A feminist friend, who I told about the Afghan women’s Green Scarf movement, said, “I don’t support the veil!” And I suddenly realized that probably she’s not the only one with the wrong idea about what this is all about.
To support this movement all one needs to do is: 1) Put on a green scarf (Doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, or how you want to wear it) 2) Take a picture of yourself wearing it 3) Upload it on this site to show your solidarity with the Afghan women.
And to clarify: it does not ask for people to wear a veil! It says ‘A scarf.’ It just needs to be green. And you can wear it however you want. My green scarf (in the picture to your left) is 6 yards long, (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on November 10, 2011
This picture was taken in May this year. That’s me in the center with some local guys on the streets of Calcutta.
There are 2 things I’d like to point out about this photo:
1) If you walk down any street in India, it is not at all uncommon to find men partly clad like this — as they work, or sleep or, urinate, or play cards or just sit at the local tea vendor’s chatting with friends.
2) You would never see a picture like this in the reverse — that is, a man sitting all clad in the center, with a bunch of semi- clad women prancing around him, on any street corner of India!
And when the Slutmarch came to India, the people who were organizing it were really not demanding the right for women to run around, tearing their clothes off. They were asking “Why is rape the fastest increasing crime in India even though women go around fully clad and men have the freedom to take their clothes off anytime and anywhere?” Do read this article “Slutwalk to Femicide” that I wrote for The WIP (The Women’s International Press) where I argue why the fundamental message of the Slutwalks was lost not only on India, but on the rest of the world, and why it is of significance not only to the issue of sexual violence against women, but also to the issue of India’s ongoing femicide. Click here for the article.
Posted by Rita Banerji on October 20, 2011
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay is one of my grandmother’s favorite novelists, and she says so with an air of superiority. To like Sarat Chandra is to be acknowledged as a true connoisseur of literature in India.
So it is at the risk of being rebuffed that I say this: Sarat Chandra’s novels, particularly at the storyline level really get up my nose. I have tried reading them through all kinds of lenses—rose tinted, myopic, historic etc. etc. but they seem to always end up in the same place.
The female protagonist is always bovine and sweet-tempered. She has all but trashed her sense of self and individuality, and happily submits to the whims of her male counterpart, her family, and society, serving them all diligently, and allowing them to do with her life whatever they please. The male protagonist is almost a mirror opposite – self-seeking, irresponsible, thick-skinned and narcissistic. He believes that the world – including his family and the female protagonist are there to serve him and submit to his will. This in a nutshell is Sarat Chandra’s idea of an ideal male-female relationship.
Parineeta, continues to be one of Sarat Chandra’s most popular works among Indians as indicated by the huge popularity of its recent movie adaptation. It is the story of a 13-year-old orphan girl, Lalita, who is raised in her uncle’s house and is infatuated with the neighbor’s son, Shekhar. In her relationship with Shekhar she willingly renders herself choice-less. All her decisions and activities are dictated to by his wants and moods. If her going out for a movie with her friends displeases him, then she sulks and sobs but eventually obeys his whim. On one occasion, she garlands Shekhar on a certain day deemed auspicious, when by virtue of that prank she is considered betrothed to him. There upon she begins to regard Shekhar as her husband. Shekhar who seems bored and aloof, however knows that his father would never accept his marriage to an orphan girl with no dowry to her name. Yet, he is smug in the knowledge of the hold he has on her.
Sighing deeply, Shekhar said aloud in a stifled voice, ‘What is to be done?’ He knew Lalita only too well, having all but brought her up himself; (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on November 12, 2010
A friend once joked about how much easier it is for him to be gay in India than in some parts of the U.S. In India, it is not uncommon to see two men demonstrating their affections for each other openly in public. Holding hands, hugging, entwining fingers, engaging in kitten play or riding pillion on a motorcycle wedged together like bread and butter. Are all these men gay? Who knows? Yet the same is not permissible for heterosexual couples.
Last year, walking down Camac Street, in an upscale neighborhood of Calcutta, I witnessed a disturbing incident. A man and a woman, probably in their early twenties, were walking ahead of me, laughing and joking, when the woman playfully reached out and grabbed her friend’s hand. They walked along, still talking and swinging their locked hands in a carefree manner, when a group of men, vendors who run little snack stalls that line the pavements, came charging. The men stopped short a few paces of the couple, and began to shout at them. “Bitch!” “Whore!” And a string of such epithets. (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on September 25, 2010
When I heard the recent May announcement by the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), to take a neutral stand on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and allow doctors to do a genital “nick” on little girls, I remembered the girl I will call “Lily. “She was a Hmong-American girl and one of my best friends when I was in college. Lily came across as a cheerful and carefree person, but it was only when I got to know her closely that I found out that she had a deep and painful secret. When she was about thirteen years old, and living in the mid-west, a Hmong American man kidnapped her and held her hostage in his house, where he also raped her. In the eyes of the Hmong American community Lily was now “married” to this man. Read the whole article here
Posted by Rita Banerji on September 5, 2010