BR Ambedkar: Social Justice


The contribution of Dr B.R. Ambedkar in Indian Democracy is not to be forgotten. As a Chairman of the Constitutional Committee, he gave a shape to our country of a complete Sovereign, Democratic, Republic based on an adult franchise. In the Constitution of free India all the citizens have been guaranteed social, political and economic equalities.

Baba Saheb BR Ambedkar’s name is written in gold letters throughout Indian history as the creator of social justice. Not only was he the creator of the constitution, but also the creator of social justice and the messiah of the oppressed. If Mahatma Gandhi gave us the direction and lesson of morality, then Baba Saheb shaped the social aspect without exploitation. It had, in the truest sense of the word, a democratic and antiquated goal. He spent his whole life promoting the poor, exploited untouchables. and classes with problems.
It has been a gloomy historic fact of Indian society that lower castes have been exploited and subjugated upon by the upper castes and for that reason the lower castes have mostly also been the lower classes economically and vice versa.

During the freedom movement there were many leaders and movements throughout India. The most protruding voice of and for the lower castes bad emerged in the person of B.R. Ambedkar who came from the untouchable Mahar caste in what is today Maharashtra. Even today Ambedkar is a hugely influential symbol who is followed by many political forces throughout the length and breadth of India. Ambedkar’s aim in his own words was to get justice for the ‘last, the lost and the least and he emerged as a sort of revolutionary leader of India’s Hindu untouchable and other castes. His intention was to fight for their equality and seek better-quality living conditions for them and reach education among them and get suitable representation for them in elected bodies and in government services.


During the freedom struggle. Ambedkar’s emphasis on issues related to social justice forced the leaders of the national movement to take these up as part of the agenda associated with the main demand for unshackling the country from the chains of colonialism. Ambedkar was a highly educated person with great academic accomplishments and a lawyer by training. His views on social justice are to be found in his books and speeches.
His most important works are Annihilation of Caste (1936). Who were the Shudras (1946) and The Untouchables (1948). Also, his writings like What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables. He put forward vivid well researched attacks on the exploitative Hindu caste system chiefly with respect to how untouchables were treated and struggled all his life to secure legal and constitutional safeguards for their rights. It is stimulating in spite of the fact that he had attacked Gandhi’s Congress Party’s views and attitudes on the caste system quite harshly and in a scathing manner in
his writings, despite of that Gandhiji suggested Ambedkar’s name to head the committee to draft the Constitution.


Ambedkar in his work “Who Were the Shudras?” questioned the whole Hindu social order and tried to create a theory that the Shudras were not a separate varna or caste but were originally Kshatriyas who in a struggle with Brahmins were manipulated out of the kshatriya caste by the Brahmins and were deprived of the sacred thread.
He proposed a hypothesis that the untouchables were originally disciples of Buddha and were Buddhists but the Hindus led by the Brahmins to try to undermine Buddhist influence and stop its spread put the untouchables in a corner and started branding them untouchables. He believed the root of all lack of social justice in India was the caste system that created the environment for exploitation of man by man- of the Shudras and untouchables by
the brahmins and other higher castes. He believed that democracy cannot be achieved in India without first establishing social justice through the annihilation of the caste. Hence, he took a position that contradicted both the position of Congress and Gandhiji, who first wanted political reform and independence from the British colonial government, and the socialists and Marxists who wanted economic equality also established themselves first.

#BlackLivesMatter: A Wake-Up Call for India’s Closeted Racism

 

 

‘Racism and prejudices are the exhaust fumes of damaged egos.’

 

As protests erupt in America, over the injustices inflicted on black lives after the institutional murder of George Floyd, we are finally forced to look closer into out own country for similar patterns of systematic and institutional racism that exists in our own country. At a time like this, it’s essential to introspect and heck our privilege in the everyday. When we start looking for their stories, it comes barely as a surprise that their voices are muffled amongst the clamour of noises. This begs the question- ‘Is there racism in India?’ Yes, there’s racism in India, but not just to other races, we are also racist towards our own race. It is almost like we hate ourselves, so much that we’d trade in our hide to be a white without batting an eyelash.

