Men, Women and Other People: Understanding Sexualities #Sundayreading


breaking1

From left to right  ( Nine members of the research team ) – Hasina Khan , Kranti  ,  Shruti, Shalini Mahajan, Smriti Nevatia , Raj, Sabla , Meenu pandey, and Chayanika shah

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Women Feature Service 

The concept of gender needs to be transformed. That was the central thrust of a recent study entitled, ‘Breaking The Binary’, released by the queer feminist collective, Labia, at an event organised in Mumbai’s well–known SNDT University.

Questioning the male–female binary, the study concluded that there can be no uniformity within these identities. Even when people use the same term like ‘man’, ‘woman’, ’transgender’ to define themselves, their lived realities may differ greatly. Such categories, therefore, should necessarily be less rigid because when the boundaries between them get blurred, individuals are enabled to exert greater agency and choice in moving across them. According to the study, gender needs to be consensual; it needs to get transformed from a hierarchical discrete, binary system to a porous, multiple–gender one.

‘Breaking The Binary’ was based on 50 life history narratives that explored the circumstances and situations of queer PAGFB (Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth), who were made to, or were expected to, conform to existing social norms pertaining to gender and sexuality.

The research team for the study comprised 11 members, with Chayanika, Raj, Shalini and Smriti from Labia anchoring the work. Explained Chayanika, “Through this study, we looked at the experiences of our subjects within their natal families and while at school. We charted their journeys through intimate relationships and we attempted to understand what happened to them in public spaces, how they were treated by various state agencies, what were their sources of support and refuge when they came under the threat of violence or faced discrimination.”

The people interviewed came from a wide cross–section of society in terms of location, age, caste, class, and religion. These variations were critical, according to Chayanika, as the intention was to reach those living at the intersections of many marginalised identities. But achieving this was difficult, even impossible. As she put it, “The silence and invisibility around individuals who continually transgress gender norms meant that we were able to approach only those individuals who have some contact with queer groups.”

The 50 respondents were spread across north, east, west and south India – living in cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Pune and Thrissur. The representation of individuals living in rural areas was low, but two persons – one from rural Maharashtra and the other from rural Jharkhand – were interviewed, and 11 of the respondents had grown up in rural settings. Of the 50 individuals who participated in the study, 30 were from the dominant castes, 11 people were from the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/Special Backward Classes, three were from Other Backward Classes (OBC) and six identified themselves as Others.

‘Woman’ as a biological category was one of the subjects that figured in the interviews. Persons whose biological sex did not correspond with their psychological sex, were branded as gender “variants”, even though women do not constitute a homogenous category and could belong to many different categories – including a category as unfamiliar as ‘working class lesbian’ or ‘dalit lesbian’.

According to Raj, a member of Labia, “We found that being from an upper class background was no guarantee of privilege. There was a 20–year–old from a business family. Because of family dynamics, she was unable to get the education she had wanted and was forced to support herself by earning small sums of money playing cricket. Another respondent, identified as upper class, was also deprived of a meaningful education.” Clearly, a privileged, upper class background does not protect queer persons, especially if they happen to challenge gender and/or sexuality norms.

The study identified three levels of violence the respondents had faced. The first is at the individual level, where harmful acts are perpetrated against people and property. This can range from taunts to forced marriage and even murder. The second is at the institutional level, where damaging consequences are perpetrated by social institutions with the idea of obstructing the spontaneous expression of human potential – as, for example, when an office denies promotion to an employee on account of sexual orientation. The third is at the structural – cultural – level as, for instance, when religious or political beliefs rule that homosexuality is immoral or illegal.

A woman’s sexual orientation can, among other things, determine her access to resources as well as her social status, according to the study. Women suffer severe material loss when their families desert them and many experience emotional and psychological trauma in their struggle against discrimination and ostracism. Mis–recognition and non–recognition can become a very perverse form of violence as it seeks to naturalise the power enjoyed by dominant groups over non–dominant ones.

