Cluster Innovation Center, University of Delhi, in collaboration with MASH Project teamed up for another steaming event in the city- The Mental Health Celebrations week. This two day event saw a vibrant population of young enthusiasts ready to unveil the veiled, the itching issues of mental health and LGBTQ community rights in our society.
The day began with a panel discussion around the theme of “Sorting Through Gender, Sex and Sexual Identity”. The panel of speakers included Mr. Rakesh Sharma, who sought to revolutionize the concept of molestation, rape and consent; one cycle ride at a time. In his initiative “Ride for Gender Freedom”, he has conducted workshops, puppet shows and discussions from schools to tea stalls and bus stops.
Ms. Bhani Rachel Bali, our second panelist and founder of “KrantiKali”, a multi-platform gender innovation lab working for the gender revolution, went on to talk about how crucial it is to realize the mental state of various LGBTQ groups and the plethora of emotions, mental harassment they go through, being exposed to the harshness of society.
The third and the last panelist, Ms. Taksh Sharma, a renowned model talked about how cis-gender people alienate transgenders, believing them to be the most unhappy and unwanted sect of the society.‘Ask me, and I am the happiest person on the planet!’, she exclaimed.
As the day progressed, there was a mental health quiz, titled Psyched!, followed by a Menstrual Hygiene Workshop, which broke away a lot of myths associated with menstruation and female hygiene. The screening of the Oscar-winning film The Danish Girl was what stole the show on the first day of the MHW.
The second day ushered in a warm and lively event of The Living Stories with a lot of people engaging with the speakers on a warm wednesday morning. Next in queue was the second panel discussion titled What’s Depressing the Millennials?, inviting speakers like Ms. Aashima Taneja, founder of “You Are Beautiful project”, highlighting how people need to remind themselves of their worth, just the way they are.
Simran Luthra, the second speaker, is the founder of “Talk Happy Therapy”.She went on to talk about how sometimes depressed people need something as simple as an understanding ear. Shubhra, the third speaker of the day, pointed out the fact that how millennials feel the constant need to “do something”, which is the ultimate cause of mental disturbance.
One of the major crowd pullers of the day was the slam poetry event, “When Love Checks In”, judged by the award winning slam-artist, Shibani Das. Her performance towards the end left the entire hall in awe of her expression.
The event came to a close with some amazing performances by Rubhen D’sa, Apoorv, Prateek Sachdeva and the Dramatics society of CIC, “Zikr”.
MHW was a massive eye opener, shedding some much needed light on the taboo topics of our society- the mental health, and of course, the LGBT community. The entire concept of linking the two dimensions and crusading on the nooks and crevices of the thoughts of these communities is immensely engaging. The thought that, how one of our very own, are surviving, fighting a fight everyday, with their hearts and minds at stake, and how we, conveniently surpass them uttering a snide comment, is something to be introspected!
About our Writer: Neelesha Dhawan is an avid reader and a caffeine addict. A writer, painter, blogger and nose-deep into all kinds of creative stuff, she’s at KrantiKali to reach out to the silenced, and hopefully give them a voice; breaking the false conscious in a prejudiced society.
A young feminist’s journey to her feminist political awakening!
As a young woman from a relatively small town who had moved to Mumbai, I had been sufficiently warned by my parents about the different ways I may be harmed, ranging from not wearing open toe shoes in monsoon lest I get an infection to getting kidnapped in a taxi. My parents had never experienced “The Mumbai life” but were sure to watch crime patrol daily to alert me about anything from getting pickpocketed to sex trade. My experience in this city was severely limited and backed by parent-fed paranoia.
It took me 3 years in Mumbai before I could actually have a social life without the lingering fear of being kidnapped, raped or being sold into sex trafficking. I had started trusting the city because my adventures in Mumbai had not substantiated my fears. This was also the time when women’s safety issues were brought to the forefront by the mainstream media. The Delhi rape case was smacked into my face every time I ventured out. Women were getting vocal about the lack of safety and why shouldn’t they ? Finally, there was at least one gendered incident covered by the media which was gruesome, to say the least, to men and women alike.
The dialogue that took place within the socially aware strata of the society basically revolved around the state of women in the country and whom to blame for it. As it happened, the final allegations rested on the government. But is it entirely right for the government to be on the receiving side of the blame? Shouldn’t we address the issue of changing the mindset that men have… men who treat women like something that is disposable.
The Delhi rape case actively brought a discourse about feminism in India, not that it wasn’t present before. It was. But, now this discourse was happening on a larger scale and not just in a class full of women pursuing a course on gender and sexuality.
‘The centuries of subjugation, from sati to the glass ceiling; I felt the weight of injustice of it all in one incident.’
It was during this time that I felt myself getting confrontational about women rights and feminism. The centuries of subjugation, from sati to the glass ceiling; I felt the weight of injustice of it all in one incident. I started noticing little points in the mundane conversations with my friends which hinted at sexism and in some cases, it was outright gender discrimination. The discourse had brought out one important aspect…why is there a need for precautions to be taken by women while venturing out in a world where men have none?
A woman is required by this modern society to be educated, work at “reasonable time”, get married, have kids and fulfill all the gender roles assigned to her by the society or to face the judgments of the society . This was when I hadn’t even experienced a single instance of gender discrimination personally until that point. My opinions were largely based on secondary experiences which were formed through someone else’s lived experiences and still it hit me like a boulder.
