Tag Archive | feminism

Jenner-ally Speaking

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Today, Caitlyn Jenner came out to the world, happy and finally free to live her life as herself, and be true to her own identity. She debuted some beautiful pictures on the cover of Vanity Fair, and they were deservedly lauded.

As a cis*-woman myself, I have never and will never know the struggles of being trans. However, the cover got me thinking about gender binaries. Is femininity, merely the idea of being a woman, so closely associated with an external, physical ideal of beauty? Why must being female necessarily mean fitting some external ideal of ‘beauty’, whatever it is?

It is one thing to applaud Jenner’s admittedly gargantuan courage in taking the step publicly – it will doubtless provide some inspiration and courage to those who could not, for whatever reason, come out as trans. However, it seems as though it is the ‘prettiness’ that is being publicly lauded, with plenty of online commenters comparing Caitlyn to her ex-wife, Kris, pitting the women against each other.

And that brings me to a more pertinent question – is the gender binary so pronounced that dressing in lingerie, hair styled, posing and makeup are construed as a true portrayal of femininity? Is that all there is to being or identifying as a woman?

Humanity begins the binary at youth. Dresses versus shorts. Pink versus blue. Barbie vs G.I Joe. (This brings to mind an old episode of Friends, where Ross was correctly called out by his ex-wife’s wife, after constantly trying to replace his son’s Barbie doll with an action figure.) Short hair versus long.

Left to their own devices, children have been seen to play with whatever toy is nearest them, or whatever catches their fancy. The gendering of those toys, if they are humanoid, does not matter. Unfortunately, people gender the most inanimate, genderless things – like Lego or Meccano toys, which contribute to children’s analytical and cognitive development – and they somehow take on the label of being ‘for boys’.

As adults who could know better, these same children, as all of us once were, are trapped in a cycle that we do not know how to get out of. The cycle of fitting, or being made to fit into boxes and compartments that as fluid beings, mentally, sexually or otherwise, we do not need to belong in. And thus femininity comes to be associated with dresses. With lingerie and red lipstick and roughly tousled hair that looks as if a woman is in the throes of amorous passion but still immaculately made up. That is our ideal of ‘sexy’, of ‘feminine’, when those words cannot either be defined or boxed in. As many women adhere to conventional standards of ‘fashion’ as do not. Does that make the latter group any less feminine?There are women who are fond of heels, high, low, anything in between. There are also as many women who would rather wear slippers or trainers. It does not make either group any more or less feminine either.

But Caitlyn’s cover, and so many Vanity Fair covers before hers, seem to ideate female beauty as being just that – a dressed up, made up, posing, pouting being on legs.

There is often an interview that accompanies the glossy, high-end pictures of a Vanity Fair spread, but the interview tends to be secondary to the photographs. Every bit of publicised coverage about Caitlyn mentions that Annie Leibovitz is the photographer, but there is no mention of the writer assigned to the job – his/her job is a secondary, cursory thing. The interview may focus on Caitlyn’s struggles, her transition and what came with it – but the piece at large focuses on her new physical attributes, which while I am sure are important to her, unfortunately seem to connote that that physicality is the essence of femininity. There are several other things popular media seems to label as decidedly feminine, in the absence of which women are ‘less woman’ somehow – however, those are not relevant to a discussion of Caitlyn and her journey and will be discussed separately.

Is Jenner an icon for inspiring many young transwomen to be able to come out? Yes. We must remember that transwomen and transmen are not all from the same circumstances – they may not have access to medical facilities, counselling, healthcare and the other things Caitlyn has had access to. Will Caitlyn’s courage still inspire them to be able to be able to publicly embrace their identities? One hopes so – but we should not denigrate, belittle and compartmentalise women and box ‘femininity’ whilst we try to publicize and bring attention to what it means to be trans, and help the public understand it.

One should not be at the cost of the other.

Either way, I wish Caitlyn every single happiness, and I am sure she will have more of it now that she is able to freely embrace her life in all its glorious entirety.

*cis implies that your gender identity matches the sex you were assigned at birth

This Indian Blogger Wrote About Indian Men Apologising To a British Blogger…

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and you WON’T believe what happened next! 

Apologies. If that clickbait headline didn’t suck you in, I hope what I have to say will. Recently, a well-known website ran a piece on a British blogger, Lucy Hemmings, who visited the country, but went through some horrific experiences and felt the awful effect of our completely patriarchal society first-hand. I would like to preface my piece by saying I do not wish to belittle her or her experiences. I’m certain they must have been extremely traumatic, I’m sorry that she went through them and I wish her luck in healing.

This is addressed to the Indian men ‘apologising’, and that being seen as a wonderful thing. It isn’t.

The motive of these ‘apologies’ is suspect, as is the language used in them. One reads: “thank you for showing that India is not Slumdog Millionaire! Thank you for showing people we have a beautiful culture.”

‘Culture’ is not just one thing. It isn’t the backwaters or the marshes, or the palms swaying in the background. ‘Indian culture’, that oft-repeated term, is also a fictional angel or demon, depending on who is playing that card and how. It is as much ingrained in the Indian psyche to stoop to patriarchy as it is to boat in the backwaters. Or likely far, far more. Going by the state of roads in every single city in this nation, open defecation is also part of this ‘culture’. So is marital rape, which somehow still has no legislation against it.

Comments on various websites show men saying “its all a feminazi [do NOT fucking use this word] activist for dowry (sic)” or somehow implying that a) feminism and feminists are evil incarnate, or b) working for women’s rights is somehow unnecessary in ‘Indian culture’. These comments, many of which declare allegiance with an idiotic concept known as ‘men’s rights activism’, are ironic in their very existence, displaying exactly why India needs feminism so badly.

Another comment read, and patronisingly so: “So I just thought to say sorry (on behalf of everyone in India). I know you have moved on, learned the rules to live with more security. But I thought a sorry would make a difference.”

A ‘sorry’ for what, exactly? For reaffirming the patriarchy? For ‘ensuring’ she ‘learned the rules to live with more security’, security that is a basic human right and should not be tied to what I wear, how I look, how long or short my clothes are, my size, and so on and so forth?

What about all of the INDIAN women who face this garbage on a daily basis? Are we supposed to have internalised the ‘rules’ this wonderful man reminds us so we can ‘live with more security’, and a failure to adhere to these ‘rules’ is an instant ‘rape me/molest me/sexually harass me’ license?

Another man wrote about how he felt bad because he “had a little sister at home” that he “could not imagine all these things happening to”. Maa-behen feminism is the bane of Indian feminist existence. Is the only way for a man to know how to respect a woman as a human being to imagine her as his mother or sister if he has one? Must one need some sort of personal visualisation to be able to understand the issues women face? Or does human empathy not exist anymore? I have never needed to imagine myself as a dog to feel the pain of a dog (my own) that injured his leg. I felt sympathy and understanding for what he was feeling.

Pain does not have to be somehow astrally projected onto a loved one for one to fully comprehend its effects, something the people who espouse maa-behen feminism do not seem to understand, or even want to. Signs plastered all over the Bengaluru metro say “she is your daughter or your sister – do not steal her innocence.” Can one not feel sympathy and understanding for a victim of molestation unless she is related, or we somehow mentally pretend she is?

The men apologise furiously for a ‘foreigner’ having had a man masturbate at her. Except that there are millions of women every single day who are masturbated at, or have been masturbated at in the street. I am one of them, and I was too mortified to inform the police. I continued on my morning run, but the incident is quite unfortunately burned into my memory. I have had men ‘accidentally’ push me aside, their hands too close to my chest for comfort. I am a hundred percent certain I am far from the only person this has happened to, and I’m sorry to say it is likely happening to somebody as I type this.

Where are the Indian men apologising for the people who do this to Indian women? Plenty of them are guilty at staring 6 inches south of a woman’s face whilst talking to her. Where are the men apologising for the fact that our ‘culture’ promotes products like Fair and Lovely, which by its very name implies that fairness is lovely?

This entire incident proves how rampant racism is in India – and it’s entirely reflexive. In the Indian obsession with white skin and white people, these poor, apologetic men seem to have entirely overlooked the biggest demographic that suffers the repercussions of our wonderful ‘Indian Culture’ – Indian women. 

The article ends with a letter from a man who writes: “P.P.S thank you for wearing kurta and kameez and respecting our culture and traditions”, which seems from the letter to have been something she did after being masturbated at, to prevent it from recurring.

Which would be fine… if that ‘kurta and kameez’ wasn’t what more than half the population of women wear in this country, every single day, and get masturbated at, catcalled, sexually harassed, molested or raped in spite of wearing. And that, dear man who wrote the letter, is because sexual harassment has nothing to do with what’s on my body, and everything to do with what is in your mind and those of men all over the country. That a woman exercising her own right to wear what she pleases, do whatever or whomever she wishes to, is a license to judge her character, and an open invite from her to sleep with you. It is not.

This somehow seems to all tie in with an attitude I have observed to be a very Indian phenomenon: the obsession with how others perceive us, our nation, our everything. These letters seem less to do with actual concern for Lucy or the awful incident that happened, and more with how people perceive India – as a ‘land of rapes’, a place where women are not respected, treated as equal beings, a country so steeped in patriarchy it’s emanating from the street, from the urine of all those men who piss on the street with impunity, with neither civic sense nor the risk of getting raped as so many women and young girls do when they are forced to void themselves in the middle of nowhere because there are no toilets for their use.

