#womenhavelegs – Slaying the ‘whatabouterys’

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/stop-trivialising-campaigns-womenhavelegs-if-you-wish-gender-equality-133562

The other day, when I put up a picture of myself basking in the Venetian sun, displaying my not-so-long-or-beautiful but bare legs, there were quite a few who had good things to say – about my legs, my looks, the place and about the campaign too.

The campaign started shortly after a teenaged actor of Mollywood, Anaswara Rajan, posted a picture of her wearing a pair of shorts and an off-shoulder top, looking as dainty as ever. However, this did not sit well with the cyber brothers who are the self-proclaimed vigilantes of Indian women’s modesty.

The dam of vile abuses broke without much ado and Rima Kallingal, another actor of the industry, took to social media and posted a picture of her sporting swimwear, flaunting her beautiful long legs with the hashtag #womenhavelegs. And Malayali women all over the world have followed suit. When I put up my photo, along with the rosy comments, there were also people who ambushed me with statements like – “It doesn’t help”, “This is not a grave issue that plagues the society”, “Why don’t you talk about rapes or that other feminist issue instead?” and more such whataboutery.

Yes, it would be great to see celebrities and influencers come up with more campaigns on ‘serious’ matters. However, when we try to dissect matters concerning the society and segregate them on the grounds of the gravitas they carry, it is tricky as to what is actually grave and what’s not.

Here are five points that may help in that demarcation and in slaying the barrage of such incoming whataboutery:

1. The matters that people in general consider ‘serious’ are typically issues pertaining to justice and atrocities that women are subjected to. However, there is a judicial system in this country which is responsible for dealing with that, and a hashtag campaign is not going to bring about any change to how matters of justice are handled. It can only be a means of protest and a device to bring awareness regarding the incident at hand. (Even the #CAB that trended across the world failed to bring about any difference in how the law was carried out. The Citizenship Amendment Bill still got passed as an Act.)

So, social media ultimately gets reduced to a profile building platform for the mere proclamation to followers that one cares about such and such issue, and nothing more. The fact is, the law and order system will only be as effective as the collective conscience of the society, for the law enforcers come from that very patriarchal society. During the Nirbhaya case, it was insinuated that the rape happened because the victim’s dress was too short, because she was out late, because she went out with her boyfriend and so on. During the US women’s suffrage movement, even abolitionists wanted out, because they felt the women demanding more than just voting rights and expecting equal wages, equality in marriage and custody over children, was crossing a line. Trying to salvage people from such social and societal conditioning is something that can progressively materialise only by changing one individual at a time. Social media along with other podiums definitely aid that.

2. The first and foremost freedom of every individual is the freedom over their own self – body and mind. Our society and people still haven’t been able to instill this in their consciousness, nor have they realised that the violation against that particular freedom is against the most basic tenet of democracy itself. To make people more cognizant of this fact is one of the main goals of such campaigns.

Remember Nangeli and her fight against breast tax? There have always been people who think and behave like they have a say over the bodies of women. And to those who say that these campaigns do not help, I beg to differ. These are the campaigns that do help, that can make any change at all through a social media forum, because the very first change that needs to happen is from an individual level, from a single person’s mind. And in a fight for women’s rights and democracy, every argument in favour matters, every inch, every ounce, every iota matters.

3. There are several generations of Indian men who have grown up watching B-grade movies in secret, thanks to a culture in which sexual openness has been stigmatised. Topics on sex or sexuality have been considered a taboo in any forum, to the point where the prudishness of high school teachers has made them skip the chapter on reproductive biology faster than you can say the word ‘sex’.

At the same time, B-grade movies are notorious for objectifying and fetishizing every part of a woman’s body – hands, legs, under-arms, navel, nape and what not. In fact, any skin above the toe-nails of a woman can be considered ‘vulgar’ to anyone who has been conditioned to think so. Social media campaigns such as #Womenhavelegs are an attempt to normalise and reclaim women’s bodies. It may take decades. But these are baby steps towards that giant leap.