What must the women in the weakest sections of society feel? Were they capable of accepting that they do not exist in this world to suffer incessantly? To be fair, men also have certain pressures thrust onto themselves by the society. Males have to ‘act like a man’, be the breadwinner in the household, and get married at certain age. But comparing the lived experiences of the two genders feels just like comparing two ants…one carrying a pebble and another carrying a boulder.
Just when the burden will be shared by men, alike?
I was out buying some stationary, and I ran into a crowd of haggling mothers and loud children. I should have known, it was May and schools were just about to reopen. Everyone was rushing to buy books, pencils, pouches and bags.
One boy of maybe age 7, told his mom, ‘I want the bag with the Chotta Bheem photo on it. I want to be strong like him!’
His sister quipped in, ‘me too!’
And then he said, ‘chup kar stupid, girls can buy something which has Chutki’s photo on it. Chutki does household work and helps Bheem, girls can be Chutki, not Bheem.’
And just like that, this kid was already believing in gender stereotypes. This got me thinking — in this day and age, why do we still have so many male superheroes? Why is it that women still appear as helpers and love interests and nothing more?
I started to look for any alternate stories out there, and lo and behold, I came across quite a few. Be it Ms. Shabash of Bangladesh who fought fairness creams and aunty bots (whose mission in life is to get young girls married), or be it Marvel’s new female hero, Ngozi who is inspired by Chibok girls who were kidnapped by Boko Harem, or be itPakistan girl, or Ethopian powerpuff girlswho fight female genital mutilation and other social evils.
But are we reading into it too much for no reason? Why, what children consume in terms of comics and entertainment important? Is it really beyond just fun and does it shape how they think of the world? The answer is yes.
Comics and what they can do is so important that it became a legal battle in the US in 1954. The Kefauver hearings were a part of the investigation where psychiatrists participated and gave their views whether comic books and shows with superheroes in them were a cause of juvenile delinquency and whether they caused emotional problems in children. They were considered to be against religion and against good moral upbringing of children. A famous proponent of having a ban on these “crime comics”, Dr. Wertham, stated that they encouraged temptation, corruption and demoralization. Although the court did not rule in favour of the ban, and comics became part of American (and later, the world’s) popular culture, this battle shows that comics are no light entertainment.
Developmental psychologists who have done extensive work on the mental development of children, like Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget feel that fantasy play (such that one indulges in when reading comics or acting like one’s favourite comic hero) is important symbolic play through which we understand the world around us and our place in it. Another important figure in Child development, Vygotsky, states that fantasy play helps children explore complex concepts like rules, roles and abstract notions like justice, power and morality. Anna Freud said that fantasy play helps the child to venture into a future of possibilities.
Bruno Bettleheim, who studied the importance of play for children, said that it could help generate favourable solutions to present predicaments and give us the good feelings needed to sustain us.
Rollo May, a famous psychologist, held the view that our myths and stories express our collective consciousness. Just like Carl Jung, he felt that our heroes and demons express our inner battles and the ideals that we all grapple with.
Anderson and Cavallaro (2002) have stated that children shape their behavior and values with the help of heroes and role models as guidance.
(Source for all these quotes: Using Superheroes in Counseling and Play Therapy by Lawrence Rubin)
All of these bodies of work and expert opinions suggest that :
Comics and their heroes are important for symbolic play
They help the child form a perception of the world which may stay
They help the child find his or her place in the world
They help the child grapple with ideas of justice and morality
They help the child see what is wrong with the world and how it can be fixed
They help the child to feel powerful and find solutions to their problems
Therefore it is then obvious that without powerful female figures and without the mention of social evils, especially those caused by patriarchy and sexism, children, especially female children would be at a loss. They would think of themselves and their powers as less than those of men around them. Also, since social problems (especially those caused due to gender) do not get a mention in popular culture, the problem becomes sidelined and women end up thinking that these issues are not as big as problems like corruption, problems of morality, hunger or climate change.
But all this is subsumed based on our readings of what the literature says. But what do actual girls feel about this? We spoke to five girls of age 13–15 and this is what they had to say:
The girls agree that it would definitely help their self esteem and career aspirations and belief in themselves if they were surrounded by heroes like Ms. Shabash. It would also easily help them identify social problems like racism and sexism easily. Up until too late, they thought that this is how the world is.
They mentioned that till class five they suffered a lot of self esteem issues, but 6th onwards, their curriculum started to talk about important female figures and this helped them regain their confidence (case in point for ‘Goodnight stories for rebel girls’). They felt that the female superheroes still look too perfect and the diversity in body type is still missing.
They feel that boys categorise girls in two or three categories, ratta marne wala (someone who studies by rote but isn’t actually intelligent), a dumb girl and a sporty girl. They felt that girls could be more than these three types if there were more female heroes in popular media. It would also help the boys see beyond these few categories. However, the girls did express a concern that if there were many shows and books with female superheroes, men would simply choose to not consume such material and still stay willfully ignorant.
Along with superheroes, the girls felt that role models close to home are equally important. For example, mothers who had economic independence and had an identity apart from that of a “mother” per se (having an interest or career of her own), and where fathers actively participated in running the house — girls from such homes had an easier time fighting gender stereotypes than did girls who were from more conventionally traditional houses.
So the take-away is this — just like Hindu mythology had a major revision where Sita’s and Draupadi’s versions of events opened people’s eyes to the sexism in Hindu mythology, we definitely need more female and feminist comics. This will help girls feel more confident and have better self-esteem. It will help all kids to be sensitised to the issues of gender. However, we need more diversity in body types when showing female heroes and we need to find a way to engage male audiences in these stories.
