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Out of the Box – Televisualised Identities and Their Politics

 

Shaheen Ahmed

shaheen"The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth – it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true"

~ Baudrillard1

No truth about television can be truer than this quote – television is a reality, a reality which is nothing but simulacra. As Jean Baudrillard explains the real is produced from miniaturized units, from matrices, memory banks and command models – and these can be reproduced an indefinite number of times. It no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instance. In fact, since it is no longer enveloped by an imaginary, it is no longer real at all. It is hyperreal: the product of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in hyperspace without atmosphere2. Thus, it becomes the question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself which means that the real will not be produced again.

Probably, we can use the logic of the hyperreal to argue about the creation and re-creation, the assertion and the re-assertion of certain hegemonic identities in the television serials being aired prime time in Indian television. A lot has already been written about the soap operas especially the ones that were produced by Balaji Telefilms which aired primarily on the Star network since the early 2000. Here I intend instead to look at so-called family comedies which are currently on-air in Sab TV, a satellite channel with emphasis on the hit comedy serial "Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chasmah". Here I will attempt to not only look at the regressive portrayal of women but also how stereotypes of certain communities are created and reinforced through the garb of these family oriented serials. This engagement becomes all the more pertinent during this time as the general elections have hugely polarized the populace and there is the looming possibility of a right-wing government heading the country.

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Gender Outlawed: The Supreme Court judgment on third gender and its implications

 

Gee Imaan Semmalar

geeJustice KS Radhakrishnan Panicker and Justice AK Sikri delivered a Supreme Court judgment on April 15,2014. That is all that can be said clearly. Who the judgment includes or excludes in its understanding of transgenders, whether transgenders can identify as male/female or third sex, what is being guaranteed to us as citizenship/civil rights etc is characteristically lost in legalese as is the case in a lot of judgments.

Who filed the petition?

The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes, filed a social interest litigation on providing third gender status to hijras, on reservation and other issues in 2012. In 2013, this matter was tagged together with a petition filed in the Supreme Court by the Poojaya Mata Nasib Kaur Ji Women's Welfare Society, an organization working for kinnars, a transgender community. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender rights activist from Mumbai intervened in this case with the help of lawyer Anand Grover (project director of HIV/AIDS unit of Lawyer's Collective in Delhi).

Who is being granted third gender status by the SC judgment? How are they described?

It is not clear who is understood as transgender in this judgment:

"TG may also take in persons who do not identify with their sex assigned at birth, which include Hijras/Eunuchs who, in this writ petition, describe themselves as "third gender" and they do not identify as either male or female. Hijras are not men by virtue of anatomy appearance and psychologically, they are also not women, though they are like women with no female reproduction organ and no menstruation. Since Hijras do not have reproduction capacities as either men or women, they are neither men nor women and claim to be an institutional "third gender". Among Hijras, there are emasculated (castrated, nirvana) men, non-emasculated men (not castrated/akva/akka) and inter-sexed persons (hermaphrodites). TG also includes persons who intend to undergo Sex ReAssignment Surgery (SRS) or have undergone SRS to align their biological sex with their gender identity in order to become male or female. They are generally called transsexual persons. Further, there are persons who like to cross-dress in clothing of opposite gender, i.e transvestites. Resultantly, the term "transgender", in contemporary usage, has become an umbrella term that is used to describe a wide range of identities and experiences, including but not limited to pre-operative, post-operative and non-operative transsexual people, who strongly identify with the gender opposite to their biological sex; male and female" pg 10

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Chithralekha Attacked Again by CPM Goons


Eramangalathu Chitralekha

On January 31, 2014, Chitralekha (the dalit woman autorickshaw driver from Payannur, Kerala, who has been fighting CITU/CPM men and who has faced repeated attacks from them in the past) and her family were again attacked at her home by a group of CPM goons belonging to its youth wing. Her husband is now in police custody facing trumped up charges and she lives in constant fear. This is her account of what happened.

After I wrote about how a crowd attacked me on May 18th, 2013, and how my husband was attacked on October 21st, I was attacked again on January 31. This time it was a small fight between me and a small Gurkha boy grazing goats in the field in front of my house that led to the attack. The attack was carried out by a group of DFYI workers (youth wing of CPM) from Kandamkolangara, Aandankoyil and Kunjumangalam.

chitra

The boy used to allow his goat to graze in front of my house and we always used to ask him not to do so. That day also I did the same and he threw a stone at me and again let the goats come into my house, where they destroyed all the plants that I was trying to grow. When he did this, I tied the goat and scolded him. Suddenly he took out a knife and started threatening me. At this point my husband who heard the noise came out and shouted at him. He then ran away.

Later we were told that he and a group of DYFI people reported to the police that my husband and I had attacked this boy and had tried to kill him. The group then came back to my house and started throwing stones at my house and breaking my auto rickshaw. Ayyappan sir, the Dalit activist who had always stood by my side from the very beginning, had come to my house then for a visit. He saw the crowd leaving my house when he came in. Then he called the police and the police came and they also took my written complaint about being attacked. The next day they even came to take evidence at my house. They then asked me to bring my auto to the station so that the motor vehicle inspector could look at it.

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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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