Scientism, familism and women scientists: V Sujatha

Guest Post by V. SUJATHA

That the first woman to win the Fields Medal for mathematics in 2014 was an Iranian is important to note. Not only because Maryam Mirzakhani is the first woman to make it in the field of mathematics which is considered to be a male bastion[1], but also because her Persian background deserves some attention. There are certain enabling factors in Eastern cultures that facilitate women excel in the hard sciences, in spite of entrenched patriarchy. The point is not that everything is great in the East versus the West, but that cultural stereotypes about women are not homogenous; they vary from culture to culture and produce gender asymmetries with different effects. This is a sociologist’s
delight; let me explain.

During a literature survey in sociology of science, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the figures on women’s entry and achievements in science and technology education (S&T) in the global south were not only not bad, but were better than the countries in the Anglo-Saxon world that offered better civil liberties for women (Sujatha 2015). While there were fewer women in apex positions in the S&T sector and even lesser numbers to receive prestigious awards everywhere in the world, it is a fact that women from erstwhile socialist countries and from Asian and Latin American societies enrolled in larger numbers in science and technology courses and also made it higher in the career ladder in S&T than their counterparts in western Europe and North America.  The literature on women in science however, attributed everything to the ‘glass ceiling effect’ i.e., soft variables like gender bias in the organisational processes. I do not deny it, but it seems to me that this does not explain why the glass ceiling worked differently in some countries. Continue reading “Scientism, familism and women scientists: V Sujatha”

“Karenge politics, karenge pyar” – New slogan and new politics: Baidik Bhattacharya

Guest post by BAIDIK BHATTACHARYA

[While the media worked overtime to present the developments in Ramjas College and Delhi University as a clash between two student organizations and two political formations, Baidik Bhattacharya here reflects on the new kinds of politics, rooted in the everyday and in love, that found expression in the University.- AN]

On 28 February, 2017, thousands of students and teachers of Delhi University and other academic institutions of the NCR region marched across the North Campus, protesting against the recent acts of vandalism and violence at Ramjas College. As the march progressed through the winding roads, touching various colleges and departments of the university, feisty students raised several slogans to oppose the perpetrators of such violence, the student organization of the RSS—the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or ABVP. Some of these slogans were well-known, some predictable, but some were really creative. I want to briefly discuss one such creative slogan, and its implications: “Karenge politics karenge pyar, ABVP hoshiyar.” Chanted primarily by groups of women and queer activists, this innovative rendering of one’s rights across the university campuses captured some of the pressing issues that have surfaced in the last couple of years in student politics.

Continue reading ““Karenge politics, karenge pyar” – New slogan and new politics: Baidik Bhattacharya”

Longing for the Future – Two Days with Penkoottu and AMTU at Kozhikode, Kerala

Kozhikode, Hotel Alakapuri, 4-5 March, 2017.

Kozhikode has always upturned my feelings about the male gaze. It is of course a cheerful, bustling, place, full of fabulously good-looking people of all genders. The cheeriness has a certain effortlessly defiant quality – already evident when you look out of the window as the train from the south pulls into the railway station, and see bright, healthy, merrily-swaying wild flowers raise their heads undefeated by the ferocious summer sun– wild sunflowers in hundreds, magnificent vines of kulamariyan flowers ( literally, ‘over-the-top’ flowers, but known here also, interestingly enough, as Antigone vines), creepers happily, constantly, and untiringly winding over  little piles of rubbish and covering them with short-lived if emphatic trumpets of mauve, lavender, red, yellow, and white.  You pass this eternal artwork-in-progress of the flowers and vines and city trash and enter Kozhikode, but realise that it actually tells you a bit about the men there only when you meet them. Continue reading “Longing for the Future – Two Days with Penkoottu and AMTU at Kozhikode, Kerala”

An Appeal to the Education Minister of Kerala and the Teachers of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram

 

We, the undersigned, wish to express our dismay and deep concern about the recent violent events at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, which seem to indicate that the rights of college students, especially women students, are seriously compromised in this venerable institution. As women researchers, academics and teachers of Malayali origin, we are deeply disappointed by the responses of the police, the concerned college authorities, and the teachers there. Continue reading “An Appeal to the Education Minister of Kerala and the Teachers of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram”

CPM in Kerala = Caste-Gender Elitism Minus Cow

This is my Malayalam opinion piece for iemalayalam, on something despite the outcry against the CPM in the mess around Kerala Law Academy.  The public discussion has been, not unexpectedly, on the line of Kerala’s well-entrenched scandal journalism, which has a history of a hundred years, at least. This is a form of journalism that highlights the sexual lives – proper or improper – of powerful male politicians which accompanies the attack on their public failings directly or indirectly- a very highly successful tactic, hitherto, to undermine even the seemingly unassailable. When women began to figure in this kind of journalism as something more than just passive sexual objects, as active agents of corruption and manipulation – most markedly, in the controversy over the businesswoman Sarita Nair – scandal journalism worked by highlighting the huge contrast between their ‘feminine-respectable’ names, sartorial styles, behaviour, and so on, and the despicable manipulations they indulged in. This is the case also with much media discussion of the principal of the Kerala Law Academy, Lekshmi Nair.

