The Construction of Meaning in Photography

‘Photograph… a record of a reality refracted through a sensibility’

– Victor Burgin (1986)

Shadi Ghadirian and her range of artistic photography vocalise two of her most personal identities: Iran and womanhood. However, as expressed in her collection Miss Butterfly (2011), and in various films that struggle to sieve through the web of state censor board,  personal and public are not significantly distinguished and demarcated spaces for Iranian women. However, it is not the politics of her subject matter that is the only fodder for one’s fascination; if one may look closer, or deeper, it is her process that fancies. 

In her frames, Shadi Ghadirian captures the duality of contemporary existence in Iran; imbued in life’s contradictions and an innate desire to be understood. This duality can be seen as a struggle, if not a conflict, between tradition and modernity in the prevailing sense of representation in Iran. To Shadi, this duality in representation is more apparent in the representation of women. In her collection, Qajar (1998), Shadi uses the style of traditional Qajar photography, famous in the 19th century Iran, and twitches the construction of meaning by invading the traditional space with an object that signifies modernity.

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Shadi Ghadirian : Qajar

The duality represented in Qajar answers well to the understanding of a ‘photograph’ as provided by Roland Barthes. Instead of its artistic composition, Barthes was more focused on its construction of cultural myths on a mass scale. In Mythologies, Barthes asserts that a photograph is a coded, historically contingent, ideological speech which is amenable to scientific study  and semiotic analysis. In Qajar, we can see Shadi substituting the surface understanding of the picture with a larger ideological and political meaning which is represented through well coded symbols that carry certain political meanings in themselves. Therefore, the use of a traditional style (Qajar) as a space where little objects of modernity are placed, alienates the meanings earlier associated with these two elements and conjoins them to construct a new political meaning. Interestingly, the women in these photographs maintain the facial features and aesthetic sense that was prevailing during the Qajar period. In such a frame, an object of modernity seems like an inevitable reality to which women in Iran might have dealt with in an operational sense but not in a cultural sense. 

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Shadi Ghadirian : Qajar

 

 

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Shadi Ghadirian : Qajar

Apart from construction of duality in representation of Iranian women, we see another very fascinating feature in Shadi Ghadirian’s photographic process: The symbolisation of the subject matter. 

Photography for Shadi is as symbolic as it is real. So much so, that when the urge to surface the reality, which has been brushed aside for so long, becomes irresistible, the symbols become the voice that speaks on behalf of reality so silenced. It is when the language of reality becomes too hard to gather, that the symbols become the mouthpiece of  one’s truth. 

Image result for shadi ghadirian miss butterfly

In Miss Butterfly, we see the frames depicting meanings that are drawn not from the referrant herself, but from the space in which the referrant is placed. In addition to this, the interplay or engagement created between the referrant and the object (in this case, the web) alienates both the referrant and the engaged object from their own meanings and reduces them to become mere symbols of a political message. 

Miss Butterfly was inspired by renowned Iranian playwright Bijan Mofid’s piece about a butterfly’s ill-fated pursuit to encourage her fellow insects to escape captivity of a spider’s web and go see the sun again. In each of the images from the collection, women are shown weaving or unravelling webs attached to the frames of light (an exit). They seemed at turns overpowered by the narrow staircases and rooms or dwarfed by the stately homes in which they are placed (Nagree : 2006). More than anything, it is the overpowering darkness that reflects the most upon the reality of the lives of these women. 

Shot in black and white, the women in these frames are symbols of multiplicity of layered meanings. One such layer is the public-private divide in the lives of Iranian women. The images show women wearing the headscarves even in the private space within a domestic setting. Some critics argued that the same was deliberately done by Shadi to comply with the guidelines of the state censor board. One might not see this distinction as relevant within the religious context but the same does come across as a constructed meaning from the direct reading of the photographs. 

Image result for shadi ghadirian miss butterfly
Shadi Ghadirian : Miss Butterfly 

 

Unlike the meaning usually associated with photography theorists, the pictures in Miss Butterfly are much alienated from the actual reality of the referrant. Such alienation is much evident in the poetic construction of the frame where the object which symbolises captivity is enlarged from its usual/normal size. Moreover, the careful selection of space and source of light, also work towards alienating the referrant (women) from their actual historical context; hence reducing them to mere symbols of general understanding of oppression. One may say, Shadi Ghadirian in Miss Butterfly, becomes the author of the photograph; metamorphosing the reality into well construed ideology and representing the same through intelligently placed symbols.  

We can see this well thought of placement of incongruous objects to create meaning in her other acclaimed works such as Like Everyday (2000) and Nil Nil (2008) as well. In all of these works, the ideological motive becomes a vantage point from which objects (including humans) are seen through preconceived meaning. 

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Shadi Ghadirian : Like Everyday 

 

 

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Shadi Ghadirian : Nil Nil 

It is through her well choreographed process, that Shadi Ghadirian imbues movement in stillness. Since the subject matter of her photograph is not the historical fact or abstracted reality but a political meaning, the pictures escape the socio-temporal existence and remain relevant till the political objective is achieved. Therefore, the referentiality and indexicality of Shadi Ghadirian’s  photography is not reflective of the world represented in the photograph but of the world ‘out-there’; that is, the world outside the photograph but yet so near. 

This subject matter, however, runs contrary to the classical understanding of photography which considered a photograph to be stillness; so much so that some considered it to be a death. Christian Metz in his Photography and Fetish (1985) argues that photography operates as a figuration of death. Metz says ‘photography is an instantaneous abduction of the object out of the world into another world, into another kind of time… photography by virtue of its stillness ‘maintains the memory of dead as being dead.’  In common parlance, photography is compared with shooting; the camera becomes a gun.

Shadi Ghadirian, on the other hand, is bringing alive the voices of the dead and the denied. With every frame and image, she challenges the ‘still’ nature of her medium of expression by constructing meanings that remain relevant, existent and omnipresent. Shadi’s camera is not a gun; it is not a flag of peace either. More than anything, it is a mirror; reflecting what ever movement and the moved fails to see through his own naked eyes. 

Image result for shadi ghadirian own picture

 

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A Sovereign Denial

In power there lies denial. The distractions aplenty that prevail over the mind in power and of what becomes of it. Of these distractions, many have been discussed, felt and written about. However, there is one that is only felt and never pondered upon; one that inevitably manifests but never looked into. And that is the distraction off the body. Of all the conscious denials that a powerful being accords himself to, this particular denial is the most precarious for it marks the beginning of an Ultimate Denial; a probable demise.

Power is what that reflects in the eyes and resonates in the hearts of the subjects. The strength of a sovereign is always valued on the scale of his command and reverence. The reverence so commanded is a corollary to an idea or a form that the sovereign represents. If only a sovereign could have been reduced to be seen as a mortal, what inspiration the subjects could have looked for that is not seen in their own faces.

This is what engenders the Ultimate Denial; the denial of decadence. Like the robe of honour that a sovereign adorns upon coronation, the body of the aforesaid grows to be nothing more than that robe; to be worn and worn out. Gravity finds the sovereign in the same brevity as the divinity does. Although, the celebration and pomp that marks the rise stand proportional to the oblivion that marks the Icarian fall.

The sovereign thus cries. In solitude is where his heart actually beats. The counting of laurels run parallel to the counting of days; marking of legacy with marking of the will of succession. The beating of retreat, the practice of the march past, stomps like the sound of the church gong. These are the days where the air coincides with the vacuum, the audience with voids and the life with death.

But there lies duty in denial. A sovereign errand that must be run before the mighty gets engraved in stone. And that is the rearing of the next immortal, the next robe that shall occupy the form that represents an idea; the one who continues to exude inspiration. A sovereign that begins to look too far wishes to look no more. So the duty is served within closed doors, dressed in the superficial pretence of what it shall look like, and knowledge that both the parties to the pact conveniently ignores.  

This may be the denial that over time, becomes a truth. Like orders, ranks and manners, this denial runs like a custom to a sovereign. And when the time arrives, the time where the sovereign is disabused of his denial, the great act of departure begins. Followed by endless eulogies and accounts that remember the departed, nothing of the ultimate denial is ever fancied. No words that give meaning to the life preparing to bid adieu, no song or sonnet celebrating the ending truths dealt with, of the duties so mournfully served. Maybe that is what we shall call the Sovereign’s Ultimate Denial.

 

Art: Conor Harrington

Trump-NATO Mismatch on Paris Agreement

Trump’s decision to pull America out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change comes just two months after the publication of NATO Report on Food and Water Security in the MENA region. Taking into consideration the amount of control US enjoys over collective decision making of NATO, Trump’s decision has made a mockery out of the Science and Technology Committee of NATO.

The report which was published in March 2017 heavily emphasises upon the interconnection between scarcity of natural resources and the rising civil conflict in the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA). According to the report, this interconnection manifests itself in the form of humanitarian crisis, migratory pressures, and intra-state and inter-state conflicts.

It is not just NATO but even US Department of Defense considers climate change to be a threat multiplier. Former US Secretary of State Chuck Hagel said that climate change will lead to disputes over refugees and resources. In addition to this, a research paper submitted to the US National Academy of Sciences claimed climate change as one of the major reasons behind the civil war in Africa. Assenting to the choir, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the war in Darfur as the first climate conflict. Many scholars in US universities have conducted comprehensive studies to demonstrate the impact of global climate change on armed conflict.

As the scientific and academic community, both in US and UN, is constantly focusing on understanding the impact of climate change on rising conflicts, the current decision of President Trump doesn’t shy away from disregarding the entire body of literature on the matter. As the clamour for greater environment protection grows louder, and leaders such as Modi, Macron and Merkel explicitly declaring their stance on the Paris Agreement, this move further isolates America from Europe and provides a gateway to China to muscle up its diplomatic relations with the region.

Spain’s Infamous “Sun Tax” – Would it stand the Test of Legality ?

Spain has imposed a support levy on the producers of solar energy in order to deflate the looming deficit in the energy sector of the country. The tax is supposed to help the government in cashing upon the growing demand for solar energy in order to run the government operated grid.

Spain’s energy sector has hit by two pronged attack

  1. The decline in the investments in renewable energy sector
  2. The rising rate of import of energy

In 2014, the government of Spain had withdrawn the subsidies from the renewable energy sector, a move which was a shift from the “Feed-In Scheme” followed by most of the European countries. Under this scheme, the producers of renewable energy are given subsidies in the form of technology cost cuts and minimum support revenue. The withdrawal was later backed by the Supreme Court which upheld the constitutionality of the same and left the renewable energy producers knocking the doors of EU and other arbitrations.

The second problem arose for the fact that Spain imports 80% of its energy supply, expending 40.5 billion Euros annually which is 4.5% of its GDP. This trend became even more unfortunate by the growing rate of renewable energy consumption in the country. People who installed solar panels not only consumed energy by themselves but also saw it as a commercial opportunity to sell the surplus electricity produced from such panels. This further concentrated the fiscal burden on the government and the tariff deficit soared to 34 billion Euros; even when 95% people still receive electricity at Tariff of Last Resort (TLR) rate which is governed by the government.

It is in this backdrop, that the Spanish government came up with a tax on Photovoltaic System (PV) owners. The key features of this policy are:

  1. PV systems up to 100 kW are prohibited from selling electricity. Instead, their owners are required to donate the extra electricity to the grid for free
  2. For PV systems up to 100 kW, the owner of the installation must be the owner of the contract with the electricity company. Moreover, before installation, permission must be sought from the electricity supplier and the Spanish government
  3. Community ownership is prohibited altogether for all sizes of self-consumption systems

 

After establishing the law, what comes next is the test of legality where the piece of legislation is made to stand the principles of rule of law, non-arbitrariness and fairness. Likewise, the sun tax needs to pass the legality test vis-à-vis Spanish Constitution and EU Directive on Renewable Energy.

The constitutionality test of sun tax attracts two provisions of the Spanish Constitution – Article 9.3 that establishes principle of legal certainty and non retroactivity of punitive provisions and Article 106.2 that puts an obligation on government to compensate individuals for losses suffered by them due to administrative action. Even though the retroactive application of PV Systems tax does violate Article 9.3 by setting a punitive provision even for those persons who had already established the PV systems, the Supreme Court’s multiple rulings denying the unconstitutionality of cut in feed-in tariff (subsidy to renewable energy sector) makes it near impossible for the Constitutional Court to have a different interpretation of Article 9.3 vis-à-vis retroactive taxation. Moreover, proving legal uncertainty in this matter would be difficult as the Electricity Sector Law 54/1997 authorizes the government to modify its energy policies as long as the modifications are objective and non-discriminatory. So the only way to move ahead with Article 9.3 is to show how the aforementioned tax does not pass the test of objectivity and non-discrimination as laid down in the Electricity Sector Law for it does not give any reasonable explanation for differentiating between the class of PV Systems Operators and other electricity suppliers.

The major bottleneck in moving Constitutional Court to strike down PV Systems tax as unconstitutional is Article 162 of the Constitution. Since the sun tax is a Royal Decree-Law (as it was ratified by the Parliament), as per Article 162, the appeal for unconstitutionality of such law can only be moved by the Prime Minister, President, Ombudsman, 50 members of Parliament or 50 members of senate. It disenfranchises the Union of PV Systems owners, people who are most severely hit by this law, to move the Constitutional court for the ultimate remedy. The only way through which they can approach the court is when the actual application of the law, for instance deciding the rate of tariff, causes some discrimination for which an appeal can be filed only to an ordinary court asking it move an appeal of unconstitutionality in the Constitutionality. This indirect procedure is highly uncertain and depends on the mercy of the ordinary court to endorse an appeal to the Constitutional court.

Since it is very difficult to strike down the PV Systems tax as unconstitutional, an effective remedy can be to approach court under a liability suit asking for compensation for the loss caused by an administrative function. However, even in that case the loss has to be real, concrete and of economic value.

Other legality test for the policy is the one posed by EU Directive 2009/28/EC. Clause 8 envisages a mandatory target of 20% contribution from renewable energy in the total energy production by member states by the year 2020. In addition to this, Clause 19 asks the member states to constantly evaluate energy policies and ensure that they are aligned to meet the aforementioned target. The sun tax policy is anything but the compliance of both of these clauses. Therefore, as of present, there are 6 petitions pending in the EU court challenging the cut in feed-in tariff and 9 petitions challenging the sun tax.

Another challenge under International Law comes from the Energy Charter Treaty to which both Spain and the EU are signatories. Article 10 of the Treaty obliges the signatories to provide fair and equitable treatment to the investors of the other contracting states, to respect the obligations entered into vis-à-vis contractors, and not have a differential treatment between foreign and domestic investors. Moreover, International Arbitration Tribunals have upheld the protection of legitimate expectation of investors to have a stable and predictable legal and administrative framework. This Article is largely in line with general protection guaranteed under Article 9.3 of Spanish Constitution. Since, this policy is already shown to be violative of Article 9.3 of Constitution; it would be safe to call it violative of Article 10 of the Treaty also. Now that the discrimination has been established, the investors can move either domestic courts or international arbitrations to challenge the discriminatory policy under Article 26 of the Treaty. Pending arbitrations such as EDF v Hungary and Vattenfall AB, and Vattenfall Europe Generation AG & Co KG v Germany, show that Article 26 can be applied in EU member states also.

 

It is quite obvious that the tax on PV Systems will have an adverse effect on the cause of environment protection. At the post COP 21 era, where commitments have been made to move towards greener and alternative sources of energy, this move comes across as a move backwards.

Instead of taxing renewable energy to support conventional energy market, the government of Spain should have accepted the voluntary or obligatory quota scheme as followed in Sweden. Under this system, producers of renewable energy are given certificates for every unit of electricity they produce. Moreover, in some areas the electricity supply chains are obligated to take a quota of electricity from renewable energy producers. Therefore, the producers of solar energy are able to sell electricity in energy market at equal price and have full access to the demand. This system ensures balancing of electricity consumption and production on the basis of market forces of demand and supply and either way the energy sector market is benefitted with revenue. This scheme will also reduce tariff deficit for the system ensures reduction of support cost as it is operated through competition.

Since there is abundance of sunlight in Spain and people are also choosing renewable sources of energy, the abovementioned scheme is a much better choice than the sun tax for the former will encourage growing foreign as well as domestic investments in the energy sector, hence reducing the deficit. On the contrary, the sun tax will repel the investors; increase the burden on government to provide support cost for conventional grid energy.

With abovementioned arguments in context, the people of Spain shouldn’t be charged for sunlight, a public resource so central to their cultural and folk practices. I hope the sun would set on the tax and the jubilation would again sing – Sale el sol.

 

Politically Incorrect

These are the days we
Thought we would never
Live.
We thought,
We would build, brick by brick,
Our courage, and not
Our walls
These are the days where
We feel deserted and
Cheated and
Every firefly of hope we held
Close to us in our jars,
Flickering away its light in weariness, it’s
Surely going to vanish in
Thin air,
We,
Are making noises in the chaos
We find ourselves in.
And all our voices, are
Getting lost in the
Unmannered cacophony of revenge, we
Were not raised for vengeance,
We,
Were raised for love, raised
In love.
The streets that we crowd was
Once our walk to freedom, is
Now just a lost opportunity
For a girl who missed
Out on days of education, these
Are the days we are living
We are living in denial, we
Are spewing hate to smear hate,
How educated does that sound?
If these are the days
Days that have been dawned upon us
We, for the least,
Won’t give in to the lure of mourning,
Won’t find answers in the
Repented display of our trauma,
We,
Will rise up
But not to bring this nation down
To halt its people
From jobs, food and education,
We,
Will rise up
For love, forgiveness and hope,
Because we know if greatness is
For us to achieve,
Wisdom is going to pave the way.

Listen Up America

It’s when the wind drifts,
Pulls us from each other, from
All its might,
That we fight, it all;
Just a little more, we step
Just a little ahead;
The wind makes us swirl, turns all
The heads upside down, blows
Into rubble,
All that we gathered with toil, and
Cherished with warmth;
Now,
When it blows stronger than ever
For the worse not the better
You got to hold my hand,
Don’t let me slip away, don’t
Let me be alone,
I’m scared of where this wind takes me
Of what it makes of
My destiny, my history
Uprooted and thrown away from
My own land.
From our land;
If you ever let me stage the fear I
Wash my bones with,
I will cry my heart out on your shoulder
Because, this, is the time
This is the force,
Just hold me tight and keep
Me close,
I swear I’ll never forget

On Kochi Strike

It was when the roads were brave with

No soul treading upon it, but

Fires silently flaming high upon the falling

Tree trunks and giant logs

All so silent,

Silence that embezzles every shred of reason

Out of a worn out mind

 

The language was not mine, not

Even the faces or reflections

Any similar

I was getting into this unseen, unfelt stretch

Of land with nothing

But what the land offered me quite

Knowingly

 

I had known of the red, and

Every anger and dissent that flows

From that land, but

This anger was saffron, it

Was unafraid as if to have that

Cunning smile, concealed somewhere beneath

The scenes of basic deprivation

And fear, just fear

 

With every passing of a burnt tree, of

A shut house or burnt effigies, I

Saw the life running away from life, I

Saw resistance not in rebel

But in regret, or

Better or worse, in

Ignorance

 

So, the streets of Alavu rendered

Me a poem,

A poem that is about protest, about

Us versus them

About every tick of clock spent in fevered perspirations

The streets made me see life

As life that never made sense to me when

I ever made sense of politics and

People

The rebel bloomed like a lotus, over

What seemed like settled mud.  

And I,

Well I waited for the dawn.

On Norms

I can feel this world resting
Restlessly, beneath my
Knees.
Like a clamour destined to despair
It outreaches, clings
Then retreat.
I can feel this world praying
Faithfully, for the turn
Of my face
All this knowledge of this world
All these signals that pointed north
Have their eyes widened
Their faces reddened
For the might that
Thought I could be conquered
Doesn’t feel mighty
At all.

Lest we Long

They took us by the light

The hopes’ final rites

Shone bright in the seas of our eyes

And the seas of our veins

Overflowing the course of our bodies, and

Engulfing our streets

Lest we sing the joys of love and longings

Lest we breathe beer and belongings

Don’t mistaken our words for our fate

For we sing love in remembrance

And longing, in life.

 

Women-Only Liquor Shops: A Feminist Inquiry into Gender Exclusivity

Conversations are circling the national capital about the city’s first ‘women-only’ liquor shop. Established in a shopping mall at Mayur Vihar, the owners are branding it as a ‘space’ for women to buy liquor without becoming privy to verbal slurs directed at them by male buyers at other liquor shops.

The very existence of this idea points towards the existence of concerns and apprehensions that give birth to such ideas. So, when I consider the analysis of this idea important for a feminist inquiry, I cannot ignore the significance of the psychology that breeds such an idea as well as the rationality that would evaluate its consequences in a broader sense.

So, what is women exclusivity and why in the context of liquor? Another extension of this question can be the rationale behind creating such exclusivity at the first place. To answer all these questions we need to understand the concept of women exclusivity from all perspectives and try to understand it from a feminist viewpoint.

Scholars of black studies such as Jessica Mathews talked about the issue of exclusivity within the women community[1]. In her recommendations for extending the scope of ‘representation’ in Literature studies, she wanted to dismantle the exclusivity of discourses that white women have created throughout the years by focusing the subject matter on their perspective and reasoning. In order to tackle this malaise, which she referred to as ‘white woman exclusivity’, she suggested the process which now exclusively centres upon the voices of the coloured women. She believed that this ‘reverse-exclusivity’ approach would tend to keep coloured women at focal point of the study of their literary heritage, but in the longer run, it would positively contribute to the cause of inclusivity in Literature studies. So, according to the concerned scholar, discriminatory exclusivity shall be tackled with rehabilitatory or reformatory exclusivity in order to create an inclusive discipline. 

The idea proposed by Jessica Mathews might sound borderline radical. However, one cannot simply alienate it from the relevance of her cause and concern that reflects the degrees of social depravity she must have observed in her study. This stance is democratically modified by another Black Studies scholar William Ackah who goes on to say that studies about Blacks (Afro communities) must be institutionalised as a separate discipline, although, it must not be reduced to any racial exclusivity. Every person, irrespective of their race or sex, shall be exposed to Black Studies for it will open up possibilities to explore various dimensions of racial depravity and violence through diverse inter-disciplinary scopes such as gender and queer studies.

