(Student Government Elections) Tallying the Scores: The Feminist Collective and the Election Campaign

Edited by: Vasudha Malani

            Overcast skies and a persistently growing rumble of thunder usher in voting day. The ominous weather is sympathetic of the political climate that has steadily grown more bitter until it culminated in a cloudburst of vitriol: distasteful comments made during the Accountability and Candidate debates in the run up to the election, Moksh accusing Prakrit of misconduct and their subsequent hearing, and Kalinga’s “edgy” comics that pushed no boundaries except the limits of our collective patience.       

Caught in the eye of the storm is the Feminist Collective. The semester has barely begun and the organisation has been working non-stop. Their efforts are profound; their largest achievement in the past year was securing the first gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Besides that, they recently helped organise a donation drive to help the displaced members of an informal settlement under Safdarjung Airport flyover whose homes were destroyed without prior notice. They run a website that posts opinion pieces, vigilantly inform the campus about injustices across the country through their Facebook page and have previously organised workshops and talks that provide much needed spaces for feminists to interact.

No photo description available.

Taken from Feminist Collective’s Facebook page.

 

It comes as no surprise that they would run the #WeVoteWise campaign parallel to the official campaigning period for parties contesting in the elections. Their incisive graphics depicting the ratio of women to men in the house (disturbingly disproportionate on its own but especially so considering that women greatly outnumber men on campus) were plastered alongside promises of hot waters for showers during lunch hour. Their findings are shocking considering that the campus seems open, at least outwardly, to gender equality. Liberal conversations, however, do not undo centuries of internalized misogyny and bigotry, and the elections.

 While detached from party politics on campus, Feminist Collective does not stay away from critiquing the workings of the student government. Their investigation ultimately led to organising a more formal conversation on non-binary representation in the house. The meet-up was about solidarity and solutions. Parties, however, seem to capitalize on the momentum the Collective built up by reminding us of other inequalities. Did you know we’ve never had a woman sports minister? Moksh wants us to know. Their party name on the poster made me do a double-take. Parties appear to be indulging in tokenist campaigns, worse than tokenist promises, something Tara M. Rai predicted in her article “What Things Mean”.

No photo description available.

Poster advertising the solidarity meet-up. Taken from the Feminist Collective’s Facebook page

 

There are many unanswered questions at the end of this election season. Can tokenist campaigns ultimately lead to actual representation? Will Kalinga stop making distasteful comics? Is democracy worth the effort when the election process and the elected house only reproduces systemic inequalities? And why do these parties take their manifestos so seriously, particularly when their pressing concerns are so far removed from the reality of campus dynamics? Counter-intuitively, it seems all the more important for discussions (and yes, legislation) about inequality to take place when student government barely has any negotiating power in conversation with college administration, the only party with unlimited veto power.