India

Born in Flames Meets Gandhi

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My kinda feminism:

Direct action gets the goods.

In March, the Indian upper parliament passed a historic affirmative-action bill. If approved by the lower house, the law would reserve 33 percent of all parliamentary seats for women. You might think this would be well-received by rural women in India. But they long ago gave up on the government and have taken things into their own hands. India is witnessing a rise of vigilante groups, the most sensational of which is the gulabi, or pink gang, operating in the Bundelkhand district of the Uttar Pradesh state, one of the poorest districts of India. Some gangs have started what Indian journalists describe as a "mini-revolution" on behalf of women.

The founder of the gulabis is the fearless Sampat Pal Devi, 40, who was married off at the age of 12 to an ice-cream vendor and had the first of her five children at 15. The gulabis, whose members say they are a "gang for justice," started in 2006 as a sisterhood of sorts that looked out for victims of domestic abuse, a problem the United Nations estimates affects two in three married Indian women. Named after their hot-pink sari uniforms, the gang paid visits to abusive husbands and demanded they stop the beatings. When obstinate men refused to listen, the gulabis would return with large bamboo sticks called laathis and "persuade" them to change their ways….

What's the context for this phenomenon? The Indian press often points to a host of ills plaguing modern India, such as honor killings, dowries, child marriages, and female feticide. These account for female despondency but not for the gangs as an outlet for it. In the past, many Indian women would have taken these pressures out on themselves, through self-immolation or hanging, for example. As women have gained political power, through initiatives like the affirmative-action bill, dispossessed rural women have realized that they can instead respond boldly and collectively to abuse. Why aren't they turning to political activism as opposed to vigilantism? To begin with, the gangs offer more immediate benefits than politics does. Another reason is that female politicians rising to power from the lower castes have been dismal role models. These politicians have the potential to inspire poor women more than dynastic leaders like Sonia Gandhi, but they have disappointed the women they claim to represent by being as corrupt and criminal as the male politicians they despise.

Some of the vigilantes go over the line, like the horde of women—not gulabis—who hacked an alleged serial rapist and murderer to death. But I can't say I disapprove of the laathi tactic and similar measures, part self-defense and part consciousness-raising. I suspect they'll do far more for the everyday treatment of Indian women than all the affirmative-action bills in Asia.

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  1. What I don’t get is this: there is about to be a crisis in India where there are a lack of marriageable women, precisely because of female feticide. So shouldn’t the social status of women be spiking dramatically in Indian society even without either vigilantism or affirmative action?

    1. Indeed.

      It’s almost as if rural Indian men weren’t perfectly rational economic actors…

    2. So shouldn’t the social status of women be spiking dramatically in Indian society even without either vigilantism or affirmative action?

      No, their price merely goes up.

      In a society that sees women as property and essentially a commodity, they don’t get any more rights or status, the parents just get a bigger payoff when they sell their 12-year-old.

  2. walk pinkly and carry a big stick

  3. hey, where’s my moniker???

  4. This sounds like it could be an excellent movie. I wonder if anyone will ever try to make it.

  5. Fresno dan

    have I been banned or something – why doesn’t my handle show up?

    1. Your handle is showing up on my browser.

      1. I shouldn’t ask, but what exactly was it doing in your browser?

  6. uhhh…no. If I read this correctly, we should elect people based on their gender and not their ideas? It amazes we what type of stupid ideas come about in order to right a real/perceived wrong.

    Talk about institutionalizing a sense of victimhood…in essense, this move promotes the idea that “hey, I’m a woman, I CAN’T win on the basis of my ideas or leadership abilities”

    1. really, I’m much more in tune with women in such situations going beyond gov’t remedies if they have to (and its looks like they’re doing so).

    2. I’m sorry, you can’t cast the vote you want. You have to vote for a vulva.

      I’m reminded of a similar proposal I heard from Belgium, where the usual suspects wanted a law requiring genitalia quotas in the party electoral lists (since they have proportional representation, you’re voting for an entire party, not an individual). I remember thinking that some party ought to run 50% men in suits, and 50% men in drag.

      1. “(since they have [party-list] proportional representation, you’re voting for an entire party, not an individual)”

        FTFY. Not all proportional representation systems are by party-list.