The article has been compiled by Rhea Dangwal in collaboration with someone who identifies with the sexuality and speaks from a lived experience. Since, they would rather not be named, if anyone would like to write to them, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it on! Everywhere a first-person narrative in employed is strictly by the collaborating writer.
A lot of people do not realize that the acronym to include a spectrum of sexualities extends to LGBTQIA+, and that the A, stands for Asexuality.
What is Asexuality?
The Asexual visibility and education network organization describes it in simple terms for the lay person as “someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” They further describe it as, “Asexuals may regard other people as aesthetically attractive without feeling sexual attraction to them. Some asexual people also experience the desire of being affectionate to other people without it being sexual. If you do not experience sexual attraction, you might identify as asexual.”
What it means to identify as asexual?
There’s a lot of intense stuff that needs to be talked about. For instance; the term “asexual” was created very recently, because asexual folk used to be thought of as merely celibate or secretly gay. So, it’s very difficult to discuss asexuality (and more so, aromanticity) historically. But it is important to do so nonetheless.
Much like gay people, aces are subject to corrective rape; or gaslighted into having sex. I’ve (as X) been told so many times that “I just need to try it”, and other aces that are alloromantic are often told to “compromise and have sex once in a while”. There are several aces that are okay with having sex and willing to do so to maintain a relationship; or out of intellectual curiosity. Whatever the reason may be; they are valid as asexuals, because asexuality does not imply abstinence. Fundamentally, asexuality is a lack of interest in having sex;
It isn’t: -The lack of a sex drive
-Associated to a pathology.
It also is not closeted homosexuality.
An asexual person may be okay with having sex, but probably will not initiate sexual activity or actively pursue it in any way.
Does Asexuality mean you never get aroused?
It depends on how you define arousal. Some don’t experience it in any form. Others do experience a degree of arousal, but aren’t interested in sex in spite of that. The physical attributes of arousal may still occur in an individual without them getting mentally stimulated for sex. Some dislike the process of getting there, but enjoy the orgasm. Others have sex to reproduce, and still others, to pleasure their partners, but for the most part, sex is very unpleasant for asexual people.
It’s important to note that asexuality is actually a spectrum that covers a wide range of identities, although most a spec people use asexuality as a blanket term for simplicity. We say that asexuality is a spectrum just as “allosexuality” is a spectrum that includes gay, straight, bi and pan identities.
All that being said, many aces are sex repulsed, sex aversed, touch aversed, and generally not into sex. People should be understanding of this and not try to gaslight them into “trying it with them, they’re really good”. Aces have sex drives, and can appreciate orgasms (although some don’t). Some masturbate (although some don’t). They just might not be into having sex with people.
What is Aromanticity?
Aromanticity, much like asexuality exists on a spectrum that covers a wide range of identities.
We live in a society where “The Family” is seen as normal. We tax people based on whether they have families. We look at our single uncles and aunts like they’re creepy cat people and find ourselves asking if they drink too much too often. We shun emotionally rewarding friendships between adults outside of their marriage as weird. The biggest fear of an aromantic person is often their best friends getting into relationships. We often try to force ourselves into relationships just to hold on to “commitment” but find ourselves ill equipped and uncomfortable which often makes things a lot worse. It’s difficult to understand things around aromantic lines because people are not sure how to define an alloromantic relationship in the first place. Sexual intercourse is mechanical and well defined and relatively less confusing. An aromantic person usually only has the faintest inkling that they’re aromantic; and often figure it out after much heartbreak.
Also, aromantic people can absolutely have crushes. I’ve seen some on tumblr use the word “squish” to mean strongly wanting to be somebody’s friend.
Platonic partners are a good in between, for aros that feel the need for commitment, but do not want a romantic relationship.
There’s a lot of gatekeeping in the queer community when it comes to aro and ace spec people because they think that aro and a spec people do not have problems. You have extremely famous people like Dan Savage saying things like: “Why do asexual people need pride? Just stay at home and don’t have sex.”
He has also encouraged allosexuals to not date asexuals and asexuals to date within the community; because apparently allosexuals simply cannot live without sex. While this might seem like sensible advice, the heart wants what it wants. People give the same advice to bi and trans people; it’s biphobic and transphobic and acemisic advice.
It’s important that we dispel these weird notions that people have that aces and aros live in a post sex post relationship utopia; and are in fact people that have been systemically harassed for god knows how long. Only then can we hope for a little more understanding.
It’s important for us to have positive rep in media. The only ace character I’ve seen anywhere is Todd from BoJack Horseman. Jughead is aromantic and asexual in Archie comics; but his identities have been erased in the TV show Riverdale. Most other aro and ace coded characters (eg Sherlock) are calculating sociopaths that use people solely for their benefit. And that isn’t good rep if it’s a thing we see over and over again.
For people identifying themselves on the A spectrum, but lost in translation; People will call you cold. People will say you’re a psychopath. You are neither of those things. People will pressure you to get into relationships and have sex. You do not have to. You’re a wholesome, wonderful and unique person, and you have every right to make choices that suit you.
The above discourse may not fully describe you, but each of these terms (asexual, aromantic and agender) are umbrella terms that cover a very wide variety of experiences, and if you can relate to any part of what I’m saying, you may find the rest of your experience described somewhere under these umbrellas. And even if you don’t, it’s perfectly alright! You know you best, and you know what makes you feel comfortable and uncomfortable.
