GUEST POST: Excluding Transgender People Doesn’t Make Anything Safer For Anybody

Reblogged

LaDIYfest Sheffield

Content note: this piece contains descriptions of transmisogyny, homophobic bullying and sexual assault.

Recently I read an article in the New Statesman in which the writer recounted her experience of rape, and the subsequent lack of empathy and care she experienced from the men around her. My heart sank as I read this all too familiar story. I felt a surge of empathy with the woman, as well as anger on her behalf.

And then my heart sank even further, and the anger I had felt in solidarity with this woman turned towards her, as she made the argument that, having felt safer and more able to recover from her ordeal in “female only” spaces (implication: spaces that do not admit transgender women on the basis of their gender assigned at birth), there was a reasonable debate to be had about the exclusion of transgender women from such spaces. While I…

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On “#StartWithTheBoys – A film by Vinil Mathew starring Madhuri Dixit for #VogueEmpower”

I saw this advert on the tele yesterday and am sharing some of my thoughts on the same.

It seems a well-intentioned endeavor targeted presumably on the urban populace.

It tries to drive home a pertinent point but doesn’t do a very good job of justifying it.

Men are,  since their childhood, conditioned to bottle up their feelings and crying is shamed, usually, by comparing crying boys to girls (another very subtle point is that why being compared with girls should be worth getting shamed over ?!), eventually creating men who are distant, apathetic and prone to unleash violence on others and even their family members.

Madhuri Dixit, in the video, says “बचपन से ही सिखाते हैं की लड़के रोते नही हैं, शायद बेहतर होगा कि हम सिखाएं कि लड़के रुलाते नही हैं” (We have taught our boys not to cry. It’s time we teach them not to make girls cry*)

Now what I find worth getting miffed over in this statement is that the suggestion that boys be treated as human beings and not as emotionless robots trained to achieve professional success at all costs, is primarily motivated by the fact that men who don’t express themselves emotionally, often do it violently. Men’s well-being, somehow misses the agenda, and the campaign assumes a very noticeable gynocentric focus, with men just as a means to an end i.e. women’s safety and happiness.

Now, I am myself am a great supporter of Women’s (or anyone else’s, for that matter) empowerment and am often vocal about it as well, but I still feel irritated at the absence of consideration of males as human beings in their own right.

Also, the prescription that boys be taught to not make girls cry seems..well, a bit condescending. Instead, why not teach everyone, both boys and girls to respect each other and decency, balance out presence of genders in all spheres of life, e.g. Why don’t we talk of absence of men in homemaking but only of absence of women in boardrooms?

Their is another prevalent tendency to assume that domestic violence is always initiated by men and only women are the victims.

Never the less, I think I’ll leave it at that. There is no reason to doubt the intention of the ad-makers, in all likelihood they were trying to make a good campaign against Domestic violence, which is no doubt a very serious issue. What we need further is a well balanced gender discourse which doesn’t assumes a primarily gynocentric view and bases its argument with a gender-blind perspective. What surprises me is that even a lot of very learned people fail to realize is that in the real world, problems can’t be solved in isolation but we need to be mindful of the synergy of all the parts; men and women are no different and have their fates intertwined together and will need to work together to break free from them.

 

*English translation copied from the official VOGUE India YouTube Video

‘Older people in our society need to learn to have a life of their own. Instead of seeking happiness in their kids’ lives, …’

The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

1. What prevents the Indian elderly from ‘seeking fulfilment in their own actions’?

Do they face pressure not to ‘live alone’? Or disapproval if they do not ‘help’ their adult children run their lives and have and raise their children?

I met a busy and otherwise happy 53 year old who loves her successful career, and finds it fulfilling. She was worried that she would not be able to do for her grand children what her homemaker friends manage to do. No matter how much she did, she felt ‘there would be comparisons’.

Another 73 year old independent woman continued to ‘livealone’ after her husband’s death, six years ago, in the same house, with the same dependable domestic staff, managing her own finances, and in reasonably good health.

Her children are ‘asked questions’. She too faces criticism for not wanting to live with her grandchildren…

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‘Queen’

