indianprotest

White feminists, now will you listen? (Trigger Warning)

The more I think of the way she suffered, the more I feel an anger rising up amongst the bile. My stomach twisted as I heard of the ways in which she’d been savagely assaulted; having been violated with an iron rod, her intestines had to be removed. She was raped for over an hour by a group of men who did this only because she was a woman.

She could be one of my friends. She could be me aged 23. The rapists didn’t think about her family or her career as a paramedic. They weren’t bothered by her male chaperone. She wasn’t a person to them, just a thing to use, an object. While she lay fighting for her life in a hospital bed, another young woman ended hers. Oblivious to India’s extremely negative profile on the world stage, police officers in the Punjabi region of Patiala advised a 17 year old victim of rape to withdraw her allegations and accept a cash settlement or instead marry one of her attackers.

I am yet to understand the thought processes in this kind of practice. Growing up, I was exposed to a lot of Bollywood I might have chosen to switch off myself. It was a sort of link back to their (my grandparents) old country (even though they were from Pakistan). They just weren’t as in to Pakistani cinema (possibly because it was crap). Sex and sexuality were forbidden in old Bollywood. Romantic liaisons would end in a nose to nose display of lust and yearning and just as their lips threatened to touch, it would cut and zoom out to an image of a tree. The viewer was left feeling like a kiss had taken place and the mere suggestion of this was enough to fire my unbearably strict grandfather into an anti-Indian tirade on how they were all sinners and destined for Allah’s hellfire. “Like dogs!” He’d bark. “Rabid and starved!”

My dislike of my grandfather’s xenophobia aside, I would personally squirm in my seat. This was one side to the representation of sexuality in Bollywood I could begin to understand, however uncomfortable it made me. The snatched glances, inhaling the other person’s smell as they waft past, all little indicators that were the cameras not there, they’d be fornicating and enjoying it a helluva lot. It was either this or the other. Bollywood sexuality was very black and white.

The alternative was rape. The phrase “izaat looti” meaning “stole her honour” describes rape. The rapist stole something from the victim, the most important thing in her culture. And the only consequence to such an incident is certain death. I was horrified whenever I saw an actress fake plunge a dagger into her own chest. Her body and her reputation irreparably sullied so that only death can purify her. An honourable action some might say. Honourable for the men, maybe, seeing as they were the ones to invent the practice. Or maybe she was killing herself to avoid another kind of fate. The kind where the victim is made to marry her attacker. Just like the 17 year old from Patiala who, in the year 2012, was advised to do the same.

Where has feminism been for these women?

At present, we in the West are experiencing a second wave Backlash. The year 2012 gave a voice to the patriarchy in which they blamed victims for bringing abuse on themselves. Victims are not doing a good enough job protecting themselves against the animalistic urges of rapists and paedophiles and rape isn’t even rape unless the perpetrator agrees it is. For a while now, Western patriarchy has been feeding us the lie that they don’t treat us like the savages over in the East treat theirs. The recent focus on India and the lack of women’s rights may make our great land seem positively equal and fair. Except patriarchy thinks we haven’t been watching this past year when in fact, we have, with concerted efforts.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/2012-the-year-when-it-became-okay-to-blame-victims-of-sexual-assault-8432716.html

Perpetrators, Paedophiles and Patriarchy http://wp.me/p1V5N4-9c

Privilege Top Trumps http://wp.me/p1V5N4-94

2012 might have been the year where victim blaming was the norm but it will also have been the year when intersectionality became mainstream. Feminism was borne out of the need for equality. For some this meant equality in the Western world for white men and women. But true feminism is intersectional. It has to be. Otherwise we’ll have wise asses like the white friend (of a man married to an aunt) who praised non-white women for knowing who wears the trousers in a relationship. “The problem with our white women is that they don’t cook for us. They wait for you to get in the door and they’re off out drinking with their friends. Asian women take care of their men”. Hm.

The images of our Indian sisters protesting against the patriarchy swell my heart and enforce a renewed vigour with which we must now battle. Together. I am Savita, the woman who died in the name of Catholicism when she miscarried the foetus whose right to life undermined hers. I am Malala Yousufzai and I will fight to the death to be heard. I am the millions of women raped for being women, for (*amendment) identifying as women and not conforming to the patriarchal cis gendered stereotype. It doesn’t matter where we are, what we wear, what our life choices are; we have the right to move freely without fear of attack. All of us.

2012 – The year feminism came back with a vengeance. The year feminism fought for all women.

This time round it will work. This time we’ll have billions more women on our side.

Patriarchy won’t know what’s hit it.

16 comments

  1. I was nodding along with you right up until the part where you equated womanhood to having a vagina. Trans women often do not have vaginas, but we are women just as much as you are and every bit as vulnerable to patriarchy as cis women. Trans men and nonbinary people are often targets of sexual violence when outed (or in the minds of their attackers words, “being put into place for having vagina but not acting like a woman”) — and while this violence has its roots in patriarchy, trans men and nonbinary people should NOT be equated to women.

    The first instinct most feminists have to this criticism is to dismiss it for being “divisive” and/or “petty”. But if your feminism is intersectional as you say it is, you should recognize transphobia for what it is and work against it just like you would against patriarchy.

    2012 – The year feminism came back with a vengeance. The year feminism fought for ALL women.

