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Punjabi music industry is booming like never before and each day new starlets crop up. However, a relatively permanent feature on the Punjabi music scene is Yo Yo Honey Singh (abbreviated as HS for rest of the article). He came into limelight around 2006 and since then has constantly been top of the charts. As much as HS is churning out chartbusters, his misogynistic lyrics indicate the shoddy state of present day Punjabi pop culture.
Let us look at one of his top hits ‘Brown Rang’ which has more than 14 million hits on Youtube. The song is apparently an ode to the brown skinned girl and her beauty. In the song, not only does he hypersexualize the ‘brown’ girl but also does not like the fair skinned girl simply because she is fair. The lyrics are replete with sexual innuendo. The brown girl is desirable for HS only because of the way she looks. There is no mention of any other aspect of her at all. About 90 seconds into the song, after already proclaiming how ‘sexy’ the brown girl is, HS goes to show the audience how much he prefers the brown girl over the white one by saying “madey purze nu kadi hath main na pawan” (I don’t ever grab the bad piece). Using the word ‘purza’ or part/piece is a clear sign of how HS perceives women, no surprises there. He considers women not as whole beings but as pieces, as parts which he has a right to grab (hath pawan). What kind of status of women do such lyrics suggest? That women are dispensable tools for men?
Soon after HS raps and asks his “brown’ girl to ‘ban mittran di ho” (be my ho) and corrects himself to say “I mean, mittran di ho” (I mean, be mine) playing on the different meaning of the word ‘ho’ in English and Punjabi. This statement is not only offensive to the girl in question, and to sex workers but also to the entire womankind and to the thinking mankind. HS is asserting that women are merely sexual objects for men, or sex workers. They have no other lives, faces or personality. They exist at the disposal of men, to fulfill whatever they ask from them.
Well into the wooing process, it appears that the girl is not convinced with HS. We can well imagine why. HS then refuses to take no for an answer and says “Tu vi teda teda takey sanu, I know. Don’t say no no”. (You are also checking me out obliquely, I know. Don’t say no). The abysmal levels of respect for women are clearly brought out here. Where the women is categorically saying no, disagreeing with the suggestions made by the man, yet he is choosing to interpret it as coy behavior and assuming that she is a willing party. Her numerous denials all mean yes to him. This is explicit harassment of the girl in multiple ways. And this is what this chartbuster, top hit song is about.
When we listen to such songs, play them in our cars and weddings, what messages are we sending to ourselves and those around us? That is okay to propagate hatred or is it okay to hate. Since when did misogynists become cool? Why aren’t we appalled at the unashamed audacity of these lyrics and up in arms already? Why does it take an overt rape song to get our focus? Doesn’t it offend men that singers like HS make them seem like unthinking, unfeeling creatures who only care for the sexual aspect in women? And, can we please get some songs where women are respected, treated as humans, and entire beings? Is it too much to ask to stop sexual harassment of women in music?
As a young girl and then young woman living in Chandigarh in the 1970s and 1980s, among many happy memories of this wonderful city are two distinct not-so-happy ones that make me cringe even now.
I used to cycle to school with a group of friends and mostly it was fun. There were six of us and we would cycle together all in a row – it was quite safe to do this in the 1970s as the traffic in those days was nothing compared with its current state. However, one day, as we cycled on Madhya Marg between Sectors 27 and 7 I heard a male voice comment ‘hairy legs’. I knew it was meant for me as I was the hairiest of the six of us. Being of the age when I was starting to become aware of my body but when I had no conscious awareness of the social policing of women’s bodies, it upset me greatly. Very soon I was experiencing more pain on a regular basis, this time physical as well as mental, from waxing. Now, despite my widened horizons, it’s something that is hard to give up as the memory of that day still rankles. Looking back I wish I hadn’t let it get the better of me and shouted back ‘so what’. I hope this story will inspire someone else to do so.
As a young woman in the early 1980s I studied at what was then called Government College for Women or GCW in Sector 10. Cycling to college – especially in the summer – wasn’t possible for me, given the distance I had to cover, and the local bus service was the only other option. While college was a carefree place once I was there, the thought of the journey back home always made my heart sink. Why did the planners decide to locate Government College for Men (GCM) in Sector 11 and GCW in Sector 10 rather than the other way around? Because the buses all started from the university/PGI, then stopped at GCM before reaching GCW. And the young men getting on the bus at GCM crowded around the back of the bus, which was where one entered the bus from. So the women had to push through to get to the seats – “great?” for the guys and a nightmare for the rest of us. And of course getting a seat didn’t guarantee it was all over: here happened the usual story of legs and arms touching unnecessarily … On a recent visit to the city I learnt that this continues to be the experience of many young women even today. I spent some time thinking about this lack of progress as I left Chandigarh for home. To me it is a manifestation of a peculiar Indian form of sexual repression within of course a very patriarchal culture. Many Indian men (not all of course we know that) are just as much victims of our “macho” society as women. Their affliction, which clearly is not just a hormone-driven biological event but a product of biology and patriarchal socialisation, needs to be addressed in the same spaces as those concerned with women’s empowerment for both men and women to be able to breathe freely either alone or in each other’s company in public spaces in not just Chandigarh but in many other (most) parts the country.
