here’s my response to a front page article in today’s new york times, entitled: “Abuse Case Rouses India’s Middle Class to Take on the Powerful.” the sentence i take issue with reads, “Girls are molested all the time in India; powerful officials often abuse their office to avoid criminal prosecution; sclerotic courts are painfully slow and often corrupt.” the article in general is telling a story that needs to be told. the author is a woman of color who’s been in the global trenches for a minute, lydia polgreen. she’s now one of the times’ south asia correspondents. below is the email response i sent her today:
I’m a professor and artist based in NYC. I perform and write on issues of sexual violence. Your article today, “Abuse case Rouses India’s Middle Class,” hit a nerve. On one hand, I am so glad you are joining those who are shining light on the epidemic. On the other hand, I am taken aback by what I feel is irresponsible journalism.
It’s this front page sentence that I take issue with:”Girls are molested all the time in India,” followed by a clipped, summary dismissal of government and judicial infrastructure, core tenants of any nation-state. It is true that children are molested all the time, everywhere, and this should not be the case.
While I don’t appreciate the off-handed generalization, I also don’t only mean to say that statistics are needed to back up your statement. That goes against my own principles of simply believing that sexual violence exists in epidemic proportions, everywhere.
But I am saying that writing about the issue requires sensitivity and some acknowledgment of the power play at hand.
Your ability to write up and write off the safety and then sovereignty of India on the front page of America’s paper of record feels tied to a position of othering India, of orientalising India. Would such a cavalier statement be made about America? About France?
Please do consider the impact of your words when writing about sexual violence and post-colonized nations. Thank you.