Instead of sweeping, insincere, misappropriated apologies that reek of desperation, the best ‘apology’ would be changing attitudes. This means not questioning what a woman was wearing, or her character, when she was sexually harassed. This means not condoning marital rape, not excusing its legality. This means treating women with respect, as equal human beings, which is what they are, and respecting their choices. This also entails not poking fun at an actor for starring in a video that may have been an ad campaign, but held a pertinent message all the same, a message the large demographic of Indian men want to deny – that sex is not something a woman is ‘expected to give a man’ – it’s an activity that is supposed to be pleasurable for both sexes. Marriage does not give a man the right to demand sex as he pleases. But our sex-starved nation, which is depraved enough that our ministers think sex education will somehow lead to promiscuity, will not acknowledge this.

This means not posting ‘behen ki ****’ on an online forum, or leering at a woman’s legs or breasts. No disparaging Sunny Leone for her choice of career. She chose to be in adult films – that was her prerogative. She now chooses to be in Bollywood cinema, which I argue is possibly more covertly sexual than adult films, and in the dirtiest way possible. That, again, is her prerogative, and it is not any more or less ‘respectable’ than anything she chooses to do – because she has chosen to do it.

Is anyone going to apologise to the women in the Sports Authority of India hostel, for the authorities who harassed female athletes for consuming alcohol and drove them to suicide?

A final rejoinder to the man who wrote in thanking Lucy for ‘respecting traditions’ by ‘wearing kurta and kameez’. Hey, the skirt I wore the other day was longer than the veshtis most men wear to go about their daily business – is that an open licence to molest them,too? [Hint: It’s not. What I’m wearing, or not, gives you NO license to touch me, or even look my way.]

I thank Messrs Rodgers and Hammerstein for providing me the inspiration for my conclusion, which is what I truly see as the reason for the ‘viral’ nature of those insipid, sickening letters.

White skin and ‘Indian culture’ tied up with string, two of the populace’s favourite things.

Kiss-ko Pyaar Karoon?

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Recently, Free Thinkers, a group of Facebook users, organised the ‘Kiss of Love’ movement. The kiss of love was floated in social media by a group of youngsters known as free thinkers, in protest against Bharathiya Yuva Morcha attack on a hotel in Kozhikode last week, alleging immoral activities. 

The movement, in which people who signed up decided to have a kiss-a-thon in Kochi, a major city in the southern Indian state of Kerala, was intended as a symbolic message to the police…the moral kind. The kind who persist in bandying about that oft-repeated turkey, “Indian Culture”. The self-appointed upholders of what is truly Indian. Morally. Sex sadly is not one of these ‘moral’ things to them. However, it is deemed perfectly acceptable to urinate, defecate and masturbate in the street. I have personally seen a street masturbator and multiple street urinators and defecators in the past week.

These Indian religious nuts are probably all living in Biblical times, then. The times of immaculate conception, over and over and over again. The sort of immaculate conception that is repeated in every corner of the country. The kind that has got us to a 1.252 billion strong population as of last year’s census. [Probably higher this year.]

But no, let’s get back to how sex is bad and immoral and corrupting people, shall we? Nobody’s having it, how dare they? It is against the culture of the country with the world’s second-highest population.

Kissing is a beautiful thing. So is sex, but it is possibly too ‘scandalous’ for our upholders of tradition and culture to discuss (the stork dropped them all from the sky, of course), so let’s start small. Kissing. Affection. Love. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a sexual context, but is a thing of beauty even then. Sexual =/= bad, dear desi culture upholders.

This movement was meant to show two fingers to the moral police, comprised of individuals, groups, families, and scariest of all, political parties. [I say the scariest because of the sheer monetary and physical power they hold and wield as dangerously as an unsheathed sword.]

Trolls to the Facebook page for supporters of the Kiss of Love movement have variously posted things such as these

“will you marry the ‘thing’ you brought to kiss”

“I don’t have a problem. But everyone should take those ‘things’ you kissed back home with you”.

But dear man, you do in fact have a problem. The same problem far too many people in India face. That rape, sex and ownership are all somehow interconnected. And the topic that interconnects them in your mind is that timeless Indian favourite, virginity. Specifically, female virginity.

Countless films, instances in real life and suggestions by ‘well-meaning’ MORONS suggest to survivors of rape that they marry their rapists. Marry the people who chose to violate them and their space to exert power.

Their ‘logic’? That the rapist has already ‘taken’ this girl’s virginity, which of course is the entire deciding factor in her value as a woman and human being, so he might as well keep it.  This patriarchal, backwards mindset is sadly echoed by women nationwide, women who write into advice columns asking about ‘how to hide from my partner that I have had sex with my previous boyfriend’.

Nobody should need to ‘hide’ anything. And by nobody, I mean  no woman, because this ‘sexual shame’, this stigma women are made to feel if they are even the least bit free with their sexuality, is suffered by them and them alone. Men wear their sexual prowess like badges of honour. Women are slut-shamed instead.

Religion divides our nation, and has done so for years and years. However, causes like these seem to unite every regressive, extremist religious wingnut against one massive cause, in their quest to both decide and enforce what is ‘moral’. Freedom. Self-expression. Feminism. Nationwide equanimity.

India does not talk about sex nearly as much as it should, and this is very likely one of the causes for our uncontrollably high population. Nobody TALKS about sex or the issues that come with it. STDs and Venereal Disease. Pregnancy. Family Planning. Safe sex. EQUAL PARTNERS in sex and the fact that it is not just for ‘male pleasure’. The whole she-bang.

The prudish and religious both like to pretend sex doesn’t happen, exist, is ‘western’, the result of a foreign invasion. Ironically, it is possibly due to repeated foreign invasions that a liberated, mentally, physically and sexually free country became the nation of prudes that it now is. Victorian ideals have been left behind while conquerors left for their own lands, their own countries now societally liberal and their people liberated.

Unfortunately, this specific colony has decided to keep these classically ‘Western’, colonial ideas of propriety and prudishness, adopting them as their own, and becoming resistant to freedom of thought or expression, or the expression of sexuality, which to them is inherently baaaad. Here, however, is an excerpt from a book by a very non-Western man. A certain Vatsyayana. The writer of our lovely sex manual written nearly two millennia ago.

In the style of one of my favourite comic-book villains:

  Riddle me this, prudes who’ve appeared, who’s afraid of the big S-word?

I had the opportunity to speak to organisers as well as representatives of the movement. Several organisers and participants in Kochi were taken into custody by local police in what they described as ‘preemptive action’. To ‘prevent disruption’. Disruption of what, exactly, they did not mention. Several religious extremists attempted to attack them as well. The movement, however, has gone from strength to strength. The Facebook page for Kiss of Love was reported by the cultural torchbearers I have expounded upon, and was subsequently shut down. Support has multiplied since, however, with a burgeoning number of subscribers to a new page that has since appeared.

Reflective movements are now happening across the country – one of the country’s leading educational institutions, IIT Bombay, held its own kiss of love movement, which was a roaring success, and supported by the faculty at the institution too. Under conditions of anonymity, one of the organisers of a specific city-based movement shared with me the sort of language that has been used against him: he and his fellow protesters have been described by “the majority of people [who] called this movement as “drunkards and drug-addict” movement”.

Not one of these people has been able to articulate why exactly this movement is so offensive to them, what they think will happen as a result. Meanwhile they have no public outcry against rapists who roam free and assault women and children with absolute abandon, and question women on what they are wearing, if they ‘dare’ to report sexual assault.

Support, however, is growing among the rational, by leaps and bounds. We are now in exciting times. Free Love movements may have happened half a century ago in the rest of the world, and we are behind by all means, but it is incredibly exciting that it is now actually, actively happening here.

This support has, contrary to cultural torchbearer belief, not been restricted to ‘educated’ ‘westernised’ English-speaking intelligentsia. Translated below, a post off the site, originally in Malayalam:

If we have mentioned we will kiss then we will and we have
 
We will do it

 In public, in police station and even in front of police station

 
Inside ,outside 
What else do you seek
 

We have unity

Unity that can never be broken

 

You are the ones who have lost and not us.

We have created history.

* Many thanks to the wonderful NM, a lovely friend and person, for patient and beautiful translation.

A Womb with a View

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On Ectogenesis and What it Could Mean For Society

Ectogenesis refers to the “growth of an organism in an artificial environment”, outside the body of its parent.

Recent developments and scientific research have meant that ectogenesis in humans could become a reality in a realistically close time frame, one that could have ramifications for current generations; as soon as the next 20 to 30 years.

Research has extended beyond theoretical hypothesising and macro-testing.  Mammalian testing has shown positive results, which holds significant meaning for future endeavors involving humans.*

Experiments on smaller mammals have, in light of their limitations, been successful†.

The potential effects of this research are gargantuan, and could change the course of human life entirely. Several significant effects come to mind, and are significant from both feminist and scientific perspectives.

