My Tribute to Grand old Lady of Feminist Movement – Ace Kractivist #Womerights #Sundayreading


 I pay tribute to Vina Mazumdar, the Grand old lady of the Feminist Movement and the Grandmother of women’s studies in South Asia

Photo credit: CWDS and the Mazumdar family

For me, the inseparable Vina Mazumdar and Lotika Sarkar are the founding gardeners who nurtured the garden of feminism in India , with their rich contributions to the women’s movement, especially sowing the seed of women political empowerment with the of ‘Note of dissent’, demanding women’s reservation in the path-breaking report, ‘Towards Equality’.

The Garden of feminism bloomed under their guardianship with twin movements — the women studies movement and women’s movement. According to Vina Di the ‘traditional approaches’ to women questions ,always have top down approaches , looking at them as a social and cultural one and not political. In Asia, women constitute the largest group engaged in agriculture and production of food and as such any concept of development of women should adopt ‘bottom up approach’, one that recognizes women’s claims to own agricultural land in their own right when they are tillers.

Vina Mazumdar, lovingly and famously known as Vinda Di for all, will always remain the Grand old lady of the Feminist Movement and the Grandmother of women’s studies in South Asia. Born into a middle class Bengali family in 1927, she studied at a Diocesan Girls School run by the British Protestant Mission, graduating from the Benaras Hindu University. She went to Oxford in the 1960s and, later, in the 1970s to complete her Bachelors and Doctorate. Her first job was in Patna University, where she worked between 1951 to 1960, and got involved in the teacher’s union. She energized the curriculum and the examination system, especially during her tenure as first secretary of the Patna University Teachers Association. Her resolute interest in educational reform prompted her move to the University Grants Commission, the apex body for the national university system.

A radical shift in her life and work came with her appointment in the Committee on the Status of Women in India. The committee, appointed by the Government of India in 1971, was reconstituted in 1973 with Vina Di, as member secretary. The committee was given an extended term of one year to finalize its report, to enable the government to face the first UN-sponsored World Conference on Women at Mexico in 1975, after debating the Report in Parliament. The resurgent women’s movement of the 1970s acknowledged the Report, Towards Equality, as its “Founding Text”. The concern and challenges thrown up by Towards Equality became a lifelong passionate commitment.

Vina Di establiished Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) in the middle of the International Women’s Decade, as a sustained campaign to extend the understanding of women’s studies beyond academy. Armed with ‘Action Research’ then began the Journey of Vina Di’s transformation from an activist academic to a grassroots intervention worker began with the ‘Bankura project’ that took her across the country . She was very distraught about the conditions of women migrant laborers, and the immense concern made her take upon the challenge of an experiment on use of wastelands to provide sustenance for explored the travails of poor migrant women workers who travel from place to place, especially on foot every year for about nine months in search of wage labor.

She organized a rural women’s camp which revealed that the annual migratory process meant high infant mortality, indebtedness, and violent sexual exploitation. In 1981, she organized a group of asset less women from Bankura district, West Bengal; they managed to obtain eight acres of wasteland, which was registered in the name of the organization. It was the first time that these women owned an asset. It took three years of backbreaking labor by the group to demonstrate that wasteland can be regenerated to provide sustenance to women.

A major lesson that Vina Di always referred through the Bankura experience was to ‘listen and learn’ through collaboration with poor (rural) women while developing any research priorities and strategies. The impact was for all to see, the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests made an explicit policy pronouncement to involve poor women in wasteland development and joint forest management.

I still vividly remember watching , Paromita Vohra’s, Documentary ‘Unlimited Girls (2002) ‘, where Vina Di said that the government always uses the word “empowerment of women”, she would ask back ‘who is empowering whom?’. In the film she also stated that she did not believe that donning traditional role of wife, mother, were subordinating women. ‘One should not accept subordination position’, wherever women are.

The Women’s Studies movement under the leadership of Vina Di scored another goal in getting Education for Women’s Equality incorporated in to the new National Policy on Education (1986). The government was also forced to mention minorities, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes having made space for women’s equality as part of a new thrust in the NPE.

I had the great opportunity to meet Vina Di at a conference to strategize our campaign on sex selection In 2005, I vividly remember she warned all of us involved in the campaign that historically it will be wrong to connect sex selection and female infanticide, as the present trend in sex selection is directly linked to the arrival and availability of technology. She also emphasized that it’s high time the social scientists and economists also took responsibility of the campaign, that putting it solely on women’s movement, as it’s a burning issue for all to address. In fact, ‘Towards Equality’ was also the first report to mention about the dwindling sex ratios. They looked at the 100 years of census data and it was first time when declining sex ratio was identified as a serious problem in the country.

