Boys don’t cry. – Starry Eyed
I got this email from J1289, a regular reader and commenter here and sharing this with her permission:
(In context of something someone said to her) “…… I feel there are only two options for all of us, be part of the herd and get all the joy sucked out of us where we are miserable, or be happy and do what you love to do and get rejected/ignored by others since your actions don’t fit their mold. It’s never a win-win situation IMO.
Indian culture (or perhaps most Asian cultures) can be very beautiful. There are certain aspects I love about it, however being pressured to be this ideal “Indian girl”, get married, have kids, live in servitude and act like a doormat where toxicity takes over, sucks all the positive vibes about being Indian and makes you have a strong disdain towards it.
Especially the fact that in Indian culture, non-Indians are inferior to Indians, we must “stick” with people of our caste and people from our state only (I HATE THAT!) so that we keep the “culture” alive where it will not lose its “purity”. (Emphasis mine)
I hear this all the time, and it makes you think, can we still keep a homogeneous culture? How come people from conservative places, despite living abroad and exploring the world will not look at any other perspective?
Also lack of equal respect is another factor I dislike about being Indian. I would never show I am superior or treat someone ill because I’m much older than them. I made it a point for myself that I’ll take a blend of cultures because I have equal respect for all, (not only Indian) and incorporate into my life. Sure I’ll keep some “Indianness”, but I will also make sure to get rid of some of the toxic aspects (arranged marriages, being a slave to in laws, and be firm when I have to). I will make sure my life is full of diversity and not just one sided.”
My reply to her:
“I think you have the right approach when you say you take a blend of cultures and incorporate them into your life. No culture is perfect; each one has strengths and failures. I agree with you on all those unpleasant aspects of Indian culture. I think we can reject those parts and take the parts we like. I think that makes logical sense – why should it be all or nothing? We take what makes sense, what feels right, what makes us comfortable. We reject regressive thinking and practices.”
But then, when I thought about it more, I was intrigued by this idea of “cultural purity” and “protecting one’s culture”. I could relate to so many parts of J1289’s email because I’ve been in her place many times.
I have often been accused of “becoming too American”.
Because I let my children disagree with me.
Because I let them make choices and decisions that impact their lives.
Because I don’t fall on elders’ feet at weddings.
Because I don’t cook up a feast in the kitchen while the men discuss “important things” in the living room.
Because I sit next to my husband on the couch.
Because I hold his hand when we walk.
Because I wear what I want.
Because I don’t fast or pray.
Because I like to run/hike in my shorts.
Because I read and write and express opinions.
Because I don’t need permission for a host of things.
Because I make choices.
Because I laugh aloud when I’m happy.
Because recently, I told my husband’s aunt who came to the US to visit her daughter, “No this is not a good time to visit. The children have exams. We will come and see you.”
Instead of “Yes, you are always welcome in our home.”
And with the predictability of sunrise, she pulled an Athidi Devo Bhava on me.
We are constantly told that this kind of behavior goes against Indian culture. That it is a betrayal of Indian culture. But then, what exactly is Indian culture? Allowing your elders to control your life – until it’s your turn to control your children’s lives?
More precisely, WHO gets to define Indian culture? Who ARE these dreaded guardians of Indian culture? Why should they be in charge of defining Indian culture and identity? Because what they are defining happens to suit them? Because “tradition” can be a great way to avoid the tough questions and accountability?
I’ve seen other Indian American families struggle with identity. Some (if not all) first generation immigrants keep a little nostalgic piece of India in their hearts. It is a soft-focus, rose tinted picture that ignores the negative aspects of our culture.
But not seeing the truth is unhelpful. This holding on to an “ideal Indian culture” never allows you to take a rational standpoint. It never allows changes. It is stifling, both for them, and for their children, whom they have chosen to raise in a different country.
It is a disservice both to their birth country (to hinder truth, learning and progress) as well as the country they’ve immigrated to (to reap the benefits of another culture while condemning it). It keeps them in a time capsule. India and many Indians living in India have moved on with the times in many respects, but some Indian immigrants still hold on to the past, afraid to let go.
To some extent, I can understand this love for one’s country of birth. It has a sort of magical pull.
I recently visited India for my niece’s wedding. I delighted in dressing up in kancheevarams and donning jhumkas. I re-watched 3 Idiots and laughed like one in some scenes. I sat on my brother’s balcony, watching the vendors below, as the evening darkened, cups of chai in hand, discussing Indian politics with fervor, knowing very well that governance in India is still a distant dream. I listened to my sister practice her Veena, her hands now faintly aging, but the music flowing strong and confident as ever.
I smelled coconut water and Aarti in the Ganesh temple my mother makes me go to, on every trip. My mother still sticks bits of turmeric to the new clothes she gifts to my children. I visited my childhood tailor, Arif, who must be in his 70s and can’t see well anymore but still seems to be turning out beautiful dresses with his old hands through sheer habit.
On my last evening there, I went to the Old Town – the most neglected part of my hometown and hiked up the highest peak (now I realize it is a small hill) that overlooks a rocky shore. At the foot of the hill sits my old convent school. I visited the strict nuns of my elementary school, now softened with age, their disapproving looks replaced with welcoming smiles. I sat peacefully in my school’s worn down church as they conducted their Catholic service, not really understanding their rituals, but calmed by the angelic singing.
To me, all of these things are uniquely Indian, or define the part of India I was raised in. Who can take away this Indianness from me? This “love” is about people and places and memories.
BUT, why does being Indian have to mean giving up the right to think, analyze, question, discuss, disagree, and express?
You don’t have to feel like you are betraying Indian culture when you think for yourself. Rabindranath Tagore thought for himself. So did Sarojini Naidu. And so did Gandhi. And those 3 eminent thinkers spoke and wrote their original, independent, rebellious thoughts eloquently in Indian languages as well as in English. They looked and sounded and felt Indian, but they were far from being subservient. They were certainly not part of the “log kya kahenge” crowd. So, let’s stop defining Indianness as conformity and fear. It isn’t nor does it have to be.
