A woman’s name…

I am totally fed up about all the talk about women’s surnames and the like. The latest article to grate on my nerves is this one, from today’s issue of The Hindu. The article, written by Michele Hanson of the Guardian, rankles with every sentence. I mean, what’s the point? A highly successful media person, editor of Britain’s largest tabloid, decides to get married, for the second time. Post-marriage, she decides to take on her husband’s surname. So? So, one person, Michele Hanson whose article a large UK newspaper is willing to publish, decides to rant. She questions her decision, points out that she had broken through the glass ceiling, been the terror and envy of most men in the business, and yet has decided to give up her maiden name. Not just that, Michele Hanson also asks why she did not choose to take her first husband’s name? Was she insecure? Was she jealous of his own fame? Is she taking on the second husband’s name because he is just a fledgling writer? A nobody? WTF?

I don’t get the point at all. If a woman is free, post-marriage to retain her maiden name, she must be equally free to take on her husband’s name, right? Apparently not. Because, these self-proclaimed feminists say it’s a huge let-down of thousands of women since the 1850s, who have fought for their right to keep their maiden names. But, wait a second! I was under the impression feminism was about choice, the freedom to take a decision and not be asked to explain it to all and sundry. This questioning seriously threatens the idea of feminism as a movement for equality and freedom.

Also, Hanson’s contempt of “mere wives” is so insulting that I cannot ignore it. She says, in her article,

“I’m trying to get over my dislike of her lifestyle, so that I can concentrate on the business of taking your husband’s name when you marry. (…) She’s the last sort of woman you’d expect to opt to take the back seat, yet here she is, giving up her own name like an ordinary little wife.”

Two things jump out at me when I read these lines. One, Hanson has a problem with the person and her lifestyle and not her decision. Two, Rebekah Brooks nee Wade, is just an “ordinary little wife.” I mean, WTF? Why is it so demeaning to be a wife? So what if Rebekah Brooks, after all these years, decides to change her name? Is she any less of a woman, less of a feminist, or less of a media executive because of it? I doubt. Because, whether you change your name or not, you continue to be the same person. Because the name is an identity. If someone is comfortable being Mrs. So-and-so, who are we, or Michele Hanson to question it?

Rebekah Brooks/Wade/Kemp/whatever else she wants to be is an individual. She has every right to decide how she wants to lead her life. No woman should have to be forced to make the popular choice, just because she is a perceived feminist. Also, being feminist does not mean being non-sentimental. Hanson calls Brooks a fluff deep down inside, at the very beginning of the article. Now, being a fluff is insulting? I would love to be called romantic. I may be feminist, equalist or humanist, but I am still a woman. I still love being pampered, taken care of and cherished. Does that make me less of a feminist? I should think not!

A very special post

When I started this blog two years ago, I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined it would come this far. Today, I complete 200 posts on this blog. It’s taken me the better part of three years to get here. And the journey hasn’t been easy. I have grown, evolved, and learnt from this blog. What started as a trivial experiment a couple of days before my 24th birthday has become one of the most important things in my life: my creative outlet, my very special online diary. And for any blogger, the 200th post is a very special milestone. So is it for me. As I said, I have changed, learnt, grown up, fallen in love, broken up…all during this time. And some people have been there for me through every step: friends who mean a lot, and can make a difference. I have spoken earlier about my (now) ex. But, never have I mentioned a single friend by name. Not in any serious breath anyway. I think it is now time to introduce each of them. Each is special, in their own way. So, here we go!

Nandini: I think about her and tears well up in my eyes. I have spoken about it before, but somehow can never get everything I feel out on paper. She was a friend, a confidante, even a sister I never had. Not many people understand this, but that’s the complete truth. I only wished she had lived long enough to see me as I am today. If only I could have got one chance…just one chance to tell her how much she meant to me. It still hurts when I realise I will never hear her scream in excitement over the phone again; when I realise that she will never again be there, solid as a rock, next to me when I am in trouble. May her soul rest in peace, in the knowledge that there was someone to whom she meant the world.

Tamanna: Another friend, a confidante too. Her judgement is spot on about most things. Slightly crazy but very loyal: that’s the only way I can describe her. She has never hesitated in telling me I was wrong. She has called me arrogant, difficult, adamant and egoistic, but has still stood by me through the worst times of my life, and hers. Never scared of criticising, she once told me that winning was not everything. She told me that sometimes one needed to lose to be able to understand the true meaning of life. And that is a lesson I have never forgotten. And never will.

Karthik: This is someone I have stood by, rejected, treated like shit, and pushed away. But every time I have really had a problem, he has been there. To listen, to rationalise, to explain and to understand. I sometimes wonder how a man can be so damned patient. I once told him that he never argues. He just listens. And he told me that sometimes, it is more important to listen and understand that to talk and convince. I don’t know if I will ever be able to imbibe that lesson. But I am trying my best.

