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by Rita Banerji
It irritates me when a man fawningly says “Ladies First!” I find it condescending. As a woman I see myself as perfectly able as any man and see no reason for being singled out that way.
Yet, by the same token I hugely resent the “Men First!” approach that I encounter everywhere in India. While walking on pavements, driving, inside homes, and even in offices. It’s that attitude that says, men are entitled to shove women aside and be served first.
It happened again at the bank yesterday and left me fuming. I had accompanied my mother to the bank and she needed some cash deposited. There was a long queue at the counter, so I told her to sit down and I’d stand in line and do it for her. A man came and stood behind me, and then suddenly moved in front and stood next to me, very close. I knew his intention was to make me uncomfortable enough so I’d step back and he’d move in front of me, or to thrust his deposit slip in front when my turn came. I’ve seen men take this liberty with women too many times. It’s like an aggressive, non-verbal statement of male entitlement. I told him – loudly and firmly, that he was out of the queue and making me uncomfortable, and that there was no way I would allow him in front of me. He did not protest, but stepped back quietly.
Interestingly, the man who got upset was the man at the deposit counter. The sense of male dominion was all over the bank, as it often is in all public spaces in India. There were five counters, all tended to by male bankers. I looked around at the customers, those in the cues and those sitting, and there were about 25 customers, and only 2 of them women. The man at the cash counter looked sullen as he took my deposit slip and cash, and then he put it on the side, clicked on something and then to my surprise reached over for the order of the man standing behind me. Then he started to work on his order, letting mine just sit there. It was that man to man silent pact that says: let’s put this bitch in place.
Needless to say I exploded, after which they hurriedly processed my request. The manager offered some idiotic excuses, which got me angrier, for example apparently he thought he’d finish with this man fast and then do mine at leisure. This behavior was not just sexist, it was unprofessional. “What kind of training are you giving your bankers?” I demanded to know. This is one of those large, private, corporate style banks – the types that have been putting women in the top most posts and shouting ‘women’s empowerment’ from the rooftops. Woman on top is all hogwash! What matters is how ordinary women, women like you and me have to live every day.
So unless all of us women kick up a storm in precisely these kinds of every day sexist interactions, and demand immediate action then and there – nothing will change.
So women, please – Speak up!
Demand your rights!
Do it EVERYWHERE you go.
Do it EVERY single DAY.
Do it at HOME.
Do it in PUBLIC.
Do it at your WORKPLACE.
Remember, your fear and silence gives power to an environment that is horrendously, and shamelessly repressive of women.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Rita Banerji is an author and gender activist, and the founder ofThe 50 Million Missing Campaign to end India’s female genocide. Her book ‘Sex and Power: Defining History Shaping Societies,’ is a historical and social look at how the relationship between gender and power in India has led to the ongoing female gendercide. Her website is www.ritabanerji.com . She blogs at Revolutions in my Space and tweets at @Rita_Banerji
Originally posted on REVOLUTIONS IN MY SPACE: A BLOG BY RITA BANERJI:
Does the worship of goddesses in India have a feminist under-pinning? This is one of the questions I was looking at while researching for my book Sex and Power.
The answer to my question I found, was both ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ I discovered that there were two main streams of religious thought that had completely different origins and were diametrically opposite in how they viewed women, feminine sexuality and power. One of them, based in the tradition of the Vedas, was extremely patriarchal in its leanings, and even though it had goddesses, like Sarawati for instance, it regarded them as passive, inert manifestations whose sole aim was to nurture and sustain the men.
The other stream of religious thought was that of the Shaktas. These were worshippers of ‘Shakti’ which is the female personification of power as a concept. Below is an excerpt from Sex and Power on…
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Originally posted on Price Of Silence:
Numerous articles have chronicled the lack of proper sanitation in the weeks following the gang-rapes and lynching of two girls in Uttar Pradesh. NPR’s Julie McCarthy in the United States penned,”How A Lack Of Toilets Puts India’s Women At Risk Of Assault.” In the article McCarthy relays the sentiment Guddo Devi, the cousin of the two girls murdered in Uttar Pradesh: “When we step out of the house we are scared,” Devi says. “And we have to go in the mornings, in the evenings, and when we cannot stop ourselves, at times we go in the afternoons as well. … And there are no bathrooms. We don’t have any kind of facility. We have to go out.”