4. There are a 100 million issues in the world, women-centric, child-centric, nature-centric, animal-centric, war-centric, poverty-centric, oppression-centric. Everyone – celebrity or not – mostly voices their opinions about matters that they are passionate about or that they can relate to more. Just because one doesn’t put up posts on matters appealing to another person’s interests doesn’t mean whatever they have put up is irrelevant. No one reserves the right to dole out certificates or seals of approval on whether a person’s opinion is significant or not, because he/she hasn’t yet been vociferous on what is deemed more important by them.

5. The reality is that the perverse mind will be aroused by the most frivolous of things. In Marjane Satrapi’s book Persepolis, she talks about post-revolution Iran where she, clad in an attire that covered her body and ‘modesty’, was running after a bus, only to be caught by the police for behaving “immorally” because her hips were moving in a “provocative” way while she was running!

Changing the mindset of the society in how they see women and perceive sexuality in general is what will pave way ultimately to the curbing of violations against them, for these offenders and their offences are the off-springs of the same social conditioning. And such campaigns are imperative for that. So, I reiterate, this is the kind of movement that can actually bring about actual change, even if it is at the pace of a snail sitting atop a tortoise! For, isn’t it better to try and change the society’s regressive ideas of morality thereby stopping a crime from being committed, than to protest with a campaign once we allow it to happen?

Dedicating this post especially to a particular group of women who are supposedly bold, independent and empowered, yet look down on other women depending on the amount of skin they are willing to expose. They are okay with women wearing knee-length skirts, sleeveless blouses or sarees but anything over and beyond is sacrilege! So, seeing skin till the shoulders or knees, or even in the mid-riff is kosher because they are okay doing it. But since they are apprehensive to bare any skin beyond that (for fear of society ultimately) they are cynical about other women who do that.

This is what transpired during the breastfeeding campaign too, when the model was exposing more than what these modern-day witch-hunters deem appropriate. I’m sure they are clueless on the fact that other “Kulasthrees” (Bharatiya Naris) do look down on them in the exact same way. Oh, the irony!

In a way, those opposing views on women’s rights leads to catharsis. It will ultimately mean that the more refined views will get sieved from the mix of opinions, and thereby help lay the founding stones for future feminist movements which will stand strong.

Though the flak I received was mostly from women, the fact remains that in a patriarchal society, everyone – sans gender, age, class, social status or generation – is conditioned by such regressive notions that objectify women, contributing to this rape culture which India is now notorious for.

The greatest pain of all

30 July 2020

Yesterday u turned 2. Two years since I had to unclasp the embrace the walls of my womb had around you. Two years since I had to ‘let you out’ on this earth. Yes, that’s what I have felt from the day I gave birth to you.I clearly remember the day before the delivery. I was alone, driving aimlessly like a deranged person, wandering all over the city, the entire length and breadth of it, crying profusely all the while.

I felt my heart burst into a gazillion minuscule pieces through every drop of tear I shed. I couldn’t come to think of you leaving the comfort of my body and out into this wild wicked wretched world. The thought rippled earthquakes inside me and I knew you too felt the tremors. You did realise I was losing my mind at the thought. For, the next day at the hospital you refused to budge.

It was the D day (Delivery day/Decision day) but there was no sign of pain or water breaking. I went through another 24 hours of taking medication to induce pain. But it was like u had already made up your mind to stay put. You really had an adamant personality even back then. Or should I say ‘determined’?

After one entire day I still hadn’t dilated even 1 cm and didn’t have an iota of pain ebbing from my tummy. That’s when I realised that my baby was totally comfortable where he was, and this made me only more distraught. After much contemplation and going diametrically opposite to what my gynaecologist advised, I announced I’d like to have a C-Section. The thought of waiting further and badgering you more into discomfort just wasn’t acceptable for me. Rather than another day of trying to force you out I told myself I would prefer to welcome you from my tummy straight to my arms (and close to my heart), even if it meant more pain and time for me to recuperate.

