The Rise Of Dalit Feminism

The issue of who is/can be a feminist dalit feminist discourse has persisted from the beginning. 

The question of experiencing authenticity has become a rallying cry for those who argue that only ‘dalit women' are dalit feminists. 

In contrast, experience is questioned in terms of transparency, and the birth-based community is seen as limiting and ghettoized. 

From being a Dalit woman to being a Dalit feminist, this section takes you on a journey. 

This section starts with a mapping of a Dalit woman's identity and continues to an examination of the positionality of/as a Dalit feminist. 

This outlines the main theoretical features of Dalit Feminism while also speaking to its primary audience in this manner. 

This mapping reveals a Dalit Feminism theorization that is both ongoing and ever-evolving. 

The conclusion's title has a political connotation. 

As an epistemological frame, the ontological interpretation of being and becoming in nearly binary terms is rebuilt here. 

Dalit Feminism is seen to be defined by the ontological category of ‘Dalit woman,' but also embracing a stance that emphasizes the politics of casteist sexism and its structural implications. 

We go from the perspective of ‘Dalit women' to that of a Dalit feminist intersectional viewpoint. 

This framework may be used to generate alternative knowledge regarding caste and gender as an epistemological instrument. 

This paradigm is also helpful since it looks at implicit casteist-sexism (in texts/issues that do not explicitly include Dalit women) as well as explicit casteist-sexism (in texts/issues that do not explicitly feature Dalit women). 

This mapping revisits and modifies the concept of the ‘Dalit woman' as its main constituency via its study of Dalit Feminism as an epistemological framework. 

Indeed, Dalit Feminism is based on the basis of Dalit women and their experiences. 

However, as argued in and, the presence of Dalit women, or their articulations, does not automatically constitute a text/event Dalit feminist. 

Through the notion of casteist sexism, the technique of reinterpretation becomes crucial in developing an understanding of the connection between caste and gender, which changes knowledge based on these two as separate systems. 

And this is how a Dalit feminist intersectional perspective is formed. 

As a result, this mapping ends by arguing that Dalit Feminism is a stance, not just an identity. 

As a result, we may utilize the Dalit feminist intersectional perspective to expose the underlying casteist, sexist narratives in any section (not only those that solely concentrate on Dalit women characters). 

Sharmila Rege expands on the concept of speaking as a Dalit feminist by emphasizing that the Dalit feminist perspective avoids "the narrow alley of direct experience based "authenticity" and narrow "identity" politics, and includes "other groups who must educate themselves about the histories, preferred social relations and utopias, and the struggles of the marginalized," as well as "other groups who must educate themselves about the histories, preferred social relations and utopias, and the struggles of the marginalized."

Dalit Feminism as a viewpoint is not limited to Dalit women in this definition. 

In reality, it becomes a political platform that allows for the development of solidarity in the face of systems of intersectional oppression. 

When seen through the lens of analytic methodology, such an understanding of the Dalit feminist perspective broadens the scope of its theoretical framework. 

Because Dalit feminist epistemology is based on tasks of recovery and reinterpretation, Dalit Feminism focuses on both Dalit women's articulations (as seen in their autobiographies) and unraveling the complexities of caste and gender in texts and issues that are primarily viewed through the lens of caste or gender. 

In such cases, the confluence between caste and gender is implied. 

Dalit Feminism offers an essential perspective through which to examine any work, whether or not it includes representations of Dalit women, resulting in new ways of seeing that emphasize the intersections of caste and gender. 

To demonstrate this argument, I offer a Dalit feminist analysis of the films Lipstick Under My Burkha  and Sairat , both of which, although significant feminist and Dalit works, are not explicitly concerned with the figure of the Dalit woman. 

Lipstick Under My Burkha  tells the tales of four women who live in the same neighborhood and whose parallel lives show patriarchal tyranny and resistance. 

Their ‘real' and socially-accepted life are controlled by patriarchy, as Usha Parmar dresses up as an asexual ‘buaji,' Shirin Aslam is exposed to her husband's sexual violence, Rehana Abidi's behavior is dictated by her parents, and Leela is on her way to an arranged marriage. 

At the same time, these women have their fantasy lives, which are shown in the story of Rosy, the protagonist of an erotic pulp fiction section that Usha secretly enjoys reading. 

Their concealed aspirations of finding in love, expressing sexual urges, and achieving their objectives are partially performed via their secret second lives as a lady engaged in phone-sex, a salesman, a young rebel, and an ambitious entrepreneur, as shown in this section. 

After being rejected/reprimanded by their families and society, the four women are shown to have a sense of sisterhood based on their common experiences of patriarchal oppression as well as a shared moment of resistance at the conclusion of the film. 

The mainstream feminist interpretation of this film has emphasized its expression of female sexual desire, the duality in women's life, and its assertion of autonomy. 

Even reviews that praise the film's 'inclusiveness' in terms of age and religion, as well as its 'cautionary notes' that preclude any simple resolution of the difficult issues about women's desire that it raises, praise its 'inclusiveness' in terms of age and religion. 

When seen from a Dalit feminist intersectional perspective, the concept of inclusion and its depiction of female desire are reinterpreted. 

Leela and her mother, in particular, become important from this perspective. 

These two characters are characterized more ambiguously in the film than the rest. 

This stylistic difference from Shirin and Rehana seems to identify them as Hindus since none of them wears a burkha in public. 

Leela, on the other hand, is never given a surname, unlike the other three major female characters in the film. 

Given that surnames are often indicative of caste and group identification, this omission is especially noteworthy. 

In light of the film's silence regarding Leela's mother's marital status; whether she is a widow or if her husband abandoned her, this suppression of caste identity becomes even more significant. 

The mother, who supports herself by modeling nude for art students, admonishes her daughter Leela, telling her that the only option to marriage is to become a prostitute or to pursue a career as a nude model, as she does. 

This connection between body and profession can be understood from a Dalit feminist intersectional perspective in terms of the brahmanical sexualization of Dalit women's bodies, as a result of which Dalit women, who are considered inherently impure and lustful, are often confined to jobs that perpetuate their sexualization. 

Leela's mother's restricted option—marriage or prostitution/sexualized use of the body in the public sphere—takes on a caste-specific meaning, preventing any true agential exercise of choice. 

Intriguingly, it is Leela who is portrayed to use her sexual agency to the fullest extent possible in the film, not only initiating sex with her boyfriend many times, but even recording the act in one case and afterwards kissing her fiancĂ© in front of her boyfriend to make him jealous. 

While the film's emphasis on gender religion and the contradiction between sexual freedom and sexual oppression seems to exclude caste as an intersectional category of study, it also employs the brahmanical sexualization of the Dalit woman's body in its portrayals of Leela and her mother. 

As a result, a Dalit feminist interpretation of the film emphasizes the connection of caste and gender, which is implied in the film but overlooked by mainstream feminism. 

Sairat  puts caste front and center, while Lipstick Under My Burkha ignores it. 

The harshness of the caste system is illustrated by its strictures against exogamy in this Marathi film, which has garnered both financial and critical acclaim. 

In the film, a Dalit lad called Parshya and an upper-caste girl named Archie (from the landlord Patil caste) fall in love, are apprehended, escape and marry, only to be stabbed to death by the girl's family. 

Sairat has received praise for bringing to light the "disturbing" realities of caste, as well as playing Archie, a strong female character who "challenges traditional gender norms" by riding a Royal Enfield Bullet and standing up for Parshya against her brother. 

As a result, the film is commended for addressing both caste and gender issues. 

Caste and gender, on the other hand, are regarded as two separate groups that Parshya and Archie must deal with.

While Parshya is regarded as a symbol of Dalit tyranny by the uppercaste Patils, Archie is confronted with patriarchy via her family, particularly her father and brother. 

However, from a Dalit feminist intersectional perspective, the junction of caste and gender becomes the primary issue. 

When seen via this lens, the film seems to tacitly support rather than question certain casteist patriarchal beliefs. 

This film is considered a classic Dalit representation because it explores the Ambedkarite concept of inter-caste marriage (exogamy) via the union of a Dalit boy and an upper-caste lady. 

As a result, the Dalit lad becomes the main focus of the film, with the first part focused on his pursuit of the upper-caste girl who is the object of his love. 

This narrative arc implies a link between Dalit empowerment and Dalit masculinity. 

In reality, the film emphasizes Parshya's masculinity not only via his athletic prowess, but also through a comparison of his strong body to that of his bow-legged buddy, who, unlike Parshya, is unable to get the lady of his dreams. 

The film's near-complete omission of Dalit women strengthens this implicit link between Dalit masculinity and Dalit empowerment. 

Despite the fact that Parshya's mother and sister appear in the film, they are just in the background. 

While Parshya is away at school, his sister stays at home, and the film shows little knowledge of the family's gender inequality. 

The only time Parshya's mother and sister are shown conversing in the movie is during their discussion with Archie, during which they seem to be acutely aware of the latter's upper-caste status (as is visible through their servile attitude while speaking to Archie). 

As a result, this short contact does little to break down the caste barrier between women. 

The portrayal of Archie as a powerful, confident woman contrasts sharply with the near-invisibility of Dalit women. 

When seen in this light, Archie's caste identification becomes crucial to comprehending her agency in the film. 

Archie's behavior, for example, when she visits the large well and taunts the Dalit boys swimming there, represent a kind of caste agency that, in a harsher version, defines upper-caste men's verbal and physical attack on Dalit males. 

Caste dominance is portrayed as aggressive masculinity of upper-caste males when Dalit men verbally attack upper-caste men. 

Archie appropriates this masculinist casteist agency by mocking the Dalit lads. 

The mainstream understanding of Archie's pride as solely feminist is therefore challenged by a Dalit feminist reading, which emphasizes the caste privilege underpinning the feeling of superiority that characterizes her agency in connection to the Dalit males, especially Parshya. 

Archie's portrayal of caste and gender intersects even more in the second part of the film, when she and Parshya move to a new city to escape their caste-ridden hamlet. 

Archie does not have quick access to her caste authority in the public realm in this new social context, making her susceptible to sexual predators. 

Even in the city, however, Archie is portrayed to advance rapidly to a managerial position, whereas Parshya remains a mechanic, a low-paying, demeaning profession. 

As a result, their workplaces perpetuate the casteist pattern of valuing an upper-caste individual (although a woman) above a Dalit person. 

However, inside the domestic realm, Archie is perceived to be in charge of childcare and cooking, while Parshya shops and brings home the required supplies, reinforcing the patriarchal divide between the private and public spheres. 

Refocusing on the junction of caste and gender, rather than caste and gender in isolation, provides a new perspective on Sairat. 

It offers a more nuanced view of patriarchy's role in the portrayal of Dalit women, upper-caste women, and Dalit men.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

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