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Jan 27 2009

And now the good news

Feminism, I am often told, is not some internet spinster aunt tapping away at a keyboard in rural Texas. It is a gang of vigilantes in poverty-ridden northern India, women who wear pink saris and kick actual ass. With sticks.

I allude to the Gulabi Gang, a marauding justice league that uses shame and the threat of violence to combat misogyny in their hellish corner of the world.

Two years after they gave themselves a name and an attire, the women in pink have thrashed men who have abandoned or beaten their wives and unearthed corruption in the distribution of grain to the poor.

They have also stormed a police station and attacked a policeman after they took in an untouchable man and refused to register a case.

Unfortunately, this BBC report describes the leader of the Gulabi (pink) Gang as “feisty.” At least it refrained from “plucky.” It also makes the point, approvingly, that the group is “not exactly a gang of male-bashing feminists” since “they claim they have returned 11 girls who were thrown out of their homes to their spouses because “women need men to live with”.

Which is undoubtedly true in a society where men have all the cash and all the power, and where women are literally chattel, married off as children in exchange for money, abused, and living in abject poverty. It is not un-feminist to survive any way you can under intolerable circumstances, you dumb BBC writer.

Before you complain that the Gulabi Gang is obviously just another arm of some Western pinkinfantile marketing scheme: they wear pink because all the other colors were already taken by political parties with which they have no desire to align themselves. They are totally non-partisan.

Why not take the support offered by political groups?

Because politicians always want kickbacks, duh.

[thanks, Letitia]

55 comments

1 ping

  1. Kerry

    I LOVE those pink-saried a$$ kickers!!

  2. ron

    This is so encouraging, thank you. I was getting really depressed after the ‘Monstrous Regime’ video..So nice to see the Monstrous Regime in action! ¡viva!

  3. PhysioProf

    Unfortunately, this BBC report describes the leader of the Gulabi (pink) Gang as “feisty.” At least it refrained from “plucky.”

    Most importantly, is she “sassy”?

  4. Ala

    Thank you, TF and Letitia. This has made my day. To read how the thugs scatter in terror in the face of this awesome, righteous force is inspiring.

  5. Agnieszka

    I’ve been told by people who’ve spent time in India that the color pink has a different meaning there than it does in the US. Supposedly it’s not coded as explicitly girly but something else, though I’m afraid I don’t remember what that something else is.

  6. virago

    This reminds me of an African village that I read about a few years ago. It’s a woman only African village that was originally started as a haven for abused woman and girls. No men were allowed to live in the village, and the village became very successful econimically despite attempts by men to ruin what independance these women had. It’s pretty interesting.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/08/AR2005070801775.html

  7. Lesley

    hi, as far as i am aware the colour pink in India (from a friend that travelled there) has no particular gendered connotations…it’s seen as an everyday colour, my friend compared it to navy blue for some reason. i guess cos she always thinks of navy blue as a boring, ubiquitous colour that’s a ‘safe’ choice…without wanting to go into why blue is thought of safe, and pink as dangerous in our culture.

  8. LCforevah

    Like the generational change we are seeing regarding attitudes regarding LGBT and this recent election, much of this will be carried further by the girls following this woman and the Kenyan, Lolosoli, in virago’s link.

    My sister used to sell a very well-known toy to Hallmark, Carlton Cards, etc. Here where we live a lot of small business owners are Indian, and she would make her presentation to the ostensible owner, usually a patriarch of a certain age. The older Indians would be so put off by my sister’s confidence and strong personality, that they would call her company demanding that she be fired, not understanding that her superiors considered what she was doing part of a job well done.

    The sons of these patriarchs would laugh at their fathers behavior. My sister would then make the sale with the sons.

    Things do change sometimes, and faster than we think. Of course, we need more Indian women as independent business owners-that’ll be something else to work on.

