On Ectogenesis and What it Could Mean For Society
Ectogenesis refers to the “growth of an organism in an artificial environment”, outside the body of its parent.
Recent developments and scientific research have meant that ectogenesis in humans could become a reality in a realistically close time frame, one that could have ramifications for current generations; as soon as the next 20 to 30 years.
Research has extended beyond theoretical hypothesising and macro-testing. Mammalian testing has shown positive results, which holds significant meaning for future endeavors involving humans.*
Experiments on smaller mammals have, in light of their limitations, been successful†.
The potential effects of this research are gargantuan, and could change the course of human life entirely. Several significant effects come to mind, and are significant from both feminist and scientific perspectives.
First, the mass availability of this scientific method would spell the end of ‘non-viable uteri’ ; with the creation of an artificial gestation container, the conditions provided to the foetus by the uterus and other components of the female reproductive system can be externally created and regulated. Constant mechanical monitoring will minimise intra-pregnancy risks or accidents that are simply down to sudden chance. Pregnancy losses due to accidents would be entirely negated, as would possibly any other uterine issues, foetal nutrition, placental detachment and a host of other issues those in Obstetrics and Gynaecology could explore in more significant detail.
Mechanical monitoring and constant, programmed adjustment of conditions could also be more reliable than its manual counterpart, as the aspect of human error would then have been largely removed. This would also remove the ‘biological clock’ aspect of conception, pregnancy and childbirth, although detractors may have issues with the ‘age’ at which it is ‘suitable’ to be a parent, and the limitation of the physical strain on child-rearing is a possibly significant issue.
Homosexual couples, for example, gay men who wish to conceive naturally, would no longer be dependent on surrogacy to have a child. Ova, donated either anonymously or with the consent of a loved one, could be gestated with no physical strain or dependence on a third party. This also solves several other issues related very closely to surrogacy.
Ethics and legislation surrounding surrogacy are rather nebulous, and the potential issues are enormous. A very real example relates to the surrogate, who may not be the egg donor, desiring to keep the child she has gestated. In this event, while legislation may or may not be available, dealing with the potential issue of a surrogate going rogue, or developing an attachment to the foetus, a desire to keep the child might prove difficult to deal with, an issue that has occurred in the past.
Surrogacy and the selection of a surrogate mother is an arduous, tenuous process inundated with extensive paperwork, which leads several people to seek surrogate mothers in countries where legislation is more lax and human life more abundant, and, consequently, less valuable in terms of legislation. Women from these countries, including India and Thailand among others, are paid money to be surrogates. Human life is commodified, these specific lives reduced to wombs-for-hire, and several of the women in these countries are trafficked, leased out as ‘wombs-for-hire’, receiving a negligible chunk of the sum paid to their ‘lessors’ for those with access to funds, reduced, as it were, to characters from a dystopian world straight out of the mind of Margaret Atwood.
The existence of external wombs would pare down significantly the quest for ‘wombs for hire’, although this could be over a longer time frame because the technology will be expensive in its nascence and not entirely widely accessible to begin with. However, it could help combat a significant social evil.
The possibility of extra-body gestation also opens up several avenues for women who wish to have children in view of their careers. Pregnancy would no longer be a physically taxing stretch of life that forms an encumbrance on work, physical activity or any other task a woman wishes to undertake, and no longer cause a pregnant pause in careers, which could then progress as normal as they do for men. This could result in a move towards more equanimous parenting, beginning to break patriarchy-imposed barriers which are ‘reinforced’ using ‘nature’ and ‘biology’ as excuses for inequality. Women would no longer be necessitated, forced to stay exclusively within or around their homes, as further and further excuses for the justification of gender inequality are eradicated.
This scientific development could have the potential to help break glass ceilings.
The effects of body issues, dysmorphia and changes are significant, even on non-pregnant women, and entire industries function off these aggressively marketed, purely appearance-based products. This could put an end to the significant medical and physical effects of pregnancy on a woman’s body, therefore affecting neither her physical health nor her mental health, by way of impacting her body image.
However, is the philosophical issue largely surrounding the ideal that childbirth is attributed saintlike, magical qualities even though it is merely a biological process common to every mammal in existence? It is not ‘sacred’ in any form of the word; this is merely a human endeavour to make fantastical that which is not.
The oft-repeated ‘wisdom’ of the patriarchy, in order to cause the virtual imprisonment of the female within the home, has been, across geographies and socio-economic strata, the avowal of the basic reproductive differences between the sexes, the need for the mother to be the ‘primary provider’ simply because ‘science’ or ‘biology’ dictated it. That the woman was meant to be the bearer of children for the family she married into, which continues to be the widely, nay, primarily held belief in several developing and developed countries. The familial and societal pressures in these countries cause a Handmaiden’s Tale-esque scenario, with an actual alienation in the minds of the women who go through these experiences between their bodily choices and the decisions they are forced to take, the societal pressures to have a child that one may not necessarily desire.