First, the mass availability of this scientific method would spell the end of ‘non-viable uteri’ ; with the creation of an artificial gestation container, the conditions provided to the foetus by the uterus and other components of the female reproductive system can be externally created and regulated. Constant mechanical monitoring will minimise intra-pregnancy risks or accidents that are simply down to sudden chance. Pregnancy losses due to accidents would be entirely negated, as would possibly any other uterine issues, foetal nutrition, placental detachment and a host of other issues those in Obstetrics and Gynaecology could explore in more significant detail.

Mechanical monitoring and constant, programmed adjustment of conditions could also be more reliable than its manual counterpart, as the aspect of human error would then have been largely removed. This would also remove the ‘biological clock’ aspect of conception, pregnancy and childbirth, although detractors may have issues with the ‘age’ at which it is ‘suitable’ to be a parent, and the limitation of the physical strain on child-rearing is a possibly significant issue.

Homosexual couples, for example, gay men who wish to conceive naturally, would no longer be dependent on surrogacy to have a child. Ova, donated either anonymously or with the consent of a loved one, could be gestated with no physical strain or dependence on a third party. This also solves several other issues related very closely to surrogacy.

Ethics and legislation surrounding surrogacy are rather nebulous, and the potential issues are enormous. A very real example relates to the surrogate, who may not be the egg donor, desiring to keep the child she has gestated. In this event, while legislation may or may not be available, dealing with the potential issue of a surrogate going rogue, or developing an attachment to the foetus, a desire to keep the child might prove difficult to deal with, an issue that has occurred in the past.

Surrogacy and the selection of a surrogate mother is an arduous, tenuous process inundated with extensive paperwork, which leads several people to seek surrogate mothers in countries where legislation is more lax and human life more abundant, and, consequently, less valuable in terms of legislation. Women from these countries, including India and Thailand among others, are paid money to be surrogates. Human life is commodified, these specific lives reduced to wombs-for-hire, and several of the women in these countries are trafficked, leased out as ‘wombs-for-hire’, receiving a negligible chunk of the sum paid to their ‘lessors’ for those with access to funds, reduced, as it were, to characters from a dystopian world straight out of the mind of Margaret Atwood.

The existence of external wombs would pare down significantly the quest for ‘wombs for hire’, although this could be over a longer time frame because the technology will be expensive in its nascence and not entirely widely accessible to begin with. However, it could help combat a significant social evil.

The possibility of extra-body gestation also opens up several avenues for women who wish to have children in view of their careers. Pregnancy would no longer be a physically taxing stretch of life that forms an encumbrance on work, physical activity or any other task a woman wishes to undertake, and no longer cause a pregnant pause in careers, which could then progress as normal as they do for men.  This could result in a move towards more equanimous parenting, beginning to break patriarchy-imposed barriers which are ‘reinforced’ using ‘nature’ and ‘biology’ as excuses for inequality. Women would no longer be necessitated, forced to stay exclusively within or around their homes, as further and further excuses for the justification of gender inequality are eradicated.

This scientific development could have the potential to help break glass ceilings.

The effects of body issues, dysmorphia and changes are significant, even on non-pregnant women, and entire industries function off these aggressively marketed, purely appearance-based products. This could put an end to the significant medical and physical effects of pregnancy on a woman’s body, therefore affecting neither her physical health nor her mental health, by way of impacting her body image.

However, is the philosophical issue largely surrounding the ideal that childbirth is attributed saintlike, magical qualities even though it is merely a biological process common to every mammal in existence? It is not ‘sacred’ in any form of the word; this is merely a human endeavour to make fantastical that which is not.

The oft-repeated ‘wisdom’ of the patriarchy, in order to cause the virtual imprisonment of the female within the home, has been, across geographies and socio-economic strata, the avowal of the basic reproductive differences between the sexes, the need for the mother to be the ‘primary provider’ simply because  ‘science’ or ‘biology’ dictated it.   That the woman was meant to be the bearer of children for the family she married into, which continues to be the widely, nay, primarily held belief in several developing and developed countries. The familial and societal pressures in these countries cause a Handmaiden’s Tale-esque scenario, with an actual alienation in the minds of the women who go through these experiences between their bodily choices and the decisions they are forced to take, the societal pressures to have a child that one may not necessarily desire.

While these scientific developments may blur some ethical lines, they elucidate and outline far more clearly some others that could help science, legislation, the structure of society and the human race at large, in a multitude of ways, although they may bring with them some potential issues that will need to be discussed and examined in far greater detail.

The termination of pregnancy and related issues would need to be analysed. Although ectogenesis, as a deliberate scientific process, is entirely intentional, the potential for the desire to terminate the pregnancy is entirely possible.

Considering Roe v. Wade is based on the ‘viability of the foetus outside the mother’s womb’ to adjudge the potential for termination of pregnancy, this issue would need to be explored in greater detail in the future, as a foetus potentially growing in a ‘pod’ is entirely viable ‘outside the mother’s womb’.

 

If ectogenesis becomes a reality, science will dictate a new reality, one that, to me, heralds positivity in terms of biology and sexual equality.  Pregnancies would be easier, safer for both foetus and mother, and natural childbirth more accessible across society.

Women need not be primary caretakers anymore, and the reality of ‘househusbands’ that John Lennon imagined, of men being the principal caretakers of their children, taking over more traditionally ‘female’ home duties’, or becoming ‘mothers’ in the historical sense of the term as they take over the majority of caring for their children, a task previously relegated automatically to women, irrespective of career, choice or personal desire.

Our world is changing every day, from the bottom up, and should ectogenesis become a reality, the dichotomy of a gender-based societal division of roles would cease to exist, or at the very least pare itself down on a long enough time frame. These roles would affect significantly patriarchal societies that consider women mere tools for reproduction, should human ectogenesis become a reality, the kind that is widely available to those who wish to use it.

 

As of now, external wombs are still experimental, so until further study and work,  the term ‘Human Ectogenesis’ is up for grabs. Perhaps a collaboration among Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Phil Collins?

 

 

*Japanese professor Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara of Juntendo University has successfully gestated goat embryos in a machine that holds amniotic fluid in tanks.

 

† Over a decade ago, Dr. Helen Hung-Ching Liu, Director of the Reproductive Endocrine Laboratory at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Cornell University, engineered mouse endometrial tissue (the tissue that forms mammalian uterine lining) to an extra-uterine framework or ‘scaffold’, as described in her research, successfully growing a mouse embryo to term.

Although human trials are not permitted for ethical and philosophical reasons, Dr. Liu grew a human embryo for 10 days in an artificial womb, with the goal of developing, someday, an external womb. Legislation, however, permits a fourteen day cap on this sort of research.

 

 

(And We Could Have It All) Our Empire of Dirt

My beef is not with Airtel, but with the recent advertisement they have out, promoting their mobile internet facilities.

 

For an introduction, watch here:

 

The new advert has people divided, apparently, over whether it is anti-feminist or not. While I think it is, several Twitter users have messaged me with names like ‘sad feminist bitch’ and some sexually suggestive comments. Itself an interesting insight into the perception of feminism in this country.

 

Advertisements need not necessarily be realistic, and so the obvious markers in this specific ad: the fact that spouses don’t generally report to each other in any sort of management structure, and *most* employees in India do not address bosses by their first names.

 

Bosslady (dressed, funnily enough, exactly like Priya Tendulkar in Hum Paanch)  is at her desk, looking very stern, or whatever she perceives as stern.  Employee complains about the workload. So far, so good-ish. Bosslady.

Cut to diligent employee at his desk, still complaining.

That  cuts to a yummy set of dishes filled with steaming, delicious looking food, being prepared by a disembodied phantom hand. (You won’t believe what happens next!)

 

The husband receives a video call, happening (presumably) in HD thanks to the superfast internet connection on dearest husband’s mobile phone, disembodied hand and yummy food in frame.

 

And it’s at this point you realise nobody but M. Night Shyamalan could have directed this ad…

“Wifey boss people.”  (to be said in a Haley Joel Osment-like fashion)

Frazzled husband is still at work, working on the work bosslady has left him. Plaintively, like every dutiful desi biwi should, she begs him to come home to eat.  He capitulates, they grin, and the ad ends.

 

Realism issue: What management structure allows spouses to be in direct managerial hierarchy? If there are some that do, this is the first I’m hearing of it.

 

I’ve read several arguments saying the wife ‘wanted’ to cook for her husband, so sweet, and that I was just a ‘rabid, unhappy, sexually dissatisfied feminist.’

 

Tackling the first of those statements first: I enjoy cooking, funnily enough. Mostly for myself, occasionally for family and friends. I do it of my own volition and own free will, entirely unencumbered by the expectation of having to have a hot meal ready for somebody. I was brought up independently by parents who cooked for themselves, me and each other (incidentally, my father is quite a magician with chicken) and if any of us was hungry, we cooked.

 

It would be utter folly to deny the expectations of an extremely patriarchal Indian society with regard to these bahus, however. Hindi films and Bollywood portray wives and daughters-in-law as such as well. Tea and food aren’t things you make. They’re things you are supposed to not only make, but have ready, and keep hot as you wait for your hubby dearest to finish whatever he’s doing/wants to do/following which he can sit and fart around.

And it is to these expectations that I take the utmost exception. I’m sure the agency that handled the ad thought they were being extremely ‘progressive’ and ‘feminist’ by showing a female boss.

