The problem with shaming women who are not ‘financially independent’

Some feminists go overboard with the whole ‘independent woman’ thing. It’s great if you can be financially and emotionally independent but not everyone can achieve this. For example: What if you are differently abled or a transgender? Let’s say you have a job as a software engineer and then you decide to get a gender reassignment surgery. Is there any guarantee that your employer will accept you? What if you lose your job? What if your employer accepts you but your colleagues bully you and you suffer from depression?
What if you are a differently abled woman? What if you want to be financially independent but people are not willing to give you a job?
 
The problem is with the notion of ‘independence’ itself. While I understand the importance of financial independence, we have to relook at the whole concept of independence. The truth is we all are interdependent. Maybe you are a self made woman who learned everything through YouTube videos but someone made those videos, right? Also what about YouTube that made it possible for the people to upload and you to view the videos? What about the people who made it possible for you to access internet? In short, we all are interdependent. We can of course celebrate our achievements and success but let’s not shame other women for not being ‘independent’.
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Living in your head v/s Mindfulness

When we live too much in our heads, we start thinking in extremes because by nature, mind likes to think in black/white, extremes. In our heads, we communicate with ourselves with words, which don’t really capture the nuances and experiences. Maybe that’s why some artists/thinkers/loners/intellectuals find it difficult to form relationships because when it comes to most people/situations, everything falls into grey areas. When we become mindful of our body, we start a new relationship with reality. Unlike mind, body is rooted in reality. However, we are conditioned to think that being mindful of our body is a waste of time: For example: I feel that rather than “wasting time” in being mindful of my body, I can spend that time in thinking of new insights with my mind. But without mindfulness of body, we will be always having an incomplete grasp of the reality.

Inspirational People: Alok Vaid-Menon

Because I was bullied in the past, I am often drawn to those who are different and are alienated by the society. One of such people is Alok Vaid-Menon, who is a gender non-conforming performance artist. While so many of us succumb to peer pressure, Alok makes themselves (yes, Alok wants us to use them/they) seen in the public. Everyday, they struggle in a world of gender stereotypes and bullies. There are times when Alok puts up pictures with unshaven legs/hands and there are people who leave extremely hateful comments. Some people click pictures of them without asking for permission and mock them for their dressing sense. Some people get up and leave when Alok sits on a seat besides them. I was afraid of liking Alok’s posts because my activity would show up on my friends’ feeds and they might mock me. But today, I want to say this: Alok is one of my heroes!

Dark is lovely too

I opened the pack and took out the tube. I thought a lot before doing this to myself.
 
I had given in. I applied the Fair & Lovely fairness cream. As an impressionable teen, I was quite influenced by some female relatives of mine who applied the cream regularly. I was quite influenced by the advertisements I saw on the TV. I was quite influenced by the way the society treated dark-skinned people. When I played the WWE game on my PC, I selected the fair players because those with darker skin were clearly ‘inferior’ in my eyes. They were like second-class citizens who just played supporting roles in the movie called life where fair-skinned people were the “stars.” A lot has changed since then. I ultimately got back to my authentic self and threw the fairness cream in the trash.
 
Few weeks back, a colleague opened her heart to me and told me about the discrimination that she faced within her own family because of her dark skin and it transported me back to my teenage when I got my hands on Fair & Lovely.
 
If you are someone who is in a similar situation then here’s something that you should remember: You don’t need to be “repaired.” You won’t become more “presentable” if you are a few shades fairer. Fair skin is not the default condition for being beautiful. If someone tells you otherwise, then it is better to stay away from that person.
 
All this is not going to be easy but fortunately, we are in an age where people have started accepting their authentic selves. Find those role models and don’t give a damn about society’s beauty standards.

What if your dreams won’t come true?

I have always been a dreamer. When I dream, I have absolutely no limits. I found strength in various books that talked about believing in your dreams and never giving up. I fanatically looked for people who pursued their dreams. But off late, I’m exploring a territory I have never dared to cross: I am opening up to the possibility that my dreams might never come true. And somewhere inside the depths of my subconscious mind, I have an intuitive feeling that it is okay. While I feel a sense of emptiness and fear, I also (surprisingly) feel a sense of freedom. Since my adolescence, I have been carrying these dreams and honestly, sometimes they get too heavy. And more often than not, I’m under enormous pressure to fulfill them.
Maybe, positive thinking and acceptance of reality can sometimes co-exist [Like Mark Manson says, “Accepting a negative experience in itself is a positive experience]. Maybe, we need to question the motive behind our dreams every now and then. Is our dream a way of proving ourselves to those who hurt us? Are our grandiose dreams a way to heal our childhood trauma? Our culture talks about dreams but rarely do we question why these dreams exist in the first place.
Opening ourselves to the possibility of our dreams not coming true is extremely painful. But strangely enough, you start finding happiness in the so-called small pleasures of life.

Power of conventional beauty standards

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.”

 

 

 

I’m also responsible for rape culture

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.

Joy

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.

When I entered college though, I read because I wanted to stand out. Being a victim of bullying in my school days, I had this desire to impress people around me, so that they would accept me. I read more and more so I that I became the most well-read person in my college.The joy of reading was still there but it certainly took a backseat. The admiration that I saw in my classmates’ eyes made me want to read more. Reading became a race.
As I navigate slowly in the fast-paced professional world, I get less time to read but when I do read, my focus is more on being productive in my profession. I stopped enjoying detective stories because my mind told me that I should rather invest my time reading non-fiction. The joy of reading is still there but it is sitting in the backseat, waiting for me to become aware of it. Reading has become a means to an end.
As children, we follow our intuition. We are naturally drawn to activities that give us joy. But as we grow up, we are told that pursuing things that give us joy is a waste of time. Ironically, we work hard and earn a living so that after we retire, we can do things that give us joy. Perhaps, life doesn’t work that way. Technically speaking, even sleep is a waste of time (because we are doing nothing) but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it! In the same way, doing things that give us joy is essential. Not everything in life has to be a race or numbers or productivity. There has to be a place for things that we do, just because we enjoy them.  #LessonsLearned #Reading #Books #Joy

Fat-Shaming

‘Fat’ is not a derogatory word. Fat-shaming is dangerous for your mental health. Anybody who mocks you, laughs at you, body-shames you and says that his/her intention is good is fooling you. Do you really think that shaming someone can help them lose weight? Even if that person takes it up as a challenge and indeed loses weight, what about his/her mental health? Bullying and body-shaming may be the tactic used by the previous generation, but in today’s world, it has negative impact on our mental health.
Scientific studies and science doesn’t exist in isolation. Society’s bias often creeps into it. For example: There was a time when homosexuality was considered a psychological disorder but Psychology doesn’t say the same thing anymore. Obesity is unhealthy but being fat doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy (Science keeps finding new facts from time to time so please have patience). BMI is considered important but its validity has been questioned. Even if we assume that being fat is unhealthy, remember that fat-shaming is unhealthy too. Have some compassion. Stop laughing at fat-shaming/body-shaming jokes. Stop being a bully. And if you are REALLY concerned about people’s health then why don’t we see you shaming smokers in the same way?
P.S. Please don’t comment that I’m against losing weight, because I’m not! All I am saying is that what people do with their bodies is THEIR business not yours!

Traffic Jam in my mind

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!