Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Little Dose of Cute

Cat lovers and dog lovers often don't seem to go along very well. I'm somehwere in between both, with a slight tilt towards dogs in case of grown up ones. But when it come to puppies and kittens, there's no meaning for the question of who's cuter. Both of them are adorably cuutee!! Hope you enjoy these little dose of heart-stealing moments from my favourite mammals.

Kittie calls first

"Did someone mention me?"

"What, you folks still fighting? Silly humans."

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

On 'Natural', 'Necessary' And Change

One of the worst power oppression has is that the longer it prevails, the more it tends to get normalized. The more it's various forms and consequences appear like "that's just how things are". And the more 'normal' it becomes, the stronger a backlash it raises to anyone who questions or tries to change the situation. Because after all, you are working against what is considered an 'inevitable reality'.
Where and how did it start from, how universal is it, what would an alternative be like, all get conveniently hidden behind the facade of convincing naturalness.

From this point, oppression thrives by not just seeming natural, but in many cases necessary too. When someone brings to attention that women are overwhelmingly responsible for household duties or that they routinely face discrimination at the workplace, the immediate response is hardly to acknowledge the injustice itself but to defend it's being by saying, "oh well men face discrimination too, like the burden of providing for the family, so what's the big deal. Isn't that how a society keeps moving?" Sure. A society will definiltely go on even if it is at the expense of locking up half of it's inhabitants behind invisible (sometimes visible) bars. Slavery in America, for example, didn't put the American society itself into stagnation, it still had it's share of economic and political development. What it prevented was the progress of people of color and their rights to basic needs like freedom and safe living. What it held back (and still does although not in ways as brutal as slavery) was the advancement of a section of the society, whose deprivation not only harmed them but also denied many positive improvements for the society as a whole.

The question here is not whether a society would progress with/without gender oppression. The question here is how you define progress and what kind of a society would want to progress with it. If we think of progress merely in terms of industrial boom, acquiring latest weapons of war or increased national income, it doesn't speak much about the conditions of it's citizens, especially those marginalised. If women are treated like second class citizens, usable and disposble property for men, denied of equal rights and opportunities, aborted for being female, married off without consent before reaching adulthood, portrayed primarily as sexual objects in the media for male gaze, made to hate and give up control over their own bodies and sexuality by patriarchal religions, routinely harassed, stereotyped, underestimated and considered incapable of competition or achievement, what progress are we talking about? And how much progress can a nation achieve even if only in terms of economic development if we don't fully utilize half of it's human resource? The positive correlation between the the improved status of women in a country and it's higher level of development is one that cannot be ignored. And perhaps a question worth wondering what happens when India remains so bad for women.

(I clicked this pic from my sociology textbook, sorry if it's not
clear. The chains that tie her: economic insecurity, dowry,
traditional expectations/attitudes, early marriage, wage
discrimination, household chores, gender role stereotyping,
food discrimination, amniosentesis, and illiteracy).

Speaking about oppression being just a 'natural' aspect of social reality as the society 'moves on', a society that uses this as a driving force isn't a good one to begin with. There is something wrong at it's very core that requires change. If men have to bear the burden of being the sole bread-winner or play the major role in meeting the family's financial needs, it is because women have been denied from sharing that responsibility equally. It could be because they have been denied education, the opportunity and freedom to pursue a career or to simply put it, be 'equal' partners with their husbands. This is the product of "patriarchy, the social system characterised by male-centredness, male-dominance, male-identification and an obsession with control" (Allan G. Johnson). It is not an individual person, it is not a 'they' or 'us'. It is system of society we live and participate in, one that places men above women, one in which men are the default and women are the 'other' (we don't say "men's" football match, we automatically assume its a men's match when we talk about one whereas for women's we do, terms like "mankind" when used to refer to 'human beings' etc). It is a system that gives utmost importance to power and dominance and identifies these with maleness whereas femaleness and its associated attributes are devalued ("stop crying like a girl", "man up", etc). Patriarchy survives through the use of control, through rigid heterosexual-identification and punishing deviations from it's narrow norms or anyone who even vaguely points to it's existence. This is carried out by simply denying that it exists or at the worst by treating the pointer as 'crazy' or extremist. 

Patriarchy is not men, although it largely depends on men to keep itself going. Since it is male-identified and male-centered, anybody questioning it is in essence questioning male privilege. This is why most men see feminists as "man-haters", you know rather than "male-glorifying-female-devaluing-system-haters"? (rarely does it occur to them about how many men are feminists too). Because no matter how lightly we approach the issue of patriarchy, at some point it is bound to hit home, it is bound to evoke the realzation of how closely tied it is with men. And since most people's understanding of gender is as something biological rather than cultural, any attack on patriarchal attributes like aggression, control, emotional dissociation, toughness, being in power, etc is seen as an attack on every men personally. This misunderstanding puts a lot of women on the defensive side against feminism too, because who would want to live in constant rebellion with the very people you have to spend your entire life with/amongst? Nobody has to, but sadly, hardly anyone realizes that.