While these scientific developments may blur some ethical lines, they elucidate and outline far more clearly some others that could help science, legislation, the structure of society and the human race at large, in a multitude of ways, although they may bring with them some potential issues that will need to be discussed and examined in far greater detail.
The termination of pregnancy and related issues would need to be analysed. Although ectogenesis, as a deliberate scientific process, is entirely intentional, the potential for the desire to terminate the pregnancy is entirely possible.
Considering Roe v. Wade is based on the ‘viability of the foetus outside the mother’s womb’ to adjudge the potential for termination of pregnancy, this issue would need to be explored in greater detail in the future, as a foetus potentially growing in a ‘pod’ is entirely viable ‘outside the mother’s womb’.
If ectogenesis becomes a reality, science will dictate a new reality, one that, to me, heralds positivity in terms of biology and sexual equality. Pregnancies would be easier, safer for both foetus and mother, and natural childbirth more accessible across society.
Women need not be primary caretakers anymore, and the reality of ‘househusbands’ that John Lennon imagined, of men being the principal caretakers of their children, taking over more traditionally ‘female’ home duties’, or becoming ‘mothers’ in the historical sense of the term as they take over the majority of caring for their children, a task previously relegated automatically to women, irrespective of career, choice or personal desire.
Our world is changing every day, from the bottom up, and should ectogenesis become a reality, the dichotomy of a gender-based societal division of roles would cease to exist, or at the very least pare itself down on a long enough time frame. These roles would affect significantly patriarchal societies that consider women mere tools for reproduction, should human ectogenesis become a reality, the kind that is widely available to those who wish to use it.
As of now, external wombs are still experimental, so until further study and work, the term ‘Human Ectogenesis’ is up for grabs. Perhaps a collaboration among Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Phil Collins?
*Japanese professor Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara of Juntendo University has successfully gestated goat embryos in a machine that holds amniotic fluid in tanks.
† Over a decade ago, Dr. Helen Hung-Ching Liu, Director of the Reproductive Endocrine Laboratory at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Cornell University, engineered mouse endometrial tissue (the tissue that forms mammalian uterine lining) to an extra-uterine framework or ‘scaffold’, as described in her research, successfully growing a mouse embryo to term.
Although human trials are not permitted for ethical and philosophical reasons, Dr. Liu grew a human embryo for 10 days in an artificial womb, with the goal of developing, someday, an external womb. Legislation, however, permits a fourteen day cap on this sort of research.
My beef is not with Airtel, but with the recent advertisement they have out, promoting their mobile internet facilities.
For an introduction, watch here:
The new advert has people divided, apparently, over whether it is anti-feminist or not. While I think it is, several Twitter users have messaged me with names like ‘sad feminist bitch’ and some sexually suggestive comments. Itself an interesting insight into the perception of feminism in this country.
Advertisements need not necessarily be realistic, and so the obvious markers in this specific ad: the fact that spouses don’t generally report to each other in any sort of management structure, and *most* employees in India do not address bosses by their first names.
Cut to diligent employee at his desk, still complaining.
That cuts to a yummy set of dishes filled with steaming, delicious looking food, being prepared by a disembodied phantom hand. (You won’t believe what happens next!)
The husband receives a video call, happening (presumably) in HD thanks to the superfast internet connection on dearest husband’s mobile phone, disembodied hand and yummy food in frame.
And it’s at this point you realise nobody but M. Night Shyamalan could have directed this ad…
“Wifey boss people.” (to be said in a Haley Joel Osment-like fashion)
Frazzled husband is still at work, working on the work bosslady has left him. Plaintively, like every dutiful desi biwi should, she begs him to come home to eat. He capitulates, they grin, and the ad ends.
Realism issue: What management structure allows spouses to be in direct managerial hierarchy? If there are some that do, this is the first I’m hearing of it.
I’ve read several arguments saying the wife ‘wanted’ to cook for her husband, so sweet, and that I was just a ‘rabid, unhappy, sexually dissatisfied feminist.’
Tackling the first of those statements first: I enjoy cooking, funnily enough. Mostly for myself, occasionally for family and friends. I do it of my own volition and own free will, entirely unencumbered by the expectation of having to have a hot meal ready for somebody. I was brought up independently by parents who cooked for themselves, me and each other (incidentally, my father is quite a magician with chicken) and if any of us was hungry, we cooked.
It would be utter folly to deny the expectations of an extremely patriarchal Indian society with regard to these bahus, however. Hindi films and Bollywood portray wives and daughters-in-law as such as well. Tea and food aren’t things you make. They’re things you are supposed to not only make, but have ready, and keep hot as you wait for your hubby dearest to finish whatever he’s doing/wants to do/following which he can sit and fart around.
And it is to these expectations that I take the utmost exception. I’m sure the agency that handled the ad thought they were being extremely ‘progressive’ and ‘feminist’ by showing a female boss.