When it’s ‘progressive’ and ‘feminist’ to show a female boss, and not just a normal thing, your society is VERY patriarchal.

As the daughter of an incredibly accomplished woman who has been on the boards of several multinationals, and a very accomplished businessman who also changed my diapers and does a mean grilled veg casserole, I was never brought up to believe that women belonged to certain roles, and men to certain others. I have unfortunately, while interacting with certain people, seen just how ingrained these retrograde expectations are.  Other women  have come up to my mother and asked her why she worked, ‘does your husband not earn enough money?’ ‘Do you have financial issues?’  as opposed to that wondrous, all too impossible possibility that my mum is very intelligent and good at what she does and wants to work. Fuck that, right?

To those who deny flat out that these expectations do not exist, have some empirical proof. Crunchy and nutritious.

Examine the press coverage of any intellectual, accomplished woman in the public eye in this day and age. 2014.

 

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook.

Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo.

Hilary Rodham Clinton, Senator, former U.S. Secretary of State. Potential candidate for 2016 Presidential elections.

 

All of them repeatedly asked how they ‘balanced home and work.’ How they managed motherhood and their high-profile jobs.

 

Has anybody asked Bill Clinton how he managed home and work whilst he brought up Chelsea? Has anybody asked Sheryl Sandberg’s husband if and how he managed to be a good father while still going to work?

 

Has any man ever felt guilty, as Indra Nooyi recently said she did, because of societal expectations to be a good parent and successful at work?

 

Why, in India, is  ‘housewife’ an extremely normal term and part of the daily parlance of the majority of the population, but nobody has ever heard of a househusband? And men who even live with their wives’ families are called derogatory slurs like ‘Joru ka Ghulam’ (the slave of the wife)?  Are the women who are forced to be glorified cooks and cleaners then not slaves of their husbands?

Trick question – yes they are. They’re cooking, cleaning, sexual-pleasure-providing, childbearing slaves.

The day women are free of the expectation that they have to have ‘chai’ ready, or lunch, or dinner, or any damn meal whatsoever, is when people can point fingers and say the ad ‘portrays sweet relationships where people cook of their own free will.’

 

Now to address some Twitter trolls:

Exhibit 1 – “Its a way of women balancing home and work”

I’d like to see a man balance home and work and THAT be portrayed on an ad. I’ll even write the ad if any agency wants to take me up.

Exhibit 2 – “Take it in a good way the woman does the cooking work which requires more finesse”

Sanjeev Kapoor. Marco Pierre White. Heston Blumenthal. If they’re not men, that’s news to me.

 

Exhibit 3 “You dirty feminist you must be sexually unsatisfied no man wants u and so u hate men”

And that is why we need feminism. When idiots measure a woman’s idea of self-worth by how desirable she is (or perceives herself to be) to the opposite sex. That is, of course, all that should matter in her life, right?

 

[P.S – Dear person who DM-ed me that on twitter, please explain why my sexual satisfaction is any of your business.]

Until the expectations go away, until feminism stops being a dirty word, until women stop feeling guilty for pursuing their dreams, we need feminism. Until we can break out of gender roles and stop following or believing in established gender tropes, we need feminism.  Until the day the media and the public either stop asking women about the work-home balance, or ask it of men too, we need feminism. And for every day after that.

To the anti-feminists I had the absolute pleasure of interacting with, with their ‘men’s rights’ persecution complexes, I leave you with Trent Reznor’s lines:

 

I wear this crown of thorns,

Upon my liar’s chair”

 

 

 

Tips for Chetan Bhagat… (Just for fun.)

The crème de la crème of Indian authors, the cat’s meow, the cream of the crop, the bee’s knees, that literary genius, that proselytising Twitter guru, that magician with his words, Chetan Bhagat, has recently made a wonderful video for Shaadi.com (possibly the world’s most well known matrimonial website [ugh]), where he lists tips for the site’s founder, who recently got married himself.

For a little bit of a background, watch this

The guru of gurus, the unrecognised (but clearly deserving) head of MENSA, is now dishing out tips for a successful marriage.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber 1

“Just Say What She Wants to Hear”

In this tip, he talks about how choices, with women, are not really choices. you just have to guess which ones they like. WOW, Chetan Bhagat. I speak for all women when I say you are really, truly the most amazingly perceptive man in the entire universe. How did you know all women were not really human, just completely irrational, two-faced vagina-toting humanoids incapable of normal thought processes like men are? Poor ol’ us.  ‘North Indian, South Indian’, we’re all the same.  He talks about choices between A and B as being like computer programs, which  solve problems ‘based on applying criteria’. What are those, Mr. Bhagat? Programming? Criteria??? You’ve lost us poor stupid women already!

It’s not about finding A or B, Chetan. It’s about finding, to quote a certain Red Forman, my foot in your ass.

P.S – You know what *I* really want to hear? That Chetan Bhagat has given up writing and/or a public existence for good. I will wait for that day and I will celebrate it.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber2

Remember Anniversaries, She Will Forget Your Sins”

Here he talks about remembering anniversaries, something I am not a fan of. You celebrate if you feel the need to celebrate, and don’t if you don’t. If the day means something to you then let it.  I fail completely to understand why ‘forgetting’ a day makes you a bad spouse/partner, and if that is one of your criteria in deciding whether you should be nice to your partner or not, you are a horrible partner yourself.

He instructs all men to ‘remember their in-laws’ birthdays. But he doesn’t stop there, taking it a step further instead.  He asks that most wondrous of all beings, men, to ‘be the first one to call your mother-in-law’ on her birthday, and then ask your spouse/partner why they haven’t wished their parent yet. Of course, these birthday wishes are not birthday wishes, but leverage that you can use when you’re ‘in the doghouse’, so to speak.

If you happen to be friendly with your spouse’s parent/s, then you wish them because you know them and you want to fucking wish them happy birthday. Not as ‘OMG I WISHED HIM HAPPY BIRTHDAY NOW I’M OFF THE HOOK’. Dear Chetan Bhagat, as much as your writing and behaviour make it seem like it, you are not five years old.

P.S – As far as being ‘woken up at midnight by Chetan Bhagat’ goes, I’d probably just tell myself I’m having an incredibly horrible nightmare and go back to sleep.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber3

“Do not give an opinion, merely endorse”

According to Mr. Bhagat, if one of us ‘lil ol’ ladies asks a man for an opinion on an item of clothing, we’re not asking for an opinion at all. We are obviously too weak to handle honesty and truthful viewpoints, so all we want and need is positive reinforcement from men (of course we do, how in heaven’s name would we live without it?).

It is absolutely telling that the whole ‘Do I look Fat’ scenario is limited to women. That, dear Chetan (or do you prefer Chetanji?) is a product of our stupid, patriarchal society where men can look whatever they look like and be successful in a field that focuses exclusively on appearance (the movies, for example) but women, in day-to-day-life, need to be suspended in a bubble of self-doubt, in a constant state of worry as to whether they look fat or not. Health matters whether you are male or female – how you look should not matter at all, but unfortunately for the world, and consequently to women themselves, a bulge here, a fold there, is absolutely unsightly and should be banished immediately, by whatever means possible. Women are meant to be pretty little fairies with no opinion, no cranial ability, and no life beyond men and serving them, aren’t they, Mr. Bhagat? And their lives invalidated without said ‘endorsement’ from men? Poor us. Also, we look at other women who are prettier than us and begin to hate them immediately. How did YOU know, Chetan Bhagat, that women cannot look at other human beings the way men do, rationally, and consider their abilities and strengths as independent aspects of their personalities? I’m so glad you’re around to teach me the ways of my kind.

P.S – Chetan Bhagat likes to make jokes about women’s insecurities with their appearances. I’d make a joke about Chetan Bhagat’s appearance but that video speaks for itself.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber4

“Warning – she follows you on Twitter”

This takes off from Shitty Tip Number 3, which is all about female insecurities. While body image issues are, unfortunately, a reality, Chetan Bhagat brings us his own version of female insecurities, which have to do with men calling other women attractive. According to him, the moment a man compliments a woman, it is grounds for the wife to ‘put her husband in the doghouse’. In Chetan-land (or Bhagat-world, if you prefer), not only are women completely devoid of self-confidence or self-belief, but men are not supposed to have opinions either, unless they want to regret them all their lives.

For SHAME. How dare any being have an opinion on another human being right? And of course, said opinion necessarily means you like that human better, no? Like a little child’s mother complimenting another child, which necessarily means she loves that child more than her own.

P.S – Gentle reminder, Mr. Bhagat. YOU ARE NOT FIVE YEARS OLD.

P.P.S – Sexism works both ways, and you’ve just illustrated that extremely succinctly. Thank you.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber5

“Show your support. Like all her Facebook updates”

He says this is a ‘tip for a modern marriage’. ‘You must like all the pictures, silly rants, stupid things’ your spouse posts on Facebook.

