‘Happy’ and ‘Independence’ Day, is it?

On the grand day when  the entire nation is enthralled with feelings of celebration, oozing with patriotism and enjoying a day off, there occurs an incident which questions the entire conceptual privilege around the feeling of being ‘free’ or ‘independent’ in India itself.

I am talking about the gruesome rape of a 12 year old girl in Chandigarh, on her way back home after having attended the Indian ‘Independence Day’ celebrations at her school. Not something new to have happened in our country, but on a day like this when social media, phone texts/ messages  are filled with talks of patriotism, of freedom struggle, there lies an under shadowed reality where the struggle continues. It was in Sector 23 where a man  stopped her, pulled her aside and raped her. He also held a knife to scare the little girl.
Sadly, being a multi-party country, what we are best at are talks, lengthy speeches, but no serious execution. The Union Home Ministry recently held a candle-light march to assert the right to safely access public spaces but where does this end? The march was preceded by nothing but a similar incident just days later.

“According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2015, 8,800 cases of rape on children were registered across the country under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). In 2,227 cases, or 25.3 per cent, the offenders were found to be employers or co-workers”- source: NCRB

These statistics  raise a few questions in mind about How free are we?

Are we free to stroll alone outside our homes?

Are we free to travel alone during the day, let alone night?

The answer is Yes, we are free- but sadly at our own risk! So, what use is this dreaded freedom’ of?

This news neither made me happy nor did it make me feel independent- 70 years down the line, even small children, let alone women, continue to face the same forms of sexual assault and plight which they faced during the British rule and partition.

We indeed are slaves unless freed from crime and the perpetrating criminals. We need to ponder and so do executive, legislature and judiciary- not just for formulations and implementations but also for severe deterrent measures of punishment. By the way, Happy India Independence Day?

 

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Feminism: Solution to Patriarchy or a Hoard of New Problems itself?

By Naina Sharma

(This article is on demand by Blogurnalism reader)
Feminism is no easy concept and at the same time way too distinct from what we call a patriarchy. In simple words, feminism can be defined as a movement towards establishing equal socio, political and economic rights between men and women. Patriarchy on the other hand, is a system of society where men or dominant or rather preferred. Complexed through varied definitions and waves of developments, feminism and patriarchy have evolved and require constant modification pertaining to the manner in which they are perceived, as they may or may not be befittingly applicable to the changing society. While some relate the present demands of the feminist enthusiasts to the historically imbibed patriarchy, some others simply see it as an over-rated concept which is distorting the balance of the men-women relationships.

RIGHT TO CHOOSE OR RIGHT TO EQUALITY?

We can sense that something is certainly not going right when we hear the Delhi Metro filled with announcements like- “Please vacate the chairs for ‘women’ and the differently abled”.
Treating women equal to disabled people is definitely not right on so many levels and certainly not what modern feminists would have wished for. This is just another paradigm which conveys the extent to which feminism has been misconstrued in our country.
While the definition of patriarchy is quite clear, Feminism is most often differently defined. When feminism means rights for women, the benchmark shouldn’t be set or restricted to the rights enjoyed by men. It calls for equality which applies for both the genders. If a woman did not get voting rights through the universal adult suffrage until late 20th century, feminists in today’s era wouldn’t have demanded rights similar to those belonging to men but because sadly, the basic rights are always enjoyed by men, it is quite often interpreted as a hunt on men’s rights.
Feminism, as interpreted, is not about snatching rights but by distributing them at an equal pedistle and then leaving it onto a women’s capacity to decide whether she wants to exercise those rights or not. What cannot be denied is that rights have been curtailed through pressumptions regarding women’s actions both in the public and private sphere. It is not about freedom to earn, or freedom to work after marriage but solely about freedom to ‘choose’. Choice has never quite often remained in the hands of women, owing to the patriarchal structure and once given the power to choose, it would then be upon the two genders to support and co-exist in the most suitable way.

