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Jul 07 2007

From the boyhood home of Gandhi

In some parts of the world it is still considered a fabulous idea for the families of teenage girls to pay for the privilege of their daughters’ legal enslavement to men’s families. Unsurprisingly, it is likewise considered a fabulous idea that, should the indentured girls fail to give satisfaction as cash-generators and spawnbots, they become fair game for abuse.

You will be disgusted to hear that this was precisely the fate of Pooja Chauhan, a young woman, living in the Indian city of Rajkot, who married for ‘love’. Because — whatever the motivation — marriage is an exceedingly rotten system, Pooja soon found herself in dutch with both husband and in-laws for her failure to incubate a male heir and to ‘bring dowry’. Reports vary, but from what I’ve been able to piece together Pooja apparently endured three or four years of mental and physical torture from devoted husband and family.

Her repeated appeals for legal redress fell on deaf ears. It’s always the way when a girl’s personal life goals don’t include incessant beatings by assholes; such a subversive sense of self-worth is at odds with what is popularly imagined to be the essential nature of women, so naturally the cops showered Pooja with indifference. Their blind eye remained turned even when, in protest, Pooja biffed off to the police station, poured kerosene on herself, and attempted to light herself on fire.

The reason we are now hearing about Pooja Chauhan is that, when self-immolation proved insufficiently drastic a measure, she decided to walk through town to the police commissioner’s office in her underwear. Whereupon the city of Rajkot ‘went into convulsions’, the cops finally noticed she was alive and looked into her complaint, and the in-laws were arrested.

Happy ending? Not so fast, Chet. This is 2007. No woman in this day and age goes unpunished for long.

So naturally Pooja’s up on obscenity charges. That’s right. In Rajkot you can burn yourself alive on the courthouse steps, no big whoop; if it’s a stir you want to cause, put on a sports bra and take a stroll downtown. In addition to drawing legal action for ‘indecent behaviour’, this will also cause the townsfolk — including your own parents — to assume you’ve gone nuts, whereupon a psych exam will be mandated and you will be placed in a home.

A Times of India poll titled ‘Is Pooja Chauhan victim or culprit?’ reveals that while many readers aren’t totally down with dowry-related torture, neither are they so outraged that they feel Pooja was justified in shaming the entire nation with her lady-parts. Quoth one Dinesh from Mumbai: “Probably she might have been tortured to an extent; which made her to strip down to semi-nude. But the way she chose to get justice [is] not acceptable. India is a country which worships women as a Goddess. There might be some defaulters. But it should be accepted.”

Pooja’s scenario might seem primitive to sophisticated Americans who delude themselves that women here are ‘equal’, but Western customs differ from this model only by degree, as is demonstrated by the battered women’s shelters in every American town, and the difficulty encountered when you try to get someone into one.

Violence against women is a fucking global humanitarian crisis, yo.

[Thanks, Belle O'Cosity]

140 comments

  1. Marcy

    “Probably she might have been tortured to an extent; which made her to strip down to semi-nude. But the way she chose to get justice [is] not acceptable. India is a country which worships women as a Goddess. There might be some defaulters. But it should be accepted.”

    What can I say? What can I say to this crap? I’m absolutely fucking speechless and absolutely livid. This stuff continues to surprise me, and frankly, it shouldn’t.

  2. CafeSiren

    From the “Irony Knows No Bounds” department: When I clicked on Twisty’s link, I got the India Times page, quickly followed by a pop-up ad for “Shaadi.com: The World’s Largest Matrimonial Service.”

    Huh.

  3. dr.sue

    The comment Marcy quotes is also, I think, a logical extension of the “There is no excuse for breaking the law. None!” attitudes expressed re shoplifting in a previous thread. Oppressed people are invisible until they step out of bounds. (Then they’re arrested.)

  4. Coathangrrr

    “India is a country which worships women as a Goddess. There might be some defaulters. But it should be accepted.”

    This sounds suspiciously like the “But, I love women.” trolls. They just upped it to, “women are goddesses.”

  5. Cass

    People who call us “goddesses” aren’t our friends. Fawning servility is only the flip side of brutality and domination; and nobody empathizes with or thinks about the inner life of a marble statue.

  6. SusanM

    Cass:

    People who call us “goddesses” aren’t our friends.

    No kidding. Until recently (the day before yesterday) I had not known that “goddess” is literally a job for some girls. This one was fired:

    A 10-year-old Nepali girl worshipped as a living goddess, or Kumari, has lost her “divine” status for defying tradition and visiting the United States.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070703/od_uk_nm/oukoe_uk_nepal_child_goddess;_ylt=AjkLl1MR_MoIxY_qlz.YFDguQE4F

  7. IB

    Isn’t it insane that there’s a debate on that webpage over which is the bigger crime, mental and physical abuse, or walking semi-naked in public? Isn’t it absolutely insane to think people are even debating that?

    Here’s what somebody from the US, Boston wrote:
    “It is ridiculous to brand her as a victim. Allegation of dowry is the fastest and sure sort way of getting back at the in-laws.”

    It seems that people are completely desensitized when it comes to violence against women (why might that be, now? porn?) People are just numb to it. There’s something disturbing about people’s attitudes; somehow it’s not seen as the scandal it actually is. People need to wake their brainwashed neurons up.

    As Amnesty International has declared, violence against women is “the greatest human rights scandal of our time.”
    http://web.amnesty.org/actforwomen/scandal-index-eng

  8. slythwolf

    Fucking fuck.

  9. Repenting

    Why is it considered acceptable to deny women human rights, to tell them that their body and uncovered skin is obscene? Why is it acceptable to tell a women that she deserves abuse for not allowing herself to be raped and impregnated, and in fact, to be raped and impregnated multiple times until she produces a young MALE? Why is it considered acceptable, on a global scale, to ignore the crisis that is the human female condition under the excuse that abuse of women belongs in certain “cultural heritages.” Abuse of women is a part of everyone’s global cultural heritage, and I do NOT consider it acceptable in ANY COUNTRY.

    This is why I’m working my way through law school with an emphasis on international law.

  10. thebewilderness

    “India is a country which worships women as a Goddess. There might be some defaulters. But it should be accepted.”

    This is how men maintain their myths in the face of reality. They hold expectations so high that no woman can ever meet them. Thereby creating justification for all manner of abuse.
    If men actually worshipped women as goddess, it would be the men who lived in fear and were traded like cattle.

  11. medrecgal

    Yeah, supposedly women are “goddesses” in India; then WTF are those people doing arranging marriages and killing women for not producing male heirs? What a bunch of misogynist crapola.

    And for dr.sue: there is obviously a difference between someone who shoplifts in the USA and someone who walks around in their underwear in India–that being that shoplifting harms other people, even if only slightly; wearing revealing clothing never hurt anybody. It’s all in what a culture finds especially “offensive”. Cultures that oppress women will find any hint of nudity or showing the body offensive, because women are treated like property instead of people. Stealing, last I knew, was not acceptable no matter what culture you come from. So I don’t see the logical extension. There have to be better ways to obtain resources.

  12. Carol

    Insane. The society, not the woman.

  13. Twisty

    medrecgal, all cultures find women offensive, no matter what they’re wearing, or what they’re stealing.

  14. lawbitch

    I think that we should arrange a group flash in protest. I’m so sick of this shit.

  15. S. D'Attournee-Lawson

    Here it is, a comment to elevate this discussion to unknown heights: awesome fish photo!

  16. tinfoil hattie

    Stealing, last I knew, was not acceptable no matter what culture you come from.

    If you’re starving, it’s ok to steal. Or if the U.S. Government fails to show up with helicopter drops of water in a city that has been destroyed by flooding, and you’re stuck foraging for yourself.

    My $.02.

  17. MzNicky

    Hey Twisty, I just noticed the new IBTP banner. Very eye-catching! And thank you a thousandfold for getting rid of that nauseating chicken-fried steak with gravy or whatever the fuck it was.

  18. Arwen

    Wearing revealing clothing never hurt anybody.

    Sure it did, little missy. It hurt all those dudes who then got an erection and were forced to suffer blue balls rather than raping a girl.

    Stealing is very contextualized to certain concepts of private property and ownership, and those are not at all laws of physics in universal effect. I find it sort of sad that Western culture well privileges private property rights over personal rights.

    Even in Western culture, there is the icon of Robin Hood, (who has his own flour!), and he is representative of theft for morality’s sake.

    Many radical systems see the current economic system as stealing in one way or the ‘t’other from the backs of workers. The wealth of work generated by 99.9% of the people of this planet is enjoyed primarily by the other .1%. I personally consider most of my wealth to be created for me by working people in the third world. Fair Trade is expensive, and yet everytime I buy something 3 for a buck, I’m stealing someone’s work and wealth.

    None of that talks about shoplifting porn, or course. But I rather think the waitress making less than a living wage who nicks a half empty jar of peanut butter to eat in the back of her car needn’t feel like she’s utterly ethically corrupt.

  19. witchy-woo

    Men hate us.

    Whatever we wear, whatever we do, whoever we are, wherever we go. Men hate us.

    They might dress it up however they like and we might go into palpitations of ‘do they realy mean it’ – but, yes, they mean it; they hate us.

    Men fucking hate us. And they use our ‘lady-parts’ to hang us all.

    Are we going for the revolution yet? We have the tools, after all…

  20. yankee transplant

    I went on vacation for a week. No computer. I come back to this. IBTP.

  21. paper_phoenix

    “India is a country which worships women as a Goddess.”

    Putting women on a pedestal is just as insulting as pushing them into the kitchen and relieving them of their shoes, but with far more dangerous connotations to my mind.

    And it saddens me that this woman’s attempt to immolate herself didn’t even register on the public awareness, but making a trek to the commissioner’s office in her skimpies makes her headline news. Why is there more controversy over bared flesh in public than there is at an act of public suicide?

    IBTP

  22. roamaround

    “Violence against women is a fucking global humanitarian crisis.” Yes! It’s so amazing to me that most women don’t see that the so-called cultural differences in women’s situations are differences of degree but not kind. Americans tend to see domestic violence as individual pathology instead of the system of control by fear that it is, and very few make any connections with the oppression of women in other cultures. Instead, we (not really we, the patriarchs who rule us) use our supposedly superior level of women’s liberation as another excuse to invade rival nation states. Fucking disgusting all around.

  23. Belle O'Cosity

    On the stealing line, men feel that when we are claiming any right at all we are stealing from them. I’m sure you have all heard men claiming that strong women “emasculate” them. It just seems so completely illogical to me. They say they have no impulse control when a woman shows skin and then are angry at women who think perhaps men shouldn’t be in control of the fucking world. Shouldn’t cooler heads prevail. The twisted logic that allows them to ignore the evil of the world while claiming a fucking menstral cycle makes one inferior is just unbelievable.

  24. Why-Chromo

    Yet another instance of ‘women-as-property’ bullshit, in both common forms. Woman as husband’s/husband’s family’s property AND woman as common cultural property. That ‘we treat women as goddesses’ crap is a pseudo-romantic way of saying that ‘we’ expect women to uphold our cultural (patriarchal) values, and those who don’t live up to those inhuman ideals of perfect models of modesty/heir factories fail to live up to our expectations and therefore have fallen onto the other side of the madonna/whore divide. Hence, they gets what’s coming to them. Hell, she took the whole bride-burning thing (symbolically) onto herself and still didn’t get any redress. For all we know, the walking around uncovered offense was compounded by the fact that she was displaying her burn scars.