I’m all for social media. I’m doing a degree in media. I do NOT, like most other people, believe it has a damn thing to with somebody’s feelings towards me.  If your love, or the security of that love, is predicated on a ‘like’ or a retweet,  you’re in an incredibly shitty, insecure relationship. I do think every one of the last few points is predicated on Chetan Bhagat’s assumption that women are insecure, and that is the most important aspect of their existence. Women are insecure beings that cannot survive without male validation – it is THIS male validation, of course, that validates not only their looks and figures but their very existence. Yes. That’s all the vagina-ovary bearers of the world need, Mr. Bhagat, to ‘keep us happy’, because we need to be ‘kept’ happy. Facebook likes. This man has all the answers, people!!

P.S – When you say the rants are ‘never stupid, always profound’, you’re obviously not talking about yourself, you fucking moron.

P.P.S – your ideas are anything but ‘modern’.

Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber6

“You might be the boss in the office.. She is the boss at home!!”

So according to Satan…oops, Chetan, the days of performance reviews are over. You are now not the reviewer, but the reviewed. This review will not be an annual one like the rugged menfolk are used to, but a daily one, nay, an hourly one, nay, a minute-to-minute review, based on the clothes you wear, how you sit and stand, your appearance, things that the rest of us would find trivial but Saint Bhagat tells us are the criteria for judgement.

Who ever thought a marriage/relationship was a partnership between two equals, right? It’s supposed to be about one dominating the other, browbeating them into submission and having them follow their every word. It’s not like it’s supposed to be a symbiotic thing, with both people contributing to conversations, discussions, finances, the relationship itself. It isn’t supposed to be an environment where two people feel comfortable enough to air their opinions and are able to discuss their problems and lay them bare as they are. It is about submission, complete submission. Men and women are not MADE to be equal, right, Mr. Bhagat? Relationships and marriages only ever work when one partner dominates.

I think we should all just listen to Chetan Bhagat when he says ‘Seriously, you’re not supposed to be listening to this. Bye bye, take care.’ If you truly DO care about yourself and your sanity, do not watch that video.

My condolences to Chetan Bhagat’s readers and fans (male, female or otherwise) for being utterly brainless, and commiserations to his wife for being married to a sexist, male chauvinist pig, paperback-writing hack with no visible redeeming qualities whatsoever.

One Down: First Woman.

cw3

If only it were just a crossword clue anymore.

‘Eve-teasing’. An all-too-popular pastime in this wonderful country we call home. It isn’t even English, really, but an Indianism, ifyou will, much like ‘prepone’, ‘reply back’, ‘do the needful’ and our Indian version of ‘propose’, which doesn’t mean what it means everywhere else.

It is commonly defined as men ogling at women on the street, whistling, singing songs, basically boorish men behaving like they own a woman they see. Or at least that is how it starts off, with men at street corners singing the cheapest Bollywood songs they can think of, with the most crass lyrics imaginable (and my goodness me, our lyric writers give them so much to choose from it’s like listening to an even less melodious version of the radio).  There are catcalls, whistles, remarks like ‘item’ and ‘wah’, and then there’s outright groping.

I have been fortunate enough not to ever have been groped or had anyone attempt to do so, but for your average Indian woman, tapori ‘seeti’ and catcalls have become a way of life, something that’s in the background, like annoying white noise you cannot get rid of.

As we all are FULLY aware, rape has nothing to do with sex, or titillation, or whether my clothes are too tight or too short or too something-or-the-other.  It’s to do with a moron (or an entirely stupid, backwards society) SO steeped in patriarchy that he is convinced he absolutely must show his masculinity, or as they like to say here, ‘mardaangi’. What better way to show you are a MAN than by subjugating a woman, no? Of course! What better way to subjugate a woman than to violate her?

Of course, with this comes the wonderful label of a woman’s ‘modesty’. My sexuality. My ‘modesty’. Her modesty was violated. The farmer committed suicide because his daughter’s modesty was outraged. Modesty in India is a wonderful umbrella term that covers virginity (only for a woman, though, let it be remembered), female sexuality, anything that could possibly even indicate that the woman has her own independent thought processes, makes, nay, even wants to make her own decisions – and god forbid they are sex-related – or just wants to be considered a human being like any other, and the way to show what I shall subsequently call ‘penis-power’, you grab this ‘modesty’.

Recently, an acquaintance of mine I met through mutual friends when I studied abroad, and a Facebook friend, did this, and it was amazing.

He was crossing the street in Bangalore with two female friends, when two uncouth hooligans on a bike began to ‘eve-tease’ them. Akshay Kingar, instead of bowing his head and walking on like most of us (myself included) do, he took a photograph of them and posted it to the internet.  Our two lovely idiots may not have been aware of the power of social media when they so wonderfully flipped Akshay the bird. They’re likely more than aware now.

In addition to garnering immense Internet traffic, the post was brought to the attention of the Bengaluru Police. Members of Parliament, news channels, publicists and even average Joes working in the field of the media latched onto the story and brought it to the attention of the entire country.
Those two upstanding pillars of modern society have, I hear, since been arrested by the Bengaluru police.

Unfortunately, there are many like them that roam the streets unfettered, feckless pieces of filth that live with no fear of the law (which, of course, inspires no fear in anybody because it might as well not exist), and only two days ago, in spite of ALL the lip-service the public received post Nirbhaya, THIS was a headline: “Woman gang-raped on bus in Indore”.

Clearly a LOT has changed since Nirbhaya, then.

Lip service, lip service, and more lip service. Changing the law may be one thing, but changing people’s mindsets is another.
A wonderful guy left this nugget of wisdom on the photo Akshay shared on Facebook [and I’ve left his name in because he deserves to be shamed publicly in every way possible].

Venu Krish Reddy first over girls must wre the proper dress’s den y the hell da guys ll teas them, so guys plz think of t also k..,”

That comment was ‘liked’ by 3 different people, one of them, sadly, a woman.

In our country, it doesn’t really take much for something to escalate into violence. It could start off as vile jeering and creepy leers, but with no legal regulation, anybody can pick up a bottleful of acid at a corner store for a nominal amount, and, should his lecherous advances be spurned, use this to prove his might. (I am penis, hear me roar?)

Everybody now, Delhi police included, seems to be telling women how to ‘take precautions’ so that they are not attacked. That in itself is ridiculous, in that the police is obligated to make people abide by the law, the same law that should punish them if they do NOT. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works here.

No, instead of that, let’s tell women what ‘modesty’ is. Modesty is not showing your shoulders/arms/legs/cleavage/neck/ANY skin whatsoever, because otherwise you’re just asking to be raped. How DARE you show skin? And if you do, how do you expect the man to control his sexual urges?? Poor diddums!

Then, we shall make ‘historical’ reference points to outline what exactly we define as modesty. Draupadi, Sita, Parvati, Sati, whatever mythological woman was the most subservient is automatically the most modest.

Indian men (and again, I do not mean educated Indian men – I mean the ones who lean on their bicycles/motorcycles by the side of the street, wearing their ‘Dabang’ glasses, thinking they have all the swagger in the world) seem to consider ogling a birthright, something that they just do. Then you have this man proving it’s not just your average cheapo who does it. And he’s wonderfully shameless about it, too.

Tie this in with our leftover white supremacist ideals and our obsession with whiteness in general, which have seeped so far into the cracks of our broken society that they have become part of its very foundation (and are proved, time and time again, by the staggering sales of fairness creams and bleach, or even the sheer volume of advertisements you see about them on the television), and you get an increasing spate of crimes against foreign tourists, who from what I gather are looked upon as ‘itummm’. While I was writing the article, this happened and it is terrifying. I think I might have done much the same.

Victim-blaming is a lovely, lovely pastime of (in increasing order of the gravity of how stupid this is) the people, the law and the upholders of the law.  First you have idiots like Mr. Venu on Facebook, blaming the girls and asking them to ‘look at what dress ur wearin’, an idiot I saw on the Times of India comment board implying Nirbhaya deserved to be raped because ‘what did she expect travelling so late wid boyfrnd’, the Swiss tourists who were told by Madhya Pradesh police ‘not to be wandering around so late’, and the Suryanelli rape case, where her tormentors, among them Rajya Sabha MP P.J Kurien, said she was ‘of age’ and the sex was consensual. In addition, THIS:

The Court order described the alleged rapes as a “willing journey of a misguided girl”, and claimed that the male accused were “guilty only of the immorality of going to a woman, who they thought was a prostitute.

Of course, this is entirely logical, because if she’s a prostitute, it’s totally okay to rape her, right? It’s not like she is providing business that SHE should conduct at her OWN discretion, right? (However, considering the level to which trafficking goes on in this country, this is an article I would like to save for later.)

The JUDGE in that case, a man named Mr. R. Basant had  said “The girl is not normal, she is deviant. All these are there in the judgment”.

First off – even if she was a prostitute (which I sincerely doubt), that gives nobody the right to rape.

Second, considering legalese is supposed to be extremely accurate, with no room for any ambiguity whatsoever, I wonder if there is any way for Judge Basant to explain the word ‘deviant’. Perhaps he means what the collective Indian male I mentioned earlier believes. ‘Immodest’.

There can be all sorts of banter about laws being changed, anti-rape law this, anti-rape law that, anti-rape anything. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to this. We have to, as a society, bring up men that do not think of themselves as a superior being or species, but just a homo sapien that happens to have a penis. It is a fleshy, vascular appendage. Not a Golden Excalibur between your legs that you draw out to proclaim your kingship.