I love my country of birth – it is colorful, vibrant, unique, energetic, evolving, boundless. I love America too – my adopted country – it is a place of equality and respect for the individual and immense personal freedom. Neither country is perfect, and both have numerous problems. And I love them both.
No one has the right to tell us what parts of which culture we adopt. One’s identity is a complex combination of one’s background, nature, experiences, and influences. It is ever changing, growing, and developing as we undergo new experiences. It is not to be determined by one’s aunt, mother-in-law, neighbor, pastor, or politician. It is up to us to determine who we want to be and how we choose to define ourselves.
And perhaps the same thing goes for India too. Indians should stop defining their country in terms of their Vedic past, the colonial legacy, the Islamic influence, traditions and customs, and other hang ups – these burdens only serve to limit us. While our rich past undoubtedly makes a fascinating study and understanding it is crucial, dwelling there forever is a sad mistake. Maybe if we start looking forward, India can be as beautiful and boundless as she wants to be.
Sharing a comment from The Accused Guy where he attempts to give ‘the other side’ of the story.
The comment was made in response to this email: “He became more distant and sometime would verbally abuse me, call me names and then slapping and wrist twisting started happening.”
1. The ‘only son’ in the email is not ‘only child’.
2. The ‘only son’ is raised to understand that he would provide for his parents. (Which is why we Indians pray, fast, bless, sex select etc).
3. The only son’s parents in this email are expected to provide for the other adult child, the married daughter (possibly to ensure that she is treated well by her in laws and hence Stays Married).
4. The average male child does not question this, though sometimes he might expect his wife to demand from her parents what his parents do for his sister. This seems to transfer the victimisation to the daughter in law.
This is not questioned or seen as evil although this is the biggest reason for India’s Skewed Gender Ratio.
5. Violence, physical and verbal, in the email, is being tolerated as a part of conflict resolution.
6. Indian women (and men) feel they must marry the first person they are in a relationship with.
In case of a break up, men risk being accused of ‘using’ the woman [Link]. Women risk being accused to having been used (and hence dishonoured and no longer marriageable).
And here’s the comment from AccusedGuy.
After reading the blog post, I would have reacted the same way as everyone. But this is what one sided stories do. So I would request all to respond once again after reading the other side of it.
Which is as following:
Me and “XYZ” were together for around 6 years before marriage. We first expressed our love for each other during college days. Of course I was in love with her because I hadn’t seen anyone so innocent and pure of heart. Hence our relationship started.
Start of relation was very bubbly-bubbly as every relation is but with time I observed that that innocence started to disappear (Only for me) and I was bombarded with jealousy, insecurities and expectations. This was first time relationship experience for both of us and being naïve about it, we left things on time to improve.
Things didn’t improve even after a couple of years of relationship (Mostly distance relationship during college projects), I decided to talk to “XYZ”. But before any kind of relevant talk, I was immediately tagged as “someone who used her for a couple of years with no intentions of marriage” (which was automatically assumed since we were in “relationship”). I tried to talk to her that cheating her was never the intention but continuing a relationship which is full of issues is also a mistake. But she never agreed to split and assured that she’ll do everything to correct her limitations and I didn’t want her to hurt her like that so we continued our relationship.
After college, we took our jobs. She was in Gurgaon and me in Noida. We met occasionally on weekends and spent 3 years like this (having major fights all the while). One fight got so worse that we decided to take a break for a couple of weeks from each other and re-think our relation. After that time we sat together and I communicated to her that we shouldn’t be together because we can’t resolve our issues. She again disagreed and told me that she’ll make all the adjustments but insisted on maintaining the relationship.
After that it’s correct that I had feelings for some other girl. But “XYZ” was aware of that before marriage. We talked about this and I assured her that no external factor will come between us (I have maintained that always and have fulfilled that to this date) but I still maintained that getting married was a bad idea because we can’t resolve our issues. But again I was accused that I wasted her six years and now was simply ditching her for some other girl.
So we got married.
After marriage everything changed.
“I’ll do everything to correct my issues” changed to “you push me for everything”…
“Lets resolve our issues” changed to “my parents will talk to you on this issue”…
“let’s stay together” changed to “we should split up” …
Before marriage I told “XYZ” that since I am the only son to take care of my diabetic parents, they’ll come live with us. And “XYZ” seemed fairly OK with that. After marriage, before my parents were to visit us, I asked “XYZ” if she has any concerns then I’ll love to address them but she didn’t discuss anything that night… But a few days she started saying that she talked to some of her friends and she’ll like to discuss some issues.
Conversation was as following:
XYZ: Who’ll pay for their expenses?
Me: Since I am only son, there’s no segregation of money. So it doesn’t matter who pays. Even if it does, I’ll be happy to pay for my parents stay and eatables.
XYZ: What if parents leave some part of their wealth to your sister?
Me: Then it’ll be their wish. But I can still pay for their stay and eatables.
XYZ: fine. What’ll happen to us? Our alone time?
Me: We come back from office at around ~7 PM. we can join them till dinner time.. after ~9 PM we can have our alone time till we sleep (usually ~11 PM).
XYZ: fine. But I want to control kitchen my way.
Me: Sure, adjust with mum till she’s here after that you can resort to your ways again.
When parents came, she was friendly for a day or two but then she started ignoring them. Didn’t go to their room until I asked her to come along or didn’t left our room till it was exact office time during morning. I found this odd and asked if she has any issues with them. Her reply was “It takes time for me to accept and love people. So don’t push me till it happens itself”. To me, it wasn’t lack of love it was more about lack of respect that she chose to ignore my parents. [IHM:Link] That became one of our constant issues even after my parents left. Things kept getting severe on this front every time my parents visited afterwards.