  9. Cranky Old Coot

    Twisty,

    Ever since I got this in my email a few days ago, I’ve been wondering if anyone ever brought it to your attention for you to comment upon. Seems like they scored the trifecta with three of the major Muslim countries.

    I love the idea, but worry about their using verbiage around “proving” “self-defense” to still hammer women who try it.

    10/29/2008 14:13
    SAUDIA ARABIA
    Muslim wives can use karate against violent husbands
    Fatwa asserts a woman’s right to self-defence. Issued in Turkey it has been approved by Egyptian religious scholars as well as a prominent Saudi religious figure. It has however raised concerns among conservatives that it might “stir up rebellion” within families.

    Riyadh (AsiaNews) – Women can use karate, judo and taekwondo in self-defence against violent husbands, this according to a fatwa that conservatives fear might “stir up rebellion” within families.
    Originally issued in Turkey the fatwa was backed by Islamic scholars in Egypt and now has the seal of approval of Sheikh Mohsen al Obeikan, an adviser to the Saudi Ministry of Justice and a member of the Saudi Shura Council.

    Contacted by Asharq Al-Awsat, Al Obeikan explained however that women can only hit their husbands in self-defence.

    In his opinion the principle of self-defence is rooted in the Sharia, the Qur’an and the Hadith. The Qur’an in fact says that the “recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree)” and “. . . whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you”.

    The original fatwa was issued by a well-known Turkish religious scholar, Fethullah Gulen, who ruled that it is within a woman’s right to defend herself by countering violence with violence, and that women should learn martial arts to protect themselves against their husbands.

    http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=13608&size=A

  10. Hollywood Marie

    I read about these women in Bitch magazine. I thought they were awesome then, but it’s even more phenomenal to see them live.

  11. Twisty

    Virago, here, not surprisingly, is what happened when Bitch PhD got pissed about the male incursions into the women’s village.

  12. Catherine Martell

    Jai Gulabi behene!

    Sampat Pal ji is an inspiration. She is so conscious of the enormity of her task. Yes, more Indian women need to be independent business owners, but what she says is that it’s also vital to value and guarantee girls’ education; to ensure equal access to healthcare and food, especially during lean times; to break through the layers of bureaucracy and caste that keep Indian society stifled from growth and change; and to build a decent infrastructure to allow development.

    There’s so much to do, and – although I don’t think this was anyone’s specific implication here – even the most brilliant piece of grassroots social enterprise isn’t capable of achieving it without an energetic government-sponsored effort to move things forward. But the Indian governments (national and state) are in a disgraceful mess, dominated by corrupt private interests. Meaning that for the moment there are only a handful of success stories like the Gulabi Gang’s, while a quarter of a billion Indian women continue to live in poverty without hope.

    This story is great, but it’s also a drop in the ocean – and a drop in the ocean in the UP, a state with a strong history of scheduled caste and dalit politics. The situation is even worse in some other parts of the country.

    I’m sorry to dampen the good news. The bigger picture is still obscenely awful, and it’s too easy to imagine that the Gulabi Gang is winning. I wish it was.

  13. sonia

    I read about these women in Cosmo.

    yeah, that’s right.

    but seriously-it made me want to write a letter….

    to Cosmo.

    it’s very inspiring because I don’t think these women are being accused of being “westernized” or whatever. they are doing what they’re doing somewhat in the bounds of their society, and just asserting women’s primacy and, yes, their right to defend themselves as a group. cool!

  14. Twisty

    As always, your perspective is appreciated, Catherine. I don’t think any of us is naive enough to believe that the Gulabi Gang is anything but an excellent anomaly, but this blog is such a dang ole downer I’ll take whatever good news I can find. Do you know, until today I didn’t even have a category for women’s success stories?

    I wish American women would go on more stick-wielding rampages-for-justice. I’d even wear pink to that shindig.

  15. Veganrampage

    More power to the Gulabi Gang but shit on a stick, the War on Women seems endless. What can we do?

