Thursday, November 24, 2011

Men are the answer

I was raised to be a feminist. It wasn't a conscious effort on my mother's part; in fact, when she sees me blustering with anger and frustration and going on about feminism today, she can't understand where those feelings come from. But that's how it is.

For the longest time, there was the silly refusal to wear pink clothes and act like a girl. There was the tough as nails I never cry act, there was the constant refusal to admit weakness or defeat around a guy. Then I grew up.

Then I read a little of the feminist theory I had grown up putting in practice. Then I looked around and found, to my amazement, that a lot of people were actually feminists or had feminist beliefs, but refused outright to associate with the school of thought.

Women seemed to have got what they wanted out of the movement, and were unwilling to risk being considered man-haters. They had the vote, and chivalry to boot. They had the right to call a man out on abuse, but also get to be bought flowers. What more could they ask for?

The men that weren't feminists tended to be confused, annoyed, furious or indifferent. Feminists were man hating crazy bitches who wanted female dominance at the cost of men's rights. We were the people pushing s. 498A, putting husbands and their entire families in jail on false counts, squeezing spouses for obscene amounts of money, manipulative women who refused to let husbands see their children.

Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) sprung up in the US. Websites and organizations like Save the Indian Family Foundation mushroomed in India. There was talk of abuse of the laws in favour of women in India and the destruction of the family system in the US.

The result? We have feminismS and feministS of various stripes, agreeing on little but the goal of fairness in gender relations. We have the MRAs in the US and their counterparts in India, some of whom think that their interests and those of feminists are mutually exclusive. We have the women who want nothing to do with the feminist question, and men who think that the cost of being a man is outweighed by its benefits. We have the Good Men Project and its kin.

What do these developments tell us?

A lot of men have ceased to think of themselves as un-gendered and have come to realise that their gender comes with its own baggage. A lot of men are trying to grapple with what some call a “post feminist” world, understanding how to negotiate unfamiliar terrain where usual gender cues no longer hold good.

The SlutWalk Bengaluru page has, of late, been inundated with angry comments by masculinists who want freedom from the role of a protector, who seethe at feminism and the great injustice of today’s world.

It is, therefore, now more important than ever for feminists to make a conscious effort to “ask the man question.” It is vital that feminists think about the repercussions of a particular legislative or policy demand on men as well as women. This is for a few reasons.

One is that any benefit to women that comes at the cost of unfairness to anyone else is undesirable and unethical. Moreover, in the long run, this unfairness will lead to greater hostility against women and feminists and a blanket refusal to be supportive of our agenda: something we are already seeing.

The other is motivated by self interest: feminism will not work if there are no men to adhere to it. bell hooks has said this in a more eloquent fashion than I can manage:

“Separatist ideology encourages us to believe that women alone can make feminist revolution - we cannot. Since men are the primary agents maintaining and supporting sexism and sexist oppression, they can be successfully eradicated only if men are compelled to assume responsibility for transforming their consciousness and the consciousness of society as a whole...”

My amendment to that quote would be that everyone is an agent in maintaining and supporting sexism; even if men at present have ostensibly more to lose from a drastic restructuring of our society along the lines of gender.

The last reason is that freeing men from mandated gender roles is already a rightful part of the feminist goal, as I see it. When sex became gender, feminism automatically became about more than just women. And so, in my view, feminism that is not concerned about men is not feminism.

And so feminism must proactively be concerned with men. To a large extent, it has been for quite a while. But the perception of feminism and men’s interests being mutually exclusive persists, and must gradually be eroded.

**

This post is titled “men are the answer.” I came to this conclusion when I first bumped into the Good Men Project and realised that while most women had had enough of and from feminism, it was men who were starting to wake up to their gendered existence and asking questions that could catalyze meaningful social evolution.

This opened up room for a lot of discussion and debate, of the realisation that societal mores hurt everyone, not just women; and that everyone had to gain from questioning these mores. With men questioning their own binds and seeing themselves as participants in this societal evolution, I figured things would move faster; and so far that belief seems to be well placed. There is also the obvious fact that in order to stop domestic violence or rape, you need to reach out to its perpetrators/silent supporters; thus making men “the answer” in the context of assault on women.

**

We need men to work with us, not only for us, but also for themselves, and a freer society in turn.

This Blog is part of the Men Say No Blogathon,* encouraging men to take up action against the violence faced by women.
More entries to the Blogathon can be read at www.mustbol.in/blogathon. Join further conversation on facebook.com/delhiyouth & twitter.com/mustbol


*I don’t agree with the name “Men Say No” because it plays on what it means to be a “real man,” which in turn buys straight into the kind of accepted stereotyping I try so hard to subvert.
However, I agree with the aim of this campaign, and this is a small step in furthering its goals.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Backpacks and Puris

I see myself linking the GMP a lot, and here’s another piece that resonated with me. http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/stillness/ I know I have the I-need-to-do-something-exciting-or-I-will-go-crazy syndrome, and it can be a huge drain on finances, productivity and the patience of those around me.

