Saturday, February 24, 2007

mohanty, spivak, where are you?

one of the main purposes of feminism is to help the community of women come together.

the production of knowledge is one of the important aspects of the first world-third world divide, something that also eventually becomes very gendered, making it a critical issue in the third world feminists' agenda.

every time i read feminist theory about third world feminism, i invariably find references to mohanty and spivak as the primary voices of indian feminism. i find it incredibly sad that they too seem to have followed the first world custom of exclusive knowledge production. i've hunted quite a bit and for a while now, and not found one of their papers available for free online. what is the point of sitting abroad, trying to make a point about how the third world feminists lack access to mainstream feminist theory and knowledge - and denying access to those very arguments?!

its very frustrating and sad that we have more access to white feminism in india than to ours, especially with everyone tripping over themselves to say at the first opportunity that they're doing progressive work, socially relevant work, but "imnotafeminist"!

indian feminism... you're sorely needed!


Friday, February 23, 2007

sexuality, sexual orientation and sex

am trying to pin down some basics (as i understand them) as briefly and clearly as poss. please factor in inherent limitations of such a disgusting method of presentation! :D

sexuality sexual orientation sexual acts

is about attitudes is about emotional & physical responses physical responses
for internal self expression
may be expressed or kept to one's self. sometimes the expression may be as part of a group identity and culture and be political

may be expressed with one's self or with others, often more private than group expression
self evolved concept self evolved but may be influenced by surrounding culture is heavily influenced by culture and politics

is the basis for evolution of concepts sex and sexual orientation
often dictates a "prescribed" or "appropriate" sexual behaviour is greatly influenced by ideas of sexuality and sexual orientation

associated with a history and culture
associated with a history and cultural norms pretty much every sexual act has been around forever?!
not regulated, although expression may be confined by social dictates
is often dictated by country, culture, tradition, religion, science, etc as being appropriate or otherwise

is often dictated by country, culture, tradition, religion, science, etc as being appropriate or otherwise

not very developed in children. they're more aware of sensual than sexual.

children may discover attraction to a particular sex, but not really a determinant of adult orientation.
children arent sexual beings.
cannot be abusive
cannot be abusive, though it can make other people feel threatened or defensive
can be abusive

rights and responsibilities are not directly a part of this framework, may be inherited from gen belief systems
rights and responsibilities can become an issue, depends on personal-political awareness. a distinct set of rights and responsibilities, may be dictated by group/social politics or self generated

and evidently my template heartily dislikes excel-columns-cut-and-pasted. due to implicit approval of their sentiments, complete ignorance of coding and general disinclination to break my head over it, am not struggling to make it neat now.

solpa adjust madi.

what dyou know. problem beeyootifully resolved - thank you very much!


Friday, February 16, 2007

prostitution as "just another" profession

one of the reasons ive been absent here is that i was spending some time talking and learning about some women's issues. mostly, the other people were from women's groups or specific marginalised groups , working on a day-to-day basis with the issues that are especially pertinent to them.

as usual, when discussing prostitution, the main discourse used by the prostitutes' rights representatives and union members was that prostitution is "just another" profession, like any other.

that point of view troubles me greatly. let me state that i do appreciate the difficulty of finding a balance between viewing certain people as victims and as empowered people with agency. but this particular politics seems to be to be tipping the balance the other way from victimising, and walking into some very dangerous territory.

firstly, every time i've heard prostitutes (i'm dismissing other people's echoing for now) say that, it's been very contextual. it has been when they are talking to NGO workers about how prostitutes are empowered (or should be). the same women sound miserable and utterly dejected when discussing the dangers and injustices in their lives. talk about violence, and they eventually lapse into silence. hardly surprising - what words can describe some experiences? they long to live like other women (ie not in prostitution) when discussing these subjects.

it strikes me that maybe we - the women who have much greater access and standing in society - are taking over their discourse. we are putting in their language the words that we want to use because that language bolsters the politics of the work that we are doing. it's one thing for me to urge a woman to make a declaration of strength and walk back to my safe, privileged environment at the end of my working day. its totally another thing for that woman to make the declaration, live its politics and deal with the flak it generates. there is no time out for her, no support beyond my visit.

so im questioning the statement. has it really naturally evolved from an informed political framework or has it been put there? how come the declaration isnt even consistent within that system?

secondly, i question the justice and accuracy of such a bid. it seems to me to be almost ludicrously theoretical a stance. my parents sure as hell didnt consider prostitution as an option when we were discussing what careers were open to me! it hardly needs to be explained to anyone that life in prostitution is very different from say, in medicine or teaching, if only because of how society regards prostitution, and not because of the nature of the work itself and all its attendant baggage. really, can we say that we have difficult lives too and, with any modicum of truth, draw a parallel with the choices that women in prostitution make? i think its at best nonsensical.

it also makes me ask, what is causing these women to sanction such a comparison? what prompts them to grant it legitimacy by vouchsafing that prostitution is "just another" profession? there's a huge issue of privilege here that must not and cannot be ignored. this is precisely the reason that i use the us-them references.

thirdly, i have reservations about the bid as a strategy. i use the word "bid" repeatedly because i see it as such. it is a bid to be accepted. that seems to me a very self defeating proposition. what it does is to concede superior social standing to the undefined and therefore more powerful (in this context) Other, and ask for handouts of social recognition and respect. if we act as subalterns how will we be treated as equals?

also, as a strategy, to say that this life should be acceptable to every woman as an equally desirable way of life, will only certainly (and understandably?) alienate women in prostitution even amongst the community of women. they will be denied the social grant that they are seeking first from the groups closest to them - from potential allies.

finally, why on earth would you want to normalise that life of violence? why on earth would you want to say that a totally patriarchal symptom is a normal way of life? socialising prostitution isnt going to solve anything - its only going to make existing troubles much worse.

nope. i dont like those politics one bit.


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