    Micro-lending. By women for women. I am looking into it, and want to do it directly to make sure a woman is the recipient. Loans as small as $100, even less can change an impoverished woman’s life. If anyone knows of a good micro-lending organization, I’m all ears. Even this seems piddly, but it’s a start.

  16. thebewilderness

    I lend through Kiva. A friend of mine does “compassionate travel”. We find out what is needful at village schools and send an extra suitcase with them when they vacation in the area. Not much, I know, but a pencil is a very important tool.
    I also carry a stick.

  17. denelian

    http://www.mercycorps.org/
    they have a SPECIFIC package to give aid to women who are opening small businesses. you can buy a package – to dig a villiage well, or help pay for medical for a villiage, and of course to help a woman open a business. i love this orginization, and i have been asking everyone who buys gifts for me to do this instead (and some have actually done it!)

    Twisty;
    this made me cry. it’s a wonderful, inspiring story. no, of course she can’t do it alone, and her gang can’t do it without government support. but the largest avalanche is started by a pebble, you know? i seriously just spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how i could travel to India and throw myself at her feet, offering to help in whatever way i can. i can’t (YET!) afford to go to india. do you know if she accepts donations of any sort, or anything like that? i imagine not, but maybe the media company that put together that segment is doing something? i can find an extra $20, even if i can’t find the money to go to India, you know? she knows MUCH better than i what is needed in her area.

  18. Veganrampage

    Thanks Denelian. That sounds perfect.
    And Twisty, did you say rampage? I am all for stick wielding rampages, rampages for women of any sort. Whoever keeps telling you what you do isn’t feminism, send me their email addresses and I’ll tell them to shut their pie holes. Da nerve.

  19. jael

    thebewilderness: if you send gifts for the children, as opposed to purely functional items, can i strongly, strongly, strongly recommend those little soft toys (not the plastic ones) you get with children’s meals at a fast food restaurants. They’re tiny; hugable; you can pack alot into a case without too much weight and incredibly popular. how to say – give a reason to smile. n particular, they’re good for children’s homes/orphanages.

    rather than darkening the steps of the establishments that purvey these items – or worse, having to eat their food – they seem to be an incredibly popular item to leave in charity stores: you can sometimes find big baskets, pick up 100 or so for $20.

  20. Caro

    WOW WEE!!! Thank you Virago for that amazing link to the African woman who is saving other women’s lives!!!

    Her stance of non-violence and just talking calmly to men who are throwing stones in her face, is totally inspiring. Reminds me actually, of Ghandi’s attitude when he was trying to usurp British rule. But I’ll be you that this will remain only a small story….she certainly will never achieve the same status as Ghandi (rightly) did – because she is helping women.

  21. Caro

    PS: Virago – can I please have your permission to post this link on another wonderful patriarchy-blaming site called The F Word? You may have heard of it. It’s a British feminist website. They would love it.

  22. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    If traveling in packs and brandishing sticks is what it takes to make The Man realize that women should be treated like human beings, I say we all ought to take up cudgels and band together. As long as our uniform is comfy and allows freedom of movement, I don’t particularly care what color or style is chosen.

  23. virago

    Twisty, thanks for the link to the post on Bitch Phd. I think swearing off men is a valid choice for any woman who is sick of their behavior. I haven’t reached that stage yet myself, but somedays, I’m awful close to wanting to swear off men.

    Caro, your right, this woman should have the same status as Ghandhi, but probably never will. As for permission to post the link, I’m not really one to give permission because I just pulled that link off a Washington Post website, and I didn’t bother asking anyone’s permission (oops! Was I suppose to? LOL). Anyway, the reason I posted the link is so that anyone who was interested could read it and pass it on to anyone they want to. So yeah, I would like to check out this blog The F-Word and see this link there.

  24. Caro

    Virago – thank you very much! Am really not sure if you are meant to ask permission – never understood that one myself, actually but thanks for your’s! Will get it posted on The F Word. It’s a great site – you should check it out!