When it’s ‘progressive’ and ‘feminist’ to show a female boss, and not just a normal thing, your society is VERY patriarchal.
As the daughter of an incredibly accomplished woman who has been on the boards of several multinationals, and a very accomplished businessman who also changed my diapers and does a mean grilled veg casserole, I was never brought up to believe that women belonged to certain roles, and men to certain others. I have unfortunately, while interacting with certain people, seen just how ingrained these retrograde expectations are. Other women have come up to my mother and asked her why she worked, ‘does your husband not earn enough money?’ ‘Do you have financial issues?’ as opposed to that wondrous, all too impossible possibility that my mum is very intelligent and good at what she does and wants to work. Fuck that, right?
To those who deny flat out that these expectations do not exist, have some empirical proof. Crunchy and nutritious.
Examine the press coverage of any intellectual, accomplished woman in the public eye in this day and age. 2014.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook.
Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo.
Hilary Rodham Clinton, Senator, former U.S. Secretary of State. Potential candidate for 2016 Presidential elections.
All of them repeatedly asked how they ‘balanced home and work.’ How they managed motherhood and their high-profile jobs.
Has anybody asked Bill Clinton how he managed home and work whilst he brought up Chelsea? Has anybody asked Sheryl Sandberg’s husband if and how he managed to be a good father while still going to work?
Has any man ever felt guilty, as Indra Nooyi recently said she did, because of societal expectations to be a good parent and successful at work?
Why, in India, is ‘housewife’ an extremely normal term and part of the daily parlance of the majority of the population, but nobody has ever heard of a househusband? And men who even live with their wives’ families are called derogatory slurs like ‘Joru ka Ghulam’ (the slave of the wife)? Are the women who are forced to be glorified cooks and cleaners then not slaves of their husbands?
Trick question – yes they are. They’re cooking, cleaning, sexual-pleasure-providing, childbearing slaves.
The day women are free of the expectation that they have to have ‘chai’ ready, or lunch, or dinner, or any damn meal whatsoever, is when people can point fingers and say the ad ‘portrays sweet relationships where people cook of their own free will.’
Now to address some Twitter trolls:
Exhibit 1 – “Its a way of women balancing home and work”
I’d like to see a man balance home and work and THAT be portrayed on an ad. I’ll even write the ad if any agency wants to take me up.
Exhibit 2 – “Take it in a good way the woman does the cooking work which requires more finesse”
Sanjeev Kapoor. Marco Pierre White. Heston Blumenthal. If they’re not men, that’s news to me.
Exhibit 3 “You dirty feminist you must be sexually unsatisfied no man wants u and so u hate men”
And that is why we need feminism. When idiots measure a woman’s idea of self-worth by how desirable she is (or perceives herself to be) to the opposite sex. That is, of course, all that should matter in her life, right?
[P.S - Dear person who DM-ed me that on twitter, please explain why my sexual satisfaction is any of your business.]
Until the expectations go away, until feminism stops being a dirty word, until women stop feeling guilty for pursuing their dreams, we need feminism. Until we can break out of gender roles and stop following or believing in established gender tropes, we need feminism. Until the day the media and the public either stop asking women about the work-home balance, or ask it of men too, we need feminism. And for every day after that.
To the anti-feminists I had the absolute pleasure of interacting with, with their ‘men’s rights’ persecution complexes, I leave you with Trent Reznor’s lines:
“I wear this crown of thorns,
Upon my liar’s chair”
The crème de la crème of Indian authors, the cat’s meow, the cream of the crop, the bee’s knees, that literary genius, that proselytising Twitter guru, that magician with his words, Chetan Bhagat, has recently made a wonderful video for Shaadi.com (possibly the world’s most well known matrimonial website [ugh]), where he lists tips for the site’s founder, who recently got married himself.
For a little bit of a background, watch this
The guru of gurus, the unrecognised (but clearly deserving) head of MENSA, is now dishing out tips for a successful marriage.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber 1
“Just Say What She Wants to Hear”
In this tip, he talks about how choices, with women, are not really choices. you just have to guess which ones they like. WOW, Chetan Bhagat. I speak for all women when I say you are really, truly the most amazingly perceptive man in the entire universe. How did you know all women were not really human, just completely irrational, two-faced vagina-toting humanoids incapable of normal thought processes like men are? Poor ol’ us. ‘North Indian, South Indian’, we’re all the same. He talks about choices between A and B as being like computer programs, which solve problems ‘based on applying criteria’. What are those, Mr. Bhagat? Programming? Criteria??? You’ve lost us poor stupid women already!
It’s not about finding A or B, Chetan. It’s about finding, to quote a certain Red Forman, my foot in your ass.