In her Memoirs the Rolling Stones, published in 2010 by Zubaan Book in her own words, “My earlier struggles represented an individual woman’s efforts to balance the demands of professional and familial responsibilities. The new struggle was increasingly a collective, ideological one — to rediscover the Indian nation, the world, the past, the present and the future — from the perspective of India’s hidden and unacknowledged majority: poor working women in rural and urban areas.

Vina Di’s indisputable combination of canny academic entrepreneurship with activism provided opportunities to tribal and dalit women in non-threatening ways, and helping them break their shackles of poverty and deprivation. She has been a catalyst to crack the culture of silence that kept tribal and dalit women in segregation and deprivation and for centuries. Vina Di was an ace Kractivist, to bridge the Gap between Academics and Activism. And bring the Change.

#India- What you wanna be -Kareena or Konkona or .. #womensday


Bachi Karkaria , TNN

Or Kiran next-door? The liberated woman is free to flash any face

There’s a poster in the lifts of our Dosti Flamingoes housing complex. It’s an invitation to ‘Bring out the hairspray, the blue eye-shadow and the press-on nails. Put on your dancing shoes and join the All Ladies Bollywood dance party on March 8′. On the streets, lamp-posts advertise a slimming clinic which tempts you to ‘surprise your husband with your curves this Women’s Day’. But the headlines are about steely Irom Sharmila, and little girls who continue to be raped and murdered as if the verbiage over Nirbhaya is all just empty noise. So what’s the battle for women’s rights really all about?

Yes, i balked at the first two notices. They seemed regressive, especially the one about the curves for hubby-ji. Worse, the ‘o’ in its ‘Women’s Day’ was shaped like the women’s symbol. Surely it was a travesty to deploy it for something that was not just frivolous, but also quite the opposite of what March 8 represents? Hey, babe, you’re supposed to stand up against patriarchal stereotypes, not lie down purring with satisfaction at your sexual slavery.

The poster in our lift could merely be about just a fun evening. But, i couldn’t help a party-pooper thought. Its visuals were from last year’s event, and showed our Dosti ladies in flamingo finery, shaking out a ‘Sheila ki Jawani’ and happily taking on Munni ki badnami. So, the chosen way to celebrate women’s liberation is to plunge into an item number — the same entity currently being blamed for women’s many-fanged humiliations? Interesting.

An even more spoilsport thought surfaced. Wasn’t this amateur kajra-mujra just one thrust removed from another increasingly popular feature of girlie nights — the male stripper, who goes through his suggestive paces to catcalls and vixen-whistles? The women hysterically stuff currency notes into his G-string, and they may or may not stop short at pawing his six-pack. No one in this smart, intelligent, designer bagging audience stops to think that this is the same, denounced demeaning objectification, even if in reversed roles. Surely, with their advantages, they should be able to come up with a more evolved way of asserting equality?

Eek! Do i sound like the secret cousin-sister of Mumbai’s ‘Hockeystick’ Dhoble? A covert member of Mangalore‘s Hindu Jagran Vedike? Subhash Padil, leader of its goons who barged into a homestay last July and beat up the young men and women celebrating a birthday, had swaggered later, “I have no remorse …Do you know what they were up to? They were drinking beer, and you know what that leads to?…Going to parties and drinking and smoking…Is that any way to celebrate a birthday? It is because of our actions that the girls there were saved from being dishonoured.” Righttt! Slapping, manhandling and ripping their clothes is the morally acceptable way to rescue women from certain shame.

So, amidst the righteous hyperventilation which marks March 8, perhaps it would be helpful to find some quiet time to ask if there is a right or wrong kind of liberation. To realise that women, long-time victims in primeval power assertions, are again the first casualties of today’s ‘clash of civilisations’: between ‘traditional’ values and liberalised aspirations. That freedom, by its very definition, cannot be chained to someone else’s notions of correctness.

In the age of post-post Lib, being seriously sexy is as legit as being seriously activist. Women are free to choose between being a Malaika Arora or a Mallika Sarabhai. Or neither. They can choose to be a homemaker instead of a power-babe. Or be able to without apology. We shouldn’t let the neo-dictatorship of the feminists become as bruising as that of the old Big Daddies.

***

Alec Smart said: “In Modi’s ‘Love Story’, ‘Shove means never having to say you’re sorry

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.