To those survivors of trauma, who’ve been told that your identity is defined by it, it is not. Asexuality, agender and aromantic identities are NOT symptoms, but identities that are just as natural as heterosexual, cisgender, transgender and romantic. It’s just a question of what you’re comfortable with. There is no crime, and no judgment is to be made in choosing to be comfortable.
And it’s important to understand that these three terms don’t need to exist together. You could be an aromantic, trans lesbian, for instance. You could be an asexual, biromantic cisperson. You are who you feel like you are, and don’t let anybody tell you differently.
Discovering who you are is a long, confusing and sometimes painful journey. But do not give up on it. You will feel a freedom you can’t imagine at the end of it all. Even if the world is in conflict with your identity, you won’t be. And that in itself makes a huge difference to your state of mind.
Asexual: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Aromantic: Someone who doesn’t necessarily experience ‘romantic’ feelings for someone. Demisexual: Someone who can only experience sexual attraction after an emotional bond has been formed. This bond does not have to be romantic in nature. Gray-asexual (gray-a) or gray-sexual: Someone who identifies with the area between asexuality and sexuality, for example because they experience sexual attraction very rarely, only under specific circumstances, or of an intensity so low that it’s ignorable. Attraction: In this context, it refers to a mental or emotional force that draws people together. Asexuals do not experience sexual attraction, but some feel other types of attraction. Aesthetic attraction: Attraction to someones appearance, without it being romantic or sexual. Romantic attraction: Desire of being romantically involved with another person. Sensual attraction: Desire to have physical non-sexual contact with someone else, like affectionate touching. Sexual attraction: Desire to have sexual contact with someone else, to share our sexuality with them.
About our writer: Rhea Dangwal is a Desi feminist and writer at large, annihilating misogyny and chicken nuggets with equal vengeance. DM her a high fi
If Professor Utonium added a twist of quirk and wit into his mix, we’d have a new kind of desi Powerpuff Girl!Describing herself as one to bring what the comedy scene in India sorely lacks — A female perspective, Neeti Palta has come a long way in her comic odyssey and has made a mark.
Palta comes from a writing background in advertising and TV — ex-Senior Creative Director, JWT, ex-Head Writer for Sesame Street USA’s Indian venture, Galli Galli Sim Sim and her first full-blown Bollywood screenplay ‘O Teri’ (produced by Atul Agnihotri) among other feathers in her cap of unlimited jest!
We got to talking with the comic superstar…
What’s your comic origin story?
I’ve been a writer all my life — from advertising (was a Senior Creative Director with JWT) to writing for Sesame Street (India) and have largely used humour to get a point across.
Turning point would be when I went to see Collin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood of the “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” fame perform in Delhi. They have a round in which they enact a situation on stage and get volunteers from the audience to provide sound effects for them on the mike. I was one such volunteer. Initially I dutifully made sounds that matched their story. But after some point I decided to have fun and started randomly yelping like a dog and making crazy sound effects. Brad & Colin had to keep weaving their story around my sound effects. The audience too was having a ball. At the end of the round Colin said they normally never picked female volunteers for this round since females tend to be reticent. But he thanked me for a good job and said I was really funny and should try my hand at stand up comedy.
Some people who were running the open mic circuit in Delhi were at The Colin & Brad show and offered to give me an open spot.
Why do you think there is a derth of female comedians? Do you have any favourites (what do you like in their style of Comedy)
I guess social approval plays a large part. Women tend to judge themselves a lot. Plus we also tend to be judged more than men by all and sundry. So I suppose it’s harder to put ourselves on stage to be judged by a bunch of strangers on a regular basis!
I like Hannah Gadsby as I relate to her style of comedy — sharp and clever and heartfelt. Sharul Channa — completely in your face and unapologetic. Wanda Sykes — Intelligent
Describe your process. Do you include personal experiences as well?
I talk a lot about my experiences and observations and the hilarity of being a girl in India. But I also talk a lot about my upbringing, parents, the way people react to me for being a little different and not following their idea of living a complete life by ticking all the boxes society lay out for me.
Since my dad was in the army, I have travelled all across the country and am not rooted in one state or culture (fortunately for me!) So a lot of it is specific to how I’ve lived rather than where I’ve lived.
The fun part is I don’t have to deal with me not ticking all the boxes society sets out for me. They have to deal with it
If you had to describe your style in a word/line, what it would be?
One liner for my style of comedy would be tongue-in-cheek
Indian stage; Male vs Female comic. Elaborate.
People are a lot more open to accepting that a male comic will be funny. With a female comic they do take time to warm up. We have to first prove we are funny by battling against an assumption they have in their mind, so we start from a negative. Also, speaking from personal experience, with a female comedian people tend to see what she looks like, what she’s wearing, etc before they actually start focusing on what she’s saying.
Often after the show people walk up to us to express their appreciation. Except, the male comedian on the line up is often compliment with “you were funny” and I get “you were really bold”. Even when they mean it as a compliment it just makes you feel like you’re not on a level playing ground.
Describe your pet-peeves.
I don’t like it when a comedian talks down to his audience for laughs. Pull their leg by all means. But keep in mind that these people have spent time and money to come and watch you, so don’t cross that certain line that’ll leave a bad taste in their mouth.
What has your journey been like as a female comic?
I genuinely believe there are pros and cons to being any gender. In comedy, I got noticed because of my gender first and then thankfully enough I was funny. If nothing people are at least curious about you. However I am far more fussy about the gigs I accept than my male counterparts. Sometimes the reason someone wants to hire you as an artiste are suspect.Is it for mere titillation of inebriated men at a gathering or are they genuinely interested in your comedy?
