Thursday, 12 February 2015

What Racism Taught Me About Feminism

Get, set, rant!

United States of America has witnessed several cases with high media attention where black men were killed or harassed by policemen out of proportion of their crimes. For a white man, he might have just walked free. An elderly Indian man who was visiting his son in the United States was left in a state of paralysis after police manhandled him. You can read about it here. A lot of incidents of racism lead people to protest with "#BlackLivesMatter". People who believed that these incidents are gathering too much attention retaliated with "#AllLivesMatter".

There is a reason why "#AllLivesMatter" in-spite of being a Utopian dream and true is wrong in this context. There exists structured racial discrimination against Blacks in USA. White kids were not gunned down for roaming around at night. I could go on and on, but it should suffice to say that when you deflate "BlackLivesMatter" to "AllLivesMatter" you are trying to take attention away from the problem of structural racism against Blacks. You have become a part of the problem. You are refusing to see your own privilege. AllLivesMatter is a denial of the injustices faced by a whole section of people simply because of their skin colour. Some people see BlackLivesMatter as a form of reverse racism. Just the way equal women's rights are seen as subjugation of men.

In all honesty, all lives are not equal. They have never been. We can only work towards making them all matter equally. Example joke: Bush: We are planning to kill 25 million Iraqis and a bicycle repairman.
Clinton: Why would you kill a bicycle repairman?
Bush: See! I told you nobody cares about 25 million Iraqis.

Here comes feminism, I am sure every feminist has been asked "don't you believe that men are equal. Then why are you fighting only for women's rights?". When #HeForShe was trending an acquaintance said "why #HeForShe" instead of "#HeForHimselfAndEveryoneElse". You have effectively denied all the problems that are perpetrated on women by men only because of their gender. You do not want to see your privileges because of being a male. It is also important to understand the concept of intersectionality of privileges and discrimination. As a girl born to 'educated open-minded parents' I am privileged compared to those girls who were killed at birth or those who were denied education by their parents because of gender. Because of my family's financial status I could afford to go to good schools and end up in a reputed college. This makes me more privileged than a hell lot of people, simply because my parents could afford to send me to a good school. Since I am not lesbian I don't have to face homophobia. I am privileged. Since I have lived in conflict free zones, my life has been stable compared to several others. I am not physically handicapped which makes me privileged in a wide variety of areas. BUT I am less privileged than a male born in absolutely same conditions. He can step out at night without the fear of being sexually assaulted by random romeos on the streets. Yes, mugging is there but that is not because of his gender. His education will never be questioned but there are people who raise questions about "Return of Investment" on women's education. Yes, I might get a few advantages here and there in companies looking to recruit women, but that will diminish exponentially as I age. And it's not me saying this but a lot of working women have complained of their equal work being undervalued compared to their male colleagues.

Feminism taught me that the problem of women's rights being questioned, their problems being undervalued is not specific to feminism. NO group wants to see its privileges and another group being discriminated in the same areas where they are privileged. All of us have a misconception that while removing discrimination we are giving up our rights. No, we are just giving up our privileges. And, no, that is NOT subjugation. During the suffrage movements, posters depicting how equal voting rights for women would lead to subjugation of men.

I have also learned that humans have very less empathy for each other. If drinking each others blood would give us a million gold coins, humans wouldn't refrain from doing that. Yes, I have no faith in homo sapiens. Yes, I have given up on humanity. Because people use it only when it suits them. But the only thing I can do is realize the discriminated groups and work for them.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written Aarti.

    The very root of every discriminations lies in conflict of classes. We human, in our evolution, have established various classes. Classes that divide us into male and female, rich and poor, white and black etc. I used to believe that the oppressed, if given chance, would shine bright carrying the sense of equality. But that believe of mine is gradually shaking after I see the world the way it is. In India today we see reservation based on cast and there are some virtuous logic behind it. But now that it has become a political issue, it is creating bigger gaps. The once oppressor class is now being oppressed. A kid cannot get into a college, while the other can in spite of having comparatively lower grades just because of his cast. The problem is in the system where we have allowed the "inheritance" to prevail in our society. Not every child is equal to the state even from its birth. The moment the new blood joins the earth it is marked by a name, surname, religion, caste, financial status etc.
    Your views on feminism are apt. The 'HeforShe' program faced a lot of criticism. It is rather funny to think how things actually work. A woman gets raped but that's not the end of misery. Getting raped was just a misery she suffered amongst the rapist. But later the greater misery comes from the society itself. Thousands of dos and don'ts are thrown at her. The stare of big eyes and a lot more. Now when it comes to justice, if the rapist is given a death penalty then the chaos begins by the so called "Human Rights Commissions". They pour their heart out to save the rapists right. Not for a single time the woman's agonies are viewed rather the issue becomes whether the rapist should be hanged or not!
    Looking at such incidents our logical heads force us to give up on humanity. But should we really give up now? We can see that evils are on rise. Those who create the problem are summoned to solve it. All of this is true, but deep inside our mind we cannot loose hope. Because it is only in the darkest of times when we need the hope most. If there was no struggle on road, then we wouldn't know how harsh life can be. It is only because we understand how cruel nature can be we must stand up. Standing up against what we don't want to occur is something that differentiates us, the living beings from the dead ones.