P.S – You know what *I* really want to hear? That Chetan Bhagat has given up writing and/or a public existence for good. I will wait for that day and I will celebrate it.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber2
“Remember Anniversaries, She Will Forget Your Sins”
Here he talks about remembering anniversaries, something I am not a fan of. You celebrate if you feel the need to celebrate, and don’t if you don’t. If the day means something to you then let it. I fail completely to understand why ‘forgetting’ a day makes you a bad spouse/partner, and if that is one of your criteria in deciding whether you should be nice to your partner or not, you are a horrible partner yourself.
He instructs all men to ‘remember their in-laws’ birthdays. But he doesn’t stop there, taking it a step further instead. He asks that most wondrous of all beings, men, to ‘be the first one to call your mother-in-law’ on her birthday, and then ask your spouse/partner why they haven’t wished their parent yet. Of course, these birthday wishes are not birthday wishes, but leverage that you can use when you’re ‘in the doghouse’, so to speak.
If you happen to be friendly with your spouse’s parent/s, then you wish them because you know them and you want to fucking wish them happy birthday. Not as ‘OMG I WISHED HIM HAPPY BIRTHDAY NOW I’M OFF THE HOOK’. Dear Chetan Bhagat, as much as your writing and behaviour make it seem like it, you are not five years old.
P.S – As far as being ‘woken up at midnight by Chetan Bhagat’ goes, I’d probably just tell myself I’m having an incredibly horrible nightmare and go back to sleep.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber3
“Do not give an opinion, merely endorse”
According to Mr. Bhagat, if one of us ‘lil ol’ ladies asks a man for an opinion on an item of clothing, we’re not asking for an opinion at all. We are obviously too weak to handle honesty and truthful viewpoints, so all we want and need is positive reinforcement from men (of course we do, how in heaven’s name would we live without it?).
It is absolutely telling that the whole ‘Do I look Fat’ scenario is limited to women. That, dear Chetan (or do you prefer Chetanji?) is a product of our stupid, patriarchal society where men can look whatever they look like and be successful in a field that focuses exclusively on appearance (the movies, for example) but women, in day-to-day-life, need to be suspended in a bubble of self-doubt, in a constant state of worry as to whether they look fat or not. Health matters whether you are male or female – how you look should not matter at all, but unfortunately for the world, and consequently to women themselves, a bulge here, a fold there, is absolutely unsightly and should be banished immediately, by whatever means possible. Women are meant to be pretty little fairies with no opinion, no cranial ability, and no life beyond men and serving them, aren’t they, Mr. Bhagat? And their lives invalidated without said ‘endorsement’ from men? Poor us. Also, we look at other women who are prettier than us and begin to hate them immediately. How did YOU know, Chetan Bhagat, that women cannot look at other human beings the way men do, rationally, and consider their abilities and strengths as independent aspects of their personalities? I’m so glad you’re around to teach me the ways of my kind.
P.S – Chetan Bhagat likes to make jokes about women’s insecurities with their appearances. I’d make a joke about Chetan Bhagat’s appearance but that video speaks for itself.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber4
“Warning – she follows you on Twitter”
This takes off from Shitty Tip Number 3, which is all about female insecurities. While body image issues are, unfortunately, a reality, Chetan Bhagat brings us his own version of female insecurities, which have to do with men calling other women attractive. According to him, the moment a man compliments a woman, it is grounds for the wife to ‘put her husband in the doghouse’. In Chetan-land (or Bhagat-world, if you prefer), not only are women completely devoid of self-confidence or self-belief, but men are not supposed to have opinions either, unless they want to regret them all their lives.
For SHAME. How dare any being have an opinion on another human being right? And of course, said opinion necessarily means you like that human better, no? Like a little child’s mother complimenting another child, which necessarily means she loves that child more than her own.
P.S – Gentle reminder, Mr. Bhagat. YOU ARE NOT FIVE YEARS OLD.
P.P.S – Sexism works both ways, and you’ve just illustrated that extremely succinctly. Thank you.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber5
“Show your support. Like all her Facebook updates”
He says this is a ‘tip for a modern marriage’. ‘You must like all the pictures, silly rants, stupid things’ your spouse posts on Facebook.
I’m all for social media. I’m doing a degree in media. I do NOT, like most other people, believe it has a damn thing to with somebody’s feelings towards me. If your love, or the security of that love, is predicated on a ‘like’ or a retweet, you’re in an incredibly shitty, insecure relationship. I do think every one of the last few points is predicated on Chetan Bhagat’s assumption that women are insecure, and that is the most important aspect of their existence. Women are insecure beings that cannot survive without male validation – it is THIS male validation, of course, that validates not only their looks and figures but their very existence. Yes. That’s all the vagina-ovary bearers of the world need, Mr. Bhagat, to ‘keep us happy’, because we need to be ‘kept’ happy. Facebook likes. This man has all the answers, people!!
P.S – When you say the rants are ‘never stupid, always profound’, you’re obviously not talking about yourself, you fucking moron.
P.P.S – your ideas are anything but ‘modern’.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber6
“You might be the boss in the office.. She is the boss at home!!”
