The Right is Rising on a Heap of Labels of Hate

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They say it’s the new right that’s rising across the world.

Huh. Right, left, center, left of center, right of center… labels.

Sexist, racist, homophobe, Islamophobe… just a few… but labels again.

Liberal, Neo-liberal, elite, noble, progressive, modern… again labels.

The rise of the right has brought two major changes in 2016: Brexit, and now, Trump. Actually, some who think the world exists beyond The West, would club India’s current BJP government into the same list. That happened two years back. But then, the European Union has been seeing the rise of its Right for quite some time too. Of course, there’s Turkey still happening, unfolding.

And I’m amazed that people around the world are shocked that Donald Trump won the American Presidency. Identifying these people shouldn’t be too difficult. We can safely say that they are ‘liberals’ of a certain sort and definitely to a certain degree. Those raising a big hue and cry are, largely, educated people, products of the Western education system, whether they reside in the US, the EU, or India. Educated people who, when they were discussing the elections in their daily walk of life, had no clue that a lot of people around them were maybe just nodding to what they were saying, and that when it came to the D-Day had completely different plans about what they were going to do.

To imagine the number of people who hid behind a facade of liberalism waiting to vote Trump as soon as they stepped into the privacy of the voting booth. If the liberals see this as a sabotage of their liberal la-la land to turn out in protests, there’s no surprise in it. They looked so down upon these people that their real agenda  had to be hid from them, their exit polls, their media, everyone. It’s almost like a guerrilla strategy. With generous help from the media.

Back in India, the US elections were a much followed event and the diaspora leading us to believe, just like in the US, that Hillary had it in the bag. The media bought it and sold it too. Talk about POTUS Hillary Clinton was almost like fait accompli – The Newsweek coming out with ‘Madam President’ issue, which it has now withdrawn. And perhaps that’s why, when the fall came, it hurt so bad.

Why was it like a fait accompli? Because someone as sexist, as racist, a rapist, stupid, as unsuccessful in biz as Donald Trump could hardly be elected President. This was the argument on good days. On bad days, it was orange coloured mango with crazy straw hair and a dumb trophy beauty-queen wife who plagiarised Michelle Obama’s speech. And yet, it happened.

When they go low, we go high, said the liberals. And I really wish they could. But by shaming those who saw something in voting for Trump as the ‘Deplorables’, the liberals showed they were none the better. It’s a very strong word. It means: Deserving strong condemnation, completely unacceptable; also, shockingly bad in quality; very bad in a way that causes shock, fear, or disgust.

What or who is a liberal? By definition, one who is willing to respect or accept opinions different from one’s own. Not mock, insult, or humiliate. But that’s theory. In practice, being a liberal means looking down upon everyone who looks at things differently, is less educated, is less politically correct and so on.

It followed later that HRC won the popular vote, but there’s not a bat’s chance in hell the electoral college will declare her Madam President. That’s what makes this a very bitter defeat. The US is tottering on the edge of violent protests and rioting as large groups denounce Trump and his supporters. Already, a few instances of hate-filled dialogue in public have sounded an alarm. Public morale is low and Hillary has blamed James Comey for dealing the final blow to her campaign. It did, am sure, in a way, but I don’t think she did much to reduce the impact.

Finally, what I’ll say is this. While the liberal-minded HRC did go the politically incorrect way of denouncing Trump supporters as the deplorables – for the White House really should not be the residence of a racist, a sexist, and a sexual abuser, or for that matter any public office –  if you’re looking to blame someone for this fiasco for the world and not just for the US, it’s in the fact that Trump was even considered for running for the President. That’s what is truly deplorable. The next deplorable thing is to call a quarter of Americans who are eligible to vote, The Deplorables (Vox Article). That’s not the RIGHT way to go about it.

Ditch the labels. Stop using them for political gain. Look at each individual voter who has some expectations from you. Stop mocking them for having them. Stop dividing people for personal gain.

 

‘What will we tell our daughters if Trump wins’?

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THREE days before Americans tell the world – for I’m hoping their decision is already made – who their new President is going to be, out comes this letter to parents of daughters (Link Here). While Lucia Brawley’s had indeed written a moving piece, a few thoughts on this important event.

It starts off with the gender of the candidates in focus. “If Trump wins, will the American people tell their daughters that after 44 male presidents there won’t be a woman?”

I am an Indian and we have a long tradition of women leaders. We’ve never had to have a suffragette movement, despite having to fight social ills such as the Sati, female foeticide and infanticide.

