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Author Archives: Karuna

#THROWBACKTHURSDAY | DRAWING THE LINE

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Welcome to #ThrowbackThursday, a new series where we will revisit backlist titles one Thursday every month. This September, we're looking at Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back, edited by Larissa Bertonasco, Ludmilla Bartscht and Priya Kuriyan.


About the book

DTL-FINAL-COVER-LO-RESDecember 2012: Tens of thousands of people – women, men, families, young, old, rich, poor – come out onto the streets of towns and cities in India to protest the brutal gang rape and murder of a young medical student in Delhi.

Soon, a new law is put in place. More and more people start to report incidents of sexual assault. New conversations, new debates begin.

In this bold and brilliant collection of visual stories, fourteen young women respond to the activism and debates on the ground; they negotiate anger, fear, hope, resistance. Created in a week-long workshop, these stories talk to each other as they powerfully describe the fierce determination of the writers/artists to continue the battle for change.


About the editors

Larissa Bertonasco studied illustration in Hamburg, Germany, where she works as a freelance illustrator and artist. She is one of the founders of the Spring artistic collective and magazine.

Ludmilla Bartscht studied visual communication and illustration in Berlin, Lucerne and Hamburg. Her work has been shown in Germany, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Austria and the USA. Along with Larissa Bertonasco, she is also part of the Springartistic collective and co-editor of Drawing the Line.

Priya Kuriyan is a children's book illustrator, comic book artist and an animator. She has illustrated numerous children's books - including Growing Up in Pandupur for Young Zubaan - for a variety of Indian publishers and currently lives in New Delhi.


Quotes from readers

With a variety of backgrounds, visual storytelling styles, and experiences of the world, the contributors to and editors of Drawing the Line truly fight back – with dignity and an appreciation for both individual voices and the wondrous cacophony of community. In so doing, this anthology combats easy narratives in favor of placing the power of storytelling and meaning-making in the hands of the many – and in the hopes that someday, we can all erase the lines we’ve drawn and finally savor napping in public. - Great Bear Comics

The graphic collection [Drawing The Line] is a rich reservoir of insight from today’s young women. [...] All in all, Drawing the Line is a powerful journey of women finding their voices and of artists discovering their art. - Kanika Sharma, Hindustan Times

 

e-Essays from Zubaan | 21 July, Domestic Space & Kinship

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Our e-Essays project is now LIVE! Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase.

To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here!

We opened our offering of the e-Essays with a focus on Indian women’s movements. Our second lot of essays looked at sexual violence. The third set of our e-Essays has been curated to the theme of domestic space and kinship. Covering a breadth of disciplines and spatiotemporal positions, this set comments on familial (matriarchal/patriarchal) and architectural structures as building blocks of women's lived experiences. A historical exploration of matrilineal Khasi societies and a piece on the changing role of women's education in 19th century Maharashtra connect here with an essay on women-only homes as seen in Indo-English women's writings, the three together examining the nature of power as it is employed within the family home.


1) 'Men, Women and the Embattled Family' by Uma Chakravarti from Rewriting History: The Life and Times of Pandita Ramabai, 1998.

8_Men, Women and the Embattled Family from Rewriting History_coverUma Chakravarti’s essay delves into the discourses of women's changing roles in nineteenth century Maharashtra, particularly in relation to education. As the household became enmeshed in a web of debates that had seeped in from the public to the domestic sphere, the education of one's wife was a project taken on by many male Hindu middle-class reformers. This essay explores not only the nature of the education that was imparted – which was fundamentally different from that given to men – but also its perceived functions and the consequences faced by women who were given access to such 'schooling'. 46 pp.

Read more.

₹70.00
Dr. Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.

2) 'Women-Only Homes' by Geetanjali Singh Chanda from Indian Women in the House of Fiction, 2008.
9_Women-Only Homes from House of Fiction_coverColonization dramatically altered the understanding of Indianness in light of nationalism and womanhood in light of modernism. Geetanjali Singh Chanda argues effectively in Indian Women in the House of Fiction that the home is the nexus of the construction of Indianness and womanhood because of this Indo-English encounter.Chanda traces the evolution of homes and domestic ideologies from the joint-family, indigenous patriarchal haveli dwelling to the Western import, the bungalow, to the urban apartment by analyzing texts of Indo-English women’s writings. 46 pp.
Read more.
₹70.00
Dr. Geetanjali Singh Chanda is a senior lecturer in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Programme at Yale University, USA. She has taught courses on globalization, autobiographies, family, cultural identity, popular culture, international feminisms and postcolonial India since 2001. Her research interests include religion, masculinities and popular culture.

3) 'Khasi Matrilineal Society: The Paradox Within' by Esther Syiem from The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India's Northeast, 2010.

10_Khasi Matrilineal Society from The Peripheral CentreEsther Syiem's essay traces the paradoxical nature of women’s status in Khasi matrilineal society. At once empowered and oppressed, Khasi women learn to negotiate these contradictions in their day-to-day engagements with society.

Despite being both visible and vocal, like their sisters across the country Khasi women too face a skewed sex ratio, a lack of reproductive choices, widespread domestic violence and a host of other issues. 9pp.
Read more.

₹50.00
Esther Syiem teaches English Literature at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, and specializes in American Literature, Modern Fiction and Folk Literature. Her publications are in both English and Khasi, and they include poetry collections like Oral Scriptings (2005) and Of Follies and Frailties of Wit and Wisdom (2010).

Free in July, with the purchase of any other essay:
4)  'Towards a Feminist Politics: The Indian Women's Movement in Historical Perspective' by Samita Sen from The Violence of Development: The Politics of Identity, Gender
& Social Inequalities in India
, 2002.

1_Towards a Feminist Politics from Violence of Development_ coverSamita Sen’s essay traces the history of the Indian women’s movement from the 1920s to the present day. The chronological as well as thematic logic of the essay follows three primary heads: a historical background, the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) controversy, and the political implications of the reservation for women in legislatures.

For Sen, a new feminist politics has to address struggles of class, caste, community, religion et al, without displacing gender as the central concern, making this essay one of crucial importance for understanding the origins of the issues facing feminist politics today.  53pp.