We need to stop calling the cheap morons by the street Roadside Romeos, although I quite approve of the name if it involves them ingesting poison of some sort.

Dear 19-year-old guy at my gym, this means that when you ask my friend “Why do you cook your own dinner, aren’t you married? Doesn’t your wife cook for you?”, or “You change your daughter’s diapers??”,  you are part of the problem. The very, very big problem. The law may precipitate the problem, but the problem is your mindset, and that of a billion others, not all of them men.  The problem is that these people need to be taught something that most of the civilised world has been aware of for a long, long, long time.

Gender equality.

New Delhi, Rape Central

New Delhi, Rape by Anu

It’s something I’ve said before, and it’s something I will say again. New Delhi needs to be rechristened Rape Delhi or something to that effect. In Uganda, rape is a war crime. In New Delhi, I wonder if it is even a crime anymore.  If you’re Indian/living in India, sipping your morning coffee and reading the paper, and you see ‘Rape in New Delhi’, more than likely you will be angry but not particularly surprised.  Saying somebody was raped in New Delhi is like saying it snowed in the Arctic.  It’s something that never goes away.  It isn’t just the rape capital of India, it might as well be the rape capital of the world.

India is still, sadly, largely patriarchal.  We’re at the end of 2012 and still attempting to break stereotypes that belonged in the Middle Ages, that everywhere else in the world disappeared at the turn of, I don’t know, the 19th century. And we’re not even doing a very good job.  Browse any online newspaper and the comment boards will be chock-full of misogynistic rubbish that somehow blame the victim, for reasons made up by the commenters, reasons that make rational sense to them and them alone. Reasons like, the rapist ‘lost control’, the girl was ‘skimpily dressed’, or a lot of other comments that somehow imply the victim had it coming. The kind of comments that make you want to throw these morons against a wall and beat the living daylights out of them. (And I’m not even a violent person.)

For those of you who are as yet unfamiliar with what happened – a 23- year old girl caught a Dwarka-Delhi bus with a friend after watching a film. The people on that bus beat her up, gangraped her in the bus driver’s cabin, nearly pulverised her, then her friend for attempting to protect her, and then threw the girl out of the moving bus.  In spite of the fact that the bus passed FIVE police checkpoints, nobody stopped it or even bothered to look.

It’s something that sends chills down your spine wherever in the world you are, chills and utter shame when it happens in your own backyard.

I’ve written time and time and time again about my absolute lack of faith in the Indian judicial system in general, and that continues. But New Delhi/NCR policemen are a whole new level of foul, disgusting, bottom-feeding dirt that do not even deserve to live, let alone have any power.

If a girl is raped, their first thought is not, oddly, “How do we catch these men and what do we do to them?” It is “What was the time when the girl was raped?” If it was nighttime, that is their rationale for justifying said rape, because ‘what is a woman doing out so late at night?’.    “What was she wearing?” Because if she was skimpily dressed, of course she’s to blame, she might as well be holding a sign that says ‘do me now, I want you inside me,  violate me completely’.  Or that it ‘was consensual, but these guys just get violent halfway through so the girls call it rape’.  Because that’s completely logical, obviously.

For other reasons our cops and politicians think rapes happen, click here.

It’s not just them though, lots of people somehow seem to think if a woman dresses as she wishes, drinks, parties, or basically has any will of her own, she is a ‘loose’ ‘slut’, and I don’t know what either of those two terms mean. Basically, according to them, said woman is trying to be a man, which is unacceptable, women to them are supposed to be beings that are there to stay around till you feel like marrying one, then mop your floors and make you food and tea, show off to your wife, and put your penis in as and when you feel like, following which, if and only if you deign to choose, she will carry your seed, which is hopefully a male. (This is exactly how the brain of your average misogynistic MCP Indian man functions.)  Women are not meant to be just regular human beings with different genitalia from men, they are not supposed to have their own desires, wants and needs, unless aforementioned needs include ‘staying a virgin for marriage’, ‘looking for a boy’, and, oh, ‘marriage’. And whatever they think marriage entails, which they think, for the most part, is access to sex as and when you want it.

Why am I talking about these people? Because it is precisely this sort of mindset that gives rise to hordes of utter idiots who do not respect women, or even other human beings, which is another thing New Delhi is notorious for (like this guy, who shot a toll booth attendant because he didn’t want to pay).

The moment you believe men are the only acceptable species of human, the species that should hold power, and women are not homo sapiens, but just some sort of instrument that is there , you have morons like these. This sort of backward ideal of the woman being unequal, a sad little being that depends on a man for everything, including to give her life meaning, (which of course it has none of otherwise),  is not something I see changing any time soon, simply because there are both women and men out there who believe in it and are watching it propagated through pathetic TV shows that are on Indian television all the livelong day. [An aside: One of said TV shows includes, to my knowledge, a woman whose husband cheated on her, left her for another woman whom he later married, and she still keeps a photograph of him on the mantelpiece and gazes at it lovingly. (Saw all that in a promo.)]

That, to me, is one of the root causes of stuff like this. The simple fact that we’re not moving forward from patriarchy, misogyny, from the idea that the man (and not man, but the homo sapien with a penis and testicles) is an ultimate being and all else is his kingdom to do with as he pleases. Instead of TV shows (which are a prime way of reaching out to the bulk of our population across every socio-economic level, because watching TV is something everybody does) that are about women being married off, looking for a husband, looking for marriage, and only that sort of thing, maybe there could be shows about women looking for careers, looking to make their own choices, doing something with their lives.  Sadly, as I type this, I see a promo for a new show about a girl looking to have a “Karan Johar-style ‘sasural'” to marry into. It cuts to a shot of the girl serving a boyand his family tea, and the boy then saying “Oh, nothing beats mum’s tea”.  Incidentally, the girl in said promo looks to be about 15, 16 years old at the time of her pining for a ‘fancy sasural’.

I have made no secret of my absolute hatred towards arranged marriage, which is a term that makes me go into Hulk Smash mode. Really. It brings up bile and vomit and possibly stomach acid, because the ideas behind it are disgusting and outdated. I have also written about my feelings regarding arranged marriage at length before. That ad highlights a few of these reasons. The whole idea of marrying not a person, but a family. The idea that you need marriage to be a ‘complete person’, whatever the hell that is. The idea that you have to serve someone tea (if you want tea, you better get it yourself), the idea that a girl must serve tea to a groom-to-be, and the idiot groom, whose mother’s apron strings might as well be his damn umbilical cord, has to comment.

Nearly EVERY socio-economic stratum and sector in Indian society has access to television. And not just television – satellite television.  How do I know this? Drive past a chawl (for non-Indian readers, that’s an Indian ghetto), slum, makeshift set of homes, even a construction labourer’s tinfoil-and-asbestos home and you will find a satellite dish hoisted atop it.

Clearly, we have data that will prove how much of our population has access to TV. More people nationwide have access to (and by access, I also imply an understanding of) television, more so than newspapers because a large chunk of our population is also completely illiterate.

Can we not then use a tool we know is at our disposal to disseminate messages that we also know will be useful and will make an impact? Instead of using primetime cable network time to broadcast archaic TV shows that are little more than period Victorian dramas masquerading in 20 layers of makeup and Indian clothing, we could use it to get people OUT of a mental rut instead of digging them deeper into it.

But we can’t seem to.

The second big issue is the fact that there is absolutely no fear of retribution among these people. They know that with money and connections, or either one of those two, they will get off scot-free, untouched, and free to roam the streets like the pathetic sewer-rat vermin they are and commit as many crimes as they please. Nobody will touch them, if they know the right minister, cop, have a rich uncle, aunt, mum or dad, or are rolling in money themselves.
Actually, scratch that. No matter what socio-economic background you come from, rape is part of a completely messed up, life-sized game of Monopoly that seems to come with a ‘get out of Jail free’ card.  Which is exactly what they do, if they even find themselves in prison to begin with.

Our legal system is absolutely pathetic. It takes at least four years to even BEGIN to deliver a verdict, and any verdict made in that time or less is looked upon as something wondrous, and ‘wow’. More than half the cases out there have probably been lying in files since they were registered, the only things that have seen them being silverfish, for whom it is their next meal.

Rape or divorce, who cares? It is all ALWAYS made out to be the woman’s fault. Here you can read about a Bangalore judge who asked a woman looking to divorce her husband on the grounds of domestic violence to ‘adjust’, because her husband puts food on the table. Why are abject morons like this given any power whatsoever?

People actually have lists and pointers for steps they think women should and should not take so they can ‘avoid being raped or eve-teased’. Don’t stay out at night, don’t dress in ‘skimpy clothes’, inhabit crowded areas.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rape is not about sex. It is not about so called ‘horny feelings’ or these men’s ‘lack of access to sex’. It is not about cellphones, chowmein, interaction, or the age of marriage. It is about disgusting, feckless criminal assholes who think they can have their way, and in New Delhi, end up doing so.

I also abhor the nomenclature of rape by the news media. Why must rape be described as ‘VIOLATING MODESTY’? Is a girl’s virginity her so-called modesty? I am well aware we live in a disgusting, completely backward society that in Twenty-blooming-twelve (and now thirteen)  that seems to prize a girl’s virginity, look to it as an indicator of her virtue, grace, her purity, her brilliance, and of course that all-important criterion, her success as a wife and human being, which of course are not mutually exclusive. India is one of the few countries where you still hear of rape victims being married off to their rapists. Why? Because the rapist ‘deflowered’ them, and since he has already taken her, er, ‘modesty’, he might as well KEEP it.

