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Archives for : feminism

The problem with Farhan Akhtar’s MARD campaign #Vaw


Ashley Tellis, in
Farhan Akhtar Mard
Ever since December 16, 2012, the public sphere, at least in Delhi, has been flooded with articulations of ‘feminist’ outrage.Feminist is in scare quotes because for many of us, it became quickly clear that even genuine outrage might produce deeply problematic politics in terms of feminism. The horror of standing next to men and women carrying placards calling for death penalty, chemical castration, ‘chopping’ in response to raping and so on is alive in many of us. What became obvious to us is that counterpublics are not necessarily or automatically progressive and that what for many of us were by now feminist commonplaces were still things that needed to be introduced and explained to others.


The latest offering to go viral on Facebook and other social media is a film called She in which a bunch of young women speak up about how badly women are treated in India and how they will not take this anymore.

A female student of mine sends me the link asking me what I think. She is a bit disturbed by it, she says, and wants to know what I think. She finds it melodramatic and victim-oriented. This student comes from an RSS family. Over the three years that I intermittently taught her English Literature, I have seen her move from a somewhat uncritical and even offensive attitude to questions of gender, class, caste and religion to one that is exploring and questioning.

I watch the video and find it problematic but on grounds, I tell her, quite different from hers. What is missing from it completely is any account of women’s complicity with patriarchy and with misogyny. It is, I realise, a variation on what my student has articulated as the victim complex.

None of these young women ask why they subscribe to these sexist views at all, why they rate each other on the basis of them, why they seek acceptance and remain terrified of breaking the norms, why they tentatively have to say ‘sometimes one’s family can be wrong’ instead of saying the family as a structure is problematic in a foundational sense, why the righteousness with which they speak is itself based on a highly conservative sense of women’s sense of self and self-expression.

My critique is also a variation of her melodramatic point because there is a quality of melodrama (historically a transitional form) in the articulation of this ‘feminism.’ Even though there is a second-long call to fight with oneself that is articulated only as the need to get over one’s fears and see that the true enemies men and patriarchy, as if all enemies are outside and not within ourselves in deeply psychic ways.

Gendering happens in damaging ways in the video only for women not for men. Sexual harassment happens only to women, not to men. Women are only victims in riots, not perpetrators (when we know they are perpetrators too).

Rape is only about power, when we know that is not the case. It is about many other things, including sexual pleasure. Decency is only an issue for girls, when we know it is also an issue for boys. All melodramatic stuff, to be sure. When the boys do come in, they are, as expected, full of shit and say things like we should respect women because they gave birth to us. The boys should not have been in the video at all but this is North India and the boys will never be left out.

I remember the protests post-December, 16, 2012 where North Indian men told North Indian women that this protest should be led by men and when reprimanded asked how dare their gender politics was being questioned given that they were progressive men. But the larger problem with the video remains the idea that if women just got together, it would be the end of patriarchy.

If only things were that simple. Patriarchy works to see that women don’t get together. Women work actively to see that they don’t get together. Women worship at the shrine of men. This film has no sense of its own utter heteronormativity, its caste-blindness (welcome to North India), its class-blindness, its naïve faith in its own utterly ridiculous telos: The next generation will change things. If only women get together!

If only it was about ‘one act of rebel (sic) as the film puts it, from each one of us as individuals. Even as we are asked to stand together, we are asked to firmly start with ourselves. Unfortunately, feminism is about the daily struggle to change our own collective and individual hardwiring, a tussle with the tissue that forms us as much as we form the social. Feminism is the hard work we have to do every day. It is not an arrived state.

It is not only about being ‘logical’ (the film comes to me from a source called ‘The Logical Indian’) replete with the shittiest, most anti-feminist nonsense about women finally ‘speaking up’ and of course (this is North India) all the shit about being real men who are not insecure about ‘respecting’ such women.

Farhan Akhtar zindabad!

What’s left is the men telling women that its their own fault and they need to fight back as Akhtar does. Such a film only shows us how far we are from reaching even the most elementary feminist goal. We have not come a long way at all, baby!

Read more here-

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#India – Religion, Feminist Politics And Muslim Women’s Rights

MuslimThe Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the strongest advocate of a uniform civil code while Muslim conservatives are among its strongest opponents. In these excerpts from the just released Women and Law – Critical Feminist Perspectives, edited by Kalpana Kannabiran and published by Sage Publication, writer Zoya Hasan looks at the arguments for and against the enforcement of a state-sponsored civil code and its impact on women.

Historically, the women’s movement has focused its attention primarily on the relationship between women and the state, especially with regard to the rights of women in the legal domain and the relationship of women and politics in relation to political representation. The most important campaigns of the women’s movements have centred on issues of dowry, rape and personal laws and more recently women’s reservation in legislatures.

The last two decades have contributed to the opening up of the “woman’s question” in India in ways that have challenged the existing systemic discriminations and deprivations in a way never envisaged by any of the political tendencies or groups that had hitherto espoused the cause of societal change.

Over the years the debate on religion in the women’s movement has shifted from a position that virtually ignored religion to an attempt to work for religious reform from within. This shift occurred at a time when the communalisation and politicisation of religion was apparent in the series of events, some unintended, others calculated, which helped anti-secular forces to gain a foothold and destabilize the political system. As the issue of minorities catapulted to centre stage Muslim women’s rights became a subject of considerable debate, typically with reference to the status of Muslim personal law and the conflicting claims of personal law, identity and gender. This was most clearly underlined during the Shah Bano controversy resulting in the 1986 Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act (MWA), 1986, which denied divorced Muslim women the same rights to maintenance as other Indian women under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The Shah Bano case exemplifies the potential conflict between religion, politics and women’s rights.

The need for a uniform civil code was rarely articulated in the public consciousness as a feminist issue (Credit: Nita Jatar Kulkarni:

The need for a uniform civil code was rarely articulated in the public consciousness as a feminist issue (Credit: Nita Jatar Kulkarni:


At stake in the Shah Bano case was the right of a divorced Muslim woman to claim maintenance from her former husband under the CrPC. Avoiding the constitutional question of equality, the court dilated at length on the compatibility of the CrPC and the Quran. The judgement sparked off a major political uproar which the Rajiv Gandhi government pacified by means of the MWA, to override the judgement and thus exclude Muslim women from the purview of the CrPC, to which otherwise all citizens have recourse. The law created huge problems not only for sex equality but also for non-discrimination on grounds of religion: Muslim women were the only ones denied this remedy under the criminal code.

The backlash provoked by the reversal of the Shah Bano verdict led to the intensification of communal politics in the 1990s and this hardened communal boundaries. While it is doubtful how much Muslim support Rajiv Gandhi garnered in terms of votes in the 1989 Parliamentary Election, his move certainly alienated a large section of the Hindu community, especially the media and middle-classes which saw him as “appeasing” Muslims. From a mere two seats in 1984, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) increased its tally to 89 seats in 1989. Following the passage of the MWA, Hindu organisations stepped up their advocacy of uniform laws, primarily as a means of eradicating the “privileges” of minority men. One of the promises made by the BJP when it came to power in 1998 was the promise to institute such a code. This had politicised the issue resulting in backpedalling by liberals who had earlier favoured it as they are wary that the BJP’s real interest is in imposing a Hindu code…

Uniform Civil Code and Women’s Groups: The BJP is the strongest advocate of a uniform civil code while Muslim conservatives are among its strongest opponents. The Muslim leadership fears that such laws would inevitably lead to uniform cultural practices and alien customs being foisted upon them. In between are many who believe uniform laws are desirable, but that as a country we are not quite ready for it and, therefore, it is best not to raise the issue at this juncture.

