Modern communication, sexual politics and Indian women

It’s not unusual to read contradictory news stories about India for India truly is a land of contradictions. And its contradictions do not just run at the simplistic level of rich versus the poor but in all of its nooks and crannies, in almost all of its veins.

This week I came across two interesting articles/news stories – one in the Independent about how ‘independent, career-driven, female singletons are the driving force behind a new publishing phenomenon’ in India, namely, the growing demand for Indian chick lit and the second one in the Washington Post about the banning of cell phones for unwed women in an Indian village for fear of these women arranging ‘forbidden marriages’ and elopements via the cell phone.
Both the news pieces apprise us of the growing communications industry in India – be it the publishing or the telecoms industry. And this growing communications industry is coming to shape and define Indian women’s sexuality, albeit in often contradictory and multitudinous ways.
On the one hand is the increasingly independent career driven urban Indian woman whose ultimate goal or topmost priority in life is no longer getting married, having a comfortable home and three children. On the other is the often not-that-well-recognised rebellious rural woman who wants to indulge in pre-marital romance, who wants to take her life decisions in her own hands, who refuses to bow down…and yet is mostly trampled upon in one way or the other – beaten up, murdered, forced into marriage etc.
Not that the two categories are unitary or solid, but roughly they do give us an idea of the wide and far reaching effects communication technology has on women in a developing country like India. It wouldn’t be wrong to assert that Indian women are much more affected by and are more responsive to technological changes in the field of communication as compared to Indian men.
While newer means of communication have equipped Indian women with the tools to express themselves, not only literally but also figuratively, they have also, at the same time (and inevitably so) , got entangled in the web of sexual politics where men regulate women’s accessibility to and use of communications technology and through it, their sexuality.