So according to Satan…oops, Chetan, the days of performance reviews are over. You are now not the reviewer, but the reviewed. This review will not be an annual one like the rugged menfolk are used to, but a daily one, nay, an hourly one, nay, a minute-to-minute review, based on the clothes you wear, how you sit and stand, your appearance, things that the rest of us would find trivial but Saint Bhagat tells us are the criteria for judgement.
Who ever thought a marriage/relationship was a partnership between two equals, right? It’s supposed to be about one dominating the other, browbeating them into submission and having them follow their every word. It’s not like it’s supposed to be a symbiotic thing, with both people contributing to conversations, discussions, finances, the relationship itself. It isn’t supposed to be an environment where two people feel comfortable enough to air their opinions and are able to discuss their problems and lay them bare as they are. It is about submission, complete submission. Men and women are not MADE to be equal, right, Mr. Bhagat? Relationships and marriages only ever work when one partner dominates.
I think we should all just listen to Chetan Bhagat when he says ‘Seriously, you’re not supposed to be listening to this. Bye bye, take care.’ If you truly DO care about yourself and your sanity, do not watch that video.
My condolences to Chetan Bhagat’s readers and fans (male, female or otherwise) for being utterly brainless, and commiserations to his wife for being married to a sexist, male chauvinist pig, paperback-writing hack with no visible redeeming qualities whatsoever.
It’s something I’ve said before, and it’s something I will say again. New Delhi needs to be rechristened Rape Delhi or something to that effect. In Uganda, rape is a war crime. In New Delhi, I wonder if it is even a crime anymore. If you’re Indian/living in India, sipping your morning coffee and reading the paper, and you see ‘Rape in New Delhi’, more than likely you will be angry but not particularly surprised. Saying somebody was raped in New Delhi is like saying it snowed in the Arctic. It’s something that never goes away. It isn’t just the rape capital of India, it might as well be the rape capital of the world.
India is still, sadly, largely patriarchal. We’re at the end of 2012 and still attempting to break stereotypes that belonged in the Middle Ages, that everywhere else in the world disappeared at the turn of, I don’t know, the 19th century. And we’re not even doing a very good job. Browse any online newspaper and the comment boards will be chock-full of misogynistic rubbish that somehow blame the victim, for reasons made up by the commenters, reasons that make rational sense to them and them alone. Reasons like, the rapist ‘lost control’, the girl was ‘skimpily dressed’, or a lot of other comments that somehow imply the victim had it coming. The kind of comments that make you want to throw these morons against a wall and beat the living daylights out of them. (And I’m not even a violent person.)
For those of you who are as yet unfamiliar with what happened – a 23- year old girl caught a Dwarka-Delhi bus with a friend after watching a film. The people on that bus beat her up, gangraped her in the bus driver’s cabin, nearly pulverised her, then her friend for attempting to protect her, and then threw the girl out of the moving bus. In spite of the fact that the bus passed FIVE police checkpoints, nobody stopped it or even bothered to look.
It’s something that sends chills down your spine wherever in the world you are, chills and utter shame when it happens in your own backyard.
I’ve written time and time and time again about my absolute lack of faith in the Indian judicial system in general, and that continues. But New Delhi/NCR policemen are a whole new level of foul, disgusting, bottom-feeding dirt that do not even deserve to live, let alone have any power.
If a girl is raped, their first thought is not, oddly, “How do we catch these men and what do we do to them?” It is “What was the time when the girl was raped?” If it was nighttime, that is their rationale for justifying said rape, because ‘what is a woman doing out so late at night?’. “What was she wearing?” Because if she was skimpily dressed, of course she’s to blame, she might as well be holding a sign that says ‘do me now, I want you inside me, violate me completely’. Or that it ‘was consensual, but these guys just get violent halfway through so the girls call it rape’. Because that’s completely logical, obviously.
It’s not just them though, lots of people somehow seem to think if a woman dresses as she wishes, drinks, parties, or basically has any will of her own, she is a ‘loose’ ‘slut’, and I don’t know what either of those two terms mean. Basically, according to them, said woman is trying to be a man, which is unacceptable, women to them are supposed to be beings that are there to stay around till you feel like marrying one, then mop your floors and make you food and tea, show off to your wife, and put your penis in as and when you feel like, following which, if and only if you deign to choose, she will carry your seed, which is hopefully a male. (This is exactly how the brain of your average misogynistic MCP Indian man functions.) Women are not meant to be just regular human beings with different genitalia from men, they are not supposed to have their own desires, wants and needs, unless aforementioned needs include ‘staying a virgin for marriage’, ‘looking for a boy’, and, oh, ‘marriage’. And whatever they think marriage entails, which they think, for the most part, is access to sex as and when you want it.
Why am I talking about these people? Because it is precisely this sort of mindset that gives rise to hordes of utter idiots who do not respect women, or even other human beings, which is another thing New Delhi is notorious for (like this guy, who shot a toll booth attendant because he didn’t want to pay).
