You lookin' at me?

 

Aqui Thami

aquiNichelle Nichols on meeting Martin Luther King jr. — "I said, "I'm going to leave Star Trek because (I was going to say 'because I have an offer to star in...' I never got that far") He (Martin Luther King) said "You cannot – you cannot. For the first time on television we will be seen as we should be seen every day– as intelligent, quality, beautiful people who can sing, dance, but who can also go into space, who can be lawyers, who can be teachers, who can be professors – who ARE on this day, and yet you don't see it on television – until now..."

A biopic on Mary Kom, a woman who inspired and continues to inspire women everywhere but specially women in the northeastern region of India will hit the theaters next year. It is a welcome change from the male centered and voyeuristic movies that Bollyhood otherwise makes.

The spoiler is that Priyanka Chopra plays Mary Kom, and to get "the look" not only did she have to experiment with prosthetics but has to wear make up to look like Mary. Now when there are Manipuri actresses who could fit the role better considering it is a biopic casting someone who looks and sounds so different could either be for her popularity or because of the widely held notions of beauty in our society.

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Dalit Girls Negotiate Women’s Studies

 

Rupali Bansode

rupaliEntering the academic space is not an easy journey for Dalit women. After studying in social science institutions and reading/learning theories about gender and women, there is a phase when self-reflection becomes necessary. In fact, reflexivity is considered very important in feminist research methodology. Taking this into consideration, this note is an attempt towards assembling a few shared experiences of Dalit girls in the discipline of Women's Studies.

Known debates between Feminists and Dalit Women

Caste based structural oppression in India is faced by Dalits in general and Dalit women in particular and this has been voiced multiple times by Dalits as well as non-Dalit academicians and theorists. The academic discipline of Women's Studies where sisterhood is celebrated has faced much accusation  from Dalit women activists and writers, for serving only the 'upper-caste/class feminists' needs and 'not doing justice to Dalit women's perspectives'. The silence from non-Dalit practitioners on the rape cases in Haryana and Bihar outraged many Dalit women's groups. And Dalit Women's groups are accused of not pointing out their grievances about Dalit patriarchy. Such a tussle is going on between feminists and Dalit women for more than two decades.

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Of Power and Privilege: Faultlines in Upper-Caste/Class Indian Feminism

 

Huma Dar

huma 1material to be analyzed (1): upper-caste/class feminists have claimed that only the victims/survivors of sexual assault at an upper-caste "workplace" — the uc middle- to upper-class being implicit here — have the right to "feel confident that they themselves will have the right to control the pace of the follow-up, and also to decide how far to take it." unlike those (in the vast majority) who suffer from "caste violence, communal violence, or [are] in "other" conflict zones"!!!

test case pertinent to caste and class: if the domestic helper of an upper-caste/class feminist has been sexually assaulted by a neighbour or their own brother or father, will they also really advise the assaulted person to sit on it for as long as they want as a rational way to assert their "right to control the pace of the follow-up, and also to decide how far to take it"?! why, or why not?

=> lesson #1 in uc feminism: different rules apply to you depending upon your caste, class, religion, and membership in an occupied people struggling for freedom — the latter btw they'll never spell out 'cuz it would entail speaking out against all occupations. "conflict zones" is so much safer. so benign. it has a feel good je ne sais quoi "progressive" tone, while assiduously avoiding the political. moreover, it will make those in INCACBI, who don't vocally support Azadi, feel cognitive dissonance when they can so charmingly pretend ignorance of Kashmir or Assam or Manipur etc. at best, or point to the Islamist bogey at worst.

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The roots of rape in India

 

Kancha Ilaiah

kancha ilaiahRape has, of late, become an acute disease in the Indian society. Prima facie, this is a problem arising out of a mental disorder, but there is also a larger cultural context that, to an extent, explains how the Indian male became so brutal.

Our cultural upbringing conditions male minds to behave in a cruel fashion with women. Family upbringing, societal conditioning, religious sagas and political animus, all construct our men and women into being what they are — men as aggressive and women as submissive. Which is why men here, in India, are different from men in other countries.

Their cultural milieu is different. Their spiritual systems train them differently. It's not that only Indian men rape and kill children aged three or five. This happens in other countries too, but they are the rarest of rare cases. Daily reports of infants being raped across the length and breadth of a country is a phenomenon unique to India, a society that's otherwise highly conservative. Clearly, the institutional upbringing, including that in family, needs to undergo change.

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This Diwali, think why we celebrate death

 

Kancha Ilaiah

kancha ilaiahThere are two prominent stories around the celebration of Diwali. One, this is the day on which Ram returned to Ayodhya and coronated himself as king after killing Ravan. It is also the day when Krishna and his wife Satyabhama killed Narakasur, known as the evil rakshasa. It's the death of the enemy that is celebrated.

Perceptions differ from north and south India about Ram killing Ravan and Krishna killing Narakasur. Diwali day just does not remain a day of lighting lamps, wearing new clothes, worshipping whom one considers god, but also burning massive amount of crackers that pollute the atmosphere so much so that even the health of the forces that keep celebrating would also get damaged. The emissions in urban areas on that day rise to the level of choking people. And several people, especially children, die because of fires and pollution.

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Dalit Women’s Writing in Telugu

 

Challapalli Swaroopa Rani

(Published in EPW in 1998)

It has taken a long time for dalit women to overcome their oppression as women, as dalits and put to creative use the gains of social and literary movements. There are of course common issues that bind dalit men and women, like untouchability and caste oppression. But women also suffer from patriarchal oppression. These concerns are constantly foregrounded in dalit women's poetry in Telugu and is evident in the form, content and the emotions that they express. However, dalit women's poetry in Telugu still needs to develop beyond the confines of patriarchy.

The alphabet is now a weapon in the hands of 'untouchables' - a weapon to attack the oppression perpetrated by brahminism for centuries, Dalits denied learning and respect, have now crafted self-respect from their humiliation, strengthening their castes and destroying 'sanatana' values and traditions' People who have been denied a basic humanity and have been outcasts for centuries, have now stormed into literary avenues' roaring. Today 'untouchable' voices rule Telugu literature. That is the fierce wind of dalit poetry.

What is Dalit Poetry?

Before beginning a debate on which poetry is dalit potery it is necessary first to look for some clarity on who are dalits. There was recently a wide ranging debate on 'who are dalits' among literary friends. Some people argued that along with the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and backward castes, minorities and women should also be considered dalits. After some discussion, they came to the conclusion that only 'malas' and 'madigas' who belonged to the SC category should be considered dalit. In general, there is considerable confusion as to who are dalits. Notwithstanding the above debates, dalits could be defined as people who have been subjected to untouchability and denied social, economic, political and cultural rights. What is dalit poetry? Whose poetry is dalit poetry? These questions have also generated considerable debate. Writing by dalits that is based on dalit consciousness will reflect the painful lived experiences of dalit people. The fact of being born a dalit alone is not enough to write dalit poetry. Dalit consciousness is a critical factor in dalit writing, The question of whether non-daiits can write dalit poetry has also come up from time to time. Writing by upper castes that expresses dalit reality in terms similar to that by dalit writers can be called sympathetic poetry. There is an unanimous view that only those who suffer oppression can adequately represent that oppression.

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