Friday, February 5, 2016

River of Flesh and Other Stories: The Prostituted Woman in Indian Short Fiction, an introduction

image of book cover is from here
From Speaking Tiger Books:


River of Flesh and Other Stories brings together twenty-one stories about trafficked and prostituted women by some of India’s most celebrated writers—Amrita Pritam, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Indira Goswami, Ismat Chughtai, J. P. Das, Kamala Das, Kamleshwar, Krishan Chander, Munshi Premchand, Nabendu Ghosh, Qurratulain Hyder, Saadat Hasan Manto and Siddique Alam, among others. 
Jugnu, in Kamleshwar’s ‘River of Flesh’ (‘Maas ka Darya’)—stares at a lifetime of servitude as age and disease take hold; Ismat Chughtai creates the unforgettable character of Lajo in ‘The Housewife’, a carefree young woman who must conform to society’s idea of decency, or risk being branded a whore; in ‘Heeng-Kochuri’, by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, a boy growing up near a red-light area discovers the adult world of patrons, connoisseurs and customers—as well as savouries offered to young boys as bribe; and in Manisha Kulshrestha’s ‘Kalindi’, a son looks in through a window and his life falls to pieces around him. 
An unprecedented anthology—for its subject, as well as for the range of authors and translators who are part of it—River of Flesh and Other Stories offers a harsh indictment of this practice of human slavery, too often justified—and occasionally glorified—as the ‘world’s oldest profession’.
Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

About and from the editor, at the Ahmedabad Mirror:
Ruchira Gupta (b 1964) , award-winning founder of anti sex-trafficking organization Apne Aap Women Worldwide, has just edited and published a River of Flesh and Other Stories, sub-titled The Prostituted Woman. The stories are translations from the work of Premchand, Manto, Amrita Pritam, Baburao Bagul, Qurratulain Hyder, Ismat Chugtai and others. "Every story," Gupta says, "reveals the absence of choices prostituted women and their un-prostituted sisters face in and outside marriage. While the trauma and brutality of prostitution is exposed, so is the subordination of women through marriage as a cultural caste system." 
"The average age of a girl pulled into prostitution is between nine and thirteen years...They are put through a process known as 'seasoning', in which they are beaten, starved, drugged...and made to believe that they are repaying the small loans of five or ten thousand rupees which their fathers have taken...According to current research, the physical and mental consequences of the repeated body invasion that prostituted women face is so extreme that these girls and women suffer from higher rates of psycho-social trauma than even war veterans."

Pro-Rape "Neomasculinist" Activists On The Run

Getty image of Ricky Nelson and John Wayne is from here

A story is trending right now that isn't new and isn't a trend. But it is disgusting and horrifying. It is being covered by mainstream media like BuzzFeed, International Business Timesand The Guardian. From The Guardian:
The leader of a self-described neo-masculinist movement has cancelled a series of meetings planned for cities worldwide on Saturday because he “can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend”. 
Daryush Valizadeh, who goes by the name Roosh V, posted a brief statement on Thursday apologising to his “supporters” whom he said were “let down by my decision”, but said he “could not stop men meeting in private groups”. 
Meetings were planned in 43 countries, including Britain, where planned gatherings in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle and Shrewsbury raised concern among police chiefs and MPs. 
Nearly 80,000 people signed an online petition calling for Roosh V’s group, dubbed Return of Kings, to be banned from the UK after they advocated women being banned from voting, described a woman’s value as dependent on her “fertility and beauty”, and that women with eating disorders make the best girlfriends.

Before the events were cancelled, shadow Home Office minister Sarah Champion MP demanded that Theresa May take action against the group using hate crime laws. 
“Rape of women has increased by 41% in the last year. I’m appalled that the government [is] sitting idly by whilst a group who believe women are pieces of meat without any rights are allowed to spread their poisonous ideology in the UK,” she said. 
“As far as I’m concerned Return of Kings are encouraging violence against women and girls. This should be viewed as a hate crime and the government and police should use our existing laws to deal with it swiftly to show we won’t accept anyone promoting abuse.”
The irony is that these men think they aren't safe to promote rape. The are apparently safe enough to commit it.

