When I was a journalism student at Columbia University, some professors and students said I was doing “advocacy journalism,” because I was writing about the poor and powerless. When I said to them, what about you also doing the same thing because you’re *always* reporting news on behalf of the status quo, they got angry. Then, I invited Noam Chomsky to speak in our department, and they got angrier.
Yesterday, a well-known journalist (who is also Indian and a co-alumnus at Columbia) showed again big media’s strong bias for the people in power when she said violence on women was not really so bad in India: she was referring to the BBC documentary “India’s Daughter” — now banned in India — on the infamous gang rape in Delhi.
She said that India has already elected a woman head of state (Indira Gandhi) and U.S. hasn’t; therefore, it is proof that India’s women are better off than what U.S. and Europe had thought. It’s like saying, look, a black man is America’s president now; therefore, all this news about brutality on blacks and their poverty and hopelessness is plain nonsense.
Sometimes, I wonder, if these journalists are just elitist and out of touch, or are they actually paid for by their owner corporations and politicians to speak on behalf of them. This is also proof that women can also be a part of a terribly patriarchal system.
RAPE is an epidemic in India. Not just rape. Sex trafficking. Daily violence on women. Big violence. Small violence. Ridiculing. Name calling. Improper touching. Luring. False promises. Threats. Publishing intimate photos online. Destroying women’s careers. Stealing their money and land. Robbing women of their human rights, economic rights, political rights, workplace rights. Religious subjugation. There is NO concept of equality.
Of course, there have been women prime ministers (Indira Gandhi, a dictator) and chief ministers (Jaylalitha, an Imelda Marcos, Mayawati, a corrupt caste leader, and Mamata Banerjee, leader of an illiterate, mafia-run force) and noted journalists and even a few police officers and scientists and astronauts. And India has had a laughable, rubber-stamp woman president too.
But that does not mean India has any iota of gender equality. People who tell us otherwise are either a part of the status-quo and do not ever want change; or they are elite and privileged class and out of touch. Or, right-wing ultrapatriots who believe women should be put in the kitchen and dark and dingy birthing rooms.
An Indian woman works very hard at home and outside, and is mostly used for her labor she puts in or money she makes. Often, she is forced to give all the money she made to her husband, father, or in-laws. Hindu, Muslim, no difference. A woman is forced to give birth to children against her will; or, if found early in her pregnancy, is forced to abort a girl fetus.
I don’t need to read a book, or hear erudite conference or media speeches. Many poor and working-class women are fighting back against this horrendous patriarchal and male chauvinistic system, but the establishment and their media do not support them. They undermine their struggles, and impose their own, elitist solutions.
We who came from poor and struggling backgrounds know the reality on ground. The others, including Indian powers and “Born Into Brothels,” “Slumdog Millionaire” or “City of Joy”-type missionary West exclude and distort the truth, and offer phony solutions.
India’s gender discrimination and disparity is no less than an apartheid. Let us not fool ourselves no more.
(And there is NO comparison between gender violence and 24/7 discrimination there, and the ones we see here in America. NO comparison. Period.)
Sincerely, with a heavy but fighting heart,
Brooklyn, New York