Archive | June 2012

What is wrong with saying VAGINA?

In India, there seems to be a taboo regarding sex and sexuality. The majority view seems to be – No, we don’t want Sex Ed!!! What if our kids turn out to be like the Immoral Damned West?!!! *gasp*
Oh, so you have no problem with saying words like VAGINA? No problem with SEX ED??!

GO AND FLASH OTHER PEOPLE, THEN!! Its all about RESPECTING YOUR BODY.

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Sooooo… Respecting my body means to not talk about it? Doesn’t that actually mean that I’m ashamed of my body? Does shame and respect go hand in hand?
I think not.

Here are ten reasons why talking about sex, sexuality and genitalia shouldn’t be taboo –

#1 CHILD ABUSE. If a kid is being abused and talking about specific parts of his/her body is taboo and “shameful”, how is the kid even going to speak up?

#2 INFECTIONS. If a kid feels any sort of discomfort in his/her penis/vagina (yes,”decent” people. Run for cover!) which might lead to infections, how is the kid going to talk about it?

#3 SEXUAL ABUSE. Kids often sexually abuse younger kids. When they are curious about sex and are afraid to talk about it with their parents, they often express themselves this way.

#4 RAPE. Teenagers even go to the extent of raping other children to explore sexuality and satisfy their curiosity about sex when they can’t talk about it freely with their parents or experiment with it without shame.

#5 UNHEALTHY VIEW OF SEXUALITY. Often, these taboos give rise to screwed perceptions about sex. Which has the potential to screw up their entire outlook towards life.

#6 BEING ASHAMED OF THEIR OWN BODIES. I could just go on and on here…

#7 SLUT SHAMING. Nothing much to say, really. Just a few questions – why do some parents in India prefer to let their daughters marry their rapists? Why are rape victims murdered? Why don’t parents want their daughter to divorce her abuser? Think about it. One common element is sex.

#8 NO AWARENESS. Believe it or not, most people in India do not even have a clear idea about what constitutes consent. What is marital rape? What is date rape? Most people do not even acknowledge marital or date rape as rape. See what I’m talking about?

#9 PUBERTY. When teens reach puberty, they really have no one to guide them. That often causes misconceptions. Girls do not even know about menstruation. Many girls think they are going to bleed to death. They do not even tell anybody for a few hours. Why? It is “shameful”.

#10 MISOGYNY. The countries which have taboos about sex and anything connected with it are the most misogynistic. They shame women about something so natural. They encourage guys to participate in slut-shaming.

How is this going to help us at all? How will such taboos help us in achieving equality? How will this help in making us a more developed nation?

It won’t.

Vagina is not a dirty word.

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I tweet @Archsmta

This entry was posted on June 28, 2012. 7 Comments

Rape and Clothing : how its dressed up (A post by Praveen Talwar)

Many years ago, in 1990, something changed in India. It wasn’t something that everyone noticed. It wasn’t something that a lot of people even cared about. But it was something big, something to do with how the law actually extends its protection to citizens in practice. In October 1990, the Supreme Court of India ruled in favor of one Banubi Sheikh, a woman who admitted in court that she was party to an extramarital relationship, a woman who also stuck to her guns in stating that that little fact should be treated as irrelevant to her main allegation that she was assaulted and raped by a policeman at her home.
Like many things in law, it wasn’t the case that was important; it was the precedent. For the first time, the supreme court explicitly stated that a woman’s sex life was her own business, and no matter how many people she chose to have sex with, no matter what her moral standing was, no one had the right to rape her as and when they pleased. It was just a little reminder that women’s sex lives were really their own. It was a reminder that a lot of people found very hard to swallow back in 1990, and one that many people find hard to swallow now, in 2012.
Talking about rape in India produces predictable responses. Women should take care. Women should learn to defend themselves. Women should carry pepper spray. Women should avoid certain areas. Women should maintain high situational awareness. Yes, rape is a crime, but a rapist is little more than an animal. Why blame an animal? If you provoke an animal, it’ll get you. Ergo, some restrictions are necessary.
It sounds sensible, right? Well, not really. Not if you think about it.
In this guest post, I will attempt to explain why the advice above is not as useful as it sounds. I will point out how culture ties into sexual assault, and put forward my opinions on why the current strategies for handling sexual assault are largely ineffective, and will remain so unless we take remedial steps.
I will finish by discussing a few possible solutions and the outlook for the future.
So let’s begin.
One of the traditional prescriptions to avoid being a victim to sex crime is to dress conservatively. It’s supposed to be obvious that attractively dressed women are more likely to get raped. It’s supposed to be so obvious that it goes unexamined.
Let’s examine it now. Here are three facts about rape:

Most convicted rapists do not remember what their victims wore.
Rape victims aren’t all single, attractive young women. They can be infants or grandmothers too. In fact, rape victims are not necessarily women, but that’s something I’m not going to get into right now.