  25. Simonne

    “People who call us “goddesses” aren’t our friends. Fawning servility is only the flip side of brutality and domination; and nobody empathizes with or thinks about the inner life of a marble statue.”
    Yes! Cass, thank you, you make this point so clearly.

  26. scout

    “Violence against women is a fucking global humanitarian crisis, yo.”

    “I Blame the Patriarchy” plays a vital role in addressing this crisis, by focussing awareness on the institutionalized, global hatred of women. How far does it have to go? Are we there yet?

    “I believe in the essential unity of all people and, for that
    matter, of all that lives. Therefore, I believe that when one
    person gains spiritually, the whole world gains and, when one
    person falls, the whole world falls to that extent.’ ~Gandhi

  27. Silence

    The ‘men worship a goddess’ line just reminds me of the old: ‘but women have so much power’ excuse. Men say it and our mouths gape for an instant as we look around wondering where all this mythical ‘power’ is.

    I can only suppose they mean that we have the power because when they look at us, they entirely lose their reason and have to fuck uncontrollably. At least that seems to be the excuse of rapists the world over. Oh, and we have power because we bear the next generation. Not to raise old arguments, but we know how much respoect mothers tend to receive in this world.

    There’s also some wierd and sick for of ownserhip going on in Pooja’s story. Of course her husband and family thought of her as a piece of property; that was why she could be beaten and raped and no one cared. She wasn’t even a particularly valuable piece of property, since she hadn’t born the golden male child necessary for the perpetuation of the man’s bloodline. So it was all right if she tried to destroy herself — you junk cars when they don’t run properly. But when she walked through the streets half-naked, she was displaying something that did not, from the perspective of patriarchy, belong to herself. It was the equivalence of stealing in the eyes of the asshats. And if it is possible to send praise and encouragement through the airwaves, I want to salute Pooja for her incredible courage.

    Damn. It makes you want to scream loud and long. When will we reach the point where every human being belongs to no one but herself or himself? I don’t think we ever will. But this idea of men’s ownership of women and children is one of the vilest cornerstones of the patriarchy.

  28. jodieac

    There’s no point in quoting Gandhi. He was a habitual wife beater. A man of peace my patriarchy blaming ass.

  29. medrecgal

    Arwen,

    Love the bitchy sarcasm regarding the men who can’t control themselves at the sight of a woman in revealing clothing…perfect for patriarchy blamers everywhere!

    As for “the waitress making less than a living wage who nicks a half-empty jar of peanut butter to eat in the back of her car needn’t feel like she’s utterly ethically corrupt”…it’s a matter of degree, really; it’s never really “right” to steal, but there are some contexts where it’s less wrong than others. How sad is it that some people have to steal in order to get necessary resources? That’s also a reflection of the oppression of patriarchal systems. (And I wouldn’t suggest that this waitress was ethically corrupt. I would suggest her boss might be, though.)

  30. Joolya

    “So it was all right if she tried to destroy herself — you junk cars when they don’t run properly. But when she walked through the streets half-naked, she was displaying something that did not, from the perspective of patriarchy, belong to herself.”

    Silence, that was very well put.

    If I had a nickle for every time I tried to explain to a well-meaning male-identified person that saying “women are goddesses” was actually wildly misogynistic and dehumanizing only to be rewarded for my truobles with a blank look, I’d be treating myself to a triple mocha iced frappucino right about now. And this goes (here, watch me lose cultural sensitivity points, y’all) double for my friends from other lands (including some of our own “middle bits”). Who are totally fine with *me* being whatever it is that I am to them (unfeminized slut? intellectual peer? both?) but they’d really rather *marry* a girl from “back home” who was more “like them” – and never grasp the irony of what they are saying to me; to ME!

    (To which I must respond, “Well, that’s just as well, because it spares any of my het girl friends from mistaking you from someone with a clue. But I want to have a leetle chat with Ms. Lucky Lady when you find/purchase her.”)

  31. dr.sue

    Arwen, Belle O’Cosity, and Silence: exactly. When men claim that women have all this “power” because of our sexuality, what they’re really saying is that they are totally lacking in the self-discipline and self-control that we would hope to take for granted in those in leadership positions, and therefore shouldn’t be in charge.

    And, Medrecgal, my comment about breaking the law was flip and not meant as a literal refutation of your point. Of course there is a huge difference between entitled teenaged boys stealing porn endangering a salesperson’s job, and Arwen’s waitress sneaking peanut butter. I’m also thinking, though, about Carol Gilligan’s work on moral and ethical development, and her finding that boys were, for a long time, considered to be more ethical thinkers as a group because their responses to a standard instrument for measuring these traits were more rigidly law-and-order focused. In particular, boys were more likely to respond to a story about an indigent man who steals life-saving medicine for his dying wife, with the statement that stealing is wrong and therefore the man should not have done it and should be punished, while girls were more likely to give flexible, situationally-based responses, such as, yes, stealing is wrong, but of course he should take the medicine to save his wife’s life. This was seen as lower-level thinking because girls were seen as unable to apply abstract rules to real-life situations.

    I think it’s important to take this a step further as well, and consider who makes the laws, and who benefits from them. For example, who “owns” the medications that could address AIDS in less affluent countries, and if it were possible to “liberate” these and distribute them, would that be wrong? What about access to stockpiled food for famished people?

    Noam Chomsky makes a point of never jaywalking or littering. He says that he tries to obey the law scrupulously whenever possible, so that when he does break a law, mindfully, in civil disobedience, the act will have the weight of a law-abiding citizen behind it. (He says it more eloquently than this.) I think that is a good model for people like me who are not, at least at this moment, hungry or homeless. For those who are, I try to be aware that I’m not in a position to judge.

  32. EN

    “Probably she might have been tortured to an extent; which made her to strip down to semi-nude. But the way she chose to get justice [is] not acceptable. India is a country which worships women as a Goddess.”

    After all, a Goddess isn’t human, so human ethics don’t apply in our behavior towards her. Isn’t that lucky when we want to torture someone? How convenient to have such a narrow definition of humanity. (Note: this also works well for Iraqis and other people darker than the President.)

  33. EN

    Please pardon the double post- I just looked at the debate that follows the article, and the question there is:
    “Is Pooja victim or culprit? Yes or No?” I must now get away from the computer before my brain explodes.

  34. afm

    Carol Gilligan’s work on moral and ethical development, and her finding that boys were, for a long time, considered to be more ethical thinkers as a group because their responses to a standard instrument for measuring these traits were more rigidly law-and-order focused. In particular, boys were more likely to respond to a story about an indigent man who steals life-saving medicine for his dying wife, with the statement that stealing is wrong and therefore the man should not have done it and should be punished, while girls were more likely to give flexible, situationally-based responses, such as, yes, stealing is wrong, but of course he should take the medicine to save his wife’s life. This was seen as lower-level thinking because girls were seen as unable to apply abstract rules to real-life situations.

    and I bet everyone of these kids were white from middle america with the boys being raised to be Men! and the girls to be GIRLS.

    and obviously we all know that sticking to the rules is not always HIGHER ORDERED THINKING!!!

    GAH!

    and it is all being justified as “evolution” today though it was religion and the natural evil of women before. New Psychology has an article about how men are naturally polygamous cause they are usually bigger than women and they like boobs and blondes cause it means young and healthy and it’s all normal, shut up ladies…

    saw the link on slashdot

    I’m so ready for revolution. I feel like we’re doing it now but how do we crush this shit!

  35. Medbh

    “Probably she might have been tortured to an extent”
    Could he qualify that statement any further do you think?
    A little torture isn’t much to get worked up about?
    Who wrote that, Cheney?
    Vile.

  36. slythwolf

    You know, my human sexuality prof used to claim that humans in general were naturally polygamous and that men had a tremendous biological impulse to rape. Of course, he said these things in the context that they should be fought against tooth and nail with everything we’ve got (and spent a whole unit on how, which talked a lot about teaching little boys to see female people as human and that it’s wrong to do anything to another human without their consent), so it didn’t piss me off quite as much as it might have.

  37. Tigs

    I think to argue that stealing is always unethical is problematic. There’s a strong argument for saying that stealing cannot be absolutely ethical, but that’s fundamentally different from saying that there is always some form of moral failing in every act considered by society to be theft.

    Ownership and possession have so many layers of meaning, most of which are dripping with privilege (as has been pointed out several times in this discussion over the past few days) as to make them in many ways meaningless– thereby negating any final ethical ban on stealing.

    Even with porn from a retail store– the ethical problem is that stealing contributes to a store’s inability to turn a profit, thereby creating the possibility that working-class individuals will be out of a much-needed job. However, I’m not sure that this is an ethical failing so much as a social failing. Rather the idea that the ethical exchange is retail worker v. shoplifter removes the more directly involved party: the owner, thus skewing an ethical discourse.

    The frame that requires a feminist to be an agent of pornography (obviously against her will– willing/consent has been brilliantly clarified by Twisty et al in previous posts) is itself unethical. The production and consumption of pornography are unethical. I’m not convinced that acting in a socially prescribed way (stealing of porn through shame of desire for it) is actually a question of ethics. Even, this act of stealing is circumscribed in a structure of unethical practice in such a way that I think that the individual act loses its ability to be ethical or unethical. Sure it doesn’t fit with our expectations and doesn’t help to uphold the system, but I’m not convinced there’s anything unethical about it. (And I’m sure as hell not convinced that upholding the system is ethical)

    I am on the verge of thinking that the only actually ethical action/inaction one can take is one that expressly resists (in means not ends) oppression. Given the warped state of things, all other actions (at least of those who have the amount of privilege necessary to be reading IBTP) are capable only as far as one is willing to be complicit in acting out oppression.

    As follows for me, the idea that a person stealing abundant and necessary medicine carries also the burden of an unethical act is absurd.

    This is further extrapolated in this story, because we can clearly see the problematic of ownership (the whole issue is that Pooja isn’t acting like the property she’s supposed to).

    IBTP.

    **Sorry for the length, I try but am still learning to be concise.

  38. Dawn

    “Why is it considered acceptable, on a global scale, to ignore the crisis that is the human female condition under the excuse that abuse of women belongs in certain “cultural heritages.””

    There are many women (and men) working towards improving the “human female condition” in many countries worldwide; you just don’t know about them or hear about them. After all, your media is busy covering Paris Hilton’s jail sentence and Eva Longoria’s wedding to give two shits. Just b/c you don’t know about something does not mean it does not exist.

    “This is why I’m working my way through law school with an emphasis on international law.”

    Riiiight…well let me let you in on a secret: international law is useless and weak. It’s almost impossible to enforce it. You know, like when your country bombs the fuck out of other countries, and they try to get some redress – and your country completely ignores it? Yeah, so much for international law.

    Why not spend the $90,000 you’re putting towards law school on international women’s rights charities? Ah, because then you wouldn’t have the prestige to blame the patriarchy in such an elegant, nuanced manner.

    You know, I’m all for blaming the patriarchy, but I’m also for challenging some of the unquestioned assumptions on this board (you know, the ones that affect you?) – such as, spending $100K on a fancy degree just so you can play the Good Ol American Boy’s Game of talking down to people. I mean, all that money spent on the Prestige/Pedigree Industrial Complex could really go towards real causes (i.e. not you).

    Ah but these are things we consider NECESSARY! so let’s not talk about them.

