Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On "pinkwashing"

"One of the most remarkable features of the Brand cultured campaign is the marketing of the modern nation-state as gay-friendly. One of the organisations has been quoted ... as saying: "We decided to improve the country's image through its gay community." This "pinkwashing", as it is now commonly termed in activist circles, has currency beyond specific gay groups. Within global gay and lesbian organising circuits, to be gay friendly is to be modern, cosmopolitan, developed, first-world, global north, and, most significantly, democratic."

J. Puar on "pinkwashing" and politics. Full article: guardian.co.uk/july01

Note: Original words have been replaced with words in italics in order to remove "pinkwashing" from its embedding in specific geographical space, and treating it as a "thing in itself ... a relational system."

365 w/o 377

Photo source: lighttripper

"365 without 377" - India celebrated gay rights anniversary on July 2. A year ago, the Delhi HC revoked Section 377 of the IPC (a 149-year-old British colonial law), decriminalizing homosexuality. The event also included protests against petitions that could possibly make homosexuality illegal again. Full story: change.org/july04

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bigotry is Unnatural

A professor of the AMU (India) was recently fired for alleged homosexuality. While both student and teacher community stood divided on this decision, there were some who clearly stood out from the rest not because of their intelligence but inspite of it. One of the professor's argued, "(Homosexuality) is something that is not accepted by any religion and is rejected by 99% people in the world," while yet another added, "The objective of the teacher community is to teach moral values along with other subjects. So no one should be allowed to devalue that." The most ridiculous question, however, came from none other than the vice-chancellor himself. Defending the institution's decision he asked, "Would you ever like your child to be gay or lesbian?"

Jug Suraiya, the noted Indian journalist, author, and columnist, takes it from there. In his excellent article in the Times of India (dt. March 02, 2010), he situates this debate in the context of a primitive worldview - one, which defines homosexuality as unnatural, and "an affront to nature and the so called natural law." He says, "In sexual matters, the distinction between the 'natural' and the 'unnatural' is particularly problematic. In some major religions such as Roman Catholicism, for instance even heterosexual relationships are permissible only between man and wife, and for the sole purpose of procreation. On an already dangerous over-populated planet, such a proposition is not just morally but also environmentally dubious. Equally harmful in a world threatened by AIDS is the corollary injunction against the use of condoms." What more, "From vaccination, to migration, to the use of prophylactics, it is often the so-called 'unnatural' that has expanded and enhanced the human situation. There is one malady, however, that has over the millennia proved to be beyond the scope of either prevention or cure. It is bane so deeply rooted in our nature that it might be called the original and perhaps the only sin: it is the bane of bigotry."

This post also links to "Born Free - Born Natural I."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Last week, I attended a fantastic presentation by O. Segal, doctoral candidate in Near Eastern Studies at the University. Segal's talk was a comparative essay on two recent exhibitions (2001, 2007) on Independence Park, a cruising place in T. Aviv. Both works were attempts to challenge the conventional representations of this park as a dark cruising site, and critique the everyday reduction of sexuality to sickness, something unnatural and illicit. Specifically, the 2001 exhibition aimed to present the park as a beautiful place – showcasing the site in broad daylight (emphasis edded), with identifiable actors, in their everyday wear and beautiful postures. It sought to legitimize the space by describing it as a site where gays openly exercise their sexuality. The 2007 work, in comparison, exhibited the park as a natural site with emphasis on its flora, animal life and colorful sunsets. It downplayed the sexual context of the park only to universalize the space, and place it in the context of natural (read normal) geographies. Segal's close readings of the images, however, revealed an interesting trap. By way of intertextuality, he argued that despite each exhibition's attempts to "depoliticize" the park, the exhibits referred back to queer culture and made implicit references to homosexuality and its deep embedding in space - both physical and social.

The trap notwithstanding, I felt, Segal's critical use of art history to illuminate the queer context ultimately also helped historicize, naturalize, intellectualize, militarize and regionalize the park and its spatio-sexual dialectic. The exhibitions in and of themselves might have failed in naturalizing the environs, but Segal's work offered a perfect rethinking of the park with all its contradictions.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

On Stability

Hetero-normative claims such as, "Society is more stable when marriage is defined as between one man and one woman," make me wonder if stability implies resistance to change or an enduring state of mindlessness or both.

