Friday, July 07, 2006
The cosmic glass ceiling Sagarika Ghose HindustanTimes.com Friday, July 7, 2006
A deeper question arises from the Sabarimala controversy. Are religions hostile to women? The writer Polly Toynbee believes many of them are. Eve, forever the reason for Adam’s lust, must always be subjugated. Sex pollutes god and sex invariably means women. Thus religion is pure and women are dirty. Women must, therefore, be shaved, bathed, purified, placed in a convent or isolated behind purdah, and unclean menstruating woman must be kept out of holy rituals. The perverted hatred of a woman’s body, Toynbee believes, places religions on a collision course with modernity, and unless religions reform themselves, societies will never change.
The Catholic Church’s ban on abortion and contraception has long placed it in opposition to feminists worldwide. Many have suggested that the reason why Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is so successful is that it revives an old heresy within the Catholic Church, the heresy of a female apostle. After all, if Mary Magdalene was so close to Jesus, is it not possible that she too could have been one of the carriers of the word of God, just like Luke, John and Peter?
By contrast, women in Hinduism seem nowhere near as subjugated as they appear in the Catholic tradition. The mother goddess, the Shakti cults, the naked, rampaging Kali, the avenging Durga, and the hundreds of little traditions of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati and Santoshi Mata are all evidence of a plethora of female goddesses. On the face of it, there are no strictures against birth control; women participate in worship as equally as men, pilgrimages are undertaken as couples, and whether it’s a ganga snan, an evening arti, temple entry or Amarnath yatra, men and women are relatively equal in the holy realm.
But gaze a little closer at the practice of Hinduism today and you’ll find that women, for whatever reason (because of the dominance of the Brahmin male or because women have perhaps never needed to assert themselves in a tradition that is seemingly open), have not played as vital a role as they could have given the role models in the form of goddesses.
Every student of history learns about the debate between Yajnavalkya and Gargi in the Brihadarnyaka Upanishad. Gargi Vachaknavi was the ancient Upanishadic scholar, who was seen to challenge the men of an elite Brahmin academy when she asked Yajnavalkya, the leading scholar of the time, to participate in a debate with her. But all Gargi did, we learn to our disappointment, was simply ask two questions of Yajnavalkya about space, at the end of which he shut her up with the firm retort: “Do not question beyond this. You may go crazy.” So much for Gargi.
The ladies of the Hindu epics are truly feisty dames. Yet, at the same time, none of them seems to ever leave the wife/mother trap and play roles that show her acquiring any sort of direct relationship with divinity. Kunti refused to play adoring mother. Instead she floated her son down a river and had five other sons from five other fathers. But Kunti’s chief identity seems to be frozen as the errant mother of Karna, rather than as a woman with a complex relationship with divinity, as represented perhaps by the ‘Sun’, the ‘Wind’ or any of the ‘fathers’ of her sons. Aditi, according to a captivating play I had the privilege of seeing, was so determined to win the battle of egos with her sons that she buried one of them under the earth with an elephant for company!
But in the end her son triumphed over her too. Savitri stared down Yamaraj himself but only to rescue her husband Satyavan from untimely death. And Draupadi, bless her soul, was not only married to five husbands, but according to some accounts, even had Krishna for a lover. But again, the former fact remained her main identity. The sexuality of the Hindu woman is neither apologetic nor hidden, yet the Hindu woman’s path to God seems to always be through her family, her husband, her children or her lovers.
In a universe teeming with female goddesses, there are still very few women priests or religious scholars today. Most godwomen exist outside the ambit of formal religion. Tulsidas’s notorious phrase, Dhol, ganwar, shudra, pashu, nari, yeh sab taadan ke adhikari (lower castes, animals and women should be thrown away), is still recited.
One of the few goddesses of the big league, a woman who seems to have broken the cosmic glass ceiling, is Durga, who rules supreme in her corner of Bharat. But again Durga’s is hardly a mainstream Vedic cult and is located primarily in the folk traditions of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. In north India, Karva Chauth and Raksha Bandhan are festivals centred around appeasing a male relative. As for Manu, the doughty law-giver, didn’t he roundly declare that a woman must be protected by her father, husband and son at different stages of life, as she is never fit for independence?
Many Hindu traditions seem to clothe their exclusion of women under a shimmering veil of superficial freedom. So Sabarimala may be a brahmachari shrine where women should not enter. Yet for all Hindu women who meekly accept their religion’s rituals and pieties, the Sabarimala shrine is also a symbol of a need to question why their ancestral faith tries to exclude them.(The writer is Features Editor, CNN-IBN: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Friday, October 27, 2006
Innocence Lost and Found Thursday, October 05, 2006 So, what is the wider principle here? Clearly, one of the principles is protecting the innocence of children. Why? Why do we care about that? Because all sane men know that children come into the world in a state of sexual innocence. And although they are sexual, they are not conscious of it, and their sexuality is not integrated into any wider concept of self. This is why I am so creeped out when I see parents who allow their children--especially girls--to dress in provocative ways.
Especially in California, I have seen many prepubescent girls who, if you just squint your eyes a little, could pass for beautiful woman. This was not the case when I was in grade school or even junior hi. Then there was a sharp divide between adults and children, in manner of dress, behavior, and general appearance. Of course, many of the girls were cute--I had many painful crushes--but they weren’t sexy or intentionally sexually provocative. And if they were, they would be sent home and told to wear something apppropriate. Today, this would generate an ACLU lawsuit.
