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?



Friendships between men and women

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

I ran into an old college friend here recently. We went out for coffee and caught up with who’s doing what. He’s married now with kids. We talked about our respective families and updated each other on our other friends from the same graduating class. We talked about our interests and I realized he also read “ All the Light We Cannot See” recently and liked it. He also told me he liked adventure sports now, whereas when he was younger, he was “quite the wimp” in his own words.

As I was driving home, a strange thought occurred to me. I had found out more about this guy’s likes and dislikes over coffee today than I did in the entire 2 years I had been in the same class with him and had known him. That’s because I (and many other girls I knew back then) did not have any close guy friends. We knew some guys in our college and we talked to them but we weren’t really ‘friends’ in any true sense of the word.

When I was a kid, (since my sister was much older), I mostly played with three boys – my brother and my 2 cousins who lived down the street. I was not taught to “play like a girl” nor was I bought “girl toys” (did they even exist then?); so playing with the other gender did not pose problems. We played ‘land and water’, ‘hide and go seek’ when we felt like running around. When it was too hot to play outside, we played Scrabble, Chess, and Chutes and Ladders.

It was only when I got older (entered high school) that I began to have less interaction with boys. My brother continued to be my friend, of course, and so did one of my cousins. But he and my cousins now had their own friends and they were a group of boys. I had my own friends, a group of girls. Some of my girl friends had friends who were boys, while others were strictly forbidden from male-female friendships.

My parents didn’t have strong opinions on the matter. They didn’t mind if a boy from my school called about something or dropped by. My aunts and uncles (who lived in the same house) highly disapproved but my parents mostly ignored them. However, I did not form any deep or remarkable friendships (or even casual ones) with boys my age. I found that many of them (if not all) behaved or thought in ways that made me uncomfortable –

  • they stared at girls in an obvious way
  • they made fun of girls’ skills and abilities
  • they made remarks on the appearance and physical attributes of girls
  • they assumed that they are smarter than most girls
  • they wanted to keep their interaction with girls secret from their parents
  • they considered aloof girls “good” and friendly girls “bad”

A few boys did not fit the above description. They did not make girls feel uncomfortable. But the environment of girl-boy friendship was so uncomfortable. There were my aunts and uncles who would be walking around in the background when a boy came over to my house – as if he’s some kind of a convict. Where exactly were we supposed to interact then? Every other public place is equally disapproving and hostile to high school age boy-girl interaction.

And that was high school. The college years exaggerated these differences. Women as a group were made to even feel more self-conscious.

Our female instructors would caution us, “‘Oh watch out your chunni is slipping!!” as they passed us by in corridors.

Another instruction in the labs was: “Be careful how you sit when you wear skirts, your panties are showing!’

We were made self-conscious about what we wore, how we sat, how we walked, and whom we talked to. It was all so exhausting. It was easier to hang out with women. Friendship with men, although not forbidden to me by my family, simply did not seem worth it to me.

I’m not saying this is the case for everyone in India – I’ve known a few of my friends who did have men as good friends – but this has been my experience, and I believe what I’m describing here is the experience of the majority in small town India.

It was only after I came to the US to go to grad school that I finally breathed around men. The men in my classes and labs did not stare in awkward places. They looked at my face and listened to what I had to say. They either agreed or disagreed. They did not try hard to impress me nor did they look down on me. It was so casual, easy, relaxed. I stopped paying attention to how I sat or how I walked. I saw men and women wearing shorts and no one spent the entire class time staring at each other’s their legs. I began to wear what I wanted. For the first time in my life, I began to make friends that were both women and men.

There was this guy in our group who loved his beer, Shakespeare, and bungee jumping. Another guy was super smart and super lazy. He would often be caught napping on his keyboard by our professor. There was an Iranian guy who joked, “I ran from Iran.” He could make wonderful gourmet pizza and he often brought us leftovers of his amazing cooking. We would go to the university theater, which aired old B&W films including some Hitchcock classics. Then we would discuss them the next day in the lab instead of getting work done. One of our favorite hangouts was a coffee shop downtown called Second Cup. We would sit there discussing politics, books, and movies, while having a second or third cup of coffee 🙂 For the first time in my life, I began to see men as people.

Some friendships were just friendships. Others became more involved. If a guy liked a girl in a romantic way or vice versa, they would simply take the friendship to the next level. If not, they would just remain friends. There was no automatic assumption that every girl who talks to or is friendly with a guy must have something more on her mind or owes him something.

I think it’s very important to have these friendships between boys and girls, men and women. By forbidding these friendships or creating an environment that makes platonic friendships sinister, an artificial separation is created in childhood and this gap only grows wider with age and takes on unpleasant forms:

  • Girls are objectified from a very young age because boys are only allowed to ogle at girls, not get to know them as people.
  • Girls and women begin appearing “mysterious”. They develop their own way of communicating. Their language is often not understood and thought to have hidden meanings. When a girl’s behavior can’t be explained, it can be interpreted as “whimsical” or “illogical”.
  • Men give up on trying to understand women.
  • Women start thinking “men just don’t get it”.
  • Men stop seeing women as human beings. Human beings can be good or bad, kind or mean, generous or selfish. Men tend to stereotype women as good/kind/generous, which can also in their minds mean weak/unassertive/accepting of unfairness.
  • Women begin to stereotype men as selfish, which they come to associate with assertiveness and aggression, which are seen as “masculine”.

