Monday, June 22, 2020

Black Lives Matter: Why "All Lives Matter" is a False Equivalence

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“Black Life Matters” Protest | Source: PDBVerlag via Pixabay

The phrase “All Lives Matter”, used in response to the slogan “Black Lives Matter”, has been causing a lot of controversy. The slogan is sometimes used by “colour-blind” people, who do not see colour as a basis of any of their decisions, and when they hear “Black lives Matter”, they want to add white lives to the mix, not understanding that race causes significant differences in what people face with respect to discrimination. 

In one of the incidents, a man spray-painted ‘White Lives Matter’ on the statue of Arthur Ashe, an African American Tennis legend, who was the first black Wimbledon men’s singles champion. After the man left, some people spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” over the previous paint. The man returned in a while to wipe off that message, and when asked why he had painted “white lives matter” on the statue. According to the video, the man replied "Don't all lives matter? Why is it okay to spray paint on this statue 'black lives matter,' but not 'white lives matter'? What's the difference? They all matter. Everybody matters, right?"

However, John Hayward on Breitbart throws a different light on the use of the all lives matter slogan. It talks about several instances of how people and organizations have used the phrase, like how the local authorities in Frankton, Indiana tried to have it on the side of the police cars out of general goodwill, and did not realize that the phrase was offensive to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The phrase “All Life Matters” may have been used as a slogan for joining all hands together, and expressing the fundamental right to equality. However it is found to be misguided and offensive by many people because they feel that the phrase invalidates the specific difficulties faced by the black community. For explaining this, they draw a comparison: if there is one house burning, if the other houses call out that they want the water poured on them too, that’s just counterintuitive and ignoring the burning house. Another comparison is that at a dinner table, a child has half a portion and the other has a whole. When giving another half a portion to the child with less food, if the other child demands half a portion too, it is evident that the child with the full portion is ignoring the fact that the other one has only the half. 

The intention about the usage of the phrase “All Lives Matter” doesn’t matter; it still negatively affects the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Speaking of “All Lives Matter” in response to someone asserting that “Black Lives Matter” is walking over the struggles that black people specifically face and it is a false equivalence.

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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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