There exists racism on the basis of place a person belongs to which is nothing but an ugly truth of this nation. The hatred is such that people have died in thousands. People from north east are considered as aliens and those who belong to states like Bihar, Jharkhand are considered to be illiterate , mannerless, untouchable in metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, etc. Just an example, that happens everywhere in this country. Not only metro cities but every state have their own reasons to hate one from other state. There’s racism on the basis of language we use. We are blessed to have hundreds of languages all with their own unique identity and importance and yet we have failed as a nation to give every language its due respect which includes one of the oldest languages of human civilization. There’s also racism on the basis of culture and colour. India is blessed with a rich variety of cultures, yet we leave no stone turned to mock each other’s culture, well, that’s how we show admiration to some of the oldest cultures in the world. And as of racism based on someones skin colour, all that can be said is that it’s extremely disheartening. Lastly, there also exists racism on basis of religion. As unfortunate as it is, this is probably the time when it’s most prominent.

People from Bihar have been subjected to racism from several decades. Everything about them from their looks, language, culture, accent is ridiculed pretty much all over the country. The term ‘Bihari’ itself is being increasingly used as a curse word in the northern parts of the country If there is ever a rape somewhere in India, the convict is automatically assumed to be a Bihari . If someone speaks Bhojpuri, he is assumed to be a ‘gavaar’ (illiterate). But this issue is never shown in the media, neither it is ever taken seriously, because according to some folks in our society these people are meant to be bullied. Whether someone is from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh, he is no more than a “Madrasi” to a North Indian. Abusive comments on their skin colour, food habits, culture are quite prevalent among the North Indians.

People are so ignorant about their own culture that they even forget that their is an integral part of India called the “seven sisters” or the “North East”. Recently in an interview, the child actor of the movie “Tubelight”, who hailed from Arunachal Pradesh was asked by a reporter, “How do you feel after coming to India for the first time ?”.

It’s worth mentioning that with the outbreak of the pandemic, the situation of racism became more vivid and more clear as the people of North-eastern region were told to vacate their apartments or other accommodations. Some were beaten up, some were prevented to enter the grocery stores to buy their basic necessities and some were even abused on grounds of internalised racist assumptions around the virus. Well, they can’t really change how they look, can they? Can anybody suggest a ‘guru’ who can teach them what ‘Indian-ness‘ means without having to lose their identity?

To top it all off, there’s the whole conundrum of white skin versus dark skin, with underlying tones of colourism and casual racism. Being a dark-skinned Indian woman is significantly harder. The sexism endemic in Indian society is such that the beauty standards for women are stricter and less fluid compared to men. You do occasionally find the odd dark-skinned south Indian hero, but they are largely relegated to the roles of comedians or villains; dark-skinned Indian women are lucky to be cast as extras or auxiliary dancers. It is even more prominent during matchmaking. In Indian culture, aesthetics and beauty are said to be the jurisdiction of women, whereas work and wages tend to define men-or as the adage goes “udyōgam puruśa lakśańam”. My mother remembers when she had to stand up for one of my aunts during matchmaking negotiations when the groom’s parents demanded more dowry to compensate for my aunt’s dark skin. Even today when brides are in demand from decades of a skewed sex ratio, dark-skinned women fare poorly in the Indian marriage market; a cursory glance at any matrimonial ad using the search term ‘fair’ can substantiate this.

Essentially, every non-Hindustani Indian has a difficult time in India. They can find themselves obligated to learn more languages than their Hindustani counterparts, unable to take exams in their mother tongue or face difficulties accessing state services. None more so than the Northeast Indians. Lacklustre investment in their states has meant that youngsters move seeking greener pastures elsewhere in India. It is incredibly heart-breaking to hear the harrowing tales of men and women being treated so harshly, often disproportionately subject to molestation and harassment and called racist slurs within their own country. Government funding towards languages and other infrastructure is skewed in favour of Hindi, and even Sanskrit. This has resulted in several languages and tribal identities in India facing extinction, especially in the South and the Northeast. Northeast Indians, compared to their South Indian counterparts, have poorer representation in Indian media.

