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!

Friday, October 30, 2009

On Work

Too many developments on this front. Where do I start? What do I include? Let me attempt:

1. A-Team Year 2: Yes, folks! I decided to serve on the Student Advisory Board, now in its second year. The experience from previous academic year was just so wonderful. Besides, projects started and conversations shared over the last one year in part, needed to be carried over, discussed and given a direction with members, both continuing and new. The new board is brimming with energy from undergraduate and graduate students alike. As with last year, this time too we were successful in identifying several interesting issues in our very first meeting. More on that later.

2. Global village dinner + talk: As a member of the Advisory Board, I was invited to be part of Tuesday dinner + talk at the international resident house on campus. As is the tradition at the House, a community dinner is served every Tuesday evening during the School year. Housemates take turns preparing meals for the larger group, and a free dinner is planned with invited speaker/s. The talk this past Tuesday was entitled, "Understanding homosexuality and learning to be allies." Joining me, were representatives each from the SC and the International Center.

Our talk generated great discussion. The members of the House were patient, they heard our stories, shared their experiences, and were extremely encouraging of our spirits. I spoke about my experiences on campus, my volunteer work and my understanding of the complexity in and around human sexuality in India. From Sec 377 and ancient texts to archaic morality and its role and meaning vis-a-vis constitutional morality, I presented a spectrum of issues centering on what it means to be gay. The end note was one of a just and more tolerant tomorrow, and most memorable was the concluding question, "How would Gandhi have reacted to this struggle?"

3. Meeting with the VP, Division of Student Affairs: Brilliant! The Advisory Board met with Ms. Harper yesterday to understand the institutional framework, and how best to approach our current concerns for an all inclusive climate on campus. As always, she was extremely supportive of our thoughts and ideas. She even connected them to some of her own experiences, both personal and professional. Words of wisdom included thoughts such as, "move slow but keep pushing and continue making progress," "there are always many gifts out of struggle, but if you look only at struggle then you miss out on gifts," and "it is important to understand what your 'calling' is. This defines work and sets it apart from job." For people like her and Jackie, this world is ever so bright and wonderful.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

GLBT History Month 2009

It's October: the GLBT History Month in the United States. The event brings to attention the achievements of 31 GLBT individuals whose work is an ongoing inspiration. As with last year, I will populate this space with thoughts from 2009 GLBT icons. Stay tuned!

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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