A United States Federal Commission on Crime of Violence Study found that only 4.4% of all reported rapes involved ‘provocative behavior’ (self-defined as a noticeable gesture towards the perpetrator, encouraging him or her to carry out the crime) on the part of the victim. In murder cases 22% involved such behavior (as simple as a glance).Clearly, there’s a lot going on in a rapist’s mind apart from, “hmm, this woman is attractive, I can’t control myself”. It is a mistake to call a rape a crime of passion. Let me repeat that. Rape is NOT a crime of passion.
Rape can be far more accurately described as a crime of opportunity. It is not a beauty contest. While it’s not easy to conduct research on rape due to factors like under-reporting and skewed statistics, what we do know is that a rapist does not look for the most attractive women to assault. Instead, he chooses the most available woman, the woman he has the greatest access to, the woman he perceives to be the least likely to report the assault. That means girlfriends, coworkers, neighbors and even spouses. That means women in vulnerable, dependent positions. That means women close to the criminal.
And if all this talk of ‘choosing’ surprises you, it really shouldn’t. Research shows that most rapists premeditate their crimes. They know who they are going to assault and how. They decide this beforehand. They decide itbefore they have a chance to see how their victims are dressed on that particular day. And they do it because they are part of a culture which tolerates and encourages this behavior.
Which brings me to my next point. Culture.
A lot of people are surprised when I point out that sexual assault isn’t just a random act of violence. It’s not. As I’ve had occasion to say before, sexually assaulting a woman is a very specific violent act that is linked to a plethora of cultural tie-ins. For most rapists, the act isn’t about satisfying a biological need, it’s about satisfying a psychological need. It’s about power and control. And power and control are two things that, more than anything else, are culturally defined.
In a patriarchal society, where sexes are segregated and sexuality is repressed, women aren’t really people and sex isn’t really an activity. Both are objects. You don’t just have sex, youtake sex, you get sex. Taking sex is a way of taking power, snatching power, asserting power. From there, it’s only a short hop to rape being considered normal.
India took that hop a long time ago. This is a country where raping your wife every night for years and years isn’t even a crime. This is a country where it’s considered mental cruelty for a woman to not have sex with her husband on her wedding night. This is a country where a woman gets gang-raped and the first thing people say is – you were probably behaving like a sl*t. This is victim-blaming, but it’s also much more than that. It’s resignation and normalization. It’s the acceptance of the idea that rape is a normal, inevitable outcome of certain situations. It’sworse than victim-blaming. And as long as we keep doing it, fat chance of getting rape numbers down.
The whole problem with the legal attitudes to rape in India is that they are built within a patriarchal framework. Indian laws provide for harsh punishment for rape, but it has minimal deterrent effect, because in India, most rapists do not fear being caught. Many are actually surprised if they do end up getting reported. Because they live in a society where rape is considered normal in certain situations, they do not even understand the full magnitude of their actions. And the one true solution, perhaps the only solution is – openness.
Open attitudes towards the sexes mingling with each other.
Open attitudes towards sex itself.
Open discussion of what’s really going on when someone decides to sexually assault a woman.
Open education about sex and sexuality.
Openness between men and women while talking about sex.
Openness.
That’s the key to a future where women don’t have to walk on eggshells all the time. As citizens, we owe this to ourselves. Let’s teach our kids to be open about things. Let’s teach our kids to communicate. Let’s teach our kids to robustly challenge assumptions about rape and women in general that just aren’t true.
Putting women in conservative clothing isn’t a cure. It’s an ineffective, rather useless measure against a complex problem. By all means, dress sensibly. By all means, learn karate. By all means, carry pepper spray. But know that those aren’t solutions.
Let’s not go overboard with that stuff. Let’s focus on the real issue here. Wearing a salwar kameez instead of jeans is not a solution. It’s a home remedy that doesn’t work.
Women have lived in fear long enough. It’s time that changed. It’s going to take time, but let’s start to trudge that road, one step at a time.


Warm Regards,
Praveen Talwar

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I tweet @Archsmta

What makes an Indian Woman a Real Woman

What makes an Indian woman a woman? That is, what makes her a proper woman? What makes her womanly, and not a “slut”? Doing what makes her not “invite people to rape/sexually harass her”?