I have had to listen to silly event people say oh you should charge us less because you won’t even share a room as all the other artistes are male. Or ironically someone hiring me for a women’s day gig has inadvertently blurted out — “but I thought female comedians charged lesser than men!”
A guy had once said to me in some other context — Don’t take advantage of the fact that you’re a woman. My response — “Why not? Someone will. Might as well be me!”
I’ll admit that it does take me a little bit of extra effort to put myself up on a public platform. But then, I have something to say, so I do. Ours is still a conservative society with clearly defined (at least in their heads!) gender roles and some people find it harder to deal with a female comedian being outspoken. But the response I have received so far across the country has surprised me rather pleasantly.
Also, as a woman I am in a unique position to be able to call women out on their bullshit as well without immediately being branded a ‘misogynist” or a “sexist” (I hope!). After all we should be able to take as good as we give.
I hate it when people mindlessly brand a female comedian’s stuff as “chick comedy”. That right there is blatant sexism. I talk about hospitals and funerals and phones and doctors and all the other topics that any male comedian might talk about as well. How come a male comedian’s comedy never gets branded “stud comedy”?
Guys talk about stuff in their life and that’s fine. But a female talks about periods, eyes are rolled in judgement — “oho! Typical female! What else will she talk about”. Same goes for cursing on stage. A juicy abuse form a male comic will elicit a laugh but a female comic gets to hear “tch! Tch!”
Does politics influence your comedy?
Yes to a certain extent. But I use it in conjunction with my pet topics. So if I’m talking about women safety, I crack a joke about how the government did deliver on its promise to make India safer for women, but only women of the bovine species.
Best advice you have ever received?
“Don’t let your gender hold you back because others feel it should”.
Women are brought up to be reticent or self-conscious. We are brought up to dress ad behave in a way so as to not draw attention to ourselves. Not sure if we are born with it or conditioning over the years makes us have this inner voice that constantly tells us we can’t. It constantly makes us self-doubt.
My advise to aspiring female comedians is the same — if you treat your gender like an albatross around your neck, there’s not very far that you can go. Tell that negative inner voice to STFU and bash on regardless.
What does the future for female comedy look like?
I do see more women joining in or at least starting to take an interest. And now that comedy is slowly being seen as a legit profession hopefully they’ll face less objections to them joining than I had to.
You would’ve seen the show Queens of Comedy on TLC. There’s a lot of encouragement being given to women to take stage. There are a host of “all female” open mics being held in different cities. Though if you ask me personally, I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of “women exclusive” shows because they only add to the stereotype that our comedy is different or needs help. It is not a test of strength that we can’t be pitted against men. It’s a test of wit and humour and I think women are just as capable. But if the newcomers are actually more comfortable this way then who am I to object?
Women in India are changing. They are more empowered and have more freedom to make their own choices. More of them are stepping forward in all fields — be it in the army or as a pilot, so why not comedy? It’s all happening. And it’s happening here!
About our writer: Aishwarya Shrivastav is a history graduate from University of Delhi. A spoken word poet, she likes to describe herself as a woman taking up more space than she was allotted by the society. Raging through
On 24th October 2017, Raya Sarkar, an advocate and vocal anti-caste feminist published a crowd sourced list of professors in Indian academia who have been involved in sexual harassment or have been sexual predators at some point in their lives.
And the tremors are still being felt.
It started with Raya listing two names and an appeal for people to personal message them other similar first hand accounts, after which they started adding names to the main list. At this point, the list contains 69 names and is still growing as more and more people are coming forward to add to it.
This list gathered attention as soon as it was published with people getting onto opposing poles; one supporting the list and other condemning it as baseless without any proof of the survivor’s account.
People are worried about the veracity of such lists; listing names without any validation. But one twitter user put it perfectly.
Whisper networks between women and minorities already exist; in your educational institutions, offices, public spaces and heck even in families. The thick, bile like concoction women and minorities are forced to swallow by an obtuse societal structure and snail paced law make sure that their silence protects the men who perpetrate.
Sarkar describes the list as a warning system for those in the universities and those planning to join; a more concrete whisper network of sorts.
It is important to introspect why the onus is always on women to prove themselves as not guilty and over justify their allegations. The men mentioned in the list very well have the mechanism to defend themselves and come forward in case they are not guilty. It’s odd to note how ok we when our protest is armchair, how vocal we get when it’s to support a cause like #MeToo but don’t want to come forward when perpetrators are being held accountable for their actions. Instead of listening to the survivors we are quick to jump in telling them to do it the “right way”.
The other argument that came up was why the young women never filed a complaint against the harassers.One can’t be living in India and not have an answer to this.
We all know the disbelief and the name calling that follows a woman who comes forward with her story; the litmus test she must go through is harsh and insensitive, and leaves her maligned in most cases, than her oppressor. The professional, societal retaliation is what scares women and forces them to remain silent. The same stands true for minorities and other marginalised folk on the gender+sexuality spectrum who cannot enjoy the unspoken privilege that men in power can.
Most people who came forth with names and instances on Sarkar’s list are students. Students, who do not enjoy a certain level of indemnity that they may start a full scale out and out war with the system that oppresses them. Many understand that filing a case against such powerful, influential men could jeopardize their careers and lives as well and hence, are using their platform as proxy to give voice to what they have suffered.