Glyn Hughes[2] in her essay[3]talks about the importance of including ‘men’ in gender studies classes for not only allowing a diverse perspective in class but also to enable the ‘female’[4]  students to test their understanding from diverse perspectives, practical applicability and possible responses. The exclusivists would challenge this by arguing that the very reason we create such exclusive forums for women to discuss their issues is to provide them a space where they are independent, comfortable and unafraid to share their views about the themes that concern them. However, this argument would again be challenged by Glyn Hughes by the assertion she makes with – ‘Moving from Women to Feminist Spaces’. Under this head she argues that such gender exclusivity would only create more problems because women issues would get more and more isolated and men would never get to acknowledge or reason with the sexism that exists in the society. She believes, that there’s no point of allowing exclusive spaces for women to discuss the themes such as feminism and gendered discrimination because it would remain in the conscious of the set of people who are at the receiving end of societal sexism and would not be able to positively bring out any change in the mentality of those who associate themselves with superior status in term of sex. This anti-exclusivity argument becomes the subject matter of my analysis. However I shall provide other works on the same theme for understanding the procedural or methodological application of this ‘positive change’ that Glyn Hughes had talked about.

Madonne Miner[5], someone I would call an anti-exclusivist, goes on to say that having men in discussions centred on women issues would make them realise how it feels like to be marginalised in discourses. They would be exposed to the depravity women face in public and educational spaces where they are discriminated against or face neglect of their opinions. Miner rationalises that since these discussions would give centre stage to women, men would get to feel the dimensions of sexual bias.

While Gayatri Spivak[6] agrees with the argument line progressed by Miner, she goes a step ahead and points out the cautious attitude we need to develop while challenging women exclusivity. Talking in the context of classrooms for gender studies, she says that minority position in such spaces for men may get aggravated to an extent that they start feeling marginalized which may lead to a kind of ‘reverse discrimination’ that can obstruct the course of affirmative action . Power relations in classrooms are apparent to a teacher but they do not get to the notice of male students for they often find themselves at hegemonic positions. Therefore, in a situation where these power relations are completely reversed, men would proclaim themselves to be ‘victimized’ or ‘hounded’ and would further develop negative sentiments towards gender activists by calling them femenazis. Glyn Hughes solves this problem by suggesting that we need to take away their marginality from them and should replace it with skills set that gradually make them aware of their privileged status.

So, its evident from the works of prominent scholars from disciplines such as Gender Studies and Black Studies that exclusivity is not a way forward for establishing equal power relations in the longer run. As we saw in the case of black studies literature, creating exclusivity would make a whole community aloof of the privileges it enjoys and the discrimination it inflicts. Applying the same principle for the undertaken study of women exclusive liquor shops, I shall argue that such exclusivity falls short of serving the purpose of feminism in the longer run.

Spaces such as these are not an act of reclaiming public spaces that most feminists and gender activists fight for. Such an establishment is just a space within an already existing space designated for women. The impact of ‘women- only’ liquor shops on the larger issue of gender equality is not momentous for it ceases to go beyond the conscience of women community itself. Men would remain aloof from the issue and would continue to occupy public spaces such as liquor shops. Receding presence of women buyers from local liquor shops would further swell the patriarchal perception that prevails in the status quo for it fails to normalise the presence of women in such shops. As we saw in the case of gender studies class, this women exclusivity needs to go for making men systematically aware of their privilege, and in this case, the redundancy of their hegemonic attitudes. It makes them aware of the fact that the power relations they had created in the institution of market and the one they continue to maintain with constant sexist intimidation and stigmatization is no longer affecting the beings on the receiving end of such sexism.

It is true that the inconvenience faced by women in such places cannot be denied or ignored. However, excluding themselves from such situations by finding recourse to exclusive zones is only making situation worse for them. They are getting further isolated from the debate of gender equality and such lures might derail their journey to find spaces for women in public life. Therefore, the choice that stands at the disposal of women is the one that offers a dichotomy between short run incentives and long run structural changes. Which ones’ to choose is entirely at their agency.

 

[1] Women of Colour and the Women’s Movement

[2] From University of California

[3] Revisiting the Men Problem in `

[4] Simon de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

[5] (1994:456)

[6] (Spivak and Rooney 1993: 19)