₹70.00

Read more.

 

 

Samita Sen is Director, School of Women’s Studies, and Dean, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies, Law and Management, Jadavpur University. She writes on education, the women’s movement, marriage, domestic violence, women in governance and women’s land rights.


A note on pricing, frequency and format:

Ten new essays are released each month, and subscribers receive each new set in their inbox three times a month. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we have therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have therefore standardised all our essays in PDF files.

If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our emailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post.

Happy Reading!

#THROWBACKTHURSDAY| A Life in Trans Activism

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Welcome to #ThrowbackThursday, a new series where we will revisit backlist titles one Thursday every month. This July, we’re looking at A Life in Trans Activism by A. Revathi.


About the book

A Life in Trans ActivismIn A. Revathi's first memoir, The Truth About Me (2011), readers learned of her childhood unease with her male body, her escape from her birth family to a house of hijras, and her eventual transition to being the woman she always she knew was.

This book charts Revathi’s remarkable journey from relative obscurity to becoming India’s leading spokesperson for transgender rights and an inspiration to thousands. It describes her life as an activist, theatre person, actor and writer. Revathi also offers the reader insight into one of the least talked about experiences on the gender trajectory—those of trans men.

An unforgettable book, A Life in Trans Activism will leave the reader questioning the ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable’ binaries of male/female that so many of us take for granted.


 About the author 

A. Revathi is an activist working for the rights of sexual minorities, and an author. Her autobiography The Truth About Me (2011) is one of the few autobiographies written by a member of the hijra community. Further, her prose and poetry has been translated into Kannada, English and Hindi. She was also the director of Sangama, a minority rights NGO. Revathi is also an actor—she made her debut in the Tamil film Thenavattu in 2008.


 Quotes from readers 

Her latest volume, A Life in Trans Activism (Zubaan, 2016) is an unflinching account of her journey towards accepting herself and, in the process, convincing society to accept her as well. Whether she is describing her apprenticeship as a hijra through the abusive guru process; her family’s violent rejection of her identity; or her complex relationship with elite, urban sexual and gender minority rights activists, Revathi is frank and compassionate, even to those who have wronged her. Her honest descriptions make even the most mundane parts of her life, such as her attempts to procure the proper government ID reflecting her new gender, fascinating and heartbreaking. [...]Stories like Revathi’s are vital because they make space for other women to feel comfortable in their own skin. - Open Magazine

 

A Life in Trans Activism is a story that makes you sit up straight and think hard and strong over the years, how we have treated transgenders among ourselves and how much our leaders have done for them. [...] So, today I ask you to pick up A Life in Trans Activism and read. Read it for a better world, to open our mind and heart towards fellow human beings whom we have ignored and despised for too long. Their anatomy may seem complicated to you, but once you read about it, you will be one of the many who would have taken a step towards making a country that doesn’t just think in black and white, but also in color." - Shabd Studio

e-Essays from Zubaan: 11 July, Sexual Violence

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Our e-Essays project is now LIVE! Previously-released essays are available here, and each month a new essay is available for free with any other purchase.

To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here!

We opened our offering of the e-Essays with a focus on Indian women’s movements. Our second lot of e-Essays are picked from two brilliant volumes on sexual violence. The three pieces differently focus on the loci of this violence: both men and women in militarised Kashmir, a single survivor narrative in Nagaland, and Dalit women in the jogini system, at the intersection of various structures of patriarchal and Brahmanical violence. Published between 2011 and 2016, the authors of these pieces use survivor narratives and analysis to examine the culture of impunity around sexual violence and its varying contributing factors.


1) 'Sexual Violence' by Aloysius Irudayam S J, Jayshree P Mangubhai & Joel G Lee from Dalit Women Speak Out: Caste, Class and Gender Violence in India, 2011.

5_Sexual Violence from Dalit Women Speak Out_coverExposing the vulnerability of Dalit women to both gender-based exploitation and caste-based violence, this essay investigates the threats that follow the women into their homes, their workplace, and the streets. Covering the many different structures that enable and even perpetuate such violence, the essay focuses in particular on the jogini system that legitimises prostitution even as it creates a circle of exploitation and social discrimination. 35 pp.
Read more.

₹70.00

Aloysius Irudayam S. J. is currently the Program Director for Advocacy Research and Human Rights Education at the Institute of Development Education, Action and Studies (IDEAS), located in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

Jayshree Mangubhai is a Senior Human Rights Adviser with the Pacific Community (SPC), a regional organisation that provides technical and scientific advice to Pacific Island governments, based in Fiji.

Joel G Lee is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Williams College, Massachusetts, USA. He teaches and conducts research on caste and religion in South Asia.


2)'Breaking the Silence: Sexual Violence and Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir'  by Sahba Husain from Fault Lines of History, 2016. 

6_Breaking The Silence from Fault Lines_coverSahba Husain's essay illustrates how sexual violence in the context of Kashmir takes on another layer of meaning as a deliberate strategy employed by the armed forces. It targets both women and men and has a bearing on their daily lives that are subsumed under the shadow of militancy.

Much of the analysis in the essay also stems from personal accounts of survivors who have different allegiances and religious backgrounds, which has affected them differently and has allowed the author to delve deeper into their varied experiences. 45 pp.

Sahba Husain is an independent researcher and women’s rights activist. Her research in particular focuses on the societal and gendered consequences of militarization and armed conflict in Jammu & Kashmir. Currently, she is working on writing a non-fiction book about her activism in Kashmir.

3) 'Memories of Rape: The Banality of Violence and Impunity in Naga Society' by Dolly Kikon from Fault Lines of History, 2016.
6_Breaking The Silence from Fault Lines_coverWith the Indo-Naga peace negotiations going into their twentieth year and no concrete resolution in sight, the area stands witness to many dying hopes. In this chapter, Dolly Kikon  takes an insider's view to re-contextualise incidents of violence in the conflict-ridden terrain of Nagaland.
The area of focus is the Naga woman and her experiences of occupying a space that is fraught with conflict and sexual abuse. This figure is studied as an often-neglected survivor of cultural violence, whose voice is constantly suppressed by the masculine gaze, be it of the insurgent elements or the state armed forces. 33p.
Dolly Kikon is a professor of Development Studies and Anthropology at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her research looks at development initiatives, gender, law, extractive resources and human rights in Northeast India. Before obtaining her PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Stanford University, USA, she worked as a human rights lawyer in Northeast India.

