Monday, June 22, 2020

Black Life Matters: Impact on the upcoming Presidential Elections in the US

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President Trump at Tulsa | Source: AP via Wikimedia

George Floyd, 46, a black man died after a white police officer, named Derek Chauvin, held him down by lodging him down by a knee on his neck for almost nine minutes. He lapsed into unconsciousness saying, “I can’t breathe” and died shortly afterwards. His death came as the latest one in the line of killings of African-Americans by American law enforcement personnel. This incident sparked nationwide protests over systematic racism, unequal treatment of Black Americans and police brutality.

These protests are expected to impact the upcoming Presidential elections in the USA which is due in November 2020. The race issue in US Presidential elections has now become equally important as health care and the economy. According to a CNN poll, “With 42% of Americans calling race relations significant to their vote for president this fall”. There is a demographic split in the votes, where 61% black voters in 2020 say that it is imperative to prioritize race relations which is a jump from 34% in 2015. The opinion also varies between the followers of political parties as 60% of the Democrats and democratic-leaning independent voters and 18% of the Republicans and Republic-leaning voters have said that race relations are extremely important. 

President Trump opposed the protests very strongly and even threatened to send federal troops into the states to curb the protests. He came up with a series of tweets on the protests which shocked the young people of America into action and went global very soon. One of these tweets read: “Get tough Democrat Mayors and Governors,”. Referring to Biden, he added: “These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW. The World is watching and laughing at you and Sleepy Joe. Is this what America wants? NO!!!”. 

President Donald Trump will have a formidable opponent in former Vice President Joe Biden who is Democratic Party candidate in the Presidential elections. Joe Biden has a good following among the Black-American voters  Recently, in an interview, Biden said: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” 

The tweets and other statements of Trump invoking the spectre of lawlessness and turmoil are seen as a ploy to get back suburban voters who were disgusted by his handling of the pandemic by. A law and order crisis also allows Trump to go back to his 2016 campaign, where the campaign video reads “President Trump’s not always polite. Mr Nice Guy won’t cut it.” Trump has arguably benefited from the fact that his mishandling of the pandemic was pushed out of the picture with the media coverage of protests and riots.

On the other hand, Joe Biden, in his speech said “I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I’ll seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued our country, not use them for political gain. I’ll do my job, and I’ll take responsibility — I won’t blame others”. Biden is also promising to address the lack of racial equality under the law, which might give his potential presidency a reform, and something that could unite the Democratic Left fully behind him. 

At the moment, there is a rise in Voter registrations, volunteer activities and donations for groups that are linked to democratic causes. The surge in registration could be beneficial to the Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden. However, the presidential election is still over four months away and Trump’s campaign is well-funded with the backing of conservative media and loyal followings. To keep up the current narrative and build on the support on its back is going to be a herculean task for Biden’s campaign team.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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