Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The chronicles of Feminism

I am not a very proud person in general. Yes, I have body image issues, confidence issues, socializing issues and a whole lot of other stuff that I better leave out mentioning. I try to accept compliments gracefully, but just in case I don't look or seem very ecstatic about receiving them, it has more to do with genuine self doubt than any false modesty. That being said, I am very proud of one thing though - and that thing has to do about being a woman.

The term "feminist' lingered in my ear shot since my childhood days, but my first brush with intense feminism was when I discovered the writings of a prominent Telugu language writer Chalam. He glorified the female existence for me and did so with passionate empathy for the women in the world. The first time I read his works, they were kind of cryptic, almost alien to my then secure, well bred and protected teen self. I never gave a closer look to why women were different or treated differently, or why male children were prized over females in almost all cultures I was aware of. And then came the day when I spoke with a friend of mine to adopt a puppy. I was supposed to pick it up from a common friend of his. "It is a female" He emphasized, "and the only one left back in the litter. Are you sure you want a female puppy?" - That, my friends - was the most absurd question I had heard in my life.

Mily came in with her female bits in tow - I didn't care much about the gender, but it did kind of leave a subconscious mark on my seventeen year old self - "Are even male animals preferred over female ones?" The answer was a resounding yes! - Yes we lived in a man's world. Yes, the girl kids were taught to be modestly dressed, taught to come home after 6 pm and keep their family's good name and integrity intact. And yes, boy dogs take the cake (grin)

In the meanwhile, the 90s Bollywood churned out many chick flicks, heavily inspired form Mills and Boons and other romance plots and glorified the ' Alpha male, Playboy ' type pseudo heroic characters that were played by impossibly cute leading men. It was pretty evident to me by that time, that men had it their way - they had their cakes and ate their significant others' all the same. They did all they hocus pocus with numerous female admirers that threw themselves at the hero's feet, and in the end - get reformed to win over the most chaste, pure and innocent ice maiden of a female lead.

Fast forward to the internet age and the social media hangouts, I saw a whole new shade of 'Feminism'. There are heated discussions, short films, viral videos, blog posts, forum chats, personal views and the whole nine yards of how a certain woman describes herself as a 'Feminist'. Don't get me wrong - I don't have anything against calling myself one (remember? I told I am unmistakably proud of being a woman, not withstanding my hesitation to put labels on myself or to align myself  too closely with any deep rooted schools of thought,(only because I feel like 'put in a box' when I put myself under a 'title')  Well, isn't calling oneself a democrat, feminist, animal activist, green crusader or a Buddhist have to do more with what we do than what we say?? - That is exactly where my ponder is heading - in the direction where all the armchair feminists of my day and time are leading me to.

Exhibit number one is a smart woman, an achiever in her own right. Pretty, talented and what appeared to me as 'sensible and sensitive'. She scores extra brownie points for using the term 'feminist' as a self proclamation. As much as I shudder at labeling myself, I do have a strange admiration for the ones who are confident enough to put headers to their personalities. So, this feminist in question got pregnant with her first child a few years ago - in a casual social gathering, long before the gender of the unborn was or could be determined, she addressed it as 'him' - not once but several times in her conversation. Curious friends enquired if she knew. "I am so aggressive and alpha from the inside that I know I am carrying a male" came the quick and confident answer. Amusingly enough, she did pop out the much prized and desired 'male' that matched her inner fire. But mind you, she endlessly talks about adopting underprivileged and abandoned female children while wishing her second born is aligned to her 'inner alpha whatever'. She does, however, wish that her sister in law has only a female child - which will get her SIL's 'ways' into check - what ever those are supposed to be, or how ever they are suppose to get in check (Grin)

Exhibit number two has a very creative personality. She muses in excess feminist banter, illustrating her  fierce female energy in numerous breathtaking ways - It all unfolds in front of you in perfect harmony, till the topic of discussion halts at her family. Her MIL is nothing short of a witch, and her SIL is a female dog (Is this why my well meaning friend warned me against adopting one? I wonder) and more often than not, you wouldn't have met either of these women in your life to make your informed, personal judgement. After excruciating moments of enduring her verbal atrocities for these unassuming women and arranging your facial expressions akin to needing an enema, you would have to politely excuse yourself citing bladder issues and an impending visit to the women's restroom OR you'll be buried alive in that yapping reeking of insecurities and pseudo superiority.

