Women and Friendship – Building a Support System

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

The last post brings home a striking point. Lack of a support system allows abuse to thrive. And even in non-abusive situations, lack of supports direly impacts women’s happiness quotient.

Recently I was talking to my mother on the phone. She mentioned that Kalyani, her long time friend had visited after many years. I was excited and happy for my mother and asked her if they had a good time together. I was reminded of the times when my mother would visit her when we were very young.

When we were kids, a mother having a friend was a rarity. The fact that they were college buddies was even more amazing. Whenever my mother would visit her friend, we were so awed by this simple fact – that my mother is going out, and it is not to work and it is not to buy groceries, nor is it a visit to relatives’ houses for pujas and other obligations. She was going out to see her friend! How cool is that!

Even though she worked outside the home (which was rare for her generation), my mother’s role at home was pretty traditional. There were meals to be cooked, maids to be managed, unannounced guests, unreasonable in-laws and relatives to be attended to. There were many frustrating and stressful interactions with in-laws and the extended family. So, whom did she talk to, to find some relief? Who did she go to for support and answers?

Most of the time, support, once again, came in the form of relatives. HER side of the family – her sister, her cousins, her aunts provided some support. Because the visits to her only friend were a rare and special treat.

And when she did get together with her side of the family, I noticed a strange vibe. My grandmother, who had little patience for relatives, usually left the room. The women shared their problems and concerns. There were hugs and wiping of tears. But no solutions were ever offered. There was relief in knowing one was not alone. There was certainly a sense of belonging. But it came more from a sense of “we are all women, therefore we are meant to suffer”. My mother usually went home feeling as confused and hurt as she did before the visit.

Another thing I noticed is the one aunt who tended to be more assertive and less obedient was considered a “shrew” and “lucky to have a meek husband who would put up with her”. So much for support and inspiration. This is why relatives (in the Indian setting) cannot really be one’s support system. They are subject to the same conditioning that the rest of us are. They have nothing new to offer.

My grandmother, a free thinker, was the only one who gave my mother sensible advice, still, she was older, of another generation. My mother did not really have anyone her own age to see her point of view. An occasional visit to her only friend’s house doesn’t really count. In many ways, my mother was friendless.

This is probably the story of many women of that generation.

The Current Generation

So, what about us, those in our 30s, 40s, and 50s? I’ve noticed that in our generation, a lot of us tend to have had great friends and friendships in college. But once we got married or moved away, those friendships seldom lasted. Or even if they did, they did not offer daily and genuine support and involvement. To some extent, this is understandable. Many of us outgrow our college friends. We grow up, acquire different ideas, we change to some extent. We crave friends on the same intellectual level, rather than settling for people who happen to be in the same place at the same time.

But how many of us, after we got married, made a serious attempt to develop strong friendships? How many of us are truly committed to friendship – because friendship takes time and effort and interest. Here I’m not referring to “family friends”. Family friends are just that – they are usually friends because our kids are friends at school. Or because some of us work at the same company.   These are simply another version of our college friends – people in the same place at the same time. They are fine for sharing a meal or having tea together or discussing school/college options or the job/commute/elections situation.

But these are not the kind of friends I’m referring to, although they do have their place in our lives.

I’m talking about the kind of friends who share a passion with you. Who remind you of who you are as an individual. Who challenge you to explore your fears, open you to novel experiences, who help you grow. Friends who truly KNOW who you are. So they can remind you of what you are capable of, when you doubt yourself.

(I’m referring to married women here because that is the norm in India and they are the ones who tend to neglect their friendships. Single women are perhaps more likely to take their friendships seriously. They are better at building a support network of friends because the negative attitudes of their families and society have made such a system imperative, even urgent. Perhaps, they even feel frustrated with married women for not being committed to their friendship.)

