Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Undesired" shows us that Gynocide is indeed Global. And if a foetus will become a girl, there are ways to prevent her from ever seeing the light of day

image is from here
Anti-abortion activists would do well to end misogyny (including battery, rape, and incest--by men against girls and women) and stop trying to legislate control of girls' and women's bodies. If they care about all of humanity and not about protecting patriarchal power, that is.

Abortion is a subject of controversy in the U.S. and elsewhere because men want control of women's and girls' bodies any way they can get it, including through battery, rape, and incest, and including through legislating what women and girls can lawfully do if they get pregnant by being raped--by their fathers, boyfriends, husbands, or (less often) unknown rapists. That women ought to determine the course of their own sexual lives (which is also to say their political lives) is a conceptually new idea in the minds of patriarchs, and it is not one that makes patriarchs especially happy. Patriarchs are not easily made happy because their happiness depends on the subjugation of human beings who are not them and subjugated people, often enough, won't settle for subjugation. Subordination and oppression are not life-sustaining practices; they necessarily result in untold deaths. To hear anti-abortionists shout about it, you'd think only foetuses are being destroyed. But the death and destruction of post-birth girls and women occurs through various means.

Those who survive sexual and racial oppression do resist that oppression. Oppressors don't like this rather annoying tendency of subordinated people. Male oppressors--the social dominants in every gender hierarchy on Earth--have the institutional force, available to be acted out interpersonally when deemed appropriate, to make sure women and girls remain below men and boys in every conceivable way. The deaths that add up are those of women and girls.

One conceivable way to keep women and girls down is for men to forcefully impregnate them and make abortion illegal. Another way is for men to beat the hell out of them when they are pregnant, sometimes resulting in miscarriage and the death of the woman. A women I just found out about is facing the challenge of leaving her husband because she is, once again, pregnant. She wants to have a child and she'd like to carry this foetus to term. He apparently has other ideas, as he's beaten her so brutally in the past, during and between pregnancies, that she's miscarried every time she's been pregnant by him thus far. This is not a story about a woman in what is termed "the East". It is a story about a Western woman; a woman born and raised in the U.S. This raises a question: if anti-abortion activists cared about human life so much, why aren't they anti-battery? Why aren't they anti-rape? Why aren't they opposed to men ruling women in law and in custom?

It can appear to those who wish to be in denial, that in the West that girls are valued. But girls are valued primarily (if not only) for what they can do for patriarchally, misogynistically abusive men. No girl is allowed to live her life as if men don't control her in some way at some point. Heterosexist relationships are, after all, compulsory. Parents can want freedom from heteropatriarchal constraints for their daughters, but daughters encounter heteropatriarchal imperatives and mandates daily, regardless of what parents want for their girl children. This is the way of most, if not all, of the world.

Robin Morgan and many other feminists have deeply wanted it to be so, but it was not and is not so: sisterhood is not global except among some networks of women fighting men's misogynistic violence. Sisterhood isn't globalised for many reasons and among those reasons is anti-lesbian heterosexism, white racism, anti-Indigenism, Western imperialism, and the oppression of the Global South by the Global North. A reason too often overlooked by scholars of feminism is this one: brutal patriarchal terrorism and control of human beings. What is global is patriarchal brotherhood, not feminist sisterhood. What is global is gynocide.

Men rule women and globally men rule with a cast iron fist. Sometimes they use other methods.

Historically and currently in the U.S. and in other regions of the West, white men rule women through battery and rape, through discrimination at work and exploitation on the street, and through forcibly sterilising women of color. Men of color rule women too: most often they rule women of color. And white men rule men of color too. Add to this the reality of virulent heterosexism and it becomes rather obvious that heterosexual white men, collectively if not always interpersonally, rule all other groups of people through systems of violence and exploitation that are no longer regionally contained. Yet another method is the racist and heteropatriarchal regulation of women's pregnancies, through enforced misogynist laws and intimate violence, each of which determines which foetuses will be welcomed to come to term and which will not.

