The Changing Role of Dads

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

When I was a homemaker (when my kids were little), I was in this playgroup of 5 kids and their parents. 4 of them were moms and there was one dad. It was my first time meeting a full time stay-at-home dad. He was completely capable and handled tantrums, diaper leaks, eating disasters, and slushy mud puddles with ease and a great sense of humor. This was about 10 years ago.

Now I meet stay-at-home dads everywhere – in my neighborhood, at work, at my kids’ school, in my support group. Some of them work from home. Some of them run businesses from home.  Others take care of their little kids and the house full time.

In the last post, Chaiwallah brought up the point about a man being discriminated for being a homemaker. I do not see this discrimination as something separate (men’s suffering versus women’s suffering in patriarchy) but as connected. The more we encourage gentleness and caring in boys, the more nurturing and helpful they will be at home when they become parents. Dads doing their fair share at home supports moms’ empowerment. If men are free of stereotypes, then women are free to make more choices. If men can choose to stay at home more, then women can choose to be more career focused (in families that prefer to have this division of labor). If both parents choose to work outside the home, then both can share the housework and childcare fairly without attaching gender labels to these duties.

Here’s a sampling of some recent ads about dads. Of course, for every one of these ads, there are a 1000 others that show women in traditional roles.  In reality, (if we look at stats worldwide) men have a long way to go in terms of doing their fair share at home. But, look around you. Things are changing, little by little. The fact that businesses want to spend millions of dollars positioning their products around this cultural shift means that the shift is happening. It means we are beginning to lean toward the following notions:

  • gentleness, warmth, and caring don’t make a man any less of a human being
  • the ability to demonstrate emotions makes a human being stronger, not weaker
  • dads are not clueless at home, they can be relied on to do their part at home and keep the family running smoothly, and they can multi-task as well as moms
  • housework, cooking, and cleaning are not “inferior” jobs assigned to “less capable” people (read women), they are simply – jobs that need to get done -and every person (man or woman) has to learn to do them.

Swiffer Ad – dads cleaning the house, watching kids jumping in puddles. Dad complains, “no such thing as deep couch sitting” 🙂

Dove Ad –Dads kissing, hugging, playing with their children. Dads helping kids out of stuck shirts, cleaning them after toilet use, ready to help when they’re stuck on a road, when they’re afraid of water, when they have a bad dream, when they’re distressed.

Tide – Child napping with dad.

Cheerios – A funny ad about a capable, confident dad – it’s called “How to dad” 🙂

Extra gum Origami – Dad is there with daughter through all the stages of growing.

Johnson’s – Dads comfortable conveying their love through touch, caring for their babies, being delighted in them.

And here’s a dad who’s better at cleaning than mom – because cleaning is just like any other skill – it isn’t gender specific – some people are great at it, others not so great 🙂 Some people enjoy it, others don’t.

 

Watching these ads, I am reminded of my childhood. My father would practice volleyball with me to help me win the matches at school. The ball would keep going over the fence and he would quickly scale the fence and get it back in a jiffy. Bonus points for teaching me as well how to scale the fence 🙂 He was also a great cook and could make the best eggplant bhajjis. He would slice them so thinly and dip them in such light batter that they would just melt in the mouth.

Please share if you had fun experiences with your dads at home doing things that break stereotypes. Also, if you have seen other nice dad ads, please share.

Do you agree that things are changing in this regard? Or do you feel they are predominantly the same?  What has been your experience with your father/husband/siblings/friends/coworkers?  If you’re a guy, please add how you feel about all this.  Do you want to change things?  Do you want to be a different kind of dad from your own (assuming your own played a traditional father’s role)?

Related Posts:

I Want To Be A Dad. – Radhika Vaz

“My problem is my wife doesn’t like me hanging out with friends.”

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s body and Willow Smith’s hair.

An email from an Indian father: I want to place on record my own story as a warning to anyone…

Workplace Equality requires Equality at Home

The Men in Our Lives

Why are these dads such a threat to patriarchal social structures?

Dad wears short shorts to teach daughter what she wears is everybody’s business and everybody’s approval proves her great worth.

“My dad tells me not to wear skimpy outfit when he is around”

“I know my dad is short tempered but he was never this aggressive until my relatives started making him over think about my marriage.”

Dad knifes girl for speaking to lover

Why do men NOT have to choose between being a CEO and a father, but women have to make this choice.

“Freedom can wait, I’m staying put for Dad”

Abhishek Bachchan as a Working Dad in the new Idea ad.

“My husband says he can’t go against his family. My father says study but not without your FIL’s permission.”

“Ask your father if he has never beaten your mother!” Please adjust.

Response to “Koi Baap Apni Beti Ko Kab Jaane Se Rok Paya Hai”

Haryana killing : Here is a father A P Singh might want to defend.

“This dad is openly threatening his daughter and is instigating others to burn alive their daughters.”

The father threw the baby on the ground and tried to strangle her with his legs: No case registered.

Father wants the world to know her real name.

Feminism Is Good For Society

Where do they go away?

 

 

Workplace Equality requires Equality at Home

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

If you are a mother who works in a conventional office setting, the scenario in the following article by Katharine Zaleski may sound familiar to you:

http://fortune.com/2015/03/03/female-company-president-im-sorry-to-all-the-mothers-i-used-to-work-with/

Two telling excerpts from the article:

“I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with me and my team. I questioned her “commitment” even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hung over colleagues the next day.”

And

“I sat in a job interview where a male boss grilled a mother of three and asked her, “How in the world are you going to be able to commit to this job and all your kids at the same time?” I didn’t give her any visual encouragement when the mother – who was a top cable news producer at the time – looked at him and said, “Believe it or not, I like being away from my kids during the workday… just like you.””

