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Because sometimes bullshit requires a response.

Recently I wrote a post about sexism, calling for a need for greater respect and empathy in our personal and public life. You can check it out here. 

Now since this the internet, I got a comment (which I did not take very seriously) which was essentially a tirade about feminism. My post, though it made a passing reference to feminism was on the more specific issue of sexism. Did I view it from a feminist prism? Yes. But I was careful about not spreading misinformation. You can check this comment out in the comments section of my blog post. Given the condensing and angry tone of the comment (which included an attack on my intelligence ‘feminism is sexism without the intelligence to understand it’), I assumed it was trolling. It amused me, but I did not think it was worthy of a real response. However, I stand corrected. The commentator has sent a longer reply, backing up their claims about feminism, and assuring me that they are sincere about their vitriol. For this I owe them an apology. I note, they are not a troll, they just like peddling their half arsed information with a missionary zeal, and making personal attacks on people in the process. I have tried to avoid this sort of confrontational dialogue in my blog, because I have always maintained that this space is not for the fringe. It is for people who want  to arrive at a consensus through respectful dialogue.

So why am I devoting a whole blog post to this? Well because I have come to realize that with angry zealots, there is no such thing as dignified silence. The refusal to engage makes them believe that they are correct. This person’s arguments have also gained a lot of currency in the world of the ‘interwebz’, and I felt that I had an obligation to point out exactly where they are wrong.

I shall begin by reproducing the text of their second (more elaborate comment) and then proceed to examine the claims one by one. A closer examination will show you three problems 1) Massive stereotyping 2) A faulty understanding of history 3) A refusal to come out of a first world context. Amazing readers that you are, and uncharacteristic though this post is, I hope you will stay with me. (Also note the annoying abbreviations. What on earth is IOW, you will ask? I Googled it. Turns out it means ‘In other words’. Why would someone writing hopelessly huge comments on a blog want to shorten than phrase? Sigh.)

> Lady (or troll let us say).

Yes I know it’s annoying when other people bring facts and arguments which challenge (or outright refute) what we are saying. And trolls are also annoying. But that does not mean I am a troll because I actually stand by what I say, and I try to back up everything with reason and evidence. IOW I am not just saying contrary things to annoy you 🙂

> Women do fight wars.

1. What women (specifically) are you talking about here?
2. Were these women legally required to fight wars (draft) and were their men exempt from that requirement?
3. Were these women culturally expected to fight war, and did their male peers have less (or no) cultural expectations placed on them? Did men pressure these women into fighting wars while simultaneously claiming for themselves the right to stay at home in safety?
4. Were men able to vote for wars and then have the women forced to go off and fight them.. and if any women refused have them put in prison or (in the field) shot for desertion?

I agree that *some* women do fight wars. But usually this only happens when things get really desperate, or just when all the men have been slaughtered already.

> And before they were a part of the army, the things they did are in no way less important than fighting wars

Personally, I view caring for children as infinitely more important than running about on a battlefield shooting at people just because a bunch of politicians (on both ‘sides’) are telling you to do it. In the internet age (ability to bypass propaganda) there is no excuse for not knowing that war is a racket, and is completely immoral. Its primary purpose is to (a) make money for the banks who have always loaned money at interest to BOTH sides of every major war of the last century, (b) make money for their military industrial complex and (c) to demoralise the traumatise the masses so they will be easier to rule, and specifically get cull each generation of brave and strong young men (or turn them into PTSD’d alcoholic veterans) so they won’t care to defend their families and communities from the ruling class and their creeping socialist. fascist police state takeover of society. THAT is the purpose of wars. There is nothing ‘important’ or noble or moral about war. That’s just the cover story to convince young men to sign up to be slaughtered.

So when it comes to the issue of SEXISM throughout history, the issue is not ‘importance’, but whether the demands we placed on women were the same as those we placed on men. If those demands were equal then logically it would have been just as fair if women had been forced to go off to fight all the wars of the last century (or the last 2000 years or whatever) while the men had stayed at home looking after the children (which we agree is a very important task).

Somehow if 18 year old women had been the ones given a short back and sides and a scratchy uniform before being pushed ‘over the top’ into a hail of gunfire, I don’t think you would consider that equal treatment to men’s role of being expected to stay at home and look after the kids.

It’s always rather shocking to reverse the gender roles and replay history, isn’t it?

One reason (out of many) that I’m not a feminist and I don’t subscribe to feminism’s ‘patriarchy theory’ is that I’d much rather stay at home and do domestic chores than go off to get trench foot and then have my legs blown off in some stupid war, and I’d much rather stay at home than go and work 12 hours a day down a mine, or out at sea, or in a shipyard or doing any other job which was traditionally assigned to men in a patriarchal society…… especially in the past when the technology of the day was absolutely rubbish meaning there was no decent safety equipment, or machines or vehicles to do the bulk of the heavy lifting.

Instead I would say “Yes please, chain me to the kitchen sink and force me to do the washing up! …….. just as long as you don’t put me on a boat, down a mine or in the middle of a war zone!”

And I think the majority of women throughout history all felt the same way, as do most women today too. And that includes feminists (if they are honest). I don’t know of ANY feminists who have CHOSEN to do manual labour jobs, or ‘rugged’ jobs of any kind, and none who have joined the army. All the feminists I come across work in my life work in comfortable offices – or comparable environments – doing jobs that could (if one chose) be done in heels, with long nails, skirts and a high maintenance hair style. So whether they choose to wear trousers and sensible shoes or not is kind of irrelevant. And feminist seem to gravitate towards government funded jobs like teaching where they are almost unifiable.

Why do YOU think most women waited for centuries until the exact moment that new technology (electricity, cars, plastics, telephones etc) made paid work outside the home a safe, comfortable and largely indoor experience before deciding en masse that they wanted to take off their aprons and have a go at it? Might the answer be buried in the question somewhere?

