chirp: I designed and illustrated a map and guide to Golden Gate Park, and the Bold Italic produced a beautiful screenprint of it! There are tiny animals and tiny poops and a pizza slice and a hot dog!
Q:Indian patriarchy is definitely indian but it has been sustained in part because of how economically destitute the country was for 200 years. As a result of colonialism.
There are several assumptions in your argument that need to be unpacked.
You first claim that the Indian patriarchy (well, patriarchies — there are many of them) is a direct result of economic deprivation. You then claim that India’s deprivation was caused by colonialism.
Neither assumption is entirely correct.
First of all, is it true that economic deprivation has, for the last 200 years, been a sustaining cause of the Indian patriarchy?
If it is a sustaining cause, then why do domestic violence rates soar not only for the poor and the low castes, but for the rich and upper castes in India? Why have the most misogynist religious traditions (widow burning, widow ostracization, purdah, refusing to let women work/travel outside the home, banning women from the kitchen during their period, child marriage, infanticide, unequal division of land) been reserved for those of higher social standing rather than lower?
Low caste, working class women have to deal with their own unique burdens, of course. Unlike middle class/upper caste women, they are not seen as protected creatures — they are seen as sexually available temptresses, and (I’m assuming) have to deal with a higher volume of sexual harassment/assault. But the patriarchy is not less of a force in upper caste/middle class women’s lives, as it would be if there were a direct relationship between economic deprivation and sexism, as you are suggesting. The patriarchy does not exist less, just because a woman is from a wealthy/high status community; it does not control her life any less. In some cases, middle class women are more subject to the patriarchy than their low caste/working class counterparts. Because they have economic resources, there is no imperative that they work outside the home. Because they are therefore not seen as economic assets, men are free to consider them accessories to their own expressions of masculinity — men consider the condition of their women to be a reflection of their own moral status in society. The more cloistered women are, the “purer” they are, the less tainted by the influence of masculine areas of knowledge — the more positive credit is given to the man.
My point is this — patriarchy is an insidious force that affects every corner of Indian society — well off and not so well off — and it has much more to do with religious traditions and caste than it does with economic deprivation.
Now, if you really wanted to come back at me with a better argument, you might claim that the patriarchy is exacerbated by societal change — not just economic deprivation. The changes introduced by colonialism certainly had the effect of altering the Indian patriarchy to make it more conservative. Matriarchal norms in Kerela were wiped out by the dual forces of Brahminism and British Victorian morality, to give an example. To give another; Indian nationalists adopted strict gender segmentation as a tool to fight back against British colonial hegemony. Women’s bodies were redefined to be a site where the processes of culture-making were played out — women were to perform authentic “Indian” culture with their choice in occupation and sphere, with their choice in clothing, religious observances, and in habits.
So yes, colonialism indirectly contributed to the worsening of the patriarchy, in some instances. But can we really place the fault with the British entirely? Surely some blame lies with the Brahmins who used the excuse of British colonialism to wage a moral war against matrilinial caste practices that they long disagreed with, no? Surely the blame lies with the male nationalists whose reaction to British colonialism was, in a word, reactionary? Those male nationalists who chose, of their own free will, to take out their frustration at being chained by the British by further oppressing their own women?
And how do you take into account the changes that globalization and liberalization has wrought upon India, by the way? Because these changes have certainly made Indian patriarchies more conservative. I have spoken to autowallahs that swear that if their women ever came home wearing blue jeans and tank tops, the way some of their middle class female charges do, they’d beat them to a pulp. The Delhi rape case comes to mind — the class implications are hard to get away from. The perpetrators were frustrated about their inability to move up socially and economically, and took it out on a young woman they perceived to be above their station (even though she was actually of the same class as they were.)