Another interesting take came forth from this list via a public post named, “Statement By feminists on facebook campaign to name and shame”, published on kafila.online. (https://kafila.online/2017/10/24/statement-by-feminists-on-facebook-campaign-to-name-and-shame/) penned by Dr. Nivedita Menon in strong words and signed by the likes of her. This letter has 11 signatures, all women.
The context with which the post is written in and the timeliness of it seemed almost like a knee jerk reaction by the Kafila team to the post. The letter reads like a savarna feminist 101 lesson to all “other” feminists; an exercise that comes off divisive and supremast; discrediting the campaign and dismissing it in a rather intimidating tone. This sends a strong message and sets a problematic precedent between what is correct feminist protocol and what isn’t.
Sarkar is a part of our own ilk, they is themself a very vocal feminist and anti-caste activist and has used their platform for voicing strong solidarity to the feminist cause. One way of dealing with disagreement on part of a reputed and established feminist organisation could be investigating claims and accusations that their post put forward, or even getting in touch with them and establishing communication.
The letter resembles the cushion already provided to these powerful, influential and mostly upper caste men in education; giving a clear indication that we stand with you only till you don’t involve our friends. Stand with you only till you create monstrous caricatures about lower castes men and not come up to savarna men.
Other concern which arises from this letter is the question of representation; can 12 upper caste women be enough to treat this statement by feminists? Haven’t we overlooked the caste-class consciousness in universalizing it?
The negative hype created by this campaign is self explanatory of why women choose to keep silent rather than reporting sexual harassment. This then becomes more difficult for DBA women as they are doubly marginalized. The “due process” which has been mentioned several times in the letter is thus not available readily nor fair to these women. The dynamics of “due process” are really skewed in India and we all are aware of this fact.
The motive of this list as explained by Raya in their facebook post is to create
‘ A list for students to be wary of professors, through first hand accounts of victims. No hearsay. It’s to prevent further harassment’. This list is a brilliant initiative to call out powerful men in the Indian academia without fearing dire consequences at a professional level. If nothing else it serves the purpose of generating a discourse against the hypocrisy in the left-liberal-academic circles. It also gives enough strength to survivors to actually file the complaints now that the names are openly available in public domain, which is why a student of AUD has filed a complaint against two of her professors at the level of the university.’
The letter then appears preachy without need for engaging with the idea of creating a list and can’t be viewed without the eagerness to save the professors.
While I was collating my thoughts for this article, I remember being struck by the possibility of existing without having the need to write this piece.
Which has body issues written all over it in bold, which might even extend beyond your screen while you finish (if at all). I refrain from indulging in such prospects otherwise, you know. But what if I could take back every nudge, laugh, stare, which my body seems to invite each time it appeared to the world? Utopian, maybe. Definitely.
For you see, the past I still carry, has a series of body image issues sprinkled all over it that unhesitatingly permeate some of my interactions about it and easily end up dominating those narratives. It took me a long (read with extended O’s) time to come to terms with all those instances that made me cringe about living in a body that wasn’t a space I was comfortable with. The specific problem that I’ll talk about here, through experience, is the convenient way in which other people take charge of our body in defining it purely in terms of the highly idealised, almost out of reach , body image they’ve been socialised with.
One of my acquaintances talked about how she was constantly told to lose a little fat here and there, and was jokingly called a ‘cow’ by friends. Another friend remembers being made conscious of her weight to an extent that she internalized the ‘well-meaning’ comments, and started belittling herself before anyone else could. Using defense mechanisms to prevent others from claiming your body for their fun has been a connecting point in a lot of narratives I listened to. That a ‘healthy’ woman would look great and might even score the hottest guy if she cuts down a few carbs; that unsolicited but ‘for our benefit’ advice of wearing certain colors to look slim, therefore, desirable; that look of pity in people’s eyes when more than the ‘required’ flab sneaks out from our clothes, are just some nice ways used to reiterate that being fat will determine, in many instances, how one will be perceived, treated or understood. How sad it is that in some social groups, the people who have bodies closer to the ideal kind or the ideal get heard more than those who don’t.
In this spate of questioning fat-shaming, what is also important to analyse is the casual shaming of thin women forcing them to become a little curvier, because then they’ll attain the ‘goddess image of a perfect woman’ that we have been conditioned to match up to. What I found in this case was the construction of an extremely thin woman as an anorexic or perpetually sick being who must replace their meals with bananas or *insert some high in proteins, carbs and in sheer ignorance of the adviser food* to achieve a body that can be viewed in awe, by other people.
A friend of mine was policed by her parents and strangers for being too thin, and was told, by both parties, to get some flesh to please her future husband. Another remembers her best friend being laughed at by a college principal who did not believe an “anorexic” girl to be a national level skipper or into any sports, for that matter.
A complete stranger, out of concern obviously, told my friend to gain some weight, otherwise she won’t be able to perform her marital duties.
Compilation of the highly derogatory but all in good spirits language that is specific to body shaming is so futile that I refrain from giving any credit to it.What I would like to point your attention to is the assertion of one on the body (and mind) of another. The ease with which people define parts of your body for you to later feel ashamed of, and the sheer neglect of the transgression of your mental space, needs a serious reflection. You don’t have to look far to understand the dynamics of shaming that have fluently incorporated themselves in the everyday of our lives.
To choose a dress for a party is to choose which body part you’ll be comfortable in exposing, if any, or if you’ll be able to smile or retort when someone points out the ‘areas’ you need to work on.