On a related note, I just added this book to my list of must-reads: Vanita, R. (2005). Love's rite: same sex marriage in India and the West. Array New York: Palgrave Macmillan. A slight peek: When a Shaiva priest from India was asked to perform a wedding for two women in 2002, he hesitated at first but then agreed. Vanita: "He told me that when the women requested him to officiate at their wedding he thought about it and, though he realized that other priests in his lineage might disagree with him, he concluded, on the basis of Hindu scriptures, that, 'marriage is a union of spirits, and the spirit is not male or female" (p. 147).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Social Justice and Social Media

Indian film director, writer and producer, Onir has taken the power and pervasiveness of social media to a different level. Along with actor-producer Sanjay Suri, he is currently filming a series of 4 short films on the theme of fear and identity. Collectively entitled, "I AM," this project uses social media to not just promote each of the shorts, but also invite individuals to help shape their stories, raise funds and most importantly, become their proud co-owners.

Onir's initiative is remarkable. Integrating independent content-oriented cinema with popular web-based technologies, it aims to spread awareness on sensitive issues such as sexuality and religion by involving people at various levels of film-making, and transforming them from "content consumers to content producers."

"Four stories...One film: I AM," as the tagline reads, is a film about four identities.
(From the website):
I AM Abhimanyu is a film based on the survivors of abuse, G. Nalari and H. Iyer.
I AM Omar is inspired from stories by gay individuals in Bombay. It is a film dealing with homosexuality and its complex interplay with fear, social acceptance and the desire to love freely.
I AM Afia is based on the true story of R. Kohli and her quest to bring to light the corruption in the NGO sector in India.
I AM Megha is a story of a Kashmiri Pandit woman and her confrontation with a horrific past, one centering on the displacement of her community and the search for freedom and place in democracy.

Already more than 250 volunteers from over 20 cities around the world have contributed in various ways to make this film. To become a co-owner and learn more about this initiative, visit the website: I AM Films. To keep track of ongoing developments, visit the blog: I am Abhimanyu.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Patriarchy Revisited

From the film: Mirch Masala (1985) by Ketan Mehta

The Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell!) Campaign is Breakthrough's new and growing campaign to help bring to our attention the grossness of domestic violence in India. It encourages people, especially men and young boys to become involved in this project, and to help bring any form of ongoing physical, psychological, sexual or financial violence within families to halt. The campaign blog is currently carrying a heart wrenching story on an otherwise archaic yet enduring evil practice in Indian society - the marriage of the girl-child. Entitled, "Without a Whimper," and penned ever so thoughtfully by dear friend Aham, it hits us exactly where we live - between the head and the heart.

The abuse of the girl-child in the name of marriage is infuriating and unpardonable. The practice needs to be condemned, but more importantly, it needs to be examined in the context of patriarchy - what it produces and who it privileges. Here is my provocation: patriarchy has its roots in the concept of man as the provider, and woman as the producer. This binary has traditionally privileged man who impregnates and provides the seed for the growth of family, and the male-child, who upon growing up is expected to then provide for the family, in economic terms, even if that means trading his own girl-child. Sadly, as a producer, the girl is considered nothing but a commodity - interchangeable in the market controlled by men.

What we need is to challenge our binary thinking, go beyond the dichotomies of provider-producer, and think of the body as one doing both irrespective of gender and/or sex. Quite in the humanist Marxist sense, production needs to be looked at as both mental (creative) and material (bodily), and their constant interactions in real time-space. Both men and women contribute to this in unique ways. It is in this context that they are also both different and equal. Notwithstanding the tensions between them, this perspective at least offers them the much desired equal footing, for presently even the founding plane has little room for the girl-child growing-up.

India, bell bajao!

About This Blog

This blog is built around what I refer to as the socio-sexual debate, meaning the simultaneously coexisting conditions of human society and human sexuality in a constant state of inner conflict and pressing debate. To read more, click here.

Opinion Matters

"There is a way of discussing sexuality without using labels" (Mika* in an interview with Shana Naomi Krochmal, OUT, 2008-01-28).

*Mika is a London-based singer-songwriter.

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