Factors that Deter Support Systems for Women

So, why do several married Indian women go without real, strong, long lasting friendships? A few factors come to mind (there could be more) –

Parenting – in conservative cultures, friendships for young girls are limited in terms of where they go and how long they stay out and what activities they engage in. They may not be allowed to travel, hike, swim, partake in sports, go for a bike ride – simple things that friends do. These friendship-inducing activities are allowed for sons but not daughters. Early on, they are trained to put family first, and their own needs must be worked around the family’s rules, schedules, and convenience, if at all. Thus, daughters never learn the meaning of strong friendships. They never learn the methods. They haven’t experienced the highs of going camping with friends and gazing at the stars in the night sky. They haven’t experienced being lost in an unfamiliar town and helping each other navigate. They haven’t gone for a long drive with no destination in mind. They do not know what they’re missing, thus they do not seek it in later life either.

The unwritten rules of friendship after marriage – Friendships for married women are discouraged, seen as frivolous and selfish. Indian married men, on the other hand, continue to keep in touch with their buddies, even invite them over and have their wives cook for them. Many Indian women need permission to visit their friends, or need to ensure that they’ve cooked, cleaned, bathed their children, and anticipated every possible need in the next 48 hours before stepping out for an hour. Thus having a family strengthens men’s friendships while the very same weakens women’s friendships.

Complacence and the Illusion of Support – We are surrounded by family in India. We have our parents and extended family constantly in our faces. When we get married, we have even more relatives. Surrounded by all these people gives us the illusion that we are not alone. However, the truth is you can be lonely with a hundred people around you if none of them empathize with you, make you stronger, or help you find yourself.

Too late, we find out that when we really need help and support, we don’t have it. Women spend a good part of their lives helping strengthen their husband’s families. While their own supports are continually discouraged, ridiculed, and eroded.

Our Stories – Mythology, legends, and literature are replete with admirable friendships between men. While Lakshmana walked by Rama’s side until the very end, Sita stood alone. The Mahabharata brims with male bonding. There is the interesting friendship between Karna and Duryodhana. Even the friendship between Lord Krishna and Arjuna the warrior is telling. God bestows his friendship on certain worthy men, but not women.

In English literature, we are all familiar with Horatio and Hamlet, Tom and Huck, Frodo and Samwise, Gandalph and Bilbo. While we admire the friendships between these beloved characters, they do make us wish the world instead revolved around female bonding. This is why books like Pride and Prejudice and Little Women are so precious.

Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, says, “Princesses may confide in a sympathetic mouse or teacup, but they do not have girlfriends. God forbid Snow White should give Sleeping Beauty a little support. Princesses avoid female bonding. Their goals are to be saved by a prince, get married, and be taken care of the rest of their lives.”

Let’s not be that lonely princess. We can make each other strong. Let’s not give up on each other.

Finding Real Friendship

Friendship and bonding among women offers so many positives that no woman should have to go without it. A good friend –

  • respects you for your strengths and talents
  • supports you during challenges
  • doesn’t ennoble silent suffering and sacrifice
  • inspires you to be strong, to grow, to become who you want to be
  • listens to you when she can’t do anything other than offer her heart
  • gives you a hug
  • loves you for who you are
  • is happy to see you engage in other positive relationships
  • wants you to succeed
  • is proud of your accomplishments
  • reminds you of who you are, when you are in doubt
  • opens you up to new ideas and different perspectives
  • doesn’t judge you for your career and relationship choices
  • is overall happy for you because she is happy with who she is
  • is committed to you, spends time with you, and is there for you
  • doesn’t take your friendship for granted, understands that friendship is a like a plant, it needs watering, otherwise it can’t sustain itself
  • communicates through differences with honesty
  • recognizes her own need for friends and friendship time
  • keeps her interests and passions alive and doesn’t lose her identity after marriage
  • makes it clear to her family that she will need and engage in her friendships
  • can be a lifeline in cases of emotional or physical abuse

I did not realize this until a few years ago, when I hit my late 30s. My kids’ friends’ mothers were my friends. My husband’s co-workers’ families were my friends. I realized something was missing in these friendships. I forgot who I was. Conversations with our friends were always about our families, about our children’s or husbands’ needs, interests, and phases. And what did I do when I did meet interesting, intelligent, warm, humorous,  and independent women now and then? I did not treasure them.