Again, I’m not judging anybody, I’m just pointing out that there has never been a time when gender roles, and social demands on genders, has been equal (ie not sexist). Presumably this has something to do with the fact that men and women are different. And throughout history sexist attitudes and traditions have benefited AND disadvantaged BOTH sexes simultaneously. Swings and roundabouts. Feminism makes out that all modern and historical sexism only ever benefitted men and disadvantaged women. But that’s utter nonsense, and incredibly offensive to men, and belittling and disempowering to women (reducing all the women of history to mere objects with little to no agency or free will).

> You have provided no links to facts (gender pay being disproved)

Look up economists like Thomas Sowell. who exposed the myth of the wage gap back in the 70’s.

The myth has perpetuated because – like most feminist propaganda – it has elements of truth to it. Yes of course men occupy many of the high paid jobs in society, but they are almost certainly supporting women financially (wives, dates, girlfriends, lovers). These women benefit from ‘free money’ which someone else earned. Far more women are financially supported (in part or totally) by their husbands / bf’s than men are supported by their wives/ gf’s….. although there has been a small shift towards more equality in this area be fair.

But the point is that feminists judge privilege by how much people EARN, rather than how much UNEARNED income a person receives. Women receive far more UNEARNED income than men, and they get it from men directly (husbands, bf’s, dates etc) as well as from the state who in turn get it from those who earn the most (that would be men again). If men and women earned the same amount of money then men would come out worse because they SPEND far more of their money supporting women than women spend supporting men.

If feminists want to narrow the pay gap they need to start financially supporting the men in their lives more, and voting to have more state welfare and social schemes directed at helping men specifically….. then men will finally be in a similar position of women of being able to AFFORD to get themselves lower paying jobs…. typically jobs which pay in other ways like less stress, more flexible hours, more holidays, more job satisfaction, more skills transferability, less hours, less overtime, a more relaxed and non-competitive atmosphere, more job security, less performance related pay etc etc etc etc etc.

How many women consider a 25 year old man with little qualifications, no real career prospects and an inability to financially support a family or even himself) as suitable boyfriend / husband material?

Yet many men would happily go out with and even marry a 25 year old woman of similar status, and they would happily support her financially (and their future family) by working their asses off at work.

So you see – in general – women have the privilege of NOT ALWAYS HAVING TO WORK quite so hard to achieve the same standard of living as men. It’s not uncommon for women to go to college and get an education as ‘backup’ while all the time looking for a decent Alpha man who’s income will allow her to be a housewife, or at least allow her to pursue a more interesting and fulfilling (but less well paid) career…. like a therapist, or a teacher, or a children’s book illustrator or whatever.

Men don’t really have that option. If a man wants to put his own job satisfaction or personal interests ABOVE his earning potential (ie trying to make it as an actor or musician or run a home for rescued dogs) then he is going to have to accept that he won’t be able to attract a woman very easily because he simply won’t be earning enough.

Studies show that men who give up the whole business of trying to attract a gf/ wife (MGTOW and a lot of men in Japan) find they are suddenly able to have a decent quality of life for themselves without earning half as much as they would have to to achieve the same quality of life living with a woman.

Women are attracted to men with resources and social status, and so THAT is why so many men work their asses off to get decent careers and earn lots of money (before having a heart attack at 50 from all the stress and coffee) ….. meanwhile, men are attracted to women who are young and fertile and the best bet for providing them with healthy children and THATis why so many women work their asses off to look young and attractive (fertile) and to cling on to that youthful/ fertile image when they hit 35, 40, 50 etc.

To say men working their asses of to earn decent money to impress women is ‘male privilege’ is a bit like saying women working their asses off to look good to impress men is ‘female privilege’.

Do you think we need to have ‘affirmative action’ to get more men in make up departments, hair salons, fashion stores and cosmetic surgery clinics to address these ‘female dominated’ spaces?

Or should we treat everyone like grown ups and let them decide what to do with their lives, based on what their ambitions are?

And while men do occupy many of the most high paying jobs, it’s lso true that men also occupy a lot of the world’s most shitty jobs too (garbage collection, sewage maintenance, soldier etc). In general women tend to occupy the middle ground choosing careers that offer the best work/ life balance. I don’t see any feminists seeking ‘gender equality’ in those dirty, smell, dangerous but decidedly ‘male dominated’ jobs, do you? If you want true gender equality you can’t pick and chose!

Feminist view the world as if that men and women live in separate bubbles and are like opposing tribes facing off against each other across a muddy battlefield. This is silly. Successful, rich, high status men are nearly always benefiting one – of not several – women in their lives (and a bunch of women they never get to see, via their taxes).

When women feel the pressure to look good to keep their men happy this is oppression……. but when men feel the pressure to work overtime just to keep their wives wardrobes stocked up with shoes and the kids bedrooms full of ipads and gaming consoles this is viewed by feminists as ‘male privilege’. Such double standards.

The feminist wage gap propaganda and ‘double think’ is so strong that even feminists themselves cannot seem to convince other feminists that the wage gap (as it is typically defined by feminists) is a load of made up nonsense.

> Further, I have acknowledged that chivalry is wrong.

I never said (or meant to imply) that chivalry is ‘wrong’. If men and women want to play those traditional roles where he is the protector and provider and she is the princess who is treated a bit like a child, then that is fine by me. Chivalry is rather like a very mild form of submissive/ dominant relationships. And playing the submissive role is NOT the same as being actually oppressed. Being submissive FORCES the other party to be assume agency and responsibility for the both of you. A lot of women like to be submissive and have men take the lead, and a lot of men like to be the dominant provider, protector and decision maker.