The overlaps and convergences between the conservative Hindu and Muslim positions are striking, though, both are overtly communitarian and covertly patriarchal impelled by the need to preserve gender hierarchies as well as retain their own religious authority and autonomy.

In 1998, the BJP had promised to institute a uniform civil code if it came to power. Until then, the party had raised the issue of a uniform civil code principally to embarrass the Congress party which was reluctant to change the status quo in the face of Muslim opposition to it. The BJP was keen to draw a parallel between the Congress party’s capitulation to Muslim conservatives in the 1950s and again in the 1980s in the Shah Bano case to underscore this tendency. Its campaign sought to highlight Muslim appeasement to critique secularism as pseudo-secularism. By proclaiming its own commitment to “secular” principles, the BJP tried to seize the high moral ground to castigate the Congress government for its appeasement of minorities. According to BJP’s way of thinking, leaving Muslim law untouched implies unequal and asymmetrical treatment. This asymmetry has formed the basis for the charge that secularism, especially secular practice, implies pandering to Muslims for electoral gains. Hence, the party criticised the unequal exercise of the power of the state which intervened to reform the Hindu personal laws whereas the same was not done in relation to Muslim personal law. The criticism notwithstanding it also gives the dominant Hindu community a sense of “liberal superiority” over other “unreformed” communities, in particular Muslims.

From the outset, the problem with the uniform civil code debate was its gratuitous emphasis on uniformity which found its reflection in terming it a uniform civil code. Both in judicial pronouncements and public debate, the need for a uniform civil code was justified as essential for national integrity and plural systems of law undermine it. For a long time it was rarely articulated in the public consciousness as a feminist issue.

It became a debate about uniformity versus minority rights, secularism versus religious laws and modernisation versus tradition, in the context of the new nation-state (Rajan 2003). As Tahir Mahmood, an expert in personal laws, points out that the ultimate object of Article 44 (which enjoins the state to move forward towards uniform civil code) is secularity in family law: ‘the call for uniformity is merely the means’. In recent years, the issue has become considerably more complicated with the changing positions of women’s groups and sharp divisions on a range of issues relating to it. The decisive shift occurred in the wake of the Ayodhya conflict and the dramatic growth of the BJP and with it Muslim fears of the imposition of a “Hindu” code.

There is agreement that all religious personal laws are discriminatory and must, therefore, change. There are, however, disagreements over the means to achieve this objective, whether through a state-sponsored civil code or internal reform. The uniform civil code has been discredited because the BJP was using it as a rhetorical device to attack minorities. Aware that legal change cannot be isolated from wider political conflicts and majoritarian politics, women’s groups made an attempt to distance feminist positions from the Hindu right’s demand for a uniform civil code. The women’s movement has since moved away from an either or position on the uniform civil code to a more nuanced position which combines the options of reform from within personal laws, with the formulation of gender-just laws deriving from the concept of a common civil code.

– See more at:

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Patriarchal politics lives on in 2014

Smruti Koppikar, Hindustan Times
May 07, 2014#

The election campaigns of mainstream and alternative political parties in the general election, in Mumbai and rest of the country, have shown us the mirror: politics continues to remain a deeply classist and patriarchal field; the ideal candidate would have to be a wealthy, caste-conscious, male.

As it turned out, three of the four serious women candidates in Mumbai – Priya Dutt, Poonam Mahajan and Meera Sanyal – were wealthy and belonged to the right caste-class combination. The one who did not, Medha Patkar, soldiered on the strength of her internationally recognised record of socio-political work, but she  was the exception. Patkar spoke of issues through a gender lens in her punishing campaign, Sanyal addressed the issue now and then, but others avoided it altogether. This, in a city that was horrified at the daylight gang-rapes barely six months back.

In Maharashtra, once the comment writer’s favourite “progressive state”, the mainstream political parties gave only 4% to 15% of their tickets to women candidates. Almost all these women had a clear political lineage. In fact, the proportion of total women candidates for the state’s 48 seats declined from nearly 10% in 2009 to about 7.9% in 2014.

In Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra, the political rhetoric was markedly different from the discussions of the last 15 months following the Delhi gang-rape and then the Shakti Mills gang-rape. When campaign plans were being drawn up, there was talk about gender justice. It included a wide basket of issues, from safety of women in public places and imposed dress codes to educational opportunities and political influence. Women’s empowerment, the buzz-phrase for most of 2013, seemed to have become a part of the political agenda and election rhetoric.

As the campaign winds down – and turns more shrill, sexist and abusive than any other in recent history – the noise is centred around the old campaign faithfuls: secularism, caste and economic development.  Women’s empowerment or gender justice as an electoral theme has long been left behind.

Instead, we have heard offensive lines from so-called national leaders, self-proclaimed religious leaders and assorted others. Remember Mulayam Singh Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief, who sought to justify rape with the sickening homily “boys will be boys”. Or Baba Ramdev, whose idea of political campaigning was to mock Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for “a honeymoon and picnic in Dalit’s houses”.

Gender-insensitive and offensive comments during election campaigns should be treated on par with hate speech and offenders booked. This election has given the Election Commission many good reasons to make gender-offensive comments punishable under the model code of conduct, but that’s another battle to fight.

Of the three key campaigners, the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi paid lip service to the issue through his campaign after making a gesture of soliciting ideas on the subject from well-known women’s rights activists to be included in the party manifesto. The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, the man who boasted of his “56-inch chest” in a typical macho projection, has not even bothered to talk seriously about gender justice. The Aam Aadmi Party’s view on the subject was best delineated by its poster-boy Somnath Bharti’s shenanigans during the party’s 49-day government in Delhi, never mind the progressive and radical philosophy of some of its leaders.

One way, perhaps the one definite way, to change the political agenda, discourse and representation to more correctly and cohesively address gender justice is to have more women in the electoral field. This election, then, is an argument for why we need 33% reservation of seats in the Parliament.

Election Commission data shows that fewer and fewer women, as a percentage of those who contest, have been winning Lok Sabha seats. Political parties look for the “winnability” of a potential candidate. What’s unsaid is that this factor is low for women candidates. It’s bound to be, for the rules of the game continue to favour male contestants.

Studies have shown that the more gender-unequal a state, fewer women contest and even fewer win a major election. This has a poignant significance in 2014 when women voters across the country form nearly 49% of the total electorate.

In Maharashtra, 47.2% of the 8.06 crore electorate are women. The EC data on voter turnout shows that, in 16 constituencies, more than 60% of women voters turned up to cast their franchise. In some tribal constituencies like Gadchiroli, more than 70% of the women electorate voted. It means women come out to vote irrespective of whether their issues are represented and articulated in political manifestos. It means women voters are worthy enough to be wooed but are not good enough to represent. The higher the number of women in the electoral field, there’s the chance that gender justice issues will find their way into political agendas and discourse.

