“My daughter’s name is Jyoti Singh Pandey.”

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/india-gang-rape-victims-father-1521289

In respect with Badri’s wishes he has asked us not to picture her. Releasing a photo of her is for another day. Indian law prohibits naming a rape victim unless she authorises it or, if she is dead, her family agrees to it.

At the moment it is enough for the devastated family to sanction the release to the world of their precious daughter’s name”

One can only imagine the courage and pain it has taken for this father to allow the release of his daughter’s name to the world. But it is act which re-humanises her. It personalises her. She is now a real person, an individual again. Through knowing her name we can imagine her being born, her toddling around and her growing up. We can imagine she had her own ideas and her own personal tastes. Her death now affects us all even more.

It is ironic then, that her father, whilst paying tribute to her male friend’s attempt to save her, adds:

“Badri said Jyoti’s friend Awindra was not her boyfriend – just a very brave friend who tried to save her.  He said: ‘There was no question of her marrying because we belong to different castes.’ “

It is ironic and sad. Because he does not realise that what he is doing is classifying another human being. He is labelling a person. And immediately dehumanising that person. Because that is what labels and categorising people does.

Jokes about women being different to men are often hilarious and celebrate femininity: they identify the differences between the men and women without condemning or reducing. But just as often they do reduce women. Language such as ‘slut’ and ‘slag’ suggest lesser human beings, whilst ‘stud’ and even ‘bachelor’ suggest some kind of superiority. Pornography demeans men and women but it is usually the woman that is dehumanised the most. Christian churches still include the giving away of the bride from one man to another as part of the marriage ceremony.

And women are still fighting for the right to a basic education in too many parts of the world, invariably based on some religious or cultural attitude which frequently claims that girls are too precious to have to work, that their place is in the home. Which is a great idea and appeals to me as much as the next woman who has to keep down a job, run a home and still be the perfect parent. But of course once women are literate it’s difficult to confine their reading to cookery books and flower arranging tips: they wander off into books which contain dangerous ideas such as personal freedom and self-fulfilment. Armed with information they begin to question traditions, customs and religious texts which use gender to define and confine. And they object to being labelled, to having their role defined and confined by their gender. They demand equality. Not same -ity but respect for their differences instead of derision.

Until we stop labelling and classifying people according to their gender, their ‘class’ – even with simple job titles: the police, teachers, traffic wardens, builders – we will continue to dehumanise people. And men will continue to send their mothers, their sisters and their daughters out into a world in which those women are seen as mere objects.

Spelling

My daughter plays on the floor
with plastic letters,
red, blue & hard yellow,
learning how to spell,
spelling,
how to make spells.

I wonder how many women
denied themselves daughters,
closed themselves in rooms,
drew the curtains
so they could mainline words.

A child is not a poem,
a poem is not a child.
there is no either/or.
However.

I return to the story
of the woman caught in the war
& in labour, her thighs tied
together by the enemy
so she could not give birth.

Ancestress: the burning witch,
her mouth covered by leather
to strangle words.

A word after a word
after a word is power.

At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rock breaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite
when the bones know
they are hollow & the word
splits & doubles & speaks
the truth & the body
itself becomes a mouth.

This is a metaphor.

How do you learn to spell?
Blood, sky & the sun,
your own name first,
your first naming, your first name,
your first word.

Margaret Atwood

This entry was posted on January 6 2013

 
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