It’s only a problem is when men are told by damselling, trembly voiced, rich, stuck up, my-boyfriend-is-a-rugby-payer women like Emma Watson that men have to be the protectors, providers for ALL women and that these women owe them nothing in return because in the wonderful world of feminism men serving women (he for she) is just ‘equality’ you see 😉

Here you go. Read this persons words carefully, because for a lot of people they do have a lot of appeal. Together, like all specious arguments, they make you pause, even though you are pretty sure there is something messed up in them. Then you examine then closely, and they fall apart.

 On the issue of whether women fight wars, and should they have been allowed to vote given that men did the actual fighting.

Before going into the question of whether women do actually fight wars, let us try to see what point you are trying to make. It seems to me that, the point is ‘men fought wars. women did not. hence, only men should have been given the right to vote, since the government takes the decision to fight wars’. or alternatively ‘women should not complain about not getting to vote, because they got to stay at home when the men fought’.  The obvious logical flaw here is that the decision to go to war is not the only decision that Governments took. Governments regulated a host of things at different points in history, including, regular crimes, marriage, inheritance, abortion. If you take this reasoning to its conclusion, one could very well argue that if there is any regulation of abortion, only people with a uterus should get to vote. That is absolute bullshit, probably because the logical conclusion of this idea is absurd. The idea of universal adult franchise works because different interests (sometimes competing sometimes harmonized) can cancel out inequalities by giving people a voice in how their Government is run.

But let us examine the alternative point you may be making ‘women should not complain about being denied the, because after all they sat at home when men fought’. Well, okay. Firstly, let us take this argument on its face value. If we agree with it, then it means by extension, no one else who could not fight (due to prevailing social norms) would have had the moral right to demand the vote. This means, effectively, 1) Disabled people, at least physically disabled persons, who could not fight would be disenfranchised. 2) Workers staying back in the country to produce things, (because no matter how ‘important’ their contribution, it is not the same as actually fighting). 3) Old men, because they are to weak to fight, 4) Pacifists and conscientious objectors. See the kind of society that is created based on this judgment of who should or should not get to vote? A society where only able bodied men willing to fight would get to vote? Now you are free to think that that is a just society, but the world has moved on from that idea.

As far as which women who fight wars, I am specifically referring to …Here’s a list of the countries that allow women in front-line combat positions. In Europe: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania and Sweden. Elsewhere: Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the Anglosphere; plus Eritrea, Israel, and North Korea. Here is a list of countries that allow women to fight as fighter pilots  Pakistan, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom. Here is a feminist demand for the US to change its policy on allowing women in combat zones, which notes that the changing nature of warfare means that American women servicewomen do end up in combat zones (” U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that enemy combatants prefer to bring the battle to civilian-populated areas, targeting both civilians and combatants and men and women alike. Policies designed to keep servicewomen from the front-lines of battle cannot be enforced where front-lines do not exist.”)

Further there have been women in history who willingly took up arms or who dressed up as men and went to fight. One of these women later worked as ‘ church janitor, cemetery worker and street lamplighter’. Here is an article about UAE’s first female fighter pilot. Looks to be fighting very willingly, to me. Sure, these women were not the norm, but they were brave women who did not want to be tied up to their gender roles, and chose to fight.

Further, the feminist position on women in combat roles is complex, because feminism is complex. There are different varieties. So please stop stereotyping an entire movement based on what you think feminism means. And don’t give me the ‘well, most feminist I have seen say this’ crap. The internet age, which lets you bypass propaganda, also puts an obligation on you to go and find the right kind of information. This brings me to the second point.

Then this person says something even more interesting ” Yes please, chain me to the kitchen sink and force me to do the washing up! …….. just as long as you don’t put me on a boat, down a mine or in the middle of a war zone!”And I think the majority of women throughout history all felt the same way, as do most women today too. And that includes feminists (if they are honest). I don’t know of ANY feminists who have CHOSEN to do manual labour jobs, or ‘rugged’ jobs of any kind, and none who have joined the army.”

THIS IS NOT LOGIC, IT IS STEREOTYPING

Now this is absolutely brilliant. YOU would want to be tied up to the kitchen sink. Good for you. But you have absolutely no right to speak for most or all women throughout history, and you certainly have no right to speak for all feminists (or claim to read their minds). And neither do I. But I will tell you this, just as you don’t know any feminists doing rugged work, I personally know a lot of feminists who routinely do ‘rugged jobs’, personally met women’s activists who work in rural and semi-rural areas, creating awareness about domestic abuse, sexual violence, trafficking of women.. I know a feminist who has been taking on the human trafficking mafia that has made 3 attempts on her life so far.   Here is a women’s rights activist who got gang-raped while trying to prevent child marriages in India, and has been  fighting for justice ever since.  These women are not  “doing jobs that could (if one chose) be done in heels, with long nails, skirts and a high maintenance hair style” Your lack of awareness does not mean that there aren’t feminists roughing it right now.It just means you need to grow up and account for experiences other than yours. And also wearing make-up does not diminish the moral and logical weight of asking for equality.

You also don’t “see any feminists seeking ‘gender equality’ in those dirty, smell, dangerous but decidedly ‘male dominated’ jobs, do you? If you want true gender equality you can’t pick and chose!” BULLSHIT ALERT

Under this statement lies the factually incorrect claim that women don’t do the smelly, dirty dangerous jobs? Have you seen the job a nurse does? Seen a bedsore? Have you had to wipe shit of an adult human being? It is the dream job I tell you, not dangerous, but ah the smells and the dirt! Have you ever seen the work maids or housekeeping professionals do? Not easy stuff I tell you, especially in non-first world context without those vacuum cleaners and washing machines. Even with them, those jobs aren’t easy.