The moment you believe men are the only acceptable species of human, the species that should hold power, and women are not homo sapiens, but just some sort of instrument that is there , you have morons like these. This sort of backward ideal of the woman being unequal, a sad little being that depends on a man for everything, including to give her life meaning, (which of course it has none of otherwise), is not something I see changing any time soon, simply because there are both women and men out there who believe in it and are watching it propagated through pathetic TV shows that are on Indian television all the livelong day. [An aside: One of said TV shows includes, to my knowledge, a woman whose husband cheated on her, left her for another woman whom he later married, and she still keeps a photograph of him on the mantelpiece and gazes at it lovingly. (Saw all that in a promo.)]
That, to me, is one of the root causes of stuff like this. The simple fact that we’re not moving forward from patriarchy, misogyny, from the idea that the man (and not man, but the homo sapien with a penis and testicles) is an ultimate being and all else is his kingdom to do with as he pleases. Instead of TV shows (which are a prime way of reaching out to the bulk of our population across every socio-economic level, because watching TV is something everybody does) that are about women being married off, looking for a husband, looking for marriage, and only that sort of thing, maybe there could be shows about women looking for careers, looking to make their own choices, doing something with their lives. Sadly, as I type this, I see a promo for a new show about a girl looking to have a “Karan Johar-style ‘sasural'” to marry into. It cuts to a shot of the girl serving a boyand his family tea, and the boy then saying “Oh, nothing beats mum’s tea”. Incidentally, the girl in said promo looks to be about 15, 16 years old at the time of her pining for a ‘fancy sasural’.
I have made no secret of my absolute hatred towards arranged marriage, which is a term that makes me go into Hulk Smash mode. Really. It brings up bile and vomit and possibly stomach acid, because the ideas behind it are disgusting and outdated. I have also written about my feelings regarding arranged marriage at length before. That ad highlights a few of these reasons. The whole idea of marrying not a person, but a family. The idea that you need marriage to be a ‘complete person’, whatever the hell that is. The idea that you have to serve someone tea (if you want tea, you better get it yourself), the idea that a girl must serve tea to a groom-to-be, and the idiot groom, whose mother’s apron strings might as well be his damn umbilical cord, has to comment.
Nearly EVERY socio-economic stratum and sector in Indian society has access to television. And not just television – satellite television. How do I know this? Drive past a chawl (for non-Indian readers, that’s an Indian ghetto), slum, makeshift set of homes, even a construction labourer’s tinfoil-and-asbestos home and you will find a satellite dish hoisted atop it.
Clearly, we have data that will prove how much of our population has access to TV. More people nationwide have access to (and by access, I also imply an understanding of) television, more so than newspapers because a large chunk of our population is also completely illiterate.
Can we not then use a tool we know is at our disposal to disseminate messages that we also know will be useful and will make an impact? Instead of using primetime cable network time to broadcast archaic TV shows that are little more than period Victorian dramas masquerading in 20 layers of makeup and Indian clothing, we could use it to get people OUT of a mental rut instead of digging them deeper into it.
But we can’t seem to.
The second big issue is the fact that there is absolutely no fear of retribution among these people. They know that with money and connections, or either one of those two, they will get off scot-free, untouched, and free to roam the streets like the pathetic sewer-rat vermin they are and commit as many crimes as they please. Nobody will touch them, if they know the right minister, cop, have a rich uncle, aunt, mum or dad, or are rolling in money themselves.
Actually, scratch that. No matter what socio-economic background you come from, rape is part of a completely messed up, life-sized game of Monopoly that seems to come with a ‘get out of Jail free’ card. Which is exactly what they do, if they even find themselves in prison to begin with.
Our legal system is absolutely pathetic. It takes at least four years to even BEGIN to deliver a verdict, and any verdict made in that time or less is looked upon as something wondrous, and ‘wow’. More than half the cases out there have probably been lying in files since they were registered, the only things that have seen them being silverfish, for whom it is their next meal.
Rape or divorce, who cares? It is all ALWAYS made out to be the woman’s fault. Here you can read about a Bangalore judge who asked a woman looking to divorce her husband on the grounds of domestic violence to ‘adjust’, because her husband puts food on the table. Why are abject morons like this given any power whatsoever?
People actually have lists and pointers for steps they think women should and should not take so they can ‘avoid being raped or eve-teased’. Don’t stay out at night, don’t dress in ‘skimpy clothes’, inhabit crowded areas.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rape is not about sex. It is not about so called ‘horny feelings’ or these men’s ‘lack of access to sex’. It is not about cellphones, chowmein, interaction, or the age of marriage. It is about disgusting, feckless criminal assholes who think they can have their way, and in New Delhi, end up doing so.