There were many sceptics who asked, through the campaign, if the 33% reservation in Parliament was really required and women’s empowerment, or gender justice, wasn’t simply a media-generated issue. The general election has shown why this affirmative action is needed even in circa 2014, more than a year after it became a drawing room conversation subject. It’s really simple: until there are more women in the field, the discourse and agenda is unlikely to change. And, given the unwillingness of parties to put up deserving women candidates without affiliation to powerful political families, the 33% reservation may be the way to go ahead.

– See more at:

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#Womensday – India – Enough, Womaniya #Vaw



It’s that time of the year again. Those 31 days during which we, the 49%, have a chance to be seen and heard in ways somewhat different than the other 334 days. That brief window when we women may occupy the public domain as something other than those stereotypes best captured in ads where we crave to be white from our teeth to our vaginas, panic over the smallest pimple or roll of fat, stress over feeding husbands and pleasing mothers-in-law, and manage to achieve that mythical balance between being home-girl/working-girl, Sita/seductress, virgin/vixen, whatever/whoever… via something off the counter, of course. Because let’s face it, while we may engage with governments and NGOs, colleges and committees, mass movements and the media throughout the year, everyone knows that March is the springtime of ‘women’s issues’. Our calendars are testament – crowded as they are with planning sessions, meetings, conferences, workshops, seminars, book launches, film festivals, and yes, even deadlines for whimsical articles such as this! But do them we will, because the season is short. And this is our chance to assert ourselves as somewhat real women, with some what real issues, articulated in a somewhat real voice.

Some. What. Real. Really, that’s the best it gets.

We know that it is somewhere in between the media and the corporate ‘celebrations of the power of women’ and the world moving on to the next piece of sexy, we must make space to publicly remember the struggles of women who have gone before us, to lend our voices to those who wish to speak out today, to demand that wrongs against women be made right. With the festivities, protests, and yes, even there tail discounts that today extend beyond Women’s Day to Women’s Week and Month, ‘What’s the gripe?’ you would be right to ask, even if you aren’t joining voices with those who say, ‘We never get a Men’s Day, much less, a Men’s month, and anyway, women today are free enough, equal enough, liberated enough…’

ENOUGH. That’s the key word here. The moment we are described as ‘free enough’ and not ‘equally free’, ‘liberated enough’ not ‘equally liberated’ or not simply, ‘equal’, we know that having a Day, a Week, or even a Month in our name is simply not enough.

Woman Enough?

In my early days in a Delhi-based feminist collective called Saheli, I remember an autowala asking me what kind of office we had under the flyover – a ‘woman’s group’ I told him, and he was like, ‘Woh kya hota hai?’ (What is that?). Two decades later, that is unlikely to happen to any of us, almost anywhere in the country. In fact, we are at that juncture where the phrase ‘women’s issues’ has virtually become code: for the violence women face, the inequality we live with, the injustice we endure and the patriarchy within and around us. And since every self-respecting code needs a formula, it shall, for the purposes of this article, be henceforth referred to as w.i. :-).

It has taken decades of painstaking work for w.i. to gain such status. Some of us have sung and danced to make it visible, some have rallied amongst the people and protested against governments, some have networked globally, many more have worked locally, and yet others have chosen academic or artistic routes to imbue w.i. with all the meaning it holds today. In fact, it’s got to a point when almost everyone – feminists and traditionalists, mantris and media folk, children and adolescents… almost everyone knows w.i.

That, my dear, is precisely why we’ve got our knickers in a twist, as an old Saheli would say.

Such definitive ‘knowing’ of w.i. is the problem we face today. The dexterity with which the term is bandied about by all, has become its limitation. When we are identified as ‘Ye woh mahila wale hain’ (These are the women’s {issues} people), the key question to ask is of ourselves is, ‘Which ‘woman’and consequently, which ‘issues’?’

Indulge me a little mind game: what is the women’s movement, or indeed, even ‘woman’ in your mind when you think of violence or oppression or injustice? Is she young or old? Working class or middle class? Majority or minority? Agricultural or industrial worker? Tribal or urban poor? Landed or landless? Upper caste or Dalit? Local or migrant?Straight, gay, bisexual or asexual? Marked by her ability or disability? And what of those who no longer wish to be called women, but were born and raised as such, or those, born and raised as men, but who longer identify as that, or those that fall out of the male/female binary in biological or social terms, but think of themselves as women?

Does not the woman in our mind change with location and context? Clearly, we all talk of only some of the women, some of the time, not all of the women…

Of course, the mind boggles. But who said any of this was going to be, or ever has been easy?

Our coming together as a political entity called Women and in fact, a movement, more than three decades ago was a major turning point in society, law, economics, global relations, the works (not to mention, our personal lives). But one of our greatest challenges remains responding to the diversity among us. We know how many of us don’t fit into one, neat little definition of ‘woman’, yet so far, the truth is that even we within the women’s movement have stood at the door, implicitly asking the question: Are you ‘woman enough’ for our movement/group/concern and maybe, even care!

Let’s face it. For every new group of women who wrest their way into our consciousness/fight to make themselves heard by us, we simply add, but we do not stir. And so it is that our understanding of issues, and our ability to understand the nuances of different, multiple or cross-cutting identities and locations has not been shaken. At least, not shaken enough to significantly alter our political responses, make meaningful alliances, networks or indeed, relationships across these diversities.

As I look back at the many Marches (and marches) gone by, I see there are many more to come. Many more in which we must move far, far ahead of where we have reached so far. Because where we are is not enough, not for any of us. Not for many of us.

Footnote: As I write this piece while recovering from a hysterectomy, an age-old idea of being ‘woman enough’ comes back to bite me. By 49, I believe I have long laid to rest the question of whether I want/ever wanted to have children of ‘my own’. Yet, funnily enough, I find myself facing it anew, and receiving assurances about how I could adopt ‘even now’, become a mother yet. Arghhh! ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same,’ I mumble to myself irritably. That evening I receive a text from a friend: ‘Welcome to the gang of wombless-women.’ Feminism and the subversion it taught us are alive and kicking.

Now, if only we could learn to subvert ourselves some more!

Pic Source: By Saheli


Orginal Post here —

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#Sundayreading – Google’s Doodles: Oodles of Men #Gender #Feminism


By Jane Spencer

SPARK Movement

What do Mahatma Gandhi, Big Bird, Michael Jackson and existential Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard have in common?

All four are in the elite club of public figures who’ve been honored with a GoogleGOOG -0.29% doodle, the quirky tributes that surround the Google search bar.

They’re also all men. And in the midst of criticism of sexism in Silicon Valley, Google’s idiosyncratic list of doodle honorees is coming under fire for overlooking women’s contributions to world history.

On Thursday morning, SPARK Movement, a girls’ advocacy group, released a report that tallies the gender ratio in four years worth of data on Google doodles. Of the 445 doodles published on Google homepages worldwide between 2010 and 2013 that celebrated individuals, 82.5% featured men, and just 17.5% featured women, according to the analysis. (The data only include human historic figures, so fictional characters that have been honored with doodles, such as Wilma Flintstone and Pac-Man, weren’t factored into the tally.) The report also counted women of color in doodles, and found they represented just 4% of doodles over the past four years.

“Google is the information center of the world, and it’s presenting a skewed and imbalanced vision of who creates knowledge,” says Dana Edell, executive director of SPARK Movement, an organization that fights negative representations of girls in the media. “It’s telling girls and boys that the people who have made a contributions to our world are white men.”