But I guess you meant the construction industry, or something? Look, with this blog post I have attached a picture of me with some women digging trenches in rural India. But I guess they are poor, so they must not be doing it out of choice (as opposed to all the men in construction, out of choice)? On a serious note, yes there is a lot of poverty there, and I doubt they have many alternatives. That calls in larger issues of poverty and development. But as a matter of pure fact, there are women doing some very hard jobs. Your next claim implies feminists don’t want women do be in certain kinds of jobs (dude, big movement, lots of variation). I bet there are no feminists asking women to join construction, are there?

Not 'unskilled' at all
Not ‘unskilled’ at all

Here, a Google search led me to a a feminist website asking for gender equality and more women in construction.  Just because you can’t see feminist voices calling for a real and meaningful kind of equality doesn’t mean its not there, eh?

Now, for our main course of bullshit “Why do YOU think most women waited for centuries until the exact moment that new technology (electricity, cars, plastics, telephones etc) made paid work outside the home a safe, comfortable and largely indoor experience before deciding en masse that they wanted to take off their aprons and have a go at it? Might the answer be buried in the question somewhere?”

Well, again, that may be true for the first world, but paid work outside home is not safe everywhere. Hey, there are little girls who get shot at for going to school. Girls who get kidnapped for attending school and sold to slavery. The ones who survived the attack, defied their attackers, accepted scholarships and went back to schools.  Of course men in conflict areas get killed and harmed too. No one is taking away from their suffering, but the narrative that women want fairness and opportunities because it is now convenient, is an insult to women everywhere fighting for fairness and justice.Also the reason women in the first world  ‘en masse’ decided to work was because there was a vacuum in the job market created by the first world war (something I am not sure women planned).

Okay, now here is my favorite lump of BS. “But the point is that feminists judge privilege by how much people EARN, rather than how much UNEARNED income a person receives. Women receive far more UNEARNED income than men, and they get it from men directly (husbands, bf’s, dates etc) as well as from the state who in turn get it from those who earn the most (that would be men again). If men and women earned the same amount of money then men would come out worse because they SPEND far more of their money supporting women than women spend supporting men.”

Yes, I can’t speak for all feminists but I judge privilege through institutional traceable structures, because they are more accountable. But if you talk about the privileges that are unearned, and speak of how men buy women stuff and pay for dates, well I have a question:

a) Assuming your argument makes even an iota of sense, What about women who don’t want stuff, and don’t want people paying for them? Sure, you may argue there are more women who let men pay for stuff and like men to take leadership positions (because we have deeply rooted gender roles). Okay, but there may well be more people on this planet who like Katie Perry better than Mozart (because people have shit taste). What does that have to do with the law, and institutions? When I demand to be paid the same as men, are you going to tell me I can’t because some other women like to have their coffee and cakes paid for on dates? Laws need to account for the (now significant) minority that does not want to conform to gender roles. NO woman I have known well, till date lets people pay for her on dates. Sure, there may be a selection bias here (i.e. I tend to make friends with women who don’t like submissive roles), but that may be true for what you claim (about how women behave on dates around you. that too might be a selection bias).

b) And while a dinner at a restaurant is the pinnacle of privilege, I would ask, what of the power men enjoy? Running companies, being a part of the judiciary, being in politics? Have some groups of men not enjoyed actual political and economic power historically? Is the make up of that power not uneven till date (with women being under-represented in the judiciary, in CEO positions).

But wait, you will now make the life choices argument. Sure, some women end up making different life choices (low paying jobs, less commitment to putting in longer hours). But here is a study that examined  “Women graduating from top MBA programs are usually in their late twenties or early thirties and have just sunk over $100,000 into a degree, presumably to raise their value to employers—just like their male counterparts. We limited this analysis to people who had full-time jobs lined up; so there was no gender difference in their commitment to working a full day. Even with those things being equal, the pattern held.” Even these women, right out of school, with the same degrees as their male friends, applying for jobs in the same sector, WERE PAID LESS.

Here is another nugget for you. “Moss-Racusin and her colleagues created a fictitious resume of an applicant for a lab manager position. Two versions of the resume were produced that varied in only one, very significant, detail: the name at the top. One applicant was named Jennifer and the other John. Moss-Racusin and her colleagues then asked STEM professors from across the country to assess the resume” What did they find? “. Despite having the exact same qualifications and experience as John, Jennifer was perceived as significantly less competent. As a result, Jenifer experienced a number of disadvantages that would have hindered her career advancement if she were a real applicant.” But I guess Jennifer might have let Jon pay on dates, so she had it coming?

But I feel compelled to address a larger question here. When a woman chooses to be a homemaker, she isn’t freeloading. All the homemakers I have known lead extremely busy lives, trying to keep their children healthy. and support their husbands emotionally morally. On top this they do housework that I can only describe as backbreaking. I kid you not. There is no way of accounting for their labor, no payment, no benefits. Yes, their husbands support them, but people like you reduce it freeloading, It isn’t freeloading, it is accounting for labor at home. These men (and women) decide they want a home where children have full-time parental supervision, and someone has got to stay home. For several reasons that have a mix of the social conditioning, and the biological reality of women, the person who stays back at home is the mother. But who ever stays at home and takes care of children (be it a stay at home mom or a stay at home dad, they are putting in work. So really, this isn’t female privilege).  But let us get to something else you accuse me of doing.

To say men working their asses of to earn decent money to impress women is ‘male privilege’ is a bit like saying women working their asses off to look good to impress men is ‘female privilege’.

Do you think we need to have ‘affirmative action’ to get more men in make up departments, hair salons, fashion stores and cosmetic surgery clinics to address these ‘female dominated’ spaces?”

