Pressuring Women To Marry After Completing Their Education, Defeats The Notion Of Empowerment

Pressuring Women To Marry After Completing Their Education, Defeats The Notion Of Empowerment

Forcing women to marry, after completing their education, is unfair. Women must be given a fair chance to explore and decide what they desire in life.

I would say, I come from a progressive Indian family. All the girls in my family are well-educated, working, raised with much affection, freedom and in equality with boys. There has been a special emphasis on education and I can proudly declare that all my female cousins are doctors, engineers, architects, MBAs and so on.

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KBC And Women Empowerment

Started watching Kaun Banega Crorepati since Monday. The show has unexpectedly changed my daily routine as someone who goes to gym / walk late after dinner. Now I have to complete my exercise before 9 pm so that I can watch it peacefully. I don’t know after how long I am watching something on television. The good old days when we ran to the kitchen or the wash room during a break. For the longest time that I can remember it has been Netflix, and Hotstar, Ozee (Mom misses her Zindagi channel) and Altbalaji. (Don’t judge me… I am a fan of Sakshi Tanwar and could not resist Kar le tu bhi mohabbat).

Coming back to the show, last two episodes there was a female contestant from Uttar Pradesh, Archana Vijay. She was full of spunk. I would have loved to see her win more. She said some things on the show which I could completely relate to:

• How every girl is told to get up early, do household work etc so that she is prepared for marriage! As if marriage is the sole goal of our existence!

• As a perfect career advice people give young women – Why don’t you do B. Ed and get into teaching. It is perceived as such a future husband, future in-laws and future children friendly profession! Well, what if the woman is not interested in that?

• She also talked about how following tradition blindly makes no sense. We have conveniently adopted all kinds of new techniques to save time and effort. Why be regressive when it comes to women?

People always say society is like this. People are like that. What can we do? What can we possibly change? Well, nobody is expecting anyone to change the society. But we can at least take charge of our own life. This lady started a cyber café. She speaks up against what she does not feel right. She is not badtameez, she is just logical. I loved the example she gave of aata chakki. But regressive people don’t like logic. Logic defies tradition.

On a completely irrelevant note, she referred to her husband as her “Mister”. Mr. Bachchan interrupted her and clarified that she was addressing her husband and that some people may not get it as it is a very UP thing. Throughout my childhood I have heard people say, “Humare Mr. yeh karte hai, Unki Mrs. nahi hai.. etc.” The fact that I did not find it odd at all, was a reminder that I am quite rustic myself! 🙂

One of the questions asked to her was ‘Which movie has won the National Award for a social message in 2017?’ The answer was Pink. How could I have missed that? A movie with the message ‘No means no’ won an award. The same movie that so many progressive people failed to understand and said,‘But why did the woman go inside a room with an unknown man? What was she thinking?’ Mr. Bachchan then reemphasized that message – No means no whether the woman is your wife or girlfriend.

The next contestant who came on the show spoke about female infanticide. I missed that part but my mother later told me that he coaches women for competitive exams.

By the end of the show, I felt really happy. A financially empowered woman who spoke her mind. A man who wants to empower women. A movie on woman’s consent winning an award. And the greatest superstar of all times spreading the message.

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Just Another Day Of Her Life

Jyotsna woke up, determined to go back to sleep. It must be 6 am, she thought. She looked at her watch. It was 8! She jumped out of bed. Why didn’t her alarm ring? Was it the am / pm mess again? Never mind! Who has the time to figure out now!

She layered a generous amount of toothpaste on her toothbrush, and stuffed it into her mouth as she entered the kitchen. Tea on one burner, bread on the other. Another burner was turned on, as she took out the dough from the refrigerator.

The door-bell rang. Rupa, her house-maid entered. Jyotsna did not have the energy to argue with her for coming late. She was just grateful that she came.

“There is some bhindi in the fridge. Can you please pack it in Bhaiya’s

tiffin.” Jyotsna said.

“Didi, there is not enough bhindi for two people. What will you carry today?”

“It’s okay. Just make sure you pack for him. I will eat something at work.”

By the time Jyotsna got dressed, Anand was back from yoga. She grabbed a slice of bread, and rushed to catch her office cab.

Jyotsna sat next to her friend, Nidhi in the cab who was her only solace in the one-and-a-half-hour commute. But today, Nidhi did not remove her head-phones, and ignored Jyotsna. She pestered her to talk. Nidhi burst into tears.

