Secular Muslims, for pointing out the irrational anti-west sentiment and pointing out the obvious denialism from this crowd. And not to mention the obvious Taliban apologia or rationalizations (blame it all on the west!) these usual articles come with.

So bottom line, for all your criticism of the “west” and “white savior complex”, just stop with turning a blind eye to the very important issues that people in so called “third world” face because it “offends” you. That’s erasure of people’s experiences and reality denial. And that hurts the activism in these countries more than anything.

End of rant.

“So you have depression? Deal with it.”

I will come straight out and say this – I have gone through some terrible times in my life. I have remained in a ventilator, gasping for breath. Those were all very terrible times in my life. But what got me through is the desire to be alive, hope that this will go away, and thankfully I did get out of that eventually. But when I go through phases of depression, this is exactly what I have to fight – when you lose your grip on the feeling – the very desire to be alive, it sucks much worse. My depression is not as terrible as many, and I cope alright with taking my mind away and distracting myself when I go through such a phase. But it still sucks really, really bad when it happens.

It really ruins my day when I see some horrible victim blaming shit about a person who took his life owing to depression. A person, an acquaintance of a friend took his life, and this status was posted by one of the ‘enlightened’ people, who speaks against all the victim blaming women face (and rightly so), say this kind of vile bullshit:

victimblaming sucide

This is what people here do – just refuse to acknowledge the very existence of depression. Do you think we choose to be depressed? Do you think being in USA or India or Afghanistan has anything to do with any of this? Can I tell my brain “stop being depressed, because I am in a much better position than many others?” Well how great it would be had that worked.

...said no one ever.

…said no one ever.

So why I don’t they get help right? Because you have answered your question yourself. This was your attitude towards a person who suffered from depression. And you felt all the self righteousness to shame him in public after he was pushed over the edge.  The stigma is terrible. As I said, I cope alright myself, but I know how this works here – you would be met with some pseudo-medical advice here (because everyone’s an expert, like yourself) – “pray more” or “stop being on the internet all the time” or “we used to never have this in our time <insert random story of hardship here>” or worse, you might get your parents paranoid (not their fault though, understandably). And even if you manage to get past all that and go see a qualified therapist for professional help, you’ll be branded ‘crazy’. I would urge everyone to get professional help if they can’t cope,  but he unfortunately didn’t have it in him to go against the flow and seek help. And our fucked up society and stigma attached to mental illnesses is to blame for that, not him.

Mental illness Stigma Bingo: Same shit everywhere

Mental illness Stigma Bingo: Same shit everywhere

Depression isn’t being ‘sad’. Depression isn’t just being ‘moody’. Depression is having your soul sucked out of you and having that very thing – i.e. that desire that keeps you alive – being taken away. You just feel empty, everything otherwise you would not even think about would magnify itself thousands of times and manage to make yourself feel crappy. For many, it wouldn’t take much to push them over the edge.

If you live in a society where people with mental illness are branded ‘crazies’ and depression isn’t seen as a mental illness and something you can ‘get over’ with some chirpy optimism, and have depression – you would know what I am talking about. It has nothing to do with ‘being rich’ or having all the things you deem to be ‘valuable’ in the world. You can’t just say ‘look at the people who suffer!’ and make it go away. Do you really think we put ourselves voluntarily through all that? Do you really take us for being some brainless morons just because we are depressed? And the last thing people with depression need is such douchebaggery and victim blaming on top of what they already struggle to cope with. So congrats, you are no better than any of the victim blaming rape apologists that you condemn yourself.

Mental illnesses are every bit real as physical illnesses. It’s no different from a badly broken arm – but the only difference is that for many it’s much worse when you don’t have that desire to live anymore, and neither do you get shamed or doubted for it. 

Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. Depression is the sign of a person being strong for far too long. 

Why the romanticization of Arranged Marriages needs to stop

I just happened to come across this video, which is apparently a video made by students of University of Berkeley as a part of their Campus MovieFest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtppMsiqqrM

The video description reads:

The movie is a light-hearted take on the custom of arranged marriages in India. Although widely practiced, the young generation is uncomfortable with the concept and feel compelled to show that it was love that brought them together.

I wouldn’t have honestly minded this, and I did find some parts of the video funny in a cheesy way. But it ends with this ‘message’:

Most Marriages in India are arranged…  amazingly enough this bonding lasts forever!

This really made me angry. There is nothing romantic about arranged marriages. marriage

The main part that disturbs me is the concept of spending a lifetime together with a partner you barely know. If it has worked out well for some people, I am happy for them, but I just don’t see it how we are supposed to marry a random stranger you barely know, whom you would have to decide if he or she is a good enough match for you looking at the photograph? Oh, and how are these photographs chosen? Either through online marriage services, or some agents who would do the same offline. And potential ‘grooms’ and ‘brides’ are handpicked by families based on factors like religion, caste, class and even color. Yep, because that is what is very important for the stable marriage, being of the right classcaste or religion. And this is what you are romanticizing, instead of criticizing. 

And what makes it all the worse, people who break this ‘tradition‘ of arranged marriage would face serious pressures from many families. Many just don’t bother resisting, but those who do, are disowned from their families. And many who resist are disowned by their families, which has happened in my family itself (although they later made amends, but in many cases they don’t). And that is me ignoring the common problem of forced marriages, which deserves a whole separate post – and this outrages me even more as one my friends now is living under the fear of getting married by force herself.

 

And as for the, the ‘bonding‘ lasting forever is mostly because there is still really bad stigma associated with divorce, and families would still ask them to ‘compromise‘, even when it comes to domestic abuse – because as  ‘well mannered woman’, you have to make compromises. That is how it rolls. Because it is all the inevitable part of a family life, apparently. This is why I hate it when people bring up divorce rates in the ‘west‘ and compare it to that of India to show how ‘stable‘ our relationships are. 

Now remember, I am not talking about those who have a good healthy, relationship that happened to be a result of arranged married, but rather the process itself, as it is widely practiced in India. It’s an utterly despicable and hardly talked about practice in my view – and the last thing you need is a propaganda telling us ‘young generation’ who are ‘uncomfortable with the concept’ how great this absurd practice is.