Category Archives: Feminism

>A boy is more desirable than a child?

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There are some people who still do the things people used to do 15-20 years ago. Like visit a relative during a vacation. So, a bunch of five distant relatives from Punjab landed up at our place in the middle of April, to spend a week ‘holidaying’ in Lucknow (which, if you ask me, is an oxymoron, but they obviously didn’t think that). And honestly, they were quite a fun-loving group of people, very Punjabi in spirit, if you know what I mean, and not much of a bother.
One of the days, as was expected, the topic veered to kids and having some of your own. I understand the elders’ urgency to see us with a child, but when the child they want to see is a ‘son’, I get really irritated. Bless us with a child, if that’s the most important thing for you, but don’t wish at the same time for that child  to be a boy. But I was given the gyan that sons are must-haves, that life with daughters isn’t bad, that we bring up our daughters better than our sons and all of that, but that sons are what everyone looks forward to. That when you get old, your sons and their wives and their children make up your world. That daughters go away and are never to their parents what sons can be.
I tried telling them that my parents – parents of two girls – lived alone, but were not lonely. I tried to tell them that sons also go away – to study, to work. That often, sons turn their parents out of the house, and daughters take care of them. That girls were just as good. But how could the 50-year-olds believe that when a girl half their age refused to believe me. And that’s what appals me the most.
This girl, all of 25, mother to a 2-year-old girl, said emphatically that while some accept it openly, others don’t, the truth is everyone wants a son. And she’s not too wrong. In her worldview, that’s how people would be. But I could just stare at her. How will this world change if the mothers of a generation that’s in the making believe in something so totally redundant? These are educated people we are talking about – people who travel, who watch the news, who read, who are ostensibly aware. If they set so much store by a boy, what will our world turn out to be? Will our daughters grow up and fight the same mindsets we have to? I’m already impatient with a world that doesn’t understand that my gender does not make me less of a person; and to think we will go through all of this 25 years hence too, makes me livid!
It’s appalling also because in all my life I never heard my parents say anything like this. In fact, my grandmother, who belonged to a time when it wasn’t considered improper to wish for a boy, never let us feel that boys were more desirable as children than girls. I think she’s didn’t believe that either. My mom never forgets to tell us that while relatives would take upon themselves the duty to counsel my mother about perhaps trying for a third child, in the hope of a boy, my grandmother never expressed such a wish. How then can a 25-year-old living in this day and age think that sons are indispensable? Like me, she’s also one of two daughters. But probably, she was conditioned to believe that her parents would have been better off had they a son to support them in old age.
I sometimes try and think as objectively as the matter lets me, whether there is any justification for such a thought process. And I find none that’s convincing enough. Things like carrying the family name forward, or inheriting the family business – things that will happen once you’re dead – how can that be of concern to you when you’re alive? I mean, you want a son because you want the world to be what you’ve imagined it to be after you’re dead? How pathetic!
I don’t think men are unimportant. I’m not a man-hater by any chance. But I don’t think sons are important. Or more important than daughters.
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>Too Strong a Woman for a Man to Want

>If breaking stereotypes is a sin, I must be Devil’s child. So when Goofy tagged me to enumerate all My Sins against Gender Stereotypes, I thought I’d fill reams and reams of pages. However, when I did get down to writing them out, I realised there was something I had already written that made perfect sense to re-post now, with a little tweaking. Here goes:

Too strong a woman for a man to want,
The woman, they say, who wears the pants at home.
I ain’t coy and I ain’t shy,
And I won’t wait for life to pass me by.
I love my work and would rather be
In my office, than at home counting the laundry.
I can think faster than the man next to me,
Won’t ask him for some silly little pocket money.
And because I’m married and don’t have children yet
Must mean my that husband is henpecked?
And because I have an opinion on things
I’m not the kind of wife a man must bring.
Since I am only pretty and not naive,
I’m far from the “perfect” wife!
I can stand up for myself, speak my mind
Won’t take his surname and give up mine.
I’m sorry if I don’t fit your stereotype:
I flirt a little and get drunk on wine.
I don’t have a mangalsutra,
And don’t wear the vermilion.
If I live away from home,
Because I have an ambition,
I must be too strong for a man to want.

>Question of the Month: January

>New year, new ideas. And this one’s for the blog. Considering that I ask so many questions, I’ve started a new monthly post here called, what else but ‘Question of the Month.’ It’s simple enough: I ask a question and you find me the answer. Or at least tell me what you think about it. Or maybe you can ask me a question in return. Or maybe you can tell me it’s not a question at all – whatever – but let’s just get talking.

And the question for this month is:
Is ambition an aberration in a woman’s nature?

>"But you don’t look married!"

You bet I don’t because when I got married, I didn’t also go for plastic surgery! I’m sure you didn’t either, then why are married women expected to look a certain way?

Why is it that the symbols of wedlock must only be displayed by women in the form of sindoor and mangalsutra, bangles and bichiya while no one even notices the wedding ring on the men? I find it amusing when sweet, plump, inquisitive aunties check you out head to toe to find that one sign that will give away your marital status, if the girth of your waist doesn’t.