For instance, families, friends and teachers could refuse to recognise the need of lesbians to be acknowledged as they are and treated with dignity, leading them to experience a severe loss of self–esteem. This constitutes a form of violence imposed by the majority on a minority. As Shalini, one of study team members, put it, “Every society has its own notion of what is normal and what is assumed to be normal. Going beyond that construct could invite violence on the individual. Many of the respondents felt that the gay rights movement was crucial precisely because people cannot hide behind identities that are not their own. Therefore, just as women defied patriarchy through the women’s rights movement, queer persons defy heteronormativity through the queer rights movement.”

This study, the first of its kind, has helped shed light on how queer persons have addressed the challenges of life and how they continue to search, negotiate, and challenge multiple boundaries. It has attempted to answer some important questions. Where, for instance, are the points at which gender binaries rupture? How are the normative gender lines being reinforced? What situations help to create varied gender identities? Most important of all, the study has helped to capture the experiences of Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth and their negotiations with families, friends, communities, social structures, as well as the health and legal systems.

The team hopes to take the study forward to highlight areas of concern and conceptualise effective interventions. As one of the team members put it, “We are aiming to convey its insights to the more general category of people, at least those who are interested in taking proactive steps in addressing violence against any human being in any form and also for those who would like to understand the root causes of homophobia. We also want to take it to educational and governmental institutions, so that they can also help usher in change.”

The study was released not just in Mumbai, but in Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore, Thrissur and Chennai as well. A Hindi translation of it is also on the cards. (WFS)

 

Press Release- Women groups demand apology from Advocate General West Bengal #Sexist


PRESS RELEASE FROM MAITREE

Date: 07th June 2013, Kolkata

We are writing to you on behalf of Maitree, a women’s rights network of 60 organisations and individual activists based in West Bengal. We strongly condemn the comments made by the Advocate General of West Bengal on 4th June 2013 at the Calcutta High Court regarding the State Election Commission.

The Advocate General’s comment: “The State Election Commission is behaving like a beautiful lady asking for this and that. It is making arbitrary and whimsical desires. Some unreasonable” is sexist and stereotypes women. Instead of legal arguments, the Advocate General distracts from the important political issues and tries to diminish the concerns raised by the Election Commission by resorting to trivial and unparliamentary language to attack his opponent. By doing so, the Advocate General joins a long list of public figures in the country who have made denigrating comments about women which go against the grains of equality and justice.

The comment should be examined within the larger context of increasing violation of women’s rights in recent times. If the AG of a state can make such a denigrating comment about women, it sends a wrong signal to the public at large threatening the very safety and security of women. This is most unfortunate since one looks to the higher judiciary to uphold values stated in the Constitution.  Thus his comment is far from being humorous as claimed by him and reinforces deep-seated gender bias. We condemn this as an affront to the dignity of a woman.

We demand public apology from him immediately.

#India – Young Love, old moralities #moralpolicing #ageofconsent #adolescentsex


Kamayani Bali Mahabal | March 23, 2013, Times Crest

The whole debate around the age of consent is clouded by foolish misconceptions, some of them legal and many of them cultural.

Do Baba Ramdev and others know what the implications of reducing the age of consent are? They have been crying themselves hoarse that the move will lead to a rise in the incidents of rape.
‘Age of consent’ does not imply the age at which you are allowed to consent for sex. It is a legal concept which means that this will be the age below which ‘consent’ will not be considered a valid defence against a rape charge. So if a 16-to-18-year-old boy is charged with rape, he will be convicted even if the girl tells the court she had consented.

There is also another misconception at work in this debate. The age of consent is not being reduced – in India, the age of consensual consent has always been 16. Consensual intercourse with a girl under this age was construed as “statutory rape”. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, enacted in 2012, increased the age of consent to sexual intercourse from 16 to 18. The Verma Committee recommended that the age of consent in the Indian Penal Code should revert to 16.

Where does the age of consent stand in other countries? Britain, 16, France, 15, and in Spain, 13. In the United States, the age ranges from 16 to 18 years, depending on the state in the question. People need to understand that it is quite normal for people to have sexual relationship at 16 or 17.