Zaleski’s article makes some great points on

  • the attitude of younger women/male and female non-parents/male employees with kids(fathers) toward employees who are mothers
  • the very little empathy and support that mothers receive at the workplace
  • the condescension with which they are viewed when they have to cancel a meeting or need to take an unexpected day off

However, this successful, professional woman ignores the role of fathers in parenting: What I find disappointing about this article is

  • The author reserved her condescension (in the past) only for mothers, and did not extend it to fathers as well. Many men in senior management tend to be married with kids. Yet no one questions them if they have to cancel a meeting because it is assumed that the cancellation has nothing to do with parenting responsibilities or family time. This is representative of many people I’ve known here, both men and women.
  • Why is the role of fathers never discussed when we talk about over-burdened mothers?
  • When we say workplaces are “male-oriented”, what do we mean? Do we mean that they revolve around the needs of men, with little understanding of the needs of women?
  • Does this imply that taking care of kids should not be a male concern and only women workers must worry about childcare and parenting?
  • Why can’t we start using the term “parent-friendly” instead of “mother-friendly” to refer to workplaces that provide flexible schedules, work-from-home options, and more autonomy to their employees?

The change in perspective that Katharine Zaleski experienced is commendable. She started a company, PowerToFly that matches women with technical skills to remote jobs that they can perform from home. I’m glad she is doing something to make it possible to tap into the talents of countless women who lack sufficient supports at home.

However, we need to start having discussions on the role of fathers in parenting. Even in the US, men and women still play very traditional roles when it comes to parenting.

Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In is in the same vein – it talks about how women need to be more assertive in the workplace but doesn’t discuss how fathers need to do their fair share at home.

We seem to be fighting for equality in the workplace but remain content with inequality at home by turning mothers into supermoms.

How can we expect people at work to treat women (and mothers) as equals if we don’t change our gender based attitudes toward housework and parenting?

———————————————————————————————————–

Some experiences I’ve had in this regard:

Everywhere I go, I’m seen as being solely responsible for all tasks related to children and home.

My children’s pediatrician, a woman, always concludes the visit with a list of instructions meant for me alone, even if my husband is present.

“Make sure he takes this 3 times a day with meals, “ she says, looking at me, then turns to my son and says, “Mommy’s gonna get you all better buddy!”

I encounter this at my kids’ school on the days I volunteer in the classroom.

The teacher says to some kids, “Oh look what mommy packed you for lunch today! You are one lucky kid!”

All emails from the teacher to the volunteering parents are addressed, “Dear Ladies”, and unfortunately, most of them ARE ladies.

I encounter this at my workplace too. Even the compliments are suffocating.

“I don’t know how you do it all!” (I DON’T do it all. I do my fair share of the work, my husband does his fair share and we let go the things we can’t do.)

A recent conversation with my friend, a full time working mom:

She works full time at a very aggressive company with an extremely stressful work environment. The other day, she was complaining about taking home work again over the weekend.

She said, “My boss is such a slave driver. Lucky for him, he has a stay at home wife to take care of his kids.”

So, she puts another woman down for her legitimate choice but doesn’t hold her own husband accountable.

I said to her, “They must’ve made a joint decision on that. When one parent chooses to stay home, the family takes a huge cut in income. The advantage is more work life balance, with one parent taking care of earning, while the other takes care of home duties. When both parents work, they must share cooking, cleaning, and parenting duties.   Either way, people should do whatever works for them. In both cases, both parents should share the overall work fairly. “

To this, she said, “The problem is, my husband can come home and relax, but I can’t. He doesn’t feel guilty about not spending time with my daughter or if there’s no food at home. I do.”

This then is the crux of the problem. Women are finally getting more choices and opportunities work wise. But we come home and nothing much has changed. Women still need to make those meals and care for their children. And if the working mother fails at achieving this impossible state, then she punishes herself with guilt. It’s still her job and her job alone to cook, clean, do dishes, laundry, and parent the kids.

Another seemingly small incident that brings to light the casual guilt inducing culture mothers are surrounded by:

I was in line at the grocery store. A woman in front of me with a child in tow placed 3 frozen food type of lunches, 2 cans of soup, and a carton of milk on the counter.

The cashier, who was probably just making small talk with her, said breezily, “I guess you’re not cooking today!!:)))”

The woman looked slightly stricken, and then went on to painfully explain why she was picking up those frozen food lunches and soup cans. “Well tomorrow, I’m expecting guests so I have to clean my entire house and prep for the elaborate meal I’m going to make. So, you know …. (smiles apologetically) …. I’m trying to simplify at least today’s meals.”

The cashier and the customer are probably unaware of this exchange as being guilt inducing. But it’s all around us. I’m sure he wouldn’t have made that comment to a man buying those frozen items.

Or worse, he might’ve said, “Guess, your wife’s out of town!!:))”

———————————————————————————————————–

For this mindset to change, we should start changing workplaces not only to support mothers but to also change our expectations for fathers. We need to start building a workplace culture that encourages work life balance – a place where a father can proudly say he needs to leave early to attend his daughter’s soccer game.

To a smaller extent, I do see this happening. One of my colleagues, a marketing manager goes for a run with his daughter on Wednesday afternoons (which is a short school day) to help her train for marathons. Another colleague, a graphic designer, alternates short and long working days with her husband, so they take turns picking up the kids and cooking. My husband and I do the same thing. I know one dad in the autism support group that I run who does business consulting work (for startups) from home and takes care of the home and kids, while his wife has a full time in-office type of job.

Sheryl Sandberg’s next book, “Lean In Together” talks about how men need to do their fair share at home.

“About time we discussed that!” was my first thought, when I heard about the book’s release – although a little voice in my head said, with the kind of money Sandberg and her husband make, did they ever have to worry about household chores when they can hire fantastic help?:-)  What do they even know about the struggles of everyday kind of families?  But let’s ignore that for a moment and look at the advice.