UGH.

But must so called modern media, media looking to erase this sort of retrograde ideal, promote it, on whatever level? Rape is not a ‘theft’ of anything. It is not a violation of a woman’s modesty. It is, however, a violation of her as a human being, which is the same as it would be if it were a man. It is a violation of her right to exist peacefully. It is a violation of justice to allow scum like this to roam the earth unfettered, swaggering around without any fear of punishment.

Violence has never been something I have condoned, but every time I read about a rape case in New Delhi (which is to say, every day), I keep thinking taking some sort of harsh, yes, violent action against these lowlifes, these sorry excuses for human beings might be effective,  at least at instilling some sort of fear within them, something that seems insofar to be nonexistent. Considering that these same men seem to think rape proves their ‘masculinity’, I suggest doing away with their genitals, which would have the added benefit of ensuring trash like that never reproduces, ever.  We won’t also have commenters like this guy I saw on the Times of India online comment board, pity I can’t find a permalink anymore:

” zahoor ahmed (bambayi) 1 min ago
why so much hype on this gang rape?the girl was roaming around in late night with a boy…what else one can expect? ”

We don’t need to be leaving women tips about how to take care of themselves, we need to be weeding out crappy human beings from functioning society (if you can even call it that, really).

And to all those morons, everywhere, talking about people’s ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ and ‘how would the rapists like it if it were their mother or sister’, or ‘rape the rapists’ mothers and sisters’, WHY all the “mother-sister” talk? Are you not supposed to respect a woman otherwise? I suppose it’s telling that the two most insulting words in hindi have to do with screwing somebody’s mother or sister. Because if they aren’t, you’re free to do what you’d like, right?

We need to change the way we think (and by we, I mean a nation). We can all sit and wonder from what rat-infested corner of hell  people like those rapists are born. And you know where? Right here.They’re all born right here. Right under our noses.

Ji Mantri Ji

MotherIndiabyAnu

Sadly, this is not about that wondrous Hindi version of Yes Minister, the one that starred Farooque Sheikh in the role originated by Paul Eddington.  No, it is about our lovely MLAs and the lovely male chauvinist statements they make. They’ve made so many, and such brilliant ones this past month, that I thought there should be a commemmorative.

Reading in the news that there was a rape somewhere in India is one of those things that makes you angry, makes your blood boil, but not really something that particularly surprises you very much. Our, er, ‘mango people in a banana republic’  are certainly angered by it, but that does nothing to change the fact that

a) at least a few hundred rapes happen every day all over the country,

and

b) The law is doing absolutely nothing about it.

All you hear about most rape cases is that the ‘perpetrator was taken into custody, and an FIR filed.’  Nobody knows what ensues, but evidently, the law fails to run its course – if it did, at least some rapists would be discouraged. That is,of course, the whole idea of punishment  – to be a deterrent. It has clearly failed, because corruption means that a certain, agreed-upon amount can get you off scot free.

Haryana might as well be the rape capital of the world.  Log on to ANY Indian news website, and you will see at least 10 cases of rape, attempted rape, molestation, some sort of sexual crime or the other, every single day. Which is kind of ironic, seeing as we claim, as a’culture’, to think that sex is ‘gross’, ‘disgusting’, everything that is wrong with the world, and imbibed from that nebulous but iconic Godzilla-like monster Indians like to call ‘Western Culture‘, which is related to all things sex, which we shouldn’t talk about. Tauba tauba.

Haryana is extra special in that regard, as are its MLAs for whom misogyny seems to be a standing requirement, as does having as low an IQ as possible. This is evident every time they open those ugly, shit-spewing orifices of theirs. First, watch culprit number one, Haryana Pradesh Congress committee member Dharamvir Goyat:

Translation: ” I have no hesitation in saying about this matter that 90% of  girls go willingly, but end up meeting ‘criminal-minded people’ who are just victims of lust.  The girl does not know that further there are five, seven, ten… 90 per cent of girls go with complete consent and end up meeting criminals. This is what I would like to state clearly.”

Like all backward, woman-hating men and their statements, this guy and his eloquent banter made me absolutely blind with rage.  How is it WILLING when these hulking lumps of shit drag screaming women to dark alleys and whatnot and violate them in unspeakable ways, sometimes multiple men at a time?  When they’re mentally scarred for life and some of them even suicidal?

As for the rapists being ‘victims of lust’ – yes, poor victims. Poor victims, standing over the terrified form of a random person five or more of them have dragged in from the street, laughing and cackling away like a horrible 90s Bollywood film. Poor victims, like that piece of scum, Amar Jyoti Kalita, one of the main accused in the Guwahati Rape Case this past July, who tugged at her shirt, pulled her hair, and grinned and gurned for a camera he KNEW was recording every scene of a girl being raped in the heart of the town. Yes, poor fucking victim.

Proof that the law is utterly useless in these matters? From news coverage of the case: “The police reached the spot after half an hour and took the girl to her parents. The Assam Police has identified twelve men from the video footage, but they have only managed to arrest four so far in three days.”. It has since been three and a half months, and no news since.  [Proof that the law is useless overall? The fact that it has been a little under FIVE years since the Arushi and Hemraj murder case, and NOBODY appears to have an inkling of what actually happened.]

Let’s cut to another Haryana scenario (if I were doing this in order of stupidity, this would certainly be first).

Khap panchayat leaders blaming women for rape is pathetic and disgusting, but not really a new thing.  Awful as that is, it isn’t the stupidest thing one of them has ever said, but THIS may be:

                      “Poverty and intoxication are the main reasons for rape as well as young people sitting together the wrong way. But also eating chowmein causes a hormonal imbalance which is a big reason for rapes.”

That little nugget was brought to you courtesy Khap leader and clearly, scientist and rape expert extraordinaire, Jitender Chhataar.  I, personally, have no idea how to react to that other than to want tear my own hair out in ire.  I expect the thelawalas who sell ‘Chinese’ food want to punch him, too.

I would also very much like to know what ‘sitting the wrong way’ is. Cross-legged, one leg over the other, my ankles touching, or just like your average khap panchayat guy, legs open and crotch and balls aired to the world?

One would assume basic education should be a necessity for any leader, whatever level they may be on. Obviously education, intelligence and common sense all seem to have eluded Mr. Chataar ( and, evidently, every MLA in Haryana).

Here we have a rape-related statement from another Khap leader:

“”When asked why rapes are occuring at this scale in Haryana, Sube Singh said that movies and television are to be blamed for rapes. “I believe this is happening because our youth are being badly influenced by cinema and television. I think that girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and they don’t need to go elsewhere. This way rapes will not occur.”

According to Mr. Singh (and, I’m sorry to say, several, several other people also), rape is sexual, it’s all about the sex, the penetration, the act of intercourse, the lack of which, to them, is the root cause of rape. Also a cause of rape? Short skirts, no? It isn’t the perverted, sick criminal who is to blame, but the girl whose ‘dress is above her knees’ (seen on the TOI comment board), the ‘slut’. She is to blame for giving the rapist ‘come fuck  me’ vibes, apparently.

Here’s some news – it’s not. It’s about the power, the sick, perverted ‘happiness’ the rapist feels at finally having had his/her way, the ability to have controlled something, the exhilaration like some awful, awful drug. It’s about having violated someone and subsequently having gotten away with it, in the full knowledge that here, you can do it again, and nobody will care a damn.

Speaking of MLAs, one would expect them to have marginally more intelligence or education than your average Khap leader, and a less backward way of thinking, having grown up in more civilised, socio-economically privileged society..but no, out they come to prove that statement ridiculously wrong, in the form of Om Prakash Chautala, the former Chief Minister of Haryana (?!?!),  not for one but THREE terms. Really.

Now Mr. Chautala here compared the Khap ruling to the (clearly wonderful, not violent at all) Mughal era, and said “….During that period, people used to get their daughters married at a very early age fearing somebody will abduct them. A similar situation prevails in the state. Teenage girls are being gangraped and the government is doing nothing. I have seen young girls getting married due to this fear. In such a situation, if Khaps have suggested lowering the marriage age of girls, I think it is correct.”

Let’s process that for a moment.  Again, I cannot reiterate often enough how much I truly hate the concept of arranged marriage, which really has no place in a civilised world, but might as well be the norm here.  I have heard of several cultures within India that think of women as ‘paraya dhan’ , which translates roughly to ‘somebody else’s wealth’ – and this in 2012. The idea is that the woman, who was insofar the responsibility of one man, daddy dearest (or daddyji if you prefer) has now been, er, bequeathed, to her husband who now has to ‘take care of’ her.  Because women aren’t educated, don’t work, and something with boobs taking care of itself? Holy hell! How could that happen?  What is the solution to all of this? Marriage, DUH.

So, to the khap and Mr. Chautala, marriage = rape security because by their logic, one man ‘owns’ her and will protect her from those poor darling ‘victims of lust’.