I realized I had missed some valuable opportunities.  And if I wanted something, I needed to work toward it. I began to look for and find women who shared my passions – walking/hiking/running/nature, reading/writing. Women who took their hobbies seriously, who believed in preserving their identities and not be defined by their relationships alone. Although these common interests acted as a catalyst to start and sustain the friendship, we did not limit our friendships to these interests. One of my friends crafts jewelry and it’s fascinating to watch her work. Another friend, an engineer by training, loves to bake. After years of debating, she finally turned her passion into her living. I like spending time in her kitchen while she makes breads, pastries, and pies. I realized I needed to laugh like a girl, get silly, do different things, surprise myself.

I realized I needed friendship time without my husband and kids. I learnt to ask for it, advocate for it, and maintain it as an essential part of my life. I gave it a name – ‘health goals’ (as in emotional health) to make it tangible. I put my friend time on the calendar and committed to it rigorously. My family slowly, reluctantly, began to accept and work around it. If my older son needed help with a project or my younger one wanted to go to the park, it would need to be scheduled AFTER my Sunday morning walk with my friends. Same thing with my husband. In the past, I had worked around everyone’s schedules. Now, my activities were up there on the family calendar, for everyone to see, and my needs were prioritized, like everyone else’s.

I hope every one of us has or works on finding strong friendships and can make the effort to be a rock solid friend to other women. It is not as difficult as we think. It doesn’t require some esoteric skills. It is simply about knowing what real friendship looks like. It’s knowing what to look for. And understanding that friendship is a basic human need, necessary for us to thrive. This blog is a small example of the power of women supporting one another. Imagine what is possible with people we can meet and talk to and confide in and bond with in our daily lives.

And friendship with other women and having a good support system is the best defense against patriarchy. For feminism to thrive, friendships between women must thrive.

Please do share some of your great friendships. Or please share your challenges in finding and sustaining meaningful friendships.

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?

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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.)?

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!

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?

Unless,

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?

 

If you are a woman, do you consider yourself ‘feminine’ – how important is that to you? Why?

Ten questions on femininity.
1. How do you describe femininity?
2. What makes a woman feminine?
3. How important is it for a woman to ‘be’ feminine?
4. What must she do to be seen as feminine?
5. How much effort would you consider reasonable for a woman to put for being seen as feminine (or are all women born with femininity?)
6. In what ways does being feminine make women’s lives happier? Does it give them more choices?
7. Is being unpredictable and mysterious (difficult to understand/complex?) considered feminine? So is being rational, straight forward and honest unfeminine? What other traits would you describe as feminine?
8. What is the biggest reason women are given to want to be feminine?
9. If you are a woman, do you consider yourself ‘feminine’ – how important is that to you? Why?
10. Do you know of women who are not feminine, how do you think are their lives are affected by their lack of femininity?

Would you like to participate in a TV show about women dealing with some sort of dilemmas in their lives?

Would you like to try recording bits of your life with a video camera, atleast an hour a day, for four months, and then sharing what you record in a TV serial?

The show plans to share in a daily show, stories of ten women facing some sort of  dilemmas in their lives.

Each participant would be given a camera, workshops would be organized so that the participants understand how to operate these cameras. Cameras given will be small in size, to fit into the participants’ pockets/handbag, so that they can be carried with them, wherever they go.

Each episode of the daily serial will show fifteen minutes of each participant’s recording, where she shares where she has reached in dealing with whatever she is sharing. The idea is to inspire the viewers with real life situations and the positivity with which the participants deal with their dilemmas.

What do you think? I thought this was like updating a personal blog with a video camera.

Anonymity is obviously not possible.

Please leave a comment or email me if you’d like to participate 🙂

Edited to add: Remunerations would be decided based on the negotiations between both the parties.

Edited to add, again: My only involvement is that I was approached and I asked if I could blog about it so that those interested would know.