HARMS OF FEMINISM: PHYSIOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS vs PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS

There are a few ways in which feminism can do more harm than good to women in the longer run, going against its own objectivated Grail. Though a movement with a wis intent, it has created a world where women as viewed as victims. And this is where women need to move beyond the boundaries of patriarchy. What once existed cannot continue to define women as a victim forever. They are and need to be strong enough to let go off the patriarchal barriers. You can be a woman and not be a victim. Women don’t have to hide under the umbrella of feminism when the world, law, judiciary views woman as an equally capable adult. if you have the perception that the world is out to get you.

A woman who can let an entire human out of her body is strangely considered to be quite fragile and infantile. Thanks to viewing it as a battle rather than step towards empowerment.

Prolonged dependence on feminism as a label has created a sphere of competition between men and women. This has created more problems than solving many where life has become a race for the two genders to decide on who is better rather than filling the gap of what the other lacks. Well, there is definitely more to a human than his /her gender. If a man is a better cook than you, he is so because he is talented, this hasn’t got much to do with him being a man. Just like women don’t wish to be shouted at as defined through male dominance, similarly, men don’t wish to be dominated either.

….. SO, SOLUTION, PROBLEM, BOTH OR NONE?
The problem doesn’t lie in giving women an option to choose- to choose between being an homemaker or a working woman, what creates issues is when women try to change themselves drastically in order to satisfy the societal demands of the feminists. If feminism isn’t confused with disrespecting men or trying to bow them down, if it is a call for equality, then so be it.
If the extreme feminists wish to outrun all the chivalrous acts of men and if feminists wish to not be treated in a coy manner then again there exist two categories of women. One, who would want to be treated with care and two, who do not wish to seek men’s help in any case. Remember, if a man helps a woman it shouldn’t be treated as a favour and it is women who need to understand that for it is a two way street. Since men are in many ways dependent on women, if women accept the same it wouldn’t do any harm to their feminist goals.
Personally, more than getting entangled in a term which has been constantly changing its meaning over years, I would wish to be a female who has the freedom to choose and treat the requirements of both genders as equal. While patriarchy talks of male dominance, feminism doesn’t speak of female dominance at all. One speaks of superiority and the latter of equality, at least in terms of actions. So yes, in order to boost the process of shedding supressive male dominance, we do need feminism as a catalytic initiator. Once the job is done, it is upto the women to lead a life which neither looks upon them as victims nor as self centered. So, yes feminism to an extent is a solution to patriarchy. But yes, only to an extent. Remember, the idea is too hyped that only a handful would know of Matriarchies existing in parts of Kerala and Karnataka. Yes! Matriarchies exist too. And yes, men are feminists too. So feminism isn’t a battle between men and women, it is a movement for women- a movement which can flourish better in cooperative cognizance between the two genders, thereby shunning patriarchy in the process itself. Patriarchy is not the only problem feminism must deal with. It is in fact the non-patriarchal societies who endorse feminism way more than the  rest, suggesting that feminism is being applied today, under the situational considerations of the past decades. The concept needs alteration for women in a modern society aren’t victims. They have the rule of law to solve problems more than any book on feminism would.

 

(Picture Courtesy- Factmyth.com)

As Trolls Rise, Should Celebs Pay the Price?

By Naina Sharma

Trolling has become a core component of social networking in India. From trolls like “Tag a boyfriend for her” to jokes on celebrities over their choice of clothes, there has been a rise in the variety of trolls. Most often, it is the Indian actresses who are made the sharpest target of trolls in India.

From Cannes, Oscars to now the quite recent Met Gala, the red carpet looks of actresses from all these international events has been subjected to online trolling. While Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone are quite often trolled on what they wear, the two internationally famous actresses have come up with different reactions on the same issue.

Priyanka Chopra: The Quantico and now the Baywatch Diva, PC was trolled earlier in the year over her white Oscars Gown.