We have a long way to go to become a country where we learn to accept all cultures, religions and habits. after all, the first step in solving a problem is realizing that there is one. If Indians do not collectively admit that we have a problem with racism, we’re going to be in serious trouble. We have several ethnicities in India. This simple fact seems to be lost in the hullabaloo about religion in the mainstream. Media is not a passive entertainment industry. It is a projection of culture and aspiration for many. It directly affects our choices, preferences, tastes, fashion, trends and even politics. Young Indians, especially girls, consuming this diet of cultural crap from media and society will mean that a generation of Indians will emerge with serious physical and mental issues. An unregulated industry of face whitening products often containing dangerous carcinogens like hydroquinone makes medical risks very real. What makes this even more remarkable is the warm reception that dark-skinned people of South Asian heritage have received elsewhere in the world- Kunal Nair, Romesh Ranganathan, George Alagiah, Naga Muchetty, Aziz Ansari and the list goes on. Thus, the Black Lives Matter Movement should be wake up call for India.

‘Let us make it our purpose to listen deeply to those who suffer racism so that we may better comprehend what it is, how they feel and how we can build the society they need. It is wrong to become defensive, and right to open our hearts all the wider, to love and acknowledge that all are fully sacred. We are called to love, and the more we love each other the better our world will become.’

Addressing Toxic Masculinity

 

“Sometimes people hear “toxic masculinity” and think the term is anti-men. It isn’t. It’s anti-telling- men -they-have-to-repress-emotions- and – be-dominant-alphas-to- be- considered – real-guys. It’s pro-men. Thinking, feeling, resilient, strong, awesome men.”

– Amanda Jette Knox

I am sure that if you’re an international K-pop fan, then you are no stranger to the knee-jerk reaction people have after they have begged you to show them the images and/or music videos or any K-Pop group. Most reactions generally revolve around “They look like women” or “They are too feminine” or “Why are they wearing make-up?” or the infamous “Are they gay?”.

This made me wonder, what exactly is it that causes such a reaction? What does it mean to be ‘man’ or to be something lesser than that? Are we, as a society, missing out on addressing the toxic masculinity that plagues the young minds?

Although, there have been some colloquies on it, most of them leave out the dialogue that Asian men are particularly hyper-emasculated in western culture (and also by minorities in western culture) which could also be a reason why people automatically react in this manner, besides already having discrimination towards appearances that don’t fit the extremes of femininity and masculinity. As for the people mouthing off about K-pop looking too “feminine”, it ends up bringing up the connotation that femininity is a bad thing somehow. It’s essential to understand that feminine and masculine traits are social constructs, so they change according to each culture.

What is toxic masculinity?

Toxic masculinity is those elements of our social definition of masculinity that have concrete negative impacts on men by promoting behaviours such as refusing medical treatment to appear strong, suppressing emotions that show vulnerability, and idolizing violence as a solution to problems.

These behaviours are enforced by other men (and society as a whole), by challenging the manhood of those who deviate from this behavior, while also teaching each other that manhood is something to be valued above all else. In addition, most of them wrestle with the perception of masculinity, which, in a feudal society like ours, is very conditional. Of course, women perpetrate violence too: they can be aggressive and brutal, particularly to other women. But undoubtedly, the culture that stokes such violence smacks of machismo. Manhood is not naturally given, but is a goal to be achieved. To be born a boy is a privilege but one that can be lost if one is not properly initiated into masculine practices.

What are the core features of this model of manhood?

First, aggression is natural and desirable in men. A ‘real’ man is eager to pick up a fight. If he does not, he is told to wear bangles on his wrist. Even the slightest intrusion in his physical, mental or social space is unacceptable. Second, men must be tough — muscular and unemotional; they must not be easily perturbed, must not grieve and cry. Part of what it means to be tough is to suppress empathy towards others, to be embarrassed by fear or any other vulnerability. Third, men must be ambitious and ruthless. Once they set a goal, it must be achieved regardless of consequences to others. Since winning is all-important, other men striving to achieve the same goal are rivals to be eliminated. Extreme competitiveness, on this model, is a classical male characteristic. Fourth, it does not behove men to consult others, negotiate with the weak, or settle for anything less than what they want. They take independent decisions that brook no questioning. As famously put by Amitabh Bachchan in one of his films, ‘Bas… keh diya na (Enough, I have said so).’

