A woman's history of the world (Or why Delhi needs a slutwalk)

Last month, if you remember, Delhi was due to slutwalk. The event was later postponed into oblivion, and most people appeared to have forgotten about it. Not so me. I was skeptical, it is true, but only until I realised how mighty the forces against slutwalk were.

 A womans history of the world (Or why Delhi needs a slutwalk)

Slutwalk London | Reuters

I wrote this post to coincide with the slutwalk on June 25th. At the time, I promised myself I wouldn’t let myself forget, however quickly the event slipped from public memory. Now that the slutwalk is happening, however hasty and poorly attended, I am glad to have the opportunity to finally put it up.

A few weeks ago, I called Eduardo Galeano’s Mirrors a “masterful capsule-history”. That was, to be honest, understating the wonder of the book.

The blurb gives this away. The Guardian calls is “pure delight”, The Times says it is “endlessly fascinating”, Isabel Allende says Galeano’s prose has a “mysterious power”. Even such relentless gushery, however, understates the genius of Galeano, who has wrestled the entire cosmos down to less than 400 pages. Coming to the book well-disposed to mirrors from all myths and magics, I found myself in instant love. If there were ever a book that deserved to be called a world-history- and there are very few- Mirrors would take the prize. In it there are stories, as the subtitle claims, of almost everyone.

You might remember Galeano from an early controversy in the Obama administration. Hugo Chavez famously gifted his polemic Open Veins in Latin America to the newly minted President in 2009. Back then, there was much dither about Chavez’s derring-do. The right was inflamed while the left claimed that the visit would mark a turn in American foreign policy. Now, as Obama settles into an indefinite occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and a new war in Libya, one can only look back upon such fond hopes with a wry smirk. Given that Galeano has become our generation’s prophet for doomed (if worthy) causes, I guess it is apt that I’m relying on him to explain why, of all cities, Delhi needs to slutwalk.

Victorious Sun, Moon Vanquished.

The moon lost her first battle against the sun when he spread word that it wasn’t the wind who was impregnating women.
Then history brought more sad news:
the division of labour assigned nearly all tasks to females so that we males could dedicate ourselves to mutual extermination,
the right to property and the right to inheritance allowed women to be owners of nothing,
the organisation of the family enclosed them in the cage of father, husband, and son,
and along came the state, which was like the family, only bigger.

The moon shared in her daughters’ downfall.
Left far behind were the times when the Egyptian moon would devour the sun at dusk and sire him at dawn,
when the Irish moon kept the sun in line by threatening him with perpetual night,
and when the kings of Greece and Crete would dress up as queens, with taffeta tits, and in sacred ceremonies would unfurl the moon as their standard.
In the Yucatán, the moon and sun lived in matrimony. When they fought, it caused an eclipse. The moon was lady of the seas and the springs, and goddess of the earth. With the passing of time, she lost her powers. Now she only reigns over birth and illness.
On the coasts of Peru, we can date her humiliation. Shortly before the Spanish invasion, in the year 1463, the moon of the Chimú kingdom, the most powerful of moons, surrendered to the army of the Incan sun.

Before folk get too merrily complacent about the magnanimity of the Hinduism when it comes to female deities, here is “Phoolan” from later in the book:

Phoolan Devi had the terrible idea to be born poor and female and a member of one of India’s lowest castes.
In 1974, at the age of eleven, her parents married her to a man from a caste not quite as low, and gave him a cow for a dowry.
Since Phoolan knew nothing of conjugal duties, her husband taught her by torture and rape. And when she fled, he went to the police, and the police tortured and raped her. And when she returned to the village, the ox, her ox, was the only one who didn’t accuse her of being impure.
And she left. And she met a thief with a long and impressive record. He was the only man who ever asked her if she was cold and if she felt all right.
Her thieving lover was shot down in the village of Behmai and she was dragged through the streets and tortured and raped by a number of landowners. And some time later, Phoolan returned to Behmai at night leading a gang of strongmen and found twenty two of them. And she woke them up, one by one, and killed them.
By then Phoolan was eighteen. Along the entire length of the Yamuna people knew that she was the daughter of the goddess Durga, and as beautiful and violent as her mother.

Is there anyone still arguing that clothing can protect Indian women? Any Indian Woman? The clothes, just to emphasise this one last time, are the least important thing about slutwalk, just as lingerie was hardly the point behind bra-burning. To twist the Rolling Stones into an unlikely feminism, if only we could make a rag-pile of our shiny clothes and ride down the moonlight mile.

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Updated Date: Jul 31, 2011 12:49:40 IST