    Also agree with your’s and Twisty’s comments on swearing off men!! Am intelligent and attractive so I meet many men….but as soon as the inevitable male priveledge begins, I am off. It’s kind of sad really – because I have had to accept that I may be alone for the rest of my life. Oh dear – sounds depressing! But I just WISH I could meet one who does not do that patronizing, controlling crap on me every time!!

  25. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Not dealing with men is a sensible choice in a patriarchal society; I just don’t understand how people don’t GET this. I get Intolerant and Uppity and swear off men for two weeks every month, confusing all but the most stalwart and long-suffering men around me. I blame PMDD for my schizophrenic politics. I’m hoping menopause will solve my problem: Once the ovaries shut down I might just join that women’s collective and give up men for good.

  26. Caro

    “Not dealing with men is a sensible choice in a patriarchal society; I just don’t understand how people don’t GET this.”

    Absolutely!! I find it absolutely ridiculous that women who have been raped. beaten or somehow controlled by men are STILL seen as “wanting a man” Why?? “Well- they are not al like that”, I am told. Really? I am 37 now and have still not found one who treats me as a full human!!!!

    I also say that “Well – I love my dog, but I wouldn’t let it bite me”. That analogy is true. The definition of madness is to continually perform the same reaction and expect different results. So that makes me (and many other women) mad!! I have tried out man, after man, after man – always with the same controlling behaviours displayed.

    Well – I am breaking that cycle and saying no.

  27. Caro

    oops! that sentence was meant to read: “same TASK and expect different results”

  28. virago

    I really like Bitch Phd.’s comment to a couple of dudes who were insulted because she said women should have the right to swear off men. From Bitch Phd’s blog:

    Dave and Leisure Guy,

    With all due respect, the fact that your primary response to this situation is to worry that you’re somehow being insulted does, I’m sorry, reveal the same kind of self-centered world view demonstrated by the men who feel threatened by the women setting up on their own.

    And yes, broadly speaking, men as a group do tend to react that way to women whenever women try to do something for themselves. Just look around at how often men bitch about how “feminists” must “hate men”–because, after all, any time you try to advance women’s position, you must therefore be doing so out of animosity towards men. It’s EXACTLY the same attitude.

    Those women aren’t harming the men who live nearby; it is the choice of the men to feel threatened by the women’s village, and that isn’t the women’s problem (or shouldn’t be). And you are not harmed by my pointing out that men tend to feel threatened by women’s independence; if you choose to think that I meant you personally, that isn’t my problem, and shouldn’t be.
    bitchphd | Homepage | 07.19.05 – 12:40 pm | #

    ——————————————————————————–
    Bitch Phd. nailed it right on the head!

  29. the Idol of Byzantium

    These women are indescribably awesome. I can only hope that in their position I’d have the guts and spirit to do the same thing.

  30. Twisty

    Maybe it’s the inherent Power of Pink. Maybe we should try to reappropriate it from the infantilizers and breast cancer shills.

  31. PhysioProf

    Well, there were those marauding gangs of pink pistol packing lesbians that Bill Fuckface O’Reilly was popping wood about last year. They didn’t really exist, but maybe they should. Can I be the gun moll?

  32. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Twisty: It’s the inherent power of HOT pink!

  33. Catherine Martell

    Bah. I bring too much the earnest. Sign me up for a pink sari and a big thumpy stick.

  34. thebewilderness

    Thanks, jael, I never thought of that. Being of the artsy fartsy persuasion I am a sender of pencils, crayons, books, that sort of thing. Next week a friend is going to Belize with seven wall mount pencil sharpeners. One for each classroom. I am absurdly tickled about it.

  35. Alderson Warm-Fork

    “Her stance of non-violence and just talking calmly to men who are throwing stones in her face, is totally inspiring. Reminds me actually, of Ghandi’s attitude when he was trying to usurp British rule. But I’ll be you that this will remain only a small story….she certainly will never achieve the same status as Ghandi (rightly) did – because she is helping women.”

