Saturday, September 09, 2006

between you and me - bloggers and gender politics

my earlier post was on the right to space. now id like to raise some issues with regard to bloggers and gender politics.

in fairness to them, most folks who uphold these politics dont really do so deliberately or consciously - i find most dont see these angles at all. but ignorance isnt much of an excuse, and whether we well-meaningly or misogynistically uphold the patriarchal structure, we are responsible in varying degrees for the damage it causes.

as i see it, these are some of the politics involved:

its part of pecking order privileges that the ones in a superior position may demand things of the ones beneath them. as far as i'm concerned, i can be requested to tell someone my name, my phone number, where i live or what i do; but i am not beholden in anyway to necessarily comply with that request. im not a subordinate in the army to jump to obey commands.

women are made to account for themselves all the time in our society. we are expected to justify our actions. not everyone needs, or merits, an explanation. we are entitled to independence without having to keep anxiously and pre-emptively patting egos to make sure that our bid for non-dependency doesnt wound some male who considers himself in authority. its part of the same mentality that demands an activity report from an adult woman who goes out in the evening, while not concerning itself with a teenage boy who stays out all night.

ive had both men and women write to me, and while there were some men who were very decent about respecting the space i politely asked for, the women were a much easier lot to deal with: only one has so far even asked me for personal details, let alone demanded it.

the deep need to defend my space like this is because i can often say and discuss things here that i cannot in real life. i also hate explaining obvious things like "feminism isn't about male bashing" ad nauseam; something i find i have to do all too often if i start these discussions with people in real life. there's a limit to which im ready to shake people around me from their conditioning. i respect their need to set their own pace to work on beliefs and ideas that they were raised with. but i need to give voice to some things that are important to me. since a lot of these are issues that concern me as a woman, doing that is very difficult in a strongly patriarchal society. look around you: how many seriously political indian blogs do you see? how many of these by women? a truly free political arena is hard to come by especially for women.

safety is another of my concerns. a very real one. as soon as i was abused, one of the threats used was that the abuser knew where i lived. i have a mother and sister who mean the world to me. those three months weren't exactly fun to live through.

the world of men told me that it could get this sick. ive written earlier about trust. no, i dont think every man i meet is that horrible, but rather than get defensive and feel hurt that i dont trust you implicitly like i should because you're decent, how about honestly admitting that its the other men who have been creeps who are to blame, and not the women who are suspicious with good reason! im not a schizophrenic or an amnesiac to walk away from my lived experience. i will use all my knowledge of the world to protect myself.

and finally, if you really want to know who i am, you learn more from what i write here or in my mails than by just knowing my name. when i call myself a feminist, anti-technocrat, or anti-establishmentarian, you know more about me than if i just said i were malavika. i could be one of a million malavikas. (and no that isnt my name!) possibly the only unique identification by name would be if i gave a whole name. even then, it doesnt tell you who i am, it just insists on information that would serve only to make me traceable. why wouldnt i be wary!

it may all seem very paranoid at first, but look at the statistics of the violence committed against women: we do live in that
unsafe a world.

im so glad that ive managed to stay angry for long enough to say all this! i'm happy that i've managed to keep the resolve to not be manipulated into feeling bad, into tripping over myself to be the pacifist and soothing hurt pride - its time we all grew up. i thought and read a lot about this subject before finding the resolution to be able to speak up: i mainly found clarity reading things that mr schwyzer and the happy feminist had to say. its terrific to come across people who are as clear and precise in word as in thought.

feminist issues, my life

Labels: ,


Blogger Sea and Sky said...

This sort of clarity in thought and expression comes after some neat thinking through, and is a good example of the fact that staying with one's anger can produce sharp insights, and so is not a "bad thing". I enjoyed this one.

9:28 am  
Blogger aquamit said...

hi! am a frequent reader of your posts..i guess since last one year...many times commented anon. I never ever thought of knowing ur name. and i guess thats the reason i take with me only what you write and i interpret. i feel names, family names, education, family back ground help no more than adding prejudices. your posts had been a good source of information and insight for me and not because of it were written by M. I respect ur anonymity and i hope you carry it the way you wish.
PS:there are many views points I differ, but this not the time to quote.

