Dec. 4th, 2011

oncejadedtwicesnarked: A cookie. The words read "meets minimum standards of basic. human" (Ally cookie)

I've been pretty busy moving and settling in a new city these past three weeks, I couldn't keep up with people, let alone the internet -- thus thankfully missing debates around whether Mumbai should have slutwalks or not. One of the organisers asked me whether I'd be willing to help organise as we've worked on a few things together before. She was quite taken aback when I declined her offer (given that Slutwalk Mumbai ends up taking place) as we usually agree on most things when it comes to activism and organising. She asked, "But don't you love your freedom? How can you pass up an opportunity such as this to see and know how far we can push boundaries?" and then I didn't have any answers for her as I was, and am still caught up in thinking how for her, and a lot of people Slutwalk™ has come to symbolise the sum of all feminist rioting considering  Delhi, Calcutta, Hyderabad and Mumbai (from time to time) have had walks and pickets by feminists and people involved in gender justice, for causes ranging from more college seats for women to raising awareness about sex-selective abortions -- each issue that emerges from our specific caste, gender, class conflicts in each specific city long before Slutwalk™ became an enterprise. Since this exchange, the rhetoric behind supporting slutwalks has become intertwined with "respecting and loving oneself" -- where love¹ (of the self, of the 'community') is continuously intertwined to the extent that any opposition to slutwalk today is to "hate" freedom -- and peculiarly, this 'freedom'  that SW represents has to move away from anything "recognisably" Indian -- whatever that means to people individually and collectively.

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In other parts of the country -- especially Delhi -- newspapers and news channels are all fixed on Anna Hazare's impending fast tomorrow, that has been a part of national rhetoric and vocabulary since late April. On the whole, Hazare demands for a new anti-corruption bill, asks people to fully and directly engage with the government and hold them accountable. When it comes to the news coverage of his speeches and his entire fast, the comparisons drawn to Gandhi are more than co-incidental -- tomorrow being Independence Day for India, the analogy becomes even thicker, Hazare is viewed as the "one man army" who is going to drive away corruption, going by Gandhi's views of freedom. While I don't necessarily agree that this protest is "peaceful" at all, that by specifically re-membering India's history of independence as one without critically admitting to ourselves and others that it meant freedom for only 'some' people, I do find such a 'nation-wide' movement fascinating -- as from time to time we see women also supporting Hazare's fast², it's been a while since women have been featured under the "national gaze" as more than just agency-less subjects. However, coming to the actual protest due on 15th August at Delhi, it seems women may not have a harassment-free space to march and protest. Can't say I'm particularly shocked if tomorrow there are mostly men broadcasted over the news -- as Hazare (like Gandhi) still see women's roles under traditional patriarchy of wifedom and motherdom. For instance, the Alcohol Prohibition Act reads like one that empowers women, to talk about their abusive alcoholic spouses -- it supposes that only men can be alcoholics, that one has to be an alcoholic to abuse people; there are many loopholes to this and quite a few of his other arguments too, one of the most troubling being -- does an anti-corruption movement erase/will attempt to smooth over India's history and geography of communal violence and casteism?

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oncejadedtwicesnarked: Spivak is looking disgruntled and pissed. (Default)

I haven't written here for more than a month, because honestly I didn't trust myself to write without exploding into particles of dust, or if I did manage to write somehow it would only be selective expletives repeated over and over -- I've been more than just a little angry. Warning to readers, I'm not writing this to cater to your sensibilities, nor is this the moment to profess how you belong to [x] group but don't do any [abc] I talk about. I am exhausted with keeping my anger inside, and it's coming out in all insidious ways today.

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When I repeat out of frustration to western feminists -- yes western feminists get clubbed in the same indistinguishable a bubble as "South Asian feminist" feels to me -- that abortion wars here are different, we face different demons, we use different strategies, all they seem to hear is "India doesn't consider abortion is illegal! They don't have anything to complain about!". Yes, factually, the Indian nation-state hasn't outlawed abortion, that can hardly be cited as evidence to prove that there aren't any problems. Or on the flip-side, almost every feminist (or not) publication from the Global North talks about the problem of female feticide India -- additionally India and China are used interchangeably for some reason, as if any place that is Not the Global North must be a homogeneous mass of cultures  -- to the extent that "feminism in India" means "sex-selective abortion". There is a problem with using and perpetuating such a model, where you start equating a region's "gender problems" to its feminism is probably the preliminary layer of fail; I've talked about  it long enough. What you leave out when you stick to the primitive equation of "Indian feminism = sex-selective abortion" are the many methods that the State designs to keep contraception from people who want to access it, to forcibly sterilise groups which the State thinks need to be curbed and even erased. It infuriates me that whenever one speaks of "sex-selective abortions" and its evils -- yes fetuses are being aborted because they're perceived to be 'useless' as they're female, and it is evil, it needs to end, no disputing this fact. But there's more to just a "culture thinking females are unworthy" that people don't want to engage with -- what western feminists don't even consider is the way discourse around contraception figures here; mainly because they're too busy presuming that it's the same as it is in their native countries, but I digress.

Contraception, as introduced by the State was started in the light of the UN deciding "India's problem" was "over-population", and it's not surprising that a neo-liberal capitalist socialist state that India supposedly was then didn't contest this accusation, or didn't argue that the real problem was unequal resource-allocation. Contraception, for a long time didn't mean sexual autonomy of bodies, instead it was (and is), "we must control the numbers", as if these "numbers" cannot ever be wanted bodies. Forced sterilsations of men and (mostly) women during Emergency years are no secret, nor are the sterilisations of some "backward" castes and tribes that are carried out regularly. More recently, the State has changed its face when it comes to contraception, now it's under the Right To Information, the citizen -- or at least people who are read as citizens -- that we get "a choice" in what form of contraception we can avail of; there are enough ads everywhere that address this nice married Hindi and English speaking Hindu lady who has two (or three) children and is thinking of contraception. Even within this incredibly narrow range of people nice Hindu ladies addressed, they don't get access to contraception -- there are abortion practitioners who will look at your financial and social status and decide that you can raise a baby and refuse to give you an abortion, or not give you information about UID's even if you can afford it, the concern to protect your Right To Conceive one day is apparently more important than your informed choice -- and people who are not women, who are not Hindu, not English (or Hindi) speaking, according to the State don't need to avail of contraception, going by the demographic they address in their ads and propaganda.

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Jaded

March 2012

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