Although she gives suggestions that make sense (share the house work 50/50, be equally involved with your kids, etc.), the overall pitch of the book seems a bit salesy. The “perks” of gender equality at home include “better sex for spouses and better profits for companies (due to more satisfied, productive employees), more promotions to go around and 5% growth in our GDP”. This to me seems like a desperate sell to get men to do their fair share of work. Or a bid to get privileged, white boys club type managers to look down kindly on their male subordinates going home earlier to do “a bit more” at home.

Gender equality at home may not bring higher profits and higher profits and productivity and benefits to men should not be the driving force behind gender equality.

The REAL positive outcome for men from gender equality at home? Dads get to give their children hugs and wipe their tears. Dads get to cheer their kids at sports. Dads get to really know their kids and earn their trust and respect and love. Moms get to be human because the work is shared fairly. When moms feel good, they can bond better with their husbands. Husbands “benefit” too from this emotional bonding and warmth. This is not exactly in the category of “profitable” but it’s an awesome feeling and you can’t put a price on it.

But all of the above benefits to men – better bonding with their spouses and children – are things that flow from doing the right thing. We must do the right thing simply because it’s right, not for a benefit.  And I think it’s not just important to bring about change, but to do so for the right reasons, so that the change is genuine and long lasting.

Gender equality begins at home. And it matters because it’s fair. Because women deserve equality. Like everyone else. It’s that simple.

Please share your thoughts and experiences on the sharing of housework, parenting, and workplace attitudes.

I talked about my experiences in the US. If you live elsewhere, in what respects are your experiences different/same in Europe and other countries in Asia (Singapore, China, Japan, India, etc.)?

Does vengeance equal feminism?

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

Warning – spoilers on ‘Gone Girl’ – book/movie review

Has anyone read the book, “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn?  A NY Times bestseller that was made into a movie starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, the book/movie is disturbing on many fronts.

It is meant to be dark humor when intelligent, manipulative, psychopathic Amy gets revenge on her mediocre, selfish, entitled husband Nick, through an intricately planned out and meticulously executed series of chilling crimes.

On the surface, it seems like we’re finally seeing a complex woman character, a rarity in bestsellers and Hollywood.  Amy isn’t sweet, warm and compassionate.  She IS the bad guy.  And there are reasons given for the warping of her mind as well – the emotional manipulation of her parents.

However, as you progress through the novel, Amy goes on to concoct a false murder charge against her husband (using compellingly manufactured evidence), and when that begins to fail, uses her innocent ex boyfriend in her schemes, then murders him, then accuses him of rape and abuse, returns to her husband but continues to manipulate him with threats of turning the media and law enforcement against him.

I found the plot severely undermining the very real abuse that countless women face and it almost seems to match the thinking of men’s rights activists who constantly talk about “false rape charges” and “false abuse charges” as their reason for opposition to rape and abuse laws. In reality, the law enforcement in many countries shames and silences rape victims rather than taking their reports seriously; yet, what we have here is a twilight zone of a woman victimizing several men who slighted her as well as ensnaring the entire media and law enforcement.

Gillian Flynn considers herself a feminist and claims that her book is also feminist because of its “non-conformity to the traditional perception of women as innately good characters“. Somehow, her argument doesn’t quite fly.  So, Amy is not good and sweet and boring.  However, Amy’s character feels like a comic book evil temptress, complete with the perfect sexy body and dark, destructive mind.  She’s completely stereotypical in that she brings to life the worst nightmares of misogynists.

The book is bursting at the seams with other male/female stereotypes.  Nick is clumsy, reticent, somewhat clueless, a little selfish, a “little” unfaithful, but essentially good-hearted.  Amy is classy, privileged, articulate, intelligent, and if a woman is privileged/intelligent, then of course it follows that she must also be manipulative and evil.  Nick’s mediocrity makes him “innocent” and his selfishness is “mostly unconscious” and his unfaithfulness is overshadowed (and forgiven?) by Amy’s incredible capacity for vengeance.  The “evil media” takes advantage of his male inability to pretend grief, when what he’s actually feeling is relief. (makes you want to give him a hug, doesn’t it?) Amy’s intelligence however is used for a destructive purpose. Maybe another argument for men’s preference for “simple women”?   When asked to describe his wife, Nick actually says in frustration, “She’s complicated!”  (Sorry, Nick, a woman is a human and humans are complicated, what you should’ve got yourself is a toy if you wanted something simpler.)

Other charming women characters in the book include Amy’s emotionally manipulative mother who has used her daughter for her personal fame and riches, a media siren who is bent upon making Nick’s life hell, a 20 something voluptuous student who throws herself at Nick (home wrecker?) and crime groupies who want to use Nick and take selfies of themselves with him. The only real woman in the book is Nick’s rough-around-the-edges twin sister, Margo, who also co-owns the bar with her brother. She tries to help her immature brother despite her frustration with his mistakes. She tries to remain fair to Amy even though she dislikes her. But even Margo lets us down when she says “complicated (woman) means b***h”.

Here’s a quote from the book, which has been used to illustrate the underlying feminist tone of the book –

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and jams hot dogs into her mouth …. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined manner and let their men do whatever they want. …. Men actually think this girl exists. ….. And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. …… Maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics.”

In the above sense, the book does hint at the irony of it all – the real progress that women have made in the social and emotional realm of relationships is still minuscule.  We are leading nations, heading successful companies, but who are we at home, really?  A Nooyi who is ordered to go pick up the milk?  A Sandberg who suffers mommy guilt?

Here, I began to have hope.  I thought the author was portraying how women are forced into certain roles by society and in the process, let their whole lives revolve around selfish, uncaring men who want to see a sugar coated, simplified, corseted version of them.  And I hoped that Amy would eventually refuse to be straight jacketed, that she would emerge free from the selfish expectations of society.

However what does Amy DO ABOUT THIS?  What does she do to fight this cool girl burden and set herself free?  She becomes one!!!  How un-empowering is that!  She becomes this cool girl that Nick wants her to be. And Nick predictably falls head over heels for her.  But she’s mad at him for making her do this, so she takes revenge.  There is absolutely NOTHING feminist about this.