Google recognizes the problem, and says the company already is working to improve the doodle gender balance. “Women have historically been underrepresented in almost all fields: science, school curricula, business, politics — and, sadly, doodles,” Ryan Germick, Google’s Doodle Team Lead, said via email.

Germick said the company is hoping to have women and men equally represented in doodles in the coming year, and said it has made significant strides in the first two months of 2014. “So far this year we’ve done doodles for as many women as men, a big shift from figures below 20% in past years,” he said.

On Thursday morning, Spark will unleash a digital campaign to make sure Google follows through, including a petition on, and a social media campaign organized around the hashtag #doodleus, calling on Google to address the gender balance. The campaign will also include a Tumblr page featuring a “list of awesome people” that Google should consider honoring with doodles, such as Nina Simone, Indira Gandhi and Christine Jorgensen, a transgender actress.

The campaign comes as Silicon Valley tech companies have been increasingly criticized for their poor records on hiring and promoting women. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg brought renewed attention to the issue with her book “Lean In,” and other recent reports have added to the outcry.

Twitter’s IPO filing, for example, revealed that all of the company’s board members, as well as its top executives, were all male at the time of IPO, with the exception of one lawyer. A recent study by the tech law firm Fenwick & West found that 11.5% of top executives in top publicly traded Silicon Valley firms are women, lagging behind the rest of corporate America.

Google’s search page is one of the most trafficked websites in the world, and its search bar fields over 100 billion queries a month from 181 countries

“It’s the global town center,” says SPARK’s Edell. “And when we look at whose stories are told in public spaces—from statues in public parks to the Google homepage– it tells us who is important in the world.”

By paying public tribute to historic figures, Google doodles have drawn comparison to postage stamps. But the Postal Service has a stronger record on promoting diversity than Google, typically achieving a 50/50 male to female ratio in the 20 stamps it releases each year. It wasn’t until 2010 that Google celebrated a woman of color on its homepage, with an image of artist Frida Kahlo. The Postal Service honored Pocahontas with a stamp in 1907, followed by Harriett Tubman in 1978.

Ella Fitzgerald



In recent weeks, there have been subtle signs that Google is getting bolder about promoting messages of diversity in doodles. In addition to the rising number of women that have surfaced in doodles, including African American author Zora Neale Hurston and zoologist Dian Fossey, Google published what may be its most political doodle ever on the first day of the Sochi Olympics. The doodle featured Olympic athletes emblazoned in a gay pride rainbow flag.

Google is not the first organization to be in the crosshairs of SPARK, an organization comprised of high school and college activists from five countries. The group’s past successes include taking Lego to task for failing to include female “Lego friends” in positions of power in its toy sets. (The group’s 2012 study showed 87% of Lego Friends appear to be men.) On the heels of SPARK’s campaign, Lego released a female aviator “friend.”

The girls behind the Spark study say they’re fans of Google doodles—and Google in general. (In fact, they used Google docs to compile and share their research showing gender bias in doodles.) “Google is part of pop culture, it’s our homepage, it’s a part of our daily lives,” says Mehar Gujral, a 17-year-old high school senior from New Jersey who was involved in the Spark campaign. “We just think that it could be better at representing everyone who visits the site, instead of just a select few.”

Her suggestions for upcoming doodles: Mother Theresa, Margaret Thatcher, and Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman in space.

– Jane Spencer is one of the founders of The Daily Beast and a former WSJ reporter.

This post first appeared on WSJ”s Digits blog.

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Feminist Reflections on the Tragic Suicide of Khurshid Anwar


In the aftermath of the suicide of Khurshid Anwar, friend and comrade to many of us, on December, 18th 2013, there has been a concerted attack by some democratic and secular people on ‘feminists’ who supposedly drove him to take this extreme step. The charge is that feminists did not support him when an accusation of rape was made against him by a young woman, and exacerbated the situation by their irresponsible handling of the issue.

As feminists, we feel it necessary at this trying time to recognize that this pitched battle is after all, taking place amongst allies in a bigger struggle for democracy and secularism, and to think seriously about how we can move ahead. Rather than being a definitive statement of any kind, this collectively written piece is an attempt to think through a very messy situation.

All of us today face two potential scenarios:

being approached for help by someone who says s/he has been raped, and

being approached for help by someone saying he has been accused of rape.

In the first scenario, we need to work with the complainant and empower him or her to lodge a formal complaint at some level – if not immediately with the police, then with the organization the accused works in. But a crucial and unavoidable first step that we cannot emphasize enough is that the complainant must be ready to take the matter forward. This step cannot be short-circuited.

The reluctance of the complainant in this case, to go herself to the police is something we are familiar with from numerous situations of a similar kind, and tells us nothing about the truth or falsity of her complaint. Of course, we do not believe that a false complaint of rape can never be leveled at anyone, but as democratic and feminist forces, we must, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, insist on a fair investigation without pre-judging the issue.

This is why going straight to the social media, print and visual media, with unsubstantiated charges of rape or sexual harassment, speaking on behalf of the complainant, is unethical and unacceptable.

In this respect, there is no doubt that the friends of the Complainant – perhaps, as they claim, with the best of intentions – nevertheless broke this cardinal rule. They were in a hurry and did not do the hard, anonymous work of supporting and strengthening the Complainant till she was ready to take the next step. Instead, they splashed her account all over the social media, representing her voice and taking over.

The Complainant and her friends also approached a public figure for support because one of them had earlier worked with her. This person video-recorded the testimony of the Complainant before the latter left Delhi and went home. This CD was distributed widely to media and individuals in Delhi. It is still not clear as to who was responsible for this.

The questionable decision of the above-mentioned senior and experienced activist to video record an account of rape, rather than work with the Complainant to lodge a police complaint, has acted as a red herring, enabling a campaign from the other side, that the allegation was false, and merely a Hindu right-wing campaign to bring down a secular activist.

Some friends of the Complainant also approached, with the CD recording, a feminist associated with a mass movement, and she advised them to encourage the Complainant to return to Delhi and speak for herself, until which point they should support the Complainant in whatever form she required. In the meanwhile, attempts were also being made by some feminists to contact the Complainant and give her a way to come forward. But the friends of the Complainant did not heed this advice, and decided on the entirely problematic course of action they did take, leading to two television channels (ITV and Jia) sensationalizing the issue and proclaiming the guilt of the accused.

The irresponsibility and lack of accountability of the two television channels in this case must also be addressed by our wider community.

Khurshid himself as well as many of his friends and Facebook contacts, were well aware of the storm of accusations and counter-accusations going on in the social media since September 2013. However, no one seems to have taken any action to address the issue until early November, when the Board of Trustees of Institute of Social Democracy, (of which Khurshid was Executive Director) tried to initiate an enquiry.

Perhaps the media hounding and Khurshid’s suicide could have been averted if everyone concerned  about him had acted responsibly as soon as they came to know about the allegation.

A more general point also needs to be made here about a recent development that makes complaints of sexual harassment and assault more complicated to deal with. That is, the co-existence of two laws enacted during 2013 – namely the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 on rape, sexual assault and sexual offences; and the civil law on Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act 2013. Overlapping provisions in these create confusion, as we saw during the Tehelka sexual harassment case, regarding the respective roles and priorities to be accorded to Criminal Law on the one hand and Internal Complaints Committees on the other, and their respective procedures and jurisdiction. However this ambiguity makes it all the more imperative to seek out civil redressal mechanisms (such as internal mechanisms of any of the concerned organizations) even while considering the need to report an alleged crime of rape to the police.