No system simply is. It is moulded, shaped and transformed by how we participate in it, whether consciously or not. It is reflected in every bit of our culture, be it language, television, newspapers, religion, education, family, art etc. Everyone's participation is mandatory, the only thing we can choose is how to do so. Privilige is not something to be ashamed of because you didn't get it by choice, it is something to be aware of. I have come to understand my 'white privilige' so when get someone telling me about my 'fairness' or come talking about "fairness creams", I now make it a point to tell them how beauty isn't about only 'one' color and that dark skin is in no way ugly. I may get "you're weird" looks/reactions, but still it sets a spark and besides, such reactions won't come from someone who values 'people' beyond their appearance. When you laugh at rape jokes, you promote the idea that rape is a laughable thing, that rape doesn't really matter. When you tell women to not "ask for it" by dressing 'modestly', you promote the acceptance of the idea of male-domination and female-submission. When you segregate toys for girls as dolls and doll-houses and those for boys as puzzles and cognitive skill building games, you prevent girl children from developing interests in math or science which in turn makes them internalize a belief that they cannot be as good as boys in these subjects, and thereby upholding the popular misconception. All of this and many more like these contribute in giving patriarchy a longer lifespan and keeping a better society at a more farther reach. 

Progress of a nation should be marked by the integration and improvement of all communities in it. Change begins at the individual level but without understanding larger systems and working towards transforming them as well, there will be little scope for social progress.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Straight, But Not Narrow

We have a choice between being ignorant or being aware, being bigoted or being humanitarian, being disapproving or being tolerant, being ostracizing or being inclusive.

Between continuing our long history of oppression or moulding a new one without suppression.

We have a choice between choosing the former or the latter..

My disability may make my world smaller compared to that of the non-disabled (mainly because an ableist society limits it so), but I find it a lot more beautifully diverse and richer than many people do, when it comes to humanity. I wish it were the same for everyone.. And I'll always be an ally to help make that happen.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

SkepFem Quickpicks 7.0

[ Content note: rape culture, sexual violence ]

- I found it very difficult to hold on to (and easy to leave) my religious beliefs after I read about the notion of the 'soul' being an imaginary construct. Although I accepted the horrible history of Christianity and didn't want to have any more associations with what it is still doing, the idea of dualism or an afterlife still lingered in a somewhat religious way. This post on Adam Lee's 'Ebon Musings' was an excellent learning. It's one of the first atheist sites I visted, I love his work here as well as on Daylight Atheism.

- The pathology of 'free' India where half of it's citizens are yet to get the freedom - Guwahati incident.

- Have a religious organization working to convert the cripple? You might not want to miss these tips.

- Daniel Tosh made some rape jokes at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. And got a lesson from Jezebel on how to make rape jokes.

- A little history on the engagement and wedding rings. (warning for newly engaged/married couples: ignore if you don't want to break from that happy mood)

- How do we define a family? A look at American survey results on what groups or living arrangements are perceived as 'family'.
My view I think is just this, ''any two or more people living together and identify themselves as a family''. I wouldn't count marriage, specific sexual orientation or blood-relation as a necessary eligibility requirement. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Atheist/Humanist Quotes

A couple of quotes from famous atheists, freethinkers and humanists:

"Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible man ... living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money." - George Carlin 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan 

"We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further." - Richard Dawkins

"For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can't readily accept the God formula, the big answers don't remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us." - Charles Bukowski

"We would be 1,500 years ahead if it hadn't been for the church dragging science back by its coattails and burning our best mids at the stake." - Catherine Fahringer 

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

"The philosophy of Atheism represents a concept of life without any metaphysical Beyond or Divine Regulator. It is the concept of an actual, real world with its liberating, expanding and beautifying possibilities, as against an unreal world, which, with its spirits, oracles, and mean contentment has kept humanity in helpless degradation." - Emma Goldman

"The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more." - Ayaan Hirsi Ali

"When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, 'Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe?" - Quentin Crisp

"Humanism involves far more than the negation of supernaturalism. It requires an affirmative philosophy . . . translated into a life devoted to one's own improvement and the service of all mankind." - Corliss Lamont

"A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men." - Bertrand Russell

"In spite of all the yearnings of men, no one can produce a single fact or reason to support the belief in God and in personal immortality." - Clarence Darrow

"When I became convinced that the universe is natural – that all ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain . . . the joy of freedom. . . . I was free – free to think, to express my thoughts . . . free to live for myself and those I loved . . . free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope . . . free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the ‘inspired’ books that savages have produced . . . free from popes and priests . . . free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies . . . free from the fear of eternal pain . . . free from devils, ghosts and gods. . . . There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought . . . no following another’s steps . . . no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words." - Robert Ingersoll

"That so much . . . suffering can be directly attributed to religion - to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious taboos, and religious diversions of scarce resources - is what makes the honest criticism of religious faith a moral and intellectual necessity." - Sam Harris

"An atheist believes that a hospital
should be built instead of a church.
An atheist believes that deed must
be done instead of prayer said.
An atheist strives for involvement in life
and not escape into death.
He wants disease conquered,
poverty vanished, war eliminated."
- Madalyn Murray O'Hair

"Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast." - Isaac Asimov

[By working to improve the world:] "One thing is certain: you will find plenty of worthwhile things to do. You will not be bored, or lack fulfillment in your life. Most important of all, you will know that you have not lived and died for nothing, because you will have become part of the great tradition of those who have responded to the amount of pain and suffering in the universe by trying to make the world a better place." - Peter Singer

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." - Susan B. Anthony

God is always the equivalent of "I do not know" - Annie Besant

"Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy would've been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago. And by the way, I say "this guy", because I firmly believe, looking at these results, that if there is a God, it has to be a man.
No woman could or would ever fuck things up like this. So, if there is a God, I think most reasonable people might agree that he's at least incompetent, and maybe, just maybe, doesn't give a shit. Doesn't give a shit, which I admire in a person, and which would explain a lot of these bad results."
- George Carlin

"Theology is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

"Eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions god's infinite love." - Bill Hicks

"There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages." - Ruth Hurmence Green

"The careful student of history will discover that Christianity has been of very little value in advancing civilization, but has done a great deal toward retarding it." - Matilda Joslyn

"We owe a huge debt to Galileo for emancipating us all from the stupid belief in an Earth-centered or man-centered (let alone God-centered) system. He quite literally taught us our place and allowed us to go on to make extraordinary advances in knowledge." - Christopher Hitchens

"It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil - which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama." - Richard P. Feynman

"I feel that we should stop wasting our time trying to please the supernatural and concentrate on improving the welfare of human beings. I think that, uh, we should use our energy and our initiative to solve our problems, and stop relying on prayer and wishful thinking. If we have faith in ourselves, we won't have to have faith in gods." - Ruth Hurmence Green

"Interviewer: "Didn't [Sagan] want to believe?"
Druyan: "He didn't want to believe. He wanted to know."
Ann Druyan

"What I have a problem with is not so much religion or god, but faith. When you say you believe something in your heart and therefore you can act on it, you have completely justified the 9/11 bombers. You have justified Charlie Manson. If it's true for you, why isn't it true for them? Why are you different? If you say "I believe there's an all-powerful force of love in the universe that connects us all, and I have no evidence of that but I believe it in my heart," then it's perfectly okay to believe in your heart that Sharon Tate deserves to die. It's perfectly okay to believe in your heart that you need to fly planes into buildings for Allah." - Penn Jillette

"If faith is what you have to go on, if faith is the link between your beliefs and the world at large, your beliefs are very likely to be wrong. Beliefs can be right or wrong. If you believe you can fly, that belief is only true if indeed you can fly. Somebody who thinks he can fly, and is wrong about it, will eventually discover there's a problem with his view of the world." - Sam Harris

"Today evolution of human intelligence has advanced us to the stage where most of us are too smart to invent new gods but are reluctant to give up the old ones." - Ruth Hurmence Green

Monday, 16 July 2012

'If they can, you can.'

Often articles and news reports present disabled people doing something (mostly something everyone does) as a source for 'inspiration' and 'definitely you can do it' sentiments. That's inspiration porn. Disabled people are not your ego boosters. Some disabled people can do things other disabled people can't, some disabled people can do things abled people can't, some abled people can do things other abled people can't, some abled people can do things disabled people can't. That's it. Abilities vary, choices vary, support systems vary. To tell someone they can do it because a PWD did it, implies 4 things:

1. Seeing disabled people as inferior. 'Look, if that disabled person can do it, of course you can do it too.'
2. Trivialising the person's problem by saying it's something they can overcome, they just have to try harder.
3. Ignoring the wide range of abilities within the spectrum of human variation. Not everyone can do everything equally.
4. Excluding external factors. Nobody lives in a vacuum. What we do/get is largely influenced by the kind of people we live with and the attitudes held by the society. In an ableist society (one that keeps a closed eye towards the needs of the disabled, like accessibility, inclusion, etc), there is only so much a PWD can achieve with his/her efforts without a conducive environment.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Feminism - Why We Still Need It..

Identifying yourself as a feminist today can lead to many people immediately assuming you are a man-hating, bra-burning, whiny liberal or 'god forbid', a lesbian. Maybe a certain radio talk show host will give you the honor of being labelled as a "Feminazi" or "slut." Even among more moderate crowds, feminism is still seen as too radical, too uncomfortable, or simply unnecessary. Feminism is both misunderstood and denigrated regularly in pop media which makes people, especially women themselves, want to stay clear from any associations with the label, not having an understanding of what it actually is.
A group of students from Duke University had started an online campaign asking men and women why they need feminism as an effort to fight back against these popular misconceptions surrounding the feminist movement. There is an overwhelmingly widespread belief among students that today’s society no longer needs feminism. Therefore, it is important to challenge existing stereotypes surrounding feminists and assert the importance of feminism today.

These are some of the photos from around the web that I liked. There are tonns more you can check out on Tumblr, 'Who Needs Feminism' page on Facebook, etc.