And if you don’ fill in these roles, then too bad, you’re deemed to be not ‘man enough’.

In most discourses, however, what isn’t properly addressed is that women perpetuate toxic masculinity too. There is an institutionalized aspect of masculine toxicity as culture that we recognize as true for men in general, but ignore being equally true among women, even many feminist women. Most people and groups do this to some extent, it’s hard to be fully self aware and self critical. We don’t always see the flaws in ourselves as readily as we see them in others. Part of feminism is recognizing the invisible structures that pull societal norms to be what they are. This is just an aspect of that and speaks to the idea that we really have to be the change we want to see in the world and it’s pretty naive to consider yourself or your group as “clean hands” in the matter just because you are aware of one piece of the puzzle.

So, what can be done to overcome this?

The first step would be, abandoning ‘just for men’ attitudes, and not doing it for the sake of getting women to like you. ‘Woke’ bros are just as problematic, so just live honestly and act respectfully towards everyone. Stand up for what’s right even when it’s hard and you’re a minority voice.

Just like we “make room” or “hold space” for voices that are actually impacted by the problems we see in our society it makes sense we should do the same to at least include men as valuable voices to addressing the “male toxicity” problem. Only they can speak their own truth.

Violence, misogyny, and no accountability are pillars of toxic masculinity. So, knock down those pillars daily. Embracing who you are and standing up for those who need it, you start to realize gender doesn’t have a place to shape our lives as rigidly as society tells us. Call it inner peace and confidence! You can embrace your personhood, just not things. You can embrace your own idea of a ‘masculine’ identity, just don’t be attached to the external.

“All of us have to recognize that being a man is first and foremost being a good human. That means being responsible, working hard, being kind, respectful, compassionate. If you’re confident about your strength, you don’t need to show me by putting somebody else down.”

What is Social Justice?

Social Justice is a word that we hear a lot on public platforms and in the media these days. The idea of justice encompasses notions like equity, fairness, getting what one deserves, and the absence of bias. It is a fundamental element for the proper and ethical functioning of any civilization or society. A society that is lacking in justice and does not seek to amend for this lack will be marked by discrimination, violence, and a loss of the recognition of the intrinsic value of life. It is fundamental to our existence as human beings and necessary for the harmonious co-existence of diversities.

The United Nations’ definition of social justice is as follows: “Social justice may be broadly understood as the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.” The US Centre for Economic and Social Justice defines it as thus: “Social justice encompasses economic justice. Social justice is the virtue that guides us in creating those organized human interactions we call institutions. In turn, social institutions, when justly organized, provide us with access to what is good for the person, both individually and in our associations with others. Social justice also imposes on each of us a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development.” The concept of Social Justice arose in the 19th century during the industrial revolution in Europe. The industrial revolution saw the emergence of Capitalism which thrived on exploitation and cheap labour. Concepts of social justice were brought forward to remedy the injustices that were being thus perpetuated in society. However, today we use the term to not only signify disparities in economic situations but also various other social injustices and discriminations. These could be related to gender, caste, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, or anything else that becomes a means by which negative differentiation comes about in society.

Social justice has become an umbrella term under which various struggles and fights against societal inequalities take place. It is intrinsically connected to human rights and operates under the assumption that all individuals are equal and have the right to enjoy equal access to health, justice, societal privileges, etc irrespective of the background or culture that they come from. It is employed to fight systemic injustices manifested in political, economic, and legal structures. Equality can be achieved through protests which are to lead to changes in policy. It is also supportive of affirmative action that allows groups that have been marginalized and oppressed over centuries to be given compensatory benefits. This is to ensure that they are able to move ahead and be on par with their peers in the long run, while also not being victimized by any oppressor. It stands for political representation and equity in all spheres of life.

Social justice should be the concern of every honest individual in society who cares about his fellow being. Those who fight for social justice are to understand the deeply rooted inequities in society and call them out, working towards better policies and laws. But it also involves changing mindsets, unlearning privileges, breaking apart structures of thought, opening up spaces. Recognizing privileges and being allies to those who have been subjugated by powers and thereby forced into a life of heightened oppression and lesser opportunities is absolutely necessary at this juncture in history. We have come a long way and won many battles against societal evils but there are more that need to be fought, and there is always more that we can do for others.