It may sound weird but the fact is it actually hurt more to make myself understand that it was ‘time’, than the week-long excruciating pain I endured after the procedure – because I knew it was all over from that moment on. Me and you feeling all emotions together, agony and joy, anger and calm, desperation and hope, feeling it all together like a cosmic duet, and feeling like we are one, it was all ending. The bliss I felt of being home to you, of you belonging to me and having belonged to you in every way possible – I only wish we have many many years ahead of us, to let us both share at least a hundredth of that bliss, all our lives. Love you baby more than you would ever know!

Happy 2nd birthday, my heart 😘

For the love of Cricket and a long-haired Bihari

22 Aug 2020

It is 7 days since the no.7 of Indian Cricket team retired. And my 27 years of watching Cricket has officially come to an end – it has marked my retirement as a fan of this beautiful game too.

Yes, I say unabashedly that I’m a fan girl, of Cricket, of Sachin and of Dhoni. I am aware that there are many a sports aficionado who look down on Cricket with utmost condescension, and quip that it is not much of a sport as tennis is, or football is. But I’ve my fair reasons to counter. For one, I’ve always admired team sports than individual sports – maybe because when it is announced that Leander Peas wins, it is still more his win than India’s. While when Indian cricket team wins, it is always declared “India win”.. not that “India wins”. Why? Because it is not Indian team that wins, rather it is us who win – I win, you win, we win, everyone in India is a winner that day. Secondly, as a general principle, I prefer less violence always – in reel, in real, on the field, off the field, anywhere, everywhere. Naturally I had to have an attraction towards Cricket for its gentle nature and for being ‘genteel’ the way the game has always presented itself to me.

As opposed to many of my friends of the same gender who tend to have an aversion towards sports in general, I’ve keenly followed cricket all throughout my life. In fact cricket has also been one of the main topics over which I’ve bonded with many of my male friends (the second being explicit jokes and innuendos. Shushh now :D). Well, for me this craze – I mean cricket of course – 😊 started when my mother used to keep alarm for 4 am to wake up and watch the 1992 World Cup. I was barely 8 then. I would wake up with her, sit alongside staring at the TV screen with lights turned down in our living room barely figuring out how this game made sense. That was the start, at least in my mind. But my mother says otherwise. She is convinced it probably had its inception way back when she conceived me. Apparently, I was in her womb when the 1983 Cricket World cup happened. Back then too, my mom, despite her pregnant belly and morning sickness throughout the day, was glued to the TV watching all the one-day matches of the tournament like a studious pupil who dare not be truant.  And boy was she rewarded! India, the underdog of the tournament lifted the World Cup that year. 

All throughout my childhood I remember watching every single match India plays, without fail. There were days when I had even faked being ill to stay home and watch the entire match. The days I couldn’t, I would be in school wondering how India was faring, for those were the days before the internet, before mobiles and there was no way of getting to know the scores till I reached back home and switched on the TV. By the time I was in college, I believe my family expected me to give up on this so-called vicarious thrill. But no, I had no such intention, though there were occasional matches I missed, unlike earlier. I keenly followed Cricket, and Sachin and Yuvi with a lot of love in my heart.. till Dhoni came along. I still remember my classmates in college talking about this long-haired new guy who hit 183 out of 145 balls against SL, and I was miserable thinking how I could have possibly missed that match. I went back home and searched all over the sports and news channels to get a glimpse of this person. That was the first and probably the last time I missed watching Dhoni play for the next entire decade.

I don’t know how I could define my love for Dhoni. There are probably a 100 reasons, literally – but the very first I can think of is the fact that he is a small town boy. I am and will always be a cheer girl for the underdogs. Among the Sachins and the Kohlis and Yuvis – the metropolitan boys – this brown haired Bihari bloke with broken English and an unflattering accent stole bits of my heart at the very first sight itself. And in a short while he went on to completely pickpocket my entire heart when his broken English transformed into well-framed sentences in English, delivered with confidence. I was in awe, of the effort he would have put in, to groom and transmogrify himself so. The World Cup T20 matches and how he adorned the cap of a Captain with cool-headedness unseen in someone inexperienced in an international arena was inspiring indeed. His success in numerous tournaments that was topped off with ICC Champions Trophy and ICC World Cup all made me only adore him more and more over the years.