        Under the single transferable vote method voters select individual candidates in preferential order.

        You are correct insofar as it’s a safe bet that any country that allocates seats to women is using a party list system, but you should learn the distinction and make it.

  7. The 2nd Amendment solves a lot of these problems.

  8. Why is hacking a serial rapist/murder up into little pieces “going over the line”? Would it be OK if we retroactively deputize them? How bout if we sprinkled some magic fairy dust on them?

    1. One of the legitimate functions of government is criminal justice.

      Being torn apart Orpheus-style by the women of the fury is neither just nor particularly observant of due process.

      1. Being torn apart Orpheus-style by the women of the fury is neither just nor particularly observant of due process.

        Why?

      2. “One of the legitimate functions of government is criminal justice.”

        Your government maybe. Not mine. Since I didn’t legitimize it, and I am as much The People(TM) as you are, how is this a legitimate role of government?

        1. uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. huh

    2. Why is hacking a serial rapist/murder up into little pieces “going over the line”?

      Because I’m against the death penalty.

      1. Oh. Ok. Thats actually sense. I’m ok with death penalty theoretically, but mostly against it for pragmatic/government-related reasons, so didn’t event think of that.

      2. So could they have killed him while he was in the act? Right after? If he was about to?

        1. That came off my fingers rather trollish, and I didn’t intend it to be.

          Just ignore me 🙂

    3. If the guy truly was a serial rapist and murder, I have no problem with the death penalty – it’s just that pesky notion of due process that should fall somewhere in between the charge and sentence.

    4. Having due process would be preferable to not having due process, as this reduces the probability that you kill somebody who isn’t a serial murderer/rapist. But I still say having a serial murderer/rapist no longer living is preferable to having him living, even if you get there with no due process.

      1. but, but…in the absence of due process the proof of serial murderousness comes from where? or whom? vengeance (state aouthorized or otherwise) is a mistake you can’t undo…doesn;t due process allow mistakes of prosecution to be undone.

        1. I am reminded of that famous court room film drama 12 Angry Women.

          1. Wasn’t that film loosely adapted from the 2009 season of The View ? 🙂

  9. female feticide

    Thankfully, here in America we don’t discriminate.

    1. oh Chris, you are such a card.

    2. I lawled.

    3. +1 chris. I agree.

  10. This is kind of anecdotal but related. I was watching the Liberia episode of Anthony Bourdains No Reservations last night, and what stuck out the most about the recovery and rebuilding of Liberia was that it appears to be primarily led by the women of Liberia. And when I say primarily, I mean it appeared as though there were few if any men doing much at all. Bourdain also visited the local market where their civil wars last battle was fought, and spoke with one of the women who stopped the battle at the market itself by organizing mass protests of women who would strip naked and stand up to the rebel gangs. Apparently in West Africa it is a curse for a man to see a mother naked, so it was a pretty effective protest.

    I’m not saying the men are absent completely, but it was pretty obvious that it’s the women of Liberia who have taken up the brunt of the effort to restore their country.

    1. No wonder things haven’t been going my way, all those National Geographic issues have permanently cursed me.

    2. I’m sure there’s some history to back it up (which I’m too lazy to look up and link to) that says that’s pretty much the way it always works.

      Guys get to kill each other, and women get to clean up the mess. Standard Operating Procedure.

      1. It was still weird though. All the men appeared to do during the day was walk around in the forest and drink palm wine. I’m sure there is a lot more to it than that, but it sure looked that way.

        Liberia’s current president is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, making Liberia the first African nation with a female president. Sirleaf is the first modern, and currently the only elected, female head of state in Africa.

        1. All the men appeared to do during the day was walk around in the forest and drink palm wine.

          Ha, sounds like the book Things Fall Apart.

      2. Last man standing gets to breed the next army!

    3. Check out this sad and funny article in Modern Drunkard for anecdotal evidence that “Women do almost all the daily work in southern Africa: cooking, finding food, raising children, and tidying up around the hut, which leaves men free to spend the day pursuing more amiable interests, like drinking until they can barely stand or form sentences.”

      http://www.drunkard.com/issues/10_04/10-04-soused-africa.htm

      1. I didn’t RTFA, but they sound a lot like lions.

    4. This isn’t that unusual. In many societies, women take care of the necessities of daily living, including the economic aspects, while men were hunters or “warriors.” You can see this all over the world, from Africa to Japan.

      1. You’d have to see the episode to form your own opinion, but aside from cab drivers and a few construction workers the only things I saw men doing during the episode was drink, play scrabble, argue and eat the food that the women had prepared. Again, I’m sure there is more to it than this, but it appears as though the women were doing everything INCLUDING the hunting/fishing, etc. During the civil war the men were busy killing each other of course.

        Oh, and I think they went to church too.

  11. Code Pink^3

  12. One of the legitimate functions of government is criminal justice.

    And when government doesn’t deliver justice, somebody will step in to fill the void.

    Think of these women a militia, operating on the frontier. It’s rough justice, I’m sure, but its the best you’re likely to get.

    1. The problem is that what constitutes “justice” is little more than an opinion. Sure, it seems cool when a mob of vigilantes punishes murderers and rapists. But how long before the same mob is hunting down hoarders and wreckers, price gougers, usurers, gentrifiers, gusanos, counterrevolutionaries, etc.

      1. You could turn that idea around, though, couldn’t you? “Sure, it seems cool when a police department punishes murderers and rapists. But how long before the same cops are hunting down hoarders and wreckers, price gougers, usurers, gentrifiers, gusanos, counterrevolutionaries, etc.”

        1. You are obviously right, but an institution that relies, at least on some level, on voters and/or taxpayers, has more checks on its ability to misbehave than does a mob led by a “fearless” leader.

          1. Counterexample: the US Congress

    2. Think of these women a militia, operating on the frontier. It’s rough justice, I’m sure, but its the best you’re likely to get.

      He’ll get a fair trial, followed by a fair hangin’

  13. “Some of the vigilantes go over the line, like the horde of women — not gulabis — who hacked a serial rapist and murderer to death.”

    You mean “who hacked an alleged serial rapist and murderer to death.” Unless they broke into the prison holding him after he’d been convicted and all of his appeals had been exhausted. Isn’t Reason usually against the idea that anyone accused of a heinous sex crime is automatically guilty?

    1. Good point. It’s not like I’m sufficiently familiar with the case to have my own opinion of whether he’s guilty. I’ll add the word to the post.

      1. Encouraging Vanneman seems unwise.

        1. He’s busy working on his next Harriet the Spy novel.

    2. Men get arrested. Dogs get put down.

  14. Born in Flames

    In Flames

    Also, I could really go for some gulab jamon now.

      1. Yeah? Well, let’s have an unbearable discussion about the proper boundaries of metal subgenres.

        1. I’ll be drinking and mocking if you start that nonsense. I still have to drive home, so please don’t.

          1. Heavy Metal Parking Lot

            It’s worth making it through the obnoxious Hulu commercials.

            1. I think that’s in my Netflix queue. I’ve heard many good things about it, but haven’t gotten around to watching it.

    1. Naah. I think this oldie might fit the subject slightly better: Like Flames

      Of course, there is an immediate follow-up…

  15. and female feticide selective abortion.

    Fixed.

    1. Some of the vigilantes go over the line, like the horde of women — not gulabis — who hacked an alleged serial rapist and murderer to death.

      What part was over the line?

      1. “Alleged”

        1. Serial Rapist = Man.
          Man = Serial Rapist.

          Therefore there is no “alleged”.

  16. Kidding aside, I’m curious how Reason, home of notorious designer baby advocate Ron Bailey, or pro-abortion libertarians in general, are having a problem with “female feticide”. I was going to let others take this issue up as it is so incredibly glaring, but apparently it was my destiny.

    I know why I have a problem with it, nothing to do with gender ratios, but the pro-“choice” forces are just going to have to appeal to the ICK factor in all likelihood.

    1. It would seem that races and genders and other identity politics lobbies have rights before birth, but individuals don’t. A curious position for libertarians to take, indeed.

      1. Aw, did Mad Max refuse to cuddle with you last night?

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