Listen to the Hindi film songs, a friend says, which have in their lyrics and representation, marked the new low in claiming women’s bodies for the pleasure of highly patriarchal men.
A friend of mine nicely summed it up for me when she said that all bodies are different which makes it stupid to be judgmental of any. That your body is only yours to live in, is a reality which needs to be spoken and heard in many ways, different ways, personal ways.
Until you stop criticizing your ‘healthy’ friend for ordering a hot chocolate fudge or joking about how your ‘bony’ friend needs to grow more skin, do not stop reflecting, practicing and involving more and more people in your revolution of body positivity.
Now go, extend yourself in the comforts of your sofa or your favorite coffee/tea shop and eat with love for the meal you are having.
About our Writer :Shubhangani Jain is a hoarder of stationery and cat pictures, who considers her coffee/tea time as an elaborate affair which is hard to cut short. She likes to break myths about feminism in her usual conversations with humans when she isn’t engaging w
All week, KrantiKali has been speaking to some of the most talented and quick-witted women to get centerstage at TLC’s Queens Of Comedy.
Runner up on Queens Of Comedy, Surbhi Bagga took the one of a kind comedy platform for women and made it to the top three!
We got to talking with the Delhi girl about her comic origin story, constantly uses the word ‘Jeopardy’ incorrectly; but in her defence, it does sound a lot like how you would describe a really fun party in Punjabi.
When she started stand up comedy, she was the only women in the line up most of the time. She thinks the number of successful female comedians is relatively low because most of them don’t take it seriously and they do fall off track easily.The constant fear of judgement also works against their favour. Receptiveness of audience and courage for women to assume the stage is what is needed and it’s a process which has to be reciprocating.
“ You need people to talk about something? Take up the charge and speak about it.It’s simple as that.” she says, “I don’t really believe the notion that ‘Men don’t like funny women’. Maybe they haven’t been hearing good women comics and we can change that.”
Talking of her jokes, she likes to give her personal insecurities a comic angle. Self deprecating humour is what dominates her comic ideas complemented with real life experiences which makes it personal and help her get comfortable in her own self.
On being a female comedian she believes it’s like being a woman anywhere in industry. You have to be twice funnier when you crack a joke as compared to a male comedian. She tries to dress casual because if women are dressed relatively better, as she observed, people won’t take the joke seriously. She often felt the need to lower down her looks in order to shift the attention from her body to her jokes.
There is difference in approaches of audience when there is a female comedian out here as compared to a male comedian. Inappropriate sexual humour doesn’t make an audience as uncomfortable when a man does it as much as it does when a woman comedian does the same. Surbhi believes that to make audience comfortable, you got to crack more of those jokes. “Push their buttons”, she told KrantiKali. “Until you talk about things which they are not used to, you can’t blame them for watching shows like Kapil Sharma and others serving blatant sexism among other things. If you give people alternatives, they surely will watch it. Women need to come out and claim more spaces.” Bagga is a KrantiKali in her own way mirroring our thoughts with, “Not just comedy but generally women need to speak out more so that people are forced to listen. If we are still waiting for someone who will politely pass off the mic, it’s not going to happen. Shying away from writing bold content fearing judgement is restricting your own voice without any logical reasons to do so.”
She is hopeful about the emerging comedy scene in India and great set of women comedians making people go crazy with edgy jokes and creative ranting. She thinks change is a gradual process and audience would be more accommodating in some years down the lane. Till then we need to constantly challenge the stage and ourselves too for writing and speaking what we believe in so that we could be the change we want to see out there.
About our writer: Aishwarya Shrivastav is a history graduate from University of Delhi. A spoken word poet, she likes to describe herself as a woman taking up more space than she was allotted by the society. Raging through words.
The rules for what goes viral on the internet are as obscure as the medium itself. If you’ve been anywhere near social media this past week, you would have noticed many organised events popping up on facebook, painstakingly curated in different cities calling out to people to assemble and shout ‘Bolna Aunty Aaun Kya’ (Tell me aunty, if I may come over) . For those out of the loop, this ridiculous sounding line is one fresh out of a two year old music video from youtube uploaded by singer and recently gone viral ‘rap star’ Omprakash.
Surprisingly the events have seen a huge turnout which speaks volumes about the powerful grip of popular culture on the population.
Who would have thought that this auto-tuned track on top of a low budget video could attract the millions that it did. But come to think of it though, this dumpster fire of misogyny is not very different from the other mainstream bollywood and independant music that gets popular in our country; one which we willingly pay to consume and dance to.
The country’s rap and music industry saw a revolution at the turn of the century with themes which began the inclusion of elements of drugs,alcohol and violent sexual references. The immediate effects may be hard to point out but it surely helped reinforce a lifelong set of behaviour by encouraging a sense of entitlement among males over the women these lyrics chose to objectify and minimize, with considerable increase in aggressive attitudes against women. For example, known by his ardent fans as the self proclaimed ‘God of Rap’, Eminem has been repeatedly accused of sexist and violent lyrics in his songs and yet remains one of the most influential artist in the english music industry.
One argument that can be proposed is that art comes with freedom from censorship and they are entitled to produce what they like. But another side of the argument is that the ability to create also comes with its equal share of responsibility. The popularity of such songs though provide us with more opportunity to discuss about what’s inappropriate and to create a discussion platform because going by the access to media we have today, censorship would just be a lost battle.
