To the Indian women’s cricket team

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Dear members of the Indian cricket team,

No matter what happens today, you all are an inspiration to us. I have seen you playing World Cup matches in front of around 10 people in the stadium. I have read about female players who had to stay in hotel rooms with cockroaches. I have read about the battles you fight every day to be taken seriously. I have read about the sexism that you face everyday. I have read about your low salaries. I wonder what keeps you going. Then I saw your eyes and got my answer: It is your passion. Your passion for the game. Your passion for excellence. It is your passion that has got you through the dingy hotel rooms and the step-motherly treatment. I hope things get better for you all (and also the women’s cricket in general). All the best for the final!

To people who blindly follow Science

Scientists, dietitians, and doctors are also influenced by patriarchal culture.They are not Gods. They are subjective human beings who are conditioned by the society. A good example of this is the way some doctors fat-shame their patients.

Don’t be like religious fanatics! Be skeptical. Do your own research and be aware of bias. Remember that even the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association had once declared homosexuality as a disease!

The problem with ‘Baahubali: The Conclusion’

‘Baahubali: The Conclusion’ is a nice movie but there are places where the message of ‘women empowerment’ feels like a joke.

Examples:
1. Devasena, who epitomizes a strong, independent woman, says things like, “Why are you hiding in the back like women?” In other words, she wants men to stop acting like women (women=weak). This is a classic example of internalized misogyny.
2. The arrows of Devasena have a pink color on them while the arrows of Amarendra Baahubali have blue color. This is a classic example of gender stereotyping.
3. At the end of the day,  Devasena has no identity of her own. Just like Avantika in ‘Baahubali: The Beginning’ (click), Devasena begins her journey as an independent, strong woman but is ultimately defined by her relationship with men (girlfriend, wife, mother). It is all about Baahubali, his kingdom, his child, his strength and his revenge.

Sexism in IPL

IPL is a wonderful tournament but it is disappointing to see only female cheerleaders on the sidelines. There is nothing wrong with cheerleading…The problem is sexism (why can’t we have male cheerleaders)? By having only female cheerleaders, we are telling a generation of girls that they are only supposed to ‘cheer’ for men. Aren’t women expected to do this in every area of life? While the man reaches milestones in his career, the woman is supposed to sacrifice her dreams and ‘cheer’ for his achievements.

Experiment: People’s reactions to ‘Everyday Sexism’

I carry a book everywhere I go because 

a. It makes me feel safe

b. I want to read as much as I can

I am currently reading a book called ‘Everyday Sexism’. I didn’t want to test or judge anybody..that was not my intention (Okay, okay, I was judging people a little bit). But somehow, the book has gained  popularity amongst my colleagues. It slowly became an experiment…I began to understand others by the way they reacted to the book on my desk. Here are some of their reactions:

Colleague 1: What is this book? OMG..’Everyday Sexism’ (in a mocking tone). It’s pretty deep, huh? 

Colleague 2: Everyday Sexism..what is this about (this person seemed genuinely curious)

Colleague 3: This person just looked at the book, looked at me and went away

Colleague 4: ‘Baap re’ expression

Colleague 5: WTF expression

I guess I will be soon labelled a ‘Feminazi’ 😀 (I am a feminist and I don’t care if it is an uncool thing).

Don’t deify your mother

Deifying mothers is dehumanizing them. Human beings are entitled to be imperfect and it is cruel to expect them to sacrifice everything for others. If you really love your mother than stop expecting her to be selfless. Instead, embrace her flaws and her dreams.

Why homemakers are not paid for their services?

​Homemakers are expected to work without any pay because according to society, “the work is done out of love and money exchange shouldn’t happen in matters of love”. And yet, society doesn’t have any problem in measuring love and companionship when it comes to dowry. What happens to “love” when it puts out matrimonials with numbers like height, weight etc?

My experiments with body hair

What do you think when you see a woman with body hair? After nearly two years of experiments (at my previous workplace), I have found some answers. According to most people, a woman/girl with body hair is:

1. from a small town who has no idea about beauty and grooming
2. a lesbian
3. a freak
The most interesting point of view is related to the second one: some people think it is okay for a woman to have body hair as long as she is a lesbian. In other words, it is important for a heterosexual woman to get rid of body hair because men like women who shave. What’s sad is that my experiments were not extreme: I didn’t show off my unshaven legs and I didn’t wear sleeveless tops with unwaxed underarms. What bothered my colleagues was just a little bit of hair on my forearms (that was the only visible body hair in my experiments). While some people were shocked, some gave me weird looks. Fortunately, the body hair didn’t bother them after some time.
I must admit that I was not always comfortable during these experiments. There were times when I couldn’t handle the pressure. My intention was not to make a statement against waxing or shaving. There is nothing wrong with getting rid of body hair but what’s wrong is people bullying those who choose not to.
I have a new job now and my plan is to continue with the experiments. Through these baby steps, I want to bring a change in the way people look at women and their bodies. It’s difficult because there is so much of stigma surrounding body hair. It is risky because women are judged by these things at workplaces. But I hope I will succeed in changing few perceptions.

#Iwillgoout

Today, I joined women and men in the #Iwillgoout nationwide protest march against the Bengaluru molestation incident, sexual harassment, misogyny, sexism and rape culture. In Mumbai, women and men of all ages met at Veer Kotwal Udhyan in Dadar. The organizers are a bunch of spunky and passionate women who are on a mission to smash patriarchy. We all sang songs, held placards, chanted slogans and listened to people’s experiences. My favorite moment of the evening was listening to the author of ‘Why Loiter’ (Click), Ms. Shilpa Phadke, who is a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The other memorable  moment was singing a song written by popular feminist Kamla Bhasin.

Do candle marches and protests like these change the system? Not really. But they start a conversation, which is a beginning of change. It is important for women to meet and talk about sexual harassment and safety. Today, I realized that women meeting at a public place can be a political statement. Going out can be a revolution. Yes, the world outside is not safe. But as one of the people at the march said, we are not even safe at home. In the words of Ms.Phadke, women should be allowed to take risks by going out. For that, we need safe public places, hygienic toilets and many other facilities.

Why Loiter by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade

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Photo: Amazon

In ‘Why Loiter’, the authors make a strong case for aimless wandering on the city streets. While the focus is on Mumbai, the insights are universal.

As women, we are taught that loitering is not a feminine thing. Women in public spaces are expected to demonstrate a purpose (waiting for a friend, getting back from work etc). By loitering, women challenge the stereotypes and the label of a ‘good girl’. However, it’s not easy for women to loiter because the public spaces are designed in a way that discourages women from going out.
The authors have written the book with an aim of including all kinds of women. Differently-abled women, wealthy women, lesbians and women from the lower economic class find their place in the research on public spaces. Phade, Khan and Ranade don’t just highlight the problems; they have some innovative solutions to combat the problem of women’s safety in public spaces. The only issue with the book is that the authors often end up saying the same thing again and again.
If you are shaken after reading about what’s happening to women in this country, then this book will help you understand the root of the problem.