Thus, not allowing/encouraging, or enabling these friendships has a cost to individual members of the society, as well as society as a whole:

  • It becomes harder for men and women to work together and effectively in teams. Workplaces are full of gender stereotyping situations for women. This places severe limitations on productivity, by not tapping into the talents and potential of half the work force.
  • For those who wish to get married, how exactly are they supposed to find a life partner and not settle for a stranger? In India, this separation makes it almost impossible to meet people of the other gender, get to know them, date, or find a life partner on one’s own. Many people are left with little choice but to follow the arranged marriage route; they are thus deprived of the opportunity to make a sound decision regarding their primary relationship.
  • Most of all, this gender gap of understanding results in a lot of unfairness in the treatment of women.
  • Women get objectified in the extreme by men raised in conservative settings – they’ve never been given an opportunity to get to know any real women – therefore they don’t see women as people first, they see them as caricatures – the sexy secretary, the motherly teacher, the shrewish boss, the sisterly neighbor, etc.
  • The male gaze (both literally and figuratively speaking) makes many environments (colleges, workplaces, streets, public transportation) uncomfortable, intimidating, negative, or even hostile for women.

But even for people belonging to families that are open minded, there are obstacles to male-female friendships. It is not as simple as not having anything against it.

  • Indian schools actively discourage and even punish interaction between boys and girls. By the time they reach college, they have more freedom – although they’re not punished for platonic friendships, these friendships have less chance of occurring or being successful. Men and women in the college environment already bring with them the baggage of their conditioning. If men can view women in their college only through stereotypes (the outgoing “loose character”, the traditional “nice girl”), women feel uncomfortable and tend to avoid these interactions with men.
  • Boys and girls are conditioned and socialized differently. In some societies like India, boys are raised with a sense of entitlement and privilege. They are often not required to help out with chores. Girls are expected to adjust and accept unfair and unequal relationships. This inequality mars adult male-female friendships as well.
  • In almost all societies, boys are raised to be assertive and girls are encouraged to be docile. The resulting differences in thought patterns and communication styles also pose a problem for male-female interactions. Boys’ jokes may sound ‘rude’ to girls and girls’ interactions may appear ‘mysterious’ to boys.

How can we change this? Some thoughts and ideas that might help break this mindset:

  • The first step is to raise your son or daughter free of stereotypes. If you have a son, assign him household chores. Encourage him to express himself and offer him emotional support when he needs it. If you have a daughter, buy her toys that allow her to explore, design, build, create, imagine, analyze, and solve (rather than dress up, feed, and care for). Examples of great toys for both boys and girls are any type of building blocks (Legos, Bionicles, etc.), pretend spy gear, fossil kits, ant hill kits and other science experiment kits, puzzles, board games, and art supplies. Giving them a journal to write in or a camera to take pictures keeps their minds busy in healthy ways – also writing and recording through pictures can be very empowering to children.  Fun/healthy activities for both boys and girls include reading, hiking, biking, swimming, engaging in sports of any kind, singing or dancing to music together, and visiting aquariums, museums, and historical monuments.
  • If you have a son, emphasize the importance of relationships and working in teams. Teach him to listen more and be responsive. If you have a daughter, encourage her to be assertive and instill the value of physical fitness.  Teach her to be vocal about her preferences and to speak up and object even when the smallest things are assumed or taken for granted. (When someone says to her, You’ll absolutely LOVE the iced latte, teach her to say, Actually I haven’t decided what I want and I’ll let you know when I’m ready.)
  • I’m not trying to imply that sons shouldn’t be taught to be assertive or daughters shouldn’t be taught to value relationships. I think those things are going to happen to some extent naturally. The environment most of us live in encourages those traits already. So, as parents, we can work on teaching them things that the environment doesn’t encourage, or in some cases, actively discourages (assertiveness for girls, listening skills for boys).
  • Send your child to a co-educational school that embraces diversity, if possible. In my son’s school, when kids work on team projects, they must sort through differing ideas and viewpoints. They must learn the process of consensus. They learn to work with kids of all races and both genders. There is also a committee at my son’s school for the protection of gay students from being bullied. This is an ideal environment to focus on people’s minds and ideas, instead of stereotyping/objectifying them. (If this is not possible or such a school is unavailable, home is always a great place to teach inclusiveness.)
  • Allow friendships (for your child) with the other gender. Encourage your child to see his other gender friends as human beings, as individuals. If they start interpreting their friend’s actions based on gender, (she did that because she’s a girl), gently correct them and illustrate how you would’ve done something different even though you share the same gender.
  • Lead by example. Keep in touch with your own other gender friends. I go out for lunch with my colleagues from work that are obviously both male and female. This is the most common type of interaction between adult men and women. Last weekend, I invited some people from work, both men and women, single and attached, with or without kids to hang out with my family on Memorial Day, for a backyard barbeque. Children watch and learn from their parents’ behavior much more than they listen to their parents’ lectures. If you interact with adults of the other gender and from varied backgrounds, if you treat them as individuals and focus on their minds and their ideas instead of their bodies, their skin color, or their gender, your child will likely do the same.

Please share your experiences and thoughts on platonic relationships. How did they happen? Or if they didn’t, what were the obstacles? Do you think it’s important for men and women to interact and be comfortable around each other? Do you encourage your children to have other gender friends?  Why do our elders reject male-female interaction and friendship? What is it that they fear? What happens in societies that forbid such interaction? Who benefits from such rules? Who loses?

Related Posts:

An email: I am 18 year old male from a traditional (read:backward) Indian family Inter sex mingling in coed schools – permitted or not?

“According to my mom, friendship with guys should always be limited to academics, nothing personal.”

“She was warned several times and was used to unethical practices like friendship with boys.”

By an Indian Teenager – “Sometimes it seems like every single thing I do has the potential to be something ‘provocative’.”