The reason feminists are asking age of consent to be kept at 16 years is that we do not want to criminalise and send off young boys to prison when they are in a consensual sexual relationship. As Judge Kamini Lau in her judgment last year said in the absence of what she called a “close-in-age reprieve, ” the increase in the age of consent “would become regressive and draconian as it tends to criminalise adolescent sex. ” If the age of consent is raised to 18, any sexual contact between teenagers will be considered rape, period. And all big brothers who want to control their sisters’ freedom will use it to accuse any boy/male classmate/friend who befriends their sisters, strengthening the patriarchal stereotypes which the women’s movement has been fighting to eliminate for decades.

According to the apex body of child rights in the country, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, children’s homes are full of boys who have eloped or had consensual sex with young girls whose disapproving parents have filed cases of kidnapping and rape against them. This means that a later age of consent is widely used as a weapon by protective parents.

Then there is the other question: Would pegging the age of consent at 16 encourage trafficking and rape? How can it? Trafficking and rape are a crime, no matter what the age. If it is raised to 18, young boys, especially from Dalit and tribal communities, will face rape convictions for consensual relationships with upper caste/class girl.

We need to amend the law whereby a man who is 4-5 years or more older than a 16-to-18-year-old girl can be convicted of statutory rape, irrespective of the consent of the girl, as he can sexually exploit a young girl.

The issue here is not if teenage sex is good or bad but if consensual sex between teenagers is to be defined as rape or not. We are drafting a criminal law, not a moral or a social code like the Manu Smriti.
The various babas, religious groups and the khap panchayats believe that young persons, particularly girls, should not exercise any sexual freedom. They view marriage, as determined by their families, as the only destiny for young women. The decision to have sex or not is personal. The law cannot decide when and where a person should have sex, it can only frame laws to prevent crimes.

We should understand the difference between consensual sex and marriage. A marriage is not all about sexual gratification. It is a big social responsibility, which ties a person not only to his or her partner but also to the family and kids. So the age for marriage and consensual sex should be looked at differently. Are child marriages held with the consent of children? No, they are thrust upon them. The argument for keeping the age of consent at 16 years is to prevent the criminal law from interfering in the rights of young people to exercise sexual autonomy and agency. This will curb societal control along conservative lines of caste, class and religion.

While drafting the new law, there are some contemporary realities that government appears to have forgotten. It is medically accepted fact that the age of puberty has been coming down across populations around the world. Biologically, therefore, youngsters are starting to feel the effects of sex hormones raging around their bodies much earlier. According to the third National Health Survey, 2005-06 nearly 43 per cent of women aged between 20-24 had engaged in intercourse before they were 18.

Do we have anything close to sex education in India to allow young people to make informed choices? We need to equip teenagers so they can understand their bodies, and respect sexual attraction, not despise it, and deal responsibly with it. We should not criminalise that attraction. If we do, young men will only end up fearing and hating women, and developing a distorted perception of sexuality and women. This will only make them more violent towards women.

Is this the way we want to deal with violence against women? The criminal law should take into account a teenager’s ability and maturity to make decisions about sex. It should help them deal with their sexuality in an informed and responsible way. Law should strengthen our rights and freedoms and not be an instrument of social control or moral policing.

Now that the government has passed the Bill with the age of consent at 18, we have opened avenues for the prosecution of young boys and girls. We have acknowledged that the Indian society wishes to treat its young boys and girls as immature individuals incapable of making a responsible decision about their sexual lives. Now let us think, is this one step forward or four backwards?

The writer is a lawyer and human rights activist.

 

Why socialists need feminism #womenrights #sundayreading


Published on Friday, 22 February 2013 15:21

By David Camfield

The relationship between socialism and feminism has been getting more attention in online discussions recently. This is both for good reasons — such as the article by Sharon Smith of the International Socialist Organization in the US that looks critically at how the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, which greatly influenced the ISO’s politics, has dealt with feminism — and bad, above all the current crisis in the SWP set off by the disgraceful waythat allegations of rape by a leading member were handled.