Free in July, with the purchase of any other essay:
4)  'Towards a Feminist Politics: The Indian Women's Movement in Historical Perspective' by Samita Sen from The Violence of Development: The Politics of Identity, Gender
& Social Inequalities in India
, 2002.

1_Towards a Feminist Politics from Violence of Development_ coverSamita Sen’s essay traces the history of the Indian women’s movement from the 1920s to the present day. The chronological as well as thematic logic of the essay follows three primary heads: a historical background, the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) controversy, and the political implications of the reservation for women in legislatures.

For Sen, a new feminist politics has to address struggles of class, caste, community, religion et al, without displacing gender as the central concern, making this essay one of crucial importance for understanding the origins of the issues facing feminist politics today.  53pp. Read more.

₹70.00

 

 

Samita Sen is Director, School of Women’s Studies, and Dean, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies, Law and Management, Jadavpur University. She writes on education, the women’s movement, marriage, domestic violence, women in governance and women’s land rights.


A note on pricing, frequency and format:

Ten new essays are released each month, and subscribers receive each new set in their inbox three times a month. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we have therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have therefore standardised all our essays in PDF files.

If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our emailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post.

Happy Reading!

e-Essays From Zubaan: 1 July, Indian Women's Movements

E-essays header fixedOur e-Essays project is now LIVE!

The e-Essays project is a new initiative from Zubaan, an effort to make feminist knowledge and academic research more easily accessible!

For nearly fifteen years, Zubaan has been publishing quality content in gender-related fields. With feedback from our readers, we realise that it's not always easy for our community — often scholars and researchers — to purchase anthologies, especially when they might need only one chapter or essay from a volume. Recognising this, we're making individual essays available in e-formats for a reasonable fee.

During the initial months of this pilot programme, on the 1st, 11th and 21st of every month a collection of three essays will be delivered to subscribers' inboxes, curated to cover disciplines and diversity within our academic anthologies. Each email adds to the bank of available essays, which can be purchased here, and each month, a new essay is available for free with any other purchase.

To be added to the mailing list, subscribe here!

We opened our offering of the e-Essays with a focus on Indian women’s movements. A mapping of history shows the resilience and adaptability of different forms of patriarchies, whether in the functioning of the colonial state, or in that of the more modern, independent Indian state. How have women’s movements and women’s activism confronted such entrenched patriarchies, what strategies have they brought to their activism to fight for change? How, further, has the movement – if indeed there is only one – addressed the complicated issues of caste contestations and identity-based challenges to the nation-state? Covering a period from the time of the Peshwai in the eighteenth century to the present day, this week’s essays highlight the challenges and strengths of the women’s movement in India.


1) Law, Colonial State and Gender by Uma Chakravarti, from Rewriting History: The Life and Times of Pandita Ramabai, 1998.

2_Law, Colonia State and Gender from Rewriting History_coverUma Chakravarti’s essay counters the claim that in the pre-colonial period, a ‘fixed’ Hindu law didn’t exist because of multiple caste laws, by arguing instead that even those separate caste laws were bound by a broader rational framework, enforced as such by the Peshwai. Chakravarti analyses the three legal issues of widow remarriage, conjugality and the age of consent to explore how the colonial laws affected women; the relationship between the caste panchayat and the larger legal culture of the second half of the nineteenth century; and whether the textual law was more or less repressive than customary law. 87 pp. Read More.

₹95.00

Uma Chakravarti is a feminist historian who taught at Miranda House, Delhi University. She writes on Buddhism, early Indian history, the 19th century and on contemporary issues.


2) 'Responses to Violence against Dalit Women' by Aloysius Irudayam S J, Jayshree P Mangubhai & Joel G Lee in Dalit Women Speak Out: Caste, Class and Gender Violence in India, 2011.

3_Responses to Violence Against Dalit Women from Dalit Women Speak Out_coverA qualitative as well as quantitative ethnography of 500 Dalit women who had been subjected to verbal, sexual and physical violence by men of the dominant castes, this essay starts as a narrative of individual Dalit women and moves towards an analysis of the reasons for the kinds of responses these women received when they tried to seek justice. The essence of the essay’s argument is that despite the existence of adequate legal measures, Dalit women still face insurmountable obstacles while getting those measures implemented, assuming of course that they know that what has been perpetrated against them is legally actionable. 55pp. Read More.

₹70.00

Aloysius Irudayam S. J. is currently the Program Director for Advocacy Research and Human Rights Education at the Institute of Development Education, Action and Studies (IDEAS), located in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

Jayshree Mangubhai is a Senior Human Rights Adviser with the Pacific Community (SPC), a regional organisation that provides technical and scientific advice to Pacific Island governments, based in Fiji.

Joel G Lee is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Williams College, Massachusetts, USA. He teaches and conducts research on caste and religion in South Asia.


3. 'Restoring Order in Manipur: The Drama of Contemporary Women’s Protests' by Deepti Priya Mehrotra from The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India's Northeast, 2010.

4_Restoring Order in Manipur from Peripheral Centre_coverTwo prominent protests in Manipur by women in recent years, one an individual one and the other a collective one, have brought to national attention the brutalities committed by the armed forces on ordinary citizens under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. This essay highlights what those protests mean for peace in Manipur, and how women have played a critical role in exposing the impunity with which human rights are violated under the exceptional circumstances created by the AFSPA. It also questions the unethical nature of militarization and the patriarchal nature of the Indian state. 14pp. Read more.

₹70.00

Deepti Priya Mehrotra is an independent scholar. Formerly a professor at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University, she has a doctorate in Political Science from Delhi University.

 


Free in July, with the purchase of any other essay:

4. 'Towards a Feminist Politics: The Indian Women's Movement in Historical Perspective' by Samita Sen from The Violence of Development: The Politics of Identity, Gender
& Social Inequalities in India
, 2002.