The Digital Divide

It is dangerously destabilizing to have half the world on the cutting edge of technology while the other half struggles on the bare edge of survival.

– William J. Clinton

It’s the knowledge gap created when one group of people have greater access to digital resources (computers, smartphones, the internet) and so are better informed, better educated and across new developments more quickly than people who either don’t have these things, or have limited access. Needless to say, the end result is increasing inequality between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ as knowledge is today’s primary currency.

This divide between rural and urban India stems from economic inequality. Sixty-seven million Indians who comprise the poorest half see only 1 per cent increase in their wealth, and 63 million Indians are pushed into poverty because of increasing healthcare costs, every year. It would take 941 years for a minimum-wage worker in rural India to earn what a top-paid executive earns in a year. The problem of the digital divide is also presents itself as a symptom that points us to a much deeper problem in our economic development. And this is a problem that characterizes both the developed and underdeveloped nations in the world. Once the economic challenges of low education levels, poor infrastructure development, and low quality of life/ income levels are addressed, the digital divide will be eliminated.

The digital divide means the ‘haves’ have internet access, unrestricted internet access, fast internet access, 24/7. They can get into the greatest minds (and most insane stupidity) the world has ever created, whenever they feel like it, from the comfort of their couch, bed, cafe table, etc. Poorer people may not have this. They might have a computer but it’s an old one and has issues, if they have internet at home, it’s likely a plan with a data limit, it may have slower times, especially if it’s being shared among a large number of people. And if they don’t have internet at home, then they’re reliant on free Wi-Fi where ever they can scrounge it in order to find the answers to their questions, complete their schoolwork and so on. And so, the ‘haves’ have information (the new world currency) at their fingertips and continue to move forward and up. The relative ‘have-nots’ lag, fall behind and struggle. Strikes me as a pretty serious disadvantage. The digital divide is predicted to an alternate and more severe form in the next ten years.

Contemporary ways need to be developed to tackle this issue as the challenges it presents now are completely different from the challenges it presented ten ten years ago. This is because as technology innovates at an increased rate over time the gap between those who take advantage of it and who do not widen. The issue is now less about the access to technology because people across socio-economic groups have access via smartphones. The new challenge is that is they are not aware of the value proposition that today’s services avail to them then they will never take advantage of them. The biggest assumption is that everyone has equal knowledge of how today’s digital platforms can benefit them. So there are no real efforts to educate the disconnected.

For the digital divide to be eliminated, the affordability of accessing internet has to be increased. To combat is ‘participation inequality’, where users lack the skills to use it, the public needs to be educated on the benefits and value of utilizing the internet and the various resources within it to achieve economic and social growth. To encourage internet adoption in remote places, local content and applications need to be developed in local languages that can be understood by the local populace. Thus, relevance of online content needs to be improved. Lastly, the internet infrastructure needs to be developed through proper planning and implementation.

If necessary measures are not taken, the existing socioeconomic gap will keep widening with digital illiteracy. The only mechanism to tackle the situation is by teaching computer science, a subject of equal relevance among sciences and maths at the grassroots as well. As of now, it remains an elective subject.

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The digital divide.

The Visibly Invisible

Hijras are a sexual minority that’s very visible, and yet they are treated by the society as if they’re invisible.

When Lord Rama was exiled from Ayodhya and his entire kingdom began to follow him into the forest, he told his disciples: “Men and women, please wipe your tears and go away.” So they left. Still, a group of people stayed behind, at the edge of the forest, because they were neither men nor women. They were hijras, which in Urdu means something like eunuchs. Those people waited in the woods for 14 years until Lord Rama returned, which won them a special place in Hindu mythology.

At a traffic signal on a busy day, the slight tapping on my car’s window by a transgender would often unnerve me. They are persistent, and there is a common notion that they will cause you embarrassment if you don’t hand them money. At other times, one might find them in the trains badgering the passengers for money, often to point that even the bystanders feel uncomfortable.But is that all there is to their identity? What is it like to be a hijra in India?