Interesting points. Here is a tiny (really tiny problem with this narrative). I never actually said any of those things written above But you aren’t arguing with me, you are actually.. shit. I have no clue why you are doing this. And I can’t believe I am spending my free time trying to bust your myths. I don’t think men trying to work hard to impress women is male privilege (I think its silly, but I don’t think its male privilege). But yes, male privilege is being able to walk down the street without being leered at, not being told (the first thing when you get to a new job) which boss to avoid being alone with, and it is also the fact that John gets better jobs than Jennifer even when the same effing resume has been submitted.

And I do not support affirmative action, because I doubt its effectiveness. Though I do support tackling institutional biases by creating awareness. I do support providing child care (like creches at the workplace, which benefits both moms and dads), and I support giving maternity and paternity leave to parents, so that we can have couples who can work AND be involved in raising their child. I also support creating safe streets and equal marriages. I support having mechanisms for combating sexual harassment. I am preoccupied with institutional structures and the law, because it gives freedom to those who want to make choices other than home-making (which can range from the law to construction work). And no there will be some jobs that most women will not be able to do, because generally they are not as strong as men. But that is no excuse for having laws and institutional structures that disadvantage women. Just don’t hire women who don’t make the cut, like you do with men who aren’t strong enough. And now that we have constitutions (in most working democracies), with equal protection clauses, I think we have a good shot of doing guaranteeing equality to women through structural and institutional reform, as opposed to quibbling over coffee and cake on dates statistics. (Ok, I am craving cake now)

Feminist view the world as if that men and women live in separate bubbles and are like opposing tribes facing off against each other across a muddy battlefield. This is silly.

No they don’t. Yes, there is one very specific school of feminism that does (it applies a whole class struggle perspective to gender relations), but that school is in the minority. I, that is the person on whose post you decided to have this singularly beautiful bit of verbal diarrhea, do not belong to that school.  If I had to say which school I belonged to, it would be the ‘anti-essentialist’ school, which is actually a strong critic of this ‘separate bubble, opposing each other framework’. Among other things, like accounting for the complex factors that make people who they are (race, age, nationality, class, and sexuality), this brand of feminism also calls for  “developing a vision of the relations among men and women, not just between them”. 

But that sums up the most frustrating part of this effort. I have to defend and incredibly complex movement that was stereotyped by one person, who has read very little about it. And why? Because this person does not like Emma Watson?

“It’s only a problem is when men are told by damselling, trembly voiced, rich, stuck up, my-boyfriend-is-a-rugby-payer women like Emma Watson that men have to be the protectors, providers for ALL women and that these women owe them nothing in return because in the wonderful world of feminism men serving women (he for she) is just ‘equality’ you see ;)”

But why evoke Emma Watson at all, while arguing with me? Why not evoke the image of Bhanwari Devi whose strong will and sheer courage, continue to inspire survivors of sexual assault? Emma Watson is not a part of my reality or the reason why I am a feminist. I don’t even know what she said. Everything you have said here is a huge non-sequitur.  This is exactly like me going an picking a random conservative, and yelling at him for something Rush Limbaugh said (though I doubt Watson has ever been that vicious or anything).

No ideology comes from a position of neutrality. Not feminism, not socialism, not free-market capitalism. They have their first principles, and are one of many ways in which we sort reality. Feminism is not the answer to all questions, neither should it be a rigid monolith. The fact is there are several feminists helping to evolve a better idea of it. The best we can do, is to ask ourselves if an ideology is coherent, and helps create the kind of society we want to live in. If it doesn’t, then don’t believe in it. So if you don’t want to be a feminist, DON’T BE ONE. I certainly don’t want you to be one. I doubt there are hoards of people out there trying to convert you to feminism. (If they are, then watch out. If a feminist bites you, you turn into one on a full moon night). If your life is made miserable by feminists asking you to join the cause, do to them what I do to super religious people who want me to find God. I ignore them. But understand that the thing you consider to be cast iron logic (stuff I just refuted above), is full of holes.

I don’t think anything I said is going to convince you, even though I put in a lot of work and effort  into doing this. Because I don’t think the sort of dialogue you want to have has anything to do with learning from other people. It has to do with diminishing them, stereotyping them and ridiculing them. But I put in this effort anyway because you need to know that when people don’t engage with your specious logic, it is because they are amused.  But sometimes, bullshit needs an answer.

If I ever met Rumi..

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”- Rumi

Now my more intellectually attuned friends often quote Rumi and so does my yoga instructor. Okay, he isn’t really my yoga instructor, I went to that class twice. But he did quote Rumi. All I am saying is that it takes people of a slightly elevated bent of mind to fully comprehend Rumi. I, on the other hand, am a much prosaic creature. I have opinions. Now they may be wrong, perhaps they ARE wrong if there is no such thing as the objective truth… but they are well thought out. More than anything, they are open to being challenged. But the process of challenging, debating, discussing is a tumultuous process, and I enjoy that tumult. And *gasp* I am sad when I can’t convince people of what I believe in.

But the world around me, it seems to be full of half thought out punchlines and easy truths. Nuance is a quality that is fast disappearing from most discussions in public spaces. More than anything, most people shy away from any discussion of things they believe in. It is ‘I state, you state, goodbye’. This is what makes my experience in an American Law school stand out. In classes on Comparative Constitutional Law we have discussions on the idea of secularism. What it really means. Does free exercise of religion mean that there has to be an accommodation of different religious practices by the state? Or does it mean a strict separation between church and state? Is it cruel and unusual punishment to incarcerate someone for life, with no scope for an early release? What does free speech really mean? Even if my mind is made up on some of these issues, the tumult of these discussions plants seeds of doubt. I know years from now, if I am even a half decent thinker, I will owe a lot to these seeds of doubt.