Over the years, I have consistently forgotten to wear the sindoor and I have no mangalsutra to flaunt. I wear the bichiya when it suits me and for reasons that have more to do with fashion than anything else. I have put on some weight since I got married almost six years ago, but ever so gradually that most people haven’t noticed it! And therefore, I get that line often, “But you don’t look married!” Not that I’m trying to look single, but I don’t think I need to look married either. I mean, if you know me you would know I’m married and if you don’t, how does it matter?

I’ve often thought of carrying a placard with me stating I’m married since I don’t look it and since people so want to see all married women to look it! Of course, all the while I think that, I have my tongue in cheek, so you needn’t worry about me ever really doing that!

What’s more amusing is that no one will so much as give a second glance to a man to check out whether he’s married or not. The mister will always just be mister – single or otherwise. But even the telephone operator wants to know when you give your name whether you’re Miss or Mrs! Does it make a difference? Is there a thought process behind this inquisitiveness or is it just conditioning?

Could it also be that this is a culture-specific thing? I remember I knew even as a child that a woman who was in a pale-hued saree and not wearing a bindi must be a widow. So it works both ways: while married women are supposed to dress a certain way, widows are also expected to dress a certain way. And to what purpose, I wonder. Why does the society need markers to demarcate married women from single and widowed women? How does a woman’s marital status affect her social status? And how does that affect discrimination against her?

Answers, anyone?

>Were you wearing jeans when you were eve-teased?

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Or a sleeveless/tight top or high heels?

You must be. Four colleges in Kanpur have banned girls from turning up in college in any of those to avert cases of eve-teasing! And by doing that, we suppose, we will have zero incidence of eve-teasing because a girl in jeans is asking for it – provoking with her denim-clad legs lecherous, whistling, ogling men. Because a girl in high heels and sleeveless top is provoking them to pass comments, make vulgar sounds, touch and go. And these men will do none of that to a girl in a salwar-kameez or a saree?

We never ask for it. Not when we dress up and decide to look anything but plain Jane. Not when we wear gloss and mascara, tube tops and halter necks. We’re not asking for it when we giggle with our friends, laugh out loud or when we talk to them nicely. What gives them the impression they can cross the line?

There’s not a girl I know who doesn’t have an eve-teasing story to tell and they are not stories about our jeans alone! I’ve been teased in my school uniform, in my salwar-kameez-dupatta, in sarees and skirts.

What were you wearing when you were eve-teased?

And to the men – does a woman ask for it when she wears jeans?

>The apologetic feminist…

>…Is what I’m not going to be.

Yes, I have a problem with the way the patriarchal system works. If that makes me a feminist, I’m proud to be one.

I also have a problem with the way patriarchs talk. If that makes me a rebel in the family, I’m not ashamed to be one.

I spend eight hours at work everyday. I have an opinion that’s as sane if not more than what others have to offer, I think, I have a brain that can work beyond the aesthetics of a pretty home or the nuances of kitchen politics. And despite that I’m not a man’s equal (?) I do not do any of that to equal anyone, but I expect equal treatment because I’m an equal person. And it hurts to be treated “only as a woman”.

I do not understand why I must not be part of discussions on home finances, why my name must not be put on the nameplate outside the house along with the names of all the men. I do not understand why you must not look me in the eye when you speak to me. I do not understand the way your brain sees me…

Is it because I’m a woman?

A woman who stands by her husband, but should never be seen standing as tall as him.
A woman who acts tough but must learn to treat herself as a pretty mantel piece displayed when it suits the place.
A woman who can make decisions but must never be credited for them.

Why must I be made to feel ashamed for living my life the way you do? If my independence unsettles your patriarchal seat, should I be apologetic for it?

>I should be in a live-in relationship…

>…because I did not take on my husband’s surname.

No please, don’t ask me an explanation for such convoluted logic. Ask Manyata (not-yet-legally) Dutt. Not only has she supported her husband’s sexist remarks , she’s gone ahead and made some stupid ones of her own. Like this:

“Having married a man who takes care of all my needs, I’d like to accept his name with full honour and take charge of his home and accept his family as my family. If you can’t accept your husband’s name and family then why marry? Go in for a live-in relationship.”

Really Manyata? So marriage is all about the man’s family and his surname? And what about the woman and her family?

And what does she mean by “a man who takes care of all my needs”. A husband is a provider and therefore you should take on his surname – is that it? She talks as if she and her husband live not in this world but in a vacuum. Has she never heard of women who earn? And who are capable of taking care of their own needs? Or that there are women can manage more than the home?

And by this logic, is it that a woman whose husband cannot provide for her should not change her surname? Say yes, Manyata, please do, because then there would be so many more women retaining their maiden name.

Also, please tell me I’ve got this right: that if it were not for Sanjay Dutt’s surname, she would have had a live-in relationship with him. The only reason we should marry is because we want to take on our husband’s surnames? Yeah, right!

“His home,” she says. The woman lives either in her father’s home or in his husband’s home. Care to answer, where exactly is “her home”?!

Please, someone explain to me the imbalances in a marriage.
Manyata, please don’t volunteer.