Unspeakable Inequalities: A Blog Symposium

by Nithila Kanagasabai, 2013 Campaign Coordinator

This year, as part of our 16 Day Campaign initiatives, we at Prajnya have curated a ‘blog symposium’ on structural violence. (By ‘blog symposium,’ we mean a collection of perspectives on a given issue, published on our blog.*)

Gender violence and gender inequality result from a complex array of interwoven factors. This violence is often embedded in social customs that allow it to be perpetrated with impunity – in many cases, even without being considered as violence. The potency of embedded violence, ever so often, lies in its unspeakability. It is this cycle of silence that this symposium hopes to break by initiating a conversation on structural violence of various kinds.

The title of the blog symposium is borrowed from postfeminist scholar Rosalind Gill who employs the term ‘unspeakable inequalities’ to refer to inherent inequities in seemingly neutral situations. Using the term while discussing sexism in the media, Gill argues that the potency of the sexism lies in its unspeakability. Similarly, whitewashing deep-rooted differences and biases with a veneer of women’s development and success only silences the many kinds of gender violence that persist and the newer forms of violence that continue to emerge.

Gill also suggests that the best way to study these ever-changing forms of violence is to adopt intersectionality. Intersectionality recognises the multiple identities of a person and the inherent power equations of each of these identities. Gender is not an impermeable identity, unaffected by other subcultures of class, caste, region and religion. On the contrary, all these identities are constantly woven together to produce a complex fabric of selfhood.

We think it important to discuss this because in some ways, the prevalent violence we see (street sexual harassment, domestic violence, etc) are, in reality, manifestations rooted in structural violence. Also, one can never over-emphasise the fact that feminism is for all. Feminism that helps only some of us is no feminism at all.

We invited experts to reflect on four broad areas of structural violence: Space, Disability, Caste, Sexualities and Everyday Sexism. Everyone does so much more than one might reasonably expect of them, that we are entering the campaign period with a fraction of the invited contributions in hand across some of the areas—Space, Disability, Caste and Everyday Sexism. But we know the discussion only begins here and will continue well beyond the campaign period.

We hope that this collection of articles will serve as an online resource for people interested in exploring the various layers of gender-based violence. Therefore, we request you to engage – respond, question, think aloud, discuss and debate – with each of these pieces. Looking forward to a meaningful discussion over the next three weeks!

Reference: Gill, Rosalind. “Sexism Reloaded, or, It’s Time to get Angry Again!” Feminist Media Studies, 2011: 61-71.

*This is Prajnya’s second blog symposium, the first one being Violence on the Page.

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