The idea that socialists should be feminists too is uncontroversial to many revolutionary socialists. But why socialism needs feminism is still worth spelling out.

Every society in the world today is shaped by the oppression of women on the basis of their gender (patriarchy/sexism). There are, of course, importance differences in what form this oppression takes because gender relations are always interwoven with class, race, sexuality and other social relations, which vary (for example, patriarchy in Canada isn’t identical to patriarchy in Cuba).

Around the world, women taking action to challenge sexism commonly (thought not always) identify themselves as feminists. If we define feminism in its widest sense as opposition to sexism — which is what it means in everyday speech today — it should be obvious why socialists should be feminists.

However, some socialists who are dedicated supporters of women’s liberation don’t consider themselves feminists. As Smith notes, some Marxists including some in her own political current haven’t “understood the need to defend feminism, and to appreciate the enormous accomplishments of the women’s movement, even after the 1960s era gave way to the backlash” against feminism and other movements of oppressed people.

But some socialists who have defended and appreciated feminism and been active in struggles against gender oppression have still insisted that socialism doesn’t need feminism and so they’re not feminists (this is what I was taught in my early years as a socialist, in the late 1980s as a member of the International Socialists — some of whose members had the kind of really sectarian anti-feminist stance that Smith criticizes). Why?

The best case for this position is that revolutionary socialist politics are deeply committed to liberation from all forms of oppression, including gender oppression, and therefore don’t need feminism. This often goes along with the belief that socialist-feminism is flawed because it advocates both united working-class struggle against exploitation and all forms of oppression (seen as the correct orientation) and autonomous (women-only) organizing against patriarchy. Women-only organizing is seen as undermining working-class politics because it allegedly means cross-class politics that don’t recognize that the interests of working-class women aren’t the same as those of middle-class or ruling-class women.

But even at its best this “socialist, not feminist” approach won’t do. Its claim that because socialism is about universal human emancipation it doesn’t need feminism evades a real problem: actually-existing socialist organizing and politics aren’t the ideal that these socialists talk about. They exist within patriarchal societies. As a result, the actions and thinking of socialists will inevitably be limited and deformed by the patriarchal gender relations that we’re committed to uprooting. So socialists need to develop our politics by learning from the actually-existing struggle against patriarchy (as well as learning from history). To do this we need feminism.

It’s feminists who are shedding light on how women are oppressed and grappling with how to challenge various manifestations of oppression, from violence against women including sexual assault to eating disorders to how families, workplaces, schools and other institutions pressure women to conduct themselves in particular ways to sexism in contemporary science and many more. Not all feminists equally, of course. Feminist politics range from revolutionary socialist-feminism all the way to pro-imperialist liberalism, and there are lively debates within feminism.

But it’s feminists who are on the cutting edge of whatever progress is being made in understanding and fighting patriarchy. Socialists should be part of that action. Socialists need to learn from the best feminisms (both socialist-feminism and others) to deepen our understanding of oppression and how to fight for liberation. The “socialist, not feminist” approach is a barrier to doing this.

“Socialist, not feminist” politics downplay the reality that patriarchy has its own dynamics. These aren’t separate from capitalism and class, but they can’t be reduced to them either. Marx’s theory of capitalism has been developed by Marxist-feminism to explain why specific features of the system perpetuate gender oppression.This is extremely important. However, it doesn’t fully explain patriarchy. To do that we also need to draw on — and develop — feminist theory in a historical and materialist way.

Socialist opposition to combining mixed-gender and autonomous women’s organizing is a mistake. Far from detracting from united working-class struggles, women-only organizing can be an effective tactic for making them possible. In patriarchal societies, mixed-gender organizing is never a level playing field for women. Organizing independently can help women to identify and tackle sexism in mixed-gender activism and make mixed-gender organizing more anti-sexist. It can be a way for women to take initiatives without having to wait for men to catch up with them. And there’s no reason that it inevitably sacrifices the interests of working-class women to those of middle-class or ruling-class women.