But I digress. I meant to write about the beauty of travelling. Apart from the usual getting to meet new people, eating strange food, seeing the sights jamboree; there is the absolutely liberating realisation that all you really need to negotiate the big bad world can be stuffed into one 20 litre backpack.

I mean, yeah, the clothes might surface with a bit of yesterday’s hurriedly eaten chocolate croissant on them, but meh.

Anyhow, you start to get far less finicky about trivialities like bathing everyday and having every hair on your head pinned neatly down. You don’t have to dress to impress anyone, you’re a strange person from a strange land who will attract strange looks no matter what you wear- so you might as well wear banana print boxers and kaftans with skulls hanging off of them.

You can make a fool of yourself and get away with it; as long as you’re not an obnoxious, disrespecting fool, you can get away with quite a bit. Everything is new and exciting, and even better- when you get back, you suddenly start to appreciate the quirks of your own people. Take for instance the strange way in which Indians will refuse a tenth helping of puris while simultaneously stuffing one in their mouths.

Finally, you realise that though the foreign is shiny and we need to learn so very much from them, as clich├ęd as it sounds, there’s nothing quite like home.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Ready" to be scarred?

This post is not about the cinematic merit of the movie “Ready.” Suffice to say that “Ready” is a hysterical assault on all human senses, including those we as a species haven’t developed yet.

But not only is this movie absolutely god awful, it is also profoundly disturbing. Unfortunately, I have yet to come across a review that criticizes the movie for being sexist and even racist in parts.

Some gems:
1) Paresh Rawal encounters a security guard of African origin. Ends the exchange with: “tujhe to dekhke desh ki nazar uttar jaye” (Looking at you is enough to ward off the evil eye for the entire nation)

2) Salman Khan responds to one of Asin’s infrequent dialogues with: “Pehli baar aurat ko kuch samajhdar kehte hue suna hai” (This is the first time I’ve ever heard a woman say something sensible)

3) During a drinking session with the gundas, Mr. Modi asks his wife to go ahead and eat without him. The gundas chuckle and inform him that as real men, they refuse to let their wives touch even a morsel of food before they’re done imbibing ethanol for the night.

4) Mr. Modi responds: “Auraton ki duniya bahut chotti hoti hai. Humse hi shuru aur khatam hoti hai. Isiliye unke saath acha bartav karna chahiye” (The lives of women revolve around us men. Their universe is very small; it begins with us and ends with us. That is why we must treat them well.)

5) Subsequently, the gundas rush off to their respective wives and very magnanimously inform them that they are free to eat the meals that they cook before the men drag their drunken selves to the table. (Note- this is a prime example of homosocial behaviour as discussed here- http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/bros-before-promises/)

There’s still more, but I think this is sample enough to prove that the scriptwriter(s) are off their rockers and more importantly, Salman Khan ought to have thought ten times before agreeing to the script.

The man is well aware of the influence he has over India’s millions, he knows that his sporting a stud in each ear will soon spark a nation-wide trend; and his latest offering is reinforcing the idea that belittling women is a legitimate sport. One of the few sports Indians naturally excel at.

Bravo, Salman. Way to exploit your influence.

(Note- the quotes from the movie haven't been reproduced verbatim, I had the misfortune of watching the movie on a bus ride and refuse to pay good money to be insulted all over again. However, I am ninety nine percent certain I've reproduced the content accurately, if not the exact words.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Idiot, insecure Indian men

A man is expected to be powerful and so is belittled for being unable to lift a bag or bolt a door. A woman isn’t, and so does not expect herself to be powerful. The rare specimen that does is met with astonishment or ridiculous behaviour.
Not many men can handle powerful women. I see no other explanation for the way my friend and I are met when we take our bikes out on Nagarbhavi roads. Yesterday, we had the pleasure of encountering two fat, ill behaved a#$#^&*(% on a Dio, if you please, coming within two centimetres of us, trailing, gesturing, even turning around and coming at us head on (in the wrong lane), hoping for... I don’t know, it is a mystery.

Realising that in customary style, I had gotten angry and sped off in the wrong direction after aforementioned buffoons, my friend frantically signalled and got me to turn around. We headed towards the mythical Enamor sale, this time on the right track, and were met, in addition to the usual bevy of stares and calls; by an idiot on a pulsar who felt he had to do one better. So not only did he tail us for a bit, he also came within two inches of us, and pulled a wheelie, right behind a big fat bus that could’ve slammed on its breaks at any second.
He then moved to one side of the road, stopped, looked at us expectantly, again, hoping for what? Perhaps some acknowledgment of his manliness or superiority, search me.