In an incredibly progressive move, Facebook recently introduced fifty-something (!) gender and sexual identities to the previously bland male/female options.
I am sure it has left many of you wondering, what do these terms actually mean? In celebration of this positive step as well as the Queer Pride Week in Chandigarh (Feb 23 – March 2), we are taking a look at the most commonly conf/used terms used in relation to gender, gender identities and sexual orientation.
Sex – The biological or physiological characteristics that define men and women, like reproductive or sexual organs, chromosomes, etc. For example, women have a uterus while men do not.
Gender – a social construct about roles and behaviors attributed to human beings. For example, women are sensitive and emotional while men are not.
Agender – Someone who does not identify with any particular gender identity. Similar to genderless/gender neutral. Neutrois is also used in a similar context.
Cisgender/Cis – A person who identifies with the same sex, gender identity and gender expression. Cisgender-man/male for example, would mean a biological male who identifies as a man and has a masculine gender expression.
Androgynous – Gender expression of both masculine and feminine characteristics.
Bigender – A person who identifies with two different gender identities.
Pangender – A person who identifies with all gender identities and expressions.
Gender Nonconforming/ Gender Queer – A person who refutes the idea that there are just two genders to pick from. They may not express any gender identity or characteristics expected by social or cultural norms.
Source: Cyanide and Happiness
Gender Questioning – A person who is questioning their gender identity or expression.
Gender Fluid – A person who identifies to different genders at different points in time.
Intersex – A person who is biologically neither male nor female and may possess both male and female genitalia. Many people in the Hijra community are biologically intersex.
Trans person/transgender person – A blanket term including any person who does not identify with the gender associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Female to Male (FTM) – A person who was assigned the female sex at birth and is either transitioning or has transitioned to being male.
Male to Female (MTF) – A person who was assigned the male sex at birth and is either transitioning or has transitioned to being female.
Transsexual – A person who feels that their gender identity does not correspond with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Gender identities and expressions are different from sexual orientation. Sexual orientation refers to a person’s sexual identity in relation to the gender they are attracted to. Here are a few sexual orientation terms defined:
Gay – Usually refers to homosexual males, i.e. males who are attracted to other males but is also used as an all-inclusive term for homosexuality.
Lesbian – A female who is attracted to other females.
Bi-sexual – A person who is attracted to people of their own and the opposite gender.
Pan-sexual – A person who is attracted to people of all gender identities and expressions.
Asexual – A person who usually does not experience sexual attraction to anyone.
Straight – A person who is attracted to persons of the opposite sex.
Skoliosexual – A person who is attracted to gender queer and transsexual persons.
Note: This is list is by no means exhaustive. The definitions are the most commonly attributed meanings to the terms and some or many individuals identifying with these terms may use them in a different manner. The best thing about having so many different terms with varied definitions is the creation of an inclusive language for all.
Food is more than just a survival need. Food means joy, food is also passion but it is also an essential part of our socio-cultural identity. However, is food an element in our gender identity too? Let us look.
Since time immemorial, sexual division of labor has been occurring when it comes to food. Men have been hunters and women, gatherers. Though hunting and gathering were replaced by agriculture the sexual divide persists. Today, men and women choose different foods and they choose their food differently. Certain foods and drinks are considered ‘manly’ and others ‘feminine’. Red meats, hamburgers, hotdogs are considered manly and on the other hand women apparently enjoy chocolates, dainty desserts, salads and green teas. Closer to home, paranthe and lassi are considered a guy’s grub while street snacks like chat and golgappe are usually taken to be girly food. It is as though food suddenly has a sex or at least a gender. And we are constantly trying to eat the foods in accordance with our own genders. I have often heard gender biased comments for food: “I can’t drink that, it’s so girly”, “Women don’t eat such things, what will everyone think”. Is food another way through which traditional and the oh-so-restrictive gender roles are being reinforced and perpetuated? Is the basic, primal activity of obtaining nutrition becoming a gendered exercise? Some people would say that biology and nature makes men and women like different kinds of food. However, I would contest the biological stance on this, as food considered masculine/feminine in one culture is not considered so in another. More often than not, they don’t even fall in the same food group (chocolates and golgappe are not related by any stretch of imagination).
Some food choices are not entirely personal in nature. More women as compared to men are victims of malnutrition. But according to a popular leader, the girls are dieting, so the malnutrition is not really malnutrition. Furthermore, the levels of anemia are higher in women vis-a-vis men. This is not because of the food choices they personally make, but in fact a result of the food choices society makes for them. It is common place in an Indian household that the women eat after men, literally consuming the leftovers. It is socially approved for a wife to wait for her husband and not eat until he does. However, no such social traditions where a man waits for a woman to eat are easily found. The festival-fast of Karwa Chauth is another example where women starve themselves from sunrise till sundown for the health and longevity of their husbands. Furthermore, its common to find that in many homes there is a differential access to the foods available. The more expensive foods (meat and dairy) are often reserved for the menfolk. In fact, there are many homes in India where the women are vegetarians and only men eat meat. The socio-religious bindings on women are much greater when it comes to food. All these go to say that a gender hierarchy does exist in the world of food, where men call the first dibs on nutrition and taste, both.