I never asked/pushed her to do “Seva” of my parents and I did expect her to atleast respect my parents enough to acknowledge their presence.
Physical Abuse issue:
I’ll not defend myself here because I believe under no circumstance it should be a resort. But I’ll just add complete picture to this.
We were never good at resolving our issues and mostly it would turn into loud arguments and heated shouting. One time during such shouting I slapped her. But the moment I hit her, I realized what I had done and said sorry to her. Next day too I felt so bad that I called up mother and confessed that I slapped my wife and I was really sorry for that.
XYZ didn’t take it lightly and accused me of physical abuse. She made it a family issue and finally I apologized to her mother also for same.
In our subsequent fights, she started hitting me(Not on face but all over various body parts in her fury). I pointed that out to her that is this not physical abuse. Her response was “come on you are a guy, “itna lagta be hai tumhe??”.
First time I twisted her arm, she took a jadu and beat me with it. After her anger dissolved she said “Come on, deere se tou mara tha”
Another time, during the argument I made a gesture of raising hand and she scratched skin out of my arm. Later she said “itna bi ni lga tumhe”.
And yeah Kut*a, haram**ada were commonly used to address me during these fights.
A couple of days before I was to travel to Bangalore, we had a fight. But on last day, we put that behind us and hugged. I asked her to join me as soon as she can so that we can settle our new life their together.
4-5 days later I reached Bangalore, it was her birthday so I called her and wished her (No call from her prior to that). During another call later that day we again had an argument. Next day I called her and her response was “pls stop interfering with my life and leave me alone” So I didn’t call her after that. She had medical issues, she left for her home town (without telling me).
Now it’s been around 50 days..
The Men in Our Lives – Priya
Relationships – Making Someone Happy – By Priya
“In light of my avowed feminism, which I continue to feel strongly about to this day, how was I allowing myself to define my value, or in this case, the lack thereof, by the men I had loved not feeling anything in return?”
“A human being is not a share on the stock market – you are not suddenly worth more if more people want you, or less if nobody does.”
Originally posted on abohemiansrhapsody:
One of those things is still integral to my life. The other has not been for nearly two years now, which is an extremely positive change.
Writing about my experience is an extremely difficult thing, and reconciling my own beliefs with the way I behaved was even more difficult. How does someone who strongly believes nobody should be defined by others by any metrics, and especially the metrics society chooses to define us by – which are often external – judge themselves by them?
I grew up being called ‘ugly’, ‘hideous’, ‘unattractive’, especially to boys at an age when that was somehow all-important, an essential part of being a true girl, woman, whatever it was. It taught me several things. First, as I was becoming a teenager, and then a young woman, I believed strongly that I was ugly, and at the time, it mattered.
It mattered that nobody looked…
View original 1,827 more words
Sharing an email.
In ‘Astitva’ (a Hindi movie) an Indian woman turned down her would have been father in law’s offer to find her some job in the same family business where the son also worked. What made it possible for her to turn down that offer?
My answer at the bottom of this post.
Also, what can give any woman the confidence to turn down any such offer that she does not want to accept? What can make anybody trust their own judgement?
How easy are these choices for most women seeing that getting married, making the marriage work, family and parenthood have traditionally been viewed as almost solely a woman’s concerns?
What do you think could the email writer have done? What would you recommend now?
I came across this blog a couple of days back. It is funny how I arrived on this page searching for “woes of an Indian daughter in law” on a search engine. Funny because I never really thought I would have to look for a solution to such grievance ever in my life. I grew up in a family where we were continuously taught to focus on how to get a good career which shall lead to an independent(financially and otherwise) life. Never really bothered much about learning to cook or do household chores. My mother was an academician and evidently those values were instilled in me and my sister since a very young age. Both us eventually got through good colleges, completed MBA from Tier 1 school and landed up with good jobs.
My sister went for an arranged marriage settled in a different city with completely non interfering in laws. All these years, I had been dating this guy (who did his courses from the same B School) until last year when I decided to get married to him. By then, I had switched 2 fancy corporate jobs, lived independently, managed my own investments and was fairly satisfied with my life.
My husband decided to join his father’s business in our hometown despite having the opportunity to crack MNCs in campus. It was his decision (not sure if influenced by his parents) and I respected it.
When the time came to discuss our marriage, it was understood that one of us had to quit and move. His being a very established business, I was given an option to join family business (after all they were not asking me to be a housewife). Discussions went on for months and finally I gave in. He has been the best thing to happen to me, I could have made that SACRIFICE and I did for the sake of our marriage.
So I had a fancy wedding and moved to a business family ready to stay with in laws. There were so many who warned me against it but I thought nothing could really impact me as long as I’m working and I have my husband by my side.
Days passed, I joined work but realised slowly how my work is not acknowledged or appreciated as much as I expected it to be. My mother in law is a very quiet lady, does not socialize much and is totally obsessed with her children. She sits at home entire day, constantly seeking attention from every family member and reacts vehemently when others do not reciprocate. I tried to manage her mood swings for months giving her company during the evenings, managing her fights with the domestic help. I was uncomfortable but I thought she does no harm to me, so I should be more considerate.
My father in law is a complete extrovert to the extent of being an absolute braggart, sometimes even lying or creating false stories of his fake glory. It was always hard to digest because I grew up in a completely different environment.
Now months have passed and things have not changed, only gotten worse. They have relatives coming in from the village who would stay for months and comment on the way I dress (Oh, the bahu in jeans or a suit minus the dupatta?), would want to evaluate my culinary skills and also question me on the knowledge of customs/rituals. My in laws are extremely traditional, they never really forced me to follow anything but the expectations are very clear. Both of them are in the habit of chewing tobacco, which I absolutely detest. There are many other things that makes my day to day life unbearable but I have no other option.
