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Textual violence

The VC of a Hindi university gives us lessons in woman-hating....

Written by The Indian Express |
August 2, 2010 3:53:26 am

Girls gone wild” is the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University Vice Chancellor’s idea of conversation about the state of contemporary letters. “There is a race among women writers to prove that they are the greatest prostitute… The title of a recently published autobiography of a highly promoted and overrated writer could be ‘How Many Times in How Many Beds’.”

Vibhuti Narain Rai,a 1975-batch IPS officer,had been appointed vice chancellor of MGIHU in 2008. The university was specially set up to nurture and promote excellence in Hindi literature. Rai,in an interview with the Bharatiya Jnanpith’s Naya Gyanodaya journal,decried the shamelessness of women who wrote about “infidelity” in the name of feminism. This is,of course,textbook misogyny,one that can only understand women in idealised angel/whore terms — it is deeply threatened by any evidence of a woman’s humanity.

But Rai’s revulsion,expressed in clear and considered terms,is exactly what generations of women have to contend with. English professor Elaine Showalter signposts the story of women writers into four stages — “feminine,” “feminist,” “female,” and finally,“free”,where first they imitate the dominant tradition,protest it,discard it to search themselves,and finally write with real autonomy and abandon,and gender ceases to matter. The anxieties and hostility they evoke from men — what Nathaniel Hawthorne called the “damned mob of scribbling women” — forge them into a constituency,no matter how wide and various their concerns. While his attitudes only reveal that rampant sexualised insecurity,Vibhuti Narain Rai heads an institution dedicated to literature; it is indeed incredible that he thought he could get away with his casual verbal violence. (Lawrence Summers lost his job as Harvard president for a much smaller sin,all things considered: for merely floating the thought-bubble about women’s under-representation in the sciences,and the reasons underlying them.) Bigotry and coarseness of this kind must be followed with serious consequences.

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