I saw ‘Queen‘ on 8th March’14 which happens to be the ‘International Women’s day’. I was in a city away from home and had nothing to do and nobody to be with so I decided to treat myself to a movie at a nearby cinema all by myself. Yes, I went to the movies all alone. Little did I know at that time that my decision will find resonance with that of the protagonist of the movie I was about to see.Yes, companionship is great but being alone, single or lonely is often seen as being miserable, it needn’t be. My experiences at the mall that day made me much more aware of this. queen6-mar6 The movie starts with the buzz of an impending Indian wedding complete with all the fan fair, all the glitz , all the hoopla. The hero‘s decision to cancel it on the last day makes it seem like a pre-mature climax. He thinks that they are not fit for each other, she hasn’t changed at all in many years while he is now a foreign-educated professional. Of course the protagonist is heart-broken. Her family is surprisingly supportive and her grandma even points out the silver lining that perhaps it’s for the best and she’ll find someone better. The family tries to comfort her as much as they can but still somehow the focal point of her life is marriage. The narrative zooms in and out of past beautifully throughout the movie. The wooing of the awkward and shy girl, the stalking masquerading as love, her strong devotion to her beau and his ‘protectiveness’ . The turning point of the story comes when she decides to go on her honeymoon alone and astonishingly her family doesn’t object. The girl who rarely goes anywhere without her chaperone, ‘chintoo’, her kid brother, leaves for Paris,her dream destination, all alone. queen4-dec22 But loneliness does take a toll on her. She has been anticipating a togetherness, an intimacy for a long while but all she has is cold solitude. Everywhere she goes she sees couples, she isn’t even used to crossing the street on her own. But in the minute struggles she faces, she learns, this is essentially a story of her growing up. Growing outside the codependency she has been so comfortable with, out of her need to please everyone and be the quintessential “seedhi bachchi”, growing out of the thoughtless habit of letting others decide for her. She does find company first with a hotel staffer who shows her around and she is flummoxed and yet enamored by her new friend’s way of living life- relaxed, uninhibited and unapologetic. She enjoy her company and the experiences. She has her many firsts- first time fending off a mugger, first time getting drunk (the various stages of being drunk have been beautifully acted out by Kangana) , first time getting a condom in her purse and the wonder she feels about it and many others. kangna-ranaut-still-from-film-queen_138864701090 queen4-mar6 I loved Kangana‘s performance. She made ‘Rani’ or ‘Queen’ come alive and very believable. She made me think, laugh, cry, smile and immensely happy. I found my eyes wet at many instances during the movie, mostly these were tears of joy. The Amsterdam trip and the friendship with the three guys at the hostel is the pivotal point of the movie I think. At first she responds with shock at the prospect of sharing a room with men but later on she starts to realize they aren’t any different. At this point I was thinking of the damage gender segregation has done to our society. It has ingrained suspicions, engendered stereotypes and generally made our lives worse. kangna-ranaut-still-from-film-queen_1388647010100 The firsts continue- her first trip to a casino, to a sex toy shop -where her naivete is hilarious, her first shot at a job (for which she was actively discouraged by her fiance in the past), her first time driving confidently without someone breathing down her neck, her first kiss. And when the ‘fiance’ realizes that now he wants to be with the now transformed girl, she doesn’t just drops everything for him. I loved the scene when she tells him that it’s not really about going to the concert but about being with her friends, I loved the protagonist’s newly found confidence to stand up to him even when she was used to ask for permissions for every other sundry life choice of hers. And in the end, after returning home, she doesn’t avoid him but goes up to him to return the engagement ring and to thank him. I loved the way she deals with the situation. kangna-ranaut-still-from-film-queen_139030152230 It’s a very sweet movie, without being preachy, but with a subtle message. I think the message is for women, to ask them to take charge of their own lives, their own fates. Director Vikas bahl has done a splendid job ,the music is good  and superb acting by everyone.  Go see it and I am sure you will come back with a smile on your face 🙂

Listening to Dr. Uma Chakravarti

Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen to Dr Uma Chakravarti speak on “States of Emergency, sexual violence and Impunity” under the public lecture series on “Development and Justice” at IIT Delhi.

Here I would try to summarise what she talked about in as little words as possible.

‘States of Emergency’ are government declaration which alter the ‘normal’ constitutional provisions and laws. There are usually used to handle emergency situations like natural disaster,war etc. However, governments the world over have used these as they saw fit.

Post-independence India saw emergence of regions of relative instability. The state responded with emergency laws e.g. AFSPA. However this created a state of emergency with grey areas of accountability. The armed forces seem to have inordinate powers but little or no accountability – the explanation being that certain acts are done in the line of duty. There are cases of unexplained killings, missing persons etc.But Sexual violence can never be an act in the line of duty. Many cases have been reported – the manorama case in Imphal, the kunan Poshpara incident etc.

A pertinent issue here is an absence of options available to civilians to legally address their concerns. The court system run by armed forces is opaque to civilians and there is no reason a civilian should be forced to undergo a process there. This state-granted immunity to security personnel defies the principles of justice. The security forces seem to enjoy a formalized impunity.

The speaker also compared the relative attention given to cases of sexual violence in ‘mainland India’ and the far-flung pockets like the North-East, Jammu and kashmir. These cases generally not given the same importance as the ones happening on the mainland. The way we engage with the remote parts of our country is just sorry. We can’t hope to achieve the goals of development without inclusion of everyone from every part of the country.

the bag that I didn’t buy !

So I was at a mall today with a friend.
While we were roaming around we decided to take a look inside the good old Archies Gift Store. I immediately noticed a few bags with Garfield’s witticism in some nice contrasting shades. I took fancy to a blue one. I tried it on but was told by the salesperson as well as the friend that these are for the female populace only. “Oh damn ! ” thought I. Can’t a man have a handbag ? It was so cute (should have taken a pic). I fussed over the price vs the realisticness of me being able to actually use it for around 10-15 minutes but eventually gave up as she consoled me while I ranted about the sorry state of affairs concerning stereotypes of mens’ fashion.

I, however, did leave a response in the feedback diary of the store asking them to come up with more gender-neutral products. I have high hopes !

This reminded me of that ‘Friends’ episode in which Joey starts using a handbag but eventually gives it up.Sometime later I realised it is my own lack of courage than the lack of societal approval which stopped me from buying that bag (also the bag was a tad expensive, had it been cheaper I would have bought it and experimented with my courage- at least reach the point where I say something on the line of “Joey comes with a bag !”).

Anyone having similar dilemmas ?

P.S. : I bought a coffee mug though 🙂