Although my husband is extremely supportive, I hate to share these problems everyday with him. He is torn between me and his parents. Another house is out of question as long as we stay in the same city (log kya kahenge?) and moving to another city is very difficult for him since he has been managing the business for 4 years now. Corporate options are limited in this city and even if I move to a company here, it leaves me with the same house and same set of people. My husband and I dreamt of a very different life and I truly feel am transported several decades back in time, away for the progressive world.
And the answer to the question I asked above: Only one thing – she valued her happiness and freedom more than she wanted to get married.
Sharing an email.
I stumbled upon your blog while I was too disturbed with the current state of my so called marriage.
I got married two years ago.
My parents had been looking for a match for me for two years but I couldn’t say a yes to anyone because I had seen so many marriages fail around me. I also have a younger sister, so obviously it was expected of me to get married as soon as possible so she could also be married off. We don’t have a male sibling. Also, I belong to a family where I and my sister were given the freedom of choice and were not controlled by our parents.
Now, when I met this guy, I had made up my mind to marry him because he belonged to a well off decent family or so was portrayed to us. His father made tall claims that they were pretty liberal in letting the daughter in law come home as and when she wishes to, and what not. He also made a phone call to me asking if I would be fine in staying with the joint family since they never ever want to stay separate. I was pretty ok since it didn’t seem like a big deal considering his parents understood that I am very well educated, have a career and belong to a nuclear family. During the courtship I had told him about my education loan which I couldn’t repay since my marriage was fixed soon after my education was over. And he was like I am proud of you that you took your responsibility and that we will take of that together. I also told him if he wants to tell his family, which he said he did. I don’t remember if the loan amount was discussed or not. I also told him that I would want to contribute financially after marriage you know because of my independent nature and high self esteem. I am not the kinds who would want to thrive on anyone else’s money, not even my husband’s.
Even though I had doubts about marrying this guy since he was not as smart as I am and which he himself confessed in a very boorish way, saying his friends call him a ch****a, I was really baffled as I couldn’t comprehend what kind of a man was I marrying. Then, things started becoming bad between us as I started losing respect for him for being what he claimed of himself. I am also short tempered. Just few days before the wedding I visited his place where he tried to dominate me and screamed at me in front of his mother. I was really taken aback. I fought with him the next day and abused him. Also, I said I would divorce him soon after marriage. To which he called both the families and I apologised to him. I, in fact wanted to call off the wedding but was too scared to do that at a very advanced stage. I couldn’t muster the courage and thought I may have misjudged, and things would fall in place.
After marriage things were not bad. I was gelling well with his parents. However, unfortunately my husband got really busy with his work. Also, since I had to shift to a new place, I left my previous job and became a housewife. This was the only way since my employer did not operate out of the city I moved into. So, I was a housewife, learning the ways of their house. During this time since my husband would work till late night I would not sleep until he would, in order to keep him company. And since he cared for me and my health, he would switch off my alarm in the mornings because of which I would wake up late which irked my MIL.
Also, in the kitchen, she would constantly tell me what to do, how to do, how to peel vegetables how to not use an extra plate to save the maid’s effort, how to dry clothes, etc etc. This, along with citing examples of how other daughters in law take care of their household, are ideal and also work. She would constantly send me whatsapp messages trying to manipulate my psyche of an independent working woman to that of a docile Indian bahu. I would cry my eyes out. She would sometimes snatch things of my hand. She would never let me cook my way. She would never allow me cook something different. It always had to be her way. There were many incidents where she commented things like
1. A girl’s house is also seen before marriage (since mine is a humble house)
2. She said you are not my daughter but daughter in law.
3. Once said ‘Zyada udo mat’ in front of her son.
4. She would constantly remind how they want a baby boy and not girl from that I should not even say that it be a baby girl.
5. She would tell me how much dowry she had brought with her.
6. She would say I wanted a working girl because dowry is one time while the girl will earn for a lifetime. [Link: Dulhan hi dahej hai]
7. Once she said I will fulfill all my wishes with your salary.[An email from an Indian MIL]
8. She also mentioned about other families where the daughters in law would give their salary to the parents in law.
I told my husband all of this and he ignored saying she just has this habit of talking nonsense.
During this time, my father was diagnosed with heart blockage and was advised to undergo a by-pass surgery. In which my in laws really helped me. Though they imposed a lot of things but I ignored.
Everything went of well, my parents stayed with us for 8 days and then left. My parents never wanted to stay with my in laws at the first place stating its a sensitive relationship and they didn’t want to spoil it for my future. But my in laws really imposed hard that my parents should stay with us post my father’s surgery. This because, my parents are from a small town and medical facilities are not so great there.
In the meantime I was also looking for a job. It was very difficult since I was at a high package with few years of experience because of my degree. Finding a similar job was being difficult. Also, not to forget that my mother in law would accompany me to my job interviews saying how would I find the place on my own. This to a person who stayed out of her house for 7 long years, who is treated as one of the smartest females, who is an Engineer and MBA by education. Nevertheless my constant efforts paid off and I finally found a job which was at a start up. I was so frustrated sitting at home that I took it up without thinking twice. That’s when the trouble began. I would cry because of the pressure at work and also because of my mother in law’s constant manipulation had started having an impact on me. I could no longer ignore it. I am an overly sensitive and emotional person. Then, one day I got back late around 9:15 PM. My usual time was 7:30 – 8:00. My MIL got over anxious, waited for me at the roadside outside the society compound stating what would people think if I am entering late all alone.