Another argument that Flynn put forth for feminism is that women are sick of being used and brushed aside, and when Amy finally begins to take back control in the relationship, when she starts calling the shots, it’s a win for the women’s cause. On some level, is Amy’s viciousness deeply satisfying to all of us women, who are familiar with some form of oppression or the other?  I thought about this but could not find a shred of fulfillment in the self-destructive nature of vengeance.  The argument that getting even feels good is faced with one problem – relationships are not held together with a gun to someone’s head. Freeing oneself from abuse doesn’t mean abusing the abuser.  You are no longer free when you inflict pain on someone, because you are taking on a burden. Taking back control of her own life is what Amy should’ve done, not taking control of Nick’s life. Ever heard of a thing called divorce, Amy? So, much more simpler that revenge.

Feminism is not about being a martyr, nor is it about taking revenge on men for the lost opportunities, but to demand equality in all spheres of life.  And this is what makes the book extremely disturbing – because it taps into the age-old fears of men – that women are irrational, nasty, manipulative creatures, sexually controlling and bordering on insanity, who if given the power (equality misconstrued as power), can easily destroy men to bits.  This mindset of fear is at the root of misogyny and the book does a great job of amplifying it.

Gone Girl is oddly reminiscent of the film noir movies of the 1940s, which possibly reflected men’s fears about women’s newly emerging post-war independence.  A series of films had at the center of the plot, a troubled, brooding male (Robert Mitchum, Fred MacMurray, or Humphrey Bogart) who succumbed to the evil charms of an intelligent, seductive woman.  The outcome of this interaction would be destructive for both of them. The men invariably were lead astray on to a twisted path of deception, murder, and mayhem under the influence of these femme fatales.

With this book/movie (Gone Girl), the virgin-whore dichotomy is still firmly in place.  Men continue to feel torn about choosing between the “simple, good, non-threatening, but boring woman” and the “interesting, sexy, intelligent but ultimately destructive woman”.  Neither kind of woman exists in reality.  The only place they exist is in the fear-ridden minds of misogynists, and the books and movies that flow from them.

If you read the book or watched the movie, please share your thoughts on it. If you didn’t, please share your thoughts on the concept of vengeance, getting even, and feminism, or on the distorted/appropriate portrayal of strong women characters in books and movies.

A Woman Who Doesn’t Have to Fit In

A Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

Khoobsoorat – Movie Review

(Warning – Spoilers, lots of them)

When my niece recommended I watch this film, I was skeptical. It sounded like a predictable Bollywood romance, replete with beautiful sets, fine costumes and jewelry, one dimensional characters with very little subtlety, and situations that are too easily resolved, usually through the use of lectures and bit of melodrama.

It turned out to be some of the above. But despite these predictable traits, the movie surprised me.

The Protagonist

What I liked about the film is of course the protagonist Mili (Sonam Kapoor). Or rather, I came to like her. Cautiously. Gradually.

Mili is silly, irritating, and clumsy. She puts up her feet on the dashboard, drinks from the wine bottle, and eats messy food with her hands. She takes selfies of herself everywhere. I thought, “And THIS is what they call ‘spontaneous/bubbly’?” I rolled my eyes.

But over the course of the film, Mili emerges as a woman who likes herself and is not excessively concerned whether others approve of her or not.

She is very good at what she does (physiotherapy) and she does it unconventionally and with lots of heart thrown in.

Mili has had 3 breakups so far (shown funnily in a little flashback) and even though she’s just had it with men for a while, she hasn’t had it with life. In fact, she’s enjoying life more than usual, with the complications of a relationship removed.

Mili dares to dream. She isn’t overly awed by Prince Vikram’s wealth or class. At first she’s attracted to him, and then she begins to like him when she sees his human side. As she finds herself becoming closer to him, her only worry is that he is engaged. Never once does she feel he is “unreachable”. It’s as if she’s always seen him as an equal, as another human being. She conveys an easy, natural sense of self-worth here.

Supporting Characters

Another pleasant surprise – there are two other strong female characters in the film – the Maharani, Vikram’s mother, played by Rathna Pathak, and Manju (played by Kirron Kher), Mili’s kick-ass, Punjabi mom. Both characters were portrayed reasonably well. Power does not make the Maharani evil and being middle class does not make Mili’s mom servile.

The Maharani, although strict and rule bound, never raises her voice or gets abusive as befitting her classy background. Her bossiness is restrained, her dismissals aloof, her rebuttals are often polite, and her language is impeccably clean. And there are layers to her. You can understand that she needs to be authoritarian in order to run such a large estate, several businesses, and keep an army of staff running smoothly. You also sense she is protective of the wheelchair-bound Maharaja. She will not let anyone cross the wall he has built around himself. She fears that it could be devastating to him. Gradually, their previous relationship is revealed. How they played polo and tennis together. How the Maharani had love and friendship and playfulness from her husband before one tragic incident brought their lives to a screeching halt. Theirs was (and is) an equal marriage, a rarity among older (or even younger?) Bollywood characters.

As a foil to the Maharani’s character is Manju, Mili’s mom – loud, bull dozer like, and calls a spade a spade. You can tell where Mili gets her guts and a bit of craziness from. Manju often advises her daughter to “go get “em” if she needs to and to “not take any crap from the guy’s family”. That really made me laugh with happiness!:)

And now, coming to the male lead – Prince Vikram played by Fawad Khan. The actor is smoky handsome and sexy (I can see why my niece was so hooked on this movie now:). When I say sexy, I don’t just mean his physical attributes. I think people who are good looking in an empty sort of way are seldom sexy. He has what attractive men and women have – an air of mystery, a certain aloofness, quiet confidence that doesn’t require loudness or aggression, a reluctance to easily reveal himself and yet he does so in vulnerable moments. And when he does reveal himself here and there unintentionally, you like what you see.

