Saturday, 13 September 2014

Why Slut-Shaming out of a "Regard for Safety" Doesn't Work

note - this article discusses slut-shaming in the context of how it is experienced by cis-women, but the author recognises that cis-women are not the only group that is affected by it. Readers are recommended to seek out resources on trans-misogyny, transphobia, and their relationship with slut-shaming and sexual violence.

I think the world is going through a shift in paradigms. With pop-feminism on the rise, terms like 'rape culture' and 'slut-shaming', which used to be restricted to exclusively feminist spaces are making their way into our mainstream media and everyday conversations. In many places, we are learning not to shame survivors of sexual violence, and most gratifyingly, these progressive steps are being taken in communities and amongst individuals who may not even necessarily align themselves with the feminist movement. In fact, in some ways, one could argue we are on the verge of a cultural shift in terms of how instances of sexual violence are treated; in a way that honours survivors instead of shaming them.

As much as I recognize that we do have a long way to go, I can't begin to describe how happy the direction we seem to be moving in makes me. 

However, I have been noticing a trend that worries me. Among the huge community of well-meaning people who aim to be part of ending sexual violence, many are going about it in a way that continues to place responsibility in the hands of those who experience it. I myself have recently heard a number of versions of this sentiment: "Of course I don't think anybody deserves to be assaulted, but women should know that there are bad people out there- shouldn't they dress more modestly to protect themselves from them? I mean why do they even want to dress that way anyway if they know how people will react?" Although this sentiment doesn't explicitly blame victims, it continues to place responsibility for sexual violence on their shoulders- and it does so by policing their choice of dress. The reason I choose to address it in this post is because I believe that a lot of the people who hold this view or views similar to it mean to empower- and not to shame- and I think if I could perhaps demonstrate the ways in which this attitude is one of slut-shaming, some may reconsider their stance. Because slut-shaming is not only ineffective in an effort to reduce/end sexual violence, it is actively harmful. 

To slut-shame is to misunderstand the nature of sexual violence. Sexual violence, whether it expresses itself in the form of harassment, assault, rape, or anything else, is not about attraction. It is about power, control, and domination. The myth that certain forms of dress or behaviour can instigate sexual violence is perpetuated despite repeated examples against the claim. 

Here's why it's harmful: much of it comes down to space, and how it is occupied. The narrative that is built by asking women to dress conservatively for safety is one that dictates that public spaces are owned by men, and that women are trespassers in them. Because if we believed that women had as much of a claim to public spaces as men do, we would not exclusively tell women* to compromise their freedom (read: the freedom to dress how they want to) in them. Not only does this reinforce the sexist and untrue dichotomy of men as predatory and women as weak, it turns women into second-class citizens in relation to men by placing limits on just them.

We need to recognize that restricting an individual's freedom does not keep them safe- in fact, it hurts far more than it could ever help. Furthermore, as people concerned with ending sexual violence, our focus should be on those who choose to be violent towards others- because they never share the blame or responsibility for that violence with those they take it out on. To end on a constructive note, here is a great article by Lauren Taylor on effective, supportive ways to participate in actually ending sexual violence!

*Another problem with exclusively giving cis-women "advice" on how to avoid/prevent sexual violence is that it ignores that fact that the group is not the only one that experiences it. But the sexism, transmisgyny, and other aspects of oppressive culture underlying that is something better discussed by people who experience it.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

It's five syllables

We repeat it over and over as a class
It's a tough word to get right.

You see how it rolls off your tongue?

Maybe I'll get it tattooed on my lower back
Or horizontally along my waist
Ha! Wouldn't that just take all the Individuellement out of it?

At this point I've forgotten what it means

Maybe I should spend more time on French
Maybe I should spend more time on me


Class goes on
"Les verbes pronominaux are verbs you do to yourself by yourself"

You see how it rolls off your tongue?

Monday, 10 June 2013


If I told you a story about a young child,
In your mind's eye would you picture a young girl or a boy?

"He who is wise does blah blah blah"
"Patient is he who blah blah blah"
"A good man is he who blah blah blah"

Should I ignore my inner protests,
Should I focus on just the message?
Do they expect me to truly relate?

