Of Cabbages and Kings

April 24, 2010

Frenemies

Filed under: Random musing — Tags: , , , , — Chinmayi @ 5:36 am

is a disgusting pop-culture term. Sadly, it is also an appropriate one. The truth is that women don’t seem to know how to be friends with eachother without some sort of undercurrent of hostility and competitiveness. It is a phenomenon that I have always found disturbing.

It used to make me wonder why, when we already have so much to deal with in the male-dominated world, we are each others’ worst enemies. And then I found an explanation somewhere (and I am unable to locate that somewhere right now, so I’m afraid there will be a referencing problem).

Women are brought up to hate themselves and their own kind. It is a manifestation of our self-loathing that we inflict harm on our own kind.  The harm varies with the degree of self-loathing and the sphere in which a woman operates. But that’s where it all comes from: the brutalising of daughters-in-law, the picking on the pretty intern, the stealing of other women’s partners and sabotaging of their relationships, the disproportionate aggression with female domestic help,  the fake smugness that women love to project at eachother, the hurry to pass judgment on other women, the eagerness to bring them down…all of it.

So the next time you smile to yourself smugly because another women’s marriage broke down, or because you elbowed the only other woman in the office out of a meeting, odds are the you are smiling like a wrist-slasher at something that you did to hurt yourself.

And this is why all feminists are so passionate about the sisterhood. It isn’t just about being supportive of other women, or of combating boys-clubs..it is about standing up for ourselves, and learning to respect, support and care for ourselves. Because all these women – the friends, the daughters, daughters-in-law, bosses, employees, bus-conductors, saleswomen, stewardesses..they are all a part of who we are.

April 6, 2010

The Enchantress and the Author

Filed under: books, Random musing — Tags: , , , — Chinmayi @ 5:34 pm

I am working my way through Enchantress of Florence (finally). It is a great example of the magic of Rushdie’s writing. But there isn’t a single character there that I can identify with.

Rushdie’s is an unambiguously, exclusively male voice. As the magic, the flow and the erudition of the tale each gather me into the book, I still find that I cannot step into it fully. Every man has a woman. Every man wants a woman. Except the eunuch/ spy of course (who presumably doesn’t count as a man in the Rushdie world). What does a woman want? Do women exist other than to entice, charm , seduce, sleep with, long for or, compete for men? Do women exist except as satellites? Not in Rushdie’s universe. Sometimes I wonder whether dear Mr. Rushdie has missed a greater part of the last century. His books are sometimes like the adolescent male’s medieval paradise within literature. Modern books that never seem to move beyond the good old ways of woman= whore/ wife/ mother syndrome.

There are attempts at redemption here and there (the high-spirited Jodha as the King’s ideal wife is declared to be quite different from a boy’s fantasy of big breasts and small brains), but it is ineffective. The image that sticks in my mind as being quite appropriate as a description of the women of the Rudhdie universe is of Akbar and Mogor Amore moving through the harem, with all the women wafting past them like satellites around stars.

October 25, 2008

Misogynists’ anctics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Chinmayi @ 9:52 pm

Here’s something funny. There’s a man that is so anti-women that he actually spend all his time suing all the organisations that offer women concessions. Perhaps next year he’ll sue God for having priveledged women by allowing them and only them to bear children.

September 10, 2008

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints

Filed under: Across the Universe, Law — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 9:24 pm

I was horrified when I read this article about a woman who had been married when she was fourteen and systematically raped by her husband after that. At least the man responsible (the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints) was convicted.

In India of course, putting a stop to the practice of child marriage still remains far off. Although most reports do talk of measures against child marriage, few seem to discuss the trauma that the child-bride must experience if she was sent off to live with (and work like a slave for) a strange family and to be raped regularly amongst the strangers. There are parts of the country where (women made scarce thanks to decades of regular female foeticide by the community) a woman who marries into a family is expected to be a sex slave for all the males of the family. Marital rape has not yet been recognised as a crime in India. Punishments for those who effect child marriages are hardly a deterrent and the marriages are usually valid in the eyes of the law.

Imagine where that leaves an Indian girl with no education or exposure to the world, who has been sent off to be raped for the rest of her life. The little that the law might offer her, she will not know about.

Update: A detailed article on how scarcity of girls has led to polyandry and desperate measures taken to procure wives. Note that this has still not led to women being treated any better. ( via Barbara Raisbeck who has also posted on the subject).

September 2, 2008

Gender Equality and Islam

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 7:24 pm

I knew, I just knew , that the Quran could not have intended for women to be oppressed. Unfortunately I have never been familiar enough about the text to be able to back my conviction with facts, quotes and references.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed has done a great job of highlighting the true spirit and intention of the religion, and of explaining how much of so called shariat law is plain misinterpretation. For anyone interested in the details, she has referenced a paper which elaborates on the subject that she has explained so neatly.