Indira Gandhi, the only woman Prime Minister we have had came to power in 1966 and ruled for a decade. She was an extremely powerful politician and took forward what was the Nehru family’s hold on dynastic power that continues to this day. There was a slogan her party used once: India is Indira and Indira is India.

Of Indira’s two daughters-in-law, Sonia Gandhi is officially still one of the most powerful politicians in India, with her son Rahul Gandhi now manouvering the Indian National Congress party. Notably, Indira kept mum, as did the rest of the family of political leaders from the Gandhi clan, when her other son, Sanjay Gandhi, went about forcibly sterilising the men across various geographies. Some men underwent the operation more than once. Indira’s other DIL, Maneka Gandhi is a Union Cabinet minister in the current Central government. Her son Varun Gandhi too is a politician.

Indira is the only prime minister in the Indian democracy to have slapped an Emergency on the Indian state for two long years. Sonia Gandhi’s hold over INC is stained by allegations of policy paralysis and large-scale corruption, too many scandals to count, and numbers so big that are difficult to even ascertain.

Looking at other women in politics, Mayawati holds sway over the most populous state in India, Uttar Pradesh. While she was lauded for improving the law & order situation in UP when she was in power as Chief Minister, she did make an example of unfettered spending of money for purposes that had nothing to do with development in a state that needs it critically and everything to do with sheer tokenism. She built memorials cost anywhere between USD 500 million to USD1.3 billion. She went to town erecting super size statues of herself and party leaders as well as pink elephants, her party’s symbol, over an area as big as a small town right in the heart of the state capital, Lucknow. And by the way, Newsweek described her as the Barack Obama of India, and is a potential Prime Ministerial candidate.

In the East is Mamata Bannerjee, current Chief Minister of West Bengal, is the first woman CM of the state and was previously the first woman Railways minister of India. Her rule has also been rocked by a corruption scandal (Saradha scam) and following an inquiry into it, 2 of her partymen are in jail. But, she’s really infamous for her comments following a rape in the state capital. She said that rape was a result of ‘more free interaction between men and women’. I quote: ‘Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options’. Of late, there is outrage against her on social media for exhibiting sharp pro-minority leanings that have been often called appeasement politics.

Finally, Jayalalithaa of the South. She’s had several Chief Ministerial stints in the state of Tamil Nadu, but was disqualified from holding office during her previous stint due to a disproportionate assets case against her. Of course, she was acquitted in the case with many casting doubts on the authenticity… well! Apart from holding some 2,000 acres of land and 30kg of gold, she was known to have 12,000 saris. It’s possible that even with so much, we’re barely scratching the surface.

However. This is not to say that women in politics are corrupt, unfit, and inept but this IS to say that women in power are NO DIFFERENT than MEN in power. They’re equally corrupt for money, equally likely to abuse positions of power, and can be equally misogynistic. Of course, they’ve done a ton of good things for a lot of people at large, just like their male counterparts. The one thing they won’t do, like their male counterparts do, is “grab a ****y” in Donald Trump’s words. But, there’s no telling they won’t stand by silently and look past when the men around them do so. In fact, history proves they do exactly that at times.

So, when Ms. Brawley talks about ‘bigoted misogynist’, I wonder if she’s referring to Trump, Bill Clinton, or Hillary! Only the use of the word ‘Unqualified’ serves as a hint to The Donald.  

For, I don’t know of instances where Hillary came out in support of victims of Bill’s sexual assaults. I don’t know if she has ever supported them in any way. All I know is, she stood by her husband. What I do know is that it is some form of corruption to know something is wrong but to keep mum because you stand to gain from it.  

I recently came across a piece of news where a mother allowed her neighbour and his son to sexually abuse her 9-year-old twins, in exchange of money. The twins, who are not even 5th graders yet, complained to their schoolteacher, who then forwarded the complaint to the police. 

What we see, therefore, is that when it comes to power, it’s not about gender, it’s about the person. However, the gender debate is too attractive this time around to be dismissed. America is about to elect a woman president for the first time ever, certainly a milestone. But, it can’t be the main reason for her election.

Now, the part that bothers me the most. If you’ve noticed the current trends in open letters, you’ll see it mirroring our social behaviour. Sexual abuse is the only area where we challenge, question, doubt, punish the victim. All our open letters too are usually and mostly addressed to the women, girls, and daughters, rarely to the boys. So is this one.

Addressed to parents of daughters. Again through the gender angle.