Another problem with the “socialist, not feminist” approach is that it tends to promote a culture among socialists in which sexism isn’t challenged as vigorously as it needs to be. To the extent that it insulates socialists from feminism, it makes it easier for socialist men to avoid dealing with tough questions about our own behaviour. Insulation from feminism can also make it harder for socialist women to challenge sexism among socialists.

Socialists worthy of the name are committed to universal human emancipation. But there’s a big difference between proclaiming a commitment and making it real. To make our politics more truly what we say we want them to be, socialists need feminism. We should be feminist socialists, and proud of it.

David Camfield is one of the editors of New Socialist Webzine.

 

“I Fought For My Life…And Won” – Sohaila Abdulali #mustread #Vaw #Rape


gang

I was gang raped three years ago, when I was 17 years old.  My name and my photograph appear with this article.  in  1983, in Manushi.

I grew up in Bombay, and am at present studying in the USA. I am writing a thesis on rape and came home to do research a couple of weeks ago. Ever since that day three years ago, I have been intensely aware of the misconceptions people have about rape, about those who rape and those who survive rape. I have also been aware of the stigma that attaches to survivors. Time and again, people have hinted that perhaps death would have been better than the loss of that precious“virginity.” I refuse to accept this. My lifeis worth too much to me.

I feel that many women keep silent to avoid this stigma, but suffer tremendous agony because of their silence. Men blame the victim for many reasons, and,shockingly, women too blame the victim, perhaps because of internalized patriarchal values, perhaps as a way of making themselves invulnerable to a horrifying possibility.

It happened on a warm July evening.That was the year women’s groups were beginning to demand improved legislation on rape. I was with my friend Rashid. We had gone for a walk and were sitting on a mountainside about a mile and a half from my home in Chembur which is a suburb of Bombay. We were attacked by four men,who were armed with a sickle. They beat us, forced us to go up the mountain, and kept us there for two hours. We were physically and psychologically abused, and, as darkness fell, we were separated, screaming, and they raped me, keeping Rashid hostage. If either of us resisted, the other would get hurt. This was an effective tactic.

They could not decide whether or not to kill us. We did everything in our power to stay alive. My goal was to live and that was more important than anything else. I fought the attackers physically at first, and with words after I was pinned down. Anger and shouting had no effect, so I began to babble rather crazily about love and compassion,I spoke of humanity and the fact that I was a human being, and so were they, deep inside. They were gentler after this, at least those who were not raping me at the moment. I told one of them that if he ensured neither Rashid nor I was killed, I would come back to meet him, the rapist, the next day. Those words cost me more than Ican say, but two lives were in the balance. The only way I would ever have gone back there was with a very, very sharp instrument that would ensure that he never rapedagain.

After what seemed like years of torture (I think I was raped 10 times but I was in so much pain that I lost track of what was going on after a while), we were let go,with a final long lecture on what an immoral whore I was to be alone with a boy. That infuriated them more than anything. They acted the whole time as if they were doing me a favour, teaching me a lesson. Theirs was the most fanatical kind of self righteousness.

They took us down the mountain and we stumbled on to the dark road, clinging to each other and walking unsteadily. They followed us for a while, brandishing the sickle, and that was perhaps the worst part of all—escape was so near yet death hung over us. Finally we got home, broken, bruised, shattered. It was such an incredible feeling to let go, to stop bargaining for our lives and weighing every word because we knew the price of angering them was a sickle in the stomach. Relief flooded into our bones and out ofour eyes and we literally collapsed into hysterical howling.

I had earnestly promised the rapists that I would never tell any one but the minute I got home, told my father to call the police He was as anxious as I was to get them apprehended. I was willing to do anything to prevent someone else having to go through what I had been through. The police were insensitive, contemptuous, and somehow managed to make me the guilty party. When they asked me what had happened,I told them quite directly, and they were scandalized that I was not a shy, blushing victim. When they said there would be publicity, I said that was all right. It had honestly never occurred to me that Rashid or I could be blamed. When they said Iwould have to go into a home for juvenile delinquents for my “protection.” I was willing to live with pimps and rapists, in order to be able to bring my attackers to justice.