I remember when I was very young, I met a great Bengali author who is famous for her human rights work. I was a child and a bit of a moron. She asked me if I thought the death penalty was correct, and I said with a great deal of certitude ‘Yes, some people do such terrible things, they deserve to die’. She smiled wryly and said ‘So you think the state has the right to take people’s life?’. That was a seed of doubt. I thought of what she had said. Examined it. Forgot about it. When I became less of a moron, I began thinking about the issue again. The seed of doubt began to sprout a tiny little shoot. I have never come to the conclusion that the state does not have the right to take a life. But I oppose the death penalty for my own reasons. (I don’t think it can ever be fairly applied, there will always be biases and subjectivity in awarding it to people).

Graduate school at Notre Dame (and I can’t speak for every American school nor can I speak for all graduate school experiences), has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I have met people from different countries, learnt that there can be widely diverging opinions on issues depending on where you are form. The Latin American views on colonization are not the same as African voices on colonization. I have even had to sit up and ask myself, what exactly we mean by African voices? There are 54 sovereign states on the continent, with incredible ethnic diversity. But we seem to think one word is sufficient to describe all of it.  Now that can promote the cause of solidarity, but we must not forget the great diversity that underlies that word.

Anyway, I digress. My nuance starved mind found a place where to a great degree I could have conversations with people that were AWESOME. But I fear when I get out of this cocoon and into the ‘real world’ such opportunities will be fewer and far between. As someone who wants to be a practicing lawyer, will this intellectual satisfaction have to come from a small group of friends and family?  How is the life of a practicing lawyer in India? Is she too caught up in the humdrum rhythm of daily life, or are there moments of pure pleasure when you craft a beautiful argument on a contested question of law? It is really for the latter that I want to practice law.

I can sense you rolling your eyes dear reader. My fears may be quite sophomoric. Perhaps the real world is full of hidden gems. Earnest people. I might stumble upon countless people planting countless seeds of doubt in my mind. I might be able to think about issues that shake me to the core of my being. Or it might be a big let down. Perhaps it is full of yuppies who can only speak in internet memes.  Either way I think I need to make room for Rumi in my mind palace.  I don’t think I can change anything about the world I will step into, so let me try and change myself.

Our deeply problematic notion of consent: or how Bollywood messed us up.

I remember a small (but perplexing) cultural adjustment problem I had when I came to the United States. When I went to a party, I would be offered food or some drink. My first instinct would be to say no. Of course it did not mean that I actually meant no, it was just a preparation for the customary hospitality ritual. The way it was supposed to play out was that the host would insist I have something to drink. I would look undecided. The host would offer alternatives. I would finally agree to something.

Only in the US (as is the case in many places), my host would just say ‘OK’, when I said I din’t want a drink. This is because there was no subtle dance of hospitality. If you said you did not want something, it was assumed you din’t want it. Honestly, this is a GREAT way of doing things.

But my blog post today is not about food and hospitality. It is about the deep ambivalence about the meaning of consent that is seeped into our Indian psyche. There will be some stereotyping (alas, it is inevitable in a blog post based on anecdotal evidence. I apologize for this, but request my readers to try to find the kernel of truth in the chaff of anecdotes).

What made me jump on this train of thought was this article I read. It is a Legally India article on how an Australian lawyer successfully argued before a district court in Tasmania that his Indian origin client should not go to jail for stalking women, because Bollywood movies had taught him that pursuing a woman hard enough would make her fall for him. Of course I will not comment further on this case because I have not read the judgment, which is unavailable online.  But there is some truth to this statement. Bollywood films do teach you that pursuing women relentlessly, gives results. Also crass sexual harassment is actually charming when SRK does it. Check out this scene from “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” an iconic Bollywood film that a lot of boys and girls grew up watching. Our charming hero spends the better part of four minutes singing inane songs full of innuendo, toying with the heroine’s bra, trying to put his head on her lap when she is clearly uncomfortable. This sensitive and well written scene ends with him saying, eloquently as ever, ‘I hate girls’.

But if you thought this was the exception, that is not really true. Let us note that I am not even talking about the objectification of women in films with songs where a woman compares herself to chicken drumsticks or a golden doll. Really, I am willing to let that slide.  I am talking about generations that have been brought up watching films where good girls don’t want to have sex,  where persistently pursuing women almost always leads to results, where (for the longest time) rape was a source of voyeuristic titillation is movies. What does a generation that grows up watching these movies do? How does it understand the role of women in society and relationships? Is there a genuine problem in understanding and articulating the meaning of consent?

There is also a deep ambivalence about sex in the Indian psyche ( stereotyping alert).  I know what you will say, we are the land of the kamasutra and the khajuraho paintings, so really ancient India was pretty cool. Let us blame all our faults on the Victorian mindset. But I have some bones to pick with the treatment of some women in our epics. Look at Ahalya for example. She was a woman who had been turned to stone because she had sexual intercourse with an impostor who pretended to be her husband. The reason she was cursed was that deep down, she knew that the man who she was sleeping with was not really her husband. Of course I am no torchbearer for adultery, but consenting to a sexually ambiguous situation is not really something that is punishable with being turned into stone (literally or metaphorically). But wait, if Ahalya was the adulterer that she was, why is she celebrated as one of the “Panchasatis” or the five chaste wives? Was she innocent then ( and her curse a tragic mistreatment of a good woman)? Or is it that the reference to Panchakanyas is actually ironic, given that all of them (Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara, and Mandodari) have ‘known’ a man, or more than one, other than her husband. For further details and a sophisticated analysis read this article by Pradip Bhatacharya.  If any of my readers happen to be experts on the scriptures, perhaps they can tell me what the reality is. My ramblings, however, were intended to point out that even the rich heritage of our past has some deeply problematic understandings of consent. A single transgression by a good woman (which in some versions is actually rape) makes her liable to be turned into stone, but her unflinching acceptance of her fate redeems her. Similarly, a woman may, to keep an ill-thought promise made to one’s mother, be forced to have five husbands (the story of Draupadi). That is her dharma, because promises made by one’s husband cannot be broken.

