Thursday, February 12, 2009

Punching Bags Strike Back: Women and Valentine's Day

I have never been a fan of Valentine's Day. It is not that I lack romanticism. I am Italian, after all. It is just I have always hated the commercialism and the fact you constrict expressions of romantic love for your partner to one day. As the narrative is understood by our cultural mandarins, February 14 is a female holiday, in which men are obliged to buy their female significant others gifts to express our feelings for them. Naturally, this all comes with a fee, for the male, and profits for FTD and Hallmark. The shallowness should be obvious to anyone who thinks about why such a day is even necessary if you bother to take your relationships seriously, but then cultural narratives are not about making people think.

Be that as it may, I have always respected ingenuity, and these ladies in India are partaking in one of my favorite past times, angering religious lunatics.

"Loose" India women to send pink knickers to Hindu group

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - Thousands of Indians, many fuming over a recent assault on women in a pub, are vowing to fill bars on Valentine's Day and send cartons of pink panties to a radical Hindu group that has branded outgoing females immoral.

A "consortium of pub-going, loose and forward women", founded by four Indian women on social networking website Facebook has, in a matter of days, attracted more than 25,000 members with over 2,000 posts about the self-appointed moral police.

The women said their mission was to go bar-hopping on February 14 and send hundreds of pink knickers to Sri Ram Sena, the militant Hindu group that has said pubs are for men, and that women should stay at home and cook for their husbands.

The same Hindu group was blamed for attacking women in a bar in Mangalore in January, an incident that sparked a national debate about women's freedoms in India.

Collection centres have sprung up in several cities, with volunteers calling for bright pink old-fashioned knickers as gifts to the Sri Ram Sena as a mark of defiance.

"Girl power! Go girls, go. Show Ram Sena ... who's the boss," reads one post on Facebook from Larkins Dsouza.

There is a separate campaign to "Walk to the nearest pub and buy a drink (and) raise a toast", that has found supporters from Toronto to Bangkok to Sydney, with even teetotallers saying they will get a drink on Saturday to show solidarity.

"Though I don't promote smoking or drinking for both sexes, we definitely don't need hooligans telling us what to do and what not. Best of luck!", reads one post from IfteharAhsan.

There are more heated discussion threads as well that range from the limits of independence to religion and politics, reflecting the struggle facing a country that has long battled to balance its deep-rooted traditions with rapid modernisation.

Growing numbers of young and independent urban women have become an easy target for religious fundamentalists and ageing politicians trying to force traditional mores on an increasingly liberal, Western outlook.

Not to be outdone, the Sri Ram Sena, which has cautioned shops and pubs in southern Karnataka state against marking Valentine's Day, has promised to gift pink saris to women and marry off canoodling couples to make them "respectable".

So, going to a pub makes you a whore? Well, only if you are a woman, of course, at least according to our believing friends from Sri Ram Sena (a right-wing fundamentalist group founded by emigres of an organization that supported Hitler and Mussolini, and who engineered the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi). And what is the preferred way for this group of thugs to reaffirm their belief in family values? By going into bars and beating up women. Whenever I think of what I dislike the most about sexism, and organized religion, this is it.

If you really wanted to offend these folk, though, you should do them one better, ladies. Go to college and become the employer of these men. Once you start hitting them where it really hurts, you will discover how quickly they reconceptualize their make believe butcher in the sky.

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