Sexual abuse victim thrown out of school for being a bad influence on other students.

‘The liberties that are guaranteed to our citizens, cannot be stretched beyond limits nor can such freedom be made weapons to destroy our fundamental values or social establishments like families’

Love Marriages spoil the Family System of our Nation.

How illegal bans on Valentine’s day and birthday parties are connected with dowry deaths and sex selection.

Boys and girls holding hands.

Are schools right in enforcing such strict boundaries between interactions between girl and boy students?

27 ways in which Patriarchy harms men.

Sharing this comment by thoughtpower in response to the previous post.

I think patriarchy harms men as well but many people don’t even realize so and are happy with current setup.

I would be eager to know comments from readers of this blog.

Some challenges a man faces:

1. Expected to be breadwinner and cannot choose career of his choice
2. Cannot choose to be home maker
3. Not suitable for marriage unless he finds a job.
4. Cannot watch emotional dramas or display certain emotions
5. Cannot wear ” colorful clothes”
6. Expected to shoulder unfair responsibility as elder son
7. Not accepted if physically weak
8. Looked down upon if they choose certain professions.
9. Expected to do all the work outside home.
10. Unfair labels when he chooses to treat wife as equal partner
11. Unfair expectations to keep pleasing parents
12. Not allowed to be a doting type of father
13. Earn/study more than his partner
14. No say in aesthetics of house decoration
15. Expected to learn driving and drop/pick others even when a female family member is equipped to do that
16. Struggle in reporting sexual harassment
17. Limited career opportunities as male sex workers because female sexuality is repressed.
18. Looked down while expressing dislike for sports/violence/cars
19. High expectations due to male stereotyping on how to win over a girls heart and so called Mardangi.
20. Decision to not have kids gets difficult due to unfair burden of carrying family name
21. Financial success as chief barometer of a man’s success
22. Paternal leave for longer duration looked down upon
23. Cannot marry a woman older than him
24. Patriarchy effects men and women in different ways. Deep rooted belief in some women that patriarchy doesn’t affect men at all.
25 Father of daughter expected to shell out his hard earned money to son in laws or as dowry.
26. For someone really interested in good relationships, being too close to relatives on the spouse side looked down.
27. If only parents were as happy with happily married sons as they are with happily married daughters. Treatment of daughter’s spouse versus treatment of the spouse of the son.

Related Posts:

So why do some men compare and compete with other men?

What do men need liberation from?

Emotions, Masculinity and Hierarchies in Relationships: Or making men walk alone in the journey of life.

MIP: Men In Pink

Boys don’t cry. – Starry Eyed

Of girly men who fail to convert irresponsible women from liabilities to assets.

“For every woman who is tired of being a sex object, there is a man who must worry about his potency.”

‘How can we change the socialization of boys and the definitions of manhood that lead to these current outcomes?’

Of how men’s masculinities are connected to their wives taking their names.

“I couldn’t tell him that I didn’t want any. That’s even worse. We’re supposed to always be on the prowl.”

What kind of sons do Feminists raise?

An email: ‘He made it clear to them he will not marry me without their support. He will not leave them behind… ever.’

“About household financial status… his parents have done all that they can, and now have passed the baton to their three sons.”

The rapists often don’t see their actions as crimes, the police said, and don’t expect the victims to report them.

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

“The sense of entitlement that’s hard-wired into every male child in an Indian household”

An email: I am 18 year old male from a traditional (read:backward) Indian family.

Arranged Marriage Market: “Oh! then our son has to take care of you and your wife too”!

An email: My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do.

An email: Is it fair for parents to say that their happiness depends on who their kids marry?

An email. Aren’t the sons supposed to have their own family lives?

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

‘Angry Mob cut off man’s sensual organ for attempting rape of a girl.’

Emma Watson to men : Gender equality is your issue too.

And maybe it is too funny to even imagine the same thing ever happening to a man?

“About household financial status… his parents have done all that they can, and now have passed the baton to their three sons.”

Instead of eyeing their husbands’ ancestral property, why don’t Indian daughters in law make their own homes?

Why I can’t take gender stereotypes seriously.

Hasee toh Phasee : When a Bollywood hero is an Emotional Dhakkan.

I Want To Be A Dad. – Radhika Vaz

Do you think it is natural for boys and girls to use different kinds of toys?

A tag: But when a woman sees a hot man, nothing happens in her brain?

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

“I don’t claim to be a spokesperson for all the men on this planet, but…”

So why do some women judge other women?

‘My question is, what do you do? What do you say when the majority thinks this way…’

Sharing an email. How do you react in similar situations? Do you attempt to convey that you disagree? Would you argue? If yes, then do you manage to convey why you disagree? Do you ignore, or pretend to agree or get into heated arguments?

Just wondering how do most people react to something that seems obvious to them but something that many others don’t seem to be able to see.

The email. 

Dear IHM,

I’m girl in my early twenties, raised by very liberal parents. I took it upon myself as a task to develop myself thoughtful, considerate and non-judgmental as I possibly could. I honestly never really realized how much gender inequality existed in our society until I started to notice the atmosphere around me – the girls in school, in college, the way people when they were talking about girls. Let me just share few examples with you.

For starters, I knew this girl in school (say A) who would proudly boast about her dad’s position and family wealth, and their nice big house. One day when our very close friend was leaving the country we had a get together at her house. A good time was being had, but ‘A’ showed up rather late. When asked why she was late – her dad never let her out of the house to meet friends and gave her an earful for wanting to come here, she was only allowed here because a close friend was leaving – that too with younger brother in tow. That was when I knew I she may have had a lot in terms of ‘status’, but she had close to nothing in terms of freedom. The thing that got to me most was – why is everyone so okay with it? How is it that they pretended this was and okay and acceptable?

