Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 11:05 am
The main character of Copper Rise (the game I'm working on) is from an Indian family and culturally (and to some extent religiously) Hindu and I've been trying to figure out how to write that properly, especially avoiding the trap of having any empowering experiences draw too much on my own very white-western-culturally-Protestant experience. Part of the challenge is that the game is set in an alternate 19th century where England never took over India, so most articles on specific modern Indian approaches to sexism/homophobia are hard to extrapolate.

Today I found an interesting looking paper on JSTOR: Hinduism and Feminism: Some Concerns. Just as I was about to sigh and close the tab I realised they have a new "read online free" beta! So I am taking notes for my future self and the other members of the team (who have less of a tolerance for academic papers :))

If you have any tolerance for academic papers yourself and don't mind signing up for an account it's a very readable and interesting article. My second hand notes really aren't the same. And don't worry Indian/Hindu readers, I will not take this one woman's POV as universal, but it's a useful place to start.

"Feminism" is a Western term which doesn't always apply neatly to the fight for women's power in other cultures (eg Hindu women have little interest in becoming priests) though some Indian women use it.
"Hindu" is a western term for a variety of loosely connected religious practices.
Many Indian feminists (or "feminists") who are Hindu don't connect their feminism to their Hinduism.
So "Hindu feminism" is a problematic term from the outset, even if it's sometimes useful.

Indians tend not to study "Hinduism" in an academic way. Also the religion can not be understood purely from the "authoritative" versions of the texts (is this true of any religion?), eg women have their own less patriarchal oral versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, and women are more liberated in art/music/folklore etc.

Having "rights" or legal equality is all well and good, but much of Indian life is controlled by ideas of dharma/duty, and the importance of family and hierarchy. Which some interpret as meaning women should be totally subservient to their husbands etc and some do not. Navigating individual needs/wants in this context can be tricky.

Bhakti saints went against the norms of caste/gender etc to express their devotion to God, but didn't frame it as "fighting oppression".

Many Indian men have championed women's rights and fought against sexist interpretations of Hindu scripture/tradition etc, which got tied up with attitudes towards orientalist distortions. But this is often framed as making them better wives etc. "Masculine" and "feminine" qualities are a whole other thing, eg Ghandi wanted men to aim for "feminine" virtues of non violence and self sacrifice etc.

(I am sure I have this bit wrong, need to learn more about Hinduism!) Hinduism says that men and women are in essence the same, men have (and need!) some female essence (shakti) and women some male. Feminine forms of the divine range from the gentle to the fierce. Men and women take power from shakti and worship the female deities, including Kali as a fierce mother. The British saw this "effimininity" as a sign of weaknesss while the Indians saw the patriarchal British rule as damaging the feminine principle/power of Mother India herself. Kali has more recently been used as a symbol of both feminism and aggressive nationialism and fundamentalism.
Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 08:23 am (UTC)
Try looking at Hindu mythology for stories about the various kinds of power the goddesses employ. There are gentle ones, like Sita's elegant manipulation; and quite violent ones, like Kali having sex with decapitated corpses. And it's not an accident that those come from the same culture. Most female empowerment in India is subtle, and then there are the rebels where a big spike of power spurts out sideways and scares the crap out of the men. Karmic awareness, dance, and yoga are also worth exploring as they relate to different types of power.