Tag Archives: Feminism

I’m sorry but I am not into Golden Age Thinking.

Three years ago, I was convinced that the perfect time for me to be born was the late 1950s, in America, where my parents were probably friends with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S Boroughs. I wanted to be a daughter of the Beats, and grow up and go to college in the 70s, so I could be a part of the First Wave Feminist Movement, and against the Vietnam War, and a bunch of other liberal political movements.

A couple of years before that, I wanted to be born in Edwardian England- Victorian Mannerisms were oh so charming, and a Darcy was definitely waiting to be introduced to my wit and intellect. Ah, such sweet, naive dreams.

Today, I realize, that I’m okay, the way I am- not as a person, but as a product of my time. The future is cooler than the past.

We are talking about Social Justice, but now in an inclusive manner. We are talking about Feminism, but Intersectionality is understood and valued. We are talking about so many different issues, about what the Government needs to be and do- about what is right, and whose right it is, and what is wrong, and is it really wrong?

We have made some excellent Scientific Breakthroughs, and I don’t just mean gadgets, I also mean Psychology, and History, and all the other Social Sciences. I also mean how some of us understand that if a particular group of people do terribly in a test, it is the test’s fault for not being inclusive (Culture Fair Tests), and not that the group is inherently inferior

We, as a species are better off today than we were before, especially in terms of violence– one of the most taken for granted myths is about how violence is increasing (but also, as I have argued before, are good enough?) And as far as I can see, we will only get better. We will talk about our collective conscience, and try to be as woke as posible, and come off better, on an average. For example, do you think the Pepsi Debacle would have infuriated so many people even a decade ago?

I was also a hardbound-second hand, classica kind of person a couple of years ago. But today, I am a Kindle person. You may say I’m a shitty person and technology is shit, etc., but it’s also so much cheaper, in the long run. If, like me, you read mainly during your daily commute, Kindle is really the answer. It’s so light weight, compared to a book, for one. Second, to co-passengers (and to yourslef), it is not annoying (Context: I live in Bombay, and the local trains here are so crowded, you’ll have someone’s armpits on your face all the damn time, and when you try to turn your page, you poke someone else, yes, but also your arms can’t move much. A Kindle only requires me to lightly touch it.) The Kindle has also helped me increase my speed of reading- so much so that what I read in a year a couple of years back, today, I read in a couple of months. I could go on, but this post is not about Kindle. You can say whatever you what about the touch and feel of a physical book, but technology is much much more practical. I mean, would you write all your assignments by hand than through a computer, because it feels nice? No, right? Letters feel amazing, but texting is just more efficient.

Everything is simply better now than before. The “old fashioned way” is simply not charming, or perfect. For example, monogamy is new. If you want to say romance is dead, by all means go ahead. But people have cheated on their partners since time immemorial. So what monogamy? What “romantic”? The idea of “staying in a relationship no matter what” is ridiculous, for example. Do you know what this no matter what implied? Abuse. Cheating. Toxicity. Thank God, I have the option of not staying in the relationship if it’s harming me in anyway. People are getting divorced now because now we have choice in moving away from abuse, now we have that option of opting out. We don’t need to be in a long marriage if we don’t want to.

Sometimes, like right now, I do wish I were in the Roaring Twenties so I could figure out Zelda Fitzgerald, and go to Jazz Clubs, and be a Flapper. But then I think, fuck, Hitler is gaining power somewhere and Europe is invading a thousand countries somewhere,and next decade is going to be The Great Depression. All this only if I were White and relatively privileged. If not, I’m fucked anyway. Also, my husband (I’d have a husband by now, or I’m an old maid) would have returned from war and is most definitely lost.

Thank God I have a phone and a blog to vent into. Thank God things get better in the future. I can’t wait for it!

P.S. If you are reading this, what do you think? I really want to know. Do you agree with me, or do you not? Why?

P. P. S- Y’all should read Better Angels of our Nature, and watch Midnight in Paris (I know I hate Woody Allen too, but that movie is my absolute favourite).

P.P.P.S- I know most of these examples are from WEIRD populations, but I couldn’t find examples that I was very familiar with from others. I have tried, though, but just not my best. I apologize.

P.P.P.P.S- It feels really great to be blogging long form + opinions on this site again. I’ve been blogging (setting up and trying hard to create content) on my Poetry Blog, where I’m doing NaPoWriMo currently. If you have been following me for long, you’ll know my earlier struggle with writing poetry. But now I’m trying extra hard you guys. Please check it out too. 