    “People who call us “goddesses” aren’t our friends. Fawning servility is only the flip side of brutality and domination; and nobody empathizes with or thinks about the inner life of a marble statue.”

    Here’s an idea: try actually learning about something before running your mouth. I know, you’ll probably go knee-jerk ballistic if I call you Eurocentric (but of course, no one should shudder at your ignorant, frankly cocky missives – power issues, anyone?), but, well, you are.

    First of all, no Hindu (b/c that’s the insinuation, of course) actually worships the marble deity (or “statue,” as you define it). Frankly, your comment screams of anti-paganism and assumes in that very Judeo-Christian way that the “thing” you are worshipping is, well, just a “thing.” Well, in Hinduism, these “statues” are representations of energy and power. Actually it’s quite esoteric and too lengthy to explain here, but try going to your local lesbian-owned independent bookstore (b/c you, All Knowing One, would never shop anywhere else) and learning about it before viewing things from a Eurocentric point of view. Ever heard of shakti? Or Kali Ma? They were goddesses, ANYTHING BUT examples of “fawning servility,” as you call it.

    Here’s a thought you might want to consider: just because something is called something in one language, and means something in that language, that does not mean it means the same thing in another language/religion/culture. “Goddess” may be a misogynist word for you, but for many other women it holds invocative power. Your vision of a goddess may be one of a weak, servile woman, but that does not hold true for others’ representations and views of goddesses. Or maybe you’ve just internalized a racist patriarchial view of Third World Goddesses form some 20-year-old PBS documentary you saw and now attach negative connotations to that word?

    “Instead, we (not really we, the patriarchs who rule us) use our supposedly superior level of women’s liberation as another excuse to invade rival nation states.”

    Oh, good one. Right. Because you’re a woman, you’re not complicit in the starvation, rape and killing of innocent people around the world? Oh, and they’re NOT RIVAL nation states – or did you SKIP over the fucking fact that IRAQ DID NOT HAVE ANY WMDS and that youre useless president manufacutured this war? God, so much telling bullshit in the words you throw out there. Listen, if you live in America and reap the benefits of filling your gas-guzzling fucking SUV tanks and taking your children around town to one more goddamned enrichment class or drive 80 miles to go to some Melissa Etheridge concert, YOU ARE COMPLICIT in this fucking war. Don’t erase your own agency in this bullshit.

    “From the “Irony Knows No Bounds” department: When I clicked on Twisty’s link, I got the India Times page, quickly followed by a pop-up ad for “Shaadi.com: The World’s Largest Matrimonial Service.””

    Right. Becuase of this one sad example, the whole institution of marriage in India is one of unhappiness, deceit and rape. But I guess it’s all in how you look at it. I’m guessing that most women in the world would find it highly ironic if they clicked on an Internet news site and read that once again, the American military killed and raped hundreds of more Iraqi men, women and children, and then clicked over to IBTP and found a bunch of Western armchair feminists earnestly debating……whether it’s okay or not for children to attend a women-only beach in Italy. Yeah. Degrees of importance.

    Sting your ears? Look above. Stings mine too. I don’t just blame the patriarchy.

  39. Arwen

    Thank you, dr. sue. What I find quite amusing is that I think consideration of things such as the system under which property ownership is constructed, via the metaphor of the waitress and the peanut butter, might be marked as undeveloped (sociopathic?) under Kohlberg, and yet is far more about universal ethics and “the spirit not the letter of the law” – and, you know, all of our most popular social role models would be reasoning like women. It is, indeed, the whole point of the good Samaritan.

    In the main, I believe that laws are social contracts and that we would be right to accept them as our agreement with our neighbours. I also believe if we choose to break a law for consciousness reasons – (say, Quakers withholding that percentage of their taxes that would go to military and re-investing it in peace process organizations) – we should be aware of and accepting of the consequences. However, asking that waitress to be a martyr as challenge to the corporate system… well. I can’t go that far. So even my own laws are mutable.

    Hah! Kohlberg, you limited little pissant.

  40. borderline barbie

    I’m sure some of you probably saw this jem:
    http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/07/05/damon.india.widows/index.html

  41. Dawn Coyote

    The “Woman as Goddess” thing really chaps my ass. The pretense that this somehow bestows power on the object of worship is an excellent strategy for disempowerment, and for deferral of responsibility. It misleads women into the mistaken belief that their admirers will support and protect them, and leads men to try to get away with claims like, “I’m raping you because you’re so irresistable!” and, “She was asking for it.”

  42. Gayle

    “jodieac Jul 8th, 2007 at 6:48 am

    There’s no point in quoting Gandhi. He was a habitual wife beater. A man of peace my patriarchy blaming ass.”

    WHAT?

    Is this true? Am I the only one who doesn’t know this?

  43. Sara

    Hey, not to change the subject or anything, but that’s a nice goldfish montage up top.

  44. niki

    Gayle, not only that, but Gandhi also did great things like sleep with underaged naked girls to ‘test’ himself for sin.

    And Freud was a coke addict who made up the theory of the Electra complex so that he could somehow justify, psychologically speaking, the selling of his daughter to his friend. I’m so tired of that guy being quoted, he was just as nasty as any other choad they stuck on the Canon List of Important People.

  45. Coathangrrr

    The problem I have with theft as an ethical dilemma is that theft is predicated on the idea of property, which is a concept that is inherently patriarchal and authoritarian. Is it wrong for me to take bread from someone if they are hungry? Of course. But why we should extend that to, say, stealing a book from a major corporate bookstore seems to be a great leap. If I take the book, did I work for it? Obviously not, well maybe a little, but did the corporation work for the book? Do the people who own most of the wealth work for it. Five of the top ten richest people in the U.S. are heirs to the WalMart fortune. Sure doesn’t sound like working for it to me.

  46. smmo

    “There’s no point in quoting Gandhi. He was a habitual wife beater. A man of peace my patriarchy blaming ass. ”

    A difficulty for women living in patriarchy is how to deal with a Gandhi, a Martin Luther King Jr., even a Miles Davis or Marx or Nietzsche or Woody Allen. Can we acknowledge the good and repudiate the bad? In the case of an artist, can we enjoy their art if we know they’re misogynists? Can we even travel to India or Thailand or other places that traffic blatantly in women? I don’t know. It is hard to say goodbye to so much.

  47. Coathangrrr

    Oh, and Gandhi got many of his tactics and ideas from the suffragettes and then wrapped them in Hindu trappings.

  48. Mar Iguana

    Ghndi’s attitude towards women differed little from Hitler’s really. And, like boys everywhere, he was happy to steal from their energies and benefit from their efforts. Vampires.

    http://www.time.com/time/classroom/voting/pdfs/teacher.pdf

    “What makes the work of Alice Paul
    and her colleagues historically
    significant?
    These women pioneered tactics
    of nonviolence that were used later
    by the civil rights movement. It’s
    profound: Martin Luther King and
    Gandhi both said they had adopted
    a number of nonviolent protest tech-
    niques from the suffrage movement.
    Gandhi had witnessed the British
    suffragists when he was in Britain;
    King picked up from the suffrage
    movement through Gandhi’s writings.
    I doubt that King would ever have
    read about these women in any sort
    of history course that he took in the
    United States, because the suffra-
    gists were pretty much written out of
    American history. But the parallels
    between the movements are very
    dramatic.”

  49. Mwezzi

    First of all, love the new look for the site.

    Secondly… well, at least she managed to attract attention for her cause, albeit at an insulting price and only after being ignored for too long. If she tried that here in Britain, chances are she’d draw a crowd of perverts and would get published telling her story in minimal detail in lad’s mags, on the condition that she pose in her underwear some more and answer irrelevant questions about stripping that she must invent answers for. Feminists would complain about her treatment, both in the magazines and in her life, and would be shouted down for oppressing men and accused of being jealous because they’re too ugly to pull the same stunt.
    Such are the joys of Western equality!

  50. Ferrao

    “Oh, and Gandhi got many of his tactics and ideas from the suffragettes and then wrapped them in Hindu trappings.”

    “Ghndi’s attitude towards women differed little from Hitler’s really. And, like boys everywhere, he was happy to steal from their energies and benefit from their efforts. Vampires.”

    Okay, I was angry before, now I’m just disappointed. Why is it impossible for one thread involving people of color not to devolve into racism and ignorance? Coathanger and Mar Iguana, shame on you for your idiotic statements.

    First of all, Coathanger, Gandhi’s main sources of inspiration for non-violent philosophies were from Jainism and Vaishnavaism. Learn your history before making such a Eurocentric, nativist claim. Jainism has been preaching non-violence towards all creatures for thousands of years, way before any suffrage movement came up.

    And Mar Iguana, how dare you compare Gandhi to Hitler. No, I am not excusing or overlooking the fact that Gandhi abused his wife, but he admitted to making those mistakes earlier in his youth. Does that negate all the positive he did for his people?

    SO typical of you not to even mention the fact that Gandhi’s actions led to the removal of the British from India…BRITISH IMPERIALISTS WHO RAPED AND KILLED WOMEN. THOUSANDS OF THEM. So convenient that you left that part out.

    Also, all your damn suffragists can go to hell. If you’re going to malign the history of people of color, then I could give two rats’ asses about these white women suffragists who were RACIST and NATIVIST. Gandhi and MLK did gain INSPIRATION from Alice Paul, et al, but they didn’t STEAL from them. Gandhi was inspired by Jainism, Vaisnhanavaism, Thoreau (who was inspired by the Upanishads)…there’s always MORE THAN ONE SOURCE to rely on, you know.

    I’d rather admire Gandhi for his anti-imperialist struggle rather than put up with the British spreading their hatred of women, their diseases and their filth. I’d rather admire Gandhi and MLK and other MEN rather than a bunch of RACIST white women who denied women of color their humanity.

    Sojouner Truth: “White women are a great deal smarter, and know more than colored women, while colored do not know scarcely anything. They go out washing, which is about as high as a colored woman gets, and their men go about idle, strutting up and down; and when the women come home, they ask for their money and take it all, and then scold her because there is not food. I want you to consider on that, chil’n.” (http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~elk/suffrageblackwomen.html)

    Truth: “”I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.”

    And, as usual, there are countless other examples from this racist movement that got white women what they wanted, as usual, at the expense of people of color.

  51. Ms Kate

    I suppose this municipality bans all the new Indian music videos I just saw at Punjabi Dhaba last week?

    Oh, yes. This is the new modern India, the high tech India we are all hearing about. Uh huh.

  52. jc.

    While traveling in India I was not only regaled with the “women as godess” rigaromole (“Holy echo of “women on a pedastal”, Batman! cultural sychronocity, east is west or something) But was constantly, a little shamefacedly but proudly, assured by Indian men that women were the absolute rulers of the (holy) home.
    How ironic that that this woman should have attempted to immolate herself, this is a very common crime in India committed on wives by inlaws and husbands who are dissatisfied by the dowry.
    The perfect Indian wife is role modeled on Shiva´s wife, just reading about their relationship should make much clear.
    And as usual the patiarchal outrage and punishment is of course much practiced, exercised and demanded by many of the victims themselves.

  53. Violet Socks

    IB, I want to thank you for pulling out that quote from Amnesty International. It inspired me to make a button with it (I mean a blog button) to take people to the campaign site.

    Speaking of futzying around with one’s blog, I too am pleased by the new IBTP banner. Nice work, Twisty! I am wondering though if that’s perhaps a Vaseline filter on your close-up of a tomato with blossom end rot. If so, nice pic; too bad about the tomato.

