The Muse

The sheer variety of symbols and artefacts in use across the ages and geographies does not necessarily point to a multitude of assumptions and values from which they spring. The study of mythology and folklore then, is a reverse approach to anthropology. This blog is dedicated to my favourite symbols, tales and artefacts - both ancient and contemporary.

Debate: Feminism, what it is, and its impact on the lives of Indian Women.

16th December 2012 is a date India cannot afford to forget. Yet what happened on that day was unfortunately neither unique nor novel nor geographically or culturally endemic to one place. It was like the 9/11 attacks in the USA, which shattered the myth of a culturally and spiritually superior India, just as the fall of the twin towers shattered the myth of an impregnable U.S.A..

All of this time I have been watching passively, trying to learn in some depth about what these issues are and how to face and solve these problems. I've had the opportunity to speak in some small and closed fora (mostly in the office), but providence (and one Madhu Kishwar) presented an opportunity like never before.
Safest and most convenient dress for women is the Punjabi salwar/ churidaar kameez. Efficient, yet feminine! Suitable even for air hostesses
— Madhu Kishwar (@madhukishwar) June 2, 2014

My senior from XLRI Jamshedpur and currently faculty at IMT, Hyderabad, Ms. Tumpa Sen Dey shared this tweet on Facebook, which immediately sparked a debate. While the author of the tweet has subsequently gone on record saying she wasn't talking about rape at all (and I'm inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt), it did start everything that follows here.

What caught my attention was a comment by another senior from XLRI and academic, Mr. Kumar Alok, who raised an important question: In suggesting that women's attire has no consequences on their 'safety' from sexual harassment and assault, are we robbing them of a legitimate defense in the name of (feminist) ideology?

The question is indeed deeper than it looks, and it prompted me to enter into a (still ongoing) debate with Mr. Alok which, I admit, has turned out like
 giving doctoral lectures on fb
in Tumpa Ma'am's words. Nevertheless, this debate has been an important learning experience for me so far, and I'm going to share it with you here.

Debate TOC and brief summary:

By this point we had agreed that:
  1. Rape had zero correlation with dress.
  2. Victims are nevertheless judged and blamed because of dress anyway
I posed a counterquestion: Should I adhere to a dress code simply so that I will be taken seriously if I am molested? Will this not make matters worse by sidetracking the true causes of sex crimes?

Mr. Alok here expressed the opinion that the shift in mindset has to be brought about gradually, rather than 'in your face'. I agreed. However next came:
In the interest of not spamming the public, I've published the contents of the debate till Round IX as blog pages. Blog pages are static, unlike blog posts, and are somewhat more private.

However I have posted Round X as a blog post, and will post the further developments as blog posts.

The text of the debate may be a bit obscure - one of the debaters is an academic after all. However I highly encourage you to read through it. I could have posted only the summary of the debate, but I wanted to make sure that the Professor's views were accurately represented.

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