When Mili accuses him of not joining the party with the servants because he has to maintain his distance/status, he replies, “Yeah …. something like that.” He doesn’t deny that the class gap exists and he doesn’t have all the answers. And then adds, “or perhaps, they (servants) would prefer it that way (him not joining their fun).”

He is puzzled by Mili’s craziness. He is befuddled by her impulsiveness. He is wary of her inclination to say things without a filter. He is jolted by her tendency to act on whim, without the slightest though to consequences.

But when he watches his mother’s reaction to Mili’s wackiness, he is secretly amused. All of his emotions were subtly conveyed – a raised eyebrow, a shrug, a warning look, a little hesitation, a tensing of the shoulders, a bit of subtle sarcasm, or some delicate rephrasing of an otherwise crass situation.

There is great chemistry between the two characters. In both the kissing/hugging scenes, they are BOTH drawn to each other, the feeling is mutual, and Mili as the woman is a willing partner, and once she is also the initiator.

Vikram finds himself reluctantly but helplessly drawn to Mili, despite his rational understanding of the volcano he’s walking into. Mili, on the other hand, true to her character, courts fire, and gives no thought to the consequences.

Humor

There are several funny moments – some everyday situations, some contrived. When Mili asks people from the royal family to join her skype call with mom, her mother puts on a sweet smile, but once they leave, blasts Mili for doing this to her when “she’s cutting onions and sweating in the kitchen”.

When the kidnappers tell Mili they’re just getting started with their ransom “business” and she’s their first victim, Mili who is now high on something, says, “I get it. I remember being excited too – when I got my first client.”

Mili’s breakups are funny – one is with a clueless guy who has found his soul mate in another clueless girl. Another guy is just someone who couldn’t handle Mili’s feet on his dashboard anymore.

And Vikram’s use of “hum” (we) to refer to himself are greeted by irreverent Mili (and her mom) with a “Who the heck is We?? Hello?? I see only one person here!”

I chuckled when the Maharani (upon being confronted in the middle of the night by Manju) says with lovely poise, “I’m sorry but I need my 8 hours of sleep. Can we discuss these “interesting” theories of yours in the morning?”

Room for Improvement

I thought they could’ve balanced out Mili’s character a bit – she doesn’t ALWAYS have to be smiling or ALWAYS have to drop things – we get it – she’s a fun gal and a tad clumsy. But when Vikram tells her they cannot share a future because they are so different, Mili hardens and softens at the same time. She looks at him both angrily and sadly and says, “I agree.” This is where her character looks more complete, more multi-dimensional. I wish there were a few more of these contemplative moments for Mili.

The confrontation between the moms was unnecessary and Manju’s pettiness and arguing to the bitter end dragged down the last part of the movie a bit.

I also thought the Maharaja’s situation was resolved a bit too simplistically. While I appreciate Mili’s determination to do her job as a therapist and her efforts to bring fun back into his life because she believes it will help him recover, I wish she never explicitly TOLD him he is stuck at the time of the accident, and needs to start living again. I wish she had trusted his capacity for self-direction. And I wish he had taken that first step forward himself, with her support.

The Ending

Loved the ending though! It is the royal family that learns to relax and adapt to Mili’s crazy ways rather than Mili changing herself to fit into the clan’s honored traditions. This is not shown explicitly but implied through the Maharani’s humorous acceptance of Mili and the last credits song.

The movie is based on an older film of the same name starring Rekha. And it does have shades of the Sound of Music. I’m not sure if it passes the Bechdel test but overall, I confess I enjoyed this movie. Charming characters, three strong women, one dashing prince, a hauntingly beautiful palace, and lots of heart make this a warm, pleasant ride. Did you like it? Let me know what you think!

Why I can’t take gender stereotypes seriously.

Thursday Challenge. “MOVEMENT” (Shaking, Falling, Bouncing, Jumping, Curling, Sagging,…)

Or just moving…?

Indian men love to talk.
Don’t believe me?

On a crowded road.

Can’t wait for the traffic signal…

Now we are talking.

More about the unstereotypical Indian man here,

The Indian man’s favorite colour is…

And a break from movement…

And here’s an Indian working mother, taking a break…

Another working woman.

She  asked me to take her picture…

A Sari to make you a Respectable Indian Teacher.

A local government college in Bhopal has banned jeans pants for lady teachers instructing them to wear saris while in the campus.

A spokesman of the management of Sarojini Naidu (Nutan) College said that the decision was taken to instil Indian culture in the college.

He said that till now, teachers were wearing salwar suits, kurtas and jeans due to which it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between them and students.

The spokesman said that a similar decision on enforcing a dress code for students would also be enforced from the next session.

“A dress code for students cannot be enforced during the middle of an academic session,” he said.

Or watch the news here.

“There is a personality of a teacher. You are standing wearing anything, or jeans that look vulgar, that is not right. Even students do not respect you as they think. So, this is very important,” said Pandit. (A teacher)

Should colleges be telling the students that traditional clothing can make a female wearer look ‘respectable‘? And so not wearing a sari does exactly the opposite?

Why is a salwar kameez – very much a traditonal Indian outfit, less respectable?

One assumption could be that the sari makes a woman look older. Also traditionally, in some parts of India, all married women must wear sari. I have blogged about meeting someone who thought that married women who do not wear sari are doing it behind their in laws’ and husband’s backs.

Bombay High Court held that a marriage can’t be ended over a sari.

The college could to be trying to say that a teacher in a sari is seen as older and ‘respectably married’ (or at least marriageable).

This is how stereotypes are created.

Is it okay for a college to ask the students to associate ‘respect’ (or honor!) with sari and vulgarity with Jeans?

“In thousands of ways, our culture has conditioned us to anticipate rape as a natural consequence of violating social norms”. These misconceptions are responsible for women blaming themselves for sexual crimes against themselves (…makes it easier for those who don’t care to take action).

