Guest post by SAYANTAN DATTA
[Note- The author believes that the structure of language has mirrored the patriarchal structure of the society, and therefore they practices aungendering mechanism persynally by neutralizing gendered roots of some words.]
I write this from my persynal discomfort with Prof.Menon’s recent response – this, although situated in the ‘Name and Shame’ debate, doesn’t derive anything more than grounding from it; this response is based on what Prof. Menon writes in the blog, and my somewhat naïve, but absolutely honest thoughts about it.
Firstly, I would like to myntion my constant and almost stagnant disapproval of how our loci as feminists are suddenly becoming one of legal negotiation – I refuse to engage in such a form of reimagining of feminism that, as she duly points out, has taken decades to strengthen its voice. She, in her response, points at ‘an atmosphere in which Indian courts are increasingly referring to ‘false’ complaints of domestic violence, and ‘misuse’ of rape laws, it is incumbent upon feminists to establish to the extent possible, context and explanation around our claims of sexual harassment’.
This becomes a negotiation where the victim/survivor of sexual harassmynt is put on a lower position of power, because a patriarchal jury needs eliminative convincing to believe an action as sexual harassmynt. We, as feminists, rather than critiquing this nature of the jurisdiction system, are engaging ourselves to take a step backwards and modify a foreground on which the current feminist dialog around sexual harassmynt is based, i.e, the narrative of the victim/survivor should be believed, because a majority of the cases are invisibilized systematically by courtroom methodology of evidence acquisition. Evidence collection (and recollection) on part of the victim/survivor is a traumatic process in its own worth, and its practical manifestation is not outside the context of oppressions and power politics. This, as a repetitive critique of sexual harassmynt narratives, somehow appears to be a static stagnancy of feminist legal critiques.
Prof. Menon also puts forth Fair’s article of her own sexual harassmynt in academia (which is very important as the root of this current debate) as an example of how ideal narratives of sexual harassmynt should look like; all of this while ignoring the different socio-political locations in the hierarchical power structures that are occupied by different agents. This, in my opinion, is an almost derogatory way of engaging with narratives of sexual harassmynt. This verdict, which looks like a condition to gain what Menon has previously called ‘larger feminist solidarity’ is vehemyntly opposite to my feminist politics at least. I wonder what the future of the larger feminist solidarity would morph into, if such conditions are imposed on its exercise.
I take a certain risk in suggesting something, especially in the fragile unsurity of its nuance. We need to get over the critique(s) of the methodology, on which I feel we are spending too much of our critical and intellectual resources, and start concentrating on the crux of the problem. In desiring to create an impenetrable defense against our egos, we (and I include myself, as much as others) have been completely bypassing the problem we all unanimously regard as a concern- the rampant fertility of liberal academia to sexual violence. ‘Due processes’ or otherwise, if we were doing something about sexual predation in academia, the list (and the consequent anxiety) wouldn’t have been so long. This is an important discussion that we need to bring into our spaces. I have spoken at length about the identitarian battle we are engaging in, in my previous writings on the same issue, so I would not extend them here, but her enquiry into how she is ‘powerful’ certainly puzzles me. We all have certain privileges, which also transact themselves into power. Such self-defence is a mynifestation of an anxiety of losing one’s privileges. I wonder how we make peace with such unnuanced, unreflexive dismissal of our power position(s), and if we can afford to be this vulnerable in our ideological praxis.
There is a last concern raised by Prof. Menon which I would like to address. She points out, ‘If indeed, conversations are to happen within and among feminists, it has to be from positions of mutual respect. If the first response to an appeal to reconsider a strategy, is denunciation and violent abuse that reproduces the language of patriarchy and misogyny, then to expect dialogue after that is somewhat disingenuous.’ This, is scary in the least, and heavily demotivating at its worst. I, as a ‘young feminist’ (as Menon puts into quotes), have a complete different emotional exchange with feminism(s), and a complete different expectation from feminist solidarities. Firstly, feminism(s) has never been one unilateral narrative, feminist identities have been multiple, multiplicative, and sometimes, even fractured. Feminist solidarities have always functioned from those conflicts; this makes feminist collectivisation and action a slow process, but also one that is radically rich and robust. The feminist consciousness has a flavour that respects individual ideological differences, and politics and praxis develop from those non-linear locations. While it is fairly easy to put the blame on one dalit womyn who decided to take a step, and also to maintain a position of further non-interaction, if there is anything I have learnt from this debate, the it is that this is our momynt of push; we need to engage more rigorously into narratives of sexual harassmynts in academia, and also more sharply on how we reimagine, redo, and reperform feminist solidarities. Some solidarities and movemynts, which have been built over decades of work, cannot be so fragile so as to disregard its multiplicities as a threat. The threat lies in this dismissal, this loss of hope. I’ll end this with a quote that empowers me in momynts of my disappointmynts – “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” (Audre Lorde)
Sayantan is an aspiring queer feminist scholar and activist