However, this tactic is not only misogynist, it also lets the elite-femininity that she represents escape critique. This is a very contemporary form of respectable femininity that presents itself as essentially domestic, but wields delegated masculine power to vicious ends, and it is almost all-pervasive in disciplinary institutions in Kerala now. Not surprisingly perhaps, the CPM’s mishandling of the issue has not just shown how poorly committed the party is to women’s rights, but also how soft it is on this elite-feminine power.

The full essay, in Malayalam:

https://www.iemalayalam.com/opinion/cpm-j-devika-law-academy-lekshmi-nair-gender-caste-women/

 

Didi, I Want to Learn the Harmonium and Roam Around Freely: Samhita Barooah

Guest post by SAMHITA BAROOAH

During a visit to the Kishori Mandal at Apne Aap Women Worldwide’s Uttari Rampur Centre in Forbesganj I met some lovely girls. They stayed in the community near the red light area. They were eager to learn new things. They asked me my story of life, “Didi aapki kahani sunao? Aapne kaise yaha tak sangharsh kiya?” I was again very surprised to encounter the subversion of queries. I should have been the one to ask those questions to the girls, but they wanted to know more about me. Perceptual understanding is a perspective rooted in feminist standpoint theory which could apply to any context from the onlooker’s context. For the young girls from the Red Light Area in Forbesganj, I was trapped in some realities which connected me to them. That was why she asked me to share my story of struggle. When I said education enabled me to survive the world around me, they laughed and said that was not their story. They said, “For us we have to get married as soon as we are 18 years old but sometimes even earlier. We just want to enjoy our freedom now in this centre till we get married. After that we do not know what holds true for us.” As women whether we are in the Nat community of Bihar or we are in the liberated spaces of North East India, our identities get defined by our marriage, cultural practices and socialisation. Unbound freedom for women seems to be a misnomer which should be forbidden for women as the evolved souls say.

Continue reading “Didi, I Want to Learn the Harmonium and Roam Around Freely: Samhita Barooah”

Dangal and the Phogat Sisters – A Tale of Many Struggles: Praveen Verma

Guest post by PRAVEEN VERMA

1-phogats-and-film

Dangal literally means the Indian style wrestling competition for male pahalwans (wrestlers). Dangal has been an important form of entertainment for ages, especially in rural (north and west) India. Dangals act in many ways. It works to settle the personal score between different Akharas and pahalwans. It’s a place where honour, reputation and social status are on stakes and personal and political rivalries are fought out, or settled. For example, one of the most important dangals used to happen every Sunday at Eidgahi Maidan, Jama Masjid in Delhi, till very recently. Itwari dangal, as it was fondly called, was the place where pahalwan like Gama, Imam Baksh, Chandgiram used to come and show their talent in front of thousands of wrestling lovers. I remember whenever I used to come to Delhi, I always wanted to win the bout at Eidgahi Maidan, as it meant a lot to win at Eidgahi maidan rather than any other place!

Gama Pahalwan at Eidgahi
Gama Pahalwan at Eidgahi

As it was strictly meant for male pahalwans, women were not even allowed to watch them fighting, let alone participating. Something similar to Khap Panchayats, where women still are not welcome. Women are the fairly latecomers in wrestling arena and yet not so welcome. In this context to make a film on the emergence and development of women wrestling in India itself is a fascinating idea.

Dangal, the movie is based on a true story of Mahavir and his firebrand daughters and their ‘quietly’ active mother. It is an important movie to watch for many reasons. Firstly, it portrays a father who wanted his daughters to pursue something (wrestling) which was un-imaginable in those days. It reveals what it took for the first generation of women wrestlers to break those masculine stereotypes and depicts the overall impression of wrestling in the realm of sports culture in India. There are so many moments in the film to cheer about, to get goosebumps (at least I got many). Writing review is an unknown territory for me but there is a personal reason to taking to this venture of writing.  The release of this film forced me to say something which, as a former wrestler for almost ten years, is still left with me. Continue reading “Dangal and the Phogat Sisters – A Tale of Many Struggles: Praveen Verma”