I always knew that I am not beautiful. I was okay with this fact. I also accepted the fact that I am not thin. It is not a big deal. I thought I had accepted myself, successfully, but conventional beauty standards are so powerful that they influence you in subconscious ways. So even though I never obsessed about my looks and my weight, I obsessed about other things…I obsessed about how creative I am. This might look harmless on the surface but after contemplation, I realized that I was overcompensating. Deep down, I believed that I am ugly and that the only way I can find acceptance is through my work and my creativity. So I constantly put myself in a race…I always wanted to be better than others when it came to creativity. While there was a desire for self-improvement and passion at play here, there was also insecurity: If I’m not beautiful and if I’m not thin, then I have to be good at something else, so that people don’t mock me. There was a fear that if I’m not beautiful or thin, people might not love me. I wouldn’t admit this to myself at first but this is the truth. And this is the truth of many women. While men also face different kinds of pressure, there is more pressure on women when it comes to how they look, how they dress up, how much they weigh etc. Even if we are not thinking about the way we look, we are thinking about it, subconsciously. Centuries of conditioning won’t vanish in a few days, so I guess the first step is to be aware. And it helps to remember this kickass quote from someone: “Pretty is not the rent you pay to exist in the world as a woman.”
As I read about the horrific rape incidents and the politics being played around it, I somehow feel ashamed of myself. Every time I keep mum when someone blames the victim for rape/sexual assault, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I say, “Why is she speaking about the abuse/rape now? Why didn’t she speak up earlier?”, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I say, “Boys will be boys”, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I keep mum when rape jokes are cracked, I’m propagating rape culture. Every time I come under family pressure and watch movies that objectify women and normalize sexual assault, I’m propagating rape culture. The outrage against the rapists is important. But it is also important to ask tough questions to yourself. The easiest thing to do would be to say that the rapists are different from me and that I’m morally superior. But the toughest part is to pay attention to the small things that we do everyday. When your boss cracks a sexist joke, the easiest thing would be to laugh along with him. When your male colleague jokes about sexual harassment seminar at workplace, it’s easy to just laugh along with him.The toughest thing is to speak up. I hope these horrific incidents will be a wake-up call to all of us: it’s time we look at everyday sexism and rape culture. Yes, in my own way, I have contributed to the rape culture in this country and I don’t want to wash my hands by saying “Sorry”. I hope I remember the face of the innocent victims every time I choose to laugh at a sexist joke or every time I watch a movie that is being made by a domestic abuser.
As a child, I was a compulsive reader. I would read anything that I could get my hands on. I remember reading Pinki, Billu, Chacha Chaudhary, Tinkle, Champak etc. I also remember reading obscure detective novels and many other such books. Reading was pure joy.
The other day, we were stuck in a traffic jam on a road that had no traffic signals. The reason behind the jam was people (in the vehicles) refusing to let the others pass. Everyone wanted to the the first one to go and that resulted into chaos. Then, as it happens often in a traffic jam, few people came out of their vehicles and started leading: They asked few vehicles to stop and directed others to go. Thanks to them, the problem was solved. I don’t know why but I started comparing the traffic jam on the road with the traffic jam in my mind!
There are people who say that we shouldn’t think negative thoughts (as if we can stop thinking negative thoughts instantly!). There are some thoughts that I just don’t want to think. There are some thoughts that are so overpowering that I just cannot suppress them. However, I am egoistic and I want to be in control…so I try my best to fight the unwanted thoughts and replace them with the thoughts that I want to think…which ultimately results in a traffic jam in my mind! Perhaps, the best way to solve the problem of a traffic jam is to lead: Let the unwanted thoughts come…and pass ( In most cases, the intensity of the thoughts reduces after some time). This doesn’t mean I will just accept whatever my mind throws at me. The difference is AWARENESS. Being aware of what I am thinking means I am neither accepting nor rejecting my thoughts!
#Abuse can be systematic but it is not logical. Unfortunately, the victim of the abuse tries to tell himself/herself that what’s happening to him/her is logical. At first, he/she feels that that there he/she is doing something which is “wrong” with him/her and therefore, he/she deserves to be abused (that’s the logic in his/her head). If he/she is lucky enough, he/she will realize that the abuser does the same thing that he/she supposedly doesn’t “like” in the victim. For example: A husband may say that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and abuse the wife for a messy house but the wife may (luckily) ask herself why he pisses on the roadside if cleanliness is indeed so important to him. If the victim is lucky enough to reach this stage, he/she will realize that there is actually no logic (that doesn’t mean there is no pattern) to abuse. However, he/she will start looking for reasons behind the abuse (logic again!) and try to sympathize with the abuser. While there are many reasons that turn a person into an abuser, the victim needs to ask one question: “If bullying/insert any other reason is indeed the reason behind his/her abuse, then why hasn’t that reason turned every other bullying victim into an abuser?” The answer is of course, complex. People react to pain in various ways, one of them which is abusing others. However, using logic to justify abuse is dangerous. It is good to empathize with abusers but it’s dangerous to believe that it is your responsibility to “change” them. Most abusers don’t change because they are irrational or to put it in other way, they have their own “logic” which is mostly illogical/irrational. If you are a victim of abuse, the best thing you can do is distance yourself from the abuser. It is not your job to change the abuser. You can of course try to get them into therapy and make some efforts but remember that abusers don’t understand logic/have a twisted sense of logic.
Prejudices are everywhere…they are within and around us. What will you think about a man who was born in a Kotha? How will treat a lesbian who had a crush on her class teacher? How will you perceive a 23-year-old woman who tried to kill herself multiple times and failed? Yesterday,I listened to these amazing stories at The Human Library’s event at Barrel and Co. The concept is that of a library where humans are books who tell their life stories to people who want to hear them. These are ordinary people…we don’t know their names. But like each one of us, they have a story of fighting against the odds stacked against them. I walked out blessing the person who thought of this amazing concept, the wonderful organising team and the people who have the courage to share their stories with strangers. Thank you for challenging our prejudices. Thank you for embracing the weird and the unconventional. Thank you for the openness.
I looked at my forearms in the mirror to see if my body hair was visible. I used to shave but because of my sensitive skin and PCOD, hair removal became extremely painful and stressful. Since the day I heard about waxing and other methods of hair removal, I felt there was something wrong with the compulsion (not the hair removal itself) and shaming of women’s body hair. I never understood why men were not shamed for body hair. My intuition always posed these questions but the peer pressure was just too much. I mean, I didn’t want to be mocked and alienated but at the same time, I wanted to listen to my intuition. The inner conflict made my life hell. There were times when I cried.
It was then that I discovered Feminism. I read about Harnaam Kaur and other body hair activists. And since then I haven’t tried to remove my body hair. This is extremely risky…in both professional and personal life but when you have so many awesome women for inspiration, there’s no looking back.
Shaving or waxing is not wrong. If you want to do it, please do. But think before shaming women who don’t shave/wax. Ask yourself why you don’t apply the same rule to men. Why is that male colleague with hairy legs normal (in a creative ad agency) but a female colleague with unwaxed hands, filthy and disgusting? At the end of the day, it’s about choice: some women wax, some women don’t. Both deserve to live without being shamed. And if you wax because of peer pressure…you deserve to live without being shamed too.