Pratibha: My closest friend to date, after Nandini. We share practically every little piece of news: from murungakka sambar Amma makes to the latest movie we would like to watch together. She is another person whose judgement is spot on, but only about me. When it comes to herself, she can be the most confused individual in the world. We gel so well that sometimes it seems most natural that we be the best of friends. May this friendship last all our lives…

Sankhya: Now, what do I say? I am jealous of this guy! He is a walking, talking encyclopaedia. He can talk for hours about PG Wodehouse, cricket matches and Asterix and Obelix, all in the same breath and without missing a beat. Talking to him is so bloody taxing on the brain that sometimes I need to take a break and talk about non-intellectual things. I would give anything to be half as intelligent. And I must admit I am a long way off from there. And yes, he is the only person I know who uses the word humbug!!

Sriram: I have known this guy for almost 7 years now, but became a real friend less than 3 months ago. We can talk for hours, about a lot of things: politics, philosophy, theatre, religion, work, love, life…name it and we have talked about it. The one guy I know who is a feminist at heart but vigorously, and with a certain amount of vehemence, rejects that tag. He calls himself a humanist. But, conveniently forgets that feminism is also a kind of humanism. He can be infuriating, irritating, funny and serious, all at the same time. He cares, in a way that is heart-warming. You know he is right, when he decides to advise, even when the advice is too bitter to take. But, ultimately, you also know that’s the best thing to do. Sometimes, I wonder why I took so long to make him a real friend, rather than just an acquaintance. But as they say, better late than never.

Just one more word to all these people. Thanks for being there when I needed you most.

Being a woman…

I read this post by Indyeah more than 4 months ago, when IHM posted it on a comment. I didn’t think much of it then. Today, going through previous posts on my blog for lack of anything else to do, I re-discovered the link. And so, I read it again. This time, it really touched a chord. It strikes at the base of all human emotion and makes me be thankful for being born a woman. It’s simply beautiful.

And yes, I am happy to have been born a woman.

  • Because I can think and feel for another in a way very few men can,
  • Because I can accept the inevitable and yet be strong, even if I don’t seem strong to the outside world,
  • Because I know that physical strength is not a measure of mental stability and that I can be emotionally strong even when I am physically vulnerable.

I feel exactly the same way as Indyeah about practically everything she says, but don’t want to repeat them because she says them so much better. I know women who hate being women. Because the power of making a choice is never given to them. Because they could be married off forcibly, raped, kidnapped or forced to abort a beautiful female foetus, all because they are female. But, don’t worry, things will change. This post gives me hope for the future. This post inspires me in a way very few others have done.

I am slowly discovering how lucky I am, to be a woman. I am also discovering that all men are not bastards. I am realizing that men can be feminists too, however vigorously they reject the tag. I am reassured to understand that some men genuinely do care for women, as friends, as daughters, as sisters and as wives. And finally, I am totally thrilled to discover that some men really do believe that women are worth more than the world thinks they are. May their tribe increase!

What women want…

Dare I even talk? But, since I am such a sweet person, I decided to give my male readers (ok…I am delusional) some information on what women really want.

There are three major criteria of eligibility for a guy: beauty, intelligence and wealth. Now ideally, a guy should possess all three for a girl to choose him. But then, the probability of that happening is infinitesimally minute. The intersection of the three sets can be illustrated like this:

As you can see, the probability of men fulfilling all three criteria is about one in a million. That leaves us with very little choice. To make it mathematically accurate: there are a total of three choices, not counting the eligible bachelor bit.

Scenario 1 – Man is good-looking and rich but hasn’t a gram of brain in him.

In this, you have two options.

Option 1: take the money, have fun, do your thing, but don’t expect him understand the finer nuances of existential philosophy. For that, you have friends.
Option 2: fret and fume that you have a brainless husband, get depressed, and commit suicide.

Scenario 2 – Man is rich and intelligent but not good-looking

Two options again!
Option 1: Tell yourself that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Thank your stars that the man has the brains, the car, the house and the servants to wait on you hand and foot. Enjoy life.
Option 2: fret and fume that you have an ugly husband, get depressed, and commit suicide.

Scenario 3 – Man is intelligent and good-looking, but not rich

Option 1: Live life for what it’s worth. Be happy without the car and the house. Go out for dances and plays (only if you don’t have to pay for the entry), work your ass off for that house, that car and those servants.
Option 2: fret and fume that you have no money, get depressed, and commit suicide.

Now, as you can see, option two rules itself our because of its sheer stupidity. That leaves you with the option of reconciling with fate and living life. But, there is a small problem. I would much rather marry an ugly, poor but intelligent man than marry a stinking rich Greek god with no brains. However, given that intelligent men, in themselves, are such an endangered species, it becomes a bit difficult to decide. As they say, life is not fair!

Disclaimer: This post is inspired by conversations with Sriram and Sankhya and has no reference to any person living or dead. It is all in good humour and I don’t want to handle trolls accusing me of being shallow and a gold-digger.