1_Towards a Feminist Politics from Violence of Development_ coverSamita Sen’s essay traces the history of the Indian women’s movement from the 1920s to the present day. The chronological as well as thematic logic of the essay follows three primary heads: a historical background, the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) controversy, and the political implications of the reservation for women in legislatures.

For Sen, a new feminist politics has to address struggles of class, caste, community, religion et al, without displacing gender as the central concern, making this essay one of crucial importance for understanding the origins of the issues facing feminist politics today.  53pp. Read more.

₹70.00 

Samita Sen is Director, School of Women’s Studies, and Dean, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies, Law and Management, Jadavpur University. She writes on education, the women’s movement, marriage, domestic violence, women in governance and women’s land rights.


A note on pricing, frequency and format:

Ten new essays are released each month, and subscribers receive each new set in their inbox three times a month. The essays range from just a few pages to 100-page chapters, and we have therefore created three pricing tiers: 50, 70 and 95 rupees. Responses to our test survey in March indicated that a majority of readers would be willing to pay up to Rs. 100, so we've kept even the longest essay under that amount. The vast majority of our readers also included PDFs in their preference of format, and we have therefore standardised all our essays in PDF files.

If you're interested to see what's coming next, make sure you've joined our emailing list, and keep your eye out for the next mailer/blog post.

Happy Reading!

ON TOPIC: JUNE WITH GENDER, INCLUSIVITY, AND EDUCATION

Events

-On the 28th of June, various Indian cities saw protests under the name of Not In My Name’ being held. The protests, although held in immediate response to the lynching of Junaid Khan, addressed the larger issues of militant nationalism and vigilante ‘beef lynchings’. While holding a protest like this was extremely important, people have voiced criticisms of the protest as well, in particular speaking out about the issue of the name of the protest, saying it’s like the “Indian upper-caste liberals’ version of #NotAllMen.

-In celebration of Pride Month, Chennai held its (9th) annual pride parade this June, and over a 100 people participated. People chanted slogans, dressed up in colourful clothes and handed out badges. A group of sex workers also joined the parade to raise awareness about sexually transmitted diseases.

-This month, the Indian Express started a new series called #GenderAnd, where through different articles and news pieces, it looked at the intersection of gender with other concepts like culture, the nation, and development, showing that gender isn’t something that can be looked at in isolation. The series includes articles on painting (gender and culture), corporate India (gender and business), trans rights (gender and the nation), and so on.

Popular Culture

-After a long struggle with the Indian Censor Board for certification, Lipstick Under My Burkha (which was initially supposed to release in October last year) will finally hit Indian theatres on the 21st of July. The film was earlier denied certification on the premise that it was too ‘lady oriented’. Balaji Motion Pictures announced the news with a bold and telling poster. Despite its release being stalled in India, the film has won numerous accolades abroad.

-Video Volunteers, a media and human rights NGO has a campaign called #KhelBadal, a video based campaign that tries to initiate conversations on different issues. This month, the campaign was called What’s In A Name, and talked about how many women all over the country are unable to address their husbands by the first name as it’s seen as a sign of disrespect. Not following this practice leads to social censure. Watch the video here.

Politics and Governance

-Chaya Kakde, accompanied by five other social workers from her women’s self-help organisation in Maharashtra, has been on a hunger strike since the 21st of June (as of 26 June 2017). Their demands include: removal of GST on sanitary napkins, making sanitary napkins available at ration shops, the providing of free sanitary napkins to women with uterus cancer, and the installment of sanitary pad vending machines in Maharashtra schools. They plan to move their protest to Jantar Mantar by June 30 if their demands are not met.

-Tamil Nadu is going to make the registration of pregnancies with the health department mandatory. Not completing such formalities could mean that the child will not get a birth certificate. The scheme, which will be implemented in July, is "[...] an ambitious project that attempts to bring down maternal and infant mortality rates by keeping a tab on every pregnant woman in the state," according to health secretary J Radhakrishnan.

However, this announcement does raise certain issues. As this article points out, the implementation of the scheme, especially in rural areas, will reduce the amount of time village nurses have to actually interact with pregnant women and educate them about health risks, as record keeping will begin to consume most of their times. Further, placing pregnant women under surveillance could make them feel conscious to avail of abortion services.

-A conference organized by the National Commission for Women in Chandigarh revealed that many women who married NRI men were being abandoned by their husbands, who after moving abroad without their wives, sent them divorce notices. This is a common occurrence, and to curb it, the Indian government is going to launch a web portal to help women who have been abandoned by men abroad.  This redressal system will aim at helping women register grievances regarding maintenance, divorce, and child support.

-The Haryana government will now allow married girl students in state universities and colleges to avail of maternity leave benefits of up to 45 days after submitting a valid medical certificate, effective from the upcoming academic session onwards. However, this only applies to married students, despite the fact that is it possible for unmarried women to get pregnant too!

-This month, the Punjab government decided to implement a number of progressive measures that will empower women in different spheres of their lives. Firstly, it increased the percentage of seats reserved for women in rural and urban local bodies from 33% to 50%. Further, it declared that education in government schools and colleges from the nursery to PhD level will be made free. The education reforms also include making textbooks more accessible and equipping classrooms with internet facilities.

-The Tamil Nadu government made education for transgender students free in the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tirunelveli. Further, ‘meritorious students’ are to get an additional stipend of Rs. 3,000 per month. Over in Kerala, the State Literacy Mission, following a survey, decided on continuing its education programmes for transgender students who discontinued their education midway. The programmes started in early June, and are being held in different cities for both tenth grade and senior secondary levels.

It's heartening to see different state governments making progressive measures to empower different sections of the population. However, the large gap between announcement and implementation can make policies fail, even if they have the best of intentions.

For example—the Kochi Metro, this month, became the first government organization to employ transgender people, with 23 transgender people being hired as ground staff. However, within a week of the metro’s implementation, 8 of the employees quit, as people refused to rent houses/rooms to them because of their gender identity.