What would they think if I were to say she? Her? Woman?

Would we tell young boys proverbs in the form of she?
And if they said they couldn't relate, would we think it silly?

Why should I accept he, when he won't accept she, and by extension- me!
Why should I be flexible when he remains rigid?

I am not a fanatic,
I am not an extremist
I am not a "feminazi"

I am a woman.
And I haven't been blinded.
And I refuse to be silenced, subdued.

She who can see refuses to be subdued.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Eleven Women I Want to Celebrate

I have recently gotten very involved in V-Day's One Billion Rising movement, and in the spirit of it, I read Eve Ensler's I Am An Emotional Creature in one night. This morning, I was reading some of the monologues from the book to my parents, and though they support me in this endeavor, they weren't entirely on board with what they were hearing. According to them, there wasn't enough focus on the normal, successful, happy women who are contributing to society simply by being empowered and living fulfilling lives- which in turn empowers the people around them. 
I am still completely in love with the book, but my parents have a point. I'm glad we as a society are noticing our flaws, bringing attention to unpleasant stories, and trying to get better, but we should also be celebrating our successes. So, I'm going to start that off here, by celebrating eleven ordinary women whom I look up to, that have taught me something in one way or another. 
To be honest, I could think of many more than eleven women to put on this list, so there might be future posts on a similar note (heheheh). The eleven I will mention here are women  I see being extraordinary in their own way, whose success stories were never written down (as far as I know!).  

Woman 1- Tabitha Mark
I want to celebrate this woman for being excited about the world, education, and learning- enough to inspire some students to feel the same way, and make the most unmotivated students want to work hard. She gives students outlets to become change-makers, and helps students find the drive to do so, as well. One individual pushing a group of people to excel carries a huge impact.

Woman 2- Tracy Vieanneau
I want to celebrate this woman for pouring her heart into her students, and giving us a 'safe zone', while constantly pushing us to conquer our fears. Ms. V always fought for what she believed in- for the interests of her students. She is a model of 'leading by example', for she showed me and many others how to be strong simply by being so herself. When she was at my school two years ago, it was just a happier place. She helped so many of us get on the track to finding our own voices and confidence, which is one of the best things you can give a teenager. 

Woman 3- Sonia Wagh

I want to celebrate this woman for being what activists are trying to help every woman in the world become- energetic, stable, independent, caring, and happy. She is unbelievably intelligent, incapable of tiring, and a wonderful mother. She represents the place- of being totally empowered- which every woman in the world should one day reach.

Woman 4- Milan Kamerkar-Patil
I want to celebrate this woman for being vibrant and powerful. She's so full of laughter and wit, and almost exudes confidence and happiness, which is all part of her beauty. Her kids adore her to an extent you rarely ever get to, she's physically stronger than most men I know, which I think is awesome!

Woman 5- Suyash Nadkarni
I want to celebrate this woman for being an alive and emotional creature! There is probably nobody in the world that she wouldn't be able to have a conversation with, because she just instinctively knows how to connect with people! Her way with words, kids, and people is remarkable, even though she tries to play it down. I dare you to talk to her and walk away without a smile on your face! 

Woman 6- Ashwini Pradhan
I want to celebrate this woman for her kindness, understanding, and intellect. She is a powerhouse, whose energy is expressed through caring and humour. She embodies compassion- accepting everybody and their flaws, because she understands where they come from. On top of that, what I love is that she's a creative force who can make anybody feel good about themselves for what they are.

Woman 7- Aruna Soman
I want to celebrate this woman for her eccentricity, intelligence, forgetfulness, love, and drive. Despite our age difference of 35 years, I see Aruna mavshi as a close friend, because she knows how to relate with anyone and everyone. She works to unlock the confidence and power in young people, and has helped innumerable kids find their potential. She is capable of absolutely anything. I find  her enthusiasm for everything in the world and everything in life sincerely inspiring. 

Woman 8- Nicole Lovato
I want to celebrate this woman for her calmness, loving spirit, and bottomless pool of strength and support. She exudes wisdom, which nothing can cover up. She too, works with youth- helping them to love, accept, and push themselves to their greatest potential. She is an incredible teacher, and a lifelong student, who has lived and felt a multitude of experiences. I admire how deeply connected she is to her culture and community- something I am still learning to do myself. 

