Is this the Angle to the Clinton-Lewinsky Saga That Feminists Turned A Blind Eye to?

I started reading this book at bedtime, and after the first chapter, I couldn’t put it down. I had to stay up and finish it, just to find out if the Clinton-Lewinsky theme that I perceived in the first chapter, played out through the rest of the book. And for me, it did!

This is ‘The Penelopiad,’ one of Atwood’s lesser read books, and in it she retells the story of Homer’s famous epic, ‘The Odyssey.’ It’s a thin book, a fast read, and even if you are not familiar with Homer’s version it’s OK, because Atwood sticks to the original storyline. The story is about Odysseus, the King of Ithaca, and his wife Penelope. When Penelope’s beautiful cousin Helen of Troy is abducted, Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan war and returns home to Penelope after 20 years, and many adventures. And while he plays the field, making as many love conquests as war victories, Penelope remains loyal to him despite overtures from male suitors, who actually are more interested in the wealth and power she had hold over, than in her. Odysseus is unhappy about these suitors when he returns, and he kills them, as well as Penelope’s twelve maids-in-waiting by hanging them.

However, where Homer’s version is through the eyes of a male narrator and explored within a patriarchal context, Atwood’s version (not surprisingly), is through the eyes of a female narrator (Penelope’s eyes after she’s dead), and explored within a feminist context. And this is what makes it really interesting. This is the same story, yet the questions asked and the conclusions reached by a female narrator give this epic a whole different twist.

What for me was most fascinating was the Clinton-Lewinsky twist. It is true, that the lure of mythologies is that they provide a philosophical framework in which we can eternally recognize patterns of human behavior, responses and relationships. Yet, as I read on to the end, I did wonder, if Atwood was inspired by the Clinton-Lewinsky account in her reading of The Odysseus. Below I share some of these specific excerpts from the book. You decide! (more…)

Why Are Indian #Films Confused About #Sex, #Rape and #Prostitution?

Gregor Kern once said, “There’s nothing worse than bad films for a good cause.” I’m constantly astonished by how films made with the intention of addressing sexual and other forms of violence on women in India, are often so deeply misogynistic!


jism poster While pornographic packaging of female sexuality is blatantly used to hard sell Indian films, a woman’s libido and her consensual sex with partners of her own choosing continue to be “controversial” topics in Indian cinema.   Forced marriages are not portrayed as rape.   The marriage of rape victims to their rapists is often seen as a form of justice.  And parents who prostitute their daughters are not viewed as pimps.  In an article where she takes a critical look at how Bollywood films treat the subject of rape, consensual sex and prostitution,  Rita Banerji argues that the reason Indian films fail to address these issues in a meaningful way is because the film makers, like the rest of Indian society,  have failed to affirm a woman’s right and choice over her own body and sexuality.  

Below is are two excerpts from this article.  To read the full…

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Gang #Raped in #Bengal as Punishment for Falling in #Love


(Birbhum district) West Bengal, Jan 22, 2014

On orders of the panchayat (the village judiciary) a tribal woman in Rampurhat was gang-raped by 10-12 men as ‘punishment’ for falling in love with a man from another community.

The 20-year-old woman, who is hospitalized in a critical state said she had been gang-raped through the night.  Most of these men were neighbors who had seen her growing up and who she addressed as “uncle” and “brother.”

The panchayat initially wanted the woman’s family to pay a hefty fine. When they said they didn’t have that kind of money, they then decided that she had to be gang raped as punishment.  The police have arrested 12 men that the victim has identified.

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The Psychology Behind #Rape, #SexTrafficking, and Women’s #Virginity

virgins wanted A 2013 survey by the India Today group and MDRA on the sexual habits and attitudes of men and women in India makes a surprising revelation.  It shows that despite the appearance of a certain sexual liberalism in Indian society, and increasing prevalence of premarital sex, 77% of men say that they will not marry a woman who is not a virgin!

In an article titled “Bride and Prejudice” [Title given by the magazine, not me!] in the India Today magazine, I explore the reasons why Indian men remain so fundamentally conservative, even in the educated, middle and upper class sections. I also explain why this fixation on women’s “virginities”  in its basic perception of women’s sexuality also feeds other forms of sexual constrictions and violence inflicted on women in India.

Gandhi to Asaram: Who Empowers the Sex Crimes of ‘Gurus?’

We are all accountable when we allow men we worship/ idealize/ idolize/ follow/ to get away with crimes we wouldn’t allow ordinary men to get away with.


by Rita Banerji

It’s uncanny how similar he is to Gandhi.  I’m talking about Asaram, the Indian spiritual leader who was recently arrested for sexually assaulting the 15-year-old daughter of one of his devotees.

Both Gandhi and Asaram commanded followers in the millions, who regarded them as saints, spiritual ‘guides’ and called them “Bapu” or Father.

Both Gandhi and Asaram regarded sex as and sexual desire as “sins,” and any expression of sexuality as ‘dirty’ imports from the west that needed to be shunned because they ruin India’s youth and culture.  Both preached abstinence to their followers and the control of sexual desire as a form of self-‘purification.’

And both Gandhi and Asaram in hypocritical violations of their own preaching, indulged in sexual gratification of one kind or another, even when it resulted in the sexual abuse of girls and women in their flock.

Details that continue to emerge

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