“Kunal dumped me!”

“Oh I am so sorry dear! What happened?”

“He said he got engaged to a girl, his mother found for him. When I accused him, he said he cannot possibly marry a woman who is on Tinder!”

“That’s ridiculous! He himself is on Tinder!”

“I know right!! Bloody hypocrite! He said we could continue seeing each other. But I told him to get lost. So, I dumped him, technically, right?”

“Oh yes of course! Good for you! We deserve better! I mean you deserve better!”

Just before lunch break, Jyotsna received a call from her mother-in-law. She was getting late, but she knew this was a call she had to pick. She still remembers the ruckus from the last time she had missed her call.

“Namastey Mummy!” she tried to sound cheerful. There was silence.

“Hello?”

“Jyotsna! I can’t believe you gave yesterday’s bhindi to my son for lunch! And bread for breakfast!! Why are you so lazy?”

“Mummy, I had got up late today. And Rupa was also late. He had really liked the bhindi last night. There was little left so just for today, I gave him that. And he loves bread! Especially when I put cheese spread on it!

“What option does he have, poor boy! Keep neglecting your husband! I never say anything. I am such a kind, understanding woman. You are lucky to have me as a mother-in-law. And a husband like Anand. When I got married, I used to get up at 5 and make sure…..”

Jyotsna was tempted to disconnect the phone. Her mother-in-law went on for half an hour. By the time she reached the cafeteria, it was fully crowded. She looked at the queue. Then at her watch. She had a call in 10 minutes. She had no option but to skip lunch.

Jyotsna and her boss dialed in for the call. They waited patiently for five minutes. After 10 minutes, somebody joined.

“Hi. This is Rahul from Leela’s team. Leela would not be able to take the call today. Her baby is sick so had to rush home. But I have prepared the report, and if we turn to page 10…”

“You see this!” Jyotsna’s boss muted the call, visibly infuriated.

“I hired Leela last year! She never bothered to tell me she was expecting at the time of interview! Enjoyed her paid maternity leave, and now she will come to work as and when she feels like! Lucky women!!”

“Her child is sick! I am sure she will log in from home in some time…”

“Just a minute, my wife is calling.”

Jyotsna was interrupted as the boss stepped out. But she could still hear him.

No I obviously cannot buy a present for a five-year-old kid on my way back! Just let him attend the birthday party without a gift! Big deal! He can gift later. Don’t disturb me at work for this non-sense! I have better things to do!”

He came back to the room, intuitive that Jyotsna had heard him.

“Sorry. My wife was insisting I buy a gift for a birthday party my son got invited to last minute. She is saying she cannot step out because she is busy! I was like busy with what? You are just a housewife! Anyway, let’s get back to the call…”

After a long day, Jyotsna reached home. Hungry, tired and irritated. As she went to cook dinner, she received a call from Rupa.

“Didi, I can’t come tomorrow!”

“What!! Why? This is your second holiday this week!”

“Sorry Didi. My husband and I had a huge fight. The Didi from 103 had given me her old jeans and kurti. When he saw me in jeans, he got mad and slapped me! He said no need to go to work and seduce men!

“So what! Now you will never work? He doesn’t earn anything anyway!”

“No no Didi. Tomorrow is end of month. He will ask money for alcohol. That time, I will say, I have no money left. His drama will not last. I am not educated like you na Didi, what to do?”

Jyotsna wanted to scream, but refrained. Could the day get any worse?

Jyotsna began having dinner after serving Anand.

“Mummy called me today.” Jyotsna decided to play with fire. “Apparently, you discussed the menu with her, which upset her!”

“Don’t be so over sensitive. She casually asked what I was eating, so I mentioned. Anyway, check this out. She sent me pictures of Rhea on WhatsApp. Just look at her!”

Rhea was Anand’s cousin’s wife. She had delivered a baby boy eight months back.

“Look how slim she is looking! She did aerobics and gym. Lost all that weight so soon!”

Jyotsna knew where the conversation was going.

“I mean just look at her! So pretty and slim! Who would guess she is 35! Some girls take such good care of themselves. They look so young and beautiful. You know Mummy was saying that maybe you should try to reduce too. I mean you are only 29. We don’t even have a child yet. You will only put on more from here on!”

“Excuse me!!”