Soon I realized that justice for women simply does not exist in the legal system. When they asked us what we had been doing on the mountain, I began to get indignant. When they asked Rashid why he had been “passive”, I screamed. Didn’t they understand that his resistance meant further torture for me? When they asked questions about what kind of clothes I had been wearing, and why there were no visible marks on Rashid’s body (he had internal bleeding from being repeatedly hit in the stomach with the handle of the sickle), I broke down in complete misery and terror, and my father threw them out of the house after telling them exactly what he thought of them. That was the extent of the support the police gave me. No charges were brought. The police recorded a statement that we had gone for a walk and had been “delayed” on our return.

It has been almost three years now, but there has not been even one day, when I have not been haunted by what happened. Insecurity, vulnerability, fear, anger, helplessness—I fight these constantly. Sometimes when I am walking on the road and hear footsteps behind I start to sweat and have to bite my lip to keep from screaming. I flinch at friendly touches, I can’t bear tight scarves that feel like hands round my throat, I flinch at a certain look that comes into men’s eyes—that look is there so often.

Yet in many ways I feel that I am a stronger person now. I appreciate my life more than ever. Every day is a gift. I fought for my life, and won. No negative reaction can make me stop feeling that this is positive.

I do not hate men. It is too easy a thing to do, and many men are victims of different kinds of oppression. It is patriarchy I hate, and that incredible tissue of lies that say men are superior to women, men have rights which women should not have, men are our rightful conquerors.

My feminist friends all assume that I am concerned about women’s issues because I was raped. This is not so. The rape was one expression of all the reasons why Iam a feminist. Why compartmentalize rape ? Why assume rape is only an unwanted act of intercourse ? Are we not raped every day when we walk down the street and are leered at ? Are we not raped when we are treated as sex objects, denied our rights, oppressed in so many ways ? The oppression of women cannot be analysed unidimensionally. For example, a class analysis is very important, but it does not explain why most rapes occur within one’s own class.

As long as women are oppressed in various ways, all women will continue to be vulnerable to rape. We must stop mystifying rape. We must acknowledge its existence all round us, and the various forms it takes. We must stop shrouding it in secrecy, and must see it for what it is — a crime of violence in which the rapist is the criminal.

I am exultant at being alive. Being raped was terrible beyond words, but I think being alive is more important. When a woman is denied the right to feel this, there is something very wrong in our value system. When someone is mugged and allows herself to be beaten in order to survive, no one thinks she is guilty of willing consent to be beaten. In the case of rape, a woman is asked why she let them do it, why she did not resist, whether she enjoyed it.

Rape is not specific to any group of women, nor are rapists a particular group of men. A rapist could be a brutal madman or the boy next door or the too friendly uncle. Let us stop treating rape as the problem of other women. Let us acknowledge its universality and come to a better understanding of it.

Until the basis of power relationships in this world changes, until women cease to be regarded as the property of men, we will have to live in constant fear of being violated with impunity.

I am a survivor. I did not ask to be raped and I did not enjoy it. It was the worst torture I have ever known. Rape is not the woman’s fault, ever. This article is one contribution towards exploding the silence and the comfortable myths which we build up to convince ourselves we are not potential victims, thus consigning actual victims to the most agonizing isolation a human being can know.