The next day I told my FIL that please explain MIL to not get worried since my job is such that I may get late sometimes. I told him since my husband would encourage me to discuss my MIL issues as he seemed like DIL supporting. To my surprise, he said this is not acceptable, you should leave home sharp at so and so time and be back by so and so time. Your career is secondary, our son’s career is primary. I was too disturbed, I told my husband and he ignored. I and my husband on a Sunday were watching a late night movie show that my mother in law texted saying be back soon otherwise FIL will be angry if you get up late and are not ready on time. I was so upset that I showed my husband this text. He also got pissed off. The next day morning when he was leaving for office, he probably did not talk to his parents. When I was packing my tiffin, my MIL asked me why was my husband not talking to her. I was pretty irritated with her that I said ask him directly he is your son, why do you ask me. Hearing this she started fighting with me.
I reached office, I told my husband and my mom about this fight they told me to apologise to MIL, which I did on whatsapp. In the afternoon I got a call from my mom saying my MIL had called her and said how ill mannered is your daughter and said many other things. She also went on to complain to my husband’s grandmom who got out marriage fixed. Also, this was not the first time that she had gone on to complain about me. I would constantly get to know that she bitches about me but I would ignore. She would also bitch about me with the maid, neighbor, her friends and her in laws. I never ever told anyone what was going on at my in law’s place. I felt kind of betrayed. Not just this, when we returned from work that day, she made me, my husband and FIL sit and shouted at me. I also got very angry and retorted. She made remarks about my relatives. She also said that when maid doesn’t come I should do the cleaning of the house and do the utensils. I was never used to do this. Also, I have a back problem. I took it to my heart.
Since bad luck was riding on me, after a month and a half it turned out that the company that I was working for was a fraud one and they asked me to leave without paying a single dime. I was very very disturbed by now.
Then, I found another job soon enough which was close to my in law’s house. They made it an everyday routine to drop me to office. Everything was fine again and my mom called up my MIL to congratulate on my job and told her that now she will be tension free since she could repay her education loan. This became an issue since my husband hadn’t told his mother about it which I was not aware of. In the same week the maid hadn’t come so I did the entire house’s dusting, brooming and moping. I developed severe back pain. So much so that I had to visit the spinal injury’s center. MIL accompanied us since my husband is scared of visiting hospitals and cant go there without his mom. There we spent 2000 rupees on fee and medicines. The very same day I helped in the kitchen at night and was crying in pain at night. My husband screamed at his mom for asking me to help her. She must have got upset that she barred me from entering the kitchen next day.
The next day, my husband did not eat anything. I constantly kept asking him to eat and talk to his mom but to no avail. I also did not eat. I was so scared the entire day. MIL came to me and asked me to eat and feed DH. I obliged. It was a weekend. In order to have the husband in a better mood I asked to go out so he be normal. While he was taking out the car, FIL called on me very rudely. He started asking me questions about my salary and why had I not given it to him. Why had I not asked him on investment declarations. Also, he said I shouldn’t repay my loan and in his words – “apne baap ko bol fund me se nikal kar tera loan pay kare, aukat kya hai tere ma baap ki, car aur furniture bhi nahi hai tum logon ke paas” (As I said I belong to a humble background. Not like we can’t afford it but my parents chose not to since they invested heavily on my and my sister’s education) He said you lie to us we have proof of you lying. I asked him what lie are you talking about. He said I will tell you later. I said are you spying on me, he said I will. I said since you are older than me doesn’t mean you would insult me like this. This said and he went on and on screaming at me, insulting my parents, hurling abuses at me. In front of my husband. He tried to say things for me, but they were falling on deaf ears. He was siding me but to no avail. I was so dumbstruck that I could not utter a single word. I was so terrified and humiliated that I caught fever. My husband at night said I should apologise to his parents in the morning which I did!
Now, the real problem, my FIL doesn’t work. They had said they have a factory, but it doesn’t run. His mother is a homemaker and his younger brother is also not doing very well financially. Its my husband who is running the entire house. Before marriage we were not told about this. Also, their house is mortgaged. My husband pays the EMI for their house. With my job, they wanted me to give them the entire salary. My husband put his foot down and said he had promised me before marriage on letting me repay my loan. To take this stand he renounced food for a month. He did not talk to them during this period. I also suffered because I did have lunches and dinners at home. I would make some instant food for myself. Husband would say he’d eaten at office. My health deteriorated. During this entire episode, my mother got stroke because of all the issues that I was facing. I went to be with her for a week. I felt extremely guilty for her condition. Also,that place had become a living hell for me because of the hostile environment, the abusive nature of his father, his mother’s non-realistic expectations and my own work related issues. During this time my FIL asked me to give them half my salary and from the remaining half take care of my expenses and my loan amount. I told my husband and we had a major fight on this issue. He was still not eating at home. Then one fine day when I was at work and my husband and his mom at home, she convinced him to eat and talk saying we will do whatever you say. MY DH assured me everything is normal and the issue is taken care of. The next day was a weekend again. He gave his mom some money with extra 10000 saying this is hers. His mom threw it on his face and said we want it from her. I was not aware of this. A major fight happened. His father was not home and from wherever he was he called up my father scolding him. He also called my mother who was recovering from a STROKE! How heartless is that. My sister did not let her take the call though. He also called my grandmom screaming and shouting and what not! They wanted me to show them my salary slips and bank statements, give them half my salary. And this was the day when my husband said, “Do whatever my parents say!” What about all the promises he made!? What about his stand on my issue!?
I was so terrified that I left that house and I am living separately from him now. He helped me move out. He comes to meet me over the weekends. We fight a lot. I asked him to move out and stay with me. It’s been a year. He left me waiting, said he is looking for an accommodation but changed his mind altogether few days back. Now the state is such that everyone is asking me to come back but I am terrified. I have doubts on my husband’s decision making capabilities. His maternal uncle called us at his place and made me understand how normal it was in all the households whatever happened with me. I am just too shattered and can’t even think of moving back in with his family. I am in a fix! What should I do. I even contemplated a divorce. Would that be a good move? I have lost love and respect for my husband as he is easily manipulated by his parents and relatives. He is also of the belief now I should surrender and that what’s the harm in showing my financials to his parents. Where’s the trust factor? What kind of a man is he?