I can only guess. One must be fighting a constant battle with the rest of one’s nation to be taken seriously, to be accepted, to be respected, to be spared a laugh, to feel secure about their sexuality and to be understood, among so many other things. We can only guess.However, we can at the very least attempt to understand their plight. Imagine you’re thrown out of your house. What would you do? You’d go to your friend’s place? Or you’d go find some work and make your living? Imagine you don’t have any friends. And even if you did have any, they wouldn’t let you anywhere near their houses. What would you do now? Obviously you’d get some petty job and start earning for your own expenses. Now, imagine this. People aren’t even willing to give you a job. Everywhere you go, they just shoo you away, wanting to get rid of you from those places as quickly as possible. What’s next? You can’t go back home since your family has deserted you. You might want to try to talk to someone. Then, imagine no one even wants to lift their eyes and look at you when you approach them. You’re someone most people don’t even want to see. That’s the daily life of a transgender or a hijra.

Today hijras, who include transgender and intersex people are really hard to miss. Dressed in glittering saris, their faces heavily coated in cheap makeup, they sashay through crowded intersections and crash fancy weddings and birth ceremonies, singing bawdy songs and leaving with fistfuls of rupees. Behind the theatrics, however, are often sad stories — of the sex trade and exploitation, cruel and dangerous castrations, being cast out and constantly humiliated. Within India’s L.G.B.T. community, the hijras maintain their own somewhat secretive subculture.

Hijra communities face several sexual health issues including HIV, and since most hijras are from lower socioeconomic status and have low literacy levels, there are several barriers stand in their way of seeking health care. Mental health needs of hijras too are barely addressed in the current HIV programs. Some of
the mental health issues reported in these communities include depression and suicidal tendencies, possibly secondary to societal stigma, lack of social support, HIV status. There’s also the need to address alcohol and substance use among the hijra communities, a significant proportion of which consume alcohol possibly to forget stress and depression that they face in their daily life.

One might argue that since they’re able-bodied, they should just get a job job and provide for themselves. Yes, they absolutely should. Except for two words – social stigma. Most people would know the Kochi Metro recruited many transwomen when it started operations. Almost all of them have since quit. Why? Because while the job paid them 9–10,000 rupees a month, nobody would rent them accommodation, so they had to end up in lodges which cost hundreds daily. Ergo, they spent more than what they earned. In that instance, the government tried, and so did they. But society didn’t. The media also outed some women who were living secretly, away from family. The result? Threats of death if they came back home. In India, lakhs of male engineers are struggling to find gainful employment. What chance do these uneducated transwomen stand? They are not eunuchs by choice, they were born like that. We fail to create an environment for them in which they feel equal to us (which they are), in which they can lead a respectful and decent life by earning a living and not by begging, the least we can do is to help them by giving them these small amount of money, which hardly makes any difference to us.

Thus, the next time you meet a transgender, be polite, behave in a humble manner because what we see is the reflection of what we as a society have done to them. Tackle them with empathy and kindness, and be eternally grateful that you are not struggling with your gender, thrust on you by society. It could’ve easily been any one of us in their place. Even if you don’t give them money, at least don’t look at them with disgust.

At the end of the day, they’re normal people but it’s the world that makes them feel different.

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The visibly invisible community.

 

Indian Soap Operas Need To Do Better

A woman is chided by society for her loud and brash manner; background music meant to tug at one’s heartstrings accompanies the sermon they deliver about how her behaviour is unbecoming of a woman and causes everyone distress.

“You’re in love with someone?” her sister gasps. “I was under the impression that you are a good girl!”

Another ludicrous scenario that I can recall goes something like this.

The parsimonious mother-in-law taunts the beguile protagonist saying that she has no clue on how strenuous it is to operate a business and that it requires years and years of hard work and struggle. The protagonist retaliates to her mother-in-law’s call down by saying that anybody can be a doctor or an engineer, and it’s nothing to be proud of, and that she can accomplish the same if given 3 months of time, but what’s not any layman’s work is cooking a perfect kheer and she dares her to accomplish that. The episode ends with mother-in-law failing to accomplish the task and giving in to the daughter-in-law with a ‘victory soundtrack’ playing in the background resonating with the proud face of the protagonist.

