Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Marketing violence

An advertisement in the Indian city of Varanasi promotes violence against women.

The rants of crazed Republicans in the United States about the legitimacy of rape has reminded me of the struggle of women in India against a blame-the-victim mentality that still plagues both gender relationships and the attitudes of public security officials, as documented in this recent article. Here’s a billboard from Varanasi I found a few years back. It would be nice if tacky advertising was as far as it went. But on that trip I wrote about dowry violence, and still vividly remember the blistered flesh of a woman in a Methodist hospital in Mathura who’d had her face burned by her in-laws in an “accident” at home. And what Nobel laureate Amartya Sen dubbed the “missing women”—the more than 100 million women in Asia who have been selectively aborted in the womb or killed shortly after birth in order not to “burden” families with a girl child—reminds us that this isn’t just extremist politicians like Aiken and Ryan and their religious backers who push policies that do violence to women. It’s much more insidious. But many in India are fighting back, supporting dowry-free weddings, for example. What are we doing in the U.S.? Perhaps the easiest and most urgent step is to defeat the misogynists at the polls in November.

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