 

Wanted: A new feminist movement in India #Vaw


Source : SIFY
Last Updated: Mon, Dec 31, 2012 11:48 hrs
Delhi Rape Protests
If there is one thing that is clear from the recent and continuing protests that have been unfolding in the city over the gruesome rape in the capital, it is the painful absence of any independent and progressive women’s movement in the country.
The autonomous women’s movement that existed in the 1970s and 1980s which took up several campaigns from the rape of a tribal woman in a police station to dowry to sati and domestic violence was vitiated and almost completely destroyed from the 1990s onward with the rise of the NGO-isation and the specific categorization of ‘civil society’ organizations in India, gendered or otherwise. However flawed and limited it was, it was a crucial force in the task of social transformation.
This is why there was no feminist leadership and consolidation of the protests at India Gate that chilled some of us even more than the actual gruesome rape did. The thugs who took to stone-throwing and random violence on vehicles and Republic day poles were not as worrisome (that sort of behaviour is expected from political party goons) as the so-called angry “common citizen” simply venting ire that we were asked to cherish and uphold.
It is interesting how the populist celebrators of this “common citizen” protest claim it both as spontaneous and non-affiliated and at the same time progressive and organised. The fact of the matter is that if one studies all the signs and posters, the gestures and the language, the ‘demands’ and the outrage what becomes clear is how ill-informed and violent and how sexist and deeply patriarchal most of it was.
From calls for death penalty to castration, from mindless calls for revenge and counter-violence (the endless proliferation of calls for kangaroo court and mob justice – the rape of the victims, the public lynching, sodomising, hanging of them) to middle-class feminism-informed calls (for more access to public space, to wear what one wants to wear, come out at whatever time one wants to), the failure of several decades of feminism in this country became obvious.
Feminists have painstakingly fought (and continue to fight) for legal and democratic changes in the realities of women’s lives but it seems to have touched no one from the state to the ‘common citizen.’
Politicians predictably repeated the sexist pieties of sarkari appropriations of feminism which really are frightfully obvious anti-feminisms.
Government posters on sexual violence asking men to be ‘real men’ and Sushma Swaraj talking of raped women as live corpses are to be expected.
But young women calling for castrations and counter-rapes and murder and young men throwing bangles at the state shows how little feminism has circulated in our culture.
What the protests showed was that it was not just the ‘Other’ (the lower caste, lower class, the migrant labourer) male who needs schooling in feminism but men and women across classes and castes in the capital, many of whom claim to be gender-sensitive if not feminist, who need it.
What it showed was that highly progressive and Leftist organizations also believe in death penalty for rapists.
What it showed that there was no thinking and reflection on the specific need for a gendered education and transformation of the spaces and people that constitute Delhi.
What it showed, most disturbingly, was the culpability of these very ‘common citizens’ in the violence against women and sexual minorities in the capital and the complete absence of feminism from their lives.
Let alone finding in them a recognition of their complicity with the violence against Dalit and adivasi women and Kashmiri and Northeastern women sexually violated across the country (which many pious responses asked for), one cannot find in them even a recognition of how their calls for instant justice echo terrifyingly the very calls that propelled the rapists in offering their version of instant retributive justice to the girl for daring to be out late.
The references to bangles, the calls for counter-rape and violence, for torture and genital mutilation and death, the calls for mothers to educate their daughters (and sons) also partake of this. It is as if feminism never happened at all. It is as if all the campaigns that feminists led since the 1970s have disappeared, all their insights evaporated.
The worst injury (apart from the steady stream of more and more absurd statements from every possible ‘common citizen’ in Delhi afflicted with the common Indian disease of an opinion and the itch to voice it, the latest being a woman scientist who said the girl should have submitted to the rape) is news of more and more rapes and sexual assaults on women every day in Delhi since the great protest that rocked Raisina Hill!.
What we need is to rebuild the women’s movement piece by piece. This is not done by demands for instant justice or expressions of instant outrage. It requires the hard work of working with ‘common citizens’ across the city in every nook and corner of Delhi to change their attitudes, to inform them of the law and push for legal education and implementation, to work with sensitization campaigns with the police, in colleges, in schools to make of them citizens aware of feminism’s insights and advancements over several painful decades of legal failure and achievement. It is not just about calling for an adhering to due process but actually ensuring that due process happens.
Most importantly, all of this has to be informed by a feminist perspective This perspective is not something achieved but always in process, that we have to hone constantly in ourselves as much as others. For it is only when we are aware of how much we partake of patriarchy in all its class, caste and gendered forms that we can hope to generate change in our political, social and legal vocabularies.
This is the long haul. And the battle has just begun.

