Stand with Priya

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So instead of a rant, I have something to talk about today that makes me really happy.

A number of months ago I was getting really angry with the very serious issues of rape and violence against women that have been happening in India for many years (and recently have seen a lot more attention paid to them, with the particularly notable case of the gang rape on a bus in December 2012 in New Delhi). I was angry at how backwards the whole thing was. Not only were these terrible crimes happening so frequently (which speaks to broader issues with the cultural values and norms of the society) but there was no justice being served. The Indian justice system is so overrun with bureaucracy, corruption and the classist and sexist values that pervade. Women who experienced these crimes never saw any justice and often never expected to.

So I began to think, what happens in a society with such oppression? What happens when the justice system fails? Well, my moral compass, shaped by our pop culture icons and narratives, tells me that's when the vigilantes emerge. The superheros. Batman.

So I thought how interesting it would be if we started to see some Indian superheros emerge. Many who were women. Some who were perhaps rape survivors. Immediately my head filled with all kinds of complex story-lines filled with moral debates about justice vs. mercy, radicalism vs. reform, masculine vs. feminine. I could see characters that were brave, angry, strong, but also thrust into positions they did not want, conflicted about how to create real change. Characters that would be full of life, humour and would follow stories that were exciting, provocative and deeply engaging. Some would even come from the intricate and fascinating Hindu mythology. Goddesses that have begun to interfere with the human world. I pictured a comic series. An entire universe even.

And I immediately wanted to do it. I wanted to create a comic book series that was fun, entertaining and full of adventure, but with an audience, characters and story lines that Marvel and DC have completely neglected. The people who really need the superheros the most.

I wanted it to be the young girls AND boys of India who read it. I wanted them to cheer when the superheros brought down the evil rapists. I wanted them to despise the villainous sexists. I wanted it to help shape the values and morals of what it is to be a good person. A good woman. A good man. It may sound far-fetched but I do believe that our pop culture stories (including the superhero movies of today) play a major role in shaping the values and defining the difference between right and wrong. This is a huge part of the power of literature.

I got so excited about it, that I shared the idea with a number of my friends. I even was hinting at it in my last chapter in this Wattpad story. But there were a few things holding me back. One, I don't know anything about creating a comic series. I can't draw. My creative writing is certainly not where it would need to be. Two, while I am of Indian heritage, I cannot and should not speak to the experience of what it is to be a woman (or anyone) living in India today.

Then I found out about an Indiegogo campaign to "Fight Sexual Violence Globally with Priya Shakti".

This was it! There were people already doing this! Priya is the main superhero (and rape survivor) in an Indian comic series. She is helped by the Goddess Parvati. She fights gender violence and inequality. It was started by young people in India also enraged about what was happening.

Digital copies of the comic are available for free online (I downloaded mine earlier today so I'll be doing some reading up this week) and the Indiegogo campaign will help print copies to distribute for free to young people across India. There are also plans for augmented reality murals.

I really wanted to share this since it seemed like the perfect subject for a story called Literature, Sexism and Technology. This is literature - literature that is actually doing what literature is supposed to do - sharing the human experience in a way that makes people think. It changes us. And that can be an incredibly powerful tool in the fight against sexism. Amplify that with technology (and the distribution and access that unlocks) and it can all be pretty exciting. At least I think so.

Anyway, I'm going to donate to the campaign and I encourage anyone else who can and also feels strongly about this to do so as well. And while I may be off the hook for creating the comic, I don't think I'm quite done with this yet. My expertise is theatre after all...

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