Reading The Handmaid’s Tale in a Dystopian World

I have never enjoyed reading dystopian fiction much. Everything seems broodish, and sad, and even though they are stories of a reincarnated world, they are dark and honestly, terrifying.
I remember going into a reading slump after 1984, for example.

I’d heard vaguely of The Handmaid’s Tale. But it was never on my Goodreads Want to Read list. I never actively seeked it out or planned to read it. But somehow I did, at a whim.
I regret reading it.

Whether it be Offred’s mother being a protesting Feminist, who rallied for equal rights and everything a 70s Feminist rallied for, or it be Moira being everything that she was, or it be Offred taking things for granted- inheriting a world her mother had struggled to create, or it be Luke, who was frustratingly passive about everything and Offred supporting it nevertheless because “love”, every string of the story hit me hard.
I really shouldn’t have read it.

The story seems the farthest from fiction, if there ever was one. In the current political climate of Men’s Rights Activism, and Who Wore it Better?, and Good Girls don’ts, and Rape Muslim Women, and Grab ‘Em by the Pussy and Give Him a Chance, and Boys will be Boys, I don’t know whom to trust to bring about change.

I know Steven Pinker tells me we are better off than we ever were in the h eistory of humanity. I know game theory and evolutionary biology tells me the story of evolution of cooperation – how it is a non zero sum game- everyone is better off when we cooperate. I believe in that too. Of course, I do. And of course we’re better off than we were before. But we’re not quite there yet, are we? And we need to be. We need to create a world in which equality is the status quo. Respect for everybody. Is that really too much to ask for? Is it really not the most fundamental thing to aspire for? So we can all quote statistics about how we’re better off, and thank God for that. But we need to aspire higher.
The more I realize this, the more I think that I shouldn’t have read it.

I shouldn’t have read Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, because it’s too real. I wonder who will stand up for me if I go through it. I think all the men I personally know might just allow it. It’s the way it is. What to do?, they’ll all say. Ignorant is not the same as ignoring, but I think ignoring is much worse, and I think a lot of the boys I know will ignore. As they are doing now. Give this a chance, they’ll say. This way is better. “Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some.” Right?

I shouldn’t have read the book because it makes me realise that the revolution I thought is coming is far, far away. I might not even be alive. And the temporal distance is scary. The princess may not be able to save herself in this one. Because she’s blinkered away and there are systems in place to keep her blinkered, and to keep her silent. And if such a time comes, there is not going to be someone to stop it.

I see Luke, and The Commander, and Aunt Lydias in this world. I know one of each in my world, and I keep wondering what I have been thinking of since I know of these things– Why aren’t we standing up against it, even now? After all this time?

Shares of the Pie: The Sexist World We Live In

What is it about being a woman that you’re proud of?

It was a Counseling Psychology class, where this question was posed to us. They called the module Counseling Diverse Populations. We got a range of responses, some saying they like the fact that they could wear pretty clothes and others saying they wouldn’t form their identity based on gender roles. What was it that made me proud of being a woman? While I was trying to understand how to respond to this question for class, I thought of feminism discourses that I’d so frequently engaged in- with my parents, friends, and other relatives. How was I, as a woman, different from my male counter-parts? And how much of it was based on only the fact that I was a woman?

Growing up with only a sister for a sibling, both of us were never had to question gender differences. Perhaps, giving every need and luxury was only based on what we required and earned never taught us much about feminism. And as over-achieving children, we never had to question if we were better than the boys in our classes. We knew we were better, and the only differences were where we were seated in class. Nobody dared tell me, in my elementary or middle school that I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl. And I wasn’t barred from having a fair share of guy friends, with whom I was as comfortable as I was with my girl friends. The only time we hung out seperately was during P.E., and that was because I, for one, hated sports.

It was during high school, when I’d moved cities that such differences were highlighted. It was a bigger city-a metro. You’d expect people to be more egalitarian, but they were not. There was a (friendly?) sense of competitiveness for just about everything- who got to use the better computers, who would be group leaders, who should do the homework, so we could copy it off?
Girls are better and Boys are better war-cries were everyday incidents. Girls did the artsy-craftsy things, while guys played sport. Girls sang and danced, while guys played sport. Girls volunteered to do elocutions and debates, while guys would volunteer, at most, for science exhibitions. And let’s not even begin to talk about the teachers! A particular female professor exhibited blatant sexism even while teaching! She would look only at the boys’ rows while lecturing, with her back towards the girls! She would only encourage boys’ doubts, while shushing the girls! And she would frown and yell at the girls, while happily pulling guys’ cheek and shuffling their hair. She would even give them more marks than the girls, for the exact answers. Once, she even blatantly declared something along the lines of Of course! Why would I tell them anything? Girls are good only at gossiping. Another teacher, this time a male, would joke around only with guys, and give them more marks. And to think these people were supposed to be role models!