  54. TinaH

    If I were an actual goddess, then a heck of a lot more people would be doing whatever I said, and we wouldn’t have this patriarchal bullshit to deal with.

    But alas, I am only a pushy mouthy broad with a keyboard and an attitude.

  55. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Am I wrong, or is it the male’s contribution that determines the sex of the zygote?

    Dowry is a concept I can’t get through my thick skull. The groom is acquiring an unpaid house servant and baby incubator; isn’t that sufficient? If anything, his family oughtta compensate hers.

    Marriage. Regardless of culture, if you’re female, you spell it “Yeccchhh”.

  56. Claire

    Gender equality has barely made any progress in many countries.

  57. ~Kaelin

    Given that it is the male of our species that determine the sex of the child, should they not be beating the husband instead for failing to produce a male child?

    That aside, this is quite horrific. As with many above, I am astounded that self-immolation was ignored as a cry for help.

    ~Kaelin

  58. the Omphaloskeptic

    Antoinette, you’re absolutely right about the sperm determining a baby’s sex. Gametes (sperm for men and eggs for women) each have a half set of the parent’s chromosomes; all other cells have two full sets. Eggs all have an X chromosome, of course, because women are XX, but any individual sperm has either an X or a Y.

    Of course, biological truth is completely unrelated to human asshattery. Even if they knew all that – and perhaps they do – it’s still going to be the woman’s fault somehow.

  59. Radalan

    “I am wondering though if that’s perhaps a Vaseline filter on your close-up of a tomato with blossom end rot. If so, nice pic; too bad about the tomato.”

    Actually, I believe it’s a goldfish. Maybe Twisty’s making a comment about living in the fishbowl of Patriarchy. Or, maybe she just felt like taking a photo of her fishy.

  60. Sarah

    >A difficulty for women living in patriarchy is how to deal with a Gandhi, a Martin Luther King Jr., even a Miles Davis or Marx or Nietzsche or Woody Allen. Can we acknowledge the good and repudiate the bad? In the case of an artist, can we enjoy their art if we know they’re misogynists? Can we even travel to India or Thailand or other places that traffic blatantly in women? I don’t know. It is hard to say goodbye to so much.

  61. Hattie

    I had to change the name of my blog to stop the hits from Indian men looking for “Auntie Porn.” The official line of Indian men is that they are very moral. Right.

    I read somewhere that Gandhi had a couple of young women as bedwarmers in his old age. Nothing against that. I know a lot of old women who wouldn’t mind fresh young bodies in their beds. But this does not happen often. Thank goodness for dogs and cats.
    (sarcasm)

  62. KMTberry

    What do I know? I don’t know. But for What it is WORTH, I read SOMEWHERE that all the MLK JR “infidelity” reportage was disinformation circulated by the CIA and FBI specifically to discredit him. Because he was just getting too damn powerful, and lots of white folks with a TV had a hard time not liking him and realizing that what MLK was preaching was an awful ot like actual Christinaity.

    Unlike JFK, who was, sadly, actually unfaithfful physically to his wife.

  63. Frumious B.

    men had a tremendous biological impulse to rape

    Wouldn’t women have a tremendous biological urge to give in? To perpetuate the species, you have to fuck as many men as possible to get enough sperm. Any doc can tell you that sperm count goes down with repeated ejaculations, so the best way to get knocked up is fuck a lot of guys. So whence this male need to rape?

  64. silvia sea

    I had some comments on this piece over here at my blog.

    Most of my responses just had to do with having lived in India for a very short period of time, and a couple of things about Indian culture that you may not have researched in the right place.

  65. ABK

    I was born and brought up in India. It’s not a bed of roses, but it has its merits. As for the Goddess reference, it is true that some Hindu (Hinduism is the predominant religion) deities are female, but I doubt that worshiping female Goddesses negates the effects of the patriarchy. From my knowledge of the religion, the qualities that these Goddesses usually represent are patience, humility, virtue, understanding, kindness and many others. Yes, these are excellent qualities, but more often than not, women are expected to display these especially in the face of ill treatment at the hands of the patriarchy. A pedestal can be a very narrow place! (I know I am quoting someone here, but I don’t remember who!)

    There is resistance, there are feminists, bloggers who boldly write about their radical views, activists who defy death threats and do good work, but it is a country of a billion and there is enormous inertia. So, I guess any change, can only take place slowly.

    I’ve heard of so many Poojas, women tortured by their families, that it is mighty depressing. But I still hope!

  66. Debby

    Hello All,

    Here’s a similarly charming AP story on “love,” “marriage,” “debt,” and chattel. I blame.

    http://salon.com/wire/ap/archive.html?wire=D8Q9751O0.html

    Afghan Girls Traded, Sold to Settle Debt

    - – - – - – - – - – - -

    By ALISA TANG Associated Press Writer

    July 09,2007 | JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Unable to scrounge together the $165 he
    needed to repay a loan to buy sheep, Nazir Ahmad made good on his debt by
    selling his 16-year-old daughter to marry the lender’s son.

    “He gave me nine sheep,” Ahmad said, describing his family’s woes since taking
    the loan. “Because of nine sheep, I gave away my daughter.”

    Seated beside him in the cramped compound, his daughter Malia’s eyes filled with
    tears. She used a black scarf to wipe them away.

    Despite advances in women’s rights and at least one tribe’s move to outlaw the
    practice, girls are traded like currency in Afghanistan and forced marriages
    are common. Antiquated tribal laws authorize the practice known as “bad” in the
    Afghan language Dari — and girls are used to settle disputes ranging from debts
    to murder.

    Such exchanges bypass the hefty bride price of a traditional betrothal, which
    can cost upward of $1,000. Roughly two out of five Afghan marriages are forced,
    says the country’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

    “It’s really sad to do this in this day and age, exchange women,” said Manizha
    Naderi, the director of the aid organization Women for Afghan Women. “They’re
    treated as commodities.”

    Though violence against women remains widespread, Afghanistan has taken
    significant strides in women’s rights since the hard-line Taliban years, when
    women were virtual prisoners — banned from work, school or leaving home
    unaccompanied by a male relative. Millions of girls now attend school and women
    fill jobs in government and media.

    There are also signs of change for the better inside the largest tribe in
    eastern Afghanistan — the deeply conservative Shinwaris.

    Shinwari elders from several districts signed a resolution this year outlawing
    several practices that harm girls and women. These included a ban on using
    girls to settle so-called blood feuds — when a man commits murder, he must
    hand over his daughter or sister as a bride for a man in the victim’s family.
    The marriage ostensibly “mixes blood to end the bloodshed.” Otherwise, revenge
    killings often continue between the families for generations.

    Jan Shinwari, a businessman and provincial council member, said a BBC radio
    report by a female journalist from the Shinwari tribe, Malalai Shinwari, had
    exposed the trade of girls and shamed the elders into passing the resolution to
    end the practice.

    “I did this work not because of human rights, but for Afghan women, for Afghan
    girls not to be exchanged for stupid things,” Jan Shinwari said. “When Malalai
    Shinwari reported this story about exchanging girls for animals, when I heard
    this BBC report, I said, ‘Let’s make a change.’”

    Now a lawmaker in Parliament, Malalai Shinwari said her report had the impact
    she intended. She called the changes to tribal laws a “big victory for me.”

    About 600 elders from the Shinwar district put their purple thumbprint
    “signatures” on the handwritten resolution.

    More than 20 Shinwari leaders gathered in the eastern city of Jalalabad, nodding
    earnestly and muttering their consent as the changes were discussed last week.

    They insisted that women given away for such marriages — including those to
    settle blood feuds — were treated well in their new families. But the elders
    declined requests to meet any of the women or their families.

    “Nobody treats them badly,” Malik Niaz said confidently, stroking his long white
    beard. “Everyone respects women.”

    But Afghan women say this could not be further from the truth.

    “By establishing a family relationship, we want to bring peace. But in reality,
    that is not the case,” said Hangama Anwari, an independent human rights
    commissioner and founder of the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation.

    The group investigated about 500 cases of girls given in marriage to settle
    blood feuds and found only four or five that ended happily. Much more often,
    the girl suffered for a crime committed by a male relative, she said.

    “We punish a person who has done nothing wrong, but the person who has killed
    someone is free. He can move freely, and he can kill a second person, third
    person because he will never be punished,” Anwari said.

    A girl is often beaten and sometimes killed because when the family looks at
    her, they see the killer. “Because they lost someone, they take it out on her,”
    Naderi said.

    There are no reliable statistics on blood feud marriages, a hidden practice.
    When it happens, the families and elders often will not reveal details of the
    crime or the punishment.

    Several years ago in nearby Momand Dara district, a taxi driver hit a boy with
    his car, killing him. The boy’s family demanded a girl as compensation, so the
    driver purchased an 11-year-old named Fawzia from an acquaintance for $5,000
    and gave her to the dead boy’s relatives, according to the Afghan Women’s
    Network office in Jalalabad.

    Three years ago, Fawzia was shot to death, according to a two-page report kept
    in a black binder of cases of violence against women.

    The story of Malia and the nine sheep illustrates the suffering of girls forced
    into such marriages.

    Malia listened as her father described how he was held hostage by his lender,
    Khaliq Mohammad, because he could not come up with the money to pay for the
    sheep, which Ahmad had sold to free a relative seized because of another of
    Ahmad’s debts.

    Ahmad was released only when he agreed to give Malia’s hand in marriage to the
    lender’s 18-year-old son. Asked how she felt about it, Malia shook her head and
    remained silent. Her face then crumpled in anguish and she wiped away tears.

    Asked if she was happy, she responded halfheartedly, “Well, my mother and father
    agreed … ” Her voice trailed off, and she cried again.

    Does she want to meet her husband-to-be? She clicked her tongue — a firm, yet
    delicate “tsk” — with a barely perceptible shake of her head.

    The answer was no.

  67. silvia sea

    to everyone’s comments about the goddess thing:

    are we forgetting the south-indian worship of kali, the very essence of the powerful, destructive, annihilating, man-eating feminine?

    Don’t forget that “goddess” can mean a very different thing in India than it does anywhere else.

  68. ginmar

    Sorry, Dr. Sue, but your comments about the other comments are off base, at least with regard to mine. Be specific. I was talking about rich white kids ripping off businesss. DO try and justify that one, why don’t you.

  69. Rehana

    “are we forgetting the south-indian worship of kali, the very essence of the powerful, destructive, annihilating, man-eating feminine?”

    Hey Silvia, I was thinking the same thing. I am from India, and this whole discussion seems to center around a singular idea of what a Goddess is – demure, perfect, angelic, subservient. Many representations like these exist, but in Hinduism, which embraces non-duality perhaps more than other traditions, Kali and other goddesses are worshiped for their strength and power. In many ways, these gods are representations of cosmic energy and exist in forms beyond ideas of male/female, good/bad, evil/moral, etc.

    Many Indian women embrace Kali as a powerful force, so let’s not generalize about the “essential” nature of goddesses.

    Oh, and Silvia, Kali is mainly worshipped in the eastern Indian state of Bengal, not as much in South India (where they are mainly focused on Shiva). Of course, various sects devoted to Kali exist everywhere.

    “I had to change the name of my blog to stop the hits from Indian men looking for “Auntie Porn.” The official line of Indian men is that they are very moral. Right.”

