10/19/06

it's nice that you listen; it'd be nicer if you joined in.

There comes a time when we must give in to peer pressure. But the situation becomes a tad convoluted when you realize that through punk history, punks are the peer pressurers (I don’t prefer to use the word bully, for aesthetic reasons. Ahem). But I am known for having an altruistic side *cough*, and well, I digress.

Moving on, I’ve never really acted all OMGIHATEMEMESARGH! in the past. I still don’t abhor memes, but I must admit to feeling a teensy weensy bit overwhelmed at the sheer number of tags I’ve been avoiding, six at last count I think (eep!). But fear not O’ allegiant yet slightly elusive reader, I have finally resolved to work on my meme backlog and I can’t think of a better way to begin than to do a tag on feminism. And I must thank this relentless crusader, the person who single handedly forced me out of my TAG-A-BLOCK, Aishwarya of Kaleidoglide.

So the premise of the tag states that I must list five things which feminism has done for me. To be very frank, I actually found it quite daunting to bring down the large list I had conceived in my mind to a miniscule five, but oh well as people say, ‘don’t not follow the tag or you’re chopped liver’. Errrr…right, I made that up.

Alright, on to the meme.

1. When I was six, I set my eyes on the most bizarre object I had ever seen. It was a 30”x 27” poster print, and to my impressionable six year old brain it looked like two tigers being eaten by a horrible looking fish like thing and a naked woman with a gun sticking out of her. It scared me silly, but I couldn’t help but feel like I so badly wanted to draw like that. Day after day, I snuck that poster print out of my mother’s room and stared at it longingly. All my kiddie scribbles during that time was of tiger like creatures and sad looking fish, such was the influence of Dali, and yes that picture was Dali’s Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening. Fast forward to seven years later, and a morose conversation with my father. When I gleefully told him that I wanted to be a surrealist, my father looked at me like I had gone off the deep end. He told me that if I didn’t take up a career in science, he would never ever speak to me again. And after that I never picked up a pencil to sketch, heck I even stopped doodling for a couple of years. But I don’t regret that conversation, nor do I regret my decision to enter the murky field of pure sciences. Last year, my sister was allowed to choose whatever subjects she wanted in 11th grade and that makes me proud of my parents. They may have been hard on me, but the fact that they trusted her enough to make her own rational decisions without mollycoddling her or smothering her with over protectiveness is proof enough of their changing attitudes. And it makes me glad as hell to think about it, even now.

2. I HAVE an education. As simple and as clich├ęd as that may sound, being esteemed fit and capable enough to obtain an education is a big deal, considering the fact that for women of generations past, it was a luxury. In other words, I went to school, I go to university, I pick what I want to study and I am damned pleased that my options aren’t limited to home science or school for nannies or nuns.

3. My right to work. I can actually go to university and pick the subjects I want and pursue a job in the same field of study. My parents have never ever pushed me into getting a degree to make my future ‘matrimonial profile’ look appealing or to supplicate the arranged marriage meat market. Now before anyone self righteously jumps down my throat, I must point out that I don’t think arranged marriages are incapable of ending in matrimonial bliss or whatever. It’s just that, most of the arranged marriages that took place in my family (spanning generations) didn’t exactly work. It’s just a tad bit personal. But gosh, I’m digressing again. Quite simply, I’m glad that my job prospects aren’t limited to glorified whore, housemaid or a married baby making machine.

4. I have the choice to be single and to NOT be a mother. Now before you gleefully brand me a baby hating spinster witch, I'd like to stress on the word CHOICE. I have A CHOICE. I can get married or not. I can choose to have babies or not. I can choose to have an abortion or not. It’s as simple as that. A few generations ago, that was unheard of. A few generations ago, I would have been given in holy matrimony at the age of seven to a man who was twenty years my senior. A few generations ago I would have been expected to turn into a baby spouting contraption as soon as I hit puberty and that would be at the ripe old age of twelve. So yeah, hackneyed or not, I thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t married off at the age of ten or impregnated at the age of thirteen or burnt at the pyre (as a sati) of my middle aged husband at the age of sixteen.

5. I.can.vote.

I think that speaks for itself.

and finally I tag,

Neha

Deepali

Ragnell

Vijayeta

Mahima

Mumbaigirl

Jupe

Raindrop

and Primalsoup.

Post Script: Woah! The 25th carnival of feminists is up and running at Philobiblon and my post on witch hunting is featured in it under the 'horror file' (quite apropos, dont you think?) So hop on over to Philobiblon and be sure to check it out!