“I think that sexual education, and porn education, is more vital and effective than censorship.”
When we consider banning porn who are we protecting or punishing?
Those involved in the making of it? Those who watch it? Those who are affected because of the way porn influences the society’s ideas about sex, objectification of women and women’s sexuality?
In this interview Feminist erotica director Erica Lust talks about how ‘traditional chauvinistic porn are part of a patriarchal structure’ and more. In her opinion, “porn is a discourse about sexuality and works like an educator about sex and gender.”
She makes a lot of sense.
Let me share some quotes.
“…why do you think more men than women watch porn? Because most films cater to the male gaze only! Alternative erotica offers more diversity, higher production standards and exciting narratives that both genders can enjoy!”
In chauvinistic porn, the sad reality is that women are often taken advantage of, abused and forgotten when they have been “used.” I want to have an alternative to that! There is no reason sex in film should all be done in a smutty, shady, exploitative manner – it can be done in a safe space, artistically, humane and with respect for everyone involved.
My performers, men and women, … are all sex-positive and smart people, who understand that sex is a beautiful thing and nothing to be ashamed of!
Porn is a discourse about sex and works like an educator about sex and gender– so if a massive part of the cultural landscape, meaning traditional porn, is chauvinistic in its portrayal of women and embodies regressive ideas about women, sure those ideas are going to rub off when they are presented time and again. That’s why it’s important to have positive alternatives.
I think sometimes as a woman, it can feel as if your sexuality has been hijacked – maybe by society’s ideas about sex, social stigma, mainstream porn, unrealistic beauty standards. To enjoy sex, you have to think about what you want, what desires and fantasies you want to entertain and what makes you happy, and also what doesn’t make you happy. It’s good to know that all the images we see about sex are not necessarily true.
It is no secret that adult content available caters largely to men; it is “disturbing”, says Manchanda how much of it is misogynistic. More than 90% of all explicit adult content contains violent imagery and derogatory language towards women… [Read more: Saying it explicitly: Why Indian women watch porn]
Can violence begin and exist without disrespect and disregard for the person being abused? Is happiness in a relationship possible where there is disrespect and lack of regard?
Sharing an email, what do you think should the email writer do?
I came across your blog on the internet and was highly moved by the stories and the work you are doing. I want to say thank you from all the women out there who are in such terrible situations and who are seeking out help from people like you. I am going to tell my story here and want you to post this on your blog anonymously.
I have been married to my boyfriend for a little more than an year now. We had a long courtship before marriage. There were ups and downs but we had a good dependable relationship overall. So we got married. It has all been downhill since then. After 3 months into marriage I found out that he liked some girl in his office and they used to chat and call each other. She reciprocated his feelings. I was taken aback as I had heard about such things but never thought it would happen to me. I confronted him over it, but he said she was just a friend and he hadn’t crossed any line with her. But he did admit he had some kind of attraction towards her. After sometime his behavior started changing towards me. He became more distant and sometime would verbally abuse me, call me names and then slapping and wrist twisting started happening. I got sick 5-6 months into marriage and used to perpetually tired. My in-laws used to visit us and due to sickness I could not do “seva” to them. We visited 2-3 doctors but they could not diagnose my disease, they said it could be some general fatigue due to working too much at office and at home.
But our relationship kept deteriorating. My husband fought with me more frequently and would slap me in anger. I felt horrible and then he was joined by my in laws saying I was not doing bahu duty and I was a bad person. And my sickness was a drama just to get out of work. So when they used to visit us( for one month or longer). All three of them would say horrible things to me. I was devastated. I hated going home from office and my health kept deteriorating.
Finally my husband was transferred to south India and I thought may be we would get some respite as he would be away from the girl and in laws visits would become less frequent which would give us more time to understand each other. So it was decided that my husband would goto south and I would follow him when I get relieved from office(15 days later). One day before he left, we again fought for some reason and he caught me by the neck and I fell down. So I called his mother and told her about how he gets physical with me during fights and asked her for help to make him understand not to hit me. After sometime I confronted him that he has to promise never to hit me again or I would leave. His response was that he tries to control but has no control over his anger and can’t promise he would never do it again. And the next day he shifted to the south. In the meanwhile my health kept deteriorating. My mother came to visit me saw my condition and said lets see a doctor. And by chance my disease was diagnosed and doctor suggested full bed rest for 2 months and some antibiotics, it was some rare kind of infection. So I informed my husband about it and his response was just “ok”. Do you need my help? I responded with not yet as we were at a relative’s place and didn’t want to burden them further. So I informed my husband that I am going to hometown as doctor suggested bed rest and my mother is going to take care of me. His response was “OK”.
I had told my mother about the verbal abuse and slapping and wrist twisting incidents. So everybody suggested since I was so unhappy. I should wait for my husband to miss me and let him call me. He has not called me since, to even ask about my health. And I have not contacted him either. I do not want to go back to him if he continues getting physical with me during fights. I suggested marriage counseling or anger management. But he says nobody can solve our problems better than us and does not agree to counselling. I am currently living at my parent’s house. It has been a month. What do you think I should do? I don’t understand whether this marriage is worth saving or there is no hope.
Recognizing Emotional Abuse – Priya
Changing Someone (or oneself) – Priya
Guest Post by wordssetmefreee
There are times when we do things hoping to make someone else happy. I’ve made my children’s favorite dishes countless times over the years. I’ve recalled that a certain teacher likes the Chai Latte at Pete’s Coffee and Tea. I had bought her a bag of this tea when I wanted to appreciate her for her dedication. When my best friend turned 40, I looked everywhere for a copy of Tagore’s Fireflies to get her a birthday present that would mean something to her.