Undoubtedly, it’s extremely important for the policy formulation and implementation agencies to recognise that nothing takes place in a vacuum—the social context always needs to be taken into account, and structures need to be put into place to ensure that the policy can function smoothly on the ground.

-Women are allowed to hold positions in the medicinal, legal, and engineering branches of the Indian Army, but they cannot be placed in combat positions. However, this month, the Army Chief said that the Army was in talks with the government to open up combat roles to women, something very few countries worldwide have done. The chief further said that initially, women would be recruited in the military police, whose role involves maintaining movement of soldiers, handling prisoners of war, assisting the civil police, etc.

This, however, raises larger questions about whether we as feminists should be lauding the Army for taking this step.  This Firstpost article puts forward some pertinent points—“If the inherent nature of the army is violence, and if violence is something that is both incompatible with feminism and that has uniquely horrifying effects on women, what does it mean to enlist more women in such an organization? There’s a lot here to unpack before we throw a party celebrating women’s entry into this traditionally male field. We’re all for women facing better employment prospects, but do we really need them to be hired as agents of violence and the patriarchy?”

Legal Judgements

-The Uttarakhand High Court declared that courts throughout the state should hear acid attack cases on a daily basis, and ensure that such trials conclude within three months. The court also announced that a compensation of Rs 1 lakh should be paid to acid attacks victims by the state after the filing of an FIR. It also ordered the state government to provide protection to eye-witnesses during the trial.

Sports

-The ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup commenced this month, and our cricket team emerged victorious from their first match, where they beat England by 35 runs.

-Pro-wrestler Kavita Dalal has been selected for the WWE’s 32-competitor Women’s Tournament, The Mae Young Classic.

Tech

-Following company research that revealed that many Indian women don’t set profile pictures of their faces out of fear that their pictures will be misused, Facebook is now rolling out a new feature in India called profile picture guard. Activating the feature means the following: others cannot download, share or send your profile picture in a message on Facebook, and Android users will be unable to take screenshots of your profile picture. However, screenshots still can be taken from other devices.

June at Zubaan

-After five long years, we sent out a new and improved version of our e-newsletter to our subscribers! If you’re interested in being up to date about Zubaan’s new releases, activities and projects, make sure you sign up for the (monthly) newsletter here.

-This month has also been dedicated to putting the finishing touches on our e-Essays project, due to launch next month. This project is going to ‘unbundle’ content by making select essays from anthologies available in e-formats for a reasonable fee. If you’re subscribed to our newsletter, keep your eyes peeled for the e-Essays mailer, coming to your inbox soon.

-On the 25th, Zubaan’s feminist book club discussed Amruta Patil’s Adi Parva. If you were unable to attend but are interested to read it, pick up the book here. Also, if you’d like to know when the next meeting is, don’t hesitate to shoot us an email (contact@zubaanbooks.com).

-This month on the blog, we featured two excerpts from our title Watercolours: A Story from Auschwitz by Lidia Ostałowska, translated from Polish by Sean Gasper Bye. Watercolours is the story of artist Dina Gottliebová-Babbitt and how she survived Auschwitz. In the words of S.G Bye:

 Lidia Ostałowska’s telling of this powerful story interweaves Dina’s life with the history of the camp both during and after the war, tracking how cultural memory of the Holocaust has evolved over the last half-century in Europe, America and Israel. She also poses challenging questions about art and morality. If art is used in service of genocide, is it still art? What are the artist’s duties under such circumstances? And to whom does the artist’s work belong—to the artist? The victims? To humanity?

That’s it for June, but On Topic will be back next month with more feminist news, so see you soon!

(PS: for daily feminist news updates, follow us on Twitter!)

 

Wonder Woman: Love, War, and Ideology

wonder woman

Wonder Woman’s journey to the big screen has been long and tedious—the process of creating a live action Wonder Woman film has been in the works since 1996, with several projects being initiated and then shelved over the years. It was only in 2015 that the project began to come to fruition. Patty Jenkins was confirmed as a director, and the production process began. It finally saw a worldwide release in early June.

The film combines elements of Greek mythology with modern history, and is set in the World War 1 era. It serves as a prequel to Wonder Woman’s appearance in Batman vs. Superman, and seeks to explain her origins and character evolution.

It’s an extremely multidimensional film that deals with a lot of thought provoking themes—here are some that really stood out to me:

Moral Ambiguities

The idyllic landscape of Themyscira, an island home to female warriors called the Amazons, is disturbed when American spy Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) plane crashes onto the island. Diana (Gal Gadot), princess of the island, rescues him. It is revealed that Steve has classified information with him regarding weapons that the Germans are using, information that he has to get back to his bosses in London. Steve’s description of the devastating war (World War 1) leads Diana to conclude that the god Ares is behind it—Ares is the enemy of the Amazons. Her solution is to seek out and kill Ares, which she thinks will stop the war. Diana thus leaves Themyscira with Steve, without even giving the other side [in this case, the Germans] the benefit of the doubt. [spoiler] The fight scene between the Amazons and the Germans on Themyscira’s shores, where the Germans (they lose in the end) fight and kill many Amazons, including Diana’s aunt reinforces the idea that Germans are the evil enemy, both in the minds of the viewers and Diana, an idea that she doesn’t question at all [end spoiler]. Even when she reaches London, she doesn’t try to gather more facts about the war or try to gain a more holistic understanding of the war—she just assumes that the Americans are good and the Germans are bad.

When Steve reached the island, he was bound by Hestia’s lasso (one that makes its captive tell the truth), so it makes sense that she believed what he had to say about the war. However, there’s a difference between believing that someone is telling the truth and believing that what they’re saying is morally correct, or subscribing to their ideology. She automatically assumed that Ares had to be someone of German origin without trying to get both sides of the story.

Films always reflect the context they were created in, so either intentionally or unintentionally, they end up projecting a certain point of view. This is something that is evident in Wonder Woman, and something that got me thinking about how comics and films can be (and have been) used as tools of propaganda. Undoubtedly, the political landscape influences artistic expression. This article, for example, talks about how superheroes in comic books gained resurgence during the Cold War era due to their use of political symbolism, and how some characters that we see on screen today like Iron Man have extremely anti communist backgrounds in the comics. As far as Wonder Woman itself is concerned, people have pointed out how it touches upon topics like weaponization and American ideology. Further, her costume too contains American symbols—it has hints of red and blue, and looks like it has an eagle built into it (see below).