Eve-teasing? Oh, you asked for it!

Yes, a woman who is eve-teased is asking for it. At least, that’s what some women’s colleges in Kanpur seem to think. Before we even start dissecting and criticising this logic, let’s get one thing straight. The term eve-teasing trivialises an extremely serious issue; that of street sexual harassment. Most companies have a strict anti-sexual harassment policy. But, on the street, there seems to be no protection whatsoever. Even assuming that this can be classified as teasing, isn’t it the culprit’s responsibility to behave better?

The colleges in question have banned their students from wearing tight clothes. To quote the Indian Express new item,

Four leading women’s colleges of Kanpur have banned students from wearing jeans, tight tops besides other tight-fit clothes, sleeveless blouses and high heels on the campus.”

Pray, why? Because wearing jeans and sleeveless tempts men into looking and lusting. As if they don’t lust after women who are modestly dressed. Every woman has faced sexual harassment in some form at some point in her life. What we wear, or how we behave has nothing to do with it. A sixty-year old man once flashed me on the street. I was then 13 years old and was wearing my school uniform. Even then, it’s my responsibility to not provoke sexual harassment? WTF? Yesterday was a case in point. I was out with two male friends at a place I consider a second home. We were talking animatedly about work, and life in general. After about 15 minutes of conversation, I noticed a guy sitting a short distance away, directing his phone’s camera lens at me. I moved away, trying to stay out of the line of sight of the camera. I don’t think it worked. I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and the two guys I was with were oblivious to the reason behind it. Thankfully, the guy saw me looking and moved away. But, this incident made me extremely insecure.

Here I was, in a place I was extrmely comfortable with, with guys I knew very well, and yet I was insecure. I was wearing a salwar kameez. Nothing remotely revealing. Nothing “western or decadent”. Yet, he was trying to capture me on his camera. So, it’s my fault that I was even there? Or was it because I was talking to two men and apparently comfortable with it? Or maybe because I was well-dressed? Or was it because I came across as friendly and hence the guy assumed he could cross the line? Whatever it is, the problem was with him, not with me. Blaming the victim doesn’t help the cause. As IHM points out, boys don’t even realise that they are wrong, seeing as they are never pulled up for their behaviour. They grow up thinking that if they lust after a woman and ogle, it’s the woman’s fault. It’s never their responsibility to behave. It’s the woman’s to ensure they behave by covering up to the maximum. When will this change? Will be ever get principals who pull up the culprits and report them, instead of ordering the girls to come covered up? Will we ever get a police force that takes complaints of sexual harassment seriously and stop questioning the girl and slandering her? Will we ever get a public that’s more sesitive to the issue and recognises its seriousness? I am slowly losing hope. Someone tell me.

Fighting the racism demon

We have all heard about the problems in Australia. Our media and foreign ones are going putting forward different versions of the story, depending on what their perception is. In all this, one thing strikes me as rather strange. I came across a discussion on Greatbong’s post that vehemently and passionately defends Australians and challenges the perception that all Australians are racist. So far so good. But, what gets my goat is that the commentators seem to suggest that we must set our own house in order before complaining about the Aussies. Read one commentator’s post on his blog here. Wait a sec! Just because I don’t have certain rights in my home country, I must never get them elsewhere? What’s the logic?

Tejaswy’s post is especially infuriating. He (She?) justifies practically every action (or inaction) in Australia, blaming it on stress, tension, loss of jobs, recession…you get the picture. Take this for example.

Indian students come back from jobs late at night and well they are walking back and there is some drunk chap who is drunk and is looking for free cigg or money and well mugs you. I am not supporting the guy who is mugging but this is not racism If you want examples of racism then it would be you not getting a job on the basis of your color. This does not happen in Australia.”

Yeah right! If you get mugged on you way back, it’s probably because you exist rather than because of your skin colour. There is nothing racist about it. Of course not! Australians are not racist. They are very sensitive about racial issues you know? The Symmonds issue must have told you that much. They are sensitive, children!

I am definitely not implying that we Indians are angels. We are most certainly not. We have our flaws, our prejudices and our weaknesses. But that does not mean we deserve crap from the rest of the world. Just because we are not free from prejudice, we are casteist or even racist, we do not deserve to tolerate racism elsewhere. The Indian government and its embassies are famous for their inaction and inability to assist an Indian citizen abroad. But, this time, they have at least taken notice, thanks to the media hype. Let them at least show the diaspora that they are there for us. Don’t berate them for a job well done. It’s stupid to do that.

Finally, regarding the statement that you are not discriminated against because of skin colour. I find that this is completely and totally untrue. Nita, a friend of mine, (a very occasional blogger) living in Australia can vouch for it. Without going into details, I can safely tell you that she has been discriminated against in various situations and even at the workplace on racial grounds. Denying that Australians are, in general racist is one thing. Denying the existence of workplace discrimination on racial grounds is quite another. All we need is some perspective on the issue. Please, let’s not lose it.