Is it keeping her eyes down when talking to men? Is it thinking her body and her essence to be something shameful? Is it being dependent on her husband for her financial security? Is it sacrificing her health to produce a “waaris” to carry on her husband’s lineage? Is it not eating until the men have eaten? Is it coming home before 10pm so that men are not “provoked” to rape her? Or is not going out of her house at all the ideal?

Here are ten of the most basic things which make an Indian Woman a Proper Woman -:

#1 Wearing a saree

#2 Being a Pavitra Nari

#3 Serving her Pati Parameshwar without any complaint

#4 If she doesn’t have a PP, going on “vrat(s)” to ensure she has one

#5 Working like a slave for the men (and her in-laws) while they rest

#6 Not losing her virginity until that First Night

#7 Being scandalized when anybody talks about smoking, drinking and/or sex

#8 Thinking sex is something men do to women and therefore, suppressing her sex drive by doing “pooja(s)” all the time

#9 Cooking the favorite dishes of the men atleast once in a week

#10 Not speaking out against anything a man says. Anything.

Here are two Never Ever bonus points -:

#11 Never ever reporting a case of rape or sexual harassment to ANYBODY because all her honor will be lost and she will be called “dirty”

#12 Never ever acknowledging it when somebody molests her on the street or the bus (or anywhere) because it is a matter of great shame and she will be thought of as a Loose Woman because, obviously, she must have invited it herself and provoked the poor man.

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Here are the meanings -:

Waaris – Male Heir

Pavitra Nari – Chaste Woman; Pure Woman

Pati Parameshwar – Husband the Prime God (rough translation)

Vrat – Fast

Pooja – A Ceremony to Invoke the Blessings of a God (or Gods)

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PS This list is about a Hindu Indian Woman. I thought I might start with Hindus since they constitute a majority BUT some of the reasons might be applicable to all sections of Indian Women by making minor changes, for eg – replacing words like “Pavitra Nari” with some other equivalent of a community, or replacing saree with burqa or hijab, and sometimes not making any changes at all, like #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12. The words used in #3 and #4 also have equivalents in most Indian communities, that is, women are expected to serve their husbands without any complaint and pray they get one when they are single.

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I tweet @Archsmta

(Anti)Feminist Arguments(?)

First of all, let me tell you how I came across the idea of writing on this topic. So, I was surfing the net, y’know, searching for some ideas, when I went to youtube.com. I had heard of the video “Shit People Say To Feminists” and I wanted to check it out for myself. It was really funny and I wanted to watch a few other videos along the same lines. So, I watched a few more –  including “Shit Christians Say To Atheists” and “Shit Democrats Say” when I came across “Shit Atheists Say”. Being one myself, I was curious. So, I clicked on it and basically it was the stuff Atheists constantly repeat in any discussion on religion. For eg-“ Hitler was not an atheist!” when people say that he was. But, the acting was really humourous.

Then, I saw a video “Shit Feminists Say”. I clicked on it, curious and I found a few parts of it funny, for eg- when the actor playing a feminist finds a banana “offensive”. It could have been funnier if the acting was better, though.

After that, I found a video titled “Sh*t White Feminists Say”. I didn’t find that funny, because the script was horrible. The actors mostly repeated words and phrases used in the feminist movement like “intersectionality” and “socially constructed notions”. I didn’t quite get the  humour there (even though I’m not white). Now,after seeing that, I had this irresistible urge to type “anti feminist” into the search bar and see what I come up with.

One of the first videos that I came up with was titled “Anti Feminist” where a white, blonde female expressed her views on feminism and society. I did not watch the last two minutes of her video – it was beyond my tolerance. I also watched some other anti-feminist videos, some made by women.

These women think that just because they are women and oppose feminism, it somehow proves that the whole concept of feminism is completely unnecessary and stupid and Oh-My-God, we are living in the TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, OK FEMINAZIS?? Because y’know, feminism is all about the “empowerment” of women and I’m a woman and I’m plenty empowered and you people have taken political correctness to extremes, so, like, I’m a woman and empowered. STOP CRIBBING. Today, I’m going to try to understand why people hold a few nonsensical things against feminism and my answers to those.

  • “I’m a woman and I didn’t find anything offensive or demeaning. It’s the way things are supposed to be.” (differnce in incomes, for example)

Ok, so its just a random example, it could be anything at all. Now, you know what this reminds me of? The slaves in Margaret Mitchell’s epic Gone With The Wind. The slaves who truly beleved that their status was lower than the whites because of a higher melanin count, rather than exploitation. Indeed, they did not even know they were being exploited. It was natural, they thought. Image

  • “And what about men? Aren’t you concerned about them too?”