Now you may ask, what’s so problematic about this? In a day and age, where hundreds if not thousands of girls are studying day and night and working their fingers to the bone just to be able to sustain themselves in the corporate world, the soap operas project that kitchen is the ultimate fate for a woman. Neither is getting into B-school is easy, nor is cooking a perfect meal. But just because your target audience mainly comprises of housewives, it doesn’t mean you’ll need to defame and demean the female workforce.

It’s really disheartening that despite being women-centric, most of the TV serials reinforce archaic beliefs about a woman’s modesty and her place in the household and in society. Maintain your dignity, keep your head down and endure the humiliation, for that is a testament to your strength of character, they seem to say. It’s generally achieved through stereotypical (and regressive) portrayal of saas-bahu relationships who are often pitted against one another just for the sake of it. Another way of doing it is through drawing a dichotomy between ‘an ideal woman’ and the ‘vamp’. The former is primarily seen in traditional attire, is respectful and performs all of her daughterly duties with precision. On the contrary, the vamp is often clad in pants or decked in heavy jewellery and make-up, has a domineering or outspoken nature, and is possibly unmarried (because who would tolerate her, right?).

So, who do you think comprises the majority of the viewer segment for these on-screen aberrations? Mostly the women-folk, specifically the elderly and the housewives and in a nation like ours we all know the sad truth of an women’s existence. Kitchen, marriage and babies, in most cases, are the holy trinity amongst which many a woman’s dreams and ambitions are snuffed out. Who are the staunchest implementers of oppressive practices on women? Women themselves! All in the name of ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’. For these women, these serials are providing a validation of their existence which otherwise is always limited to being the shadow of a male family member- Mr. X’ s wife or Mr. Y’s daughter or Mr. Z’ s mother but never an individual.

These serials with their mindless and baseless storylines make martyrs and Goddesses out of these brainless, one-dimensional female characters; glorifying submission and sacrifice to the point where rationale ceases to exist in totality. Add to it a dash of black magic and divine intervention and voila! You have just created the perfect potion to keep womenfolk tame and submissive and most importantly voiceless accompaniment to male demand and fantasy! I’m rather inclined to think of these serials as a well thought, well-crafted and well-executed strategy by a largely patriarchal powerhouse to keep women away from exerting their rights or voicing their ambition and dreams.

To conclude, these serials are basically a reflection of our societal mind-set at large and are meant to sustain that sick mind-set going forward. These storylines, intentionally or unintentionally, prevent women from being exposed to concepts of freedom and strength of character and determination, and as result women are simply reduced to an epitome of sacrifice and fragility who aren’t allowed rebel but always endure and adjust!

Indian soap operas, it’s a sincere request, please stop glorifying misery, mistaking stoicism for masochism, degrading the art of storytelling, and reinforcing gender roles on television.

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Regressive portrayal of women on Indian Television.

#BlackLivesMatter Vs. #AllLivesMatter

Saying that black lives matter doesn’t mean that other lives do not.

The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has sparked intense debate over the question of racism in USA and triggered the Black Lives Matter movement. The protests have also sparked wide-ranging conversations about the responsibility industries and organizations — including the media — have to address institutional racism. To be clear, for much of its seven-year existence, the Black Lives Matter movement has been seen by many Americans as a divisive, even radical force. It’s very name enraged it’s foes, who countered with the slogans “Blue Lives Matter” and “White Lives Matter.” The tragedy, however, dramatically sparked a wave of protests sparked and enabled the Black Lives Matter movement to go has gone mainstream. The struggle is no longer confined to the national borders of the United States. However, soon enough, #AllLivesMatter became a slogan that has come to be associated with criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement. However, saying #AllLivesMatter completely missed the point of the Black Lives Matter.

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment – indeed, everyone should, and that was kind of your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any! The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out. That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem. The phrase “Black lives matter” carries an implicit “too” at the end; it’s saying that black lives should also matter. Saying “all lives matter” is dismissing the very problems that the phrase is trying to draw attention to.
Needless to say, dialogue matters and the George Floyd uprising has brought us hope for change. Now we must turn protest to policy.

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All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter.