Understanding , Underwearing

It is not difficult to imagine a right-wing vehicle reacting strongly to what they perceive to be contaminating influences of the 'authentic' that they zealously guard. It is, in fact, even easier to imagine that a political fabric that has resorted to every kind of staged drama of 'authentic' to build its own inner confidence. The metaphor of an inviolable/invincible male, that perceives its female property being appropriated by alien seduction as violation of its own sovereignty, in this case is hard to avoid. Much like Katrina in Namastey London finally came around and dumped the white boy and embraced Akshay's nourishing Desi masculinity to corroborate the crisis in nationalist masculinity.

V-day hullabaloo has escalated in most big cities (with Sena/Bajrang Dal folks destroying shop windows displaying V-day pretty things etc.)over the past few years. Increasing flows of global capital into our cities have accelerated the consumption and production of 'global' cultures on cityscapes. This aggravates the right and pokes their masculine anxiety even more. The recent attacks on women are a specific kind of lament of shaky nationalist masculinity losing 'control' over its women.

So what does the Pink-Chaddi campaign signify in this crisis? A direct and provocative opposition/rejection of oppressive masculinity. The obvious image of underwear signifiying feminist politics of personal becoming political. The cliched argument against this technology of radical opposition will be that it is the preserve of urbane, pubgoing, cigarette-smoking women who exclude other sections from their expressions of dissent. To me that is boring critique as it is obviously one form of feminist subjectivity that is legitimate and expess-worthy, of the many that can exist. In fact, it is probably better off being exclusionary than urbane bubblegum women being 'inclusive' by purporting to speak for large numbers that we can't possibly represent.

I want to poke the question of the celebratory/emancipatory role played by the Pink Chaddi here. The provocative image of underwear carries on its shoulders histories of clothing and containing of the body as a modality of power, the Chaddi definitely comes with baggage. The notion that a symbol of repression that is rooted in the ''vernacular'' packaging of the Hindu right has to evoke a symbol of freedom that is rooted in mass cultures of production of the erotic (pink + chaddi) carries, to my mind, troublesome implications that the way out of oppressive ''vernacular'' patriarchies are in global commodity chains. Of course, numerous examples from Bollywood come to mind, where the elusive, defiant sexuality of the woman is captured and contained once she submits to the hero's overtures and to the proposition of being owned. She is then, a good woman, a non-threatening one. The PCC turns the symbols upside down, and shows the bad, pubgoing woman as having accessed freedom. It sticks with the binaries of sari-vernacular-submissive, leather-skirt-defiant though. My question remains that in the act of opposition to oppressive nationalist masculinity, does freedom have to be contained in the Panty and coloured Pink? Does Victoria's Secret hand us the freedom that Hindu right moral police try to destroy?


Anonymous said...

Why not create a "Kama Din" in India to replace Valentines Day.

Everyone will be gifted with a copy of the Kama Sutra.

Street theatre demonstrating the positions in a subdued dance fashion can take place, fully clothed of course.

The Culture Brigade should not object, since it is all based on ancient Bharatiya Samskriti.

Time for India to own her authentic and ancient sexuality!

How could they possibly object?

Or will they say Kama Sutra was brought over by the British but made to appear as if it was written in India in order to debase Indian culture!


Anonymous said...

"The provocative image of underwear carries on its shoulders histories of clothing and containing of the body as a modality of power, the Chaddi definitely comes with baggage."

Good Lord! Please write in a language that is easily understandable, especially if the title of your post has the word "Understanding" in it.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the "despicable", "women-oppressing", "ultra-Hindu rightist" and "demonic" BJP Government of Karnataka seems to have acted very quickly and arrested the culprits. In fact, when Mutalik was granted bail on Wednesday morning (28th Jan), he was re-arrested on the evening of the same day.

Unknown said...

I am amazed that even at this juncture eminent writers and theater people are saying that we should not react to what Muthalik and his SRS gang did, because he will get undue publicity which will help him in elections... this is absurd... how can people like Girish Karnad and Anita Nair, ask the girls to eep quiet....

If Muthalik or any other person has any problem with the social evils ... they can at the most comment and avoid such people and social gatherings and do their bit to guard their kind or preach to their kind....


If I don't like the way he dresses, and if I believe that Indian culture says that the moustach is the sign of a man's Indian ness then do I have the right to beat up Raj and Bal Thakrey, because they are clean shaven???

Anonymous said...


Dr. Ally Critter said...

I wonder if symbols don't mean what we want them to mean. Is no the Victoria's secret then a symbol of freedom, not sexualization- it all depends on the interpretation. Am reminded of Persepolis, when Satrapi comes back and finds her friends wearing makeup to maintain their identities, even as she had given it up to be maintain hers. I think it is to be observed in context- which is why there are no absolutes as to what constitutes "freedom". It is about what one wants to do, without harming anyone

R.Sajan said...

Initiated by Nisha Susan, a Christian, this is a Christian conspiracy to lower moral standards of Indian women. Obviously, the Pink Chaddi Campaign is financed by some Baptist group. The Campaign is vulgar since gifting the panties is an after-act token of appreciation of good performance, in the West. That the Christian initiative dares not send Chaddies to Moslem clerics shows their true agenda.

workhard said...

Since you put it this way, is 'Desi Masculinity' under threat?

Work from home

Sohan D'souza said...

"this is a Christian conspiracy to lower moral standards of Indian women. Obviously, the Pink Chaddi Campaign is financed by some Baptist group."

Oh, R.Sajan, you just crack me up.

If anything, the Baptists probably agree more with the Sri Ram Sene than with Nisha Susan when it comes to controlling women's behavior.

I don't think it's even financed, given that it's run on free-hosted blogs and networking sites, and the underwear is bought and sent by individual activists. Unless the Baptists are going to each activist's house and paying a few cents for cheap pink undies to send to the SRS, your "theory" simply does not hold water.

Baptists! What a laugh and a half.