In the second scenario, where a friend is accused of rape, unless there is some evidence to the contrary, we have no option but to ask for a fair investigation. On the part of some friends of Khurshid too, intemperate interventions in the social media have taken place, and the complainant has been branded a liar and widely vilified. Some otherwise progressive voices too, have played a questionable role after the suicide,  quick to pronounce on guilt and innocence in several public meetings, pronouncing the complaint to be a communal conspiracy, and attacking unnamed ‘feminists’ for their responsibility in bringing about the grim outcome.

Of course, when broadly progressive men are accused of sexual harassment, the right wing will expectedly take advantage of it, but that cannot influence the position that democratic and feminist forces take.

The suicide, while heart-breaking, cannot be taken to establish either guilt or innocence, and indeed, is all the more reason why we should all call for an enquiry to bring speculations to a close.

While one person in this story has died, the other continues to live under a cloud of suspicion and intimidation, and the resolution of the issue is necessary for closure, for both the complainant and for the friends and family of Khurshid.

Ajitha Rao (Dalit feminist)

Anjali Sinha (Stree Adhikar Sangathan)

Deepti Sharma (Saheli)

Geetha Nambisan (Feminist activist)

Kalyani Menon-Sen (Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression)

Kavita Krishnan (All India Progressive Women’s Association)

Juhi Jain (Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression)

Mary E John (Senior Fellow, Centre for Women’s Development Studies)

Nandini Rao (Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression)

Nivedita Menon (Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Purnima (Women’s rights activist)

Ranjana Padhi (Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression)

Rituparna Bora (Feminist queer activist)

Uma Chakravarti (Feminist Historian, Formerly of Delhi University)


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Gloria Steinem- You can’t defeat caste, race or class without being a feminist #Sundayreading

By Bachi Karkaria, Mumbai Mirror | Feb 16, 2014, 12.00 AM IST
Woman on top
Gloria Steinem with Bachi Karkaria at Jaipur Lit Fest 2014

Hot and cool (depending on which way you measure attitude) feminist icon Gloria Steinem discusses women, violence and the male ‘fix’ with Bachi Karkaria.Shakti is primordial feminism. Observing Gloria Steinem, 80, in action, it was clear that she embodied an energy that was gender neutral. At the Jaipur litfest and the Kolkata Literary Meet, she was near omnipresent, a distinctive lean figure, dressed in black-knit clothes offsetting her pale skin. She was on the dais, in the audience, on the bus to the sessions, gamely responding to the unstoppable procession of those wanting to engage her in conversation or simply be in the presence of this totemic persona. Mornings, evenings, afternoons, she measured out her experience and wisdom in far more than coffee spoons.

If you have tried for decades to make the world a more equitable place, you could end up very angry and frustrated. Gloria’s ‘anger’ is what in another context Osho described as a ‘hot state that is cool’. Frustrated? Change agents cannot afford this luxury. Hope and optimism are the necessary foot soldiers of revolution.

So, is a sense of humour. Responding drily to my struggle to recall a name, she said, “At our age, remembering something rightaway is as good as getting an orgasm.”

Steinem reiterated her symbiotic relationship with India, “Certainly, I learned most of what I know about organizing from living here.” She had come in 1955 on a Chester Bowles student fellowship. This time, she was always in the company of her best friend in India, Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap who recently edited As If Women Matter: The Essential Gloria Steinem. “Ruchira felt that some of my essays might be useful in India – and that’s my hope.”

Gupta had organised a ‘ women’s movement road show’ , and apart from the litfests, the two of them held meetings large and small in Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Patna, and Forbesganj, a remote Bihar village where Apne Aap runs a project. They wound up in Kerala, with a brief R&R at an ayurvedic spa.

Across half a century of conceptualizing and stewarding, would Steinem concede that the feminist movement had significantly changed its contours? She chose to alter its definition: “The women’s movement is wherever a woman reading this is. She may just have realized that human beings need not be divided into the leaders and the led. Or she may have figured out that the current system is only about male control of reproduction. Or she may have gone further and realized that violence against females is what we see first, and normalizes all other violence that isn’t in selfdefense.”

“Of course, what we call the first worldwide wave of feminism took a century to gain for females of all races, a legal identity as human beings and citizens. Before, we had been owned by fathers and husbands as legal chattel. In a few countries, we still are. But to gain legal and economic equality in most of the countries in the world will probably take at least another century – and we’re about 40 years into it,” she adds.

Steinem pinned on her often-expressed prescription: “Also it will probably take still longer for men to do what men and women need most – for men to raise children as much as women do. That’s what men need to develop all their human qualities. It’s also what children need if they’re not to grow up imitating old gender roles.”

In her tireless intercontinental crisscrossing, had she found a ‘model’, evolved country? “It’s hard to compare,” Steinem replied. “Think of Saudi Arabia, where women can’t drive, or Swaziland, where the average woman only lives to be 34. The U.N. invented the Gender Development Index, which measures literacy, life expectancy, and income – but there are huge differences, even within India. Kerala has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, and a normal sex ratio, yet in North India, technology has combined with prejudice to create a daughter deficit and a son surplus.”

Steinem notes that there are campaigns against this, “but right now, the imbalance is huge and threatens security – just as it does in China,” she adds. “As a traveller, I would now be more careful in, say, New Delhi than I was when I was a student there, but it’s also true that in southern India where I just was, I feel safer than I do at home.”

So, would there never be an end to violence against women? Like Shylock’s ‘sufferance’, was it ‘the badge of all our tribe’? Gloria denial was swift and emphatic.

“There’s nothing inevitable about violence against females. It comes from the artificial creation of ‘masculinity’ – which was invented so men could control reproduction by controlling women’s bodies, and also so leaders could get men to go to wars in which they had absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose. Some males get hooked on this like a drug, and when they are feeling down, they need a ‘fix’ of proving their superiority by being violent against females. That’s why so many involve a group of men who are proving their ‘masculinity’ to each other, and destroying female bodies with objects, or raping even female children and babies.

Rape is not about sex or pleasure, it’s about violence. There’s usually nothing to gain not sexual pleasure or money – just ‘masculine’ superiority. I call them all – from domestic violence to murdering strangers – as Supremacy Crimes. The safest societies are those with the most equality between women and men. They also have the least sex trafficking and prostitution.”

To create safer societies, she cited another mantra: “We need to not only raise our daughters more like our sons, but our sons more like our daughters – and each person as a unique and respected individual.”

What about our long tradition of class and caste queering the pitch further? Steinem responded, “If you mean that crimes against upper caste people are taken more seriously than those against lower castes, then that has its version in my country and others with race and class. Class – like caste and race – always makes sex inequality even worse. After all, reproduction has to be controlled in order to maintain class, caste or race in the long run. The women of the supposedly more valuable group have to be sexually restricted so that their group remains ‘pure’, while the women of the supposedly ‘inferior’ group are sexually exploited to produce cheap labour. That’s why there is no such thing as being a feminist without also being against caste, race and class – and vice versa. You can’t defeat caste, race or class without being a feminist.”

Did she buy into the trend of pinning all ills on the door of media? “Media can convince us that image is more real than reality. We think we should look like computer altered images – in magazines, online or in movies – but if we look at real people in the street, we feel much better. Because narrative and imagery have such power, the media have an obligation to be more honest.”