JL_Wonder_Woman

When Steve lands on the island, his perspective of the war is the only one that Diana hears, and she thus assumes that the Allies were in the right and the other side was wrong. When destruction is occurring at a massive scale, the lines between good and bad, objective and subjective get increasingly blurred. Based on the beginning, I assumed that Wonder Woman would go the propaganda route. However, the movie addresses the ambiguity of concepts like ‘good and bad’, ‘right and wrong’ really well through the reveal of Ares’ identity. It drives home the point that it’s hard to see concepts in binaries. This idea is further reinforced by Diana’s declaration that all humans have both good and bad in them, but it’s the power of love that overcomes all.

Love

Like most superhero movies, this one contained a romantic connection between Diana and Steve. They worked really well as a team and had a really good relationship otherwise, so this something that I thought was an unnecessary addition to the plot. Her romance with Steve was definitely a secondary part of the story, but the entire exchange with Ares (interspersed with a few flashbacks) made it seem like it was (specifically) her relationship with Steve that gave her strength and helped her understand the potency of love. There was no mention of the love that she’d received from her family, the Amazons or even from other members of her team. While it definitely felt like romantic love was her driving force, considering the fact that Diana and Steve were teammates before lovers, we can give the movie the benefit of the doubt and assume that the love she felt for him could’ve stemmed from camaraderie and teamwork as well. However, should love have played a role at all?

[spoiler] As was revealed during her altercation with Ares, the purpose of Diana’s very existence was to be a ‘god killer’, something she was training to become her entire life [end spoiler]. Adding the idea of love took away from her strengths and capabilities as a warrior. It also overshadowed the fact that Diana’s quest, since the very beginning, was always motivated by a sense of duty and justice. It was never about love in the first place, so why make that such an integral part of the plot in the end?

The addition of the love element, while making her seem more ‘human’ and relatable, has its downsides as it can lead to the essentialization and internalization of traditional gender roles that typify women as being ‘emotional’.

This article puts it perfectly- "In the end, Wonder Woman concludes that “only love can save the world.” While this may be true, I’ve never heard any other superhero say so. Why couldn’t Wonder Woman fight for justice and eliminate bad guys without having to in the end make it about love? Perhaps a more interesting question is: Why don’t male superheroes do the same? While people argue that women are “feminine” and naturally more inclined to love, this thinking quickly slides into dangerous assumptions like women are more cut out for caring for children and processing feelings.”

A Feminist Superhero?

Wonder Woman’s quest is to end war by ending the God of War himself. Her intentions are extremely noble--she wants to save the world and protect innocent human beings. However, she has no way but to achieve peace through means of violence. [spoiler] Diana herself is a literal weapon, the ‘god killer’ [end spoiler]. Waging wars to “secure peace” is something that’s common even in the real world, a contradictory concept that none of us are unfamiliar with. In some circumstances, violence may be necessary and may bring about peace, but the devastating impact it leaves behind on both sides cannot be ignored. While it is impossible to generalize feminism as a whole, most feminists are against violence and the hierarchies and devastation it creates, and are pro cooperation, peace and freedom. Thus, can there be a feminist superhero? Especially if that superhero uses violence to achieve her goals, as noble as they may be?

Of course, not all women call themselves feminists, and thus having a female lead doesn’t make a film feminist, but whether Wonder Woman can be called a feminist icon or not is definitely something to think about.

The film definitely does express its disdain for certain kinds of weapons (chemical weapons in particular) and maybe its way of trying to tone down the weaponization was by adding the ‘power of love’ aspect, but as discussed earlier, this has a tendency of reinforcing certain tropes. Clearly, there’s no easy way to comprehend and address such concepts.

As a whole though, I really did like Diana’s character. What makes her such a joy to watch is that when she wants to do something, she’ll do it without hesitation. She is independent, strong and an extremely skilled warrior (something that she is acutely aware of). It is the only way she knows how to be. The fact that she can just go ahead and actively work towards achieving her goals without second guessing herself or having a million obstacles holding her back is empowering. It’s something that we as women cannot relate to, but aspire towards.

Seeing a woman being able to do that feels special—especially when we get to see her from a ‘female gaze’. Patty Jenkins’ direction ensured that powerful shots took precedence over the more sexy and objectifying shots that we normally see women on screen through. As this post points out, there was no attempt to make Wonder Woman (or the Amazons) look sexy, or to make them seem more palatable to a male audience.

As a film, I would highly recommend it. The cinematography was beautiful, the themes it sought to address were intriguing, and it left me feeling (slightly) invincible.

 

Zubaan's Poster Women Archive and International Museum Day

CaptureInternational-Museum-Day-2017

In 2006, Zubaan embarked on a journey to visually map the trajectories of Indian women's movements. We collected over 1500 posters and various paintings from women’s groups all over the country, each representative of a different issue and perspective. The culmination of this journey is our thematically organized Poster Women archive.

Zubaan’s engagement with the idea of women’s museums grew out of its involvement with Poster Women. Over 200 posters from the archive were a part of an exhibition that travelled all over the country and beyond. This raised larger questions of whether creating a museum to house these and other artefacts from women’s movements was possible. In 2013, with the support of the Ford Foundation, Zubaan created a proposal that looked at the possibility of setting up a women’s museum in India, one that would showcase women's struggles, provide educational material, run workshops etc. While some may question the existence of a separate women’s museum, we think that it is important. Women’s histories and struggles have been left out of the dominant narrative, reinforcing the imbalances that patriarchy produces. Creating a space that acknowledges and appreciates the achievements of women thus becomes important.

The International Association of Women's Museums (IAWM) was founded in 2008 to bring women's museums all over the world together, and to work towards providing them with more visibility and public acceptance. May 18th is celebrated around the world as International Museum Day, and since this year's theme was “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums”, we collaborated with the IAWM and participated in a global social media campaign to show that by speaking the unspeakable, women’s museums make women’s histories visible.