In another version of this article published in India’s Deccan Herald, reporter Nilanjana S Roy notes that having a toilet, “affects women’s ability to work, their safety (many rapes in slums and rural…
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Barun Biswas was born on September 12, 1972 in the village of Sutia, in West Bengal. His school teachers in Sutia say he was a hardworking boy who was never afraid to question authority. Barun would later say that these were lessons he learnt from his parents, who were landless laborers, and who despite their poverty worked hard to ensure their children got an education.
After university Barun went on clear the state civil services exam. If he wanted then he could have moved to the city, earned well, and led the comfortable life of a government bureaucrat.
But he wanted to serve the people of his village, and do something that would directly benefit them. The best way he believed he could do that was by becoming a school teacher.
From the year 2000, the village of Sutia was under siege. A gang of men went on a rampage, raping women, killing and extorting families. There were 33 reports of rape and more than 12 reports of murder. Most of the victims filed no police complaints because they were too terrified. The gang had political protection, so even the police would not arrest them. If anyone tried to complain, a woman from their family would be taken captive and gang-raped for weeks. Sometimes as punishment all the females in a family, even the little girls and elderly women would be raped.
This went on for two years, and then in July 2002, a small group of villagers gathered in the market place, to try to figure out what they could do, if anything. Read more…
This video was put out by a public interest group to raise people’s sensitivity to rape and other crimes against women in India. Please note that the sounds of a woman being assaulted inside the van below are an enactment. However, the responses of the people who walk past the van are real.
We want you to watch the brief video below, and give your opinion on people’s reaction in the multiple choice poll question below the video.
CLICK ON THE SQUARE NEXT TO YOUR CHOICE AND THEN CLICK ON THE YELLOW BUTTON RIGHT AT THE BOTTOM THAT SAYS ‘VOTE’ [DO NOT FORGET TO CLICK ON THE 'VOTE' BUTTON OR YOUR ANSWER WON'T REGISTER]
In the last 10 years there has been a growing “market” for hiring white, preferably blonde, western women among certain elite circles in India. These include Bollywood (the film industry), Premiere League Sports, like IPL, and wedding and corporate parties.
An anonymous British woman recently wrote a column where she talked about her experience of working for what are now called “White Girl Jobs” in India. Below is an excerpt from her column:
As a Brit living in India I have become accustomed to the attention that my alabaster complexion receives — mostly positive; sometimes not. However, there is a bizarre new trend emerging amongst Delhi’s middle-classes: hiring Western women to work at weddings, parties, club openings and the like. “That sounds a little seedy,” I said to my friend who first told me about the line of work, dubbed simply as ‘White Girl Jobs’. Jobs include anything from the mundane — greeting guests upon arrival or helping out behind the bar — to performing as a drummer, acting as living tables, belly dancing and even stripping… But what do the guests think? It is for them that a significant number of patrons are willing to pay a premium to hire ethnically Caucasian staff, rather than local workers. Sex sells and having pretty girls on show never did business any harm. However, having spoken with girls who work at club openings, or who are just paid to go to clubs, the `office environment’ seems a little different. They are paid to attend club nights, be bought drinks, dance around in skimpy dresses and bathe in the attention of amorous men with voyeuristic intentions. There is a lot of money to be made in this industry by both parties. Girls are paid anywhere between Rs 5,000 and 10,000 for one night of work, with some jobs going on for a few nights. The event organizers earn 10% commission on each payment, so if you are orchestrating some 10 to 20 girls, it works out to a pretty good wage for an evening’s work…
Skin colour has always been a contentious issue in India. [Indian women] spend crores each year on skin lightening products to achieve their ideal of “white beauty”. But as a white woman participating in this industry and a client paying them to do so, you are not only profiting but perpetuating an already well-established beauty myth that lighter skin is better.
However, isn’t there more to hiring blonde, white women than skin color and racial complexes as this British woman thinks?
How do western white women take to be wooed as “commodities” to “decorate” the parties and premises of wealthy Indians? In a country where thousands of women are trafficked as “brides, ” bought, sold, shared by men and resold; where thousands of women are Read more…
We are delighted that a Green Scarf Party in Stockholm, Sweden, was one of the latest groups worldwide to give Voice to The 50 Million Missing Campaign’s fight to end female gendercide in India.
The Voice of The Campaign is a 12 minute video on the female genocide in India that we we encourage people to show to their friends, organizations or classmates. FOR MORE DETAILS ON HOW YOU CAN HELP WITH OUR VOICE OF THE CAMPAIGN PROJECT PLEASE CLICK HERE
CLICK HERE to see where else The Voice of The Campaign events have been held
A Green Scarf Party is an initiative of cafe26.org and is a social gathering to support peace and social change worldwide.