I know another girl who left Grade 11 to return to India to get married. All was cute and lovely for a while after she married. While I kept my judgment to myself quite a few girls made it a point to congratulate her, tell her God had surely blessed her, how cute the couple looked, and how gorgeous her wedding dress was.  A year later she got divorced. Now she’s continuing her studies.

However the one that really opened my eyes something that happened very recently. The father of a friend of mine recently passed away. The family is survived by my friend, his brother, mother and his younger sister. As my friends came to hear of the news, they all showed signs of feeling sorry and having pity – but all unanimously (and disappointingly) ended their statements the same way – ‘Oh so he has a younger sister huh? Oh so he now has to work for her marriage’ *understanding tone of voice* *concerned, caring look*. While I silently nodded outside inside I was aghast.  Honestly the first time I heard it, it took a while for me to understand they were actually serious. Note that sister (the liability who needs to be married off) is doing her MBA. Also, that they are upper middle class. Note from the four people who made this statement all were ‘NRIs’.  By this I’m not emphasizing ‘NRI’ here, what I am emphasizing is that this mentality prevails among social class that has supposedly settled into a more ‘developed’ society. Two from them are girls – one of the tem is currently pursuing her Masters degree, she’s amongst the brightest in class. The other is the so-called ‘modern’ Indian girl. She drinks, she smokes, she parties. The other two were brothers but with vastly differing personalities. Yet both had the same reaction to the personal ‘burden’ he now had to carry. Also note that one of the brother’s has worked and studied in the UK for more than 5 yrs and considers himself ‘modern’.  I rarely have anything to say when I hear such things, because I never expect these things to be said in today’s world by people from my generation.

There are countless examples – a man responding to a woman in my office who just said her younger sister got engaged ‘Oh, so now your Dad can finally relax!’ (this was said inspite of there being an unmarried boy too in the house).  Some guy friends who are either married or in serious relationships find it quite okay to make jokes or share stories of times they argued/ outwitted the girl’s parents openly in front of our circle, while the girls would never retaliate in the same way, they just keep quite. Guys who make jokes on dark or ‘black’ girls. And it goes on and on. There’s a lot more to say, but it’s pointless.

My question is, what do you do? What do you say when the majority thinks this way and  anything you say to counter them will just get you looks of bewilderment in return, or blank responses of ‘but that’s our culture’, or ‘you’re trying to be too western’. How do you convince the majority that a culture that is misogynist and expects it’s people to follow strictly defined gender roles is one that needs to undergo some change at least? Especially when you’re often the only person in the group who seems to think differently.

I’m sorry this email is really long. But sometimes it feels like no one really gets it. Everyone is comfortable under the ‘traditional’ umbrella, and no one really gets why the system is unjust. I’m writing this because I know that you, IHM are one of the few people can understand my point. I also want to ask you – do you ever come across such things in social situations? And how do you tackle it?

Apologies again for the long email. I know many of your readers often email you about genuine problems, while mine is just a rant. Thanks anyway for listening.

Related Posts :

And if a woman demands equality, she should behave exactly like a male…

“Please help! How do I prove to my guy friends that women are equal to men?” 

“Can anyone guarantee that absolute empowerment of women thru feminism will improve the social balance and not give rise to new social problems?”

“Sometimes it seems like every single thing I do has the potential to be something ‘provocative’.”

“I see you have used the word “equality”. I`m just curious, enlighten me if I am wrong.”


I watched the movie because I wanted to know what was being shown as mardana or masculine in a woman.

I found the beginning so disturbing, that at first I wanted to walk out of the theatre. The friend I was watching it with felt the same way – but I am glad we didn’t do that – because when you really think about it – what’s not so disturbing about child trafficking? 

How did we ever expect to watch a ‘rape scene’ or children being abducted and sold, without feeling the horror of the crime? 

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is the only other movie I have seen where a sexual crime is shown the way it should be shown – humiliating, disgusting and traumatic. This is how such crimes should make us feel. [The Marital Rape scene in Bhag Milkha Bhag]

Mardaani does not show how the men ‘buying sex’ were feeling, there was no attempt to titillate. What we felt was the terror that the little children were feeling. Their being given new names and their being viewed as ‘goods’. And as the movie progressed it did make sense.

I will never be able to think of prostitution or child trafficking without remembering the faces, or the shaking hands of the children in Mardaani. We need movies like this undo the damage and desensitisation that ‘rape scenes’ have done in the past.

I also think the movie makes a point about fitness for women and general empowerment for women.

I hope the movie does well, it’s fast paced, well edited and for those who like action (I don’t) there is action too.

BUT I couldn’t could see why the movie has been named ‘Mardaani’ (translates to – a woman who is like a man)

Senior Inspector in Crime Branch – Shivani Shivaji Roy is a woman.

She is strong and she is shown working out.

She is working hard and at all hours, but she has a happy family life.

She does not go home and start cooking.

Her family loves, supports and respects her.

Their name plate has the names of both of the couple.

Inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy seems to have retained her maiden/father’s name as her middle name (I hope we see movies where there is no name changing at all, for either partners). 

And her husband is shown feeling feelings that can’t be described as  ‘mardaani’.

* * * 

Does the movie pass the Bechdel Test? 

No 😦

Related Posts:

Please watch Queen. Feels like our country is finally changing.

Hasee toh Phasee : When a Bollywood hero is an Emotional Dhakkan.

Kai Po Che : Through feminist eyes…

Dhobi Ghat. Zara Hat ke.