If Trump wins, won’t Americans be telling their sons that it is okay to be a liar, a joker, a businessman who is not transparent, a braggart, a perv, an abuser… a fear monger, a hate monger, a “divisive, racist” force?!

So, what will we tell our daughters if Trump wins? Nothing we don’t already know.

The focus of this entire gender conversation needs to be boys and men and their role in the society. It is this role that creates situations of gender divide, by bringing out the worst in them. It keeps them away from realising their full humanity and throws them into a cycle of misogyny.

Parents of daughters are already doing their bit to change that. There is need to address parents of sons on this matter.

 

 

Angry Indian Goddesses

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How would you perceive a bunch of drunk rowdy men entering a ladies’ toilet if they found theirs crowded, and shooing all the ladies out with complete arrogance (of course, they are inebriated)?

Now, reverse the whole incident gender-wise and try to find it funny. It didn’t work with me, actually. It put me off.

However, this is not so important or significant a part of India’s first all-female buddy movie but it certainly raises a question.

Of course, the movie has a dramatic start – women mercilessly crunching balls of eve-teasers with throaty laughter and mocking eyes indicates good chick lit in these times of continuously reducing conviction rate in rape cases in the country – with cuts taking us into the lives of various characters in the movie (there are 6-7 of them, sometimes you lose count, sometimes you ask – ‘wait who is she? the bride or the domestic help?’) and how they have been at the raw end of the stick of sexism. Great, that. All of us have. In fact, sexual misconduct, assault, and stereotyping are the most significant thread that runs common in the lives of us women, Indian women, regardless of whether we are powerful or destitute, married or otherwise, aam aurat or GODDESSES.

So there are these goddesses congregating in the scenic but rainy Goa to attend the wedding of one upon whose invitation they find themselves there. The mystery is that when they land up, they don’t know they have been invited to a wedding. And then, the bride takes her time telling them who she would be exchanging vows with.

The movie, as has been the trend lately, focuses on upper middle class women. The contrast is offered by Lakshmi, the domestic help, who is leading a troubled existence. But, as the women discover, none of them are having it easy themselves. None. Not even the little girl.

The movie shines a light on all the hallmarks of the ‘woman problem’ in a patriarchal world that is trying hard to pretend its way into making us believe of a genuine transformation being underway towards a more equal world. But, the fact is, it only takes one act of violence to make this a ’10 steps forward, 20  steps back’ game. Listing these issues here – see if you can identify with one, or at least a few, but I’m sure you’ll find many:

Men staring at your assets while you go about doing perfectly mundane activities such as running on a treadmill

BOLLYWOOD (and I needn’t say any more)

Men catcalling as you pass by

Men trying to grab at you

Men looking and staring if you are ‘exhibiting’ your ‘wares’ by wearing something other than what their moms wear

Men wanting you to cut to the quick to talk dirty

People expecting you to take care of work and home

Men second-guessing you just because you are well, not a man

People judging you on the basis of your clothes, your look; even better – your profession

People expecting you to own up to provoking men into teasing you, assaulting you either by calling their disdain for rules (traffic rules, any kinda rules really) or for their attempts at eve-teasing.

People expecting you to behave in a way that justifies the saying ‘grace under fire’, in a situation that doesn’t remotely resemble flying fighter jets in enemy territory

People emotionally blackmailing you to fall in line with traditions that work out perfectly for them but suck for you.

People who think their needs (urges) are more important than yours (the urge to stay away, maybe).

People who willfully abuse you just because you happen to live in their home with their family.

NEED I say more?

SO, anyway, the movie does a great job of describing these problems and the characterisation is quite beautiful. The arty community is over-represented in the mix, however. But Delhi-ite Pammi is a great counter to that and rooted in the real world.

Finally, there’s about to be a wedding and it turns into something else. I can’t talk about it without spoiling it for the reader. What I will say, though, is that this movie is one where we could start – as women – having a dialogue with one another.

BUT, it’s a pity that this dialogue of ours cannot pass the Bechdel test. It has to be about the men in our lives, but perhaps even more about the men around us, at any time, in any situation. Immense is the power they have to hurt us, ruin us, destroy us.

This power is not theirs. This power belongs to the system that breeds such men. The film amply shows that. And that’s my takeaway.

One of the dialogues that stayed with me – To be born a woman in India is to be a fighter!!! I love this view. Yes, fighters we all are. And we must keep fighting. We must help one another in our fights.

Certainly worth a watch.