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Later, she was also trolled for her Met Gala appearance.

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(Image: Social Media)

This is when Priyanka Chopra took to her instagram and was quite a sport when it came to reacting to the jokes all around the globe. She created an album on instagram and listed her top favorite picks from all the troll ideas on this Tan Coat. She captioned it as, “**drumroll**to your creativity! I’ve picked a few of my favourites!
Good to know that the dress serves more purposes than just fashion. Hope to continue to stir your creative juices. This is why I love the #MetGala you literally can push the envelope for fashion anywhere! Until next time… #ROFL”

Deepika Padukone: While Deepika did not have much trolls to her name, she drew a lot of flack instead. The XXX fame star was criticized for her gown at Met Gala, and earlier for what she wore in the MTV Awards. To this the actress responded saying, ” Sometimes you may like my look and sometimes you may not. I am not dressing for you, my love. I am dressing for myself. The only time I would allow any sort of comment to affect me is when my mom or my girlfriends give me some flak for it”.

Food for thought? As an individual and a woman, I can totally relate to these two. Though not at a large scale, a common woman is quite often trolled as well on the kind of dresses she wears. Well, I would say this is where Freedom of Choice comes to play. None of us dress up to please anybody else. Everyone has an opinion and it must not affect us. Though it isn’t fair to be over- critical, I would say one must not be over sensitive as well. People would say what they wish to and it is for us to shine beyond the criticism.

“Like a girl”- a new definition

By Naina Sharma

“Run like a girl, throw like a girl, fight like a girl” – said an advertisement as I sat comfortably on my couch. Made in 2014, the ad entered our country recently and is suggestive of shattering gender stereotype in India, a country which continues to idolize boys and where girls face a significant drop in their self confidence since their very childhood. I knew this advertisement was going to stay with me for atleast a couple of days.

That very evening, while walking past the market near my house, I decided to speak to the policeman in charge of the area, stationed at a centrally located booth. Familiar with him, I greeted him and spoke to a stern looking but polite Mr. Om Prakash. “How often do you get complaints from girls in this locality”, I asked him. He didn’t have a firm reply. I made the question more specific and asked the number of calls he got with regard to women being subjected to humiliation in any form. He explained to me that he got a minimum of 1 call every day. With a total of 95 police stations in the capital, that makes it approximately just 100 cases per day and only 3000 cases per month, quite contrary to the expected frequency. Further, Mr. Prakash told me the reason behind the fewer number of cases. “Many women do not file a report since they are not supported and do not have the confidence to fight the implications alone”, he said. “Most of the victims wear short dresses and skirts when teased and their families blame them instead for wearing inappropriate clothes, which is completely wrong”, said the policeman- a father of 2 daughters with gloomy eyes. His statements reminded me of how women are always asked to not wear short skirts and how sensitive men are always mocked at by being asked not to cry ‘like a girl’.

Baffled by the observation, I went back home, only to find that my flatmate was counselling her friend to step up and my maid failed to turn up. With soap and utensils in our hands, we discussed the issue. Her friend, a 20 year old girl, belonging to an affluent family, wasn’t allowed to seek higher education and rather was being compelled to get married. On the other hand, my maid took an off for she had to drop her 21 year old daughter back to the hostel as she pursued engineering. Well, clearly, the 2 contrasting stories indicated that gender stereotype didn’t necessarily have to do with the amount of wealth one had.

Today, I work in a news company which is dominated by women, only to depict that we have finally learnt to stand up for our choices. “Media is not meant for girls”, “You cannot live independently in a flat”, “You are a girl- not built to make a career, your husband will take care of you” – having heard such statements, from the people around us in India (if not our families), the fact that most of us have fearlessly come to live in a new city, handle our problems independently like a girl and wish to continue doing things that we truly believe in, we aim to make ‘like a girl’ depict strength, character and zero tolerance against the idea of compromise.