JLF had a session on mansplaining with Suhel Seth doing exactly that to panelists

'Gentleman' is a sexist term.

 |  4-minute read |   23-01-2017
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Trust the “toxic masculinities” of Narendra Modi and Donald Trump to mainstream it a lot, so much so that Jaipur Literature Festival this year felt the compulsion to have a panel discussion on the issue, and its corollary - “mansplaining”, featuring, well, Suhel Seth, man of all seasons, and of the recent #NotAllMen response to the Bangalore mass molestation case.

That he was rogered by his fellow panelists, except may be Ruchira Gupta, who thought “erotica” was aesthetic enough to be feminist and “pornography” was simply male domination, is some consolation. Another is the live feed onTwitter (“rage tweet”) by some of the super women journalists attending the session.

Here’s a special mention of @ShreyilaAnasuya, who did a live deconstruction of not only Seth’s “civil” sexism, but also Ruchira Gupta's “sex negative” approach to the body, and her unbelievably moralistic position on sex workers’ rights to do sex work.

Interesting, how the discussion meandered from one pole to another, taking part issues like language, being talked over, being mansplained, language as access to power, violence in sex, sex as violence, BDSM, sex work, and very many things related to feminist concerns.

We highlight some of the interesting points of contention. For example, American journalist Bee Rowlatt said that every woman as been “talked over”, while Anuradha Beniwal mentioned the deeply personal anecdote that her fatherreceived “consolation messages” when her sister was born.

As many women in the audience wondered what was Seth doing in the panel, Gupta amused them all by calling the December 16 Nirbhaya gang-rape, as the “famous bus rape”. Most were too dumbfounded to react. Exactly why Gupta asked Seth to respond why “toxic masculinity exists”, who goes on a mansplaining spree.

We believe the object of having Seth on the panel was to give a live demonstration. See that’s how it’s done. Mission accomplished.

jlfbd_012317121909.jpg As many women in the audience wondered what was Seth doing in the panel, Gupta amused them all by calling the December 16 Nirbhaya gang-rape, as the “famous bus rape”. (Photo: @shreyilaanasuya/Twitter)

While Seth pinned “toxic masculinity” on “upbringing and education” – it’s not a fight between genders, or between men and women, but between “insanity and sanity”, between “civility and violence”. Seriously, he hasn’t met an educated rapist? Does he want us to send him a rather comprehensive but hardly ambitious list? He should check out those he fraternises with to get the drift, actually.

Exactly as Seth went on a Calcutta tangent – “We were brought up to respect women” – Antara Ganguli pointed out the rampant misogyny in, yes, Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal. Or Pashchim Banga, if you please. Ganguli said, and boy this must have hurt Seth, “Gentleman is a sexist term”.

While Beniwal emphasised the need to get out more BECAUSE it’s unsafe, underscoring the absolutely important need for women to reclaim public spaces as their own, increase their numbers, and thereby make it “safe” by just being there, she also says that sexism doesn’t go away as we leave India. It’s everywhere – the “shady places”, marked unsafe: most are born into it.

Bee Rowlatt exposed Seth’s #NotAllMen response as the invisible impact of misogyny – how it percolated to every point and hid privileges of the “civilised gentlemen” like Seth himself, who denied they were sexists because they couldn't accept their casual gender privileges, who cried male victimhood when called out.

While Seth tried to say Banglalore, and its men, have a “PR problem”, Rowlatt just went ballistic. Atta girl!

As Ganguli tore apart the double standards that come with prohibitionism as solution to wife-beating, Gupta, cringe, cringe, differentiated between “erotica” and “pornography”, to smugly side with the former citing mutual pleasure. Given Gupta’s terribly backward-looking take on sex work – it’s all sex trafficking and just exploitation, women must be saved from prostitution – it’s little wonder that she keeps on harping on the false binary between erotica and porn.

However, to Gupta’s credit – she was really quick with the mic, has she ever tried fastest fingers first? – she pointed out the important and bitter silence around property rights. Women are expected to be good and not claiminheritance, even when there’s law ensuring that they do. That’s how patriarchy operates: by mansplaining male entitlement as women being nice and self-sacrificing.

Such gems and more were thrown around casually. But the big one came from Bee Rowlatt, who said “it’s not nice being called out, but sorry guys, you just have to suck it up.” She squared it off with a nice line from Mary Wollstonecraft, the grand dame of Western feminism. “I do not wish women to have power over men, but themselves.”

Also read: Who’s that dolt? 10 things Suhel Seth is, 5 things he is not


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