Perversion lies in the mind of the pervert.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, so is perversion. Is a woman forever stuck between her desires and the moral healthiness or progress of a society?
Perversion is encouraged in our society by blaming the victim. Everybody is responsible for their own actions, perversion lies in the mind of the pervert.
A woman’s desires are as important for the moral healthiness of the society, as any other citizens. No progress is possible until the entire population is included in progress.
So a woman is stuck between the double standards that the society has and its half hearted attempts to ‘give her freedom within limits’, as in “You can have a career, but you must come back home and cook, while the rest of the population can have a career and come back home and watch TV.
Women in Saudi Arabia, who are not allowed to show even a strand of hair, face sexual harassment on streets. Street sexual harassment (eve teasing) is a result of families and communities not valuing and respecting their female members.
Young boys need to hear sexual harassment condemned unequivocally in their homes, it’s dangerous to teach them that a woman might in some way ‘invite’ such crimes on herself.
And read the posts below to know more about what we think of the society’s dependence on women for the protection of it’s morality.
Empathy in moderation – A Dark Comedy called Life.
[Thank you ladies for picking the tag 🙂 ]

Feminism has gone to women’s head. Divorce has become like selling onions.

Warning: Long post.

This is a Divorce Lawyer sharing his views (his views in blockquotes) on TBG’s blog.

Let me put it this way. We all know Feminism is a big word today. I do realize that in Indian society men have forever dominated women, and it is obvious that at one point of time the women would have struck back too, and they did.

IHM: It is not men v/s women. It was (and still is) a biased system that enabled some people to control and exploit some other people.

Men are victimised too. The victimization is direct when their mothers are widowed, abused, thrown out of their marital homes and then when they work, are paid less for the same work. But men are also controlled by being made to fit into stereotypes and with expectations that control their lives. In India most sons do not have the freedom to choose their life partners even today. They are generally expected to accept a care giver for their parents as their spouse.

But when they did strike back, and when they did ask for their rights, most of the over did it.

IHM: Feminism is not women ‘striking back’ at men, it is a slow social change towards a less biased society. It benefits everybody.

You know what I mean? In asking for their rights, they did not take care that they should have maintained a certain balance in their family life too. For wants to Feminism, they started to torture the husbands. I do realize and respect that women have some basic needs of space too, but after all these years of being oppressed when they started to take their life back, they overdid most things.

IHM: This is too vague. How did women ‘torture’ their husbands? By choosing to have careers? By wishing to live in their own homes (in nuclear families)? By continuing to have close relationships with their birth families, just like the rest of the population did?

How did they not balance their family? Did they have more children than the couple could care for? Did they stop the husbands from bonding with the children?

Did they refuse to accept other family member’s ‘basic need for space’? How?

What and how and when did women ‘overdo it’?

Men will always be men. They are all stupid. They can never adapt to anything. Have you ever noticed how different a man treats his girl when he’s alone and when he’s with friends? I don’t need to elaborate on that, do I?

IHM: Are men stupid?! I disagree. Some men who treat their partners ‘different’ when they are with friends (or with their parents) need counseling. Some others are victims of social conditioning that makes them feel it’s ‘unmanly’ for a man to show he cares for his partner.

And the women started to jump up and down in asking for their rights. Of course they over did it. My father was a great lawyer. A great family person. All his life he counselled couples and did his best to make them patch up.

IHM: What kind of rights did women ‘start jumping up and down for’? The right to economic self reliance? Equal pay for equal work? The right to vote? The right to refuse to marry a man they did not like? The right not to marry at all? The right to walk out of an unhappy relationship? The right to live without constant criticism and mental abuse (or cruelty)? The right to expect to be taken seriously and not treated like they understood less and knew less than those who never needed to ‘jump up and down‘ asking for their rights?

You cannot charge anything to make the warring couple patch up, can you now?

IHM: I am not sure if a divorce lawyer who thinks all men are stupid is qualified to counsel a ‘warring couple‘. The idea  of lawyers saving marriages probably comes from those cases where lawyers have used dishonest means/arguments to make divorce possible, where there were no grounds for divorce and where one of the partners was fighting against it. Also from cases where maintenance or child custody etc are got or prevented unethically.