Yeah, we are concerned about them too. We are concerned about  every gender. We are concerned about children.  Feminism DOES NOT fight against men – it fights against the system of patriarchy which affects us ALL.  But here’s the thing – it affects us all,but if you are a heterosexual male you can’t even BEGIN to understand what the other groups go through. Nope. It might affect us all, but does not oppress us equally. For eg – Male fetuses are not aborted or killed as infants specifically because they are males in as widespread a manner as females. And this is just one example.

I think we all agree that to give equal attention to groups, their status has to first BE equal. Which they are not. Let me give one example – Now, if men were raped or sexually assaulted/harassed as much as women, or women raped or sexually assaulted/harassed as little as men under the system of patriarchy, and the efforts were still divided unequally, then this “what about men” argument would be totally justified.

Ever seen a man groped at/shouted at with a sexual intent on the street? No? Me neither.

  • “If feminism is about equality, why is it called FEMINIsm?”

Because, quite simply put, everything perceived as weak, inferior and dirty in our society is associated with the feminine. Pussies, Bitches, Cunts, Whores – the list is endless. And applied irrespective of gender. Nowadays words like these are being reclaimed – and personally, I support them – but most importantly, I think, the concept of feminity needs to be reclaimed. For eg – Many men are called “women” for being sensitive. What is wrong with being sensitive? Isn’t sensitivity an important part of humanity? Why is the word “woman” used as a derogatory term? What is wrong with being a woman after all?

And, I know that, if the world was opposite, and matriarchy dominant and oppressing men and other genders the way women and others are oppressed now, I would have supported the word “masculism” with the same fervour I support “feminism”.

  • ‘I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.”

Humanism – A system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, and dignity predominate.

Feminism – The doctrine advocating social, political, economic and all other rights of women equal to men.

Are not these two mutually inclusive? Since when did a doctrine advocating equal rights not be a mode of thought in which human interests, values and dignity predominate?

Are women (and those thought of as such) not human?

Or are men more human than women?

“This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.” ― Gloria Steinem

Personally, I’m a (secular) humanist and it really irks me when people say that line(I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist!).

And this brings me to the reason why i wanted to address some of the very very common “arguments” against feminism. I put arguments in quotation marks because they aren’t arguments as much as they are a misunderstanding of what feminism really is.

I know many feminists don’t really address these common things held against the movement, as a separate blog post atleast (I haven’t seen any, please comment the address if you have). But, I wanted to do it because I feel like many people think feminism is actually a female supremacist movement, and that deters them from supporting it and many possible contributions to it. That is why we get to hear so many “I’m not a feminist, but…”. Negative stereotypes don’t help either. But that is exactly what it is – a stereotype.

I read somewhere that feminism is all about man-hating and I could google “Radical Feminist quotes” if I didn’t believe it. Needless to say, I googled it and found some pretty unnerving, man-hating quotes.

Here I would like to say something personal – I was brought up in India. The animosity between Muslims and Hindus in india is great – mainly due to the partition which was traumatic and left deep scars in the collective psyche of both groups. There is much hatred and distrust between these two groups, and  inevitably, I have heard some pretty extremist comments from people of both sides. The thing is, after I read those quotes, I remembered those comments again – those extremist comments. Why? Because it made me realize  that every group, every ideology has its own sect of extremists, but that does not mean the ideology itself is inherently extremist.

Because it made me realize that people’s opinions and thoughts are largely influenced by their experiences (the experience of reading this, for example, might influence your opinions).

With that being said, I wrote this post because if it helps even one person to make up his/her mind about supporting feminism or even learning more about feminism, I will have considered the time I spent writing this post well-spent.

And I have hope because I, personally, became familiar with the feminist movement through web discussions.

And also because sometimes correcting one small misunderstanding makes a person see something in a totally different light, and that the “something” in this case will be feminism, a doctrine I feel very strongly about.

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I tweet @Archsmta

Hello world!

Hi! This is a blog I started to share my views on whatever the hell goes on in the world nowadays (not all of it good – racism and sexism are just two examples). But, I must warn you – a majority of the posts will be about feminism (the webpage address is a MAJOR hint).

I haven’t decided anything yet – whether I’ll upload new posts weekly or fortnightly or monthly or whatever. I haven’t even decided the topic of my next blog post. If anyone has suggestions, please feel free to comment.

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I tweet @Archsmta

This entry was posted on June 7, 2012. 3 Comments