“I knew you would get offended. It is so difficult to talk to you! What did I say wrong? You know men like their wives to be attractive.”

Jyotsna threw the bowl in her hand. Anand ducked, almost in reflex. He then realized it was just a fragile, steel bowl incapable of causing any damage. Embarrassed, he yelled.

“What the hell?”

Jyotsna stood up. Her big, kohled eyes were red, matching with her the red bindi. She looked very intimidating.

“Shut up!! Just shut up! What the hell, you want to know? Yes, I know I am fat. I would have loved to work out. But I don’t. I prepare your break-fast, tea, lunch and supervise the maid while you go for your yoga. In the evening, again I can’t go to gym because I have to cook dinner for you. I have not even had my lunch today. Did you even bother to check if I did?

You are a 33-year-old man-child who cannot even manage to take care of himself and complains to his mother about what he is being fed!
You know why Rhea is so pretty, because happy girls looks prettier. And you know why she is happy? Her husband is not a jerk like you! She has got a full-time baby sitter, and a cook. So, she can afford to spend time on herself. I can’t!

Not being smart, sexy, modern, is a problem. But we should not be too much of it either! We should be the right amount! Right enough to satisfy your ego, but careful enough not to hurt it!

You can be on Tinder! But we can’t! Wearing jeans is a problem! Leaving office early to tend to a sick child is a problem! Not embarrassing your child for attending a birthday party without a gift is a problem! You know who is the problem! You!!! Live a damn day in my life! Do the chores that I do. Manage house work with office! Listen to the taunts of an interfering and controlling mother-in-law! Come home to an unattractive husband! Yes, the feeling is mutual! If you get judged the way we do, you would not be able to survive!”

Jyotsna stormed out of the room. Anand had never seen her so angry. What is wrong with women? He thought. How did she find out he was on Tinder? When has he forbidden her to wear jeans? And what was that whole thing about presents, and sick children? They did not have any! It is probably that time of the month for her when she gets all crazy.

He would surely call Mummy tomorrow and ask her to counsel Jyotsna on PMS.

Note:

This story was written for an online contest where the cue was from the movie ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’. I am aware that not all men are the way described in this story. This story has been written with the cue in mind, as a tribute to those who have made some of the Indian goddesses very angry.

Bindi or Blazer: Look Beyond The Stereotypes

“You must wear western formals on your first day,” said the HR executive while handing me the appointment letter.

“Can I wear Indian formals? It is part of the dress code as per company policy.”

“You can, but not on the first day. We want a proper, formal look for the first day.”

Read the full article on Sheroes.

Lipstick Under My Burkha – Just Let The Women Be!

I finally watched the “lady oriented” movie, ‘Lipstick under my Burkha’. For those of you who do not know, a copy of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) letter to the film’s producer Prakash Jha had stated as follows:

“The story is lady oriented, their fantasy about life. There are continuous sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused.”

Needless to say, there was an outrage. How can a movie be refused for being “lady oriented”, when movies such as Grand Masti, Kya Supercool hain hum and other rubbish that is male oriented and objectifies women is normalized?

I had shared an article on this sometime in February. The response was mixed. One gentleman has directed a question at me:

“Tanvi Sinha, would you show porn to your children, if not then how can you support a movie like this?”

I may not show porn to my future children.  But that does not mean that they would not watch it themselves eventually. Speaking of children…

Recently, I was trying to watch a movie on Netflix with my sister, 9 year old niece and mother. Father was also around in the living room, but busy on his laptop. I checked the parent guide for a particular Hollywood movie, and confirmed that it did not have any nudity.

The movie started. A woman took a home pregnancy test. She told her boyfriend she was pregnant. Ten minutes into the movie, my mother felt uncomfortable. This was Netflix, uncensored. Who knows what would come next? I was strategically reminded that ‘Dhishoom’ was coming on Star Gold.

I complied and disconnected Netflix. We started watching safe Bollywood. A pretty girl appears in a bikini. Varun Dhawan’ character is lusting at her, trying hard to look at her face while admiring her breasts.  There are some cheap jokes. There is a song “Janeeman AAh, Gale lag jaah” with some weird moves.

Everybody is comfortable now.  Good old Star Gold.  We are assured that there would be no nudity. We are watching what we have watched for years and normalized. Objectification of women, women fantasized from the man’s point of view, women not having any mind of their own, cheap jokes with double  entendre. Yes, all this is acceptable to show our children.