Delhi Belly: Indecent, immoral, abusive language. Permitted everywhere except on screen.

Does porn affect how men view sex, women and children?

Shuddh Desi Romance : When Getting Married and Staying Married is not an Indian woman’s life purpose.

Dev D: Practical Paro Artless Chandramukhi

Love Aajkal is against Indian Culture, but Kicking is legal?

We need to teach our daughters to know the difference between…

This advice for parents of daughters is being shared on facebook.

What do you think of this?

My response.

We need to teach our daughters to know the difference between…

IHM:  All children, daughters and sons, benefit from some information/guidelines that help them avoid being manipulated, used, hurt or abused (etc)

The advice above assumes and implies that daughters are the only ones and always the victims and sons are always the abusers. And that abuse and society is – Men versus Women.

It also indirectly implies – that parents of daughters (or the entire society?) have the responsibility of ensuring that girls do not fall in love with the ‘wrong kind of men’.

We need to teach our daughters to know the difference between…

a man who flatters her and the man who compliments her

IHM: Anybody, including women, sales people, colleagues, competitors of any kind  can flatter. And everybody would benefit from being able to see through lies of any kind, including flattery.

Criticism I think is generally equally or more harmful than flattery is. It can destroy self esteem and confidence; and create jealousy, insecurity, resentment, bitterness and endless dissatisfaction with self.

I would warn a child against criticism with the excuse of ‘attempting to improve’ them as much as against flattery.

But why are compliments such a good thing? I would rather teach a girl or a boy to like themselves and then to not care too much about the opinion of anybody else. If they compliment – maybe it simply means they have similar tastes.

Compliments are only opinions – and should not be permitted make days or break hearts. This is only possible if children are encouraged to like themselves just the way are and not care to much about log kyaa kahenge (what will people say or think).

We are less likely to need compliments or approval if we are comfortable with ourselves. This is automatically a protection from abuse by flattery or criticism.

a man who spends money on her and a man who invests in her

IHM: I didn’t quite understand this one.

Does it mean – Investing is when he plans to marry the woman and Spending is when he has no plans to marry her?

As opposed to marriage being a mutual decision.

And it is assumed that women see (and should see) Marriage as their only goal in life.

Also, I would say women should be able to earn and spend on themselves and invest for and in themselves with their own money.

a man who views her as Property and a man who views her properly

IHM: Nobody should be viewed as Property, but what does viewing someone ‘properly’ mean?  Honourably?

I wonder if women benefit from being taught to worry about whether or not they are being viewed ‘properly’?  So long women are able to live their lives the way they choose to, does it matter?

a man who lusts after her and a man who loves her

IHM: ‘Lust’ continues to be viewed as harmful perhaps because it is seen to make women impure. And ‘Love’ continues to be something men invest in and hence, maybe, are entitled to reciprocation.

I would rather talk to children about abusive and manipulative behaviour by anybody – specially those who are in positions of authority, or those who they trust, lust for or love.

I would warn them against those who seem to wish to control their personal lives, or to change or ‘improve’ them. Those who seem to want them to do something they do not want to do (or those who want them to stop doing something they love to do).

Or those who attempt to control who they talk to and what they say to them.

I would encourage them to make many friends and to see relationships – as a part of growing up and to not ever give up being themselves – specially to make someone love/befriend them.

And ofcourse, to view lust as wrong when there is coercion, or when one of the partners is either a minor or in a committed relationship.

A man who believes he is a gift to women, and a man who believes she is a gift to him

IHM: Why is okay for a man to believe a woman is a ‘gift to him’?

And it contradicts with the point above about viewing women as ‘property’ or commodity.

And then we need to teach our sons to be that kind of man.

IHM: Do sons really need to be brought up all that differently from daughters?

Related Posts:

Is it possible to insult someone who doesn’t value your opinion of them?

This 27 year old woman could not be forcibly married off or silenced or shamed.

Slut Walk: Would women be in some ways empowered if they saw no shame in what they could risk being called?

18 questions for young women (and men) of ‘marriageable age’.

What would you not change for love?

Does loving someone mean we should ‘improve’ them?

What are you criticised the most for?

Ten more ways to be better wives and daughters in law.

Marriage Advice from the 1950s that is Definitely Outdated

“One of the so-called best professor of my department … advices his students (girls) that men can be satisfied only by two things…”

Who would you never ask for advice?

Be a wife like Sita, wear a sari but don’t get abducted.

Does loving someone mean we should ‘improve’ them?

10 Things to say to everybody else, but never to a woman.

But how do we go about accepting ourselves just the way we are?

“I think most problems in life are when we look for approval and validation outside of ourselves.”

“10 years ago, the girl would have been counselled on how to change her dress sense for the boy, how to do as he says.”



“This is the worst emotional crisis of my life… My question is, why didn’t it hurt him so much?”

Sharing an email.

Maybe this is just of one of the reasons why relationships and heartbreak should be acknowledged as and talked about as a part of growing up – not as something some immoral young people do on Valentine’s Day.

“This is the worst emotional crisis of my life…
My question is, why didn’t it hurt him so much? Maybe because he has been in and out of relationships and has more experience dealing with it? By contrast, this was the closest I had ever come to anything close to a relationship.”

What would you say to the email writer? 

Heartbreak, and if/why men and women deal differently with it.

Dear IHM,

I am a regular reader of your fabulous blog. It has shaped my thoughts and feelings like very few things in life have. I also comment here fairly regularly–not so much of late, but certainly until some months back.

I am a 38-yrs-old mother-of-two who recently took a job after a long break. Lookwise I would describe myself as above average and moderately attractive.