7:28 pm  
Anonymous Sridhar said...

> the deep need to defend my space

Yup. that makes sense. What you should worry about however is the need to defend your need to defend your space :)

Consider this:

Somebody says hi and asks for personal details.
You say no.
The somebody in question gets pissed off.
Tough. Life goes on.
( the somebody in question continues to be pissed off, but does so in an invisible, i-don't-know-it's-happening manner )

It's always so much easier to just ignore irritating people than to try and justify why they should be ignored. Plus it wastes less time.

another highly evil way to deal with this is to ask for their email address and post it publicly on as many places as you can. la la la ..spam heaven ...

--Your daily dose of anti-social advice from Sridhar ( who hasn't been to blogger in so long that he's forgotten his username and password )

7:36 pm  
Blogger Laurelin said...

Wonderful post, M. Thank you so much!

2:09 am  
Blogger m. said...

sea and sky: thank you :) it was a first time for me - i was such a doof, i had never previously thought anger made for clarity!

aquamit: hello! thank you very much - its very heartening to know that people are reading *this* post especially, and taking it so well! :) and of course - differences in opinion are always welcome!

sridhar: hehe, muchos gracias! and see, see, SEE?! thats why you should blog again :D btw,darn you, you were bang on target as usual!

laurelin: < wave > 'ello there! my pleasure, and thanks :)

9:21 am  
Blogger Sea and Sky said...

this post helped me write what i'd been planning to write for a long time. so, thanks. its on sthreeling.

10:34 am  
Blogger m. said...

sea and sky: though i've logged in only now, i saw it more or less immediately... more power to you :)

10:03 pm  
Anonymous N2 said...

I'm not sure where to post this question. It's not really linked to the post. Basically what i wanted to ask you M is, as an Indian feminist do you feel that India is more or less sexist than western cultures? By western i primarily mean English-speaking developed countries like the UK,US etc.? The reason i ask is that i am an indian female, born and brought up in India. There seems to be a popular perception that western cultures are much better towards women and that Indian society is particularly repressive.

i am an educated, english-speaking, urban upper middle class woman and my experience and analysis of our culture is completely different! i find india in many ways to be LESS sexist and misogynistic than western society. u may say that i belong to the elite and therefore my experience is not representative of the rest of society. this is absolutely true. BUT even comparing apples with apples- ie. my equivalents in western society (upper middle class, urban, college-educated, english as a first language) i think i have it much better than them in many ways!

Off the top of my head here are a few:
1) having access and the social sanction for affordable domestic help and child care and thus being almost completely free of the second shift. (i'm pretty young and unmarried now but i don't see this as an issue for me like it is for my western counterparts). it is understood that i will not do much housework and whatever i do, my husband will have to share equally.

2)less oppressive, unrealistic beauty standards

3)indian culture not glamourising violence (and therefore violence against women) to the same extent. while like in most cultures, i believe in india there is silence and apathy towards violence against women and it is often swept under the carpet, i dont think indians culturally glamourise violence and we generally have more non-violent role models. violence isn't seen as necessary to be a "man", none of this guns, gangster glamourisation crap. basically less pressure on the men to be macho.

Sorry this comment is really long. But i would really like to know what yu think on this. Thanks a lot for responding to my comment on the "Friendsand freeing influences" post. i saw it just now.

11:17 pm  
Blogger m. said...

n2: hi. well, no. i dont think the west has a great track record for human rights. cliched as it may sound, i do think each culture has its pros and cons. so yes, i can understand that there are some things you find india to be better in. i only dont know how long that will last, because cultural hegemony is more common. we seem to all be becoming little americas in the making, which is quite a worrisome thing if you ask me!

7:15 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Visit to help prevent environmental destruction.
Creative Commons License
This blog's content is protected. Whack this and you get whacked.