But rather than his success rate per se, what attracted me mostly was the way he conducted himself on the field. His game tactics – how he picks up subtle things and turns around the game with his flawless decisions, the way he shows confidence in bowlers who are not in the best of form by handing them the critical overs, his stumping skills that literally make us feel like time stands still for an instant, his impeccable DRS predictions which even changed the abbreviation of DRS to Dhoni Review System in our minds, his adamance to take India home every time with a final hit over the boundary if he is at the batting end, and his determination to win every match at any cost, making us all wonder if he is perhaps an undercover sorcerer who probably circumambulates the ground the night before every match discreetly burying black magic paraphernalia!

Over and above all this, what I admired most was the way he always maintained a sense of equanimity in the way he saw the game – never overjoyed, never in despair.  Special mention to the way he treated his boys, how he never ever ever got angry (yes, the epizeuxis was intentional) or irritated no matter how bad anyone performed, took him to a whole other league when it comes to captains of yore. Plus, the fact that I was completely floored at how humble and sweet he was to keep waving back at me and my friends 3 times over and over when we got to be in few feet distance of him at Lord’s. Okay enough said. This would probably be the very last time I write or think about Cricket too. And now I realise it would have happened long before, if not for Dhoni. Thank you Dhoni, for that too!

P.S. : I know Dhoni is from Jharkhand and not Bihar, but I called him Bihari because it went with the flow of the title, also because, after all he was born a Bihari 😊

Aunties and uncles, judge all you want!

A note I wrote about 2 years back, but seemed relevant when I saw the recent news of a lady moral policing girls on their choice of clothes.

07/08/17

The other day a good friend of mine sent me a chic picture of hers, dilly-dallying by a side-walk in a metro city abroad. She was sporting a cute knee-length skirt and a matching tank top and my immediate response was, “You look so pretty in that western attire, why wouldn’t you wear these here in Trivandrum?”, to which she sheepishly retorted just a di-syllable, “Naanam”. I paused for a moment to recall few other lady friends and colleagues of mine who have given similar explanations or rather explanations that were disguised under layers of other phrases but essentially meant the same thing my friend just said.

So what makes bold independent women of the 21st century still feel apprehensive of wearing attractive modern attire that suit them a 100 times more than the sloppy salwars and kameez that infact even stand out as sore thumbs in a corporate setting.

I can only think of 2 reasons :

The first is the fact that our society is extremely judgemental and is audacious enough to give out verdicts about everything and anything in other people’s lives – beginning with the way they dress, eat, talk, the circle they move in, to the most inconsequential of matters. And they have multiple channels with which they broadcast these judgements. Most common being –
1. ‘piercing looks’ that make you feel like digging a grave and burying yourself in it rather than face the stares
2. vociferously, but ‘behind your back’ and never on the face
3. ‘subtle comments’ under the guise of small talk
4. ‘blatant mockery’ for which your clothes, shoes, makeup, hair anything could be subject to

The second reason I can think of, is the fact that we are all brought up without being told an imperative fact of life – ‘What other people think of us is none of our business’! It does not matter to our lives in any tangible way. It only has power when WE give it power. If we choose to ignore the words or thoughts of others it will burn down to ashes and have no effect whatsoever on our lives or peace of mind.

Even while brought up by well-educated parents they forgot to instill this thought inside of us. I hope at least we don’t trivialise this and would make sure we inculcate this thought while raising the next generation, for this brutal prejudiced world is always ready with its unforgiving whip that doles out unwarranted sentences for every turn our children may take.

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10 reasons why I don’t need to hate BJP & Modi and 1 reason why I think I should

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1. I have not been a supporter of any party – Congress, BJP, CPM, AAP, BSP, DMK, YSR, or any other numerous parties in India. I have never voted for any party nor do I have a voter’s ID yet.

2. I am born Hindu and legally still, so I have had no issue from Sanghis or Hindutva factions like what Christians or Muslims have faced.

3. I am not a Dalit and have not been discriminated by upper caste Hindus.

4. How ever much the fuel or cooking gas price is hiked in India as opposed to the record low international crude oil price, I have been able to afford buying it because I have a well-paying job.