At work, the person who sat next to me was a 25 year old guy. He was more experienced in the field, while I was a virtual novice, so I often turned to him for help and suggestions.

I cannot say we hit it off immediately– I initially thought he was a feku who boasted a lot. However, we gradually started talking quite a bit. I realized, much to my surprise, that he had actually not been boasting about anything. He had excellent manners and was very well brought up. Spoke excellent English. He did not bring his lunch to work because he stayed two hours away from office and did not get the time to cook in the morning. I started taking extra chapatis for him initially, then started taking the trouble to prepare special dishes for him in the morning. He himself was a fabulous cook and everyone around would look forward to days when he did bring lunch.

He was such fun to be around. He had a terrific sense of humour, was very intelligent and capable of talking about everything under the sun very knowledgeably. He was very well-informed about Western music, something to which I had a somewhat limited exposure. He took it upon himself to ‘educate’ me, and made me listen to some really nice songs, introduced me to some awesome bands. We talked endlessly, sometimes even on topics such as pornography and rape, and I suppose it was a measure of the comfort level we shared that neither suspected the other of being lewd or harbouring romantic intentions.Somewhere along I developed a huge crush on him. I quit the job owing to my husband’s transfer but we continued to be in touch. I went out of my way to help him when he was struggling to get an education loan approved from a nationalized bank. I even offered him money when he had financial problems–he thanked me for offering but wisely declined all financial help.About ten days back, I invited him over to my place for lunch. We spent over two hours in my house chatting and joking– all at a respectful distance, we never even shook hands– and had a great time.. Later that evening, though, we got chatting over WhatsApp about extra-marital affairs. He started it by asking whether I thought it was okay for a married woman, who is ungratified, to have affairs that involve only sex. I thought it was one of those intellectual discussions we were always having, and responded by saying that though I was not a fan of casual sex, I would not rush to judge anyone having casual sex, married or not, as long as it was consensual and both parties are fully aware of the casualness. The discussion went on for some time, with him citing several different examples and us discussing them. Finally he told me he admired me greatly, always thought of me as being so bold and confident, and was ‘in great awe of me because of how I could speak my heart without inflicting insult or injury’. He added that he hesitated to come to my house for lunch because he was afraid of doing anything that would ‘bring me shame.’ He said his feelings of desire arose from ‘the respect and awe’ he had for me.It was at this point that I committed the biggest blunder of my life. I cringe in regret and shame every time I think about it. His admission of desire for me brought to the fore something that was there in a corner of my mind so remote, I barely knew of its existence, but at that point, telling him about it felt like the most natural thing to do– I told him I had been wanting him badly myself and was as close to being in love as I had ever been. He ventured to ask me about the state of my marriage– I told him it was largely good, but I wouldn’t mind going astray once because I loved him so much. He seemed very eager but I told him I did not see how we could manage to get together, given that both he and I are going abroad shortly. I asked him to think of a way for us to get together.Over the next few days, he acted distant and aloof. Finally, four days back, he told me that he did not think it could happen, and did not want hope where there was none. He said he was restricting himself to save both of us further heartache.I was stunned and devastated. I felt like I had stripped myself naked and then been rejected. I pleaded with him, he kept quiet. I ultimately decided not to plead anymore –I did love him but couldn’t demean myself more like this.

By the next day, I finally reconciled myself to the fact that I had made a huge fool of myself, and that what I had wanted was really pointless and could have repercussions. I kicked myself for telling him anything–I should have just listened to his admission of desire and kept my own mouth shut. I then threw myself into salvaging the remnants of our friendship– sent him emotional messages telling him how precious our friendship was to me, how deeply we used to trust each other, how we could talk about everything without misunderstanding the other, and how he was the one friend I should like to stay in touch with always. He gave monosyllabic responses to a string of messages, acted very distant and aloof. Said I should really forget the whole thing and not think about it so much. That he would always cherish my friendship but that I should really be concentrating on my priorities. By the next day his responses grew fewer and farther between. The next day I tried to call him, and discovered to my horror that he was not answering my calls.

Is there a greater humiliation than this, to not have your calls answered?  I have never felt so insulted, so abjectly humiliated in my entire lifetime. I tried for one more day to revive whatever was left of our friendship by sending him “normal” messages– I knew it was all but over, but what we had was so good, I couldn’t let it all go without at least trying. I finally saw the writing on the wall and quit trying.

This is the worst emotional crisis of my life, IHM. The pointlessness of it takes my breath away. I cannot stop thinking about him for more than a few minutes at a time. Tears come unbidden. I mourn for the totally unnecessary loss of a great friend, the one person I would have like to always be in touch with. I am wracked by feelings of shame, guilt, mortification, and humiliation every time I think about it. The worst thing is, I cannot even talk to anyone about it. People have been commenting that I look unhappy and unwell.

My question is, why didn’t it hurt him so much? Maybe because he has been in and out of relationships and has more experience dealing with it? By contrast, this was the closest I had ever come to anything close to a relationship. I never had a boyfriend, ever. My husband is the only only man I have ever even kissed or properly hugged. Could this be a reason?

I have been scouring the web for articles on heartbreak. One said that the older you are at the time of your first heartbreak, the more it hits you like a cannonball and blows you to smithereens. Well, that certainly rings true to me.

But really, IHM, do you think men and women deal with heartbreak differently? I would also be grateful for some advice for myself from your very knowledgeable readers. How to deal with this crushing pain? And is there still a way for us to be platonic friends again, the way we were before that ill-fated conversation, or have we really lost it forever?


Related Posts:

Would you stay with a cheating spouse — for cash?