August 30, 2008

Killer Reiser confesses

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Tags: , , , , — Chinmayi @ 10:41 pm

Here’s another very public instance of a man who murdered a woman who displeased him in cold blood. And again I ask, what is wrong with the world that it allows people like Reiser to mushroom all over the place.

As disturbing as the fact of these crimes, is that for every person that commits this kind of crime are a fair share of others who believe that it is justified, that the violence was probably provoked. There are some disturbing comments tailing the Wired article on the Raiser killing for anyone who is interested.

You could also try and talk about with people at your workplace – the last time I tried discussing heinous crimes, more specifically the Fritzl case, with my colleagues, one person commented that the incarcerated daughter probably brought it on herself and was happy to be raped, and the other suggested that the man made a good moral choice in raping his own daughter rather than someone else’s. Are all collections of people peppered with psychopath-endorsers? Is the world going nuts?

August 20, 2008

Songs about domestic violence – III

Filed under: Music — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 7:03 pm

Luka, Suzanne Vega

Songs about domestic violence – II

Filed under: Music — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 6:48 pm

I’ve Got to Go Now, Tony Childs

August 19, 2008

Domestic violence

Filed under: Random musing — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 10:50 pm

“He used to beat me regularly”, she said, “he has thrown me down the stairs more than once, overturned a table on me and even tried to run me over with his motorcycle”

I heard this story years ago from a woman in prison. Her husband has sex with her sister-in-law and insisted that she watch and that she massage the sister-in-law’s feet after the act was performed. After years of violence, he had her framed for murdering his mother and (by threatening to kill each lawyer that took up the case) ensured that no one was willing to defend her.

Yesterday, I heard the story of a woman whose husband gagged her and beat her and strangled her with her entire extended family waiting in the next room for her to come out. She told her family that she had been feeding the baby.

Domestic violence. It ranges from physical murder to murder of the spirit. I have never quite understood this phenomenon. So many ‘respectable men’ are actually monsters that thrash their wives regularly, and feel very self-righteous about it too. They behave perfectly well outside. Many of them are even popular and successful. But they hate this woman – the woman that they have sworn to love and cherish – obsessively and delight in hurting, oppressing and torturing her. Where does that come from? And why does everybody skirt around it as if it’s another little lover’s quarrel?

Today, a woman on Rajat Kapoor’s talk show (which is very badly done in general) talked about how she left her husband because he beat her regularly. I was expecting the host to congratulate her on a good decision. A few minutes later though I found that they were discussing whether she had tried to change her husband and why it can anger one’s partner if one tries too hard to change him. Soon she was left looking, not like the survivor that she was, but like a loser that handled her man badly and failed to salvage the relationship. And she watched as the hero of the show, a women with five children boasted about how she put her career on hold and reformed her drunken layabout husband and worked out all problems (hit back instead of filing for divorce for example) and save her marriage.

I am not very likely to watch Rajat Kapoor’s show again. I like the man as an actor but he’s is a stumbling bumbling boring awful interviewer. But I know women who watch this sort of thing. These are women that don’t read very much and that aren’t allowed to move around in the world very much. Their orbit is confined to shopping malls, cinema halls and friends like themselves. And their perceptions of the world are defined by television and shows like Big Boss and Rajat Kapoor’s Lounge.

So if they are taught that virtue lies in turning the other cheek when your husband hits you and in working things out, imagine what must result. Those that are unfortunate flounder desperately seeking to please somebody who will accept nothing short of their misery and pain. And those that are fortunate are convinced that the unfortunate have created their own hell by handling the relationships badly.

And on it goes…so many women get battered behind closed doors, and come smiling and brightly dressed to parties so you never suspect that they’re going home to be battered once more. Their parents, neighbours and friends draw back and leave them to the mercy of their respective tormentors. And he, the inexplicably violent lover, bashes on unhindered.

August 6, 2008

The Decline of the Devadasis

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 10:16 pm

Devadasis were extraordinarily powerful women years ago. Meddling reformers destroyed the status, respect and place that they held in society by having them outlawed.

For centuries the women that were not obliged to marry, the women that sang and danced and made love with whoever they chose, were very powerful and rich and had rights (such as the right to inherit property) that married ‘moral’ women did not have. This did not go down very well with the Europeans that ruled India or with the Indians who having received a western (christian) education failed to recognise the Devadasi system for the unique power and independence that it conferred on women and were obsessed instead with the ‘immorality’ and ‘promiscuity’ involved. Determined to regulate the Devadasis’ sexuality, they systematically wrecked the entire system and managed to reduce the most powerful women in India to exploited sex-workers.

William Dalrymple has written a beautiful piece in the New Yorker on the Devadasis. It rises from the current day wretched state of the devadasis (who are now regarded as prostitutes) to the glory and power that they once enjoyed, and comes back again to the wretchedness and the hopelessness that these women live with and to how they try (with little success) to cling to old social position of the Devadasis.

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