The other day, my sister (who’s now in the same high school that I went to) was annoyed at yet another sexist rule the school had exercised. They had decided that only boys will be made the President and the Vice President (the top two positions) of the student body, regardless of the number of votes, while girls will only get to be the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. Thus, the face of the school in all inter-school competitions and events would be a boy, by default. My sister was furious about this, because she was close friends with both the guy and the girl who were the President and the Prime Minister, and was of the opinion that the girl definitely deserved the title much more than the guy (and when I am in Class 11, and allowed to stand for the elections, I will definitely protest)

When I finally moved on to college, I found a worse kind of differentiation. In my class of 110 students, only 10 were guys! Over the next couple of months we found out that there were more guys (maybe 15 to our 10) in the class which had Math as an elective, while those classes which were dedicated to the Science stream (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and the other hard science subjects; as opposed to our Arts Stream, consisting of Psychology, Sociology, History and the other Social Sciences/Humanities subjects).

One of the papers I took in college was Economics, which had 75% of the guys in our batch. The class consisted of an approximate 60:40 ratio, which was a huge achievement considering the fact that my other paper was Psychology, and we hardly had, again 10 guys in a class of 120. By the time we entered our final year of college, there was no guy wanting to major in Psychology, and most of the 75% in the Econ class chose Econ as their major.

On the other hand, my friends over at the various Engineering Colleges across the country cribbed about not having girls in their class. Some of them said in a class of 800, an odd 75 were girls, and most of them specializing in Computer Science (and the good looking ones, to their dismay, either committed or swung the other way, but I’m swinging dangerously away from the point).

For those who are Statistics-averse, this means bad news! Not only are we exercising inequality in the way women are treated in general, but also in the kind of careers they choose! Like they say in the movie 3 Idiots, If a boy is born, he’ll be an engineer, and if it’s a girl, we’ll make her a doctor! Not only are those poor sods opinionless in what kind of careers they get to choose, the careers are tailored for their gender!

So when in a Counselling Psychology class, they taught us about Counselling for the Female population, it pissed me off. I do not understand why Females are considered a ‘Diverse’ Population. Was Therapy only meant for men? (Definitely not!) Why couldn’t we look at Females and Males as not seperate from each other and treat them with the same levels of empathy, and unconditional positive regard? Why is there that need to seperate on the one discipline that urges you to see your client on the same level as you and everyone else- the one that propogates equality?

They say the reason why patriarchy is so irresistible for men and feminism as a movement is like a slap in their faces. This is explained through the following analogy:

Imagine the resources and freedom and every other thing in the world as a pie. Traditionally, the pie was divided as 70:30 in favor of men. So, of the 10 pieces, the boy child in the house got 7 pieces, while the girl child got only 3. Now, as the girl started understanding the unfairness of the situation, she started demanding an equal share of the pie. The next time, the boy got only 6 pieces, while the girl got 4. The boy suddenly noticed that he’s getting 1 piece less as compared to what he was getting earlier. And hence, he lashed out against the girl for stealing what was rightfully his own.

So, apart from the issue of fragility of a man’s ego and other such complex issues, the backlash for feminism can be understood as because of a simple reason. It is rooted in men getting lesser shares of the pie, and not in women getting a larger share.

Sexism isn’t only about if women are in a purdah, or are raped by the minute, or how it’s unsafe for them to get out of their house after dark. It is about how everyone gives them a questioning look if they wear short shorts, or their boyfriends get them pink teddies on their one month anniversary. It isn’t just about gender-specific jobs, and glass ceilings; it is also about the classes they are allowed to be interested in, and excel in. It isn’t just about a GI Joe vs a Barbie debate, it is about how the infant girl’s nursery is painted pink and that of the boy is blue. It isn’t just about infanticide or foeticide; it is how much nutrition the mother gets after knowing it is a girl, rather than a boy.

Do you also see other kinds of discrimination around you? Do you disagree with the points I have to make? Let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to hear what you guys see in your communities!

This post has been evolving since February, 2015. That probably explains the inconsistency, if you may find any
Twitter: @WallflowerBlack