10 Things to say to everybody else, but never to a woman.

Gender stereotypes, combined with gender segregation and misogyny seems to have convinced many that some of us (mainly women) are mysterious beings – illogical, unpredictable, and thus difficult to understand.

Wordssetmefree shared this link: 10 Things never to say to a woman

Such articles seem to indicate that basic courtesy, respect, personal space and good manners are special favours – mainly when extended to women.

And that it is not manipulative to monitor, comment upon and control the personal choices of other people (specially women).

Take a look at some of the tips.

Tip number 1:

Tip number 1 seems to assume that men and women are obsessed with how much women weigh and that women’s happiness depends on men’s approval of women’s body-weight.

Who created this definition?

“Your girlfriend is, by definition, as light as a feather and nimble as a ballerina. To so much as whisper a hint of the notion that she might be, you know, otherwise, is to risk paying a price as heavy as you suspect her to be.”

So, according to this tip, women can’t be happy unless they have won men’s approval (and succeeded in pleasing them).

The men deserve sympathy, advice and support, because they bear the burden of assuring women of their success in making them (the men) happy. And this is the biggest challenge for men in relationship with women.

This tip also assumes being ‘light as a ballerina’ is the ideal for women to work for (while the rest of the world can be themselves, or healthy or fit or strong etc).

So men are advised not to ask, “Are you really going to eat all that?”

Please consider, why would we say this to anybody – man or woman?


1. Maybe we wanted to eat some of it?

2. Because we are paying for it and can’t afford the quantity?

3. Because we are the person’s personal dietician, paid to monitor their portions?

4. Because we just say things that make no sense even to our own selves?

5. Because we are raised to believe that women are supposed to eat the last and the least?

6. Because we believe a woman’s body is everybody’s business. And she lets everybody down by eating in ways that might not help her fit into their expectations?

Would men find such questions offensive? Why, or why not?

Maybe men are more likely to be asked to eat well and to be stronger than all the other men in their social circle.

Tip number 3: 

“My ex used to … “

‘Anything you say with the words “my ex” in it will be held against you… Of course it’s natural to compare your girlfriends, but keep it to yourself.’

Would you say this is something that should not be said specifically to women?

Are non-women more amenable to being compared to exes?

This stereotype is even more ironical in a culture where jealous, entitled and insecure men are known to honor kill, sexually assault, burn alive, or attack with acid, blade, MMS clips.

Tip number 6:

“Yeah, she’s hot”

Chances are she lured you in with an innocent question, like, “Do you think she’s cute?” … You must lie quickly and reflexively. … In fact, you win extra points for casually finding fault in her the closer you look. Watch your girlfriend light up as you say, “Is it me, or is her nose a bit weird?”

Same as Point 3 above.

Also, Jealousies and one-upmanship are sometimes seen as machismo.

Tip number 7:

“What’s up with your hair?”

“She’s allowed to have a bad hair day, but you’re not allowed to notice. For girls, hair isn’t just hair.”

Sounds like: She is ‘allowed’ to sometimes fail to win your approval. For women hair isn’t just hair, it’s failure to please you!

Tip number 9:

“Is this your time of the month?”

This advice is blatantly sexist.

It amounts to: Women tend to ‘shriek and stamp and then burst into tears for no reason’.  And when this happens it is only because they are ‘deranged by hormones’. (While, when men ‘shriek and stamp’ – they have been provoked into natural manly anger.)

Tip number 10:

“I love you”

This is supposed to be the magic pill, the cure-all, the instant fix. But the thing about the L word is that it sends women into a heightened sense of awareness. As soon as they hear it, they can tell whether or not you mean it.

Again, is this a women-specific trait? How would the rest of the world react to this?

Related Posts:

Weird, funny facts about Misogynists.

This encourages double standards.

Boy friends are new parents

Why We Laugh With Kapil at Things That Are Not Funny at All

“For every woman who is tired of being a sex object, there is a man who must worry about his potency.”

A light hearted take on the way future is dear to the girls and present to the boys?


“These people saw my jeans. What they did not see was how much I fought everyday to assert my right to wear them.”

Sharing an email from The Vamp.

Dear IHM,

I am writing to you today, just to say thanks.

I wrote to you because I find a kindred spirit in you; reading this blog has saved my happiness and life.

Earlier, being a part of the patriarchal system as a DIL married into an orthodox household, I was upset without realizing what exactly I was upset for. Like I said earlier, I unsuccessfully tried to kill myself. Although I had been suffering from these suicidal bouts ever since I was in my pre-teens, the depression exacerbated itself after marriage when things got more real.

In your blog, I found some rationale for a lot of thoughts that were going on in my mind.

My parents were the best. Still, why was it that many of their thoughts upset me?

Why was I angry with so many people who were fat-shaming me? After all it happened to everyone else.

Why was I constantly pushed by a need to prove myself the best everywhere and constantly worrying about it, be it academically or professionally?

Why was it an ultimate feat for me to pass two SSC exams, one CLRI interview, and one public service commission exam, topping two university entrance tests, but without being really interested in them?

Why did I want to slap everyone who had ridiculed me for a totally unrelated thing (my being fat) with my academic and professional achievement?

Why did I dress badly and eschew feminine appearance just to prove myself strong, although I really loved delicate, flimsy and hot pink ‘feminine’ clothing?

Why did I take pride in being a tomboy in my teens even though I was quite the opposite internally?

Why was I trying to show off my skill with patriarchal beliefs, customs and traditions after marriage?

But even when being lauded for these efforts, why was I still unhappy and suicidal?

Though counseling helped me calm my mind, your blog answered a lot of these questions.

