Sunday, June 21, 2020

How the conservatives and white supremacists responded to “Black Lives Matter” movement

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(Representative image of white supremacists protest | Source:  Evan Nestarak via Wikimedia)

The civil rights movement in America labelled “Black Lives Matter”, which erupted after the murder of George Floyd by a uniformed officer has been going in full swing. The event of Floyd’s death triggered a mass reaction against the state violence in which black people are abused without any accountability on the police’s part. A few of the protests have been demanding the defunding of the police department, that the police force should be dissolved.

Many protests are peaceful protests, but there have been instances in which the protestors use violence to express their sentiment. Such protests have received a lot of backlash; Donald Trump, the president, said that “these THUGS are dishonouring the memory of George Floyd” and that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. He also mentioned that he would send the National Guard to “get the job done right”, in context of his perceived lack of leadership in Minneapolis where Floyd was killed, and consequently, where the protests were taking place. The tweet with the slogan “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” has since been censored by twitter, which gave birth to another controversy.

Trump also blames the riots on Antifa, which is a terrorist organisation according to him, the name of which stands as a short form of anti-fascist. The organisation is a group of leftist activists who protest against an expression of what they find xenophobic, racist or sexist and fascist, claiming that such expression would suppress minority voices. There is no defined hierarchy or membership process, though it has been claimed by the group that it is secretive and is organised into autonomous local cells. In some reports, though, it is categorised as a far left militant organisation which believes in direct action rather than peaceful protests.

The police force in Minnesota believes that there are white supremacists attending the protests to agitate the protests and incite chaos. The Brookings Institution characterized the same as accelerationism, in which people incite chaos to destroy social order, so that in a highly polarized society, people would take their side. In the same vein, it has been reported that a white supremacist channel on Telegram incited followers to engage in violence and start a second civil war by shooting into the crowd. Franklin Graham, an evangelical pastor, has said that the idea of dismantling the police departments “has to be one of the most irresponsible ideas” that he’s ever heard. He says that the police are what stand between “us (the citizens) and total anarchy”.

An UK Member of Parliament told one of his constituents that while racism is a cancer, and I am glad the perpetrator is on a murder charge. Nevertheless, looters, arsonists and rioters have it coming.” While a number of celebrities have been showing support for the Black Lives Matter protests, the former Miss Universe Malaysia Samantha Katie James used instagram stories to say that the protesters who are angry over the murder of George Floyd are “foolish humans”, and that the black people chose to be born as colored people in America. She also said that the brutality should be taken as a challenge and that “the whites have won”. When asked to clarify what she meant by saying that the Black community chose to be born as coloured, she said that their soul chose where and how they were born.

The people are responding in many different ways to the news. On a Brietbart report on Samuel L. Jackson expressing his views in support of the protests, there have been comments which say that “Floyd was a criminal and he was high on drugs and that he was not killed by asphyxiation he had a heart condition.”(sic) or “When da White people start rioting? We are still the majority, and it would really stir up the fudge. These a****ts think they are getting away with something, but only because the silent majority has yet to speak… and act.” (sic).

It seems that George Floyd’s unfortunate death has brought out not just the simmering anger of the long black community in open but also unmasked the outright white supremacists as well as their apologists.

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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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