Traditionally, a museum is an entity that occupies a physical space. However, the existence of technology has now made it possible for historical objects to be displayed in the digital space, a space that transcends borders and boundaries. Physically, no such space dedicated to women’s histories exists in India, but in cyberspace, the Poster Women archive serves that purpose. Indian women’s movements have grappled with several issues since their inceptions, and the archive thus acts as a resource that people can access to see what topics these movements have engaged with over the years, and how the movements have perpetuated and represented themselves through the images they produce.

The following posters have been selected from the archive, and the asterisked (*) posts were published on our social media pages for the IAWM campaign. To view more posters and paintings, visit here.

 1. Domestic Violence: Swayam, Kolkata*

Titled 'In Our Community', this poster highlights the need to combat domestic violence collectively and through communities. These campaigns use the recurring image of the home not as a haven or shelter, but a silencing prison faced regularly by women. This reveals violence within the house as not a personal or family matter, but a systemic problem demanding public attention and policy intervention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 2. Religion: ‘Do Not Speak’ & ‘Stranglehold of Religion’ by Sheba Chhachhi and Jogi Panghaal, Lifetools, for Saheli*

collage

Indian family law, or personal law, is codified separately for four communities – Hindus (including Sikhs and Jains), Muslims, Christians and Parsis. Taken once to be a symbol of the Indian state’s commitment to minority rights, personal law nonetheless continues to be incredibly discriminatory towards women and their rights. This has been an important point around which Indian women’s movements have organized.

 

 

3. Environment: UBING, Dhaka (Created during a workshop in India with Kamla Bhasin)

‘We sow seeds, so there is life’-Women have always been an intrinsic part of the ecological movement due to the larger threat environmental degradation poses to their habitats and source of livelihood. This poster is reflective of how women come together as a driving force against various state and non state actors to protect their means of survival—the environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Dowry Deaths: Roopa, Bihar*

 "Could This Be Your Daughter?"-This emotive poster depicts a young bride, blindfolded and muzzled by news headlines of dowry-related deaths. In the 1980s, the women’s movement in Delhi led protests and campaigns to reform the anti-dowry law (amended in 1984 and 1986).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Sexuality: Vikalp, Gujarat

3 sexuality

Same sex couples in India have had to grapple with being called ‘abnormal’ and ‘unusual’. Their sexuality is seen as a deviance from traditional Indian culture as well as a result of the ‘bad’ influence of Western culture. This poster asserts that being Indian and being homosexual are not mutually exclusive. Further, by virtue of being human, homosexuals deserve certain human rights.

 

 

 

 

6. Labour: Kamla Bhasin, Kali For Women*

This poster says ‘My wife does not work’ and then goes on to name the many tasks that ‘housewives’ traditionally juggle: cleaning, cooking food, washing clothes, giving birth and raising children, taking care of the sick and elderly, and more. Domestic work and care giving remains unrecognized and undervalued as labour, and, consequently, often goes unpaid. The many-armed working woman, in this image, is reminiscent of traditional images of the goddess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Reproduction: Voluntary Health Association, Orissa

health

 

When it comes to the sex of a baby, many Indian families prefer sons. Thus, women who bear daughters are often subjected to taunting, social boycott, battering, desertion and even murder. This poster which says ‘Men determine the sex of the child’ is an example of one of many posters that were created by groups to dispel myths about reproduction and reduce harassment against women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 8. Education: Akshara Vijaya, Karnataka

‘Education for every house, a light for every home’: In 1974, a report released by the Committee on the Status of Women in India revealed that in spheres like education, employment and legal access, the condition of women had worsened. The report both shocked and inspired—women’s groups all over the country conducted campaigns, seminars and workshops to address this gap. This Telugu poster shows a woman from the Lambadi nomadic tribe learning how to write. It was originally made for the Sampurna Saksharta Andolan (Total Literacy Campaign).

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Text for all the captions posted above has been adapted from 'Our Pictures, Our Words', eds. Laxmi Murthy & Rajashri Dasgupta]

 

On Topic: May with Menstruation, Masturbation, & Mental Health

Events

-May is observed as International Masturbation Month and sex- positive website Agents of Ishq helped people celebrate it. Through the posts on their website and by using the hashtag #masturbationmay on social media platforms, they initiated conversations about female masturbation (something that isn’t talked about often) and talked about the different words people use to refer to masturbation. They even published a series of videos that addressed and dispelled various myths surrounding the topic!

-May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, and Canada-based desi duo Chuski Pop, who host monthly podcasts on desi culture, women’s issues and society at large, dedicated their May podcast to talking about women’s mental health and addressing their own struggles with depression and anxiety. Catch them on Soundcloud here for more.

Governance and Politics

-Besides masturbation and mental health, the month was also dedicated to discussions on menstruation, owing to the fact that the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime has taxed sanitary napkins at 12%, but has made items like sindoor, bindis and bangles tax free. Although the 12% figure is a reduction from the earlier figure of 14.5%, this decision has angered many as it prioritizes the affordability of symbols of marriage and beauty over items that are of essential use to women.

In India, only 12% of the female population has access to sanitary products. Women who don’t enjoy access to these products use alternatives like rags, ashes and even old sand, leading to long term health complications and sometimes death. Government programmes do exist to promote menstrual health, however in states like Hyderabad and Telangana, they have suffered from bad implementation. A survey done in the two states reveals that while there are provisions that provide girls with supplies, disposal still remains an issue.

The public’s response to the new tax regime was swift—many took to social media to express their disappointment, and petitions and campaigns like #lahukalagaan were launched.

-Social media was also used by Chhattisgarh police officer Varsha Dongre to expose the (alleged) human rights violations being carried out by the Indian state. In a Facebook post, she talked about how young Adivasi girls in Bastar were subjected to extreme torture like electric shocks. She also went on to state that tribal women suspected of being Naxalites were being raped and assaulted. She was subsequently suspended for violation of conduct.