    Hattie, there is no “official” line from any group of men, so let’s try to avoid the generalizations. I have no idea what you are talking about in regards to Auntie Porn (and it sounds kind of bizarre!), but I know many Indian men who are moral, immoral, counter-cultural, atheist, religious, hypocritical, real, etc. That’s like saying that the official line of _____ women is that they all worship their men (!).

    “Oh, yes. This is the new modern India, the high tech India we are all hearing about. Uh huh.”

    Ms. Kate, development isn’t a linear path – in any country. If that was the case, the US would be becoming a much more egalitarian place as it continues to progress. Rather, all you’re seeing is the exacerbation of the gap between the rich and the poor. I don’t know why many feminists continue to perpetuate the myth that technological progress and “modernity” will instantaneously bring along gender rights and other freedoms to oppressed groups. To me, these types of progresses just benefit a few already rich people, create a just-barely-hanging-on middle class and keep the poor downpressed. Sometimes they go hand in hand, but not always.

    “There’s no point in quoting Gandhi. He was a habitual wife beater. A man of peace my patriarchy blaming ass.”

    This is false. Gandhi did beat his wife in his youth, but stopped after he reformed. Does that negate everything he ever did after? I guess it depends on how much your views are based on practicality v. blind disregard for all men. I can despise Gandhi’s wife beating, but do admire his ability to dismantle the patriarchial, racist, oppressive British colonial regime.

    A co-blogger acquaintance of mine said she tried to post something in response to this point but her comment was not approved; I’m guessing it was because of the caustic tone and, well, general rage. I don’t agree with her approach, but I do agree with her sentiment that there is some major ignorance being demonstrated in the comments in regards to Gandhi, MLK and the suffragists.

    For example, Coathanger says, “Oh, and Gandhi got many of his tactics and ideas from the suffragettes and then wrapped them in Hindu trappings.”

    Gandhi WAS mainly inspired by Jainism, an Indian religious which originated thousands of years ago and whose central tenet is non-violence against ALL living beings. They are known for their asceticism.

    It’s wrong and demeaning to claim Gandhi and MLK “stole” from the suffragists. They were indeed inspired by their worthwhile work, but we should also remember than several suffragists were VERY racist.

    Does this mean we should throw out everything the suffragists said and did with the bath water?

    Have a good week ya’ll.

  70. LCforevah

    silvia, I don’t care that you spent six weeks in India. That does nothing to negate the numerous stories of horrible treatment that I’ve read out of India for YEARS. The last I looked there was a daily kitchen burning of a wife in Mumbai, and various other cities. That’s a lot of “accidental burning” of wives. Neither the wife’s family, or the husband family ever does anything, and neither does law enforcement. It’s a completely callous system.

    As for you being an apologist for being called a goddess, what part of the explanation of hidden hostility did you not understand?

  71. ABK

    silvia sea,

    Yes, Kali is indeed worshiped in India. But I am yet to see a woman being appreciated for possessing those qualities and using them against the perpetrators of violence. Women who defy the strictly enforced social norms and rules are punished very severely, whether they are Kali incarnates or not!

    Of course, I won’t deny the fact that Indian men are far more accepting of women in positions of authority/power, but only in politics! Several women chief ministers and one woman prime minister are proof of that. One particular woman, Jayalalitha, former chief minister of a southern state was very powerful during her time. People (men and women alike) would literally fall at her feet and almost worship her! Unfortunately, these women didn’t do much to alleviate the oppression of the common woman.

  72. K.

    Silence – well said. I add my good vibes toward Pooja also.
    Although you’d think that, if the idea of “ownership” came into play, they’d do something positive for this woman (like treat her like a human, rather than a poorly functioning incubator) after it became clear she’d go so far as to set herself on fire. But I suppose in her family’s/husband’s eyes, a scorched incubator still works.

  73. Jess

    Hi, so I’ve been living as a man, and generally society accepts me as such,
    but I’d rather live in the world of the Twistolution

    What can I do?

  74. Crowfoot

    *delurks*
    “A pedestal is as much a prison as any other small space.”
    - Anonymous Woman (c. mid-1800s), African American feminist. As quoted in Moving Beyond Words, part 4, by Gloria Steinem (1994). Said sometime in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Steinem first heard this while organizing in the American south in the early 1970s. It was attributed to an anonymous African American woman of the suffragist/abolitionist era, who supposedly said it to white Southern women, with reference to their social situation.

    As quoted in a blog that I found googling the expression (I don’t remember how to do the link thingy: http://proactivebusybody.com/quotes/ ). Often attributed to Steinem herself. This jives with info I’ve read about the quote elsewhere (but am currently unable to find).

    As to the discussion at hand, I’ve nothing to add except to chime in with noticing how being “worshipped” or put upon a pedestal of some sort does nothing for the overall distain men show to women. Bah!

  75. Rehana

    “are we forgetting the south-indian worship of kali, the very essence of the powerful, destructive, annihilating, man-eating feminine?”

    Hey Silvia, I was thinking the same thing. I am from India, and this whole discussion seems to center around a singular idea of what a Goddess is – demure, perfect, angelic, subservient. Many representations like these exist, but in Hinduism, which embraces non-duality perhaps more than other traditions, Kali and other goddesses are worshiped for their strength and power. In many ways, these gods are representations of cosmic energy and exist in forms beyond ideas of male/female, good/bad, evil/moral, etc.

    Many Indian women embrace Kali as a powerful force, so let’s not generalize about the “essential” nature of goddesses.

    Oh, and Silvia, Kali is mainly worshipped in the eastern Indian state of Bengal, not as much in South India (where they are mainly focused on Shiva). Of course, various sects devoted to Kali exist everywhere.

    “I had to change the name of my blog to stop the hits from Indian men looking for “Auntie Porn.” The official line of Indian men is that they are very moral. Right.”

    Hattie, there is no “official” line from any group of men, so let’s try to avoid the generalizations. I have no idea what you are talking about in regards to Auntie Porn (and it sounds kind of bizarre!), but I know many Indian men who are moral, immoral, counter-cultural, atheist, religious, hypocritical, real, etc. That’s like saying that the official line of _____ women is that they all worship their men (!).

    “Oh, yes. This is the new modern India, the high tech India we are all hearing about. Uh huh.”

    Ms. Kate, development isn’t a linear path – in any country. If that was the case, the US would be becoming a much more egalitarian place as it continues to progress. Rather, all you’re seeing is the exacerbation of the gap between the rich and the poor. I don’t know why many feminists continue to perpetuate the myth that technological progress and “modernity” will instantaneously bring along gender rights and other freedoms to oppressed groups. To me, these types of progresses just benefit a few already rich people, create a just-barely-hanging-on middle class and keep the poor downpressed. Sometimes they go hand in hand, but not always.

    “There’s no point in quoting Gandhi. He was a habitual wife beater. A man of peace my patriarchy blaming ass.”

    This is false. Gandhi did beat his wife in his youth, but stopped after he reformed. Does that negate everything he ever did after? I guess it depends on how much your views are based on practicality v. blind disregard for all men. I can despise Gandhi’s wife beating, but do admire his ability to dismantle the patriarchial, racist, oppressive British colonial regime.

    A co-blogger acquaintance of mine said she tried to post something in response to this point but her comment was not approved; I’m guessing it was because of the caustic tone and, well, general rage. I don’t agree with her approach, but I do agree with her sentiment that there is some major ignorance being demonstrated in the comments in regards to Gandhi, MLK and the suffragists.

    For example, Coathanger says, “Oh, and Gandhi got many of his tactics and ideas from the suffragettes and then wrapped them in Hindu trappings.”

    Gandhi WAS mainly inspired by Jainism, an Indian religious which originated thousands of years ago and whose central tenet is non-violence against ALL living beings. They are known for their asceticism.

    It’s wrong and demeaning to claim Gandhi and MLK “stole” from the suffragists. They were indeed inspired by their worthwhile work, but we should also remember than several suffragists were VERY racist.

    Does this mean we should throw out everything the suffragists said and did with the bath water?

    Have a good week ya’ll.
    c

  76. SGS

    I feel compelled to de-lurk for this one.

    First of all, thanks for a lovely website Twisty! I am finding my sense of identity through your writing.

    This is a discussion where I can tell you the story from my perspective. I was born and brought up in India too.

    One of the things that bring me down about India is the blindness of the women. Horrible, horrible things are perpetrated in the name of culture, tradition, “parampara, sanskriti”.

    While criticizing the West for lack of morals and absence of traditions, Indians feel superior about their civilization and their way of life.

    I cannot express the way women are treated because the sheer emotions this thought brings up are just indescribable.

    There is a saying in some of the hindu religious books that a culture is judged by how it treats its women.

    But I have seen nothing but oppression.

    22 years ago, I heard a woman telling her husband to throw the newborn child because she was disappointed that this one was a female too.

    I have seen women being beat up, physically, mentally tortured by their own families as well as those of in-laws.

    My blood boils every time a read about another rape, another child marriage, another arranged marriage, another infanticide….

    Sometimes abuse is doled out by mother-in-laws. Who do we blame for this sadistic abuse?

    And the females keep living this rut, unworthy of being called life.

    There are dummy laws for protection of women, but what have they achieved? Most of the population is under the impression that only women plotting revenge against their in-laws go seek them, and you can well imagine the kind of justice these women get.

    Years ago, one administration had proposed death penalty for rapists, but the bill was never passsed.

    And the shaming, shame is associated with everything.

    Even after being exposed to all this evil, the women are still adhering to the same cultural norms. They find themselves to be pre-disposed to being married(or being sold by their families).
    They are still expected to be docile, patient, not have any ideas or tongue, and treat their husbands as gods.

    Did you know that there is a religious fast (no food no water kind) that married women keep annually to prolong the lives of their husbands?
    No, the men do not have a similar fast for their beloved but easily replaceable wives.

    One in a while, one comes across a story in the media wherein strength and courage of Indian women are applauded. However, they never seem to fight for their own lives,carry their own battles, it is always about protecting their husband and families.

    One thing that upsets me about the discussion in this thread that we are actually talking about what this random indian guy said about status of women in India. Statements such as “women are …goddesses” are empty statements meant to keep their big egos (about their culture, about themselves) even bigger and to deny any atrocity, to silence any truth.

    I would like to say more about this topic, but maybe later. All this rage makes my head explode.

  77. dr.sue

    Ginmar, please read my 2nd comment on this thread, where I say specifically, “Of course there is a huge difference between entitled teenaged boys stealing porn endangering a salesperson’s job, and Arwen’s waitress sneaking peanut butter.”

  78. silvia sea

    LCForevah–

    whoa, chill! I never once said, or tried to indicate, that women in India are treated WELL. Believe me, I’m not blind to the shit that goes down there. It doesn’t change the fact that some of Twisty’s understanding of cultural nuances was off.

    Did I ever say kitchen fires don’t still happen?

    But yeah, having lived among and with Indian families and actually spoken with numerous women on their day-to-day lives and how they are treated, I do know a bit of what I’m talking about. There’s more to India than just the sensational wife-burning stories you refer to.

    I really have no idea what you’re talking about as far as hidden hostility. I was just pointing out that goddesses are not always clean/pure/perfect images of womankind.

    You’re vicious! And you jump to conclusions. But hope this clears things up.

  79. silvia sea

    ABK–

    I was speaking more generally of the idea of the goddess, and not goddesses specifically worshipped in India. You do have a point–Kali-women are not honored for their qualities. That’s true everywhere, I think. Still, there is a Kali. There is a dark female goddess. There are not many countries who even have a tradition of worshiping the dark feminine.