5. There have been no riots that plagued me or my region killing or hurting anyone close to me.

6. I have had no issues from Sanghis regarding eating beef because I live in Kerala. And even if I travel outside I don’t have to worry over being killed for it anymore since I have stopped red meat altogether as part of adopting a healthier lifestyle.

7. Note ban did not affect me because I had enough cash withdrawn and also I could use digital money in few places. I also didn’t have to stand in ATM queues, nor did anyone close to me stand in that queue and die waiting for money.

8. All the failed schemes Modi started hasn’t affected me, because I’m not a person who would directly draw its benefits, the only exception being Swatch Bharat and again it’s failure doesn’t affect me much because I live in one of the cleanest cities in India.

9. I don’t have to worry about Rafeale deal or Ambani making money over it because it doesn’t affect me personally. And no one close to me is serving in IAF for me to worry over their safety since Modi has got the deal delayed.

10. I am not any well-known writer or celebrity or judge and hence don’t have to worry about being attacked or killed for writing or talking against BJP or Modi.

And yet, I am vehement about my displeasure towards the governance under Modi and BJP. I would like to clarify that the reason I do not support BJP is nothing personal. Me as a person or my family or my dear ones have not had any glaring issues during Modi’s rule. I have had no personal experience that would make me dislike him either. However, everything I have said against Modi and BJP all these years is because I couldn’t help being silent after seeing what’s happening around me. I couldn’t stop being empathetic of people who have faced the above said in different parts of the country at the behest of BJP, Sanghis and Modi. And I believe when the good people of this country are able to look beyond their own previous personal experiences that are religious, social, cultural or communal, and are able to see other people’s sufferings they may be able to understand why so many people are against this extreme right wing politics that is slowly tearing into the heart of India and murdering her.

P.S. : I have 2 friends from JNU, who are Hindus and it was easy for them to receive favours in faculty recruitments just by showing affinity for right-wing politics because the VC is BJP. However they chose not to do it only because they did not want something preferential like that after what had happened to Omar, Kanaiyya and Shehla in the campus. Now, that’s empathy. And that’s what I’m looking for in every citizen of our country. To consider experiences of other people and let that factor in when you decide whom to reject in this election. The experiences of those people who have absolutely nothing to give you back.

 

 

 

My tribe, my own

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Not all who have mothers,
Can know how it feels to be a child.

Not all who have siblings,
Can feel protected.

Not all who have fathers,
Can call themselves a princess.

Not all who have husbands,
Can pride to be queens.

Not all who have families,
Can claim to belong.
Because, to belong is beyond blood.

I have found my tribe,
Not in the confines of my house;
But in the saddest of places, like a murky mind,
That sees the same darkness as I do, and
In the loneliest of deserts, like the heart of a kindred soul.

I have found kinship,
Not with the clan that profess to be family;
But with the trees I wrap my arms around heaving a sigh,
When the goodness they breathe out,
Makes my soul pristine, with every whiff I hug back in.

I have found peace,
Not in the quietness of my vacant house;
But in the tranquil lull of the seas,
That is balm to my wounds, and
Heals the gashes on my heart.

I have found love,
Not in people’s hollow words they decorate their Facebook posts with;
But in the eyes of a speechless animal, who
Feels my bleeding innards,
Even in my silence.

I have felt at home,
Not with people who have labels in my life;
But with this nameless tribe of mine,
Whom my soul would meet again and again,
In all my lives to come.

First love

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After ages,
I stepped inside a book store.
A rarity now,
Thanks to Amazon and Kindle.
I held my breath,
Hogged with my eyes.
I walked down the aisle,
With flutter in my gut.
I picked up a book
Opened windows,
Into worlds unknown,
Lives unheard.
I smelled the pages,
Snorting cocaine, a lesser high.
I had almost forgotten,
I was a whore,
For hardbounds and paperbacks.
First love they are,
And will always be.
I walked out the store
Books in my arms,
Smile in my eyes,
Twinkle in my voice,
Glee in my heart,
Relieved that the child in me,
Is still intact.