I am quite sure that I would have been adversely affected by today’s sexual climate, in which the girls are like little adult women. Before my wife and I had a child, we would baby-sit a couple of twin girls who lived down the street. We did this at least once a week from the time they were around three years of age, and we grew quite close. It was a wonderful experience. Their mother was a very responsible stay-at-home mom, and their innocence was protected throughout their childhood. But once they entered their teenage years, one could detect a disturbing transformation. Scanty clothes, too much make up, push-up bras, cleavage. Why on earth does a 12 or 13 year old need make-up, let alone a push up bra? It’s not as if, as a man, you cannot notice it. Naturally, I want to avert my eyes, because these are like daughters.
And the problem is, no uncorrupted girl at that age has any insight into the primitive nature of male (especially teen) sexuality. It is absolutely free-floating, obsessive, intrusive, and easily attachable to any part of a woman’s body. If these girls actually knew what kinds of thoughts they provoking in the boys (and some men) around them, I am sure they would be creeped out. Unless they themsleves are acting out some kind of sexual trauma that was perpetrated on them, and have become prematurely sexualized as a way to “control” the opposite sex.posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:08 AM One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin
By James Grubel CANBERRA (Reuters) Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:33am ET - Australia's top Muslim cleric, suspended from preaching after describing women who do not dress modestly as "uncovered meat", rejected calls to resign on Friday, saying he would not go until the White House was cleaned out.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
A woman’s sexuality is valued for non-sexual concepts like virginity and her ability to bear male children. She is denied her own freedom, howsoever logical and legitimate. She has to accept her lower status in the society: She cannot make her own sexual choices nor can she express her sexuality...
Familistic bonds tend to promote marital joy. But marriage and fulfillment in life do not come for free: it needs caring, loving, sharing, and extending commitment to each other within the context of family. Sexuality is at the very core of family relations despite differences among cultures. It is in the family one learns to understand one’s body and practice socially acceptable sexual relations; the family determines one’s expectations about sexual relations in society as an individual; the family teaches one to see oneself as a sexually responsive person. While commitment to sexuality is a key to successful married life, it’s regulation (or discussion) in family is not a vulgarization.
Today we live in a mixed world that has lost its way, particularly in matter of sex and marriage that are central to family structure. Today every teenager has a greater sex consciousness than ever before and yet there is increasing unhappiness, multiplying divorces, rising juvenile delinquents, and mounting AIDS: A sheer drop from frying pan to fire! We cannot, therefore, ignore sexuality or dismiss it as a mere feminist concept. It is indeed very necessary to break the taboos that prevent discussion on sexuality in the family and help gendered individuals understand their own bodies and social identity beyond what is determined by the traditional male dominated family/society. published in Faydraw (Pennsylvania, USA), Vol.1, Whole No. 19, February 1997, pp. 41-45. posted by R.K.SINGH: INDIAN ENGLISH POET at 3:28 AM
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
The Judeo-Christian tradition could not be more different. For nearly 2,000 years it taught (and some Christians still teach) that sex for pleasure is a sin and that it must only be undertaken for procreation (at night, in private, with some clothes on). This attitude still permeates our culture in that many people have inhibitions about having sex in front of people. The idea of sin is softened into a vague notion of privacy and intimacy around nudity and sex. It’s completely irrational. I can think of no sound reason why sex should be kept private. Any harm this might cause is actually entirely imaginary. There is no psychological reason why it should be kept private, this is entirely a later custom in select cultures.
Of course, I would have no wish to replicate the power relations in Roman sex (although the Romans were not the only culture to sexually exploit slaves). And Clarke does point out that Roman women could be sexual aggressors (favouring successful gladiators and having lovers) and he suggests there was even a women’s liberation movement (of sorts) in the first century AD...Go figure! I mean, I don’t even know where or why this taboo arose in the first place. Why exactly are women’s nipples obscene? Posted in Integral Sexology, Ray's Integral Blog October 6th, 2006 (posted by ray harris)
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Hindustan Times » HT Campaign - Loos talk » Story ‘If you walk down the whole stretch, you will collapse due to the stench’ Sidhartha Roy and Vibha Sharma New Delhi, October 26 When it comes to answering the call of nature, the Delhi male does not look very far and relieves himself as soon as he finds a wall, corner or crevice. Perhaps no place in the Capital — dirty or clean, posh or humble — has stopped him from leaving an impression — tell-tale marks of which invite his brethren to relieve themselves at the very spot in future. However, there are some areas in Delhi that have been the traditional favourites for people to urinate in the open. Hindustan Times visited the top five spots in Delhi that are a hit with people who prefer urinating in public and found out what attracts people to these places:
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Man shoots wife after seeing India film on marriage
Mon Aug 21, 2006 4:54 AM BST
MUMBAI (Reuters) - An Indian man who took his wife to a hit Bollywood film about marital tensions hoping she would allow him to marry again shot her after she refused, police and a newspaper said.
The Mumbai Mirror daily said on Monday the wife had left his home with their two children after a marital spat.
But on Saturday, they had made up and went to see "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" (Never Say Goodbye), a Hindi film about couples finding love outside marriage, which has been playing to packed houses in Indian cities.
The newspaper said the 32-year-old man's real intention in taking his wife to the movie was to persuade her to allow him to marry his girlfriend.
When she refused, the husband attacked her with a "sharp weapon" and shot her in the stomach, leaving her for dead on the road, the Mumbai Mirror reported.
"The wife survived and she has given us a statement against her husband," a police officer said.
The film's director Karan Johar expressed shock.
"When I made the film, I never thought it would incite such strong emotions," Johar was quoted as saying in the newspaper.
Bollywood, the world's most prolific film industry, has a big influence over the lives millions of Indians, who visit cinemas regularly to see the latest releases.
In June, a young man leapt off a cinema balcony in central India and broke his leg while trying to imitate the stunts of a superhero in a Bollywood movie.
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