Response to ‘From Feminazi to Savarna Rape Apologist in 24 hours’: Sayantan Datta

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

14 thoughts on “Response to ‘From Feminazi to Savarna Rape Apologist in 24 hours’: Sayantan Datta

  1. Shosha Schuldeiner

    Dear Mr. Datta,
    Thank you for your very engaging and thoughtful post. But please allow me to point out a couple of aporias in your argument. On the one hand you quote Lourde that lack of acceptance of difference is the problem. In other words, we don’t accept the other as the other, different, antipodean, complex and fluid. But on the other hand, you don’t find anything problematic in the critics of the signatories making ageist remarks, or accusing them of casteism and being cohorts of Brahmanical patriarchy? Is that a sign of acceptance of difference?
    Secondly you term ms.menon’s urging to provide fuller accounts to be’derogatory’? Can you simply explain away your disapproval of her expectation by using the adjective ‘derogatory’? You talk of and rightly so about politics of language but your usage of a pejorative ‘derogatory’ does not make it so. I think is that accounts have the potential to serve as touching, penetrating testimonies of the insidious extent of male sexual predatory tendencies, which are normalised in patriarchy. And do you think it was easy for ms Fair to speak of her life’s trajectories? Right to privacy and anonymity is sacrosanct and especially so of less powerful, survivors. the reluctance of the survivors of Weinstein’s attacks show how great is the fear of not just retribution but of being judged, outcastes, made to feel like a victim. That’s what happened to Asia argento where conservatives are sneering at her and trying to discredit her. But slightly greater details would have meant that this list less fearsome for a lay reader like me because here I am reminded of Kafka’s trial where the crime is not explained but a trial is nonetheless carried out. It evokes claustrophobia reminiscent of medieval inquisitions…all that will matter is that someone featured in that list. And talking of politics of language again, it is like the purloined letter, it does not matter what the contents of the letter were, the letter and in this case, the list itself is the signifier as well as the signified.

  2. Majumdar

    Sayantan da,

    I wish you had carried your concern about gender neutrality to its logical conclusion by referring to Niveditaji as Prof Mynon.

    Regards

  3. Thank you for your thoughts. A couple of things:
    1) It is essential, firstly, to understand, that derogation and shame are terms I have used, not in the perjorative academic pursuit of delegitimising her opinion, but in the positioning of trauma, and the recollection of it as ‘evidence’, we need to engage further with ourselves on how we transact trauma in a capitalistic, neo liberal, patriarchal jurisdictory market.
    2)It is also essential to understand, like you myntion, in the first part of the commynt. I do not claim to be out of a bias or hypocrisy, but I, also in whatever short duration of engagemynt I have had with feminism, understand that differences are important. If you notice, that’s the ‘hope’ I am talking of, as a feminist, in the last part of my response. We have a social position, with our own privileges and oppressions, and somewhere our opinions reflect them both. It’s about how we transgress our own privileges and ultimately dismyntle systemic oppressions.

    Also, please do not refer to me as ‘Mr.’ I prefer the pronoun ‘they’, I am queer.

  4. An argument was made. I responded to it. My response was dismissed out of hand. I accept that for it is up to them to consider my response. But, if after dismissing my response they started name calling me then there won’t be any dialogue. With the name-calling they are not just dismissing my argument but they are dismissing my credibility. And this is no about me as person. I think this was what Prof. Nivedita was expressing when she pointed out the lack of mutual respect. I don’t see anything scary about it. rather the employement of subtle ad-hominem is scary. Prof. Niveditas suggestion may look like an old ideal but without anything of that sort there would be decisions but not discussion.

  5. ullu

    The author opens up new vista for language usage. I quite liked it, but I think the author have not been very kind to us, and indeed should have been more rigorous in showing us the full range of their linguistic innovation. In order to take this verbal finesse further, here are some random examples from the author’s own writing, which should have been otherwise: Mynon not Menon (okay, someone has already mentioned this); agynts not agents; traumy not trauma; traumytic not traumatic; stygnant not stagnant; reimygination not reimagination; mynifestation not manifestation; hierarchycal not hierarchical and so on.

    1. Thanks for those suggestions, except ‘Mynon’.
      On the other hand, this ungendering is a long time feminist practice.
      Also, let’s not derail the issue at hand. It is important that we transgress our excitemynt about linguistic usage and think about the ongoing debate.

  6. how does using y instead of an e in spelling ungender language? The “men” in menon does not hold the same meaning as men in “men are from mars and women are from Venus”. I’m very very confused by this whole piece.

    1. That is the reasyn why I do not do that to proper nouns. Also, I prefer the pronoun ‘they’.
      And yes. This is confusing, even for me at times, but this is a experimynt i want to partake upon myself. I cannot explain this any better.
      And like i said, the crux of the question is a different debate. I hope we can refocus on that.

  7. Manav

    I’m surprised at how most of the comments are about Sayantan’s spellings. Really, is there nothing else people feel the need to engage with?

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