-While some girls are being denied their human rights, others are being denied their right to education. Schoolgirls from Rewari in Haryana sat on an 8 day hunger strike to demand the upgradation of their local school from Class 10 to 12. A similar protest also took place in Rajgarh. These strikes took place because schools that offered higher classes are located far away from the villages where the schoolgirls live, and they would consistently face sexual harassment during their long journey to school.

- Undoubtedly, education is an integral aspect of everyone’s lives, and how it is structured can shape worldviews and opinions. However, Indian education may soon witness the erasure of identities. The Central Board of Secondary Education in its course review meeting suggested that it may replace the term ‘Anti-Muslim Riots’ with ‘Gujarat Riots’ to refer to the 2002 communal riots. This definitely isn’t the first time that (potential) syllabus changes have reflected ideological considerations—in 2014, former HRD minister Smriti Irani announced that Kendriya Vidyalayas would discontinue teaching German as a third language as an alternative to Sanskrit, a decision she said was taken in view of "national interest".

Many BJP leaders have also been demanding the removal of Mughal emperors from textbooks to make more space for Hindu kings. Earlier this year, an RSS-organized workshop called Gyan Sangam was held in Delhi, and academics and vice chancellors of various central and state universities were on the list of attendees. The aim of the workshop was to discuss how to “Indianise” the educational system of the country and bring a “real nationalist narrative” to higher education.

-In representing all shades of opinion in governance, Mexico is making important strides. Mexico’s National Indigenous Governing Council appointed María de Jesús Patricio Martínez as their spokesperson. Backed by the leftist political group Zapatista Army of National Liberation, this decision will pave the way for her to run as an independent candidate in the upcoming presidential elections in 2018. As an indigenous woman who will now work towards securing representation for her historically underrepresented community, her appointment is extremely symbolic.

-Speaking of representation and recognition of identities—Taiwan made history this month when it became the first Asian country to decriminalize gay marriage. Its constitutional court declared that a new legal framework accommodative of gay marriage must be implemented within two years.

Legal Judgements

-The highly brutal and highly publicised Nirbhaya gang rape case came to a close on May 5th, when the Supreme Court upheld capital punishment for the accused. The court’s decision was met with mixed responses—many celebrated the decision and thought it was fitting, but some questioned the role of the death penalty as a deterrent. These concerns were further exacerbated when only a few days later, a woman was brutally gang raped in Rohtak.

-On May 11, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court convened a special summer session to deliberate upon the constitutionality of triple talaq. Six days later, it decided to reserve its verdict. However, the bench did ask the All India Muslim Personal Law Board whether a clause could be inserted in the nikahnama (marriage contract) that would prevent a husband from being able to use triple talaq. Muslim marriage is contractual, so the addition of such a clause will specify the nature of a woman’s consent to a marriage and thus possibly curb the use of triple talaq in the future. However, as Flavia Agnes says

“In any case […] the bride and her family have little, if any, say in wedding-related decisions. The nikahnama is usually drawn up by qazis affiliated to the Muslim law board and they hardly ever inform the bride of her right to negotiate the terms of her marriage.”

Thus, only time will tell what sort of judgement will now emerge from the apex court and how it will impact Muslim women.

Sports

-The Indian women’s cricket team is breaking worldwide records—Deepti Sharma and Poonam Raut became the first ever pair to score 300 runs in a One-Day International. Jhulan Goswami also made history when she became the highest wicket taker in women’s ODIs.

Popular Culture

-May has been a good month for female directors. DC Comics’ first ever female led superhero movie Wonder Woman hits select theatres at the end of this month, and will see worldwide release in June. It also happens to be the first major studio superhero movie directed by a female director, Patty Jenkins. Gina Prince-Bythewood will soon make history as the first woman of colour to direct a superhero film with Marvel Comic’s Silver and Black. The film itself is centred around two women ‘antiheroes’. Further, this month at the Cannes Film Festival, Sophia Coppola became the second woman ever to win the Best Director title for her film The Beguiled. The first woman to win this title, Yuliya Solntseva, received it over 56 years ago.

Tech

-Intel Social Business Ltd. and a Bangladeshi not for profit have created the COEL, a smart bangle that gives pregnant women audio cues like reminders regarding diet, vaccinations, cramps, etc. Rural women lack access to maternal healthcare facilities, and the COEL seeks to address that issue. COEL can also detect toxic carbon fumes originating from the use of charcoal, which can be harmful to the child and alert the mother. It’s being used in Bangladesh and will be distributed in Indian markets this year at the price of Rs 1000.

In Memoriam

-Earlier this month, Justice (retd) Leila Seth passed away. She was the first woman judge in the Delhi High Court, and the first woman to become a Chief Justice of a state high court (Himachal Pradesh). She was also responsible for progressive amendments to the Hindu Succession Act.

May at Zubaan:

-Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?, our book on the 1991 mass rape of women from the Kashmiri villages of Kunan and Poshpora, by the Indian army, was awarded the Laadli Media prize for best non-fiction book. Co-written by five Kashmiri women, the book highlights the continuing legal (non-)consequences of the Indian state’s human rights abuses under AFSPA in Kashmir.

-In celebration of International Museum Day and in collaboration with the International Association for Women’s Museums, Zubaan participated in a worldwide social media campaign to promote women’s museums. We shared several posters from our Poster Women archive on Facebook and Twitter, which addressed various issues like dowry death, religion and domestic violence.

-We also announced our next Young Zubaan project, a comic book promoting menstrual health among young readers called Spreading Your Wings. Created by Ariana Abadian-Heifetz and illustrated by Pia Alizé Hazarika, it will have both Hindi and English editions. The author is currently accepting donations so that the cost of the book can be subsidized, making it affordable and able to reach as many beneficiaries as possible!

-On the 28th, Zubaan’s feminist book club discussed Kuzhali Manickavel’s Insects Are Just Like You And Me Except Some of Them Have Wings. If you were unable to attend but are interested to read it, you can pick up the book here. The next meeting is on the 25th of June and we’re reading Amruta Patil’s Adi Parva – if you’d like to join us, shoot us an email (contact@zubaanbooks.com)!

Happy reading, and May the force be with you!

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