The male teachers are not expected to wear dhoti and achkan. Doesn’t the college think the students need to respect the male teachers too? Why teach the students that double standards and gender bias are acceptable?

Has the college really given this a thought? There are many who think sari is ‘sensual’.  Jeans are actually seen as comfortable and easy wear, and saris as ‘dressy’ by many others. Many others feel sari is not easy to maintain or move in, and not weather appropriate, while jeans and salwar kameez are.

Also consider why is it so essential for the female teachers (if at all) to look ‘different from students’? What if a teacher continues to look like one of the students (i.e. young and unmarried) no matter what she wears?

And most importantly, shouldn’t an adult female wearer (like the rest of the population) be trusted to decide what is appropriate for her to wear?

Compare this news from Bhopal to this news from Lahore,

Jeans, Body Hugging Dresses Banned in Lahore College fearing Terror Threats.

Related Posts:

Not Just a Pair of Jeans

No Jeans for a Indian Daughters in law.

The way a woman dresses…

Provocatively Dressed.

Eleven questions the family elders ask women in unhappy marriages.

And answers by Anonymous Confused Wife.

1) So what’s new here? It’s an age old issue.

Once upon a time that’s exactly what people said about child-marriage or widow burning.

This is important to me because it’s an issue to ME. NOW.

It’s an age-old issue and yet the only solutions anyone can come up with are “slog it out” or “leave, he’ll never change” or “Please adjust”. Doesn’t that say something about how great a job we’ve done by pushing all such issues under the rug?

2) The husband seems to be a nice chap in every other respect. Only his being a “mama’s boy” seems to be the irritant.

That’s not the same as saying he doesn’t drink tea instead of coffee. “Every other respect” gets affected by his being a mama’s boy.

[IHM: A ‘mama’s boy‘ may be defined as a husband who expects his wife to see him and his family as her world, but who does not think she should expect to be his first priority. He might also expects her to be an obedient and dutiful ‘elder-caregiver’ to his parents but again he may not feel the need to reciprocate.]

3) He risks being called “Joru ka ghulaam” or ‘Mama’s boy’. Neither is pleasant to hear.

I’d like to believe it IS possible for a grown adult to just be HIMSELF without being either a Joru ka Ghulam or a mama’s boy.

[Indian women continue to be seen as Paraya dhan‘ (property of their in laws) and Indian sons as providers of elder care through their wives. The system has resulted in a male child’s parents expecting special privileges.]

4) We have heard only the wife’s version. We have not had an opportunity to hear the husband’s version and that of the mother-in-law.

If this were a court of law, you would have.

It saddens me that a woman is not taken seriously when she says she’s miserable enough in a relationship that she’s willing to be single again, willing to go through a breakup and a divorce, willing to face social stigma and whatever other consequences, because she does not see herself being happy with him.

It saddens me that unless I choose to sacrifice my happiness, my commitment to my marriage is questioned.

My expression of my experience in this marriage are taken as an attack against which my husband and In-Laws need to present their defense. And what then, will someone rule that I can’t leave? That I have to stay here and remain unhappy?

[And yet it is not uncommon for the in-laws to complain to her parents about a daughter in law’s incompetence, disobedience or lack of respect. One doesn’t generally hear demands for her version. This could be because in the past the wives were much younger than the husbands and were treated like their wards.]

5)  If the husband or mother-in-law reads this, we would hear a version of the entire story as viewed from the other side.

Of course they’ll have their own take on the situation. Of course they have every right to be vocal about it. And of course it won’t be identical to mine. That doesn’t discount the fact that my experience so far makes me unhappy and hopeless enough to make me want to leave.

Is my happiness not necessary for their happiness? Is it fair to expect me to ensure their good at the cost of my own happiness?

6) I am sure a joint counseling session moderated by a respected family elder, or a professional counselor in which the mother-in-law, son and wife thrash out all issues, would ease tensions.

IHM: Family elders tend to ask all the same FAQs that have been asked here. Age does not automatically mean better ability to be unbiased.

The Counselors, the Lawyers, the parents,  and the Police are the products of the same society. Bias is a way of life in a Patriarchal society. Hearing different points of views is fine but an individual must trust her own judgment in the end.

6-b) Did you notice that the father-in-law never figures in issues like this? What is it about women ? (Aurat hee aurat ki dushman? A woman is a woman’s worst enemy?)

To an extent it’s BECAUSE the F-I-L wasn’t a prominent figure in his wife’s or his child’s life that the onus of fulfilling his wife’s emotional needs falls on his son.

7) You do not have enough valid reasons to walk out of this marriage. You have been more fortunate than most Indian women whose problems are far worse than yours.

Yes, a lot of Indian women have it worse. To me this doesn’t justify any of their behavior either.
Also, a lot of PEOPLE – including Indian men – do have it better. I know *I* had it much better before I got married. So regardless of whether or not others think I have “enough valid reasons” I do believe I have a right to my happiness.

8 ) Your ONLY grievance seems to be that your husband is a “Mama’s boy”. But this term is frequently abused and misused. It’s sometimes relative. What is “mama’s boy” to some might be seen as “filial respect and regard from an ideal son” to others.

At no point have I mentioned that his respect or regard for his parents bothers me. His OBEDIENCE to them and their wishes, however unreasonable, however unfair to me, definitely does.

We don’t see parents of married daughters having similar expectations of ‘filial respect’ from them because daughters in India are expected to put their spouse and their marriage before their own parents. How can a marriage be truly happy if one partner is being reminded that the other must not be his priority (but she must still see him as her priority)?

9) Cheerfully put up with 10 days of possible tension and live the other 355 days happily. Remember that these 10 days cause tension to the Mother-in-law too! Married life is not always a bed of roses. You have been married for only two years. More serious problems are yet to come. Children, their upbringing, health problems as one grows old, career ups downs etc are all yet to be experienced.