And then, there are times when we try to make someone happy and it takes us down a very self-defeating path. I remember this friend who was not quite committed to our friendship. I mistook her last minute cancellations for genuine personal problems and felt protective toward her. I would listen intensely to her problems, and think about them, and offer helpful suggestions. I did not realize that she very rarely listened to me or cared about what was going on in my life. I mistook her flakiness for innocence and an inability to defend herself. A little late into the friendship, I realized that she would show up only when nothing else was going on in her life. While I would put our meetings on the calendar and fit things around them. Once I began to see her for who she really was (not evil, and nothing personal about her callousness, but just an inability to be someone solid, reliable, and committed to anything), I put an end to our friendship without a fight. I simply told her it wasn’t working.
The above situation is inevitable in relationships – we trust people sometimes, assume they are true to their word and when we learn otherwise, we distance and protect ourselves. A relationship is like a dance – sometimes it’s smooth and comes together beautifully. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes, we start stepping on each other’s toes – and then it’s time to stop and assess what’s happening.
So what happens when we don’t protect ourselves? What happens when we try to mend the relationship by doing more and more while getting back less and less? We are setting ourselves up for manipulation and abuse. In these instances, the more we try to make the other person happy, the less happy we ourselves become. Because their happiness comes at a cost of ours.
This is what I was thinking of when reading some recent emails on this blog. Women in our culture are taught at a very early age to put others’ happiness ahead of theirs. This makes them easy targets for manipulation and abuse.
But it doesn’t just have to happen in abusive relationships or just with women. It can happen at the workplace or with friendships – with both men and women – trying to make someone else happy or trying to make someone proud of us comes at a cost to our own happiness and is invariably detrimental to our relationships and our emotional health.
Yet this self-damaging behavior (varying in intensity) is exceedingly common. Students compete hard to get into the best colleges rather than to pursue something they find interesting in a less than top-notch college. Employees try hard to please their bosses and become disheartened at their criticism. People try to impress their neighbors and friends with better cars, better houses, and better clothes. People have multiple surgeries to stretch their skin free of wrinkles. Some people earn so much money but it is never enough. They are still working on landing a better deal, a better job, a better yacht, and a better life.
It almost seems as if it is human nature to try to win the approval of others, and in doing so, we set ourselves up for misery. No one can claim that they haven’t tried to win someone’s approval somewhere in the teeniest possible way.
Where does this begin, this need for approval?
It probably starts with trying to please our parents. When we are little, our parents provide us with every need. We depend on them for our survival. We feel secure when we see them, the guardians of our world, happy. Bringing a smile to their faces seems to trigger the pleasure centers in our brain.
I remember how I would fear my parent’s disappointment more than my own, when I received a bad grade on a test. I also remember a particular day when I went on stage to receive a trophy in a debate tournament. I did not think much of my trophy because I felt the topic was predictable. The event felt special because my father, who had to travel a lot, was in town and was able to attend. As soon as I took it, I searched the audience for my father’s face. I found him smiling and clapping. Even though there were many people in the room, they all just blanked out for me. All I saw was my father’s proud face. Why was his approval more important to me that my own reaction?
Our parents have been given something precious – this tiny bit of power – to mold a life – and power can be intoxicating. They begin to teach us, influence us, shape us. Much of this happens with good hearts and intentions. (I’m referring here to non-toxic parenting.) And yet some part of parenting begins to create certain expectations that don’t necessarily value the individual at hand.
A Habit That’s Hard to Break
And thus, our parents have naturally set the stage for seeking approval. When we ace a test, we see tour parents smile, and we want to keep acing tests so badly. When we do badly on a test, we get heart broken. And this sets in motion a pattern of earning approval and being rewarded for it.
Earning approval suppresses the self because the rewards are external. – a pattern that some of us eventually break out of, when we realize that setting our own goals, self-assessing our own efforts, and asserting our individuality is the more genuine way to happiness.
Some people, however, continue this pattern and extend it to other authority figures (after they outgrow their parental home). They must gain approval from their neighbors, their friends, their in-laws. They must keep others happy. It’s now a habit that’s hard to break.
It takes them on a path where they’ve forgotten who they are and what they want. Even though the approval they get feels good in the short run, the conditions for approval keep changing, and it’s a hard game to keep up with. Human beings are insatiable creatures – give them control and they keep wanting more. The person seeking approval gets caught in a web of someone else’s greed and insecurities.
The Need to Belong
Human beings are mostly social creatures and thrive in groups. Sometimes we seek approval because we want to belong in a group. The group gives us warmth, affection, camaraderie, fun, and in return, we give the group back conformity. In college, I belonged to a group of girls who wore mostly Western clothes. (I didn’t think deeply about my clothing choices, I just wore what I liked and my parents didn’t have strong opinions on the matter.) And being similar in other ways made us gravitate toward each other. We also spoke comfortably in English and belonging to different states made the English speaking a necessity. There were 2 girls in my group that spoke condescendingly about other girls who appeared more traditional in their dressing choices. They also made fun of other people’s (English) accents. This wasn’t good-natured fun, this was clearly ‘I’m better than you’ kind of talk. I felt uncomfortable with this talk but never protested.
I was not assertive enough in my 20s to say, “She has the right to wear what she wants. Stop judging her.” Or “If you think her English is so funny, let’s hear you talk in French.” Or “The gist of what she’s saying in imperfect English has far more depth than your superficial Gibberish.”
This is not to say the group was all bad. We had a great time discussing books, watching old B&W movies, solving made-up mysteries, dancing to “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head”, making fun of each other, falling in love with Mr. Darcy, and singing “I have Confidence in Me” at the top of our voices until the neighbors protested.
