Author’s Note: The Interwebes is a funny place. You think you’re writing these blog posts for your three — or less — readers and then suddenly, turns out, someone awesome and nice has read your inane ramblings all along and one day come out of their e-stalking seat and ask you to write for them! Weekly! Today is one such day. Thank you Arvan of SexGenderBody for extending this opportunity to me. Hopefully, I will write my way out of sounding juvenile very soon.
In this all-pervasive, engulfing myth many pseudo-liberal people like to call ‘the natural order of things’ — as opposed to my preferred ‘black hole’ or ‘chromatic hegemony’ and other UnWitty variants — there are many inane things a person is forced to contend with, almost daily. Especially if you live in city like Mumbai, where every corner yells (faux) progress and hopes for a better (corporate) future. That is if you ignore that beggar sitting at the doorway of your favourite coffee haunt; not too difficult a task as ‘those” people don’t need too much thought. Their appearance and smell is quite enough to take less than two seconds of space in anyone’s head. Plus, who wants to think of the homeless bodies and minds when any culture can be minimised in a coffee cup to your foamy specifications? But, I digress.
These days it has become quite fashionable to say we live in a post-feminist, post-caste and post-class divide world. Sounds too much like a vapid pile of mess an Ayn Rand novel doesn’t it? Where people are judged based on their acquired merit and nothing else. Especially if that nothing else comprises of White, Straight and well-endowed — privilege wise and otherwise. Coming back to the post-anything world en vogue right now, what I keep on wondering is, though consciously shedding such labels is supposed to help us move forward (move forward where, my LadyBrain asks silently) or is it a convincing way of saying that patriarchy, caste and class divides don’t exist? If it is the latter then they need better slogan-writers as “Let’s move away from labels” isn’t that strong a point. My 13 year-old students will give you a better reason for their choice, if you count out the colourful embellishments. And this is me being relatively NICE, readers of the Olde Interwebes! If the first reason is possibly true than Swift would be a trifle displeased. For it is only when you box and label, can you examine people, cultures and societies like laboratory specimens. Isn’t that the whole point of my anthropological gaze I’ve been perfecting since the age of five; painstakingly keeping track of the number of times my parents showed any visible signs of affection (not even reaching 20 in 20 years) under the guise of finding real appropriation of the picture of a ‘kiss’ in my shiny picture dictionary. So if my very-scientific-sounding-anthropology picture dictionary degree is useless, then why shed said labels? This is where I insert a surreptitious wink at all you readers, for a fallacious premise deserves an equally fallacious argument.
Lately, at seminars and talks, within academia and outside, I’ve heard a lot of talk “doing away with the binaries feminism brings in” or something along the lines of “Caste is something that we can proudly say is only in our history textbooks” while the person monopolising the event is a Dude who doesn’t ever mention the “lower castes”, in references or even in his fauxgressive speech at the end when he urges all Indians to “forget differences and become one”. I wanted to laugh at that one, only I realised I’m not ten and will not be able to get away with laughing at people on their face anymore. So according to this Dude — let’s call him MisogynistMasqueradingAsFeminist # 87 of this week — I’m supposed to forget that, I am an upper-caste Hindu and am relatively affluent just so his intellectual boner swells to eternity? But what about my uterus — and we all know uteruses ruin everything! — I can hardly change that to a gunny sack of testosterone (outside of a sex-change operation that is). Unless this DudelyDude is thinking of culture factory like the one in a Pink Floyd video, homogeneity is a tad hard to achieve. And to think Caste is a part of only our history books is like assuming that blip in history called Colonisation never happened. Unless, all of us are given shots of collective amnesia, this whole being ‘one’ thing is going to be impossible.
The most UnFunny thing I’ve come across is, many people do actually believe feminism and caste debates have achieved all — we’re working on the class factor yet. Meanwhile you can join us in cursing labour unions, as they too ruin everything — because if I’m allowed to dress in pants and shirts, am quite comfortable sitting next to ‘lower caste’ person and even ask her to give me change for a 100 rupee note, all those pesky Ladies grumbling about gender inequality is futile right (make note that this ‘lower caste person in question is painted ostensibly affluent as an effort to further consumerise the image of the ‘downtrodden’) ? Somehow, the nation as a whole (or an alarmingly big part anyway) is quite content shutting the Woman Problem and the Caste Debate once and for all because we now have ‘discriminatory protection’ where in I am to be mind-numbingly happy with two compartments and four seats in trains and buses reserved for us ‘minorities’.
Political correctness as a way of concealing prejudice is probably the oldest tactic as seen in the texts from How To Write A Manifesto That Spews Blatant Lies Manusmriti (the text that is the basis of all Hindu code, caste and marriage laws) to any political party’s agenda today. We say, “We don’t hate Muslims, we prefer Hindus” or we hear, “Of course girls need to be educated, how else will they find good husbands?” umpteenth times a day. And whenever anyone questions such privilege, we get to hear, “What fanciful reconstructions you make up of our culture! Maybe it’s time to lay down the Gramsci and read the Bhagvad Gita again”. Fine, I embellished a little. But seriously, when I said snarkily, “Of course we’re not spineless, just extraordinarily bendy”, this Edgy-Fauxgressive-Type-Person chimes, “Perfectly surmised”. And he meant it. Now, that may have been the biggest OyxMoron of all.