Monday, June 22, 2020

What is the "Black Lives Matter" movement of USA

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Black Lives Matter Protest | Source:Lenny DeFranza via Wikimedia

Over 55 years have passed since the signing of civil right laws which were supposed to be the panacea for all the ills of raciest abuses faced by the Black-Americans. A lot has increased since for the Black Americans but much more is still to do. They still live in the fear of law enforcement officials who monitor their movement on the street and also in their homes. The blacks are killed  at the lightest alleged provocation by city police without any fear of serious repercussion. The Federals law enforcement agencies also have a history of racist behavior and brutality towards black Americans.

“Black Lives Matter” movement was started in 2013, after a white person named George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin in February 2012. The movement got its name as the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was widely used on social media to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman.  This movement aims to highlight the injustices, brutality, oppression, gratuitous killings, systemic racism, ruthlessness, bad form, and unaccountably that American culture, particularly law implementation, harbours toward black individuals. Dissenters have pointed out the uncalled intensity of the police, military weaponry, and impulsive usage of the same. The problem of policing in America is more than just individual bad police officers, the culture protects wrongdoers and rewards blind loyalty and is impervious to change. American citizens have recognized these loopholes and will not tolerate these wrongdoings anymore

On 25th May 2020, a 46-year-old black man named George Floyd, died at the hand of a police officer after allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at the convenience store. The killing was extensively covered by the cross section of media across the USA and American public saw the horror of the painful death of an unarmed black person by the police. A national-wide protest erupted as millions of people, including whites came out in the streets,  demanding justice for George Floyd. Slogans such as “I can’t breathe”, “All lives will not matter unless black lives don’t”, “Stop police brutality” were raised on the streets across the cities of America. The “Black Lives Movement” which was hitherto mostly confined to a section of blacks youths, quickly expanded to include a wide section of American citizens. 

In his death George Floyd became the symbol of police brutality against the black community in the USA and brought the “Black Lives Matter” from the fringe to the center of American social and political discourse.

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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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