    The story linked to doesn’t seem to say anything about a stance of non-violence, just a tactic – i.e. she doesn’t get into a fight because in that situation she would lose and it would be a bad idea.

    The Gulabi Gang, on the other hand, are clearly not non-violent, and that seems like a good thing to me. I think it would be a big mistake to expect or support a stance of absolute non-violence – in fighting oppression, the oppressed need to use every weapon at their disposal. I doubt anyone here expects that men will refrain from violence when threatened.

  36. jael

    do not let me distract you from pencils, crayons, books and that sort of thing; good stuff all round – it’s one of those pieces of useful, useful information that got picked up somewhere along the line, i want to share it often as i can, relevant/useful or not :) those pencil sharpeners sound great. you do good, tbw.

  37. AdmirerofEmily

    Caro – “Am intelligent and attractive so I meet many men”???

    If you were dumb and ugly, like one of those FEMINISTS chasing ex-Presidents with placards, you wouldn’t meet so many men?

  38. Rolan le Gargéac

    Caro

    “Well – I love my dog, but I wouldn’t let it bite me”

    Rem acu testigi ! I love that ! Here in France I am often horrified by the prevalence of domestic violence. It’s just, I can’t say extraordinary because it certainly bloody isn’t. It’s enraging. And should be portayed as the national disgrace it is.

    P.S. P’raps you should change your moniker to Cara, love ?

  39. Caro

    “If you were dumb and ugly, like one of those FEMINISTS chasing ex-Presidents with placards, you wouldn’t meet so many men?”

    AdmirerofEmily – not really sure about your point there. If I want to say I am intelligent and attractive – I will. And how exactly does that assume I am calling other feminists dumb and ugly?? I am a feminist so really, stop making so many assumptions about other women.

    “The Gulabi Gang, on the other hand, are clearly not non-violent, and that seems like a good thing to me. I think it would be a big mistake to expect or support a stance of absolute non-violence – in fighting oppression, the oppressed need to use every weapon at their disposal. I doubt anyone here expects that men will refrain from violence when threatened.”

    Totally agree: Alderson Warm-Fork. I was just commenting on how much I admire her stance. i have known to fight back if men are harrasing me – and I would absolutely encourage other women to do the same – either politically, in groups or individually.

  40. thebewilderness

    Hi Caro.
    I think it was meant as a joke in reference to the latest post that has Bush 41 making a not joke.

  41. Orange

    Holy cow, that 2005 post about Bitch PhD’s post? You sure had a lot of male commenters here back in the day. I do love my husband and son, but the mostly-just-us-women crowd here rocks.

    New slogan: We have vaginas, we wear pink, and we are here to kick some serious ass.

  42. Lara

    Why the hell are women not doing this vigilante shit here in the U.S. of A?? We really need it here. Now. Pronto.
    Oh, ffs, I hate how the news media totally belittles and patronizes such brave women as these. “…feisty,” pfsh.
    The men in India need to start learning from Western men: make everything appear fine and dandy for women, and convince said women that they really enjoy their oppression, and are empowerfulmentalized by it!! It’s uncanny how much it’s worked here, not sure it would work there too well??

  43. Hedgepig

    “Holy cow, that 2005 post about Bitch PhD’s post? You sure had a lot of male commenters here back in the day.”

    Orange, it WAS an interesting thread wasn’t it? And the demographics did seem a bit different. It’s funny to think LeisureGuy would be pushing 70 now. I wonder if he’s still grappling with those concepts or if he’s given up in despair. And the burning question of course is: DID Bitch PhD and Sarah in Chicago ever get together for tacos??

  44. VibratingLiz

    If I recall, most of those male commenters on that post weren’t longtime regulars here (except Mandos of course), they were just drive-bys who’d followed the link over from Bitch PhD looking for a new audience at which to bloviate.