10/8/06

Old Witch, Old Witch; she lives in a ditch, and combs her hair with a hickory switch.

There are incidents and then there are occurrences.

Incidents are the little things that happen in your life, minor irritants or blessings which don’t really hamper your day. At the end of the day you are the same; none the richer or wiser, and life...sweet mundane life, goes on.

Then there are the occurrences.

It could be anything, earth shattering perhaps, significant enough to derail the monotonous cycle of your daily existence.

But then I see occurrences like this, and it makes me question my pain and my suffering through the years and somehow I can’t help but balk at the sheer futility of it all.

“It began with the death of two children due to malaria and jaundice in September. An exorcist told the father of the children, Mahavir Baitha, that the two widows, Jeetan Devi and Dubhan Devi, were responsible for the deaths. In front of the son, the mother was tonsured, beaten, paraded and burnt.
Earthen pitchers were broken on the heads of the two widows.”


When I first glanced over this article, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It seemed almost funny in a twisted, macabre sort of way and I honestly felt like I was being ferried to the medieval ages. The excerpt above was from an article about witch hunting, and no, it wasn’t a historical report, it was about the here and now (Y.e.s, I said the here and now).

I am pretty sure that most of us have a rudimentary idea of what witch hunting is. Witch hunting, with respect to the burning times was essentially taking a person accused of practicing witchcraft to task. Of course, as any other religious hate crimes through the ages (including the present), the brunt of it was borne by the women.

Taking a woman accused of practicing witchcraft to task, essentially opened the door for a horrific variety of tortures including rape, mutilation- genital or otherwise, forced coprophagia or the eating of feces, urophagia or the drinking of urine (not necessarily human), pulling nails out, plucking teeth, inserting hooks in various parts of the body and suspending them, inserting metal rods into their orifices and finally death by burning or otherwise, if the ghastly tortures haven’t killed them already.*

While witch hunting has become a thing of the past in the western world, certain states in India still revel in this appalling practice. The folks in the rural areas of Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh (specifically the Telengana district), Tripura, Assam, Orissa and Bihar still hold on to a ludicrous fear of alleged witches or ‘Dains’. What irks me more is the vice like hold the Ojhas or witch doctors have over the villagers psyche. Their word is pretty much the law and whatever they say is usually carried out without question.

But the actual problem is far more deep seated than oh-look-‘witch’-lets-mutilate-her-and-kill-her-because-we-have-nothing-better-
to-do-and-we-are-ignorant-people. The basic modus operandi is this: most of the time if not all the time, the Ojha’s palms are greased for branding a woman a witch. The reasons could often be disputes over land, jealous relatives, revenge for refusing a man’s advances or just a shoddy excuse to inflict violence on the woman (sexual, mostly). But a woman can also be used as a scapegoat for problems plaguing the village like sickness, famine, a failed harvest, a corrupt, sexist panchayat (surprise, surprise) and on and on. And god forbid if a woman dabbles in politics or actually tries to stand up for her rights. She might as well prepare a noose and stick a board on her forehead proclaiming herself a witch. The blind faith in the Ojhas and the foolhardy belief in the existence of ‘moste evile witch craft’ have made these villagers indulge in inflicting appalling levels of abuse on women seamlessly and I am positive that it has made them immune to base emotions. Various cases of men killing their own wives or mothers or get this, their pre-teen and/or teenage daughters in the name of banishing sorcery are quite common.

These instances lead me to wonder if our society jumps at any given half baked opportunity to oppress women by whichever means possible. Strike that, I am almost convinced that that is the case. Economic disparities and social prejudices play such a vital part in perpetuating this mindless cycle of gory violence, sodomy and murder. It almost seems as if there are different factors working together to ensure that these poverty stricken (dalit, in most cases), lower caste women are kept at the pits of the society including the apathetic government officials laboring hand in glove with the village heads and the general unwillingness of the village community to report such cases. To dismiss these occurrences as villagers ‘coping’ with superstition is not only horrifically callous, it’s just plain cruel.

And here are some numbers for the cynic in you:

In the last 15 years, almost 2800 women were slaughtered in the name of witch craft.

700 of those 2800 women were murdered between 2004 and 2005.

Let’s face it. Just because we don’t perceive or see or feel certain things in our lives, that doesn’t mean that they don’t happen or exist.

And on a parting note, I insist on/ compel/ urge/ insert suitable synonym here you to read this and this and this.

* all the grotesque tortures I have listed are carried out even today, often on a far worse scale than what I have described.