If only! In those 10 days, I am constantly insulted and deprived of basic rights. My family is insulted and called names. It’s not like I can turn off a switch on the 11th day and be happy for the next 355. And what about the days I lose because of the weekly phone calls?

I’m CERTAIN I didn’t have that many unhappy days a year when I was single. And if more serious problems are on their way, I’d rather not stick around until then.

10) Walking out of this marriage is no guarantee that you will find happiness in some other marriage or in remaining single. Instead of “Mama’s boy” you may end up with something far worse.

Yes, there’s that risk. I might choose it over guaranteed unhappiness.

11)  I am not convinced that you have a winnable case.

So I lose and my “punishment” is staying in a marriage that makes me unhappy? Out of curiosity, why do you not consider being a divorcee a “worthy” punishment for me?

A woman is not a woman’s worst enemy. Patriarchy is.

This post began as a response to a comment on the last post, and in response to – ‘Can two women really become friends?’ and ‘Why women hate women?’

***

As little girls, women hear of the importance of things they have little control over. They hear about their skin colour, their physical beauty  and even today,  concerns about their happiness with their future in laws.

They are brought up to see marriage as the goal in their lives. Divorce or separation, staying unmarried or being widowed is seen as something they must avoid. This puts pressure on women to be ‘happily married’ or ‘happily in a relationship’, across cultures. And since much of this is not in their control – women have a lot to feel insecure about.

What’s more, Patriarchy is also responsible for why very little in this all-important relationship is in the control of those it involves.

Traditionally women’s partners are discouraged from seeing their marriages and their wives as important parts of their lives. It’s common for men to be shamed and taunted for showing they care for their wives or marriages. Jokes like ‘Shadi ke laddu, jo khaye wo pachtaye‘, or taunts like Joru ka gulaam are common. And this when women must move in among near strangers and depend on the spouse’s support to feel at home in a new environment.

Traditionally men’s partners are brought up to believe that finding a partner and ‘keeping him’ is their only goal in life. The education they receive, how they talk (softly), walk, look , respond to questions (always respectfully), the careers they choose (no jobs that require traveling) – everything is permitted keeping the comfort and approval of a future husband and his family in mind. Women are brought up to seek approval.

In Patriarchy, men are conditioned to fight for their egoes and ‘honor’. Jealousy in men is seen as manliness. Since the partner must depend on them, men might get away with being unfaithful.

Patriarchy also keeps women dependent on sons and brothers (Manusmriti is not very subtle about it) which makes them insecure about losing them to other women who depend on them, i.e. the women they marry. Basically the entire system puts women one against another.

In a Patriarchy – the partners women are made to fast, pray and work to one day find, are taught to remember that they must not become ‘joru ka gulaam’ or forget their priorities (their parents and birth-families) – so although they too want life partners – they are warned against giving as much as they expect to get.

The men expect to be the top priority in their spouse’s life but they are told she should not be their top priority or she might take them away from their parents. (But they are also told she must leave her parents, friends and family for them.) This naturally makes them take the women a little for granted. This makes the women insecure again.

In a traditional set up,  the respect and awe for male members at home and the insecurity and lack of self worth in the female members at home passes on from one generation to another. Even when they know they need not depend on male approval, the conditioning remains. The husband is still being brought up not to forget his parents come before his wife, and women are still being told the spouse is their world.

We also know that unlike a man who can walk out on an unfaithful wife (or honor-kill or throw her out etc) a woman is more likely to be asked to stay and make her marriage/relationship work. And then there maybe financial dependence. So more insecurity.

Women don’t hate each other any more than the rest of the population does. It seems women bond even when there is so much insecurity and dependence.

Movies like ‘Mirch Masala‘ and ‘Delhi 6‘ and awe inspiring stories like ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ show how well women bond, even in unlikeliest of circumstances.

Sex and the City‘ is also about women bonding, supporting and being there for each other.

In real life and in the blogosphere, women are seen supporting, encouraging, taking out the time to counsel or just to listen to women.

Also consider, who exactly are women expected to get along with the most, but often don’t? Do they have a choice here? Often women are expected to get along with their spouses’ female relatives of all ages, backgrounds, expectations and attitudes. Traditionally, they are not encouraged to stay in touch with their friends. So they are deprived of the support system that friends could provide and are expected to get along with those who see respect (etc) from them as their right.

Patriarchy does not put the rest of the population under pressure to win the approval of their spouse’s relatives, so the rest of the population has little  opportunity to find out just how unfair and dis-balanced the system is. [Read Desi Girl’s take on this here and here]

And finally men do compete as much as women do – they have fought wars, fought duels, killed or got killed – but we ignore it as male aggression, male jealousy or machismo.

Patriarchy being a system that allows a few to control the lives of many, does not benefit most of those it controls, not men, not women. Not even those who it seems to benefit… but that’s another post.

If your boyfriend is abusing you physically…

I am sharing parts of a conversation, initiated by The Bald Guy on Google Buzz, because I think Desi Girl’s response needs to be read by more of us.

The Bald Guy If your boyfriend is abusing you physically then its time for you to hit back at him and move on. You do NOT need such a person in your life.

Girl Desi No, hitting is not the solution. Research has shown women get more harmed when they hit back as men hit back even more severely.
Fighting back also makes it harder to leave.
Report physical abuse to authorities. In India it can be filed under IPC 123, and for more grievous hurt file for civil damages.

It is time consuming and expensive, so the best way is to make a legal noise and leave…

If planning to leave never tell the person because he’ll immediately change behavior and confuse you. Do not engage with the abuser, keep interaction to the minimum. When finally out, let the person know in very clear words you are through. Severe all contacts. Stay in the company of people who support you and will not rat you and your plans to him. Change phone numbers, block his email id. There is no looking back.

Physical violence should be seen as Deal Breaker. They say in Hindi “aadmi ka haath nahin uthana chahiye, nahin to haath khul jaata hai.”