 

We Never Said “We Wanted it All”: How the Media Distorts the Goals of Feminism


 By Ruth Rosen, alternet

What Anne-Marie Slaughter and so many other privileged women have failed to understand is that the original women’s movement sought an economic and social revolution that would create equality at home and at the workplace.
August , 2012  |

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

 For over thirty years, the American media have repeatedly pronounced the death of the women’s movement and blamed feminism for women’s failure to “have it all.“ But none of this is true. The movement has spread around the globe and early radical feminists wanted to change the world, not just seek individual self-fulfillment.

The latest media-generated debate exploded when Anne-Marie Slaughter revealed in the July 2012 edition of theAtlantic Magazine why she had left her fast-track, high-pressured job for Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Families, she admitted, could not withstand the strain. Even a superwoman like herself — blessed with a helpful husband, enough wealth to buy domestic help and child care, could not do it all. Although she described the insane work policies that made her neglect her family, she implicitly blamed feminism for promising a false dream. It was too hard, the hours too long, the persistent sense of guilt too pervasive.

What was missing in her article was the history of “having it all.” Too many editors care more about how an article about the death of feminism will, without fail, create a sensation and increase readership than about an inaccurate media trope.

And her article went viral, as they say, setting off a round of attacks and rebuttals about the possibility of women enjoying – not just enduring – family and work. She returned to her former life as a high-powered professor at Princeton University, which in my experience, hardly counts as opting out of trying to have it all.

To Slaughter, I want to say, you may know a great deal about foreign policy, but you certainly don’t know much about our history. By 1965, young American women activists in Students for a Democratic Society asked themselves what would happen to America’s children if women worked outside the home. Activists in the women’s movement knew women could never have it all, unless they were able to change the society in which they lived.

At the August 1970 march for Women’s Strike for Equality, the three preconditions for emancipation included child care, legal abortion and equal pay. “There are no individual solutions,” feminists chanted in the late sixties. If feminism were to succeed as a radical vision, the movement had to advance the interests of /all/ women.

The belief that you could become a superwoman became a journalistic trope in the 1970s and has never vanished. By 1980, most women’s (self-help) magazines turned a feminist into a Superwoman, hair flying as she rushed around, attaché case in one arm, a baby in the other. The Superwomen could have it all, but only if she did it all. And that was exactly what feminists had not wanted.

American social movements tend to move from a collectivistic vision to one that emphasizes the success of the individual. That is precisely what happened between 1970 and 1980. Alongside the original women’s movement grew another kind of feminism, one that was shaped by the media, consumerism and the therapeutic self-help movements that sprang up in that decade. Among the many books that began promising such fulfillment for women, was the best seller “Having It All” by Elizabeth Gurley Brown (1982) who tried to teach every woman how to achieve everything she wanted in life.

Self -help magazines and lifestyle sections of newspapers also began to teach women /how/ to have it all. Both turned a collectivistic vision of feminism into what I have elsewhere called Consumer Feminism and Therapeutic Feminism. Millions of women first heard of the movement when they read about the different clothes they needed to

Read more here

Global Health and Feminism


One of the symbols of German Women's movement ...

One of the symbols of German Women's movement (from the 1970s) Deutsch: Ein Logo der deutschen Frauenbewegung (aus den 70er Jahren) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Feminism might be a taboo word within academic medicine, but it clearly has made an important contribution to global health

By Richard Smith

The Lancet, the leading journal for global health, has mentioned feminism only twice in its 189 years. The BMJBritish Medical Journal– hasn’t mentioned it at all. Does it indicate that feminism has had no impact on global health? All three speakers at a meeting at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in January this year, strongly disagreed.

Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet and a man, told us that the Lancet had mentioned feminism only twice, and Tony Delamothe, deputy editor of the BMJ and another man, told me that the BMJ had no entries. I, a third man, didn’t check, but Jane Smith, another deputy editor of the BMJ and a woman, did. She found that theBMJ has had 102 mentions of “feminism” and 302 mentions of “feminist” and the Lancethas 23 mentions mentions of “feminism” but none of “feminist.” Thank God for women.

One reason that the journals might not have mentioned it is because “feminism” is a taboo word within academic medicine, said Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet. Lori Heise, one of the speakers and a senior lecturer at the London School, said how she had to think carefully before “coming out” as a feminist.

Feminism can mean many things, said Andrea Cornwall from Sussex University, but all definitions coalesce around inequalities and inequities. It is a political practice concerned with reducing those inequalities and inequities—and such a programme is central to global health.

Read more here

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