Today, I am still the same introvert. I am still what you’d call overweight, although pretty. But, I am at peace. I am no poster child for feminism. But, I have found my own comfort zone between conservativeness and liberation. At least I know what liberation looks like.

The most important change, however is, regardless of my beliefs, I am willing to push myself for others’ rights to live the way they want, whether or not I agree with it. I may not wear minis, but I will advocate someone else’s rights to wear them.

Some people say feminism goes too far. They think I have everything anyone would want so what is this whole fuss about? It seems that a woman being a postgraduate, wearing jeans and going to work in a corporate company represent the pinnacle of gender equality. It is not. As in my case, taking things for granted can kill you.

These people saw my post graduation. They never noticed that had I been less inhibited about myself living as a woman with limits, I would have done a doctoral in Scotland. They would have noticed that the very reason I chose Science was not because it was my passion, or I was good at it, or I was intelligent (the latter two, I am, truth be told), but because that was what my brother did and other peers considered smart. I chose this stream because I was ashamed of choosing English literature or History, lest I be looked down upon and teased further for being so benign. I abandoned my real passion and chose a stream that was considered more ‘male oriented’ and therefore, ‘intelligent’.

These people saw my jeans. What they did not see was how much I fought everyday to assert my right to wear them, no matter what others thought. What nobody saw was me walking into a clothing store to get a jeans my size (I’m not that big; I wear 34/36) and the shopkeepers giggling at me as if I had asked for a condom (which too isn’t fair). They did not notice how self-conscious I felt about my not so slim figure and always had reservations walking out, which my parents tried to fix by advising me “not to wear jeans as you don’t have the figure for it”. Nobody cared about all the subtle jibes and stares I was subject to, not because I looked bad in jeans (which is totally false as I know I am pretty and fashionable), but because I defied all those invisible rules set for overweight women, overweight fair women, overweight fair women from a conservative community, overweight fair women from a conservative community who wanted to look ‘respectable’. Finally, nobody stood by me when my in-laws passed diktats against jeans, citing that “married girls must look married” and that “you are not a college student anymore” and “what willchaar log think”. Nobody knew that the very act of wearing jeans was a battle I fought every day.

These people saw me working. They never noticed the compromises I made by moving in to my husband’s home after marriage, thus putting me 10 km further from my workplace. They never cared that after ‘work’, I had a second shift at home. They thought I had a maid so I must be having fun at home because after all that’s what working women do; neglect the home and go mad about their career. They never cared that my in laws have an eating/sleeping schedule which just does not support the wavelength of an average corporate employee. They watched me go to movies with my newlywed husband but never noticed me falling asleep on his shoulder due to severe exhaustion.

Feminists told me to get a divorce. Patriarchs told me to suck it up. Feminists said my husband was a jerk. Patriarchs said I was a loser. Everyone said I and my husband were idiots. But, nobody helped me live. Nobody helped US be. Everyone said we ought not to have married, but nobody guided us, two confused people and victims of Indian culture, on the right path to go about.

Your balanced views, on the other hand, helped me find that right zone where I was happy, being a non-confrontational person, without giving up on my rights. For once, I knew what, considering my strengths and weaknesses, I had to do to protect my rights. Firstly, I got to know what my rights were. With this strength, I got about making my life happy. It’s still in progress, but I can say I and my husband have both found that place where we are happy and respect each other’s differences. We only have to walk up there.

Thank you IHM, for all this.



And then in response to my email:

Yes, of course I am at this stand today because I staunchly believe in feminism, that is to say, the textbook definition of feminism. I don’t however, support radicalism or militancy that many people do in the name of feminism.



Why We Laugh With Kapil at Things That Are Not Funny at All

Don’t you think misogynistic ideas and prejudices are reinforced by our tolerance of them?

Would you say that, ‘nobody is objecting’ conveys ‘nobody is offended’?

And does, ‘nobody is offended’ imply that the ideas must be acceptable?

What makes some things funny for some people and offensive for others?

Shaloo shared this link, Why We Laugh With Kapil at Things That Are Not Funny at All

The joke is always on her. The middle-aged bua who cannot get married because she is not eligible for love anymore and so must be laughed at. The spirited young woman played by a man in drag who must be insulted because ‘she’ is fat and must be compared to a bull-dozer and assorted inanimate objects. And though ‘she’ always retorts saucily, the good-natured entertainment revolves around how she comes across. Too big for her boots. Too big to be ignored. Just too big.

… Comedy Nights With Kapil (Colors) must say something about us.

Even though Kapil Sharma always delivers a hurried disclaimer in the end and says, “Aurton ki izzat karein,” (always respect women), in his skits, respect is not easily available to women or to the naukar (the domestic help), or anyone who is too thin, too old, too strange or too poor. [Why We Laugh With Kapil at Things That Are Not Funny at All]

Do you agree with the article?

Here is a comment that does not,

“… its weird how people instantly trace any direct-indirect signs, patterns of misogyny or negative generalization of women in literally everything… ideologies, preferences controlling subconscious minds of feminists who have license to get offended and to come up with such theories after attaining a saturation point. There are countless examples of negative generalization of men like almost all unhygienic, germs careers in ads for handwash, soaps, sanitizers are males or in beauty products where every other man is ‘chauvinist pig’ stuck in the Smita Patil art movies timezone & backdrop,….and then the typical TV Shows where men emotional quotient (EQ) is equivalent to orangutan, in every movie-show-report script if there is a comparison/contest between men and women the unsaid rule is women should win…..If I am sounding ridiculous in similar comparison then I hope you got my point.”

 But don’t the ‘countless examples of negative generalization of men’ only reinforce the stereotypes further?