Research shows, once an abuser hits he is bound to hit again.

YES, You do NOT need such a person in your life.

***

Culture supports the men in abusing their wives.

Numerous women are raped by average Joes, they are not all tall dark handsome prototypes. Go to Tarai region you’ll find these hill sides full of idle men sitting and smoking on the roadside and their tiny women folk carrying heavy loads of produce and fodder on their heads. These women work dawn to late night, every thing from farming to tending cattle, weaving, housekeeping and care work (children and seniors) still these tiny idle men beat up their wives.

How come, these strong women are beaten up by these druggie idle men?
Because  culture supports the men in abusing their wives.

***

A Commenter : More men are beaten by women, than women by men.

Girl Desi You telling us huge number of men being beaten up by women is far from truth, please substantiate your argument with statistical evidences and peer reviewed studies. DG works in violence prevention in conjunction with law enforcement (in both continents), if you want she can give you all the stats you want. More men are abused by other men be it suicide bombing, religious crusades or family feuds for land and honor (that definitely qualifies for inclusion in family violence).

Gender neutral trends of violence are not yet happening in India.

***

Women as abusers.

In Indian context women have been abusers for centuries.  And culture supports them to be abusers in the form of mothers and sisters.

The number of wife comes in ripe old age or after she has achieved her reproductive goal (read, has a male child that is still alive) or the husband is not able to provide for the family due to personal failures like substance abuse and gambling etc.

Mothers and sisters of men play good mind games with taunts like “chudiayaan pehan rakhi hein” orjoru ka gulam (JKG).” Masculinity is challenged every now and then.

No one talks about the violence perpetrated against men by their mothers and sisters, discussions always comes and rests on wife to husband abuse.

Why?

Because mother and sisters are the primary relations, the pillars of family and wife is an outsider who is not considered insider until she is dead and initiated into the family ancestors (all her life time she remains outsider, “paraye ghar ki hai.“)

Abuse is about power and control.

It is not that gender burdens only women. Even men have a gender and it bears them down too.

The problem lies with the concept of masculinity and femininity within the patriarchy. To be a man one has to be in a position of power and be dominant. To dominate a woman or a man is all about being a man.

To be a man one must not be in a subordinate position. If he falls into a subordinate position he is considered a lesser man. (Read emasculated and woman-like). Mid-level bureaucracy has that problems all the time: clerks bad mouth female officers regularly, have personally over heard lunch time male gossip.

To be a man and be abused by another man (or worse, by a woman) refers to a man’s inability to be a man. Thus not disclosing abuse is all about being a man.

Men are under pressure to perform their gender as much as women are. Yes, men collectively have more power/benefits than women but individually many men lack power as compared to other men.

If we were to dismental the structures of power then we need to undo the concepts of masculinity and femininity.

If we want peace then it is time for Patriarchy to go because it selectively gives power to few and oppresses so many.

[DG hates to write post length comments but she just can’t stand the misappropriation of concepts and data coz’ she works both at grassroots and policy levels. At times it feels she and friends are just wasting their time coz’ those who are able to make a difference are stuck in presumptions.]

Another comment: What if it is the girl who abuses physically, mentally or emotionally ? It happens trust me.

DG : Of course it happens. Research shows women engage more in verbal abuse that is a component of emotional abuse. Until a few years ago (in west) and it is still in India it is considered provocation and an excuse for male physical violence. A small percentage women do engage in physical assaults.

That does not mean that one can discredit that more women are abused by men than the other way around. Here the discussion was on male to female violence hence the reply.
Who ever is abused has to use the same steps as mentioned here there is no other way around it personally and legally.

Loving husbands who devote their days and nights to maintain peace in the family.

Anju wonders if this man fits into the label of a ‘Maa Ka Ladla’ or  a ‘Joru Ka Gulam’. ‘Few days back I visited a patient and I was amused at the way the patient was being pampered alternatively by the wife and the mother. It was like who will take more care of the man.’

Anju feels for this man, ‘how tiresome it must be for him to pamper both the egos, to make both of them feel important and let both feel that he cannot do without either of them’

***

I wonder if women face this problem.

Are women able to take better care of  themselves on their own? We know they don’t. They need as much care as everybody else does.

So why don’t women have their mothers (or fathers) and their spouse competing to take care of them? He is supposed to be ‘Budhape ka sahara‘ of one and ‘Pati Parmeshwar‘ of the other.

What makes two family members almost fight to take care of this adult, male member? Is it because they each feel they must win a closeness to him? Are they insecure? If yes, then what makes them so insecure? Does this insecurity benefit the man in some way? (I don’t think so.)

Has tradition taught women that their lives must revolve around their husbands/husband’s family? Is the rest of the population given the same values?

Has the same tradition made mothers feel that while some of their children learn to take care of themselves (female children), some of them (male children) need to mothered all their lives?

Married daughters are encouraged to develop a healthy relationship with their husbands, but married sons in India are expected to ‘balance‘, which includes things like making sure their wives are respectful, subservient, obedient to their family etc.

Do I sympathize with this man? I feel I sympathize with the situation and with the families involved.

Indian mothers still look for and ‘bring’ obedient and pliant daughters in law for themselves when they arrange marriages for their sons. Often compatibility and companionship between the couple are not considered as important, as the wife being obedient and respectful to the in laws. Sons who feel this is unfair are labeled Joru Ka Gulaam.

Traditionally the society is fine with sons spending most of their time with their friends, but traditionally the same sons are not encouraged to see their wives as their best friends. Some sons have no real relationship with their wives for many years (often never). The mother remains the friend and companion (or male friends do). This would still be fine, if the daughter in law also had the option of maintaining a relationship with her own parents and old friends – this generally does not happen. She must make her husband and in laws her world, but she must accept that she is not their world.

Double standards don’t make for happy families or a just and fair society.