With this in mind, I direct your attention to a problem in India. And if you wish to believe it is a problem unique to India, or Asia, or "the East", you may do so, but you'd be mistaken.

What follows is from Please click on the title to link back.

New film highlights India's 'missing' daughters

Updated October 6, 2010 21:39:14

They've become known as India's disappearing daughters, or simply 'the missing' - since 1980, an estimated 40 million girls have been killed through abortion, neglect or murder. Many are killed because of their gender. In Indian society, sons are still seen as a guarantee of status and income. But a new multimedia project called 'Undesired' is fighting to bring the issue into the open.

Presenter: Helene Hofman
Speakers: Walter Astrada, photojournalist; Ruchira Gupta, president and founder, Apne Aap Worldwide; Shreeya Sinha, associate producer and videographer, 'Undesired'
ASTRADA: I was taking pictures of one girl who was giving birth. Some doctors were saying if she's not having a boy it will be a big problem. The family-in-law is waiting outside. They pass the baby to the sister of the husband. The first reaction was to check the sex of the baby. And it was a girl. Everybody was completely silent. You don't need a language to understand.

HOFMAN: Photojournalist Walter Astrada has covered violence against women in Guatemala and Congo, but he found the situation in India particularly distressing.

ASTRADA: In India, you have the sex based abortion. You have the violence against girls. You have rape. You have burns. You have acid attacks. You have trafficking of women. You have selling of women. Basically you have a lot of violence where usually only one of these [things] happens in every country. Or maybe two. There it's altogether.

Today - and every day - 7,000 foetuses will be aborted in India simply because they are female.

Across the country, from the foothills of the Himalayas to the slums of New Delhi, female child mortality is suspiciously high. In the more affluent communities of Punjab state the rate is 81 per cent higher than it should be. In neighbouring Haryana, it's 135 per cent.

And even for the girls that live, millions are be mistreated by their own families, neglected and less well fed or educated than their brothers.

'Undesired' tells the stories of these mothers and daughters through Walter Astrada's photographs and through interviews with victims and activists like Ruchira Gupta, president and founder of Apne Aap Worldwide, an Indian anti-sex trafficking organisation.

GUPTA: Every image was horrifying but every image rang true, from the little girl, who was sort of curled up like a foetus, to the mother kissing her daughter happy that she was alive, to the woman who was a burn victim from dowry expectations. Every image was chilling and I just wish I didn't have to see those images. Violence against women is very common and it's so normalised. The other reason it's not talked about is because there are these super achieving women in India who are prime ministers and doctors and lawyers and so people tend to see that image of India, not knowing that while there might be a few hundred thousand women achievers there are a few million who are being subjugated and trampled upon who are also girls and women.

HOFMAN: For a Hindu family in India, a son is a status symbol, who will eventually be able to provide for the family.

A daughter, on the other hand, brings pressure to one day provide a dowry.

Dowries were declared illegal back in 1961, but there are frequent reports of women being burned or killed by grooms and their families when the dowry fails to meet their expectations.

Also illegal is gender based abortion.

Shreeya Sinha, the associate producer and videographer for 'Undesired', says she quickly realised both practices are widespread.

SINHA: Since I am in fact Indian I knew that these atrocities were happening, but it was only after I went to India that I realised that the situation was a hundred times worse. I was shocked. It's not at all uncommon to see headlines saying 'dowry deaths', 'honour killings', 'sex selective abortions'. You find female foetuses dumped in backyards and in gutters. What I do hope is that 'Undesired' will start a conversation because it really starts with a mindset and if we can get people talking, hopefully they'll start to question what's going on in India and hopefully Indians themselves because there is a big sense of denial about what's happening to women there.

'Undesired' was funded by a grant from the Alexia Foundation, which supports photographers promoting social justice and cultural understanding.

It has been posted on the website of the US based media production company, Media Storm, allowing it to be shared by email and through social networking sites.

The idea is to get the message to as many people as possible.