In Response to Shenaz Treasurywala’s Open Letter

by Rahul Sen

~

Shenaz Treasurywala’s open letter to the prime minister and other ‘powerful and popular men’ in the country like Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan et al has been circulating in the social media, generating sensation and lauding at different quarters. Apart from the sloppy sentimental politics that the letter tries to slap on the face of the readers, there is, probably, no single important point made in the whole text. The letter, in other words, is a patriarchal rant; reaffirming, reassuring and reinstating patriarchy and a structured epistemological oppression at different levels.

After my initial response on Facebook, I have been accused by someone as being a cynic, deliberately misreading the letter, seeing everything negatively and churning out wrong meanings out of it. This is true. My mind has been corrupted and tainted to see things crookedly and I will continue to vex and question other minds too till they are equally infectious. Let me take up each issue at one time and level my allegation against them, as I see it.

1. The letter is written to men who are ‘powerful’ in the eyes of Shenaz, to whom she makes an appeal – of ‘saving’ and ‘protecting’ women of the nation. How perfectly keeping in tune with the agenda of the present right-wing administration, of saving women into passivity, inaction and non-agency. The horrors of such a protectionist spiel imprison women in the name of empowerment.

2. In letter is naive and innocent in its assumption that women get raped ONLY by men. In Shenaz’s compulsory heterosexual world, lesbian rapes never happen. This further invisibilizes the number of same-sex rapes that happen, go unreported and shunted into silence.

3. In 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed in West Bengal for raping a juvenile girl. It sparked a huge row over the validation of capital punishment then. But interestingly, did it stop rape in West Bengal? Does capital punishment at all help in preventing crime? Shenaz’s insistence and push for capital punishment is illogical, banal, non-sensical and pointless.

4. Shenaz, in her letter constantly refers to western outfits, skimpy clothes, miniskirts and pushes an argument that these cannot be the parameters of rape. While it is true up to a certain point, it makes a blind assumption that ONLY women who wear skimpy clothes are being raped. From the classist and elitist vantage of Shenaz, Kamduni or Badaun did never happen; or frighteningly, even if they have happened, they are too trivial to be taken into cognizance.

5. Shenaz’s position is not too different from the rabid rightists in her pro-censorship stance. Her call to ban Uber is beyond my comprehension. This shifts the attention from the individual (the rapist) to the organisation which has the dangerous potential of diluting the crime and the malaise.

6. The most disgusting point made in the letter is a conscious valourization of the US, where she feels ‘safe’ to wear short skirts; this seeming egalitarianism of the US in terms of its gender friendliness is a dangerous push of its imperialistic, hegemonic and exceptionalistic agenda; nothing different from the kind of homonationalism that the US propagates.

*****

Feminism, apart from being a political stance has become a fashion statement. Everyone is a ‘feminist’ and a gender-activist these days trying to bring about equality and change. This, coupled with celebrity endorsements and support has given birth to kind of ‘pop feminism’ that is exclusivist, flawed, apolitical, masquerading as faux-liberal and faux-empowering. From Kalki Koechlin to Farhan Akhtar, Lady Gaga to Emma Watson, and now Shenaz Treasurywala – in the name of posing a threat to the status quo, feeds the trend. In the present day Indian context, where the Right has taken over every aspect of life; where media and society has heralded Modi as the ‘first feminist’, what we need to do foremost, is, resist such neoliberal rant and protectionist spiel and up the ante against the moral brigade trying to coax politics and sexuality, and the politics of sexuality.

To read Shenaz Treasurywala’s open letter, visit: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/actor-shenaz-treasurywalas-open-letter-to-pm-amitabh-bachchan-srk/1/406410.html

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7 thoughts on “In Response to Shenaz Treasurywala’s Open Letter”

  1. You sir, Have been rightly termed to be a ‘ cynic, deliberately misreading the letter, seeing everything negatively and churning out wrong meanings out of it’.

    Here’s my response to you.

    1.She is just asking these men, along with everybody else, to help push for capital punishment. She never told any woman to shut up and become a statue on the issue.

    2. She is talking about the molestations she has ( and approximately all of the women, habe faced). You wanna talk about same sex rape, go ahead, Do that. Write your own open letter. She wrote about her issues, let it be.

    3.Rape IS a result of absence of fear of consequences. One who is willing to risk 7 years of his life might think against whether he wants to die for a crime. Jails did bring down dowry deaths, even if just a little, but they did, right? Fear of consequences should be present. At all times.

    4. ” it makes a blind assumption that ONLY women who wear skimpy clothes are being raped”
    ^Really? All she said in the letter is women in Fully-covered Indian attire get molested, harassed and raped too. How does this even lead to your conclusion?

    5. Why did Uber put in danger the lives of thousands of people by giving employment to 4, 000 people (!) without background checkings? Why shouldn’t there be a deterrent to companies like this to set an example for the others?

    6. She finds the culture of American men to talk to a girl instead of harassing and scaring them by stalking etc a bit better. Many ppl say Mumbai streets are safe for women. Personal opinions. Ever heard of it? Also Indua figures as 4 MOST DANGEROUS COUNTRYIN THE WORLD for women. I dont see US here, Do you? Here,
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jun/15/worst-place-women-afghanistan-india

  2. The writer of this article is a superfluous idiot who doesnt know anything. I might agree that banning uber is a bit much but capital punishment is not. One case of capital punishment wont scare people away. Men or Woman or LGBT who rape must know if they are caught, their life will end of consequences will be adverse. Such people do not rape for sexual pleasure but for the sense of satisfaction these sadistic creeps get from imposing themselves over another individual. Countries which have castration as a punishment for rape see the lease number of rapes. These rapists (irrespective of gender) think that they could get away with it and that is where the weakness of our law shows. A man who got away with similar charges 3 times before he was caught this time had no reason to be scared. Rapes will keep happening in India, because our government is not interested in improving our society. The supreme court has given 54 hours of its time to a Cricket scandal hearing over the last 12 months but it does not have time to address this.

  3. Nonsensical and pointless reply! Get your mind clear before writing such article. And please get some sense into your mind first.

  4. Whatever ppl say, I completely agree with your response, let these pseudofeminists bash you but it’s time that people realize that getting cheap publicity by raking a sensitive issue is equally shameful. Ppl who are supporting shenaz only 1 question was this woman sleeping when nirbhaya or shakti mills rape case happened? I don’t understand y can’t ppl think logically and appreciate logic but no they just wanna follow the herd mentality

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