Friday, December 11, 2020

Anti NRC-CAA Protests: How it shattered the Stereotypes of “Voiceless Indian Muslim Women”

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Nishitha Mandava

Article Title

Anti NRC-CAA Protests: How it shattered the Stereotypes of “Voiceless Indian Muslim Women”

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Global Views 360

Publication Date

December 11, 2020

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Mural featuring Muslim Women in Shaheen Bagh | Source: DTM via Wikimedia

The anti CAA-NRC protest that erupted in December 2019 across many places in India has broken many widely stereotypes associated with Muslim women. The most common narrative of Indian Women in general and Indian Muslim Women in particualar revolves around the oft repeated claims of them being oppressed at home, discriminated in society, and confined to the household. However the widespread participation of Muslim women in the pro-constitution anti-NRC-CAA movement has broken numerous stereotypes regarding women in general and Muslim women in particular. They did not limit their role to silent bystanders; instead, they were actively involved in every dimension of these movements and demonstrated that they are not only capable of understanding complex issues, but can also orchestrate grassroot movements to oppose the oppressive and discriminatory policies introduced by the government.

Shaheen Bagh, a neighbourhood in South Delhi, became a prominent symbol for their non-violent resistance. It was the longest protest site against NRC-CAA. “I hardly ever leave my house alone. My son or husband accompanied me even to the nearby market. So I found it tough at first to be out here. But I feel compelled to protest” said Firdaus Shafiq, one of the protestors at Shaheen Bagh. What made the protests unusual was that protestors like Firdaus Shafiq were not activists they were everyday Muslim women and mostly homemakers.

Shaheen Bagh inspired women across India to stand together. Muslim women in Central Mumbai came up with ‘Mumbai Bagh’ to express their solidarity to Shaheen Bagh. Mumbai Bagh included almost four thousand women protesting. These large scale agitations encouraged women to join from different walks of life and religion to protest for the shared cause of revoking CAA and NRC.

Safoora Zargar Leading a Protest | Source: thescrbblr.in

However, all these protests have come with a price. To repress these agitations, several women have been arrested, some under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Women like Safoora Zargar and Gulfisha Fatima who have become icons of dissent have been arrested under the same. Even though Safoora Zargar was given bail on humanitarian grounds since she was pregnant, Gulfisha Fatima’s petition was dismissed. What is highly unfortunate and surprising is that most of these arrests have been made when the country is going through a pandemic.

Muslim women in India have been predominantly labelled as veiled, submissive, uneducated and voiceless. Thus, their mass level involvement has come as a surprise to many Indians. These women have reclaimed their spot in the public sphere, but this is not a sudden change. On one level, their participation could be attributed to the growing anxieties among the Muslim community about NRC-CAA. Even though officially NRC is meant to act as a check against illegal immigration, there has been a growing belief that it is being used to marginalise the Muslims and strip them of their identity. Thus this fear of losing their home is one of the motivators for active participation of the Muslim women, but the origin for this high self-awareness among them also has several other reasons—one of the prominent one being the increasing rate of education among the women of the Muslim community.

The All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report for 2017-2018 indicates the same. The enrolment rate in schools for Muslim girls has increased by 46%. The same survey also indicates that in the same period, 49% of Muslims that were enrolled in higher education were women. Such data suggest that anti-NRC-CAA protests acted as a portal to show the sociological changes that Muslim women were going through and that the belief that Muslim women are uneducated or illiterate is far from the truth.

Muslim women’s participation in these political movements has not only incorporated a sense of novelty to these movements but also helped women to recognise the strength within them and that they too can be the ones that lead change.  It has also challenged several social constructs of patriarchy and provided a more prominent place for women in India’s socio-political fabric.

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January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

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