It doesn’t stop here. On this same day (that India won the World Cup, no less), this friend and I went to grab burgers at KFC and were met by a fool, OPENLY STARING at me with an expression of utter entitlement, like I was put there by the forces of the universe for his viewing pleasure. I turned and stared at him, and this only spurred him to make sneering faces at the other fool sitting across him. We ate our burgers and feeling his stare again, I turned to find him looking at me with that same infuriating mix of expressions on his face. So I said to him “Could you stop staring at me you **)#R$@)##? And of course, like the typical cowardly, lecherous Indian man, he immediately cowered, feigned utter and absolute ignorance and looked away.

UGH. My hatred of this variety of the Indian man deepens by the day, this man who is never in short supply, always goggle eyed, unabashed and deeply depraved.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Flamenco at Siri Fort

Jose Porcel, two lovely ladies whose names I'm not acquainted with (go figure) and lets see.... two vocalists, one male, one female; a flute/harmonica player, a percussionist of some description received a standing ovation yesterday (16 Feb, 2011) for an endearing, enthralling, energetic Flamenco performance. Oh excuse me, Ballet Flamenco.

To be honest, I'm not very clear on where the Ballet came in. Perhaps Flamenco does not traditionally tell stories, and some the broad themes of the "items" (I'd so much rather they be called pieces) performed yesterday can be attributed to a Ballet influence.

I couldn't say.

What I can say though, is this. Jose Porcel is an incredible, incredible, incredible performer. He is cocky, cock sure, flamboyant, fiery and you can see he's giving you everything he's got. But I'm not a fan of the technique. I could very easily be very wrong, but the contrast between the clean, flowing lines of the female performers and the dervish like frenzy of Porcelo's act left me bewildered. It does not make sense to me that female Flamenco could be so beautiful and refined, and the male part so very undefined and composed of merely energy and footwork.

Oh, but the ladies. The synchronization was a bit off in places, which is a pity, because when they got that right, it was such a mesmerizing treat to watch. I love the arrogance and anger that underlies Flamenco. The bold lines, the graceful twirls, the lovely full skirts that these ladies breathe life into, making them rise with their pirouettes. The sleek, low bun that gives every turn of the neck greater definition and renders it clean and elegant. I could go on and on.

And good lord, the music. I have to say this- we could really learn something from the way that Porcel interacted with the musicians. For one, they were up front and centre, which, though it made focusing on the dancers a wee bit difficult, really enabled them to create a mehfil type atmosphere, and gave them equal respect.

Secondly, you could tell there was a lot of jugalbandi going on, a lot of interaction between the dancers and the musicians and that was just beautiful, because you saw an art form in a conversation with another art form.

Then there were the hoots and the exclamations from the musicians themselves. These came out of nowhere, and made the whole performance come alive and seem very accessible.

I have never witnessed a more relaxed and more audience friendly performance. The spectators were involved throughout, a bunch of emotive, gasping, clapping Indians responding to an equally emotive bunch of flamboyant Spaniards.

And the vocals. What power. I could feel tingles going up my spine and I thought, wow, this is what we share, two cultures going back centuries, with our unique and raw music that touches our souls directly. What amount of digital technology and tweaked vocals can give you that? That direct link to the emotions that are equally pure and raw?

Jose Porcel kissed Ambika Soni on each cheek, which elicited titters, giggling and gasps from the audience. Then the female vocalist stepped up and sang for about two minutes. She has this gorgeous, slightly husky, deepp deeepp deeep voice that she can hold for tens of seconds at impossible pitches.

There was clapping, there were cat calls, there was sweat flying off of the dancers, there were sharp head turns, and spotting, glares and gentle caresses, laughter and sighs, and good old Indian bureaucracy. Coming up for an encore, two of the musicians showed that they too can dance the Flamenco, and what more does an Indian audience appreciate than an unexpected shuffling of inexperienced feet, rendered with a touch of shyness and equally, a try this on for size attitude?


Lovely. Just lovely.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Desi music and Dilli's Men

I've been hearing Menwhopause and TAAQ on Delhi Radio and though I'm not sure whether Menwhopause every played at SF, TAAQ sure did (and won) and its a good feeling to be a part of an event that promotes excellent Indian music. (Woot!)

Also, Delhi's junta is full of contradictions. On the road, people have their fangs bared, their ears blocked, their eyes blinded; they're a hair's breadth from sending you spinning across the road and yet, and YET these same people are warm and largely friendly when on their own two feet.

Now, I can only talk about the men; because for some reason, it is men who cut your hair, men who help you park, men who give you directions, men who sell you food and water, but these guys are really quite chivalrous is their own way. There's the odd exception but in their own, earthy way, they try to make you laugh and help you park and treat you like a granddaughter or didi.