Coming back to the A rated, lady oriented movie – I completely enjoyed watching it. The script was crisp. The performances were outstanding.  Here is what worked for me:

  1. Ratna Pathak as Buaji is awesome. In an effective scene, a woman talks about looking for a bride for an old, widowed man. “35-40 saal ki ladki bhi chalegi!” Men obviously have needs. They can remarry at any age, to any age. But how can a 55-year-old women possibly have any desires?

2. The youngest female character in the movie, leaves home in a burkha only to change to jeans, in college with bright red lipstick. How many women do we know who did that in college? I even know older women living with parents who leave their homes completely covered , and end up changing into short clothes at pubs / friends places.

3. Konakana Sen’s character gets raped every night. Her husband is abusive, chauvinistic and a philanderer who is least bothered about her health. He has never heard of foreplay and does not believe in protected sex. However, she catches him romancing another woman. Seems he does know how to make a woman feel good! Just that the wife is his property, someone who does not deserve that affection.

4. The fourth character was the one I could not relate to at all. She runs a beauty parlour, and plans to start a business with her photographer boyfriend while being engaged to a stable, nice and boring arranged marriage guy. I did not like her character, and her scenes in the movie.

Now, coming back to the things that people have raised objections to:

  • Ample smoking scenes including the one at the end.
  • A confused woman cheating on her fiancé with her boyfriend
  • Some graphic scenes that may not be the most tasteful
  • Audio pornography?

Every time a movie like this is made, people attack feminism. Women empowerment is not about having sex, smoking, and getting pregnant before marriage. Okay!! I do not support adultery, cheating and smoking. But who said this movie was about how women should behave? Maybe it was just meant to be watched as a story from a woman’s point of view? Did we not see the warning, Smoking kills?

Another point of criticism was the ending. The women do not really do anything drastic to change their circumstances. They in fact seem to have conformed to patriarchy. In the last scene, they just all get together to express their disappointment about how dreams remain dreams. Reality is so different. But doesn’t it make it more realistic? Do we not do that in our daily life? With all our problems, shattered dreams, and unfulfilled desires, we share our feelings with our girlfriends and get a moment of relief.

What other movies have dealt with women’s emotions and desires, maybe with lesser visuals and more ‘seriousness’?

  • Remember that speech of Tabu’s character in the movie Astitva?
  • Nafisa Ali’s track with Dharmendra in Life in a Metro

What could have been a different ending:

  • Konkana divorcing her husband?
  • Ratna Pathak giving a speech on widows’ happiness like in movies such as Baabul?

Maybe. But no, this was not that kind of a movie. Every movie is differently made. Maybe in two hours, that’s all they wanted to convey.  Maybe it would have been boring if it went on and on with an ‘empowering victory’ for every character. Maybe they just wanted the women to be. The characters were real, and they were doing what they could in their own capacity to empower themselves. There was no conclusion. There was no preaching.  It was meant to be more entertaining, and I did enjoy it. Most people I know who watched it liked it too. Why can’t we accept it for what it was?

Maybe if we had 100 movies like this, “lady oriented” we would not have put so much pressure on it to be necessarily empowered. But we don’t. We have very few, and when we do we somehow want to justify it was worth so much of rebellion with the CBFC. It should earn its place with something useful for women like  – employment, voting rights, driving rights, rising against domestic violence?

Do we put so much thought into our regular ‘normalized’ , senseless Bollywood rubbish? Why did Badrinath gag his would be Dulhaniya in the trunk of his car? Why do our heroes smoke? Why is it cool for them to have multiple girlfriends?  No! it is just a movie, after all. If we do attack these movies, we are told: Why do feminists have to get so serious about everything? Where is their sense of humour?

So there. Women need not be fantasized. Women need not be idealized. They are regular human beings. Just let them be….

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Tradition or Dowry! Decide Before Marriage To Save Your Happiness

Diya’s wedding was two months away. The invitation-cards had been distributed. Her parents were more than happy to throw a lavish wedding. They were paying for all the functions, including the reception which should have been hosted from the groom’s side, and the stay of their side of guests.

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But What About Men? Not All Men!!

Every time I write an article, I receive some personal messages and comments from men:

But what about the men?

Your articles are biased…Not all men are like that.