    Guys in India are sexist, yeah, but so are guys in America. I just didn’t get why the quote cited demonstrated India’s particular sexism, and the double-standard with which women are seen: sisters, mothers, daughters, are “honored” for their “purity,” yet women are sexually harassed in the street all the time.

    I know she wasn’t trying to say that India’s sexism is worse than any in the west; but her rhetoric is confusing.

    I suppose this post threw me off because, while the ultimate point is absolutely true–violence against women IS a global crisis–at the same time, Twisty’s rhetoric sounded critical of specific aspects of Indian culture that I thought were being read through a specifically western lens.

  80. ABK

    silvia sea,

    I guess I understand your point. Maybe it is difficult to sometimes put events in a cultural context when one isn’t familiar with the culture.

    As an aside, I’ve heard somewhere, that in ancient India, a matriarchy sort of system might have existed. Relics from that period include several Goddess like statues that might have been worshiped. Not only that, they believed that menstrual fluid was sacred and that it made womanhood sacred. Perhaps, these ancient Goddesses are the ancestors of present day Hindu Goddesses. If you want to know more, I’ll try and search for that article.

  81. msxochitl

    Silvia Sea:

    “Twisty’s rhetoric sounded critical of specific aspects of Indian culture that I thought were being read through a specifically western lens.”

    No, this is not about viewing Indian culture through a Western lens. It’s about viewing a particular practice of a patriarchal culture (in this case, the dowry system in India) through a feminist lens.

    You seem to think that you are providing us with The Indian Point Of View on the dowry system. But you are only providing us with the traditional, patriarchal view on the dowry system. Why do you disregard the Indian feminist perspective? Didn’t you talk to any Indian feminists while you were there? If you did, I cannot imagine that the issue of dowry abolition did not come up.

    No, feminism isn’t just a Western thing. There are lots of South Asian women who are working to end the dowry system. You want to tell these women that they don’t understand the nuances of their culture, or that their concern about women burned to death is “sensationalistic”?

  82. thebewilderness

    “Quoth one Dinesh from Mumbai: “Probably she might have been tortured to an extent; which made her to strip down to semi-nude. But the way she chose to get justice [is] not acceptable. India is a country which worships women as a Goddess. There might be some defaulters. But it should be accepted.”

    I don’t think there is a culture anywhere in the world where the men don’t make this argument.
    You may have been abused, but your response to the abuse was unacceptable, because you women are held to a higher standard. The idea of justice makes no sense in this context.

  83. msxochitl

    ABK:

    “Maybe it is difficult to sometimes put events in a cultural context when one isn’t familiar with the culture.”

    But we *are* familiar with the culture–that culture being, of course, patriarchy. Patriarchy comes in different forms in different contexts, but it’s still patriarchy, and we should be able to recognize it as such. Likewise, feminist opposition to patriarchy exists in many different contexts–for example, the movement of Indian feminists to end the dowry system:

    “[W]e look away. We imagine that it cannot happen to anyone we know, that our education and money has raised us above these village truths. But that isn’t so — we merely glamorize the slavery we perpetuate, and pretend to endow our daughters and sisters with “gifts”. These aren’t dowries, we tell ourselves, this is just to help her get a good start. Conveniently, we overlook the fact that there’s more than one person getting married, we don’t ask often enough why this good start mustn’t come from both sides.

    With these pretexts, we dismiss these as unimportant issues. And as we look away, an estimated 25,000 brides are killed or maimed every year in India over dowry disputes. Intellectuals pull out their calculator and say it is less than 0.003% of India’s population. They slide into research mode and throw a vast array of statistics about atrocities on women in USA, UK, Pakistan, and many other countries of the world. Foundation owners refuse to help because there are so many other problems in India like street beggars, lepers, street children, bonded laborers, etc. So, the brides keep on burning.”

    http://www.indiatogether.org/wehost/nodowri/isadbbi.htm#grps

  84. goblinbee

    thebewilderness: “You may have been abused, but your response to the abuse was unacceptable, because you women are held to a higher standard.”

    So perfectly put.

  85. silvia sea

    ABK–I’d love to see that article if you had time to dig it up.

    msxochl–I get your point, but I’m not trying to provide anyone with “the Indian Point of View” on anything. I’m not Indian. I’ve studied a lot of aspects of Indian culture, and I’ve briefly visited India.

    I don’t think patriarchy is a culture. I think it is a worldwide system that is played out differently in different cultures. Culture, to me, and in my field of study, means something else entirely. is monarchy a culture?

    Of course I know there are feminists in Asia. This whole discussion is beginning to seem silly to me, which is why I don’t usually jump into things in this blog. All I was trying to do was to get people to stop thinking through a specifically western lens. Of course I don’t think feminism is just a white, western thing.

    Quotes like this are where I am critical of the rhetoric: “Unsurprisingly, it is likewise considered a fabulous idea that, should the indentured girls fail to give satisfaction as cash-generators and spawnbots, they become fair game for abuse.”

    That’s really not considered a “fabulous” idea to the average Indian family.

    I never said that the dowry system was right. But I think Twisty has it twisted up a bit.

  86. LouisaMayAlcott

    Silvia Sea,

    Twisty exaggerates for effect. I do the same thing.

    She was speaking sarcastically, if you will. Or even if you won’t.

  87. silvia sea

    Louisa May (oh I loved her books when I was a girl)

    I see, I see. I guess it was the “in some parts of the world,” whereas I think “In some families in some parts of the world” would be more accurate.

    Now I am getting pedantic and I need to shut up. I love sarcasm. For all I know, my response had more to do with my mood that day than any real problem with Twisty’s general point of view.

    Ack. I really want myself to shut up now.

  88. Kali

    OK, as an Indian woman let me throw in my 0.02 cents. I don’t think Twisty is interpreting India through a western lens. Twisty calls on patriarchal BS wherever she sees it, west, east, middle, wherever.

    Pointing out that the dowry system is horrible, that it is objectifies women as cash-generators and spawnbots, and that indian men are sexist, does not sound to me like interpreting things in a biased manner. The only bias I see here is the one in favor of justice and against abuse.

    Of course, indian men don’t have the monopoly on sexism. I recently read a letter to the editor in an American newspaper, written by an american man, and he sounded uncannily similar to that Dinesh loser. It was about the Duke rape case. His point was – it might not be OK for the young white men athletes to exploit and abuse black women(the rape, the racist/sexist comments, the vile e-mail) but the women were at fault for showing their “precious” bodies to drunk men. On a conceptual level, the way this guy was using the word “precious” is very similar to the way that Dinesh moron used the word “goddess”.

    Having said that, a couple of points to note (most people on this blog would already know this):

    - The dowry system is widespread, but there are a substantial minority of families who are morally and fervently opposed to taking or giving dowries. My immediate family is one of those who are extremely opposed to the idea of dowries. And most of the other families in our social circle are similarly opposed. The minority is big enough for India to have passed laws against dowry.
    - Arranged marriages can range from anywhere between forcing a girl to get married against her wishes to a loser twice her age, to parents acting as nothing more than a matrimonial service, setting up introductions on the request of their daughters and sons, and letting their daughters and sons choose whom and when to marry. I have one sibling who married for love and another who had an arranged marriage. In both cases they were the ones choosing whom and when to marry, not my parents. Only the manner of introduction differed.

  89. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Several friends and I were having a discussion yesterday evening about how patriarchal asshattery knows no bounds — not culture, gender, age, race, creed, or sexual orientation. It’s endemic everywhere you turn.

  90. msxochitl

    Siliva Sesa,

    If something is not natural, innate, biological, then it is cultural. All political, social and economic systems are therefore cultural institutions. Patriarchy–the system of male domination of females–is also a cultural practice and cultural institution.

    I still don’t see what it is that is particularly “Western” about opposing dowry or arranged marriage. There are lots of South Asian women and girls who are opposed to dowry and/or arranged marriage. I am sorry if you did not get to meet any of these girls and women during your travels. They are what drew me to the area in the first place and what has kept me here for over a year. And if you think Twisty’s words about dowry are too harsh, you should hear what some of these women say! For example:

    “The only reason it is accepted is because of the belief that in her marital home, the girl should not be a “burden” on the husband’s family. How on earth did such a concept come to be accepted? A “burden”? A woman who comes in virtually like an additional domestic help in the house, who is expected to serve not just the man she marries but his entire household of parents and any siblings? Why should she be expected to “pay” for this apparent privilege, and that too in advance? There is something very sick, and very wrong, in this mentality. And that is what we must question . . . It is a combination of the determination of girls, supportive parents and a change in our perverted culture that will end this “evil”, which is what it is.”

    http://www.indiatogether.org/2003/jun/ksh-dowrysix.htm

  91. LouisaMayAlcott

    msxochitl,

    Amazing link, thank you so much!

    This thread is a wonderful consciousness raiser.

  92. msxochitl

    Thanks Louisa May!

    I really like the writer of that piece, Kalpana Sharma. She writes lots of interesting pieces on that site.

  93. ABK

    msxochitl,

    You are right of course. In order to blame the patriarchy, the only thing that one needs to know about is the patriarchy! I also didn’t mean to say that Twisty should be looking at the problem from the perspective of Indian culture.

    But I do think that the cultural context is important. Oppression comes in many forms. Patriarchy may be universal but the tools used to enforce it can be different in different places. To blame the patriarchy and identify the problems, one does not need knowledge of the tools. But for solving the problems, it becomes important to understand where people’s beliefs stem from.

    I have always been very interested in coming up with solutions to solve these problems and I spend a lot of time thinking and discussing these issues. Of course, the best thing would be to overthrow the patriarchy. But until the revolution comes about, I think that some immediate, problem specific solutions should be proposed. And for this purpose, I think that the cultural context becomes very important.

    As an example, I have been reading a book by an investigative journalist about the problem of female infanticide, female foeticide and the declining sex ratio in India. The author does a very good job of showcasing how the deep seated cultural beliefs are the root cause of this problem. In fact the problem is intricately tied in with several cultural/religious beliefs. The author goes on to describe how efforts can be focused on undoing the social conditioning by education and awareness programs. It is slow, but in certain places, it has produced significant results.

    Anyway, these are just my thoughts. I may very well be way off the mark! I just want to say that this thread has been very interesting and it was a pleasure reading the thoughts of seasoned blamers!

  94. ABK

    silvia sea,

    Here is the link to a list of topics about ancient Indian culture.

    http://basicallyblah.blogspot.com/2006/01/shakthi-worship-philosophy.html

    The article I was referring to is the one on Yoni worship. Some of the other posts by the same blogger are also interesting, in case you want to read some more! Let me know what you think!

  95. silvia sea

    ABK–thanks

    to that other person: all I’m basically trying to say is that when you make yourself look like you don’t understand the culture you’re discussing, you sort of shoot yourself in the foot in trying to make any other point. since all i originally wrote here was a link to a post in my own blog where i thoughtfully criticized what i had read, i’m not even sure what some of the people here are responding to. i doubt most of you read what i originally had to say, which is, that her rhetoric is off: like i said: looking silly & like you don’t know what you’re talking about makes your whole argument crumble.

    and i STILL don’t think “patriarchy” is a “culture,” per se. Oh touche! Not everyone uses the same theoretical framework as you do.

  96. Bruce F

    Decidedly off topic, but here it goes.