By some twisted, round-a-bout logic, you could probably try to convince me that the cultural upheaval due to globalization that is taking place in India right now is a result of colonialism. But when do we Indians start taking responsibility for our own sins? When do we start to acknowledge the fact that the middle classes in India were not tricked into embracing capitalism, but instead ran towards it with open arms? When do we start to talk about how the Indian middle classes are complicit and are the main benefactors of capital’s current ravaging of India?
India is not a post-colonial African nation. Postcolonial colonialism might be a significant coercive force there, but it doesn’t play out the same way here. The World Bank, the IMF never forced themselves onto India. India welcomed international economic institutions with open arms.
The second claim you make is a little more tricky. You claim that India’s deprivation was caused by the British rulers.
Yes, what the British did to India was absolutely criminal. Yes, they looted India for its resources, and significantly reduced India’s total wealth during the period of their rule. However, this theft did not affect all Indians the same way. Those who suffered the most were the ones who were already poor; the peasants, the low castes. The fledgling middle classes, with their clerking jobs and positions in the British bureaucracy, were largely immune from the economic pain generated by colonialism. In fact, the middle class, along with the zamindars (land-owners) who worked hand in glove with the British, actually benefited economically from colonialism.
It isn’t fair to say that the British impoverished India — it is more accurate to say that the British impoverished parts of India.
According to the logic of your argument, the patriarchy would be more of a force with the poor and the low caste, since they were disproportionately affected by colonialism. However, as shown earlier in this post, this was not the case. The patriarchy is actually more of a force within the middle and upper classes/castes.
So your argument falls apart.
There’s something else I want to hammer home: India was never a poverty-free paradise. India was not a land “free from beggars”, turned into a pauper nation by the British, whatever you might have heard. India has been an impoverished nation from time immemorial. Not only has it always been impoverished — it has always been deeply, deeply unequal. There is only one explanation for this state of affairs: caste. Caste tells us that certain people deserve their fate by virtue of being impure. This philosophy has been used to justify an incredible amount of economic and social injustice.
The economic deprivation of the poor and the low caste has not always been due to outside forces like globalization and colonialism. It’s sources are primarily domestic in origin. Caste prejudice is the main force that has impoverished India throughout the years. Colonialism took inequality to a previously-unheard of degree, but the inequality was created by Indians themselves.
I hope this clears up a few things.
“exorcising the monstrosities of our society requires confronting one’s capacity to be a monster”
As much as I love defending India to people, I’m the first one to point out that India has some deep problems. Hopefully we can stop blaming the British and bring about some real changes.
The Midnight Planétarium watch was a collaboration between Van Cleef & Arpels and Christiaan van der Klaauw. The watch is made of 396 separate parts and features the six closest planets orbiting the sun in real time (Uranus and Neptune were left out because you probably won’t live long enough to see either one complete a full orbit).
by pairing skate lessons and boards with education initiatives, skateistan — a non profit organization that works with the support of local afghan communities — is using skateboarding as a tool of empowerment for more than four hundred afghan kids, many of whom live on the streets.
more than 40 percent of skateistan’s students are female. though girls are banned from riding bikes in afghanistan, skateboarding is novel and remains permissible, and has now become the most popular sport for females in the country.
‘Cause people seem to only post the 20-something Audrey Hepburn.
Audrey Hepburn was the granddaughter of a baron, the daughter of a nazi sympathizer, spent her teens doing ballet to secretly raise money for the dutch resistance against the nazis, and spent her post-film career as a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF, winning the presidential medal of freedom for her efforts.
…and history remembers her as pretty.
AND HISTORY REMEMBERS HER AS PRETTY
LOL man. Message.
I was interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross” and it was an amazing life experience. Terry Gross is so easy to talk to and I had to constantly remind myself that the conversation was being recorded and that she was not my therapist. We discuss my comedy, my parents, growing up middle-class and believing in God.
Can definitely relate to a lot of this especially the bit about relatives back home assuming our family must be well off and wealthy since we’re living in America when that’s far from the truth. My parents could have led much happier and cushier lives in India if they hadn’t made the sacrifice to come here for me and my brother’s education.