My purpose of going into our not so rich Bollywood history, and our rich cultural history was neither to denigrate India nor to justify the terrible violence against women that takes place. The purpose was rather to reflect on what our attitudes to sexuality are. I began to think of what made grade 3 stalkers and gropers of so many men (as a bus-ride or a walk alone on the roads in Delhi in the evening would show). I also wondered whether this unhealthy attitude to women and sexuality came from the fact that sex itself was a taboo subject. The fact is, as this taboo lifts, we are left with men and women caught in the churning of history. This churning engenders reprehensible violence, guilt, confusion, and sometimes great freedom.

I would like to end by talking about a feeling that is hard to quantify. For the past six months or more I realize, I haven’t been stared at on the street. I haven’t been whistled at, or ‘accidentally’ brushed against. I walk home late with a jaunty spring to my step. This doesn’t mean that violence against women and sexual harassment are not problems in the USA . But it does mean  that there are pockets (perhaps pockets of privilege) where there can be relative safety.Can we start creating such pockets in India? Cities and campuses where women feel safe? But going further than that can we ensure that poor and indigent women, who often lead the most sexually vulnerable lives, can live in safety, comfortable in their bodily integrity. Really, safety is such a great feeling.

Can women have it all?

Indra Nooyi ( the Pepsico CEO) was asked whether women can have it all, and she had this to say:

“I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for 34 years. And we have two daughters. And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions. And you have to co-opt a lot of people to help you. We co-opted our families to help us. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure. And I try all kinds of coping mechanisms.”  (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/why-pepsico-ceo-indra-k-nooyi-cant-have-it-all/373750/)

Well, of course, the statement provoked reactions ranging from women who felt like they could relate to her, to people (usually men) saying sagely (and a bit condescendingly) ‘no one can have it all’ or ‘feminism should give way to humanism’.

So let me be perfectly clear at the outset. This post does not suggest that there is any community or individual for whom life is perfect. Human beings all have problems, some more pressing than others. Religious minorities and migrants face their own problems as do rich people with perfect hair. A discussion of ‘Can women have it all’ is merely a way to analyse the peculiar problems that women face.

That being said, it is a gendered question, and will have a gendered answer. I am sure there are those of you who will stray on to this post and on reading it will feel extremely offended that I have tried to do a feminist analysis of the lived reality of women. To those of you, I can not and do not wish to persuade you. Feel free to make your offended or offensive comment and move on. To those of you who are interested in this issue, let us try to analyse this question. (Spoiler alert: the answer is NUANCED).

What do we mean by this question. Well for the purposes of this post, this question means can women have satisfying work and personal lives? More particularly can they play the roles of wives and mothers (which society wants them to perform, and which they themselves often wish to perform) without compromising on their careers.

Even the most context blind ones among us know that traditionally women were required to play the roles of ‘good’ wives and mothers. Their domain was supposed to be the household. Even when they started joining educational institutions and the workforce, the expectation was that their ‘natural’ roles should get priority.  Hence, the husband’s career was often the real career, and the woman’s job was often a additional bonus of sorts.

Of course, things are different now. Labour laws have changed, and most countries have formal equal opportunity laws, even if the actual participation of women in the workforce varies considerably depending on the context. Even in industrialized countries women have their own share of workplace related issues such as sexual harassment and not getting promotions. If you look at the number of Fortune 1000 CEOs, you will find that only 5.2 % of them are women. (http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-ceos-fortune-1000)

There are those of you who will say that maybe women are just not good enough to produce enough CEOs, and I am not going to respond to you. I can deal with logic, but this kind of fantastic reasoning is something I really cannot counter. It is probably my small brain. My bad.

To those who recognize the equality of men and women, I guess the next step is to understand what might be getting in the way. Here I slip into the realm of the anecdotal. As a lawyer I got to witness the Indian Supreme Court’s functioning closely. I observed that the number of Senior Women lawyers is still quite small. While I was there, there were 2 women judges on the Supreme Court. Today there is only 1 out of 28.  Among the younger lawyers there are more women, and they often did argue when I was in Court. But walking through the Court and other events, I really felt like it was a male bastion. My most vivid memory of this feeling is when I went to a book reading and suddenly became aware that I was surrounded by men. (I don’t know where I picked up this tendency, but I tend to see the composition of the people that I am with in a meeting). I looked to see who the other women were, and I noticed that I was the only woman lawyer there. To complete the bitter humor of the situation, the book celebrated ‘legends in law’ and of course not one of those ‘legends’ was women. (Though I am appalled at anyone that does not consider Cornelia Sorabjee a legend).

Since this day of being the only woman at that event, I often think of what makes law (litigation) such a solidly male field. The answers to that are speculative, but I think it has its roots in the way we perceive aggression to be  a male prerogative. That is, we value a litigator who is aggressive and sub-consciously see that as a male trait. But I know that, as I speak, there are women who are struggling to make a career in litigation (quite like I hope to do). Change is, after all, incremental.

But then as I see the future, as a woman who considers herself as competent as her male peers, I wonder how it will pan out.  I will have a supportive partner who will contribute to the family as I do. It is true that a lot men are challenging gender roles and helping out their partners. That being said, the actual function of motherhood and the relationship with a child are a reality of life for all women who want a child. So I ask myself (and I imagine countless women have asked themselves) how will marriage and motherhood change me? Is it possible to remain an ambitious woman after having a child?

Some of you will roll your eyes and say, ‘Get over it’. Choose what you want. Pick motherhood. Or be a career woman. Do both and stop whining. But the question is, the average man does not face this choice between fatherhood and a career. Some fathers are deciding to be stay at home dads, and it a good development. But a lot of times, in my experience, motherhood has meant the woman’s career taking a backseat.