Gloria Steinem still believed. She said, “Nation states are new in human history, and they are fast disappearing. If corporations and religions are creating global hierarchies, then cooperation among social justice movements are our hope for democracy and the environment on this fragile Space Ship Earth.”

Read more here –
Watch her.. on rajya sabha tv


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White Feminist Fatigue Syndrome- Reply to Nancy Fraser #mustread


A reply to Nancy Fraser


In her recent piece in Com­ment is Free, “How fem­in­ism became capitalism’s hand­maiden — and how to reclaim it” Nancy Fraser draws on her own work in polit­ical the­ory to argue that fem­in­ism at best has been co-​opted by neo­lib­er­al­ism and at worst has been a cap­it­al­ist ven­ture of the neo-​liberal pro­ject. What appears at first glance to be a reasoned self-​reflection, one that takes stock and respons­ib­il­ity for past alli­ances and cel­eb­ra­tions of stra­tegic moves for the bet­ter­ment of women’s lives, at second glance reveals the innate and repet­it­ive myopia of White fem­in­ism to take account, to con­verse and think along with Black and Third World Feminists.

Writ­ing from the early 1970s onwards, these schol­ars and act­iv­ists have sys­tem­at­ic­ally engaged a fem­in­ist cri­tique of not only state cap­it­al­ism, but of a glob­al­ised cap­it­al­ism rooted in colo­nial legacies. These fem­in­isms have not pri­or­it­ised “cul­tural sex­ism” over eco­nomic redis­tri­bu­tion. The lit­er­at­ure is vast, the examples myriad, and thus, it’s all the more tir­ing when White fem­in­ists speak of second-​wave fem­in­ism as if it were the only “fem­in­ism” and use the pro­noun “we” when lament­ing the fail­ures of their struggles. Let us just say there is no such thing as a “fem­in­ism” as the sub­ject of any sen­tence that des­ig­nates the sole pos­i­tion for the critic of pat­ri­archy. For such pos­i­tion has been frac­tured ever since Sojourner Truth said “Ain’t I a woman too?” There is though a fem­in­ist subject-​position, the one Fraser is lament­ing, which has sat very com­fort­ably in the seat of the self-​determined, eman­cip­ated sub­ject. That pos­i­tion, of course, is that which she iden­ti­fies as a con­trib­utor to neo­lib­er­al­ism. But that is no sur­prise, for both her fem­in­ism and neo­lib­er­al­ism share the same lib­eral core that Black and Third World fem­in­ists have iden­ti­fied and exposed since very early in the tra­ject­ory of feminisms.

The work of A.Y. Davis, Audre Lorde, Himani Ban­nerji, Avtar Brah, Selma James, Maria Mies, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Silvia Fed­er­ici, Dorothy Roberts and scores of oth­ers, have shattered the lim­ited and exclu­sion­ary nature of the con­cep­tual frame­works developed by White fem­in­ists in the Eng­lish speak­ing world. These schol­ars and act­iv­ists have cre­ated frame­works of ana­lysis that sim­ul­tan­eously sur­mount a chal­lenge to and provide a dra­matic cor­rect­ive to both Black Marx­ist and anti-​colonial the­ory that failed fun­da­ment­ally to the­or­ise gender and sexu­al­ity, and Marx­ist and social­ist fem­in­ist thought that con­tin­ues to fail, in many ways, to account for race, his­tor­ies of col­on­isa­tion, and the struc­tural inequit­ies between the so-​called developed and devel­op­ing nation states. And yes, Mies, Fed­er­ici, and James are white, but Black and Third World Marx­ist fem­in­isms aspire to polit­ical solid­ar­ity across the col­our line.

The schol­ars we speak of have con­sist­ently developed cri­tiques of cap­it­al­ist forms of prop­erty, exchange, paid and unpaid labour, along with cul­tur­ally embed­ded and struc­tural forms of pat­ri­archal viol­ence. Let’s take the example of rape and viol­ence against women. In the path-​breaking Women Race and Class, A.Y. Davis argued force­fully that many of the most con­tem­por­ary and press­ing polit­ical struggles facing black women are rooted in the par­tic­u­lar types of oppres­sion suffered under slavery. Rape and sexual viol­ence are faced by women of all classes, races and sexu­al­it­ies, as Davis noted, but have a dif­fer­ent valence for black men and women. The myth of the black rap­ist and of the viol­ent hyper­sexual black male caused scores of lynch­ings dur­ing the ante­bel­lum era in Amer­ica. This per­sist­ent racist myth provides explan­at­ory value for the con­tem­por­ary overrep­res­ent­a­tion of black men in pris­ons con­victed of rape, and led to the reluct­ance on the part of African-​American women to become involved in early fem­in­ist act­iv­ism against rape that was focused on law enforce­ment and the judi­cial sys­tem (Davis, 1984). The expro­pri­ation of black labour rooted in the logics of slavery repeats itself in the expro­pri­ation of con­vict labour in the post-​slavery era, and today, in the unfree labour endemic in the prison indus­trial com­plex. (Davis, 2005)

Sexual viol­ence is thus under­stood as some­thing deriv­ing from slavery and col­on­isa­tion, affect­ing both women and men. This his­tory of black women’s bod­ies as com­mod­ity objects to be used, viol­ated at the pleas­ure of white men remains as a psychic, social, racial trace in con­tem­por­ary Amer­ican soci­ety. With respect to Nat­ive Amer­ican and First Nations women, colo­nial era ste­reo­types of the “squaw” con­tinue in con­tem­por­ary racial­ised ima­gin­ar­ies, ren­der­ing Indi­gen­ous women vul­ner­able to forms of sexual viol­ence that are always-​already racial and recall pat­terns of viol­ence that emerged through the dis­pos­ses­sion of their lands, lan­guages, resources and yes, cul­tural prac­tices. (See P. Monture-​Angus, Kim Ander­son, Sherene Razack)

Recent sug­ges­tions that fem­in­ists should turn their gaze towards unpaid work, the work of care, was ana­lysed by Patri­cia Hill Collins in Black Fem­in­ist ThoughtKnow­ledge, Power and Con­scious­ness. She emphas­ises that for African-​American women, work in the home that con­trib­utes to their fam­il­ies’ well-​being can be under­stood by them as a form of res­ist­ance to the social and eco­nomic forces that col­lude to dam­age African-​American chil­dren and fam­il­ies. Black fem­in­ists have also led the wages for house­work cam­paign, chal­len­ging bour­geois norms of the fam­ily eco­nomy. Fol­low­ing A.Y. Davis, we note that White fem­in­ists need to recog­nise when they engage polit­ical strategies that Black and Third World fem­in­ists have already been the­or­ising and prac­tising for a long time.

End­ing oppres­sion, viol­ence against women, viol­ence against men, par­tic­u­larly of the neo-​liberal vari­ety, means embra­cing the his­tor­ical, mater­i­al­ist, anti-​racist thought of Black and Third World Marx­ist fem­in­ists. Are the White fem­in­ists who per­sist in throw­ing in the word “race” or “racism” in their oth­er­wise left-​liberal approaches to fem­in­ism will­fully blind/​deaf? Are they unable to cede the floor to Black fem­in­ism because it would mean the loss of a cer­tain racial priv­ilege? The per­sist­ent claim to uni­ver­sal­ism, which is the core of this White fem­in­ism, renders the exper­i­ences, thoughts and work of Black and Third World fem­in­ists invis­ible, over and over again. Time’s up!