    Thank you Twisty. I found you via Billmon’s blogroll and haven’t stopped reading since.

    Thanks again.

    Bruce

  97. Endora

    No, I DID read what you originally said. Not buyin’ it. Twisty was on the money with this one, IMO. Patriarchy trumps local culture, ever damn time. It’s bigger, badder and more insidious than religion, local history, or folk custom. Her argument doesn’t “crumble” nor does she appear “silly.”

  98. Endora

    S. Sea:

    But you earn an upraised-solidarity-fist for this:

    “Personally, I think the “honor other cultures” argument is bullshit in most regards. Stoning women to death for walking outside unescorted or unveiled in places like Afghanistan or Pakistan is ridiculous. It isn’t an issue of “honoring” their culture; it is about human rights.”

  99. goblinbee

    silvia sea: “I suppose I always sense ethnocentricity when we react judgmentally to the customs and mores that govern other cultures. This does not mean that I support the Taliban’s treatment of women, or even India’s for that matter.”

    If you’re worried about being ethnocentric, why NOT support the Taliban’s treatment of women? Or India’s? To do less would put you in the position of being “judgmental” by your own definition. Don’t be dissin on their cultuh!

  100. thebewilderness

    Silvia Sea: “all I’m basically trying to say is that when you make yourself look like you don’t understand the culture you’re discussing, you sort of shoot yourself in the foot in trying to make any other point.”

    Since the culture of this blog is feminists in opposition to the patriarchy, you rather prove your own point.

  101. Endora

    And suddenly, I heart The Bewilderness.

  102. silvia sea

    thebewilderness: I doubt that. I’m sure I’m far from the only one here who studies Women & Gender Studies at the Master’s level. I also think that several people have taken my comments way, way too seriously. Heaven forbid that one might shed a slightly different light on somebody’s blog post!

    goblinbee: Obviously, I’m trying to walk the tightrope between ethnocentricity and global human rights. Just because I don’t pick one or the other as an extreme absolute doesn’t mean that I can’t have opinions that fall to both sides.

    Which was exactly why I said in the post you reference, that we walk a thin line when we apply feminist theory to cultures not our own.

    Christ–can’t you folks move on? I’m sorry I don’t agree exactly with you, but life goes on.

  103. silvia sea

    p.s. to the bewilderness: honestly, what do you know about me and my relationship to feminism? i have spent years working in feminist activist communities, and studying women, gender, AND ethnicity and how they intersect.

    i wouldn’t make a comment like the one you refer to above if i weren’t quite educated enough to back myself up.

  104. tinfoil hattie

    silvia sea, not to pile on — but patriarchy is patriarchy, and simply takes different forms in different “cultures.” I don’t see any reason to defend or understand or make allowances for patriarchy in any of its seemingly infinite guises. To criticize patriarchy may be to criticize a “culture,” but I feel no responsibility not to criticize patriarchy lest I hurt some “culture’s” feelings. I’m way too old and fed up and disheartened for that. I have no tolerance for patriarchy.

    Also, I did read your blog — and I still disagree.

    And you don’t have to have a Master’s in women’s studies to despise patriarchy. I’m not questioning your credentials. As far as I’m concerned, all the credentials one needs to criticize an oppressor is being one of the oppressed.

  105. msxochitl

    Sivlia Sea:

    “looking silly & like you don’t know what you’re talking about makes your whole argument crumble.”

    But you yourself have made several comments which indicate that you have very little knowledge of feminism or feminists in India, such as:

    “Arranged marriage just isn’t as terrible as we make it out to be in the west.”
    “I do know what it is like to be a woman in India, because I was one for six weeks.”

    I wonder how many Indian feminists would agree with these conclusions.

    You make statements that imply that violence against women in India ain’t so bad. For example, when a woman on this board tried to explain why dowry deaths are a real problem, you called her anecdote a “sensational wife-burning story”. You claimed that Twisty’s post “makes it sound like the entire country of India is abusing women.” Again, these don’t sound like statements made by someone who understands the extent of male violence against women in India and feminism in India. Did you miss the report that came out a few months ago, about how 2 out of 3 children in India are physically abused? Did you know that 37 percent of married Indian women say that they are regularly abused by husbands?(See http://www.opinionasia.org/ViolenceagainstwomeninIndia)

    Please don’t forget that Indian feminists and Indian women who suffer from male abuse are part of Indian culture too. So when you say that you are trying to respect Indian customs, keep these women in mind. Find out what they think before making judgments about whether claims of violence against women are exaggerated or are receiving unwarranted attention.

  106. silvia sea

    All I meant was that arranged marriage is just about as damaging an institution to women as “love marriage” in the west.

    and you’re right, i shouldn’t have put it the way I did–I DON’T know what it is like to be an Indian woman. I know what it’s like to be a white western woman in India, and I should’ve backed that statement up by saying that most men will harass you like crazy in the street because you are white and white women are viewed as “loose”.

    I am close friends with several Indian women who are not abused by their husbands. I guess my whole point is that I don’t think India is any better or worse than any other country. Women are screwed worldwide.

    I do know the facts and statistics you quote, but thank you for reminding me. I don’t think that I ever said any violence against women “ain’t that bad.” I can see how it would have sounded that way.

    I also know that, though “kitchen fires” still sadly persist, far too much, there are new laws in place to protect women from them. No, the laws are not applied often enough, but the amount of wife-burnings is decreasing. Of course that doesn’t make it okay, or not that bad. I’m not an idiot. But perhaps I was too quick to say that the stories are “sensationalistic.”

    I just happen to love India, and its culture, which yes, is patriarchal like every other fucking culture in the world. Maybe I was too quick to criticize, but I think most of my criticisms were taken out of context. I was personally offended by someone else’s comment that I don’t understand the culture of feminism. I’ve been in it my whole life, I was raised in it; feminism is in my blood. But anyway, yes, I love India. I would go there again. Like visiting anywhere in the world, you’ll find it sucks to be a woman there.

    But it’s hard to get past the individuals and families that I know, and what I do know about the arranged marriage system, and we’re ignoring the fact that it produces many marriages that work. Obviously it isn’t perfect, but I don’t think any marriage system is perfect.

    I don’t think I ever said anywhere that claims of violence against women are receiving unwarranted attention, but I’m sorry it sounded that way.

  107. Sean

    From the Sharma article, ooooo, I loved this one:

    “But to beat men at this dowry game, girls in India should remember that they have numbers on their side. There are more boys in this country than girls. So it is boys who should be running after girls if they want to get married, it is they who should in fact pay a price. Girls should have the confidence to play hard to get, to wait until they find a mate who matches their demands rather than giving in so easily. It is a combination of the determination of girls, supportive parents and a change in our perverted culture that will end this “evil”, which is what it is.”

    Yup, yup, power is not natural at all (within a patriarchy), it’s institutional, and systematically applied through a gendered culture of violence (ie., through both actual violence and fear of violence in which male=aggressor, female=victim). Thanks to supply and demand laws of economics (and of course marriage is always an inherently economic system), the “natural” power will actually fall to women, at least within this context. So without violence, the marriage system might end up (gasp!) not doing as much harm to women as it currently does. And because population and demographic fluctuations would keep on occurring, maybe everyone would eventually get tired of demanding this in one year, and then having to play the opposite role the next, and everyone would just stop all the demanding and forget about marriage. Ah! That would be nice.

    Oh, and to all the MRA’s who say, “Women are already liberated because all of the laws have changed,” even if all the laws had changed (which they haven’t) they should still heed this statement: “A law can only help to some extent. It cannot change mindsets as has already been demonstrated.”

  108. maribelle

    hi, silvia sea–

    I did go to your website and found it interesting. I started to post a comment, all I had to say was: “thought-provoking perspective on arranged marriages” so I deleted it. I try not to post unless I have something to add. But I did read and absorb what you said.

    I guess my whole point is that I don’t think India is any better or worse than any other country. Women are screwed worldwide.

    Yes, in many cultures, in many ways. That’s why the more we can expose and deconstruct the different ways patriarchy weaves itself through cultures, the more we can understand how to mitigate its effects. Too often, patriarchy is woven so tightly into the fabric of a culture that to deconstruct it makes people fear the whole cloth may unravel if patriarchy is detached from it. (And so it might–there’s the scary reality at the heart of all seismic changes–we don’t really know what’s happens next–we just hope to hell its better.)

    I just happen to love India, and its culture, which yes, is patriarchal like every other fucking culture in the world.

    Ah–thank you for saying this–that explains it–love. Love is a wonderful thing. It is also blind.

    We all have our earthly institutions that reek of patriarchy that we admire (mine is dead white male English writers). And I can argue all I want about how they are misunderstood, the fact is that they were conceived, created and sprung fully formed from the head of Patriarchy, and part of dismantling it is looking closely at how patriarchy permeates cultures; via traditions, literature, national identity, etc.

    To do otherwise, one finds oneself an apologist for patriarchy, like it or not, and announcing brightly that “the amount of wife-burning is decreasing” as though that were some monumental sign of progress, or evidence that we should not criticize India’s sacrosanct culture.

    The question (which should be shouted from every rooftop) is:

    How can there still be “wife-burnings” (Jesus Mary and Joseph what a term!) in the 21st century?

    And how can anyone who claims feminist credentials claim to be advancing feminist interests when she argues on a radical feminist blog that cultural sensitivity requires we not make judgements on a culture we “don’t understand” because we decry their barbarous inconsistencies? (Even as she acknowledges that “the laws [on wife-burning] aren’t applied often enough”–the mind reels.)

    You must have noticed that taking on barbarous inconsistencies is Twisty’s stock in trade here; and she does it regardless of nation, culture, creed, sexual orientation or religion. She’s an equal opportunity offender.

    Please reread your words:

    I also know that, though “kitchen fires” still sadly persist, far too much, there are new laws in place to protect women from them. No, the laws are not applied often enough, but the amount of wife-burnings is decreasing.

    Please ask yourself: whose interests are being advanced by these statements–the interests of women and children or the interests of patriarchy?

    This is how patriarchy perpetuates itself, how it forms allies with even those who purport to subvert it; by getting its apologists to negate or mitigate its crimes for them, all in the name of “love.”

  109. scout

    Patriarchy is so vast, it’s mind boggling. Taking up the challenge to understand/blame it properly, we look beyond the U.S to the rest of the world and find, to our horror, that patriarchy dominates human institutions worldwide. Once it’s recognized, it becomes the elephant in every room; it’s always based on the philosophy of Might Makes Right. The problem with patriarchy is, it’s fear-driven, it doesn’t work (even from a pragmatic point of view, it’s a big, black, sucking hole on the bottom line), and it’s killing us. Yup, it’s evil.

    The patriarchy would have us expand the definition of ‘civilizztion’ to include a whole range of atrocious behavior, from the abuse of defenseless or weaker beings to the deployment of mass weaponry. I think we’re not buying it. I think, when we blame the patriarchy, we’re simply choosing civilization over barbarism.

  110. Suezboo

    Someone mentioned an article in Psychology Today on evo-psycho and how men are naturally polygamous etc etc. Usual patriarchal BS. For a good takedown of the article, may I recommend Echidne of the Snakes blog.A fine writer, on the side of the Good.

    Secondly, re this men-must-reproduce-or-die meme, our beloved (sarcasm) VP Jacob Zuma is expecting “his” 18th child by his 9th wife.He is the frontrunner to be our next President. Our laws are fabulous, now , if only our people followed them. He was cleared on a rape charge earlier this year. The woman has had to flee the country.