I also ask myself, what if there is a conflict between my partner’s career and mine? Whose job should take precedence. Should it be mine on principle. No, surely that doesn’t sound fair. Should we toss a coin? Should I follow him where ever he goes? Should he?

No I don’t spend all my time agonizing over these questions. But, there are moments when I wonder. How can I combine my love for the law, with the love I have for a family life that I want to make. I guess my answer to this question is that I will try try to have it all, even if I know the quest if futile. I know on some days I will be a good lawyer, on some a good mother, on some a good partner. Maybe some days I will hash some of those things up in trying to do it all. But I will try. In doing so I think I will be inspired by my mother, who has been a  brilliant writer, a bureaucrat and a mother all in one. She has done it all, but I am no match for her.

I do not mean to disparage women who make the choice of either being a homemaker or a career woman without a family. I think we all arrive at our own answers. Sure this problem is not as bad as dealing with chronic malnutrition or a tsunami. But it is a problem (or a dilemma, call it what you want). So yes, give us that moment. Allow us that small bit of hesitation as a society and don’t brush this under the carpet. Let women reflect on whether they have been able to have it all. Let young women agonize about whether they can. And you, dear reader, whoever you are, can try to make their paths a little easier.

 

The India that I love.

One can exorcise a ghost, how does one get rid of a country?(Paraphrased from Kiran Nagarkar’s Cuckold)

Dear Readers,

It has been a while since I have made a blog post. While I have been busy, I have not been so busy as to warrant such a long absence.  Perhaps with so many changes in life (read graduate school), I felt there was too much to write. Perhaps I was not up to the task.

So the fall colors whizzed by, and I saw the first snow fall  of my life. And I did not write.

But the blog has been on my mind. In the days before I came away to a different continent, in a different country, it was my voice. And as the cold wave of nostalgia sweeps over me, it is my voice again. A voice that I need, to express that feeling we try to describe as homesickness.

Those that are less discerning among us would mistake homesickness for unhappiness. That is not the case. Sure, you are unhappy when you are homesick, but that is where the relationship between them ends.

What is it that I miss? Is it the company of loved ones? Maybe so. But more than that it is that visceral relationship with my country. Its deafening noises, its food, its dust, its light, its people.

Don’t take this to be a bout of patriotism. To love India, is not to love it like one loves one’s country. It is not the chaste love of duty and honor. It is that aching love of fresh pine-laden Himalayan air in your lungs. It is the love of the half burnt smell that hovers Delhi in melancholy evenings.

To love India is like to be in love with a paradox.

I could say some more trite things about how amazing India is.

I won’t.

I will just tell you of some memories dear reader. Jama Masjid, old Delhi. You sit there for hours. Watching people come and go. They keep  changing but they are the same. You go out to Karim’s to jostle for a table and probably end up ordering the wrong dish.

It is near Diwali night. The bite is just getting into the cold Delhi  air. The auto guy is ripping you off, but you don’t care at the moment. You are passing North block South Block. There is the India Gate in the distance. That moment in time, you want to bottle it up. Never let it go.

It is Bombay now. Wet. Always wet. The sea is a dark dark something color, and the queen’s necklace glitters. I won’t call it a city of dreams or some crap like that. It is a city of grit. Of fighters. Storming bastions. Braving conditions. Getting their little victories. Someday it will be home. Someday I will storm my own bastion there.

And there is Calcutta, the first love. A city that I never understood. Perhaps could truly never be a part of. I could see Moidan, I could stand at the edges and imagine the life of a boy who lives in Garia, who comes here with friends to smoke up. I could see how this city can be enough for those it loves. Enough for those that love it.  Its genuine love of food, its complete contemptuous indifference to appearances. Its book fair. Its prickly heat.

But then perhaps it is time to talk about where I am really from. Bhubaneshwar. I don’t think I ever owned up to it, till my boyfriend joked that ‘where you are really from, is the place you want to escape the most’. So yes perhaps I am from Bhubaneshwar. With its sleepy evenings, its beautiful parks, and more temples than you can count. Perhaps there is still a little girl there, who goes out for ice cream to Indira park. The Ram Mandir still stands tall there, I guess, and the Rasagulla’s must be amazing.

So there it is. That longing for the smells, sights sounds. The longing for the warmth of its people.

One can exorcise a ghost, how does one get rid of a country?

Davidoff Presents- Amnesia

It is packaged in a sleek blue bottle,

The perfume. Delicate. Refined. Urbane.

I urge you to try it.

Why do you hold on to the odor of a decade past?

While you travel in a six lane highway

Pothole free, hassle free, standard

The perfume will make you frenzied

Part of something bigger.

Why do you insist of being such an eyesore?

Remembering. Angry. Raising trouble.

Have you seen how ugly the sores of memory look.

Like someone put a burning tyre on a live human being.

Why do you want to come between a nation and its highways?

You remember

And it infuriates me.

You remember and you provoke.

I spray on some more Amnesia.

Why is it then that I can never get over it?

Why is the stench of burning human flesh,

My constant companion?

My husband is more to me than a living jar-opener

There is no post that I have come across that sums up real everyday feminism better.  (Reblogged)

Fit and Feminist

If you’ve been on the internet at all in the past week, you’ve probably already seen the Women Against Feminism tumblr going around, or at the very least read about it.

I didn’t think too much of it when I saw it, for two reasons. For one, most of the women had a tenuous grasp (at best) on the definition of feminism, one that seemed like it was informed in its entirety by Rush Limbaugh and Jessi Spano, and also the belief that “misandry” jokes are actually serious.

The other reason was that most of the “women” actually looked like teenage girls. Considering that I was super into Ayn Rand when I was a teenage girl, I can’t get too far up on my high horse with regards to the contributors. Let’s just say that if Tumblr was around in the late 1990s, I’m sure there’d be a photo of…

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