  45. Caro

    “I think it was meant as a joke in reference to the latest post that has Bush 41 making a not joke.”

    Thanks for that: thebewilderness!

    AdmirerofEmily: if it was meant as a joke – sorry i didn’t get it and my apologies. If not, I stand by my comments.

    Take care all.

  46. Caro

    Oh – and thanks Rolan le Gargéac for the heads-up on my comments! By the way – you say you are in France.

    I am in the UK (British-born). I have always wondered how many countries ‘I Balme The Patriarchy’ is read in.

    Obviously, Twisty is american – but is everyone on here apart from myself and Rolan?

    Just though might be nice to find out.

  47. thebewilderness

    I might be fun to do the map widget thingamy again. Although it is my understanding that 99.9% of the pins would be in Oz.

    http://www.clustrmaps.com/

  48. Caro

    “I might be fun to do the map widget thingamy again. Although it is my understanding that 99.9% of the pins would be in Oz.”

    Wee bit confused! what is this? A kind of map of where site-users can register? Sorry – am not too internet-savvy!!

  49. Chai Latte

    Wow.

    This women are amazing! Do they take foreign recruits? I love pink, and I’m totally willing to beat some ass in the name of women’s rights!

    Hmm. Anyone wanna start an American faction?

  50. ellecain

    Heh, it’s great to be able to come here and see this happening in my country, even if it’s just a drop in the ocean.

    @Lara: ever since Maxim and Vogue started their Indian editions, the Friends watching upper middle class have absorbed the “empowerfulization” message very well. Educated PhD holding women insist that it’s their choice to give up their career, stay at home to have children, wax their legs, pluck their eyebrows etc. This is also causing the color pink to be viewed as girly by all the affluent tots.

    The tragedy of all this is that the poor, uneducated women in our country are held down by illiteracy and terrible financial conditions but the ones who are lucky enough to be educated and fairly independant are fed this “choice” bullshit and diverted from the actual gains thereof. There’s no winning. IBTP

  51. Martine Votvik

    Kinda makes me think back at Phoolan Devi, she came from that region too didn’t she. It would be awsome if they were somehow related, but I guess the “Devi’s” are kinda like the “smiths” of India :)

  52. lauredhel

    denelian: coming in late, sorry, but is Mercy Corps secular or a godbag organisation? They have “We believe in the intrinsic value and dignity of human life.” on their About page, which is typically boilerplate code for “We think women should be reproductive slaves”.

  53. virago

    “Obviously, Twisty is american – but is everyone on here apart from myself and Rolan?

    Just though might be nice to find out.”

    Caro, I’m an American. Just answering your question.

  54. Daisy P

    Now, put that principle on a world-wide scale, and we could just have a real movement with teeth.

    I noted, being the BBC, the women were probably lablelled “ladies” (BBC don’t do the word “women” you see-conjurs up a picture too much conveying strength..the BBC is a notoriously sexist org…don’t get me started..watch the breakfast news one day….make sure you have the anti-emetics too…you have to catch the subtlety, after all, all really good misogyny and pat-propping is done subtly)…I digress, but managed to remember to close parentheses. ahem.

    I would like to add my own BBC-type words to the report…”pink-clad, and the sari’s transparent in provocative places, they made quite a picture! These ladies are not only feisty, they’re downright hormonal and bitchy…it was reported that a cat-fight broke out between 2 of the feisty, go-getting ladies, about where a place-matt should go for one of her pretty flower vases…pink silk was flying everywhere, at one point, and the men seemed happy that the feistiness had been directed to more important lady-matters”.

  55. jael

    h ttp://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/02/02/india-outrage-at-attacks-on-women/

    just to keep the pink sari’s in perspective ‘n’ all.

  1. Kicking ass & taking names: the Gulabi Gang « Sissie Sue

    [...] Feminist blogger Twisty Faster offers this analysis of the gang and their [...]

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