Saturday, August 1, 2020

Russia celebrates 75 years of Soviet Victory over Nazi Germany

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2020 Moscow Victory Day Parade : Source: The Presidential Press and Information Office via Wikimedia

On June 24, 1945, Joseph Stalin, former Soviet Union leader stood on top of Vladimir Lenin's tomb and watched Marshal Georgy Zhukov review the ground armored force that defeated Nazi Germany in the World War-II. That was the first Victory Day Parade to celebrate the most glorious moment in the Soviet history.

Exactly 75 year later, on June 24, 2020, the 75th anniversary of that great victory was celebrated with a lot of fanfare during another grand parade which was reviewed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, war veterans and guests. Leaders form many countries also joined as guests during the event.

2020 Moscow Victory Day Parade : Source: The Presidential Press and Information Office via Wikimedia

Troops from 13 foreign armies including India, China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia march through the iconic Red Square along with nearly 14,000 members of Russian Armed Forces. About 300 military assets including T34 , legendary tank of Soviet Union era and T-14 Armata, Russian military’s most advanced battle tank were present.

2020 Moscow Victory Day Parade : Source: The Presidential Press and Information Office via Wikimedia

A host of aircrafts including Su-57, the secretive stealth fighter jet which is set to join the Russian air force in future was also on display. Iconic aircrafts like the Tu-95 and the Tu-160 also flew over the Red Square.

2020 Moscow Victory Day Parade : Source: The Presidential Press and Information Office via Wikimedia

While addressing the attendees and the guests at the event, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed how important the role of the Soviet Union had been in fighting Nazism. "It is impossible even to imagine what would have become of the world if the Red Army had not come to its defense. Its soldiers needed neither the war nor other countries, nor glory, nor honors. They strove to crush the enemy, achieve the victory and return home. And they paid an irretrievable price for the freedom of Europe." The Russian President had earlier urged the West to acknowledge the Soviet Union’s role in the fight against Nazism.

The Soviet-era and the events of WW2 still play a pivotal role in the lives of Russians. As per a poll by the independent Levada Centre in Moscow, 75% Russians believe that the Soviet era was the best time in the country’s history.

Putin harnesses this Soviet-era influence amongst Russians and employs Victory Day celebrations to arouse patriotism and support amongst the Russians. This year due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, he went to great lengths to ensure smooth organization of the annual parade.

The Western countries remain critical of the event, reminding us of the competing narratives of Russia and the West regarding World War 2 politics.

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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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