Yet another Khap leader echoed Chautala’s sentiments, saying rape was a ‘result of boys and girls attaining puberty and their sexual needs not being fulfilled’.  That speaks volumes, and not just about Khap Man here.  A LOT of people in our country think ‘pre-marital sex’ is something awful, a penis-or-vagina shaped Tyrannosaurus Rex that threatens to engulf all of our ‘values’ and ‘culture’. And god forbid boys and girls got into relationships – that would mean the apocalypse is nigh.

Oddly enough, the one country that makes the biggest song and dance and issue about sex in general is the country with the second highest population in the world. It’s not like those children are giving birth to themselves. We have paintings and sculptures and (yes, this has been done to death) the Kama Sutra, the world’s foremost, most ancient sex manual.

But while it’s been 65 years since we gained independence, we seem to have been stuck with Victorian ideals while the rest of the world has moved far ahead.

Case in point: this guy, who thinks women should not have cellular phones because they will ‘get distracted’, and one of our most esteemed politicians, the CM of West Bengal, according to whom rapes are on the rise because “men and women are interacting more freely….. …. It’s like an open market with open options.”

I’m going to leave that one open to the world to take apart, because I have no idea what to say.

India is slowly becoming a Talibanesque society with regard to women, but with crazier leaders,  leaders who seem to be in competition with one another and the Taliban themselves for the title of ‘most regressive ideals ever’, leaders who neither deserve nor have any idea how to use the power they have.

If these leaders have their way, we will be there sooner than we think; and we’re already there in some ways, because you can be arrested for having an opinion and wanting to show it, even if it IS in a cartoon or three. Or you can be thrown in the slammer because somebody up there doesn’t like you, or what you did.

There are lots of horribly retrograde ideals held exclusively by these mindless mantris, ones most Indians protest, but there are also others, fundamentally ingrained into our society somehow, that need to be worked upon, one at a time, as does our legal system, which needs to be effective – is the whole idea of punishment not that criminals, current and potential, are deterred from committing crimes? If there is no fear of retribution or punishment (which is currently the case), they may as well have their own free rein.

In the meantime, these idiots need to be held accountable for what they say and do – being a politician should no longer equate to being above the law.

Having seen a fair number of Indians protesting against this backwardness, I sincerely hope we’ve got somewhere to start from, so we can live in a country where it is the rapists who feel guilty and are punished- not their victims. Not one that thinks women are a different, highly inferior species of being, not a human with equal rights.
Changing those ideals in what has been a largely patriarchal society will take a lot of time and effort, but we’ve got to start somewhere, and the start is always, always with education, whether at home, at school, or as a nation.

Whose Genitals are They Anyway?

This evening, on my usual trawl of the internet, I came upon an article and some lovely animation, a trailer for a documentary called Centrefold, by two filmmakers named  Ellie Land and Siobhan Fenton, and sponsored by the Wellcome Trust:

It certainly isn’t a new thing, and neither are a LOT of surgeries related to female genitalia. There are labiaplasties, vaginoplasties, hymenoplasties and probably a handful of others I’ve never even heard of.

In India and other South-East Asian countries, hymenoplasties are said to be the ‘bestsellers’ of the plastic surgery world – specifically because of their obsessively patriarchal, misogynistic societies that somehow put a value on a woman’s purity and virtue by her virginity, or lack thereof.

I have written and ranted excessively about how disgusting, archaic and retrograde I find the entire concept of ‘arranged marriage’, [because, yeah, instead of being in love and in a relationship and knowing somebody, let’s just look through a bunch of photos and a CV of sorts to decide with whom who you must have sex and spend the rest of your life, BRILLIANT!]  but the fact of the matter is that it continues to happen. Somehow, the people entering these marriages seem to think somebody else’s past is their business.I cannot locate an online version, but I read an article in last Saturday’s edition of a local paper about men ‘breaking off marriages’ with women after ‘finding out their past on Facebook’. The writer also very kindly mentioned in his closing paragraph how ‘women who are looking to get married, beware of what you post online’.

There seems, somehow, to be a price on a woman’s virginity here, something that people think needs to be preserved, as some sort of gift to a man. People have varying views on the whole virginity issue, but in my humble opinion, if you are mentally and physically ready (read – not an underage, pre-pubescent young child looking to have some sort of cool ‘experience’), it is nobody else’s business who you sleep with and why. It does not matter whether you are in a relationship with this person or not.   By all means, if you are not in a monogamous relationship with somebody else, and neither is your sexual partner, do what you may.

Nobody has any right to call you anything – a slut, a hussy, or if you’re a guy, a ‘man-slut’ or a ‘man-whore’ or any of the many eloquent terms people come up with. It does not matter if it’s a ‘one-night stand’, a ‘two-night stand’, or a ‘one-hour stand’ even.
If you want to wait until you’re married to somebody you love and then have sex with them, that is, again, your own business and nobody else’s – this only holds true, however, as long as the views are your own, and not some ideal society has somehow indocrinated into your head or conditioned you to believe.

Sadly, in these cultures, it is not just the men who believe the women they are going to marry need to be, um, pure. The women do, too:


Why should it ‘soil her married life’???

Not sure what is sadder here, the girl’s attitude or that the man answering these queries calls himself a ‘sexpert’ – he has also advised homosexual people to ‘get married if you think you can satisfy a woman’. ‘Expert’ advice indeed, good sir.

That was just one small example of genital surgery, which in itself is not really ‘small’ at all. The latest craze on the block is labiaplasty – as the name suggests, it is surgery to improve the appearance of your labia. What they essentially do is chop off the skin you think is ‘extra’.

There are women who have genuine congenital defects, like problems with their uteri, fallopian tubes,vaginas – issues that affect their reproductive systems and/or general health. Most women who opt for labiaplasties, however, do not fall into this category – instead, they do it to “enhance the beauty of their vulvo-vaginal complexes.”

These women are unhappy with the way their bodies look, which is not exactly a new thing. Entire industries run on insecurities – cosmetic industries, clothing industries, food industries, slimming products (I could go on and on and on).

Women in India are told their skin is not ‘light enough’, and I’m very, very sure that India is the world’s BIGGEST market for fairness creams – check out my entry on those at this link.

The focus is always on female appearances, and less about the internal workings of anything at all – more than half the adverts out there for weight loss involve liposuction and/or some sort of invasive or non invasive surgery, body sculpting, fancy lasers or whatever the hell they use, or crash dieting.  If you really ARE overweight, it is less about dropping ‘x’ dress sizes or inches and more about being healthy, which is less about having a tiny waist and more about having the stamina to exercise, and not having the cholestrol clogging your arteries as thick as the Berlin Wall (and they demolished that). It’s about feeling strong and energetic and generally being able to function better. If you feel like your looks matter to you and they’ve improved, good for you, added bonus.

Except the priority is ALWAYS how it looks and not how it works.  Suddenly, the focus seems to have shifted from beaten-to-death body parts like faces and tummies and ‘stumpy legs’ and ‘saggy breasts’ (those products will be around as long as humankind is), and is now on genitals.

A recent ad in India advertised a feminine hygiene wash, which for Indian markets is a rarity. Vagisil and Summer’s Eve are two products I have never seen on Indian shelves. Lubricant, too. Come to think of it, there’s only the one brand of tampon sold, too. I’d love to know if this is an economics/import issue (which I sincerely doubt, as I see all sorts of products imported from all over the world in stores two minutes down my street), or just the fact that India seems to have an issue with anything sexual. (Because our 1.2 billion strong population got there without the assistance of any sexual organs whatsoever.)

The latest craze is having your labia snipped and stitched to your specifications. After all the images of the Klums and Bundchens and Kerrs and Crawfords with their flat stomachs and gravity-defying breasts, our attention must now be focused on the women in porn, the women who are supposed to be our ‘ideal’ for what our genitalia look like. Whatever you do not possess naturally, a surgeon can give you, no?

It’s not about how the sex is, or whether they’re affecting your health, but only that they do not ‘look right’.

Just in case there was an insecurity that wasn’t already being preyed upon, we’ve got a new one. There is a problem with your bits, ladies. Unlike the men, who are told their bits are not ‘big enough’, we’re told ours are too big!

Don’t you shudder to think what might happen if you don’t have ‘perfect looking genitals’, whatever those are? You might not look like a woman on the centrefold of a men’s magazine.

You might actually be with somebody who cares about you for YOU, and not what your nether regions look like.

Who wants that, though?

Of course, this also has to be hairless. We must subject ourselves to hot wax and lasers or any other way is there to get rid of it because being natural is absolutely terrible. (And a million other reasons I will delve into – they deserve an entry all their own.)

So on one hand, there are young girls and women all over the Middle East and Africa, and some immigrant tribes around the world, who are forced to undergo various degrees of genital mutilation, the most common of which is also by far one of the most gruesome, depressing, inhumane things I have ever read :

Type III mutilation involves  removal of all or part of the inner and outer labia, and usually the clitoris, and the fusion of the wound, leaving a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood—the fused wound is opened for intercourse and childbirth.

On the other hand, there are women who will pay through their noses to voluntarily have this done, in their quest for a ‘designer vagina’.

Meanwhile, I (and several others) are still waiting for a world where people are identified for who they are, and not the genitals they possess, irrespective of their shape or size.

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