Not only what we eat but how we eat it is a matter of interest, too. The quantity of food one can consume also has overtones of gender. While men boast about their large appetites, women are usually competing over who ate lesser. Is there biologically such a huge difference between the appetites of women and men? Or have we been socialized to want and eat food quantities according to our genders?
This brings us to body image and allied issues such as anorexia. Food is no longer just food. It may mean nourishment, it may mean survival, it could be guilty pleasure, or even guilt alone. Often foods high in sugar are called sinful, so as to hint that eating the ‘extra’ calories (and consequently putting on the ‘extra’ weight) is a sin. It is ‘sinful’ to not look a certain way. The certain look may differ for the genders where women are constantly being told to be thin by staying away from sugars, fries and food at large; men are getting the message that they need to bulk up with synthetic supplements and shakes. Either way, food defines one’s body image and is a great part of a person’s gender identity.
So the next time, you pick a dish at a restaurant, or are making a meal for yourself, do take the time to think if your gender is affecting your food choices.
This is a part of a new blog series. You can submit your pieces too! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I was jogging in the park in front of my house a few days back and these two boys around 14-15 started whistling. I couldn’t hear what they were saying exactly but they were looking at me and talking to each other and laughing. I’m trying to lose weight and I’ve become so conscious about this now. I can’t go that park any more. Why can’t people just mind their own business? This is also harassment. It isn’t always with pretty women. This isn’t fair that I get stared at and laughed at in public because of my size. I’m so frustrated and angry.
The Supreme Court reversed the Delhi High Court judgement from 2009 deeming Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional. Section 377 states:
377. Unnatural offences: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offense described in this section.
This section criminalizes consensual sexual acts between two adults and has been discriminatingly been used against the homosexual community in India. While the Delhi High Court judgement decriminalized such sexual acts, the Supreme Court has reversed the decision saying that such reversal is outside the purview of the Judiciary and the legislature must decide on this matter. Along with many national and international human rights organizations, we condemn this decision. We participated in a protest at the Plaza, Sector 17 today to express our disagreement with the decision. Such protests were held across the country and will continue until necessary action is taken.
This interview was originally posted on The Prospect.
I am very passionate about feminism and related things. I read each day and begin to believe that soon I will have a much better understanding of how things were, are, will be and should be. There are certain philosophies I have a lot of respect for and others, not so much. But then there are some things I have tried really hard to understand but have never been successful. Hijab is one. Hijab is a head covering worn by some Muslim women, it can range range from just covering the hair to covering the whole body thereby only exposing the eyes. I recently saw a little girl wearing one and I suddenly felt uncomfortable. I wondered why a young little girl absolutely unaware of worldly things had to be covered and what she had to be covered from.
Nihal Saad Zaghloul started the Imprint Movement in Egypt in wake of the Egyptian Spring. Today she talks to us and gives us her perspective as a Hijabi and a Feminist.
What is the hijab? How can people coexist and respect each other while also maintaining an environment of healthy discussion?
The Hijab is sign a of modesty and humility that women choose to wear when they want. Just like Virgin Mary in all of the pictures drawn of her, she is always covered, her hair and body is never shown. (Relevant verses from the Quran Soorat Al-Hujarat (49:13))
Essentially Allah created us different so that we may know one another and truly believe, that is to realize Allah’s plan and his creation. A relationship must be created so we co-exist with each other.
Is Hijab a choice? What would you say to young women in schools struggling between the Hijab and normal clothing?
Hijab is a choice, every thing we do is a choice. Women who are struggling should look within them and do what makes them comfortable. They should be true to themselves and hence they will be true to God. The Hijab is not a hindering tool, it will not hinder women from doing what they want. Women can climb mountains, dive, do road trips, dance. Everything is a choice. The Hijab is something women do to get closer to Allah, its a step towards heaven. So if women decide to use it then great if not then they don’t.
The Bottom Line
After talking to Nihal, I got much needed perspective about the phenomenon. Essentially, Hijab is a choice, or at least it is supposed to be a choice. No one should, under ideal conditions, be forced to don one against her wishes. But also, no one should be profiled or stereotyped for wearing one. No conclusions will be drawn for you. Make your decision while respecting other people’s rights to express themselves. Of course there are several problems with religion and its influence on the lives of women and LGBT+ folk and discussions need to keep happening, but maybe we could be a little more respectful. Everyone is fighting his/her/preferred gender pronoun battle.
For now, live your life, let others live their lives, be aware, be involved and be awesome.