I also abhor the nomenclature of rape by the news media. Why must rape be described as ‘VIOLATING MODESTY’? Is a girl’s virginity her so-called modesty? I am well aware we live in a disgusting, completely backward society that in Twenty-blooming-twelve (and now thirteen) that seems to prize a girl’s virginity, look to it as an indicator of her virtue, grace, her purity, her brilliance, and of course that all-important criterion, her success as a wife and human being, which of course are not mutually exclusive. India is one of the few countries where you still hear of rape victims being married off to their rapists. Why? Because the rapist ‘deflowered’ them, and since he has already taken her, er, ‘modesty’, he might as well KEEP it.
But must so called modern media, media looking to erase this sort of retrograde ideal, promote it, on whatever level? Rape is not a ‘theft’ of anything. It is not a violation of a woman’s modesty. It is, however, a violation of her as a human being, which is the same as it would be if it were a man. It is a violation of her right to exist peacefully. It is a violation of justice to allow scum like this to roam the earth unfettered, swaggering around without any fear of punishment.
Violence has never been something I have condoned, but every time I read about a rape case in New Delhi (which is to say, every day), I keep thinking taking some sort of harsh, yes, violent action against these lowlifes, these sorry excuses for human beings might be effective, at least at instilling some sort of fear within them, something that seems insofar to be nonexistent. Considering that these same men seem to think rape proves their ‘masculinity’, I suggest doing away with their genitals, which would have the added benefit of ensuring trash like that never reproduces, ever. We won’t also have commenters like this guy I saw on the Times of India online comment board, pity I can’t find a permalink anymore:
” zahoor ahmed (bambayi) 1 min ago
why so much hype on this gang rape?the girl was roaming around in late night with a boy…what else one can expect? “
We don’t need to be leaving women tips about how to take care of themselves, we need to be weeding out crappy human beings from functioning society (if you can even call it that, really).
And to all those morons, everywhere, talking about people’s ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ and ‘how would the rapists like it if it were their mother or sister’, or ‘rape the rapists’ mothers and sisters’, WHY all the “mother-sister” talk? Are you not supposed to respect a woman otherwise? I suppose it’s telling that the two most insulting words in hindi have to do with screwing somebody’s mother or sister. Because if they aren’t, you’re free to do what you’d like, right?
We need to change the way we think (and by we, I mean a nation). We can all sit and wonder from what rat-infested corner of hell people like those rapists are born. And you know where? Right here.They’re all born right here. Right under our noses.
There are a few things Indians (or at least Indian advertisers/TV show producers/filmmakers/corporates) seem to be obsessed with. Cricket, Bollywood and sex are the three that come to mind immediately, and lately, I’ve been thinking marriage is the fourth. [Be warned, however. I'm not particularly fond of marriage or weddings in general, so if you're likely to be offended, I don't really care.]
I’m one of those people who watches the IPL for entertainment. Sort of like a Hindi film where you already have a beginning and an end and you just go to watch how it gets from one end to the other. (Also like digestion.)
Anyone who watched edition 5 of the Indian Premier League (and really, even anyone who didn’t) has been besieged with ridiculous, ridiculous ads. There are at least a billion of them that are related/refer to marriage in general, most of them for products, but this one caught my eye, and not in a good way.
In the ad, a relative (I’m assuming the granddaughter) is giving her grandmother a pedicure as the woman sits comfortably in her plush armchair and munches on a bar of chocolate. The daughter-in-law is in the same room. Suddenly, the granddaughter/pedicurist suddenly pipes up, saying “Bahu gaai hai na” – which directly translates to ‘the daughter-in-law is like a cow’. I’m not really Prem Chand, so I had no idea what that meant. Neither, however, did anybody I knew for whom Hindi was a primary language.
Finally, somebody told me it meant the DIL was ‘decent, calm and quiet, like a cow’, which made ME the polar opposite of calm.
Anyway, before I go on my long-winded, extremely angry tirade, I should explain what the ad is about. So, granddaughter/pedicurist asks her grandmother WHY exactly it was that they were looking to ‘have the DIL married’ if she was, ahem, cow-like and ‘Krish’s choice’. The grandmother gives her a stern glare, the granddaughter wilts, and Miss Cow comes in with steaming tea for the poor old lady on the couch whose feet are being expertly pedicured, and who just happens to be munching on a massive, massive bar of chocolate. Poor, poor thing.
Then there’s another ad for this TV show:
This made me even angrier than the first one. Of course, the ever-dutiful Miss Cow is sari-clad and conducting prayers (the epitome of the perfect daughter-in-law in traditional, patriarchal families). The mother-in-law is standing around there somewhere with yet another woman, who I’m going to assume is a visitor. THIS vomit-worthy, absolutely abhorrent conversation ensues:
Visitor: “Doesn’t she take care of the home?”
MIL: “More than she ought to”
Visitor: “Oh, really? Then does she have any faults or shortcomings?”