The third kind is a crusader against people wanting or wishing for a male child. She spitefully condemns all male births in the neighborhood, though it is in the earshot of her 'associates' - she liberally quotes the skewed gender ratio in the northern parts of India and articulately explains why none of the animal species look in between the legs of their off springs to determine their gender. All well so far - Oh yeah, she celebrates birth of female children born to all and sundry - excepting her own. Sadly, she takes great pride in producing a male heir to her family and somewhat regrets not meeting her own expectations the second time around. In this very conversation - she mentions how her daughter would grow up a self sufficient woman, making sure to have a quote unquote italicized, highlighted, underscored "Son" before hitting her thirties - and honestly, I am tired of grinning already! :-)

Then there are these many intelligent women, whose grey matter, ways of expression, vastness of knowledge, well read and well bred upbringing baffles me to no end. (And I swear, I mean no sarcasm)  - they do however, painstakingly and relentlessly put down each other in more public and publicized ways than one. They whine and pout, rant and sulk about each others' talents, popularity and even dress sense, often slotting one another in condescending and crude terms that might shudder the average cussing male. I wonder why us women are so wound up supporting or appreciating each others' pluses, or even about giving and receiving compliments. I wonder if it is fed to us from the cradle - like you know how they say charity begins at home?? - Snow white had a plotting, murderous step mom - and Cinderella didn't do any better - she had not one but two - two step sisters that hated and plotted against her with a vengeance. Sadly, these were women - and the ones who were supposed to support and nurture the said protagonists - drives home the point quiet loud and clear - the point that the judge of our middle school "Women's world" essay competition - (who was a male, nonetheless) put out so confidently that none of us cared to ponder upon in our write ups - "That woman is a woman's biggest enemy"  -  decades after that resonating point was made, it still echoes in my eardrums, loud and clear.

I am kind of sad, and a bit tired of all this drama - this hypocrisy, this 'not wanting to grant a leave to your domestic help while she has a painful period' while one gets on the soap box and lectures about woman's rights or this 'I don't want to make coffee for my hubby, while I stay home and nap as he works to feed that LV bag or that cashmere scarf habit' attitude. I am not even scratching the surface of how career women put down stay at home moms are vice versa. That is a totally different can of worms - like I said, it is a bit of fatigue at this point.

I never call myself a Brahmin to emphasize my choice of vegetarianism or a Hindu to proclaim  my awe for the Mahabharata or Ramayana. I am neither a blogger nor a writer though I rave and rhyme and no, I wasn't the school pupil leader despite being appointed one, nor a room mom, despite pitching a tent and volunteering in my kid's classroom. I am neither a democrat nor a republican. Labels put me into a box. Confine my free spirit. That is perhaps why I never was ambitious enough to require a working title.

I sure am a Feminist though :-)


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Shail :-) we need to catch up. still fighting with tge lag and trying to get the house in order.

  2. Very intelligently put together Laxmi. Although I am very much feministic in my outlook, I'm afraid to call myself one, because in my opinion, social media has blown the very concept out of proportion and in the process made itself narrow and limited in its outlook.

    For example feminism is ridiculing someone who chooses to celebrate Karwa Chauth or Varalxmi Vratam, feminism is making fun of people who genuinely compliment you on your looks, feminism is telling you have made a wrong choice when you choose pink over blue. My argument is: Aren't we jumping from one stereotype to another.

    I am a feminist, but also embrace the feminine side of myself. I see nothing wrong in putting together a meal together for my partner or taking pride in my home.

    I haven't read Chalam, but Mom keeps talking about him. All I can say is Feminism is a fight for your rights which were denied just because you happened to be a woman.

    And this fight can happen in quiet dignity too without making a mockery of others' choices.

    1. Right there with you Sri..not only does it get funny..but it does look absurd and kind of sexist:-) Btw..Chalam is phenomenal. I need to revisit his works again. It might make more sense now :)