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    1. You are quite right to point this out. My apologies. Am still getting to grips with all my privileges and making them a part of my everyday language. Feminism is inclusive of all self identifying women. Solidarity.

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    2. Actually trans issues are more intersectional than that, and you’re ignoring the very real difference between having a female body/being seen/treated as a woman and being a woman in terms of self identity.

      A male bodied person no matter what gender they identify as? Is not vulnerable to the patriarchy’s forced birth agenda. They can never be forced to die bearing an unwanted child, denied medical treatment due to pregnancy, or shamed for having an abortion. Being a woman doesn’t make you vulnerable to that, having a female body does.

      Trans women when it comes to reproductive rights are subject to mandatory sterilisation in many countries as the price for transition but that applies to any trans or gender queer person who transitions.

      A trans women can be raped. She however cannot be forced to remain pregnant against her will because she cannot get pregnant, she will not be forced to marry her attacker or shamed for not doing so. Though there is a lack of help for raped trans women.

      Trans women are also unlikely to be subject to forced marriage in any shape or form.

      A male bodied person also is largely protected from misogyny by male privilege until they come out or transition if indeed they decide to do so. Early misogyny and gender essentialism has a profound impact on female bodied people. Our bodies are far more policed than those of people considered to be male, and it has a lasting impact on how we behave and how we think, male bodied non-cis people are generally not subject to that until they are seen as women.

      Consider it like starting off with stronger foundations while ours have been extensively undermined from the word go. You may have to weather some of the same storms later on as well as ones unique to you, but there is still a difference.

      Not that I disagree that women are more than biology, but as a female bodied gender queer person, there is a difference between being a woman and having a female body which tends to get glossed over too much.

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      1. Yes, but trans women can often be murdered with (even) fewer consequences than cis women. In the USA and UK, trans women can be murdered by a partner, who knew all along, who can then claim the “trans panic” defence.

        It is, as you say, complex and intersectional.

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      2. Oh, come on. I am a cisgender woman and I am VERY aware that I am much less oppressed by society than a transwoman. No, transwomen can’t get pregnant if they’re raped, but neither can post-menopausal or infertile women. Should they be excluded from the concerns of feminism as well? We need to speak up TWICE as loud for our oppressed sisters (women of color, disabled, queer, trans, etc) when they are marginalized by society. Because of intersectionality, we cannot be feminist without advocating for ALL oppressed people! Every human rights cause is a feminist cause.

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  2. The broader gender issues are of course pertinent here as rape is the assertion of power and aggression in the most primitive way – all are vulnerable to this violence, not just women and not just women-by-birth.
    I would not deny any of the points made in comments but feel that the opening issue and the barbaric suffering of that poor woman are of such magnitude merit further discussion.
    How can we turn the tide of the mob’s indignation to be shocked at that which is truly shocking for example, behaviour like this?

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  3. Dawn…Trans men/women… it doesn’t matter. all our people. a trans man can be forced to carry a baby. as a trans woman, I have been both raped, and (attempted) to be blackmailed into marriage, loosing me my job. that’s in the uk btw. what really hurts me more, to be frank is when the cis lobby try to claim somehow it is somehow a non event.

    Of course, all this talk of violence excludes sexual violence commited by children. to this day, they still create the majority of sexual assault, yet escape treatment or remedial action, due to parental protection (and rights) is almost nil. this affects children of both genders, and the damage is pretty universal. perfect Intersection there in the suffering!!
    Misogyny is also intersectional. all genders suffer from it.

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    1. Sam,

      The whole “we’re all people” is intensely problematic, there is something to be said for recognizing our inherent humanity and rights, but at the same time that argument tends to erase the reality that is the Kyriarchy.

      Yes, a trans man can be forced to give birth, anyone with a Uterus can. A fact that trans women often overtly ignore to declare reproductive rights to not be part of GLBTQ rights. Apparently bisexuals don’t exist or something, and no GLBTQ person with a Uterus can ever end up pregnant because GLBTQ people only have sex with the same gender and rape never happens to GLBTQ people with Uteruses. Seriously, not kidding about that. (Not to mention 13 countries in Europe still demand that Trans people be sterilized before they can get their paperwork amended to their correct gender).

      Rape and mistreatment are not a non-event by any means, but forced pregnancy and birth is a horrific problem that the trans women community has a horrible habit of completely dismissing. Unsurprisingly, this is what puts the cis women and trans women at each others throats, between Cathy Brennan’s transaphobia and Jennifer McCreath’s gross misogyny and demands for the end of rights for people with uteruses.

      Children don’t commit the majority of sexual assault. I don’t know why you think they do, but they don’t.

      Yes, misogyny can impact many genders, but it’s primarily aimed at women and it’s people with uteruses who get dosed with it at their most vulnerable and having a uterus does make some people vulnerable to certain parts of misogyny that absolutely cannot impact those without a uterus.

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      1. “…having a uterus does make some people vulnerable to certain parts of misogyny that absolutely cannot impact those without a uterus.” Sooo, if a woman has a hysterectomy she has less claim on feminisms concerns? And women who are infertile? They aren’t “real enough” women to REALLY know what it’s like to experience misogyny? This is nonsense. We need to support our trans-sisters (I have a uterus and I am fertile and I am NOT as oppressed as a transwoman). This exclusion based on the viability of one’s uterus is petty and mean. Not to mention smacks of patriarchy!

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