MIL: “No, she’s perfectly OK”
If you want to know what they’re getting at, I have no idea, so I would be absolutely the wrong person to ask. What sickens me is that there are people who still hold these sorts of beliefs, the ‘dutiful daughter-in-law’, the woman whose only goal in life is to be married, take care of a home, and pop out a kid or two. Sure, a lot of urban India (my family and thankfully most of the people I know) find this sort of crap vile, but I know people who believe in this tripe, buy into the ideal, and then get sucked into the world created by these soaps, deluded into thinking they’re real.
This isn’t the only marriage-related thing on TV, though. Skoda came out with a ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’ Campaign a while ago, where the car was responsible for really, really important things, like taking the bride and her giggling friends to the salon, the wedding planners, the makeup artists (wtf?) and other wedding-related people around. It was along the lines of the old MasterCard ads, where they mentioned the price of a couple of things and then ended with ‘Priceless.’
The final shot, before they told everybody how amazing the Skoda really is? The girl, looking at her jewellery as her husband picks up and fastens her missing earring. WOW, how romantic. *Rolls eyes*
Speaking of jewellery, there are at least 4 advertisements on television specifically marketing bridal jewellery, with the Bollywood brigade dripping in gold and diamonds, and of course, as the typical North Indian bride is expected to look, demure, shy and to quote the pedicurist, ‘domesticated’.
On an average, for every 5 minutes of TV Viewing in India, you WILL necessarily see an advertisement for a matrimonial website. There’s the stupid one that’s been on for a while now, where a father follows men around with a wedding turban (which, funnily enough, is not an all-India thing. In fact, it’s only in very, very specific bits of central and northern India). In the end, they find a picture on the matrimonial website.
At least the ending is funny. I don’t think the guys who edited the ad realised in time that the photo they used was, in fact, this certain hilarious, awesome guy named Matt LeBlanc. I still crack up EVERY time I see the ad. [ I also whisper a little "How YOU doin'?"]
Then there are the others, about ‘finding your daughter a groom within the community’ (someone please, please get me some medication before my rage gets out of control) and another I’ve seen not only on the telly, but in Reader’s Digest, too. [For shame.]
It’s about a privileged little girl, and how her parents want to ‘do right by her’ and find her a groom. You’d think doing right by her would be spending their apparent scads of money on a quality education, but no. According to these guys, ‘the best thing you can do for your child is give them a happy marriage.’
Watch the ad here(and try not to be absolutely scandalised):
Additionally, marriage is somehow associated very closely with sex in parts of India, because a) premarital sex is ‘immoral’, but female foeticide is not, and rape is ‘justified because the victim was “provocatively clad” ‘ according to these men
b) Marriage is the only way they think they have ‘access to unlimited sex’. That’s not just me talking, though – it’s every sexual advice column in every single newspaper.
Marriage, however, is not just two people who love one another deciding to spend the rest of their lives together- here it is a woman who marries not the man, but his entire family, whom she is expected to be a quasi-servant to, the rest of her life, all while looking gorgeous, of course.
There are at least a dozen television shows themed around the Big Fat Indian Wedding (a kind I especially hate), which I also think happens to be the title of one of these shows. It involves fancy, shiny designer dresses, professional makeup artists (like in that Skoda advert), and makeovers that include medical things like dental procedures. Who cares about the actual marriage? The wedding is where it’s at, man. It’s all about an album full of pretty pictures, not the other human being you’ve been ‘fixed up’ with.
More importantly, according to Indian advertisers, marriage is a girl/woman’s ultimate goal, and that, her looks and her baby are her crowning achievements. [Not her education, her intellect, or anything of the sort, mind you. Because what does all that stuff mean if you're not MARRIED? You're 30 and not married yet? Oh, the humanity!]
In the meanwhile, I still cannot reconcile myself to the fact that I live in a country with two ‘types’ of marriages. ‘Love Marriage’ and ‘Arranged Marriage’, where a groom/bride will be ‘found’ for you, either in the pages of the newspaper, in disgustingly shallow specs, or, for the slightly more tech-savvy, all over the internet. I absolutely fail to comprehend why one should even have to marry someone they do not love, or MUST marry if they do not fall in love. If anybody reading this has any idea where the modern version of this system came from, I’d love to know. Please enlighten me.
It’s bad enough there are idiots out there who actually believe in these ideals of permanent servility, ones who believe nothing matters unless they have a marriage to show for it, ones for whom NOTHING in life matters unless it is pushing them in the direction of marriage, where marriage is being covered from head to toe and fetching people’s tea and biscuits. (Take a training course and waitress if that’s all you want to do, at least it’ll earn you some money.)
What makes it about a billion times worse?
There are already enough older people with these ridiculous, patriarchal, outdated, sexist ideals. The morons that conceptualised this ad have now successfully managed to introduce ridiculously retrograde ideals of marriage to a new, impressionable generation, a generation I am genuinely afraid for, as I sit back and watch the idea of marriage (and mind you, marriage only for the beautiful, fair, or if you’re a guy, an MBA at the very least) aggressively marketed to anyone who will have it, and anyone who is watching.
So basically, everyone.