Woman 9- Maggie Chumbley
I want to celebrate this woman for constantly learning, being unafraid to give love to the world, and using that love to make a difference. The word that jumps to mind to describe Maggie is 'alive'- because she experiences and processes everything she does, and strives to get as much out of life as she can. She has taught me (and continues to teach me) about activism, love, life, music, peace, and myself. I feel so privileged to call her my mentor!

Woman 10- Jayashree Majgaonkar 
I want to celebrate this woman- my grandmother- for being unafraid, accommodating, loving, and thoughtful. She is somebody who knows who she is completely, and has taught me about self-respect through the way she takes care of herself and her family. She supported her family her whole life through her work, and her pension from her years of hard work is still supporting her and my wonderful grandfather. She is fearless in a completely humble way, as she tackles and faces everything that comes her way. I remember her having to travel somewhere for work a few years ago, for which she had to take a night-train- we were all extremely worried, and attempting to talk her out of it- but she and her no-nonsense attitude wouldn't stand for it, and so off she went, without any fuss at all. She teaches me about responsibility, duty, courage, and strength just by being who she is. 

Woman 11- Pradnya Kulkarni
I want to celebrate this woman's very existence. I look up to and admire many people in the world, but there is no woman from whom I have learned more, or received more love from, than my mother. Her respect for herself, her love for knowledge, and her strong sense of values and principles make her heroic. Personality-wise, she and I have very little in common, but the way she constantly grows, expands her views, and expresses and feels love, are all qualities I admire immensely. She is the most influential and important woman in my life, and it was because she noticed that ordinary women aren't given enough credit, that I was inspired to write this post. Here's to her and all the other (extra)ordinary women out there, who are making the world better by being the wonderful people they are! 

Friday, 2 November 2012

This post exists.

Walt Whitman:
"The question, O me! so sad, recurring--What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here--that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse."

It's not often that we take the opportunity to really stop and think; what will my verse read?

The best moments of my life are those when I suddenly understand some painfully obvious concept that has always existed right before my eyes. I had one of those moments today; I realised that I am alive!
I am living, thinking, experiencing and feeling. I am a tiny, insignificant conscious being in a corner of the vast cosmos. I am both the least and most insignificant thing ever to have existed, and that is a delightful state.
Eckhart Tolle said, "You are the universe, expressing itself as a human for a little while." I do believe he was right; I am inspired by the energy, strength and power of everything that has every existed before me, that exists with me, and that will exist after me.

The beauty of the human experience, I think, is this: that it is so empowering and humbling all at once. I am a tiny, insignificant part of the cosmos, and yet, I am here. And I am armed with the most powerful weapon: time. What I can do with it is undefinable, and limitless. There is an immeasurable amount of knowledge, wisdom, and experience that I have to suck up in the time I have, and there is an infinite number of things I can do with what I take in. Life is an un-drawn picture, and my creativity and art supplies are endless. This excites me more than anything else I can imagine.

As an atheist, I have often criticized groups of people for choosing to view the world through tinted glasses, not seeing it for what it is. But I am guilty of doing the same thing; we all are. There is no such thing as "the world as it is". There is only what you make it to be, and what you make yourself to be in it. I have been censured many a time for my naivety and idealism, and told to come back down to earth. I can understand this; even reading what I've written, the realist in me can't help but shake her head in condescension a little bit. But the romantic in me is far stronger; and the magnificence of life- taken as a whole- seems to matter a great deal more than the politics and economics we try to simplify the human experience into. I know these ideas are not new and original- countless minds before mine have been visited by them. I can see that they do not apply to the "real world"- nobody's going to pay me for recycled epiphanies. Right now, that doesn't matter. What matters is that in the last 24 hours, I have slept, eaten, wept, laughed, and even howled like a wolf. What matters is that the 'powerful play' is in motion, and I am in the process of writing my verse.