 ( This article has been reproduced from archives of Manushi, and was written in 1983)

Today, Sohaila writes, reads and walks. She has published two novels, The Madwoman of Jogare and Year of the Tiger; three children’s books; and numerous short stories, essays, news reports, blogs, columns, manuals, and just about every form of written material, which is in direct contradiction to her devotion to trees. www.sohailaink.com

 

#India – Lets ALL Resolve for FREEDOM from VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN this New Year #mustshare


Struggle to Make 2013 a Year 
For Freedom from Violence Against Women
On the very eve of the New Year of 2013, the life of a young woman was brutally cut short. This young woman with her dreams of education, of a job, of love and happiness, lives on in all of us. Her courage and dignity inspire us to resist the terrible discrimination, bias, and violence that eats into the heart of our society, and to demand justice and freedom for every woman. It takes courage to confront the government, the police and other institutions and demand accountability. It perhaps takes even greater courage to face and fight the daily discrimination and shackles that are imposed on women in our own homes and communities. We hope that we will find that courage in the spirit of that nameless young woman who lives on in our hearts.
We pledge to make 2013 a year of resistance to gender oppression, discrimination, and violence.
We pledge to support women’s struggle in the home, in the community, on the streets, at the workplace and in public spaces for equality and rights. 
We pledge to speak out against gender bias and violence wherever we see it.
vaw

Your Vagina Isn’t Just Too Big, Too Floppy, and Too Hairy—It’s Also Too Brown


by- Lindy West

Good news, ladies! Society has discoveredanother new thing that’s wrong with you, which means another opportunity for you to make yourself more attractive for your man. Score! Turns out, the color of your vagina is gross and everyone hates it. So bleach that motherfucker. Bleach it right now!

In this commercial for an Indian product called Clean and Dry Intimate Wash, a (very light-skinned) couple sits down for whatwould have been a peaceful cup of morning coffee—if the woman’s disgusting brown vagina hadn’t ruined everything! The dude can’t even bring himself look at her. He can’t look at his coffee either, because it only reminds him of his wife’s dripping, coffee-brown hole! Fortunately, the quick-thinking woman takes a shower, scrubbing her swarthy snatch with Clean and Dry Intimate Wash (“Freshness + Fairness”). And poof! Her vadge comes out blinding white like a downy baby lamb (and NOT THE GROSS BLACK KIND) and her husband—whose penis, I can only assume, is literally a light saber—is all, “Hey, lady! Cancel them divorce papers and LET’S BONE.”

Needless to say, certain citizens are troubled by this product—which, in addition to just being fucking insane, brings up painful issues about the hierarchy of skin tone within the Indian community. As if it isn’t bad enough that darker-skinned people are encouraged to stay out of the sun and invest in skin-bleaching products like Fair & Lovely, and that white actresses arebeing imported to play Indian people in Bollywood movies, now everyone has to be insecure about the fact that their vaginas happen to be the color that vaginas are??? Splendid! God, I was just saying the other day that my misogyny didn’t have enough racism in it.

So what are the pro-vadge-bleaching people thinking? Here’s a hilarious explanation from a male ad exec:

It is hard to deny that fairness creams often get social commentators and activists all worked up. What they should do is take a deep breath and think again. Lipstick is used to make your lips redder, fairness cream is used to make you fairer-so what’s the problem? I don’t think any Youngistani today thinks the British Raj/White man is superior to us Brown folk. That’s all 1947 thinking!

The only reason I can offer for why people like fairness, is this: if you have two beautiful girls, one of them fair and the other dark, you see the fair girl’s features more clearly. This is because her complexion reflects more light. I found this amazing difference when I directed Kabir Bedi, who is very fair and had to wear dark makeup for Othello, the Black hero of the play. I found I had to have a special spotlight following Kabir around the stage because otherwise the audience could not see his expressions.

See? It makes perfect sense. We just want our vaginas to reflect more light—is that so wrong? I mean, WHAT IF MY CAR BREAKS DOWN AT NIGHT AND I DON’T HAVE A REFLECTIVE ENOUGH VAGINA? Really, the ultimate one-vagina-to-rule-them-all would glow in the dark like one of those deep-sea fishes. I need my vagina to attract more krill so my husband will fuck me again! (My husband is a whale.)

Basically the idea is to get as far away as possible from any color that vaginas actually come in. Because that’s what’s at the heart of this type of thinking—the perfect vagina would be something that’s not a vagina at all.

Contact Lindy West:your-vagina-isnt-just-too-big-too-floppy-and-too-hairyits-also-too-brown