I know this is not what one usually hears about Delhi's men, but I have to say this; I've hard my share of oglers and gropers and exhibitionists and goggle eyed fools, but there are also courteous chaps who discretely steer clear of any shady business. Its quite charming really. And very Indian.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This is life

A meal of cold chicken and left over pulao on a sunny gardened terrace, muddy, damp pants from sitting in the grass, a panting dog laying next to you with her paw on your thigh; tired from having begged for the chicken, licked the tiffin box, your hands and your feet and getting only some belly scratching and indistinct noises in return.

A little cotton fluff of a Maltese eyeing you, and your managing to lure him with pathetic attempts at gaining his interest. Trying to get this interest to remain steadfast even in the face of your stupidity and boring-ness, your silly grinning face, the pointless cooing, the inexplicable happiness at being around something so cute and content.

Seeing the Lab and the Maltese run around, in the sun, following their mistress and occasionally darting glances at you. Hugging the big lab around her neck and thinking of days spent with Fluffy, my 5 year birthday present and faithful companion till she was rechristened Gudia and left for my grandmother's house.


This is what I want. A sunny winter day, a good file to read and work on, and two dogs to follow me around and keep me company.

Friday, January 28, 2011

On blaming the victims and feminism being an f word

Much has been said about these two fascinating phenomena and I am no closer to understanding either than I was a year ago. Lets start with the first-

We shifted to Dhaula Kuan recently and a lovely mother daughter couple made a house call to welcome us into the cold draughty fold of DK Is houses. They were both great fun to talk to and at one point, the ‘sation turned to the need for mace in these here parts. I made the appropriate gasping noises and asked why they said I should venture out only with a knife and a ready punch. The answer- recent rapes in the neighbourhood. The shocker- the lovely aunty wondering aloud “who asked that girl to come back late in a bus, usse call centre cab leni chahiye thi na”
I hate having to ask my guy friends to drop me home or having my parents waiting anxiously outside till I meet them; I hate having to live in fear and inconveniencing people because the men in this city are depraved and under policed. And I know that if I step out of these boundaries, the way I’d like to, I’ll be blamed if I am raped.
How is it that a woman who is brutalized is blamed for taking a bus instead of a cab? THAT is what you have to say to the RAPE of a young, innocent woman? That is the first thing that comes to your head? Not that that man was crazy and sick, but that this woman shouldn’t have tried to use a cheap and environmentally friendly means of mass transport to get home? Look at me, trying to glorify her choice. She could’ve been a hooker, high on cocaine, and even then, the first thing that ought to have been said was that that man was off his mind, not that this woman was asking for it.


This city, this country, we’re all crazy for letting this attitude prevail.

And what is with educated, privileged, low cut blouse wearing women trying their best to distance themselves from feminism? Yes, there are crazy feminists, yes I used to hate pink, yes some of us hate men, yes some of us are off our rockers. But this is an inclusive, vague, massively varied movement. You get to decide what feminism means for you. You get to make it sane, you get to make it inclusive and non prescriptive. Be a part of the movement that has given you the options you cherish and wouldn’t dream of living without. Stop free loading.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Alone, Alive

....... .

This is Karnataka

Yes, its been a while. Perhaps because I tend to make the monumental effort of logging in to blogger and writing only when I'm monumentally pissed off, which I am right now.

The incident, for your benefit-
Aqseer is cruising down the road on Juno at a leisurely 30 km an hour. Flicks on the indicator to take turn into hostel gate. Sees small maroon car in rear view mirror, within touching distance. Slows down so crazed man who is blind to indicators can overtake. Man starts honking LIKE A MANIAC. (Aqseer)Stops completely (Punjabi blood, plus it would have been dangerous to turn), drops jacket. Turns around and yells at the man, tells him to pick it up since he's blind to indicators and such. Says this in ENGLISH. Man replies in Kannada. Several people around start honking. Turns, parks, picks up jacket and man is mysteriously still there, blocking the road, yelling in Kannada. Yells- I DON'T SPEAK KANNADA.
Man yells- THIS IS KARNATAKA. I says- (I'm feeling a bit sheepish about this, but I guess thats what happens when you study THREE courses in constitutional law) What do you mean this is Karnataka, haven't you read the Constitution? Man says- (hehe) Laaiiars (lawyers). I say- just go away *@#@$##$#%^^^#$@. And he does.

I have now resolved never to learn Kannada. Good going, language chauvinists.

How much nicer it would be if you could put across the beauty of your language and that it would make you happy if we showed some love for the state in which we currently have the pleasure of residing. Maybe if you gently taught us some swear words (which is all anyone learning a new language wants to know), followed by some handy words like bega, jasti bega, kodi, madi etc. BUT NO. Fine. Yell at me.

I'd rather chop off each individual digit on my hands and fry em in a pan than learn your language.

:)