Brenna Bhandar, Senior Lec­turer, SOAS School of Law.
Den­ise Fer­reira da Silva, Pro­fessor, Queen Mary School of Busi­ness and Management.


Original Article here-

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Feminism has not been co-opted by CAPITALISM #mustread


DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 28JAN11 - Sheryl Sandberg, ...

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 28JAN11 – Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook, USA; Young Global Leader are captured during the session ‘Handling Hyper-connectivity’ at the Annual Meeting 2011 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 28, 2011. Copyright by World Economic Forum by Jolanda Flubacher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 28JAN11 – Sheryl Sandberg, one of the victims of male domination. The women who make her clothing in Bangladesh are her sisters.

Nancy Fraser is a disgrace and the very strange and very public mea culpa published this week by The Guardian reeks of indecency and lip service paid to the sudden realization of what, I believe, feminism may eventually come to call their very own brew of phallocentrism. The article, however, does exude in copious amounts what anyone who has crossed paths with what for some reason some insist in calling a philosopher would have promptly noticed: the woman is the possessor of some of the most formidable lack of political foresight known to man (and women) engendered deep in the loins of intellectual dishonesty and duplicitousness. Thus opens this crocodilian dirge sang over the paltry remains of American egalitarianism:

As a feminist, I’ve always assumed that by fighting to emancipate women I was building a better world – more egalitarian, just and free. But lately I’ve begun to worry that ideals pioneered by feminists are serving quite different ends. I worry, specifically, that our critique of sexism is now supplying the justification for new forms of inequality and exploitation.’

Really? That is not how you are mostly remembered by students and associates, madam. Rather, Ms Fraser, has been the very expression of a woman who sat on a 6 figure salary as students directly under her yoke barely had enough money to make ends meet. Many of these students were male and carrying a penis perhaps they deserved the poetic ancestral revenge exacted by one of the many feminist self proclaimed avatars of all former forms of oppressed feminine intellect. But at the very same time, the crowded field of students in precarious situations including those foreign graduate students with little or no means who were feeding both her overgrown sense of entitlement and her pockets by teaching classes in her department for about 3/100 of her yearly salary not just with her acquiescence but by her active administrative design probably have a more nuanced understanding of of her idea of egalitarianism.

One may, of course, think that this anecdotarium of political perversity is no more than circumstantial evidence or that perhaps the force of the discussion should be directed at the argument and not at the woman. But then again, feminism and in particular American feminism has been erected as a monument to slave morality. From its corridors, all forms of brutality has been perpetrated and this for many decades. So when suddenly Fraser points out that “In a cruel twist of fate, I fear that the movement for women’s liberation has become entangled in a dangerous liaison with neoliberal efforts to build a free-market society.” All that the general public should point out is that this is not better than her long list of massive administrative, political and intellectual miscalculations.

American feminism is a long standing monstrosity built on the most aberrant forms of Randian/Reganite libertarianism. Only Fraser and other idiots of the same ilk could have missed the fact that the entire project at least in its rather distasteful American version swallowed the version of heroic solitude and personal benefit of the stupidest forms of libertarian personalism whole. A cursory glance at the model of the ‘successful woman’ projected by beasts of burden like Sheryl Sandberg should furnish a clear picture of how far the epic account of feminism has come.

As Fraser, Sandberg is the very archetype of the imbecility of American feminism. Both of these women portray themselves as members of the ‘siblinghood’ of the oppressed and they have never, not once in 50 years, missed one chance to present their credentials showing their membership in the great family of those whose opportunities and aspirations have been curtailed by ‘the man’. To this we may add, Ms Huffington, both Ms. Clintons, Ms. Obama,  Ms Gillard but also Madonna, Byonce, Angelina Jolie and an enormous contingent of professional beneficiaries of historical victimization who teach and study in just about every American university. But here is the simple and all important question: is really Nancy part of the same group than Reshma Begum, the 19 year old who barely survived the Bangladesh factory collapse in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh? What kind of perverse beast, what type of intellectual miscreant could choose to demand benefits from a clearly forged membership card to the club of the dispossessed? In fact, what kind of otherworldly evil could benefit from the oppression and dispossession of this young woman by wearing the under paid labor of her hands and then decry her victimization. Well, much of American feminism.

Indeed,  Fraser surprise at feminism’s “worldview…increasingly expressed in individualist terms” is nothing but a complete an absolute farce. Both her ascent to intellectual power as that of many of the people around her are the very expression of the long-standing individualism and careerism, though certainly not meritocracy. If American feminism ever  ”criticised a society that promoted careerism… prioritised social solidarity…[or] valorised “care” and interdependence”, it did so in some immemorial past and in the voice of humanists and not of feminists. Should any doubt exist about this take into consideration the evangelical zeal with which Americans feminists like her passed sentence on humanism and forms of communitarianism in other parts of the world which–by their dim lights–were used to abscond the oppression of their putative sisters.

However, we should agree with Fraser that feminism has never been kin on meritocratic systems. Rather, feminism has judged meritocracy–and merit with it–to be nothing but another of the myriad mechanisms of male male domination. What for career anti-semites was the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy, for feminists was the invisible association of humans with penises. As such, a system of advancement began to take shape based on a well-established practice designed to protect ineptitude: moral demands of natural equality and under these demands some of the most egregious forms of corruption and nepotism. All for the sake of equality. Women were to be taken into the system because they were women–the US did this with other minorities as well with similarly atrocious results–and that was that.

So just as disingenuous as her feigned surprise at the current state of her art is Fraser  blame on the new capitalism. Capitalism has not co-opted feminism, feminism–and feminists like her–were active, willing and well-remunerated designers of these anarchic libertarianism. Pure and simple. American feminism modeled its idea of success on the object that they could see, the successful American male and all they did was add two breasts and subtract one penis. On account of this, we ended with the a broadened field of American chauvinism.

So yes, as Fraser points out, feminism helped to dismantle the integrity of the family as a unit of economic stability. But more importantly, in the moralized stupidity of treating family as a mechanism of oppression they liberated the individual to the elements with no shelter or recourse. When feminists vomited the word ‘patriarchal’ and rammed Jane Austin down out throats while pointing to the importance of the extended families in third-world countries as simple expressions of male domination, they guaranteed the dismembering of social fabrics in favor of individualism. The fact that Fraser needed hindsight to detect the detail shows nothing but her stupidity, former and current.

Equally breathtaking is Fraser’s surprise at the depletion of bread and butter from the tables of men. The day that the public sphere in the US finally accepted the moralization of gender and turned every man into a potential perpetrator of rape and pillage, those household that still had men in them–one can only guess how many–became target of political righteousness. So identity politics, which Fraser so much liked until she no longer did–guaranteed that equality as a value would first be purified of gender moral maculae. Equality would only be allotted to the equalers, the victims, the women.

In the wake of all of this, one can only wonder how Fraser could possible say that the critique of state welfare was “progressive in the era of state-organised capitalism”. The critique was a reactionary act of political and intellectual myopia and nothing more than that. As the previous forms of feminist stupidity, this critique has also been built on the blind ambition of women using a political neologism to hide their personalistic agendas. What to the untrained eye of Fraser seems to be a coincidental fact is indeed one of the many causal determinants of the state of affairs. Feminism was and continues to be, in addition to the other forms, a project in economic and commercial libertarianism, which is just too happy to see the state die.