Why we need feminism

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This is not just the schedule of swimming pool timings. It reveals why feminism is important, but then again you have to furrow your brows, cringe your eyes and look.

I felt like writing today because I’m irate, extremely, at the increasing attrocities against women and even in the name of traditions, and even from their own families. And I’m enraged, extremely, at how everyone around trivialises it.

I wanted to emphasize in my own way, why feminism is important now more than ever. Just because there are pseudo-feminists who don’t mean what they say, is it okay to condescend all the well-meaning ones by twisting the term into a derogatory “feminichi”? Is it okay to deride feminism as something unnecessary and exaggerated?

Coming back to the picture – Earlier when I put it up with the same description, many asked me what is wrong with it. I didn’t really say there is anything “wrong” per se, but rather what I said was “the picture reveals” why feminism is important. And the reason is, there are multiple “Women only” slots, but “Why isn’t there no “Men Only” slot?”

The answer to that question explains my whole point on why feminism is important – There are “Women only” slots because many women don’t feel safe around men. Hence the need for such a slot arises in the first place. But there is no question of men feeling unsafe around women, and so there is no “Men only” slot. Not even one.

Like most people misconstrue, feminism is not aimed at putting women on a pedestal and giving them prerogatives that they don’t deserve. Feminism came into existence because women are more oppressed than men are, and women feel more unsafe than men do in most circumstances, here and everywhere (except few one-off cases). We need women to be lifted up to the same status as men are in all walks of life, so that they don’t feel less recognised, less respected and less safe as they do now. Hence feminism. Period.

 

 

 

 

 

My Trivandrum

16642C27-514C-4F81-814C-DBC052CDC55CTo all the rest of ‘Lolans’ and ‘Lolas’ like me, who are besotted with our beloved Trivandrum…

I love driving on Sunday afternoons through my city. Reminds me of the old Trivandrum, Trivandrum of 90s, Trivandrum of my childhood. The city looks lazy and laid back, with a profound sense of calm about it. The grandfather trees that flank the Kaudiar Rajaveedhi look serene and as if in an afternoon siesta. I can never get enough of floating amid them. Once in a while, I park my car in their shade and keep gazing at the leaves that dance down in a gentle drizzle. The old Colonial structures spread across the length and breadth of the city seem more majestic than in a busy day amidst manic traffic. They stand tall and wise like a proud tusker, having been witness to decades of eventfulness. And when behind the wheel I particularly love listening to yesteryear Malayalam movie songs, specially those of Mohanlal. It’s like they have an air about them that summons a whiff of that era. You inhale and get magically transported back to that time. I’m sure nostalgia coupled with the beauty of Trivandrum on a lazy Sunday afternoon is something most of my peers – 80s born Trivandrumites – can relate to.

Why not ‘save’ Malikappurath Amma too?

So the logic is Lord Ayyappa being a “naishtika bhramachari” cannot even stand the sight of a female devotee who is of menstrual age. They can’t even be in his vicinity! In that case, isn’t it reasonable to wonder why male worshippers are allowed inside Malikapurath Amma’s temple, when she has vowed to stay a “virgin” till the day Ayyappa is ready to marry her? Leave aside the devotees, how can male priests be allowed to touch her, caress her, even bathe her?! Oh what blasphemy! And how can Ayyappa and his worshippers stand and look on when this gross injustice is being inflicted upon Malikapurath Amma, who has devoted her entire life to Ayyappa? If the virginity of Ayyappa has to be protected, then Malikappurath Amma is also entitled to the same.  Looks like feminism is a relevant concept even in the realms of gods! So I’m wondering why not call on and unite female devotees to safeguard Malikappurath Amma’s virginity? Why don’t we set out to vandalise public transport and burn abodes of ‘detractors’ in her name?

P.S. : Have a look at this picture, blokes wearing undergarments are this poor virgin’s bouncers which is also deemed perfectly normal. Sigh!

Disclaimer : For the morons who can’t process sarcasm, please be informed that this is a satirical note.

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