  111. thebewilderness

    Silvia Sea: p.s. to the bewilderness: honestly, what do you know about me and my relationship to feminism?

    Just exactly as much as you know about anyone here, I would guess.

  112. Crys T

    Can I just jump in here to point out that “arranged marriage” and “forced marriage” are NOT synonymous?

    Not that I agree with either, or in fact the concept of marriage at all. It’s just that being forced to marry against your will is vastly different than being able to say yes or no to a potential mate that your parents choose for you.

    (And yes, the latter alternative freaks me right out, too–but not nearly as much as the former.)

  113. msxochitl

    Actually, Crsy T, I think the woman who posted here under the name Kali has provided the most realistic description of arranged marriage in South Asia. In actual practice, it can range from the form that you describe to forced marriage.

  114. Zora

    Crys T,

    I must say, that’s a damn fine point.

    Not that you would catch me messing around with that marriage crap anyway, but the difference between having your parents help you and having them force you is huge.

  115. Iris

    Similar flare ups over whether we can offend “culture” while blaming occur over genital mutilation (or ‘genital cutting’, to non-culture offenders) or veiling. There is a justified third-world rage with white, western, amerikkkan women with feminist criticisms of other cultures because of their collusion in capitalist imperialism (the ulitimate patriarchal expression!). I feel pretty strongly that it’s important to acknowledge one’s privilege up front (not the in-vogue, self-castigating America hating that many liberals will give a tacit nod to, but sincere deep analysis in the spirit of working together toward a real Revolution), as I’m positive many women in this room are cool with, and along with many others who have proven they are not cool with privilege-acknowledgement since at least the marriage/house-maid threads a while back. This does not de-legitimize international criticisms of tha P, we all face it, we all feel it, many are murdered by it. I feel there is an intense fear that, as a poster above explained, the entire culture will unravel without patriarchy. Alas (or not), this is true–the fabric of all cultures is woven on the warp threads of patriarchal domination and oppressive gender relations. This in turn feeds everything–art, economics, politics, racism, environmental degradation, animal oppression (when cows are artificially inseminated to produce our milk, the farmers call their holding corrals ‘rape racks’), etc. etc, ad nauseum. As to ‘genital cutting’, well–I will say that American/Western women mutilate *themselves*, as Twisty has clarified, against their will. Because patriarchy gives us that most delightful of catch-22′s, the ‘choice’ to mutilate one’s spirit and body, or die.

  116. Iris

    Maribelle, excellent post. Silvia Sea: Since when do radical feminists
    cite Teh Law as a marker of true progress for women? This is dead giveaway of a liberal. In other words, someone privileged enough to take it slow, work within the system, apologize for marriage (arranged marriages are NOT what you THINK they are!) and shun discussing otherwise more urgent techniques like, oh…civil insurrection.

  117. Iris

    Crys T, you’re right, they are different.

  118. Iris

    To respond to part of Maribelle’s post: Malcolm X had an analogy about not taking baby steps, about how they can actually be counterproductive– if not, at times, totally absurd. He was talking to an audience about moving forward, having a revolution. Not jumping on board with a revolution because you aren’t totally sure what will happen after word is like a slave escaping the plantation. The plantation is all the slave knows. When the leader of a group of slaves are escaping in the night, they come to the edge of a river marking the border of the Master’s land. Several of the group stop and say “Wait, wait; what’s on the other side of the river?” A woman carrying a child at the front says: “Who the fuck cares? Anything’s better than this!”

    It is true and untrue. We should all be here discussing what needs to happen, our experiences, what the world should be. This blog and its veteran commenters are so great!

  119. Iris

    whoooops (last post, sorry for the randomness) to clarify my first post: When I say Western women mutilating themselves, I refer to elective surgery, anorexia/etc, high heels, poison ‘beauty’ products, etc. You cannot even get a fucking mastectomy in this country without doctors offering to ‘recontruct’ not just the body part you lost, but to pornulate the remaining healthy one to match it!

  120. Cathy

    Of course “Goddesses” can’t get attention by torching themselves. In India and neighboring countries, it is still very common for pissed off husbands and in-laws to do the torching themselves, and calling it a “kitchen accident.”

    If the pyros admit to doing it on purpose, no one raises an eyebrow because they have a perfectly legitimate excuse: whether the Goddess provided insufficient dowry, or failed to produce a male, killing a baby-making vessel is OK, even if the dickhead is just bored and wants fresh meat.

    The days of Henry VIII and Scheherezade are still here. These women have little choice but to be very entertaining for their husbands.

    I wish we could just sterilize the whole planet, since so many women have no choice about whether to reproduce.

  121. msxochitl

    Silvia Sea: “All I meant was that arranged marriage is just about as damaging an institution to women as “love marriage” in the west.”

    Yes, I remember you said that 98 percent of arranged marriages in India do not involve force or coersion. Can you tell me how you arrived at that statistic? I haven’t heard that one before.

    Silvia Sea: “I am close friends with several Indian women who are not abused by their husbands.”

    And because of this you conclude that violence against women must not be any worse in India than in the US? I still don’t understand why, if you love Indian people so much, you continue to trivialize violence against Indian women? I don’t understand how, if you are as knowledgeable about violence against women in India as you say you are, you can conclude that it’s just as bad for women in India as in the US. I’m not how you reached that conclusion, but you might want to keep in mind the following:

    “[I}n 2005, more than 19 women [in India] were killed for dowry every day . . .”

    “A recent United Nation Population Fund report had revealed that around two-thirds of married women in India were victims of domestic violence.”

    “India had the highest rate of violence during pregnancy.”

    “According to another study conducted in 2002, 45% Indian women are slapped, kicked or beaten by their husbands . . . 74.8% [of abused women] attempted to commit suicide.”

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1746656.cms

  122. ABK

    To add to the points about “arranged” marriages, I doubt that having a choice about one’s mate makes it any better for a lot of women. To me, it seems like its a case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

    I’ve lived with and been friends of several women who tried the whole “introduced by our respective parents” thing. They got to meet enough number of men who were miserable excuses for human beings. A friend of mine, an intelligent smart well educated woman had to get over the fear that she was being rejected by some of the men and their families because she was not “pretty enough”. Yes, she had the “choice” to reject men who were nincompoops, but I knew what a struggle it was for her to believe in herself, when even some of her so called friends started telling her that she wasn’t able to find a man because she was being too picky!! And I know several women who have just “settled” for some guy because they didn’t think they deserved any better.

    Yes, the present form of arranged marriage may seem better, but women are having to deal with the same idiots with the same stereotypical notions about how a “good wife” should be.

  123. MzNicky

    Jeezus fucking Christ.

    Where is TWISTY?

  124. thebewilderness

    MzNicky, AMEN, or whatever confirmation of agreement on truth you ascribe to.

  125. MzNicky

    “Amen” works. Whatever!

    Yo, TWISTY! Get back to where you once belonged!

  126. badkitty

    I was just going to ask that – Twisty, WHERE ARE YOU?

  127. SusanM

    MzNicky:

    Jeezus fucking Christ.

    Where is TWISTY?

    I think maybe she took a little trip to Bangladesh, and is fomenting the revolution:

    Correspondents say that the stand of the schoolgirls has created a stir in the town.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6897188.stm

  128. tinfoil hattie

    Please be ok, Twisty.

  129. thebewilderness

    It took me a while to figure out why I found Silvia Seas comments so offensive. Condescension and dismissal, as well as accusations of being ethnocentric are tools of the patriarchy, regardless of who uses them. That part was annoying, but common.
    When myth and reality collide, the demand that one continue to respect the myth, in spite of the reality is outrageous.
    Men rape women.
    Why do you hate sex.

    Patriarchy oppresses women.
    Why do you hate men.

    Women are being murdered in _________ country.
    You don’t understand/respect _______ culture.

    Perhaps it is because I am so old that I can remember a time when this was not the knee jerk response to every mention of a tragic situation. Then again, I might be kidding myself. It may be that people have always dismissed a real concern by changing the subject to a criticism of the person raising the concern. Maybe I just notice it more.

  130. Iris

    Twisty has seemed rather absent. I hope everything is ok and that she’s well!

  131. Daisy

    Yes, come back Twisty and bring your bugs with you! Hope all is well.

  132. stekatz

    I’m hoping that she’s just so busy keeping track of contractors and photographing interesting bugs at the Faster Ranchero that she’s just not had the time.

    But the young onions do worry.

  133. stekatz

    Oh, and bewilderness – spot on.

  134. Rana

    Maybe Twisty’s still out at the ranch?

    I’m not going to get into the culture debate here, because it seems like it’s being handled already.

    I just wanted to comment on the whole “women are goddesses” thing: it seems to me that the problem with it is that it’s the inversion of the women are whores/bitches/sluts… etc. construction. What the two things have in common is this: in both the positive version and in the negative version, women are seen as something other than human.

    Treating women as if they are not human beings, and getting both men and women to believe that they are not, is, in my opinion, one of the core strategies of the patriarchy.

  135. tinfoil hattie

    “Women are goddesses” also precludes any woman doing anything that is not goddess-like, i.e., perfect. No looking frumpy. No yelling at kids. No having an opinion. No yelling at assholes on the street. No expressing anger (except for Kali, but I don’t think she’s who the p. has in mind when they compare us to “goddesses”). No enjoying sex. No being gay! No stepping into our own power. No nuthin’, except what the p. imagines a goddess should be, and that is usually akin to sainthood.

  136. sadhaka

    Dear All,

    This has been quite a thought-provoking thread, with so much to contemplate and inspire towards better change and continued awareness, prevention, and determination- indeed!

    Here is some alternating opinions/voices, support and views, (from the SAVE INDIAN SOCIETY FOUNDATION); even someone stating that Ms Chauhan’s husband, Pratap is alleging his wife as “an alcoholic” who “indulged in flesh trade”… how convenient! http://mynation.wordpress.com (recent comments on right).

    The beat goes on….

  137. Blandina

    Rana, yes!

    I would add that there is a third non-human construct for women, that of the powerful ( ie. not passive), treacherous, fearsome, man-eating (I loves me some dufus on toast) witch/beast. These non-human, supernatural beings are to be respected and then killed.

    I think you’re right that it is central to the workings of the patriarchy that both men and women are to believe that women are not human. If we cannot meet the standards of a goddess (ha), we are de facto a subhuman commodity and justifiably treated as such. If we are not passive, we are evil witches with supernatural powers that must be obliterated. In no case are we human.

  138. Ron Sullivan

    That “goddesses” thing and what it really means, part 13.5: Recently I had occasion to look up refs to Mount Athos, the Greek peninsula pocked with ancient monasteries that are ~so holy~ that they don’t allow female, well, not only women (arguably humans, ya know)but most livestock. The legend behind this is that the Virgin Mary (arguably, and it has been, the Theotokos) was traveling in a boat with some leftover Apostle and they landed on the peninsula and she said she wanted it for her very own garden. Therefore no other women (or other female livestock) are allowed on it ever ever, just men.

    Which makes perfect sense, you know, in Holy World.

  139. Iris

    You know, many ancient societies worshipped the water buffalo (or other domensticated animals) as a deity, or being a deity who presided over beasts of burden. But guess what? They’re slaves!

  140. Ruth

    “some leftover Apostle”

    What a wonderful phrase. I’m assuming a leftover apostle would be one without a gospel? I can’t wait to use this. Thanks

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