I was afraid of losing their friendship. I was going against my beliefs (that we respect other people’s choices and abilities) and ‘blending in’ to preserve the relationship. A lot had changed for me over the next 20 years – as I gradually learnt to speak my mind and openly advocate for my values and beliefs, without losing valuable friendships. But it took time and effort. It didn’t just happen.
Dependence and Fear
If a woman is financially dependent on her husband and in-laws, she may do things that go against her value system, to keep them happy. This is not just a matter of survival. This is also something that is driven by fear. Although survival is an issue here, there are solutions. There are means and ways to garner supports, get skills/education, find a job, file for divorce, and free oneself from this prison. It is not an easy path and it is strewn with hardship, but it’s not impossible. What is much harder to overcome is the fear – a fear that is induced my sheer numbers – parents and in-laws, neighbors, extended family, and friends acting against one person. It feels like the whole world is telling you that you need to adjust, you should know your place, you have to earn your basic rights, and to please quit complaining.
Fear makes people try hard to win hearts, a venture that is bound to fail, because people who need to be “won over” are never worth it.
Some of us hate conflict. Others take it head on. Some of us worry about how others feel. Others don’t. When my brother and I used to fight in our teens, we would sometimes stop talking. I would cry all night and analyze my every word and action and try to look for something I did wrong and look at the situation from both his side and mine. He would sleep through the night blissfully. It’s not that he didn’t (or doesn’t) love me. But I think I worked much harder at our relationship than he did. Even now, I work harder at my other relationships than he does with the people in his life. I can’t just sleep through the night when I fight with someone. This makes me vulnerable to some degree.
Can We Break Out of This?
So, what can we do to watch out for this behavior? Some people seem to have a natural ability to resist it. They may have been born assertive, outspoken, and seem to always be able to prioritize their wishes, desires, and happiness. What can we do if this is not our first instinct? How can we protect ourselves and safeguard our personal happiness?
Make a conscious decision to love yourself.
In many cultures, children are taught that loving oneself is selfishness. This is such a mistaken notion. If we are unable to love ourselves, we can’t truly love others. If we judge ourselves harshly, we are more likely to judge others. If we disrespect ourselves, we become insecure and resentful of other people. If we despair over every mistake of ours, we are more likely to see other’s mistakes as permanent failures. If we see our mistakes as growth, we tend to be more forgiving of others’ faults. Therefore understanding that it all begins with us is the first step.
Get to know yourself.
What do you like and dislike? What makes you uncomfortable? What do you fear? What gets you excited? How do you typically react in a given situation? Many of us have never been asked these questions, growing up. We’ve often been TOLD how to feel. As adults, we may continue to fumble when presented with various situations. We wonder – How should I react? How am I supposed to react? “Maybe, it’s not okay to get angry when someone tells me to wake up earlier. Maybe, I’m the one being unreasonable.” When we don’t know ourselves, we don’t know what we want. Then we don’t know what to fight for.
This is something we don’t learn, growing up in India, and other similar cultures. I grew up in a house full of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Everyone used everyone’s things. This wasn’t ‘sharing’ or ‘generosity’. It was mostly inconsiderate behavior. Those who were pushy got more, the nicer ones got less, as a result of this no-boundaries environment.
My parents bought me a scooter when I turned 16. I took good care of it and used it responsibly. My older cousin began ‘borrowing’ it and I was expected to ‘share and be nice’ and I did. Then he would use it roughly and it began needing more and more repairs. Sometimes he would bring it home with not a drop of gas left in it. Sometimes I didn’t have it on hand when I really needed it (when I went for tutoring). When I questioned him on these things, he told me that since he’s a boy, he should have more access to it because, he can go out late and run errands and help the family. My parents didn’t want to fight with his parents over it. The result was someone getting away with inconsiderate, irresponsible, selfish behavior.
Keep track of the cost to yourself.
When you deny yourself your rights – the right to ownership (in my scooter example), the right to respect for one’s own time (in the example of my friend who stood me up often) – then we are entering the area of unfairness and unhappiness. This crossing over often goes unnoticed. Being aware of this boundary alerts us to someone impinging on our rights and taking advantage of us.
Understand that being nice is still okay.
You don’t have to be rude or loud or mean to stand up for yourself. But you do have to be firm. And you have to be unequivocal with your communication.
Don’t say, “Can you please not use my computer?” to your children, especially after you told them it’s off limits. Instead say, “Don’t use my computer. It’s not okay to use other people’s devices without their permission.” If you see something as a violation of a boundary, say it in no uncertain terms. And say it like you mean it. You are not asking or requesting. You are telling someone what you think and that you intend to stand by it.
Assess your relationships from time to time.
Stepping on each other’s toes? Frequently unhappy? More and more conversations leaving a bad taste in your mouth? Take a step back and try to be objective. As yourself, “Am I getting something valuable out of this relationship? Is there give and take? Am I being listened to? Do my thoughts and feelings count? Do I take the lead at least half the time? Do I get to make my own decisions about personal things that affect no one else? Do I feel supported and affirmed by the other person?
Answer the above questions honestly. Be willing to look at the truth. Do you feel you could’ve stopped some people from manipulating you sooner? Did you badly want to believe they were good? Did you try too hard to make things work? If the truth is undesirable, that’s okay. That’s what we humans do – we make mistakes. You can always change course and begin to work on reclaiming your happiness.
Not everyone is naturally assertive. But we can all work on it. Our relationships teach us many things about ourselves. There is this inner commentary that our brain engages in – a sort of an objective, truthful, and meaningful analysis of our experiences. It’s up to us to listen and pay attention.
Are you naturally assertive? Or did you have to work at it? Which experiences shaped you? Did you try to make a relationship work, only to realize later that it wasn’t worth it? Do you prioritize your happiness? Do other people’s opinions have a strong influence on you? Do you struggle with trying not to seek approval? Please share your experiences in these situations.
I’m most interested in the growth aspect of this. What did you learn? What would you want to work toward?