There is one more element in American feminism that Fraser seems to miss and that is its deep puritan anti-sexualism. American feminists have made of sex a dirty word and have turned the entire iconography of sexuality into an expression of gender violence. In fact, it is no surprise that the notion of consent–a term closely related to contractual mechanisms–has more sociological relevance in their political imaginary than the transgression of non-consent. For feminists, sex is guilty unless mediated by a semi-tacit contract. Both the suspicion of sexual activity and the contractual allowance for its practice can, in this narrative, only be certified by women, who once again are the determinant actor in controlling sexual activity. In this story men are merely brutes that ought to be moderated by the letter of the law and the force of punishment. This is not merely a way of  foreclosing sexual violence but, more importantly, it is the very mechanism by which men can be rendered because of their putative guilt with no agency. This is indeed, the product of turning the space of the private into the political which feminists used to find desirable. For these women, no better instrument to preserve the integrity of women has been devised than the NSA’s Prism or the GCHQ’s Tempora.

The problem with Fraser’s eulogy to bad feminism is nothing but minuscule and untimely. In this discussion, this woman argues with Ms Sandberg. Her conversation is with people that are ultimately as perverse and inept as herself. Who have been as instrumental as herself in perpetrating these political catastrophes and doing all they could to export them by way of the NGO’s and other missionary mechanisms that she now decries. The time has come for these people to guard pensive silence and admit that their projects have been nothing than a bloody disaster. That the only good to come out of them has been their own mediocre but well-remunerated carrers.


original article here-


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How feminism was co-opted by Capitalism – and how to reclaim it #mustread

A movement that started out as a critique of capitalist exploitation ended up contributing key ideas to its latest neoliberal phase

Check out operator in a Tesco supermarket

‘We should break the spurious link between our critique of the family wage and flexible capitalism by militating for a form of life that de-centres waged work and valorises unwaged activities, including – but not only – carework.’ Photograph: Robert Convery/Alamy

As a feminist, I’ve always assumed that by fighting to emancipate women I was building a better world – more egalitarian, just and free. But lately I’ve begun to worry that ideals pioneered by feminists are serving quite different ends. I worry, specifically, that our critique of sexism is now supplying the justification for new forms of inequality and exploitation.

In a cruel twist of fate, I fear that the movement for women’s liberation has become entangled in a dangerous liaison with neoliberal efforts to build a free-market society. That would explain how it came to pass that feminist ideas that once formed part of a radical worldview are increasingly expressed in individualist terms. Where feminists once criticised a society that promoted careerism, they now advise women to “lean in”. A movement that once prioritised social solidarity now celebrates female entrepreneurs. A perspective that once valorised “care” and interdependence now encourages individual advancement and meritocracy.

What lies behind this shift is a sea-change in the character of capitalism. The state-managed capitalism of the postwar era has given way to a new form of capitalism – “disorganised”, globalising, neoliberal. Second-wave feminism emerged as a critique of the first but has become the handmaiden of the second.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see that the movement for women’s liberation pointed simultaneously to two different possible futures. In a first scenario, it prefigured a world in which gender emancipation went hand in hand with participatory democracy and social solidarity; in a second, it promised a new form of liberalism, able to grant women as well as men the goods of individual autonomy, increased choice, and meritocratic advancement. Second-wave feminism was in this sense ambivalent. Compatible with either of two different visions of society, it was susceptible to two different historical elaborations.

As I see it, feminism’s ambivalence has been resolved in recent years in favour of the second, liberal-individualist scenario – but not because we were passive victims of neoliberal seductions. On the contrary, we ourselves contributed three important ideas to this development.

One contribution was our critique of the “family wage”: the ideal of a male breadwinner-female homemaker family that was central to state-organised capitalism. Feminist criticism of that ideal now serves to legitimate “flexible capitalism”. After all, this form of capitalism relies heavily on women’s waged labour, especially low-waged work in service and manufacturing, performed not only by young single women but also by married women and women with children; not by only racialised women, but by women of virtually all nationalities and ethnicities. As women have poured into labour markets around the globe, state-organised capitalism’s ideal of the family wage is being replaced by the newer, more modern norm – apparently sanctioned by feminism – of the two-earner family.

Never mind that the reality that underlies the new ideal is depressed wage levels, decreased job security, declining living standards, a steep rise in the number of hours worked for wages per household, exacerbation of the double shift – now often a triple or quadruple shift – and a rise in poverty, increasingly concentrated in female-headed households. Neoliberalism turns a sow’s ear into a silk purse by elaborating a narrative of female empowerment. Invoking the feminist critique of the family wage to justify exploitation, it harnesses the dream of women’s emancipation to the engine of capital accumulation.

Feminism has also made a second contribution to the neoliberal ethos. In the era of state-organised capitalism, we rightly criticised a constricted political vision that was so intently focused on class inequality that it could not see such “non-economic” injustices as domestic violence, sexual assault and reproductive oppression. Rejecting “economism” and politicising “the personal”, feminists broadened the political agenda to challenge status hierarchies premised on cultural constructions of gender difference. The result should have been to expand the struggle for justice to encompass both culture and economics. But the actual result was a one-sided focus on “gender identity” at the expense of bread and butter issues. Worse still, the feminist turn to identity politics dovetailed all too neatly with a rising neoliberalism that wanted nothing more than to repress all memory of social equality. In effect, we absolutised the critique of cultural sexism at precisely the moment when circumstances required redoubled attention to the critique of political economy.

Finally, feminism contributed a third idea to neoliberalism: the critique of welfare-state paternalism. Undeniably progressive in the era of state-organised capitalism, that critique has since converged with neoliberalism’s war on “the nanny state” and its more recent cynical embrace of NGOs. A telling example is “microcredit”, the programme of small bank loans to poor women in the global south. Cast as an empowering, bottom-up alternative to the top-down, bureaucratic red tape of state projects, microcredit is touted as the feminist antidote for women’s poverty and subjection. What has been missed, however, is a disturbing coincidence: microcredit has burgeoned just as states have abandoned macro-structural efforts to fight poverty, efforts that small-scale lending cannot possibly replace. In this case too, then, a feminist idea has been recuperated by neoliberalism. A perspective aimed originally at democratising state power in order to empower citizens is now used to legitimise marketisation and state retrenchment.

In all these cases, feminism’s ambivalence has been resolved in favour of (neo)liberal individualism. But the other, solidaristic scenario may still be alive. The current crisis affords the chance to pick up its thread once more, reconnecting the dream of women’s liberation with the vision of a solidary society. To that end, feminists need to break off our dangerous liaison with neoliberalism and reclaim our three “contributions” for our own ends.

First, we might break the spurious link between our critique of the family wage and flexible capitalism by militating for a form of life that de-centres waged work and valorises unwaged activities, including – but not only – carework. Second, we might disrupt the passage from our critique of economism to identity politics by integrating the struggle to transform a status order premised on masculinist cultural values with the struggle for economic justice. Finally, we might sever the bogus bond between our critique of bureaucracy and free-market fundamentalism by reclaiming the mantle of participatory democracy as a means of strengthening the public powers needed to constrain capital for the sake of justice.


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