Women are objectified aplenty. It’s almost frustrating that most women are constantly stuck between their love for pop music and hate for sexist lyrics, because the song is honestly catchy and entertaining. Many unconsciously believe that sexism in songs is excusable because of the very fact that it is based on how things really are in the society we live in. Women are always living the guilt of not being able to laugh it off like a routine song or being accused of ‘over-critical’ analysis.The very effort of criticizing the lyrics is the identification of how notions normalize themselves in the society.
The participation of young women then in such events becomes a bone of confusing contention. But maybe that’s the problem. By living in a society that constantly normalizes such dangerous and derogatory art by calling it a ‘problematic fave’ we have created generations of men and women who simply go with the catchy value of songs like these and not the lyrics that are a conscious juxtaposition of masculine power play and female hyper-sexualisation. Going by the women participants of this event, we are witnessing that women are also readily accepting the ways their sexuality is portrayed thereby unconsciously absorbing these traits in their personalities.
Radhika, a lawyer from Delhi found out about these events on facebook. She along with her friends started reporting all such events in New Delhi though not all of them were taken down, she at least did her bit and didn’t succumb to popular pressure.
“I did it because I felt a sense of responsibility towards the people; what shocked my conscience the most was how most of these were being organised in educational institutions. I saw one organised in a secondary school!” (sic)
While Omprakash has the freedom of speech to create the content that he has, it is up to the audience to be prudent enough to be able to make the decision of consuming it or not. Watching people gather in big numbers, supporting the song and screaming such lyrics can be a frightening experience. As of today, the video has been taken down from YouTube but enough time had passed for thousands of others to re-upload and share the content.
Changing people’s minds and overall thought processes is a tough challenge and internalised misogyny is a curse that keeps on giving. The need of the hour then, is to not give in and stand strong against what we think needs to change in the society; to educate our friends and family and make them realise that the chauvinism they help reinforce in ways like these, might just come back to haunt them instead.
About our writer: Aishwarya Shrivastav is a history graduate from University of Delhi. A spoken word poet, she likes to describe herself as a woman taking up more space than she was allotted by the society. Raging through words.
TRIGGER WARNING: The following article contains strong language, and references to sexual violence, rape, and graphic descriptions
Rape has never been merely sexual — it goes beyond to the political, social, and moral construction of our society. We have come to believe that rape need be violent and gruesome, that it’s all about the villainy of the rapist.
The act though, is far from being about a “monster rapist”.
Madhumita Pandey interviewed 100 rapists in a recent study, rediscovering German-American philosopher Hannah Arendt’s ‘Banality of Evil’ in the reality that most of those she interviewed had the ability to make her feel sorry for them. Most of them were people, much like you and I are used to being around, who didn’t understand the gravity of their crime, didn’t know what consent meant. They were not “extraordinary men”, but rather incredibly ordinary.
Why does this matter? It matters because in India, in the fight to communicate the sheer psychological terrorism, the power-dynamic and the oppression that rape is, it is not merely about characterizing rape to be a function of the “monster rapist” but rather a product of an overwhelming rape culture, patriarchy, sexism, and the historical oppression of the female sex. And in such a world, words matter.
A student of JGU was raped. For two years, she was blackmailed, tormented, forced to have sex with someone who she thought she could trust, and his friends too. They were perhaps living in rooms we’ve lived in. Where we walk today on campus, is perhaps where she lay broken, each time. We can’t pretend to empathise. We cannot pretend to understand. We don’t. After all this, we have an administrative response by JGU in an email, stating “withdeep regret” the conviction by the courts, and asking to consider the loss of education, life and “productive years” of the men who committed this disgusting crime. No official apology is given for those words. A few months later, similar words are used in the order suspending the jail sentences of Hardik Sikri, Vikas Garg, and Karan Chhabra. The order states ‘the lack of gruesome violence’as a reason why bail must be granted. Regardless of academic or legal prowess, beyond our debates about morality, jurisprudence and philosophy, how have we developed a mindset, where we could even think of extending the smallest amount of sympathy — to men who raped her, against her will, blackmailing her, for months, where she lived every day in the fear that it would be worse than the previous one?
This wasn’t merely the actions of Hardik, Vikas, and Karan, not just the “monster rapists”, it is contributed to by every word stated by people in ignorance, calling the victim a ‘slut’, justifying the acts of the men, and believing that an alternative explanation could justify the mentally and physically breaking experience that we must try to think of, without understanding the brutality of it.
It was where a student could be forced to feel that undergoing the crime was a better option than facing society’s vindictiveness — a society that is supposed to be warm, accepting, condemning to the utmost extent such crimes, and doing all we could, for justice.
Where then, as a community, are we left?
Context : A complaint was lodged by a girl from the O P Jindal Global University to the administration in 2015 alleging rape and blackmail by the above trio, since 2013. The local court in Sonipat awarded Hardik and Karan each, a twenty year sentence and a seven year sentence to Vikas.
Challenging the order, the case was then taken to Punjab and Haryana High Court which granted bail to all the three convicts, instead ordered counselling for all three of them at AIIMS. The reason for the bail as given by the High Court is as follows: “misadventure stemming from a promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind”, on the part of the victim, a conclusion drawn by the officials after analysing the statement of the victim.
About the writer: Q, as is their preferred name, is agender, and a senior student of International Relations at the Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities. They has presented papers at various national and international conferences, on political psychology, gender, mythology, and literature.
Q is currently pursuing a semester at Trinity College Dublin, and is the founder of the LGBTQ Community of JGU and TwiLit Slam Poetry.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of KrantiKālī.