I like surrounding myself with people that challenge and question things that everyone else has taken as a given. It’s intellectually stimulating to allow debate, even if my immediate instinct is to take sides. Case in point – the recent non-stop debate about Aamir Khan and his show Satyamev Jayate. There was no space that was not marked by the debate. Is he just an opportunistic businessman or a national hero? Do his tears touch that chord within you or are they simply moving the TRP ratings needle? My initial instinct was to want everyone to STFU as there seemed to be some benefits of the show – however commercial it may be. But, some alternative points of view were compelling. There was one critique which was written by a women’s group which emphasized that the message must be correct regardless of the audience or the ways of the messenger. They were making reference to the episode about female foeticide when Aamir Khan used the argument ‘How will you get your sons married?’ to drive home the point home on stopping female foeticide! Surely, that’s all the audience must think is the function of women in Indian society!!?
Whilst I agree that some awareness is better than none, saying the right thing is critical as well.
It’s always encouraging to know that there are two sides to every story. But a recent debate I had with a friend drove a strong point home. Discovering the unsaid can be very revealing.
It began as a discussion. A discussion about where the Queer movement was going. We had entered the realm of discussing the concept of alternative identities and how it was commendable that the LGBT activists could stand up against accepted norms and societal constructs (which most regarded as default). And then she said something that threw me off. She said that she agreed with a school of thought which proposed that it was disappointing that the queer movement should fight for the right to marry! I stopped in my tracks wanting her to explain herself. Coming from someone I respect for her liberal and educated view of the world, it was a difficult thing to comprehend. She then went on to explain that if LGBT people were fighting defined norms then, fighting for the rights to marry was self-defeating. By doing this, they were fighting to be part of the very ‘norm-based’ societal system that they were until now challenging!
I went from shock to defensiveness to feeling strictly annoyed with her. Then, I asked myself to stop and actually listen, to allow an alternative opinion. While it seemed like an interesting line of logic, the piece that did not pass the ‘make sense’ test was this – why does the onus of fighting the ‘norm-based’ societal institution of marriage (if you wanted to fight it) rest on the shoulders of one specific group? Why should the LGBT group regard the institution of marriage as standing for everything that bigotry in the world has against them?
I thought about it later and realized that homophobia comes in various forms and this was probably the most intellectual and disguised form. This one says ‘If you are different, celebrate it and don’t ask to be part of the mainstream that rejects you’. In reading between the lines, it says ‘You are not one of us so, why are you fighting to be part of us?’ and the argument was twisted to make it look like a good thing. My married straight friend would never admit (maybe not even to herself) that she rejected the queer identity in any way!
Yes, it’s important to challenge set ideas of gender identity, sexuality and other exclusive social constructs. The objective of the challenge however, is not just to celebrate different-ness and live along the sidelines but to fight for the right to be placed on par with everyone else!
So, intellectualize all you will but the collective human instinct (queer or otherwise) is to be treated (at least) on par with everyone else. I for one, want the same rights and the same footing to begin with. I can then go about altering the fundamentals of socially defined rights and wrongs!