Over the course of these past few weeks, I’ve received a few emails about the column and how some people think I’m blaming US-ians or North American feminism(s) for the problems that we in the Global South are facing vis-à-vis our women’s movements. I wish that were true, for then we’d have just one source to protest, resist and organize around. Seriously though, it would be a bit too naive (and wholly impossible) to have a single reason or group that is the antagonist-bar-none, for “all oppression is connected,” as Staceyann Chin so perfectly put it. We’re all implicated when it comes to perpetuating and maintaining these frames of viewing certain cultures, feminisms, etc. Implicated differently, but we do have a part to play (no matter how small) in maintaining the current (un)equal flow of knowledge production.
There’s a long-running quip in a few feminist circles I’m a part of: One isn’t really an Indian feminist ‘til one has 5000+ words—ready to be explained on demand!—on the Kamasutra. This is because of how many times we’re asked about it as feminists, as Indian feminists, or as feminists who look just brown enough to really know what the text says (this is usually followed by winks, or on a few occasions, hoots). Admittedly, most of these questions come from a place of ignorance; some come from the colonial legacy of seeing “ancient” Indian texts as only those Orientalist historians made popular. The Kamasutra as a text was “rescued” by Richard Burton in the nineteenth century; the way the text was marketed was obviously meant to fetishize and other “Oriental” women as well as call on the “frigid” Victorian women “to be as experimental with their sexuality”—of course, these “experiments” were tailored to suit the needs of Victorian men. Like most of these “rescued” texts,Kamasutra should have faded into the annals of Things No One Should Have Bothered With While Doing History but it didn’t. In fact, it still receives plenty of attention by… pretty much everyone, regardless whether or not they’re interested in its actual content.
How can I be a good endian feminist without talking Kamasutra, right? Read more here.
Ohmygod, I want to frame this post and hang it on my wall.