I am a hypocrite; As I said, I am guilty of viewing the world through tinted glasses. Everything I see is coloured with optimism, excitement, humour and mystery. I am naive, idealistic, and very likely to get hurt and be painfully disillusioned. But then again, maybe I won't be. I'll leave this to the gods of probability.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

I love the internet- it is my vehicle of communication, accessing information, entertainment (Yohoho and a bottle of rum) and my own personal procrastination machine. What I’ve been seeing on the internet of late, though, is simply disappointing.  As much as I hate to quote Dubstep, the internet was developed to break our limits, not create them. Posts like these, however, are doing just that: setting limits on mankind.
This was posted on 9gag on Women's Day.
Somehow, I can foretell the multitude of comments that are going to accuse me of being devoid of a sense of humour. Yes, I know these posts aren’t intended to be taken entirely seriously, but they are worrying nevertheless. For centuries, forward thinking men and women have fought to bring humanity closer to gender equality. Unfortunately, all these comics do is show humanity’s stubborn and ignorant resolution to hold ourselves back. Old fashioned, orthodox values about ‘women belonging in the kitchen’ are not so surprising when they are held by people from older generations, who never had the opportunities to educate themselves about the necessity of women’s rights in a successful society. The dwellers of the internet, though, are people of my generation- people who, if they chose to, could accomplish much more than the casual, “humorous” subjugation and repression of women “as a joke”. The fact that these jokes seem to be omnipresent, and increasingly popular reveals how backward we- the generation of the future- have become. We are never going to accomplish our goals as the human race if an entire half of that race is constantly being supressed. Progress lies in compromise and cooperation, not a reversion to outdated and counterproductive principles. Rant over (for now).

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Kony Craze

This whole KONY 2012 phenomenon has really been getting to me. So I started telling all the supporters I saw a couple of facts about Invisible Children and Joseph Kony that I had found out through various articles, and since I’ve been approached by a few people since then to explain the flaws associated with KONY 2012, I made this list of facts:
1.       Kony is actually pronounced "Kohn"
2.       He is no longer in Uganda, he is in the Congo. He hasn't been active in Uganda for 6 years, and the LRA is now only about 420 people large.
3.       The US was in Uganda before the Invisible Children people said anything, because Uganda has oil. Even if more troops are sent, it won't have anything to do with Kony because he's not there!
4.       The Ugandan military is involved in atrocities such as rape and torture. Invisible Children supports them, as well as military intervention- which can only lead to more violence, and the death of a number of the child soldiers.
5.       Invisible Children only gives 31% of donations to the people in Uganda. They use up the rest within the organization- which is hugely unethical.
6.      If they want the US government to take notice, there is no point in asking people outside the US to advocate the group and "make Kony famous"- the US government doesn't care if non-citizens are interested in an issue. It’s simply not their responsibility.
7.       This is a short interview with an ex-child soldier, who spoke to the press about how offended he is by the Kony 2012 Campaign for its failure to respect and communicate the gravity of the situation in Uganda:

I’ve been meaning to start a blog for a while, and though this isn’t the most original of entries, I thought it would be a good start. I’m really happy to see that people of my generation are interested in helping the world and stepping up to make changes, but the way to do so isn’t through coming up with cool activities and having fun while we’re at it. It's understandable that a video that is made to get to viewers emotionally has moved so many people, but the cool graphics and sad five year old don't legitimize everything said in the Kony 2012 video (they even got the geographical location of Uganda wrong). The LRA and Kony, as well as other domestic issues in Uganda are very serious, and cannot be solved by means of having fun, and making it about us instead of them. This video is all about the White Man's Burden- but remember, just because the mainstream in the US weren't aware of Kony and the LRA, the problem was never "invisible". Another reason why I'm a bit upset with Invisible Children is because it doesn't seem to respect the dignity of the people in Uganda who have lived and died through everything that has happened in the past two decades. Their trials were not invisible just because nobody was tweeting about them.
If we really want to take action, we have to find reliable charities, and put in real hard work- changing a profile picture on facebook and running around town laughing with friends while putting up posters really isn’t helping any of the kids who have suffered under Kony. If you really want to make a change, then really do something.  

Additional note: Please do let me know if you're aware of any facts I got wrong; I’ll be sure to research and update them.