“That’s how biology works; men produce and women reproduce” or, “Muslims are inherently cruel” or “Dalits are born as Dalits because of their karma in the past”.
Do you believe such statements are not passed (any longer)? Get out of your privileged comfort zones. Such stereotypes have been used for long and continue to be used to oppress the vulnerable population, to reinforce dominant hegemonies, toxic gender roles, behaviors and in contemporary times, also exclusionary laws like CAA, NRC and NPR, and in this lockdown, we don’t know how far has it already reached, in how many different ways. It’s time to break the biological deterministic attitude which has already been challenged by many feminists in the past.
Recently, we saw women and children being in the forefront of breaking such traditionalist arguments. An iconic example of shattering this biological determinism came from one of the most marginalized segments of the society from a community which has been demonized the most in Indian History – Muslim women who were leading the anti-CAA, NRC and NPR protests with their children who received support from other women and children, from the LGBT+ community and from many more people.
The dominant Hindu groups have at different vantage points, historically, demonized Muslim men for being ‘biologically’ or ‘innately’ patriarchal and barbaric; while Patriarchy itself, for long has been using this “logic” of biological determinism to sustain itself. For according to this logic, women are “naturally” weak, gullible, child-like, witless and naive. Therefore, they ought to be in the private sphere and not try to be to be political.
This can also be witnessed from how the Hindu masculine nation-state has continuously rejected to have a dialogue with the women protesters of Shaheen Bagh. State patriarchy, with impunity and entitlement, is operating at its peak in the current times where women and children who were protesting on the roads were attacked violently. This marks out how even at the national level, biological determinism is politically used to reinforce power relationships and keep the marginalized excluded from resources.
I believe that biological determinism gives entitlement to practice discrimination and exclusion for it refers to the idea that all human behavior is determined by biological attributes such as genes. In an attempt to explain my family member of how violence against Muslim community is a state sponsored crime, I got to hear of how, “These Mughal descendants deserve all this“. The “logic” has been and is being used to associate human behaviour with biology which naturalises and normalises good or bad stereotypes and shortens the scope of improvement and washes away any probability of humans taking responsibility for their actions.
Further, it is rooted in the religious ideologies especially of Hinduism which emphasizes on ‘karma’ of not just present life but also of lives before and after. Brahmins speak of how they are born as superiors, as Brahmins because of their karma in the past life and they further propagate the same ideology to justify the caste system in Hindu religion. The present government itself thrives on a Bania-Brahman alliance and this can be clearly witnessed from the nature of language that has been used by the PM of India and his government. For instance, while referring about the lockdown, he asserted how we should not cross the “Laksman rekha” of our homes (keeping in mind the gendered implications of this Brahminical concept). This ideology is getting reinforced with re-televising Ramayan and Mahabharat.
Misogyny gets justified, naturalized and normalized in the name of biological determinism. This misogyny had been and continues to be a part of politics as well as in academia. Academicians, be it Aristotle or Freud have believed in and propagated biological determinism. Their explanations are widely used to oppress and subordinate women especially on the basis of sexual division of labor.
The nation, to be precise, the Hindu nation state is following the eugenics model for people where it wants only specific population to be born – from a certain religion, class and caste purity. This model is ingrained in the cultural groups of Hindu Communalists like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sanghatna of which, BJP (the current ruling party is a part of). CAA, NRC and NPR too, seem to be a precursor to this “desired Indian Population”.
Politicians playing saffron politics advocate the language of biological determinism on the lines of karma by being ethnocentric of “their” Hindu religion, of Hindutva specifically. This in turn leads to the politics of hatred as evident today, leading to a process of ‘otherisation’ where the one who is different from “us”, becomes “the other”. These categories of “us” and “them” thrives on gender relations marked by blood and belonging.
Women, on whom the process of construction of nation has thrived, were out on the streets in different areas holding sit in protests against unconstitutional CAA, NRC and NPR. But the state was busy playing its role of a Hindu (Brahmin) masculine body in the name of being national representatives. The state not just brutally ignored their voices but also actively participated in disrespecting the women of Shaheen Bagh and other voices of dissent across the nation. No limits were left to be crossed in dehumanising and delegitimising the protests.
Muslim women, through the peaceful sit-in protests, have turned this model on its head by protesting, by breaking the patriarchal shackles of not just family and kinship but also of the nation-state. Women who supported the protests and advocated for rights of minorities, argued and continue to do so with their families and friends against right wing fundamentalism, people are writing and voicing themselves against patriarchal hegemony. And all of this is labor, a strong political act, which continues to be practiced despite vehement oppositions.
The protests of Shaheen Bagh had to be discontinued due to the Corona pandemic and National Lockdown. It remains to be an inspiration of love and care, of patience in these times of saffron violence.
Featured Image Source: Reason Magazine