Published: Sept. 8, 2014

Are Indian women seen as passive victims or agents of change? Please join this roundtable discussion of professors and students for a lively conversation on how Indian women are represented (or misrepresented) in Western media as we discuss popular perceptions and stereotypes. Friday, September 12, 4:00 p.m., Hale 230, CU-Boulder.

Participants include:

Rashna Singh, Visiting Professor of English and Race & Ethnic Studies, Colorado College

"The mark of the plural" in American media coverage of Indian women

In a Ted talk, Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie warns of the danger of telling a single story. Reportage of the brutal gang rape that took place in Delhi at the end of 2012 has often been told as a single story in the United States, one of Indian women as submissive and passive victims always in danger from misogynistic, predatory men. Their agency is denied, and narratives of resistance are neglected. In that erasure many strong, confident and courageous Indian women are effaced. Not all Indian women have access to media, of course, and not all can make their voices heard. But in the end Indian women must speak for themselves, save themselves, rescue themselves and represent themselves. Many are already doing that, but their stories are not being told or heard. I will discuss the aetiology of media coverage of the infamous Delhi gang rape and its larger implications.

Purvi Metha, Assistant Professor of History, Colorado College

Historicizing Predominant Themes and Tropes in Media Coverage

Metha will historicize and analyze the predominant themes and tropes that appeared in American media coverage of the 2012 Delhi rape case and subsequent high profile rapes in India. She will discuss the consistent casting of Indian women as victims of a patriarchal and degenerate culture, and the media’s focus on an apparent “rape culture” in India rather than on the vibrant and robust feminist activism that followed the 2012 rape. After highlighting the resurrection of colonial discourses with regard to gender in these media accounts, She will conclude by calling attention to the consequences of these representations in terms of activism against sexual violence here in the U.S.

Aditi Mitra, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Colorado Colorado Springs

The Social Agency of Indian Women

Women in India have made progress in terms of representation and participation in the public sphere. Though the progress has not been linear, strides have been made. Unfortunately, not much light has been shed on their socio-political accomplishments and increasing visibility in human rights activism. Coverage of events and activism is selective and does not comprise the whole picture. Mitra will talk about women in India who are bringing about social change, either as activists in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or as elected governmental representatives. She will use specific examples of Indian women who are proactive in their own change and then move to discuss the social agency of women in NGOs in India. Her talk will include short video clips.

Krithika Vachali, Colorado College Class of 2015

Contesting Identities as a Female Indian College Student in the United States

Vachali focuses on the lived experience of being a female Indian college student in the United States. As a student at Colorado College, she occupies a space where stereotypes are less likely to follow her, but not a space entirely devoid of stereotypes. The way that members of the college community, both peers and others, have related to her before and after the 2012 Delhi gang rape has been markedly different, and it is largely due to the perceived identity of the Indian woman that they construct from media sources. In order to assert her own identity, she has to go up against the one constructed for her and question the ways in which these constructions both valorise her and make her a victim. In order for her to relate to the people around her, and represent where she comes from, it is important for her to have her own voice, a voice that Western media representations often take away from an Indian woman.