Brutalized bodies and sexy dressing on the Indian street

Kapur, Ratna (2014) Brutalized bodies and sexy dressing on the Indian street. Signs, 40 (1). pp. 9-14. ISSN 979740

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Two recent protests in postcolonial India have questioned the potential of gendered bodies in the protest sphere to disturb gender categories and dominant sexual norms. One was the response to the brutal gang rape and murder of a twenty-three-year-old student on a moving bus in Delhi in December 2012. The specter of her brutalized body formed the backdrop against which thousands of young people poured onto the streets of major metropolises demanding justice. It marked a rare moment when violence against women was foregrounded as a political issue in a liberal democracy. The SlutWalks were an earlier movement that took place sporadically in towns and cities across India in 2011. Sexy dressing rendered the body itself the site of protest against the remarks of police in both India and Canada that suggested that women could avoid rape if they did not dress like sluts. In the course of both protests women amassed on the streets to stake a claim to the public, countering the very conception of politics as operating exclusively along the axis of the public/private distinction and vocalizing their opposition to the state’s politics of gender and sexuality. The female body became a political body and a powerful site of resistance. But it was also subjected to harassment, derision, and violence by the state’s law-and-order apparatus and confronted by intractable normative injunctions. In both protests, sex and gender emerged as part of a regulatory practice that, as Judith Butler argues, produces and effaces the bodies it governs. The inability of the gendered body to escape from the clutches of prevalent norms by which recognition is conferred compels several challenging questions that require deeper reflection: Can gendered bodies in the protest sphere ever be an exercise moving toward freedom? And what possibilities of being are opened up through the refusal to protest within the terms set by this always already colonized and regulated space?

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Brutalized Bodies | Politics of gender and sexuality
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Sociology
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Amees Mohammad
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2022 07:13
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2022 07:13
Official URL:


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