One guy I know even went to the extent of saying that he feels “discouraged” to be good to the women around him – dropping girls home after a party, not passing lewd remarks on scantily dressed girls in a pub, because he felt that men no longer get any “recognition” for being good in India, thanks to the “feminist wave”.

When women send me their stories and experiences, they are very elaborate and specific. They tell me EXACTLY what it is that is bothering them – whether it is pressure of getting married, struggle to manage home and work along with expectations of in-laws, lack of support from husbands etc. When men send me messages, they are usually just one liners – What about men? Not all men!!

I really cannot write a full article based on that! I write about women’s problems based not only on my own personal experiences, but also experiences shared by women, both known to me in personal life, and unknown to me, who have connected with me in the blogosphere. If a man would actually send me a personal story, about the injustice that he is facing because of society, I will care to write about it (believe me). I am also very much interested in knowing what are the issues faced by men.

Feminists are not men-hating, bra burning, home-wrecking women, provided we care to understand what the whole movement is about. I am in no way saying all men are bad, and all women are good. But I want to tell the men the following:

I have been groped in a crowded public place..

I know a girl who was abused by her relative as a child.

I know of an educated woman who was made to abort a girl child.

I know a former colleage who suffered sexual harassment at work..

I know quite a few women whose husbands have hit them.

I know of women who have been raped by their husbands.

I know of women who could not do MBA because they were told if they don’t marry soon, they would end up alone..

I know of women who spent most of their late teenage years and early adult life studying hard, but gave up their careers for children (They may still have a job, but not a career).

Many married women I know, are expected to take care of household chores, and cook / clean before and after working hours.

Most of the weddings I have attended, are funded by the bride’s side of the family. There may additionally be a car or cash gifted out of “love” as well.

Please ask the women you are close to, if any of the above has happened to them. Maybe every woman you know, will say yes to atleast one of the above.

So, next time I write an article from a woman’s point of view, please do not undermine it by saying “What about men?” Don’t make everything about men…

I get it. Gender stereotypes damage everybody. It is not benefiting anybody. Men who want to leave their jobs to study or work on a start-up or stay-at home dads feel the pressure of society to “provide”. Men get abused too but cannot tell anybody for fear of being ridiculed..I know that some women are filing false dowry cases, and bringing about shame to the ones who actually need the laws (more on that in a separate article)…

Please share such stories with me, if it has happened to you or somebody you know. I will be happy to publish it. But please don’t just say “Not all men!” Not all men are bad. We never said that!! But yes, all women are suffering, in some way or another, just because we are women. Instead of getting defensive, acknowledge the problem, and work towards making things better.

1. Next time your friend says that she is afraid to take a cab late at night, don’t tell her that the city is safe and she is unnecessarily panicking. It is not. Understand that she lives in fear..

2. Stop forwarding those sexist jokes on WhatsApp! They are not harmless and certainly not funny. Especially the married men jokes that I hate. These jokes only support that idea that women are objects to laugh at. A male friend of mine sent me the following joke:

Jet airways launched a scheme where a husband can take his wife free on their business trip.
After big Success of the scheme.
Jet Airways sent letters to all wives asking about their experience?
99% wives replied
What scheme??
Which trip??
and When was it??

Do married men really have women throwing themselves at them? That women will jump at the first opportunity to travel with men who are not their husbands? Is cheating a joke? What if I edited this joke:

Jet airways launched a scheme where a wife can take her husband free on their business trip.
After big Success of the scheme.
Jet Airways sent letters to all husbands asking about their experience?
99% husbands replied
What scheme??
Which trip??
and When was it??

Is it funny anymore? Do we circulate jokes like this? I guess because women don’t get to go on business trips (sarcasm!)? Or maybe society does not consider it acceptable that wives could cheat on their husbands, and then laugh about it too!

3. Don’t just support women empowerment on social media, or in discussions where women are present. Apply it in your daily life. If your friend is maligning a woman’ s character, ask him to shut up. Even if there are no women around to applaud you.

4. Don’t be proud of yourself because you “allow” your wife to work, or visit her parents or go out with her friends. You don’t have any authority to allow her to do anything. You don’t own her.

5. If you genuinely care about women, and treat the women in your life well, they will respect you and appreciate you. Don’t get offended by every “feminist” article. They are very much needed, and are here to stay.

You continue to be the good person you are..