All women are the targeted objects in this rape culture, and anyone raped in the U.S. or UK is viewed as being both emasculated and feminised for having endured the violation. Rape is also a common tool of colonial invasion as are other forms of spiritual and material theft, occupation, and sadism.

Rape and trafficking are radical profeminist issues because girls and women are the primary population of the harmed and the horrified. The harm and the horror isn't natural, or a God-given right, or socially inevitable. And so some activists organise to stop it.

New to me is the term, 'Neomasculinism'. For masculinism to be 'neo', as in 'neofascism', doesn't that mean it had to go away for a few decades? This certainly hasn't happened with masculinism--it has ruled the West for far more than decades. The practices being promoted are not simply manifesting a typical patriarchal value system. With old-fashioned and neo masculinism, white male supremacist 'sex' tourism re-enacts the actions of millions of colonialist rapists over 500 years. The men who engage in such procurement and pimping, buying and selling, owning and slaving of human beings--disproportionately women and girls of color--are normal men, not psychotic monsters. These men advocate and do what the Western World stands for: building its oppressive strength and identity on the backs and the rest of the bodies of the poor, non-privileged, and female, primarily. But also by degrading Black people, Jews, lesbians, and gay men. There's a lot more going on than misogyny.* What appears at the following website is fifty shades of vile, combining misogynoir and anti-gay arguments with antifeminism and anti-Semitism.

*Daryush Valizadeh: Top 10 most insane quotes from Return of Kings leader Roosh V.

Daryush, or Roosh V., is a leader in this particularly 'no-apologies' manifestation of pro-rape activism. This one rape tourist has self-published the "how to's" of travel and gross sexual assault, region by region.

Because the typical values beneath his honesty are so despicable, he is viewed by some on the left as an 'extremist'. For example, from Wikipedia:
In a March 2012 report on "The Year in Hate and Extremism", the Southern Poverty Law Center included Roosh in a list of manosphere sites which it described as hateful and misogynistic.[20][21] His inclusion on the list was reported by several publications, some of which mocked the inclusion for being extreme.[11][22][23][24]Business Insider's Michael Brendan Dougherty opined that the SPLC was undermining its credibility by listing Roosh.[25] In response to criticism, the SPLC later clarified that it was not labeling the sites as members of a hate movement, but wished to draw attention to "specific examples of misogyny and the threat, overt or implicit, of violence".[26]
The problem with colonial rapism and its proponents isn't the fact that they are hateful or extreme. I wish they were extreme, meaning less 'status quo'. Rapists adore committing acts of violation and enjoy reinforcing stigma against people targeted for rape. This isn't extreme. It is an utterly normal occurrence. The heterosexual husbands and boyfriends who enjoy violating their wives and girlfriends are not 'abnormal'. The procurers and buyers of 'sex' deepen the dehumanisation of people targeted for rape, but not in ways that mark them as unusual. They sometimes travel great distances to do it, but they also do it locally. Normally. It's not that hate isn't often part of the degradation; certainly it is or ought to be experienced as hatred--or at least gross disregard, disrespect, and abuse. But we know many people love the people they abuse, and that many abused people feel loved by their abusers.

Categorising rape as a 'hate crime' would be useful in the U.S. and the reason it hasn't happened is because, it is argued, the courts would be clogged with rape cases, newly prosecuted as hate crimes. Never mind that most rapes aren't reported. Or that most people don't have access to good lawyers, or experience with the criminal justice system, or only know it as a place to be revictimised. Or that rich men pay off victim after victim. Or that most rape tourism, organised by folks like Roosh V, is effectively unprosecutable. At the same time, calling rape a hate crime, makes sexual subordination into the crime of men mishandling negative emotions, or understands the problem as a kind of virulent bigotry. Better the term for the category of felony be "subordination crimes".

I think the real problem isn't men's emotional problems, or even bigotry; it is masculinism--the sexual entitlement, structural power, gendered privilege, and cultural belief in the right to violate others--whether old-fashioned or neo.

As a post-script, here's a group of boxers who have a message to deliver to these rapists.

I enjoyed seeing this very much: