Monday, December 22, 2008

[ Pages from Der Amethyst (1906) ]

The Gate

An erotic book of Kafka was recently discovered from a British Library in London and at the Bodleian Library (Oxford University) by James Hawes, the academic and Kafka expert. Hawes revealed some of this erotic material in Excavating Kafka, published by Dr Franz Blei. Blei was the man who first published Kafka in 1908, with Meditation, a series of miniature stories later gathered in his book, according to the Friday, August 15 2008 edition of The Guardian.
Czech-born German-speaking Franz Kafka is considered the father of modern fiction and his posthumously published novels and short stories like The Metamorphosis, The Castle and The Trial are treated as modern classics in the global literature. A common theme in those works is the alienation of 20th century man.
He was born no July 3, 1883 into a middle-class family in Prague, the capital of Bohemia, a kingdom then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and grew up in an atmosphere of familial tensions and social rejection that he experienced as a member of Prague's Jewish minority. His attitude to his Jewish heritage was ambivalent. In a diary he wrote: ''What have I in common with Jews? I have hardly anything in common with myself and should stand very quietly in a corner, content that I can breathe.'' Kafka was the eldest of six children. He had two younger brothers, George and Heinrich (who died at the ages of fifteen months and six months, respectively) and three younger sisters, Gabriele ("Elli") (1889–1941), Valerie ("Valli") (1890–1942), and Ottilie ("Ottla") (1892–1943). Ottilie was sent to the concentration camp and died there.

In Kafka’s The Trial, the three major points of the novel are found in the ninth chapter:
1) One has to enter through the gate.
2) The gate is forbidden for him
3) The gate is only meant for him.

The novel is about a country man comes to appear before the law and he is not allowed to enter. The gatekeeper tells him, "If it tempts you so much, try it in spite of my prohibition. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the lowliest gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the other. I can’t endure even one glimpse of the third."
The man from the country has not expected such difficulties. He thinks the law should always be accessible for everyone, but as he now looks more closely at the gatekeeper in his fur coat, at his large pointed nose and his long, thin, black Tartar’s beard, he decides that it would be better to wait until he gets permission to go inside. The gatekeeper gives him a stool and allows him to sit down at the side in front of the gate. There he sits for days and years.
He makes many attempts to be let in, and he wears the gatekeeper out with his requests. The gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, questioning him about his homeland and many other things. But they are indifferent questions, the kind great men put, and at the end, he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet. The man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, spends everything, no matter how valuable, to win over the gatekeeper. The latter takes it all but, as he does so, says, "I am taking this only so that you do not think you have failed to do anything."
During the many years the man observes the gatekeeper almost continuously. He forgets the other gatekeepers, and this one seems to him the only obstacle for entry into the law. He curses the unlucky circumstance -- in the first years, thoughtlessly and out loud and as he grows old, mumbling to himself. He becomes childish and, since in the long years studying the gatekeeper he has come to know the fleas in his fur collar, he even asks the fleas to help him persuade the gatekeeper. Finally his eyesight grows weak and he does not know whether things are really darker around him or whether his eyes are merely deceiving him. But he recognizes now, in the darkness, an illumination which breaks inextinguishably out of the gateway to the law. Now he no longer has much time to live. Before his death, he gathers in his head all his experiences of the entire time up into one question which he has not yet put to the gatekeeper. He waves to him, since he can no longer lift up his stiffening body. The gatekeeper has to bend way down to him, for the great difference has changed things to the disadvantage of the man.
"What do you still want to know, then?" the gatekeeper inquires. "You are insatiable."
"Everyone strives after the law," says the man. “So how is that in these many years, no one except me has requested entry?"
The gatekeeper sees that the man is already dying and in order to reach his diminishing sense of hearing, he shouts at him, "Here no one else can gain entry since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it."
Away from conventional critical appreciation that the ‘gate’ is a symbol of religion and God, let us think of another alternative. What else can this ‘gate’ and ‘gatekeepers’ stand for?
It is said that Kafka had many girlfriends, many affairs, and a number of broken engagements. During 1911 and 1912, he was attracted to Flora Klug and Mania Tschissik, both actresses in the Prague Jewish Theater. On August 13, 1912, he met Felice Bauer, a 24-year-old businesswoman from Berlin. Their relationship lasted for five years. Felice later moved to the United States, where she died in 1960. In August 1917, Kafka discovered that he had contracted tuberculosis and during his treatment, he fell in love with a woman named Milena Jesenská, a 24-year-old writer who had translated some of his stories into Czech. Kafka's fear of sexuality was probably the main reason for his decision to leave Milena. In 1913, he wrote in his diary Der Coitus als Bestrafung des Glückes des Beisammenseins, [The Coitus as punishment of the luck of the gathering] and in the winter of 1920-21, he stopped sending her regular letters. After they separated, she worked as a journalist and died in a German concentration camp in 1944. After their relationship ended, Kafka wrote his last novel, The Castle, where ‘K’ the protagonist of the novel. arrives at a village, claiming to be a land surveyor.
In January, 1919, Kafka met Julie Wohryzek in the Italian Tyrol. It was a short-term relationship and perhaps Kafka lost his interest but interestingly enough, he may have enjoyed a brief physical relationship unlike to his other relationships.
Kafka also enjoyed a brief loving friendship with Minze Eisner before met Dora Diamant, a 25-year-old woman from an Orthodox Jewish family who worked in the kitchen of a holiday camp in 1922. In 1924, Kafka moved with Dora to the Kierling Sanatorium outside Vienna. When he wrote to Dora’s father and proposed marriage to Dora, the reply was "no.” Kafka died of tuberculosis on June 3, 1924. However, Dora later described herself as "the wife of Franz Kafka." She died in London in 1952.
Throughout his life, we observe Kafka’s deep feelings towards his girlfriends as well as his concerns about their suitability as married partners. We also observe his growing fears about his health, and most important, we observe his decision to place the discipline of his art above his hopes for personal happiness.

Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis) was the short story with which Kafka’s first creative period started. In this story, the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, awoke from uneasy dreams to find out that he had turned, overnight, into a giant insect. He remained trapped in his room by his petit bourgeois family. His father threw an apple core at Gregor and Gregor dies. As the protagonist spent more time as an insect, he began to heal at an accelerated rate. "Am I less sensitive now?" he asks. Gregor virtually felt himself alienated and lonely. If Prufrock was T.S. Eliot, it is also fair to say that Gregor Samsa was Kafka, who was basically a giant consumptive insect in a world of strangers. His mother’s intentions from the beginning appeared to be more concerned for her financial support than Gregor's happiness. His sister was very close to him and was the only member of the family who truly only cared about his happiness or well being  She was the only member of the family that brought him food or ventured into his room after his metamorphosis. She even took the care to notice what foods Gregor particularly liked and brought more of the same for him.
We once again see the significance of a picture when Gregor's mother and sister begin moving things from his room to accommodate his new shape, Gregor becomes enraged, as he does not want to completely give up his old life and is torn between his new desires and the good memories of his life. The one item in his room that he decides to keep is his picture of a woman in a fur coat. His mother and sister are trying to move the picture, by distancing him from his personal feelings. Gregor chooses to make a stand on that which represents his effeminacy. He displays his sexuality and his mother witnesses it, much to her shock and dismay. Gregor's father returns to find his mother passed out and becomes enraged at Gregor. Gregor marvels at how different his father seems now than before his metamorphosis: "And yet, and yet, could that be his father?"


What I want to point out is that Kafka’s relationship with those close to him has always remained under suspicion and through his physical intimacy with other gender (say Gregor’s sister), it kept him away, mentally. This may be why Kafka didn't find any particular success with relationships in his love life. Unable to reconcile his physical urges with his romantic longings, he had a series of prolonged, probably chaste, engagements that invariably ended in his breaking off the relationship. It makes a clear distinctive reason that the ‘suppressed libido’ of Kafka may have caused him to write a porno book along with all the other masterpieces he created.


Kafka never visited the United States. But Kafka wrote Der Verschollene (retitled Amerika), which was published as his posthumous unfinished novel in 1927. The protagonist of the novel is Karl Rossmann, a 17-year-old young adult. As he enters New York Harbor as an immigrant and sees the Statue of Liberty, he observes that she holds in her right hand not a lamp, but a sword. For Kafka, we can find a great resemblance between sexuality and America. He had never experienced these two, yet they both  bothered him.


So for Kafka, sexuality was the gate...
1) One had to enter through the gate.
2) The gate was forbidden for that person
3) The gate was only meant for that person
# # # #

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A sculpture from Khajuraho Temple in India . Hundreds of such carvings are on the exterior of many temples in the subcontinent . These carvings prove Indian culture was not at all a puritanical culture in the past.


Sexuality may well be the most rewarding bliss of all possible experiences that life can offer between two people passionately attracted to each other. The union it produces between men and women in love is so close and so complete that two finite individuals can interrelate almost as if they were one indivisible being. It involves not only physical but also psychological, spiritual, and somehow anthropological and social aspects. It is related to reproduction.

But because it does involve reproduction and transfer of genes, society has always tried to grip it under its control, denying any need of its other aspects. Even, anthropological theories are denied by the social gurus. Society or religion (I am unable to differentiate them) articulates its own definition of sex as all sexual activity ought to be potentially reproductive, that marriage must last forever, and that women must be subject to men. (Aquinas, Thomas, On the Truth of the Catholic Faith, Book 3 ''Providence,'' Trans. Vernon J. Bourke, Doubleday, New York, 1967)

‘Dharma’ in Hinduism is different from the Western concept of religion. It is a code related to moral nature. There is a very negligible difference between this ‘dharma’ and ‘spiritualism’ whereas in the Western concept, ‘religion’ and ‘spiritualism’ are two different concepts. So society or religion always plays a role to suppress the sexuality and as the patriarchal dominance is more on these fields, questions about the morality and the politics of sex are usually considered in isolation from issues about gender and erotic sex.

But in spiritualism, it is related to an individual’s understanding for salvation and freedom. For Hindu spiritualism sexuality is represented as ‘kama’. It is one of the four necessities, four aims of life: Dharma, Artha (material goods), Kama and Moksha (liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth)

Kama is defined as the enjoyment of appropriate objects by the five senses of hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting and smelling, assisted by the mind together with the soul. The ingredient in this is a peculiar contact between the organ of sense and its object, and the consciousness of pleasure which arises from that contact. This is called Kama.

In Hindu spiritualism, Kama is not at all a ‘prohibited’ subject or we don’t find any ‘male dominancy’ there. Taking the lovers’ longing for reunion as a metaphor for the soul's longing for union with the divine makes sexuality more acceptable in ‘Sufism.’ And in a later period, ‘Hindu Bhaktism’ by Sri Chaitanya also adopted this idea easily.

But in Western philosophy, the natural and the universal are sharply divided -- like heaven and earth. The division of tasks between heaven and earth, suffering on earth and happiness beyond, is part and parcel of Western culture and its philosophy, religion and mythology. Westerners tend to see the sensuous world around us as false or illusory and the world 'beyond' as real. But in Hindu spiritualism, when you are in your sexual desire, you might sense complete presence in your sensuous world, a perfect moment which is spiritual, natural and carnal all at once.

Professor David Lee Miller in his book Philosophy of Creativity (Peter Lang Publishing Inc., New York, 1990) tries to define creativity as the "feeling" of pure experience vital to a realistic grasp of life with the ‘sensuous world’ (Miller named it ‘as-in-the-whole-Earth’). Plato first refused this ‘sensuous world’ and under Plato’s influence, Western thought has been dominated by a model (paradigm) of neglecting this knowledge and of value in experience. But Miller, in his book, tries to establish that creativity is of the whole Earth (or we can say ‘sensuous world’) rather than being limited to particular aspects.

It is the philosophy of sexuality in Hindu spiritualism that made Kalidas and Jaydev write two great masterpieces: Kumar Sambhav (Kalidas, fourth century B.C.) and Gita Govinda (Jaydev, twelfth century A.D.). These works depict lovers in separation and union; in longing and abandonment, and have been portrayed in thousands of exquisite miniature paintings in India.

Kumar Sambhav , is about the begetting of Kartikeya, the god of war who was the son of Siva and Pārvati, and depicts the monogamous form of sexuality. In contrast, the erotic love of Radha and Krishna in Gita Govinda is not limited to the love of only two persons, but is extended to the 1,600 women known as ‘gopis.’ Unlike in Kumar Sambhav, the love of Radha and Krishna was not at all a monogamous example as Radha never was the wife of Krishna and the ‘gopis’ were also well-connected with the god ‘Lord Krishna’ in sexual desire and lovemaking.

We can say the love of Krishna was polyamorous and was more an evocation and elaboration of passionate love or an attempt to capture the exciting, fleeting moments of the senses. It could also be an evocation of the baffling ways in which love's pleasures and pains were felt before retrospective recollection, trying to regain a lost control over emotional life. This is why this love story grips our imagination every time we encounter the animated expressions, flashing eyes, and sinuous movements of a dancer, who as Radha, expresses her anger at Krishna's infidelities or who as Krishna, begs forgiveness for his irresponsible dalliance.

Gita Govinda was first of its kind to be included in the ritual service of the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri, one of the four most sacred pilgrimage place of Hinduism. So, as the concept of Brahmacharya (suppression of sexual desire) exists, so also exists the concept of spiritual sexism in every authentic entity in this Eastern religion.
But the fundamentalists always try to prohibit sex though no doubt, we are the product of sexuality and our mind characterizes what it experiences, which has a great influence on how our mind perceives the creative process. This creative process, as an inherent sexuality, is always enhanced when we are in sexual desire or find ourselves in the grip of sexuality.

The writing process is a sexual process. When a writer wants to expose a physical life or an energetic life, a creative tension and a flow of energy is generated in the creative process. This creative tension can be experienced as a sexual tension and the flow of energy creates life or describes a new life.

Religion or society never cares for any artistic sensibility as Plato’s domination and so this inherent sexual influence over creativity has also always been denied by our sexual gurus. So, we find there are descriptions of fetishism, voyeurism, exhibitionism in the writings after the Second World War. We also find our writers/artists/musicians always have an inclination towards their sexual orientation and sexual behaviour and we encounter how much sexual desire they have.

We find Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Mary Wollstonecraft, Willa Cather, Emily Dickinson, Sarah Orne Jewett, A. E. Housman, T. S. Eliot, Federico García Lorca, Charlotte Mew, Viscountess Rhondda, Cicely Hamilton, Elizabeth Robins,Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoire were either homosexual or bisexual. In contrast, very few of Indian writers have had the courage to admit such truth but Amrita Pritam, Maitreyi Pushpa, Kamala Das, Harivanshrai Vachchan, and Rajendra Yadav are among them.

Still, Asian and African writers have not shown any admissible indication to point out their sexual inheritance in their writings, though their culture is more open to nature than Western cultures. This is a peculiar situation of contradiction and one which we cannot pass up.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

(Statue of Aka Mahadevi,. Source : Wikipedia )

“Artistic experience lies so incredibly close to that of sex, to its pain and its ecstasy, that the two manifestations are indeed but different forms of one and the same yearning and delight” (Poet Rilke)


Ariel Levy, in her book “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture”, states that there are two types of feminists: "lipstick feminists" and "loophole women." According to Levy, lipstick feminists believe, for example, that stripping is empowering and that putting on a show to attract men (be it through makeup, clothing, or girl-on-girl gyration) is not contrary to the goals and ideals of feminism. Levy disagrees with this view .It is interesting to find that the Play boy magazine and the Femina (the magazine which sponsored and organized beauty contest for India ) are run by women .Levy named these as "raunch culture" in which women internalize objectifying male views of themselves and other women.
The feminist like Catharine MacKinnon (1987), Germaine Greer (1999), Pamela Paul (2005), and Dorchen Leidholdt (1990) argue that sex positive ideas have historically benefited men rather than women and that thus, the indiscriminate promotion of all kinds of sexual practices merely contributes to female oppression.Even in Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, a negative view of sexuality is shown emphasizing sexual violence against women rather than the redemptive value of female sexuality.
In Western; as far back as 1935 Margaret Mead wrote about the need for freer sex roles. Mead , as an anthropologist, believed that women should be able to take part in more activities usually associated with men. From 1960s , the idea of free sex immersed with third wave feminists and there was a ‘Feminist Sex War” among anti pornography feminists and sex positive feminist started from 1980s,when Andrea Dworkin and Robin Morgan attempted to place pornography at the center of the feminist explanation for women's oppression . Sex positive feminists oppose any legal or social efforts to control sexual adventures and activities between consenting adults and they stand firmly behind sexual minority groups like homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender, and cross dressers .As the most of the sex positive feminists are either bisexual (like Camille Paglia and Susie Bright ) or lesbians , they focus more on these alternate sexual behaviour than heterosexual activities and men don't necessarily embody a problem and aren't typified as the oppressor.The another result of this social movement was that sex-positive feminists merely catered to men's desires because of the sexist notion that only men could enjoy sex in the first place.The third point which made sex positive feminism a controversial subject that it admits and encourages pornography ,BDSM and prostitution .as (according to them) they are healthy, and fun.But accepting sex as fun and healthy does not require accepting violence, humiliation though they have been sexualized over the years by these activities in the centuries long patriarchal tradition .and the culture at large.
In this so called ‘sex war’, I think, the actual importance of the issues like ‘sexual freedom of a woman ‘ or ‘woman’s right over her body’ had been demoralized and became insignificant. . The sex negative feminists often forget that they accept the sex-negative characterization of feminism that has been imposed on us by people who are not feminists, and who in fact are generally our opponents . On the other hand the sex positive feminists also always forget that the value of sex depends on the people involved, what they want to get out of it, whether they’re able to achieve that, and whether they are causing harm to themselves or others. That requires the ability to think again while they are supporting pornography or prostitutions or BDSM .
Sex never was introduced first in Human history as a tool for any exploitation or any hegemony. Sexuality is always an integral part of the personality of every human being. Its full development depends upon sharing ness of the satisfaction of basic human needs such as the desire for contact, intimacy, emotional expression, pleasure, tenderness and love.
Never any idea of feminism supports the portrayal of women as sexualized objects catering solely to the man’s needs .But it is also a fact that feminism’s primary concerns is a woman's life and respect for her body.By denying role of sex , we are indirectly denying the women rights over her body .My argument for sex is not in favour of pornography or with BDSM..I consider sex as the possibility of women and men engaging as 'equals' where as pornography usually dishonours women, men, children or even animals. I have stated before that feminism should not be gynocentric and misandrist any day and it should be aimed at full civil and legal equality for women.
The state,society and judiciary can never accept sex for any purpose other than reproduction .But in art and literature sex always played a vital role in literature and it keeps itself away from pornography .Could we say all the classic erotica from Kumar Sambhav of Kalidas to Ulysses of Joyce as porno ?Could we put these writings as objectifying female as only a sexual tool ?The erotica described in these literature involves emotions, love, passion and tender sensations; while a pornography involves lust, carnal desires and sexual excitement with no emotional ties.
In 6th century BC , Mutta , a female disciple of Buddha , wrote: “So free am I, so gloriously free, free from three petty things - from mortar, from pestle and from my twisted lord”. [Reference :Tharu, Susie and Lalita, K. (Eds). Women Writing in India Volume 1, 600 BC to the Early Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. New Delhi. 1991, p.68] . Translated from Pali, this text proves the first attempts of an Indian woman to choose religious escapism as the only way out for women who were frustrated with a life inside the home. Mutta asked these women to join the Buddhist sangha (religious communities) in their attempts to break away from the social world of tradition and marriage. I think ,perhaps this is the first poem about freedom of a woman from household chores and sexual slavery.
Although the early forms of writing addressed the issue of personal freedom, the poetry that followed later was a celebration of womanhood and sexuality. The Sangam poets that dominated the era between ca. 100 BC-AD 250 wrote extensively about what it meant to have a female body. The translation of Venmanipputi Kuruntokai's 'What she said to her girlfriend' reads :
“On the banks shaded by a punnai clustered with flowers, when we made love my eyes saw him and my ears heard him; my arms grow beautiful in the coupling and grow lean as they come away.” [ibid, p.73]
The content of the poem is bold for its time because it is expressing a woman's pleasure in sex. The poems written around this age echo a sense of sexual liberation.
In 12 th Century AD ,the social and spiritual revolution of Akka Mahadevi, the Kannad Bhakti woman saint can be considered as an attempt to liberate woman from sexual male hegemony .She was married to a local king Kaushika ,but found herself in love with Lord Shiva and ran away from her life of luxury to live as a wandering poet-saint, traveling throughout the region and singing praises to her beloved Shiva .She refused to wear any clothing by saying : “When all the world is the eye of the lord, onlooking everywhere, what can you cover and conceal?”
(Reference : )

At World Congress of Sexology , held in Hongkong on August 26, 1999 , the following rights are recommended to add as a part of Fundamental human Rights :
1. The right to sexual freedom. Sexual freedom encompasses the possibility for individuals to express their full sexual potential. However, this excludes all forms of sexual coercion, exploitation and abuse at any time and situations in life.
2. The right to sexual autonomy, sexual integrity, and safety of the sexual body. This right involves the ability to make autonomous decisions about one’s sexual life within a context of one’s own personal and social ethics. It also encompasses control and enjoyment of our own bodies free from torture, mutilation and violence of any sort.
3. The right to sexual privacy. This involves the right for individual decisions and behaviors about intimacy as long as they do not intrude on the sexual rights of others.
4. The right to sexual equity. This refers to freedom from all forms of discrimination regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, social class, religion, or physical and emotional disability.
5. The right to sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure, including autoeroticism, is a source of physical, psychological, intellectual and spiritual well being.
6. The right to emotional sexual expression. Sexual expression is more than erotic pleasure or sexual acts. Individuals have a right to express their sexuality through communication, touch, emotional expression and love.
7. The right to sexually associate freely. This means the possibility to marry or not, to divorce, and to establish other types of responsible sexual associations.
8. The right to make free and responsible reproductive choices. This encompasses the right to decide whether or not to have children, the number and spacing of children, and the right to full access to the means of fertility regulation.
9. The right to sexual information based upon scientific inquiry. This right implies that sexual information should be generated through the process of unencumbered and yet scientifically ethical inquiry, and disseminated in appropriate ways at all societal levels.
10. The right to comprehensive sexuality education. This is a lifelong process from birth throughout the life cycle and should involve all social institutions.
11. The right to sexual health care. Sexual health care should be available for prevention and treatment of all sexual concerns, problems and disorders.

Since historically marriage has mostly been another way to barter and trade ‘goods’ and since many women in our societies still live under this oppressive model ; admission of these sexual rights only can rescue them from the worse situation .On the other hand , so called ‘raunch culture’ makes woman nothing more than a product. If we once adopt ‘sexuality’ away from this so called ‘raunch culture’ concept , we find the individual achievement in one’s life , what Mutta or Akka Mahadevi have had in the history .Sexuality is the pure form of human realization and it is the factor responsible to enhance our creativity .That is why despite the blockage attempts of society , state and judiciaries , sexuality has its own role in art and that is why we find poets, writers, artists, musicians and others in creative professions are more likely to exhibit a tendency toward sexual affinity in their lives . Nietzsche also shared this thought in his ‘Will to Power' , where he says , “The force that one expends in the artistic creation is the same as that expended in the sexual act: there is only one kind of force.” This is why he thinks the (male) artist is typically quite chaste.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The Vagina Monologues is the famous episodic play of America ,written by Eve Ensler,which ran at the off-Broadway Westside Theatre and at HERE Arts Center in 1996. Later a television version featuring Ensler was produced by cable TV channel HBO . It has been performed in 76 countries .In 2003 it was first performed in India (Mumbai) and was produced by Poor-box productions .In 2004 , it was banned in Chennai . The play was translated into Hindi and was first performed in January 2007 under the title of “Yoni ki baat”. Ensler made up of a different monologues read by a different women. Initially, Eve Ensler performed every monologue herself, with subsequent performances featuring three actresses, and more recent versions featuring a different actress for every role .Later she turned it to perform annually and a new monologue is added to highlight a current issue affecting women around the world. Every monologue somehow relates to the women, be it through sex, love, rape, menstruation, mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, the variety of names for the physical aspect of woman’s body. A recurring theme throughout the piece is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality. In 1998, Ensler announced to change Valentine Day to V-Day stands for Vagina, Violence , and Victory, linking love and respect for women to ending violence against women and girls.
The Vagina Monologues as having a negative and restrictive view of sexuality and an anti-male bias impose a stress on hatred at men and heterosexuality. I have marked , in Western , many feminist thinkers oppose male-female sexual relationships .They describe it as negative and destructive to women, whereas all female-female sexual relationships, even one including statutory rape, are depicted as positive and nurturing .In "The Little Coochie Snorcher that Could”, an episode from Vagina Monologue, a thirteen-year-old girl recounts being given alcohol and then having sex with an adult woman; the incident is recalled fondly by the grown girl, who closes the monologue with the line, "If it was rape, it was good rape." Later, the "good rape" line was removed from the script, the girl's age was changed to sixteen, and warnings were issued to individuals putting on the play that using older scripts containing the line constituted a copyright violation and was grounds for legal action.
For many feminist thinkers, after marriage a family breeds patriarchy. Happily married women are considered false and double-crossing. The titles of popular feminist books from the early movement highlight the split between gender feminists and women who chose domesticity. Jill Johnston in her Lesbian Nation (1973), called the married women are heterosexual females 'traitors'; Kate Millett in her Sexual Politics (1970), redefined heterosexual sex as a power struggle;whereas in Kathrin Perutz's Marriage is Hell (1972); and Ellen Peck's The Baby Trap (1971), they argued motherhood blocks liberation of a woman . These feminists always try to paint the marriage as legalized prostitution; heterosexual intercourse as rape; and they come to the decision that men are the enemy; families are prisons.
In my last article, I have shown how these feminists (Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer ) have tried to skip from their anti marriage ideas in later period . Marriage is a three-sided arrangement between a husband, a wife and the society. That is, the society legally defines what a marriage is and how it can be dissolved. But marriage is on the other hand for partners of marriage, It is more of an individual relationship than a social matter .This is the main reason of crisis .Individually I think, marriage must be taken out of the social realm and fully back into the private one. The society should withdraw from marriage and allow the adults involved to work out their own definition of justice in the privacy of their own homes.
Our feminist thinker always tries to skip the idea that offspring begging is a natural instinct of a woman and it is related to our ecological and environmental situation .Anything against it may resulted to disaster ,We find , a woman has to pass through a different stage in her life span and there is a phase where a woman feels an intense need of her own offspring .Feminists of second wave feminism have always tried to pursue a woman against the natural law because it is seemed to them that motherhood is barricade for the freedom of a woman . But if the woman has her own working field , doesn’t have it mean that her working assignments would demand more of her time ,of her sincerity and of course of her freedom ? If a woman can adjust herself and can sacrifice her freedom for her own identity at out side her home, then why she shouldn’t sacrifice some of her freedom for parenting, when parenting is also a part of one of her social identity ?And it could also be solved by rejecting the patriarchal role of parenting, .We have to insist the idea of the division of labor in parenting .This equally shared parenting is now common in Western ,but still in South Asian countries we find it as a taboo factor rather because of economic inequality between men and women, our crazy work culture, and the constrictions that are placed on us by traditional gender roles.
Still in India, in majority cases it stands in sharp contrast to the traditional marriage with children, in which the man works and the woman stays home, or the ‘supermom’ marriage, in which the man works and the woman tries to balance a career with the lion’s share of the childcare and household tasks. Equally shared parenting is more than an extension of feminism; it is more than simply what is fair. Equally sharing the care of your children with your partner is about balancing your life, balancing your family's collective life and sharing equally in the joys of raising a family.
We again came to that point where we have to agree with the theory which states that economic inequality between men and women are the main barricade to solve the gender inequalities and not the marital practice or motherhood, as the Western feminist always tries to paint. Our motto should be to change our marriage system out of the political realm and fully back into the private one. The new slogan of feminism should be 'the personal is personal'

Monday, August 25, 2008


“When a subject is highly controversial —and any question about sex is that —one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one's audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker” (A Room of One’s Own : Virginia Woolf, 1929).
The word chastity refers to sexual purity and in Eastern ethics it is always linked with only woman and only with her self-denial of sexuality, tolerance, submissiveness and with an idea that here is no greater God than her husband .Never any question is asked or discussed any day on man’s chastity , neither in Western nor in Eastern world.Quaran though allows polyandry for man but it does not allow that right for a woman and so as to the Christian Churches also deny polyandry for both man and woman and so also Hindu/Buddhist and other religions are categorically denied the sexual rights of a women .In every society ,it is hoped that a woman should keep her chastity pure .Our society possess a prejudice idea that women are more loose than men and so some 220 words exist in English for the sexually promiscuous woman, but only 22 for promiscuous men . (See: Feminist Theory. Allan Hunter. Jan. 2003. essays )
Here I will discuss about only our Eastern traditions In India, with its strong bent for tradition, woman was expected mainly to live for others than for herself because "others" controlled and moulded the social structure. Even woman in life and literature herself voluntarily surrendered to the ideal of self-sacrifice..Once a writer Meena Shirwadkar writes : “Sita (Ram’s wife in Hindu epic Ramayana ) exemplifies the behaviour of the proper Hindu wife, devotedly following her husband into forest exile for twelve years, and eventually, after being kidnapped for a time by the evil Ravana whom Rama finally destroyed, proving her wifely virtue by placing herself on a lighted pyre. In some part of India, the women yearly worship Savitri, a goddess whose renown emanates from her extreme devotion to her husband, through which she saves him from the god of death. The story of Savitri is held up as a prime example of the lengths to which a wife should go in aiding her husband. The good wife saves her husband from death, follows him anywhere, proves her virtue, remains under his control and gives him her power.” ["Women and the Hindu Tradition,"in Women in India (New Delhi: Manohar, 1986), 122-123]
In Hindu mythology Anasuya has been considered as Mahasati or Great Chestwive .According to Garuda Purana , being criticized by her leper husband Kaushika , she still considered him her deity and once instructed by her husband she took him to a prostitute ,carrying also a lot of money and asked the prostitute to allow her husband to sleep with .
Since the old Sangam Period in South India, we find literature is used to glorify chastity of woman ( “karpu” in Tamil) .In “Silappatikaram , the famous Sangam Epics (Professor A.L.Basham has translated this epic in English) Kannagi, the eternally suffering chaste wife who bore her husband`s unchasteful behavior and killed herself after her husband’s assassination by the king and went to Heaven to reunite with her unchest husband.This is the value of Indian partichal society posses on sexual purity in marital life
Once I read in the Asian Human Rights Commission’s report that a woman in Rajasthan was found bleeding from her thighs, causing injuries due to her chastity belt. The use of chastity belt is not common in India and it was also not originated in India .It appeared in Italy under Francesco II from Carrara and was mostly used in Italy, but it suddenly spread all over France as well. Some argued that the instrument aimed at preventing women from the possible risk of being raped, when their partner was away for a long time. It was also presented to a woman by her husband or lover in order to encourage her to be faithful.The patriarchal society always have double standard and the concept of such chastity belt may be the suitable example of their conspiracy .It became worse when widows were forced to burn with their late husbands on their funeral pyre in the name of “Sati System” in ancient India .Though this system is now prohibited by law , but few years ago when a 20 years old widow “Roop Kanwar” dragged to pyre of her demised husband ,the question agitated the modern Indian mind that the roots of patriarchal hegemony is still deep rooted any where in our cultural context .
Sexual purity is always clung with purity of love .It is always considered that sex is always mingled with love . In Oriya Mahabharat written by Sarala Das , it is stated that Draupadi had infatuations with Krishna and Karna ,the later was the illegitimate brother of Pandavas.Draupadi had sexual relations with five brothers of Pandavs , but still her heart was running after Krishna and karna .This is I think the real picture of a woman’s heart .For a woman the meaning of sex is very different from that of the man and I have discussed these matters earlier in my blogs.
The Hindu scholars might have forgotten that in Hindu mythology there are many examples of “free woman” over these “chaste woman”. There was no moral condemnation or belittling of “free women”, and they also married and had children, but with a different social and familiar context.
They were largely considered on a par with men (not only with their men but with all men), not subject to father, husband and son, and rather they were very respected in society They were generally very learned, and normally sitting in public assemblies with men to discuss about the state’s affairs. Many kshatriya
ladies, even of royal families, were in this category. One of very known scripture in Sanskrit was that :
Ahalya Draupadi Kunti Tara Mandodari tatha
Panca kanyd smarennityam mahdpataka nasanam

Ahalya Draupadi Kunti Tara and Mandodari are five characters in mythology considered as the famous “Pancha Kanyas” (five Virgin) and interestingly enough none of them were monogamous (I have discussed about their relationship in my earlier blog
PLEASURE AT PAR . So the status of these five free ladies was not lesser than that of Sati, Savitri or Anasuya .Actually Hinduism is not a religion in which sense Greco-Semitic religions are .It is a cluster of ideas, philosophy and life styles .Here, every contradictory ideas may remain side by side claiming there authenticity .The most atheist Charvak is also considered as a great sage in Hindu cult .So, it is foolish to blame Hinduism for any particular idea .I think Hinduism allows all to lead their life according to their own belief and it respects and regards all type of lifestyle .Hence, it is the time when we can think over the “free woman” status in our Eastern society to check the patriarchal dominancy over female world.
Opposite to monogamy the heterosexual relationships are a multi termed activities such as polygamy,polyandry,polygyny and polyamory . "Polygamy" is a marital practice in which a person has more than one spouse simultaneously “polyandry” refers to a form of polygamous marriage, or other sexual union, in which one individual is married to two or more husbands at the same time. “Polygyny”, on the other hand, refers to polygamy in which one man has two or more wives.
Monogamy is always a double standard activity by masculine world. It is deliberately an extremist idea which is built into its core rule that men can have multiple spouses but women cannot. Even worse, traditional polygamy is always used by the masculine world to exploit feminine world sexually . Women these days expect and demand to have the same standing in relationships as men. To which polygamy denies and women find a lesser status in such traditional polygamy .Either the polygamy turns to polyandry , where a single woman is sexually used by men or very soon she is rejected by her lover .The purity of love and the emotional bondage does not act in mono gamy . On the other hand , by allowing monogamy we make ourselves confined to a double standard system created by masculine world .The traditional monogamy once made the ‘widows’ to lead a torment life , wearing white sari, adopting vegan food habits and leaving all sorts of feminine aestheticism in the name of “satwik” life where as there was no such rules for any widower any day .
The poet Ezra Pound once observed (somewhat self-servingly) that artists are the "antennae of the race." These antennae have long been jolting about extramarital affairs. It seems that every great literary tradition, either in the Eastern or in the Western world, finds it especially fascinating to explore monogamy's failures.The old Western epics like, Homer's Iliad, recounts the failure of monogamy : Helen's face launched a thousand ships and changed the course of history only after it first launched an affair between Helen, a married woman and Greek queen, and Paris, son of King Priam of Troy. Helen proceeded to leave her husband Menelaius, thereby precipitating the Trojan War. And in the Odyssey, we learn of Ulysees' return from that war, whereupon he slays a virtual army of suitors, each of whom was trying to seduce his faithful wife, Penelope. Some of the examples modern classics from Western literature are : Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover, Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Henry James' The Golden Bowl. And even in later period, we find John Updike and others.
Now one can ask a question, is it possible to have in love with more than one person at a time ?The traditional answer may be “NO” , but if we think over the issue more seriously we can have an affirmative answer . Virtually human heart is a multi chambered space where every chamber is allotted to a person .We have kept reserved space for our spouse,parents,children,relatives,friends, neighbours and even for our colleagues and if we can equally love them, it is doubtless that a person can’t allot any more seats for ‘lovers’ . In 1983, Blumstein and Schwartz tried to survey 3,574 Western married couples in their sample and found 15-28% had "an understanding that allows non-monogamy under some circumstances. The percentages were higher among cohabitating couples and they even found the percentages were higher among cohabitating couples (28%), lesbian couples (29%) and gay male couples (65%)" [As cited in Rubin, A. M., & Adams, J. R. (1986). Outcomes of sexually open marriages. The Journal of Sex Research, 22(3), 311-319]
In 1999, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart was asked by the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary to provide a definition of the term (which the dictionary had not previously recognized). The words "polyamory/ous/ist" were formally added to the OED in 2006. The Ravenhearts defined and expanded the term as follows:

“The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.

This term was meant to be inclusive, and in that context, we have never intended to particularly exclude "swinging" per se, if practitioners thereof wished to adopt the term and include themselves. The two essential ingredients of the concept of polyamory are more than one; and loving. That is, it is expected that the people in such relationships have a loving emotional bond, are involved in each other's lives multi-dimensionally, and care for each other. This term is not intended to apply to merely casual recreational sex, anonymous orgies, one-night stands, pick-ups, prostitution, "cheating," serial monogamy, or the popular definition of swinging as "mate-swapping" parties. Swinging, sometimes referred to as the swinging lifestyle, is non-monogamous sexual activity, treated much like any other social activity, that can be experienced as a couple. ... Whore redirects here. ... “ (Source Wikipedia) .

Polyamory is a word which often confused with polygamy and polyandry .In Hindu epic Mahabharata , the Pandavas are married to one common wife, Draupadi.What would I say to it ?Polyandry or Polyamory ?It is a strange fact that no body asked Draupadi about her wish before her such marriage . Except Robert Heinlein's science fiction The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, I haven’t found any instance of any Plyamory relationships neither in our myths, epics or in modern literature in both Western or Eastern society. In movies , ‘Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family’ is a 97 minutes long Susan Kaplan’s film , starring with Steven Margolin, Sam Cagnina (II), and Samantha Singh and was shown in Miami International Film Festival in March of 2005 under Documentary Film Section is considered to be only one of its kind on Polyamory .
Neither in the East or West, the society never allows this type of relationship as still the patriarchal claims over woman as a property exists in any hidden form. The orthodox Christian and Islam beliefs still prevailed in the society of both Eastern and Western world .Quaran though allows polyandry but it does not allow polyamory and so as to the Christian Churches also deny both polyandry and polyamory .In every society ,it is hoped that a woman should keep her chastity pure .In modern Indian society, though this practice is being prevailed , except the eminent poetess Amrita Pritam , no body could dare to accept this relationship publicly.
Not much is also known by the psychology field concerning polyamory. Our textbooks on family functioning don't mention it, our diversity literature doesn't incorporate it, and many members of the polyamory community have reported encounters with therapists who are uninformed at best, or biased at worst, about this lifestyle . Geri D. Weitzman, a social psychologist , who claims herself as a polyamorous woman, presented a paper at the 8th Annual Diversity Conference on March 12th, 1999 in Albany, New York, where she tried to prove that the negative view of polyamorous individuals that some therapists have expressed is borne out by empirical data and added that polyamory is a valid and healthy lifestyle; however, just as there are stressors associated with being gay or bisexual in a heterosexual society, so are there stressors associated with being polyamorous in a monogamous society ?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Raja Ravi Verma’s painting of Sakuntala, the prime character of Abhijñānaśākuntalam by poet Kalidasa . Sakuntala is the lady to whom her mother Menaka left after being realised that she could not rear her daughter. (Source : Wikipedia )


To compound matters, I had a tempestuous relationship with my mother, and feared the inevitable kickback sure to follow such a final and dramatic departure from daughterhood. What if, instead of joy and excitement, my mother felt threatened by the baby, and pushed even further into the margins of my life? What if, then, out of jealousy and her own discontent, she launched covert or not-so-covert strikes against my irrefutable separateness, now symbolized so completely by becoming a mother myself?
Because mothers make us, because they map our emotional terrain before we even know we are capable of having an emotional terrain, they know just where to stick the dynamite. With a few small power plays—a skeptical comment, the withholding of approval or praise—a mother can devastate a daughter. Decades of subtle undermining can stunt a daughter, or so monopolize her energy that she in effect stunts herself. Muted, fearful, riddled with self-doubt, she can remain trapped in daughterhood forever, the one place she feels confident she knows the rules.
(Excerpt from Rebecca Walker’s Baby Love : Publisher: Riverhead Books : 2007)
The conflict between American mother-daughter feminists Alice Walker and Rebecca Walker is well known chapter for Western feminism . Alice Walker , the mother , the second wave feminist , obviously had an anti mother hood ideas as the other western feminists of her time .But Rebecca Walker, her daughter and a feminist of third wave discussed in her book ‘Baby Love’ about how motherhood freed women like herself from their roles as daughters, and how this provided the much-needed perspective to heal themselves from damaged mother-daughter relationships and claim their full adulthood. What happened? This latest article is mired in unresolved childish hurt and anger (especially in the chapter “How my mother’s fanatical views tore us apart”), which would be all well and good except that she strikes out at her mother by striking out at feminism. I personally think, the bitterness between her and her mother, as any woman who has ever fallen out with her mother knows, it is a very painful experience and note to self, one that probably shouldn’t be written about too much in public.
In her book Baby Love, Rebecca Walker writes directly about unadulterated excitement and pride about becoming a mother .Rebecca argues that motherhood frees us from childhood, it is the most important step a woman can take because it creates another human being and because it makes a woman an adult. I found this to be true for myself .In one of my story AMRUTA PRATIKSHA RE (Waiting for Manna )(1989), published much more before the Baby Love, where I want to discuss the queries after a lifetime of wondering whether to have children, wondering if the sacrifices are worth it, wondering if life is full to bursting enough already - how does our generation of women decide to have children?
Though I find myself nearer to Rebecca than to Alice on mother hood topic and I have told before that the motherhood-sexuality conflict is created by only Western Feminist, but for me Alice and Rebecca’s conflict is a different issue from these motherhood-sexuality (or to say Feminism) split .The conflict of mother and daughter sometimes creates the discomforts of their inequality by falling back on the motherhood mystique .
It is also a strange fact to note that Alice Walker always tried to avoid the conflict between her and Rebecca, in public. I think, the conflict between the two personalities is not due to theoretical inclination but rather due to a personal and psychological reason. Rebecca is a bisexual and was known for her relationship with Meshell Ndegeocello, but she became pregnant with her boy friend and as a mother Alice perhaps couldn’t bear this status .There are always hidden expectations on both sides. A mother has some expectations by which she tries to measure her daughter with that scale . She always wishes her daughter to be disciplined and bar her daughter to do all those activities which she has not done in her life. Similarly, a daughter has also some expectations from her mother and she always thinks her mother too old to lead a personal and being youthful getting attention from the public .These opposite polar thoughts make both mother and daughter to possess ambivalent love/hate relationship.

There are competitions and jealousy which operate between every mother and her young adult daughter .They have tendencies to deny each other’s private lives .I don’t know practically what is the relation between mothers and daughtes in Western Culture .I find ,it is quite natural for a family in Western world , where a girl could invite her boy friend to their home .But in Eastern world, such possibilities are very rare happenings and though the urban upper middle class people allow love marriages but still dating of their daughter with her boy friend always makes the parents to keep the news secret from the society and a girl can’t dare to invite her boy friend to their drawing room .In such cases, it is a normal phenomena that a girl couldn’t imagine her mother would have any extra marital relationship or her mother would have any boy friend .On the same time a mother also always dislikes to find her daughter spending more times over phone talking to any stranger . The fashionable dresses or make ups may also create jealousy in a mother’s mind But this is not all. I have witnessed a good friendship between mother and daughter, where the mother tries to make her failure dreams through her daughter and we see a very unstylish mother tries to make her daughter more fashionable and smarter . In one of my story AGNEYA GIRI (Volcano) I tried to paint such type of psychological agony of mother daughter conflicts/.friendships.
The relation between a married daughter with her mother even more critical, fragile and competitive . The married daughter always considered by her mother as ‘other’.The mother and the daughter have two different families and there concerns are also different and hence more to sharing the utilities an undecided jealousy also develops in the same time .But no way this is any final statement to say that the ‘love’ between mother and daughter is in diminished stage after the marriage of the later..In total scenario of Rebecca’s blaming her mother depicts the jealousy , where Alice’s mature mind as well as the ‘love’ for her daughter’s carrier made her to avoid these tactfully from the public .
The mother of a young adult girl had been to pass through two phase, a girl hood and also a daughter in law hood and at this phase she finds herself nearer to the white haired aged woman and is about to enjoy all freedoms those are meant for masculine world . So when she thinks over her daughter’s future life she tries to mould her daughter to cope herself in daughter in law hood environment without suffering in any socio-psychological setback.

The social structures in Eastern world demands the girl to act more as a daughter in law in a family than to a wife of some one .So, unlike to Western girls the south Asian girls are commonly depicted as requiring veiling and modesty. There are dress decorum, speech censorship and even the movement restrictions. For the married woman (in case of daughter in law) , they have to cover their heads while appearing to any stranger or elder person and few decades back, in the rural areas , they were not allowed to roam on the village lane but one can see the rules were not so strict for the unmarried girls and for the older woman., who left their homes to roam village lanes with their heads and faces uncovered .Even the white haired aged women can roam publicly baring to the waist on hot days, without regard for showing their long-dry breasts. The younger adults’ views of older women as having the power to limit a daughter-in-law’s movements, to interfere with a son’s marital intimacies, and the like; yet the older women usually speak of feeling that they were losing in the contest for a son’s affection, loyalty, and favor. Indian widowhood rarely distinguished between the consequences of widowhood for a woman in her youth and for a woman past menopause, although one can find striking differences. Older women were, in important ways, “like men,” implying that what differentiates a “man” from a “woman” is not constant over the life course. This is I think a different social scenario, which makes South Asian Feminism a distinct different from that of Western.
The Western Society has been changed a lot since Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”. Rather we can find the similar society that the novel depicted in Asian countries where the daughter’s marriage is still remains with the parent’s responsibilities. In The Joy Luck Club (1989), by Amy Tan, the characters Suyuan and June have a mother-daughter relationship fraught with conflict, but ultimately rooted in deep love and commitment for one another. Amy Tan , Chinese American immigrant writer also focuses on mother-daughter relationships in her another novel The Kitchen God's Wife .In my two of short stories AGNAYAGIRI (Volcano) and DUKHA APRAMITA (Sorrows Unending ) I focus on the mother daughter relationship .But in Western contemporary fictions the mother and daughter relationships appear on totally another dimension to which it is difficult to accept for an Eastern mind .For example in the novel ‘The Horse Whisperer’ by Nicholas Evans ,the mother Annie falls in love with her daughter Grace’s fiancé Tom .Relationships change due to mishaps such as accidents leading to physical disabilities. In the novel, The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans, the relationship between a mother daughter change drastically for the better after the daughter is burdened with a physical disability and it creates a lot of mother daughter conflict .This type of conflict though would not be ruled out in Eastern social scenario, but I think the Mother-daughter conflict sources and responses among Western families are still not well understood. Conflict sources were mothers' unsolicited advice, daughters and mothers not living up to expectations of the other, and daughters' independence of mothers. Responses to conflict included voicing concerns, displaying loyalty, and utilizing the assistance of family. That is why the conflict between Alice walker and Rebecca Walker is discussed, and suggestions for future research on mother-daughter conflict within the Western context are provided.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Paintings of Lilith by John Collier, 1887
(The Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport, England)


In Chapter 1, 27 of the book of Genesis of Old Testament , woman was created together with man, and in the image of God like him. But it is again cited in Chapter 2, 22 of the same book that woman was created after man was created, and not from "the dust of the ground" like him, but from the man's rib .In attempt to explain this contradiction, Jewish tradition claims that the first woman was Lilith - a woman who was man's equal and devilish in her sexuality. Since she and man were fighting constantly, she left him and was copulating in deep waters with demons. Lilith refused to return to man even when God threatened to have a hundred of her offspring die each day. Eve, man's second woman and was created from a rib because the rib is the most modest part of the body.Thus the split between motherhood and sexuality has been revealed the deep ambivalence that characterizes the two contradictory perceptions of a woman: A woman can either be motherly like Eve and then is pure, virgin, holy, and a support for her husband, or she can be sexual like Lilith, and then she is sinful, devilish, lacking any maternal instincts.This idea still has been continuing in our society that more sexual a woman is perceived to be, the less she will be evaluated as a good mother.( See journal article by Ariella Friedman, Hana Weinberg, Ayala M. Pines; Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Vol. 38, 1998 )According to Christopher L.C.E Witcombe , the legend of Lilith merges with the earlier legend of Sumero-Babylonian origin, dating from around 3,500 BCE .
In patriarchal values there might be duality between sexuality and motherhood and Lilith and Eve were two symbolic characters to represent patriarchal ideas on Motherhood.
In first wave and second wave feminism , all feminists share a belief that women are enslaved by domesticity and defined by their roles as mother and wife . . Betty Friedan called the family a 'comfortable concentration camp',
According to Simone De Beauvoir , the myths of women are created by masculine world and these myths (such as the myth of the mother, the virgin, the motherland, nature, etc.) attempt to trap woman into an impossible ideal by denying the individuality and situation of all different kinds of women . Simone was against the motherhood and even against the marriage. It is no doubt that Feminism was influenced by Marxism for a long time .Simone was influenced by Hegelian ‘others’ theory and for a long time indirectly Hegel, Marx and Engels lead the feminist movement . Marx's early thinking was greatly influenced by that of Hegel and Feuerbach, characterised by idealism and humanism. The very concept of alienation came from idealist thought of early Marx, where he broke radically with every theory that based history and politics on an essence of man .The idea of commune concept developed by later Marxist activists was also based on this alienation concept where the idea of family structures and mother hood responsibilities were denied. Marx believed that history was "determined" by changes in the relationship of production and consumption, and consumption was often a product of rhetorical pressures imposed by ideologies, which created a "false consciousness." But in due course it is observed that one should not judge every human activities with production and consumption factor and the relationship of mother and her offspring are the first example to refuse that production and consume theory.
In this prospect, I have to remember Simone again .She was some how influenced by Marx (or to say pro Marxian Hegelian theory) .She categorically denied Motherhood
Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963 , where she argued for abolishing the family , but in 1981, she again wrote The Second Stage , where , she explained that her theories had been misunderstood. Friedan asked for a reconsideration of marriage. She pleaded for feminists to move away from anti-family rhetoric and back to a dialogue that addressed the needs of most women, who were wives and mothers. She called for a humanistic evolution that would enrich the institution of the family by including the needs and desires of men in the picture.
In the '70s Germaine Greer encouraged women for the revolutionary breakdown of sex roles . With her outrageous and shocking language, she proposed that women should refuse to marry .Being married ,there might be every chances for a woman to become a subject for her role as a commodity in a capitalist society. But in a later book, however, Greer forthrightly defends a more traditional version of the family. She accepts the idea that a husband, wife and children constitute the basic familial unit.
Sexuality of a woman no doubt is repressed by motherhood because the sexual drive calls for active and immediate need gratification; motherhood requires sacrifice passivity and postponement of gratification. But sex is not all for either in the life of man and woman .Motherhood brings some feminine sensuality which a woman can’t rule out from her life. Desire for children is a feminine sensibility and while considering all aspects ,we should not overlook the emotional suffering of infertility, pregnancy loss, or stillbirth bear sorrows of a female .It is true that motherhood makes a female limited to her sphere temporarily within the four wall of the home and in pot natal period, she has to take charge of child rearing and who does not know that men are irresponsible and unbelievable when it comes to child care and housekeeping in India, a female has to bear financial loss at her work place due to her pregnancy in unorganized private sector. Personally I believe that all the theories made by the second and third wave Western feminists on motherhood are denying women a basic choice about their womanhood and about their lives.I have marked, in the growing trend of Feminism , the western feminist thinkers like Simone, Friedan , Greer and even Linda Hirshman have a tendency to make feminism equal to the status of patriarchal role .Patriarchal role in society is a devilish tradition implied by the masculine world and our attempts should not be to create another social milieu of exploitation and injustice .Feminism does not aim to destroy the family structure or to attack on the emotional bondage of love and passion .The motto of feminism should to create a new world with a new perspective of equality and humanist attitude.Feminism must be a road to glorify female role with their own sensibilities .So , we can admit that being a mother is one of the most important jobs in the world , but we should also confirm that motherhood is not only the not the only “choice” available to women.It should be confined to the ability of woman to say "yes", as well as "no", to having children.In South Asia, motherhood is always mingled with a religious and social goal of patriarchal society and is not subjected to a woman’s wish but of man’s. In Hinduism a ‘son’ is the must requirement for a man to achieve his personal ‘moksha’ after his death.So the Manu Smruti stresses upon “putrarthe kriyate bharya”, which means a wife is required to bear sons .This is the most insulting status of a woman in Hinduism and for that an infertile woman losses her status in her family as well as in society.An infertile woman is treated like a widow and is barred from any social rituals and many orthodox Hindus in rural areas still believe that encountering an infertile woman at morning is a bad sign for the whole day. So, while discussing about mother hood in South Asian perspective, we should not forget this status quo.

But still I believe, the motherhood and sexuality is so closely connected in women's experience and of women's gender identity that the idea of split between them is only false myth woven by the patriarchal society.

Monday, May 26, 2008

( The sculpture of ARDHANARISHWAR at Khajuraho Temple,India)


There is a misconception among Indian feminists that in ancient days , the women were observing their fundamental rights including the right over their own body and mind ।The mythical characters like Kunti,Madri,Mandodari,Draupadi are often referred for their polygamist activities .But are they truly adopted polygamy for their own will ? Vyasa’s Mahabharata tells us about the strange traditions of ‘niyoga’ in which a woman was allowed to have sexual meetings for bearing of offsprings. This custom was allowed because in Hindu beliefs a son is the most needed for a man. He could not go to heaven unless he would have a progeny .That is why Ambika and Ambalika were forced to have intercourse with their brother in law Vyas .Pandu, the husband of Kunti was a strange psychic person.He was an impotant and his sexual frustration made him to marry two wives Kunti and Madri and perhaps this sexual frustration revealed by the story of Pandu later killing the two deer engaged in coitus – an action that was condemned for all. To raise offspringshe forced his two wives to have offsprings from different gods .
In Mahabharat neither any of female characters had chosen her lifemate by their own will. Satyavati did not choose Shantanu as a husband, nor did her daughters-in-law, Ambika and Ambalika. Gandhari was forced into marrying Dhritarashtra. Madri again did not become Pandu’s wife on her own choice. Draupadi was won through a contest of skill and might – she did not personally pick out and chose Arjuna in her svayamvara. Uttara was offered to Arjuna as a wife, but he accepted her as his daughter-in-law, more on moral grounds than any other, a choice which could very well have been against Uttara’s desire, though the epic contains no echoes of her feelings against the choice. That is five generations of daughters-in-law coming to the Bharata family as queens.
On the other hands, despite of having a wife like Draupadi, the other heroes like Arjuna and Bhima got married Subhadra,Chitrangada,Hidimba but they never enjoyed the position of an official wife .
Kunti was forced to begot her three children from different sperm donor gods, but never any day she could claim Karna , to whom she begot from the sun god Surya with her own wish , before her marriage .It is told , though Draupadi had five husbands , but still she had infatuations towards Lord Krishna and and karma , the so called illegitimate brothers of Pandavas. But never any day she could express her love to those persons.
All these myths show us how patriarchal our great epic Mahabharata is.In Ramayana, where woman sensibilities were categorically denied, we found the sad controversial saga of Ahalya .She was the wife of the great sage Goutam. Enamoured by her astounding beauty, Indra, lord of the gods, disguised himself as Gautama and approached Ahalya. During the middle of her sexual meeting , Ahalya could recognize the disguised Indra due to his sexual behaviour at the meetings , but Ahalya did not want to disturb her sexual bliss and played along and granted him sexual favours for which later she was punished and cursed her to become a stone .

Never our epics any time had shown any sympathy about the sexual rights of women and always they are used for bearing of offspring, but it is a strange irony that masculine sexuality was not always used by them to raise children. Till then the masculine sexuality has been enjoying freedom over female sexuality. When a male writer writes about his sexual desire, passions or describes how many women he had craved, the topic does not bring into question of his moral integrity because male writers are not only sanctioned to talk about sexuality When Salman Rushdie enjoyed his fifth love , nobody points out on his morality, but when Kamala Das became Kamala Surraiyah , the Indian society took it as very social offence ..
Let us again return to our mythological values. Kunti was suffered a lot for her illegitimate son Karna, but .no one blamed so far the sperm donor god Surya for this happenings .Draupadi was insulted in the court of Kauravas , for having five husbands at a time .No body blamed Pandavas for marrying a woman jointly .They were even praised for obeying mother’s words , which were spoken inadvertently .Sex has different impact with gender variation. But in India, anything related to gender and sexuality in general is regarded as a forbidden topic. I have never read till now any comparison between male and female sexuality in Indian languages .The penis is well suited for this role; projecting free from the body, but vagina is itself an inner part of the body constitutes a hidden mystic concern always for boys as well as for girls also. A girl is considered as a minor until she has her first menstruation), but once she has it, she becomes an adult These appropriation of social values are not prevailing with a boy Still after his puberty ,he is considered as a minor and there is no firm rule or criteria when a boy should be considered as an adult. It is not shameful for a male to look at the body of a female with sensuous eyes; on the contrary, it is the female who bears the shame when a male looks at her. If a young male expresses his sensual pleasure to his peers in such a situation, they would share his pleasure. But if a girl expresses pleasure at seeing a male's physical features, her girl friends would criticize her for being shameless. When a teen couple are found in a love affairs and if a society has to condemn it, then the boy always gets excuse for his adolescence mind and the girl is blamed for trapping the boy. Thus the love plays a different role for masculine and feminine world .Once Simone wrote : “Man's love is of man's life a thing apart, 'This woman's whole existence”.Sex is more related to emotion in case of female where in masculine case it does not always related to any psychological bondage . but this bondage in love is more important for women than it is for men, because men grow up with a sense of identity that exceeds the boundaries of family life and burst out with the recognition of the vast world outside, the taste or freedom, and the exploration of sexuality. Whereas women are raised within the confinement of their homes and from their child hood it is taught to them that they have to be physically appealing in order to attract men, and finding a man to build a family around is their main mission in a woman’s life.
I am not arguing against any love between two sexes .Unlike to Simone , I always feel that women are ‘other’ than male with their biological , social and psychological differences. They have complete different sensibilities and different emotional spheres But, my point is this patriarchal society always tries to reject women’s sensibility towards love The patriarchal concept of love between a man and woman actually means, how it is politicized, how it is socially and culturally manipulated with masculine view which is constructed by the idea how to love a man, and how to care for him not only by our instinct, but by the socially expected gender roles. A woman may totally love a man, and refuse to cook for him, but it would not be acceptable behaviour for a 'woman in love' according to our cultural codes. Social needs to sustain families on specifically prescribed gender roles also instruct us on how to love a man. There is a hidden code to exploit women in the whole cultural and social scheme of romantic love, mostly because the concept of romantic love has been authored by men, and is based on men's fractured understanding of women as primarily sexual objects. The patriarchal concept always denies the individuality of a woman as a human being.
For me love is a total submission from two sides irrespective of any gender role .In this context, I want to again bring Simone as my example . The sex relation between Sartre and Simone was cool enough (see Simone’s letter to Algren) , and they had developed a relationship between Sartre,Simone and Sartre’s student Olga Kosakiewicz .Simone had her own bisexual relations and so as Sartre has many heterosexual relations and nobody showed their hostility with these relationship.Despite her relationship with Sartre , she had a love affair with American novelist Nelson Algren ,Still they both maintained there relationship till Sartre’s death .Marxism was not a matter of faith or trust for Simone , it was a compulsion made by Sartre only.Without related to ‘root’ of the theory in her heart,we found Simone was moving in the communes or in the Arab Lands with Sartre ,the ‘last Sartre’ brought a more confusion to the readers . On Monday. 19th July '48, Simone wrote to Algren. in her letter:
“If I could give up my life with Sartre I would be a dirty creature a treacherous and selfish woman... it is not by lack of love that I don't stay with you...Sartre needs me. In fact, he is very lonely, very tormented inside himself and I am his only true friend, I could not desert is not possible to love more than I love you, flesh and heart and soul, but Sartre needs me.”
.Like anger, fear, hatred, humour, love is also an emotion. This emotion, however, is different from other emotions because material elements like marriage, childbirth, divorce, dating, etc., build up upon this emotion to give a person's life a definite direction and shape. Love is the only emotion that channels itself into paving a path for our life. It is an integral complementarity of men and women, rather than the superiority of men over women or women over men. It is the sharing ness of emotions and of life. I think that it's more important to be a complete human being than a writer, or a feminist or any other label one may be known by but I also realize the reciprocal nature of living and writing. I believe that living gives you material (pleasure, pain, angst, loneliness, joy and what not) for writing while writing helps you interpret your existence in a meaningful way. I live, I write, I grow and live some more and write some more and hopefully grow some more )...That's my theory!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Painting of forceful disrobing of Indian mythical character Draupadi

by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906)
Source : Wikipedia

It is risky for a woman to deal

with Female Sexuality in India

“You are known for pushing the envelope, openly discussing female sexuality in your stories and novels in a way that hadn't been done before . Isn't that risky?”

This was the last question of Linda Lowen, the
well-known feminist media person of America, to me in her interview for “The New York Times” owned portal

In India most of the female writers either quit writing or make them more adjustable to male dominated values, after their marriage। You find shyness in their voice while relating the truth and exposing their innerself।Even their weaknesses or love relations are also not expressed clearly in fear of social scandal of their character। A typical womanish shyness prevents them to write their actual feelings towards sex and love।This is not only due to any restriction imposed by their family, but many times we find that an idea of being a good girl pursues them to hide their own feelings and experience

In “The Second Sex”, Simone also discusses three particular inauthentic attitudes of women in which they hide their freedom in: "The Narcissist," "The Woman in Love," and "The Mystic." In all three of these attitudes, women deny the original thrust of their freedom by submerging it into the object; in the case of the first, the object is herself, the second, her beloved and the third, the absolute or God.The patriarchy society also tries to incorporates multiple myths of woman in her mind (such as the myth of the mother, the virgin, the motherland, nature, etc.) and attempts to trap woman into an impossible ideal by denying the individuality and situation of all different kinds of women.
In India the ‘chastity’ means a lot for a woman and it is always demanded that a female should keep her ‘chastity’ pure and perfect. (It is another issue that nobody asks a man for the purity and perfection of his chastity). In case of poetry, one can hide herself with mystic metaphor or myth, but in fiction, one has to open herself completely. So, it is difficult for a woman to write any fictions sincerely hiding her experiences and reactions.

Kuntala Kumari Sabat (1900-1938) was remembered in Oriya Literature for mystic strain and reformative zeal in her romantic poetry . Before marriage she developed an extra marital affairs with a fatherly person Dr.Kailash Chandra Rao and after her marriage to Krushna Prasad Das alias Brahmachari, she shifted to Delhi .Her pre or post marital life were not so peaceful and her life was dangling between love, sex , oppression and harassment by male dominated mentality of feudal India .But we never find any sexual agony or her own saga .of life in her poems rather than a coated version of mysticism in the form of Sufi ideology

In the June 1998 issue of Harper's Magazine Francine Prose wrote an essay "Scent of a Woman's Ink: Are Women Writers Really Inferior?” She expressed her agony for neglecting female writers by insisting that despite the sales success of middlebrow "women's fiction" -- as epitomized by Oprah Winfrey's hugely successful television book club -- women writers of "serious literary fiction" can't get no respect. Not, at least, from "the more cerebral book-review pages and the literary prizes."
Prose has revived the debate by asking whether women writers are really more prone to "diminutive fictions, which take place mostly in interiors, about little families with little problems," and are they really more inclined toward a soft, self-absorbed emotionality or not . Actually, Prose maintains, male writers do all of that, just as women produce works that are "fiercely unsentimental, sharply observed, immensely ambitious and inclusive."
In reviewing my anthology of short stories once Jatindra Kumar Nayak , an Oriya critic wrote : (my) stories are as “a labyrinth.of the emotional lives of woman” Readers -- and especially critics -- are the ones who persist in seeing a fiction as inevitably colored by its author's gender, and the male critics always think that the domestic issues, love -- are of less consequence then the depth of thought produced by male writers? In short, it is a big question now , who will determine the difference in importance between a woman's inner or outer life and a man's? The answer, until recently at least, has been men.
Uma Parmeswaran once wrote an article on Kamala Mrakandeya at Sawnet , where she described that Salman Rushdie in his novels Shame and The Satanic Verses raised the issues of race riots in Britain .But before 20 years of Rushdie , Kamala Markendeya talked not only about the violence of racism but also about other diasporic realities - educational degrees that are not given accreditation, the resistance of immigrants to the expectations of the »host« culture, chasms of communication between generations, cultural values and needless cultural baggage. But the male dominated literary criticism placed Rushdie as a pioneer of diasporic struggle.
In India, a female writer is always considered as an inferior writer in comparison to male .(In any office or educational centers where male and female employees work together, you can easily notice a male subordinate never makes any ‘wish’ or ‘good morning ‘ to his female superior boss) The traditional readers have tendency to find out the hidden love affairs that have been hiding beyond a fiction of a woman writer. Till now , their mind is not prepare to accept a woman as a thinker or as a philosopher , whereas in Vedic period there were female philosophers like Madalsa,Gargi and Maitryi.
There were some interesting happenings with my story writings.Gambhiri Ghara (The Dark Abode), the most controversial novel of mine was first written in a story form and it was written for a special issue of an Oriya periodicals. Before the publication of the short story it was rejected and I was asked to submit another story in place of The Dark Abode.While inquiring the reason of the rejection of my story, I was told that the editor would talk to my husband.This comment of the chief editor made me irritated and I asked the chief editor whether my husband has an authority over my writer self ?The patriarchy idea of the chief editor made me to transform the short story to a novel.
Once I was also insulted and forced to beg apology for writing the story Jalhad (The Butcher) by the staff council of my college। It was about the rape story where the victim was an infant, the girl child of a working woman. .It was also a story of harassment faced by a working woman from the masculine sphere around her .The story was also about the imbalanced situation of a working woman who finds herself dangling between home and working place ,But the story was asserted as an obscene one and a petition was moved to remove me from my service of lectureship from the college .

And at last my answer to Linda was:

:”Yes, it is risky for a woman writer to deal with these themes in an Eastern country, and for that I face much criticism। But still I believe someone has to bear this risk to accurately portray women's feelings - the intricate mental agony and complexity which a man can never feel - and these must be discussed through our fiction।”