[Reader-list] reducing lesbianism to child sexual abuse is pathologizing sexuality

nisha - mirzachhotoo at yahoo.co.in
Wed Jun 16 22:21:41 IST 2004

To take up the issue of Girlfriend's character becoming a lesbian
because of child sexual abuse, the linkage is too simplistic and heterosexual way. If we accept this Freudian analysis, it would mean acceptance of heterosexuality as the norm and other sexualities as outcomes of sexual exploitation and tragic events. And that reduces an argument for the existence of sexualities to 'effects' and 'consequences' which could be 'fixed' or 'cured'. To cut the argument short, reducing lesbianism to child sexual abuse is pathologizing homosexuality and denying existence of lesbian/gay/bi-sexuality as 'normal'.
Child sexual abuse could also do well without without stereotyping of consequences. If a survivor of CSA is actually a lesbian/gay/bi, this sort of stereotying will complicate matters for that person by reinforcing internalized homophobia and shame. It would also mean that the considerations of identity acceptance coming out by that person will be governed by the fear of being pathologized or seen as 'poor victim' who has to live such a dreadful consequence.
CSA and sexualities are two important issues, each requiring urgent social action of different kinds. The connection between CSA and lesbianism is only as much as it is between CSA and heterosexuality. CSA is not heterosexual sexual abuse. It is a form of sexual abuse which is possible and takes place in same sex relationships as well. 

shivam <zest_india at yahoo.co.in> wrote:

I agreewith much of what Ms Tejal Shah writes in the
Mid Day review, but I don't understand why she has a
problem with Girlfriend's character becoming a lesbian
because of child sexual abuse. Isn't that possible?

I have found that while homosexuality is a very
important issue in intellectual circles, I wonder why
this disdain and indifference towards child sexual
abuse. There's a book called "Bitter Chocolate: Child
Sexual Abuse in India" by Pinki Virani in which she
writes that homosexuals sometimes abuse children with
the purpose of making them homosexuals.


--- Sappho for Equality 
wrote: >  
> Note: Forwarded message attached
> -- Orignal Message --
> From: TS 
> To: 
> Subject: From Fire into the furnace, review of film
> 'Girlfriend'

> ATTACHMENT part 2 message/rfc822 
> From: TS 
> Subject: From Fire into the furnace, review of film
> 'Girlfriend'
> To: 
> Dear Friends,
> Some of us were unfortunate enough to be present at
> the preview screening of film 'Girlfriend' in Bombay
> on Thursday, 10th June. 
> Today, the film has been released nationwide. It is
> the worst possible film that has ever been made in
> the history of cinema about a 'Lesbian'. 
> In a country like India where lesbian women exist on
> the invisible margins, as criminals without any
> rights, doubly oppressed as women and lesbian, not
> to mention the layers added by class, caste,
> religion and ability, a film like 'Girlfriend' is a
> severe blow to the advancement of the human rights
> and sexuality rights of all women. We must do
> something in the face of such callousness. 
> Please do write critical articles and reviews about
> the film, hold press conferences, protest rallies,
> distribute parchas or anything to 'damage control'.
> I have written a small piece below and I urge you to
> please circulate this email as widely as possible. 
> In solidarity,
> tejal
> >From Fire into the furnace
> Dear Mr. Karan Razdan (director of Girlfriend), 
> If the Shiv Sena and the Bajrang Dal go on a rampage
> yet again, to protest your film 'Girlfriend', ask
> for the film to be banned or sent back to the censor
> board, I might even forgive you.
> But I know, that six years after Deepa Mehta's film
> 'Fire' was released, the right wing will see no
> reason to protest your film because your portrayal
> of a lesbian as 'a psychopath, sexually abused, man
> hating, murderer and killer' fits just fine into
> their hetero-patriarchal agenda of portraying
> lesbians & gays as freaks, abnormal and as people
> who must die at the end of the film, so they are
> aptly punished for their unnatural existence.
> On the out set, it must be stated that the 'Lesbian'
> issue is a hot topic; it attracts audiences, creates
> a curiosity and definitely impacts the box office
> collections. I mean, if you are telling me that you
> made this film because you care so much about
> lesbians and the issues affecting them, that you
> wanted to bring this issue into every Indian
> household, surely you mean it as a devastatingly,
> nasty joke!
> Your film is a presentation of the worst possible
> misnomers (I consciously refrain from using the word
> 'stereotype') about anyone who may be attracted to a
> person of the same gender. The male, macho but
> normal (read heterosexual) hero has no qualms about
> playing a hyper-exaggerated, sissy, gay man when he
> needs to seduce the simple minded, generous at
> heart, 'one-night' lesbian, but essentially, a
> reformed, heterosexual girl played by Amrita Arora.
> The straight heroine who is being continuously
> misled by the lesbian villain must be saved by the
> good-boy-hero. In the end, values of heterosexual
> love, marriage and 'normal' families must be upheld.
> The character of Tanya, acted by Isha Koppikar is
> nothing short of a 'lesbian animal' aided as it is
> by the background score to help us see her as a
> wild, almost cannibalistic man-eating/man-hating
> woman who dares to behave like a man, a Sahela (a
> mere saheli would be far too sensitive). All this is
> of course explained by the simple fact that Tanya
> was sexually abused as a child simultaneously
> implying that what makes women 'this way' is
> possibly, abuse at the hands of men! 
> After watching a film like this, it is impossible
> for anyone to think of 'women who love women' as
> normal human beings with two hands and two feet, who
> may be a friend, a sister, a mother, an aunt, a
> neighbour, a grand mother and least of all a caring
> lover. 
> It must be pointed out that under the section 377 of
> the Indian Penal Code, gay, lesbian, bisexual and
> transgender people are looked upon as/considered
> criminals, existing against the order of nature.
> Hey! and if you thought it was just about 'those
> guys & their lifestyles', let me remind you that
> anytime you have non peno-viginal penetrative sex,
> you are as much of a criminal and can be put in the
> prison for a term extending to 10 years & shall also
> be liable to fine.
> Mr. Razdan, the next time you say that you are
> taking a neutral position in this film and
> portraying the case of just one lesbian, let me
> remind you precisely, that the fiction you are
> choosing is a cleverly developed and thought out
> storyline that carries a clear message. This message
> is a dangerous and retrogressive one. It is a
> message that endangers the life of any woman who may
> look or behave boyish, any woman who chooses to
> experiment with her sexuality, and any woman who
> asserts her right to different choices including
> those women who are good friends and hold hands when
> they walk down the street. 
> Welcome to the world of blatant hate crimes based on
> your sexual and gender orientation! 
> As men or women, homosexual or heterosexual, films
> like these take us many steps backwards. More than
> two decades of work done by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
> and Transgender groups, feminists groups, human
> rights groups, women's groups and progressive
> artists groups, is going to suffer as this film is
> commercially released in every part of India from
> small towns to big cities. 
> Every time I hear of another lesbian suicide,
> another girl who hanged herself for being teased
> about her 'best' friend, another hijra woman raped
> in police custody, another woman sent for shock
> treatment and aversion therapy to cure her of her
> homosexuality, another couple put under house arrest
> by their parents when they find out about their
> same-sex love, I will think of this film and I will
> be reminded of the power that Bollywood wields in
> creating a mass consciousness. In this case, it will
> be a conscious, articulated, homophobia. 
> Thank-you very much Mr. Razdan, but we, as
> progressive citizens are not interested in
> lip-service. I can assure you of one thing: the
> homosexual community in this country would much
> rather live in quiet anonymity than be
> mis-represented in such a ghastly, contorted
> fashion. Even a little bit of research on your part
> would have revealed that there are at least three
> active lesbian and bisexual women's groups in Bombay
> city alone and hundreds of 'women who love women'
> leading their lives openly and happily but that's
> only possible when one makes a film on a hot issue
> (like lesbianism is in India) when you foresee
> beyond profits and publicity and see, real lives and
> real people who will live the consequences of your
> doing. 
> It's time that we stopped separating the issues that
> films address and their impact on the audience
> within a given socio-political context. It is also
> high time that we stand in protest against any film
> that causes damage to the rights of any minority
> groups.
> Tejal Shah 
> (The writer is a visual artist and the co-founder,
> organiser and curator of Larzish.tremors of a
> revolution, International Film festival of Sexuality
> & Gender Plurality, India since 2003)
> > _________________________________________
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