But you can ask for anything if you are getting a divorce done.

Period.

IHM: “Ask for anything‘! Lawyers who think like this can create bitterness and trauma for a couple who probably would have separated/patched up amicably.

Feminism worked wonderfully for us lawyers. Today, being a divorce lawyer means more money than being a hot-shot criminal lawyer…

Feminism is here to stay. I’ve seen some couples who want to separate because the wife says he doesn’t help me with housework. Today’s woman wants to break free from their husbands at the slightest whim.

IHM: Is not helping with housework ‘a slightest whim’?

This was one of the commonest causes for cruelty women have faced for centuries. Plates of food being thrown away by a displeased husband was (still is) common. Little girls in India are deprived of education and childhood, even today – to avoid such fate. They learn to make perfectly round chappaties while their brothers play cricket. Housework is a big thing in India. The exact amount of salt and turmeric can ruin a marriage even today. A partner who refuses to do their share is being unfair – and it’s not just about hot, hot chappaties.

What will a poor man do? He does his best mostly to manage his household affairs and keep the wife happy too, but there’s a limit isn’t there?

IHM: In some cases maybe the problem lies somewhere else?

Years ago a wife who could not conceive a few years after being married was called names. Today if a couple cannot have a baby, the wife accuses the mother in law first, then the husband.

Someone explain to these fools how is a mother in law responsible for the wife not getting pregnant. These days divorce has become like selling onions. Everyone wants to get one at the slightest hint of a disagreement.

IHM: Even today, a woman who does not have children might face stigma. It’s okay if she feels the husband is equally responsible. What are the accusations against the mother in law? Has she caused conflicts in the couple’s relationship? Are such accusations common?

The more common kind of blaming: Mothers in law (wife’s mother) being held responsible for the births of unwanted, female grand children.

Anybody who believes that divorces are asked for ‘at the slightest hint of disagreement’ needs to look a little deeper. There’s generally more than what one sees on the surface.

They should realize that they get just one life, one chance. You ruin it, it’s gone for ever. Time stands still for no one. Minor glitches happen everywhere, with everyone. Couples these days should have patience, and they should realize that marriage should be for keeps. Most of them don’t.

IHM: I agree with not rushing into any major decisions. The idea is not to save an institution (of marriage) but to make responsible choices. One should also be prepared to move on if divorce is seen as the wiser option.

In my father’s time, divorce was taboo.

IHM: This is why it was a taboo – Why exactly are marriages in India disintegrating?

And this is what it often lead to, ‘Sixty, and nowhere to go‘.

Today, it’s the in thing, as you kids say it. It’s fashionable to have been married and have been divorced. Suckers don’t realize that they are wasting time fighting amongst themselves all the time they could have enjoyed life.

IHM: Being seen as ‘successful’ at everything is the eternal ‘Fashion’ in India. I agree with divorce or marriage should not be rushed into.

But divorce is still seen as a dirty word. It should be seen simply as a  means to legally walk out of a marriage that wasn’t working. No taboos. Nothing to be proud or ashamed of.

And today, the women are more guilty than men. Feminism has gone to their heads. A tool is a good tool as long as you use it right. Once a tool starts to use you, then who’s the tool really?

IHM: Nobody is more or less guilty, because divorce is not a crime. Now women have the choice to make fresh beginnings instead of living in unhappy marriages. How does the society benefit from unhappily married couples living together? The children in such marriages grow up confused depending on what the problems were – the sons and daughters might see it as ‘normal’ for couples to live in such circumstances. Most abusers (controlling, violence, verbal abuse etc) have been abused as kids.

A girl today knows from the time she’s a young adult that marriage is not a one way street. She also knows that most in-laws are complete idiots.

IHM: All adults should know that marriage is not a one way street. And it’s really sad if (IF) a girl has to begin her marriage believing her in laws are  what you say they are.  She would have to worry a little less if she knows this is not a case of a girl  ‘goes in a doli, comes out on a arthi‘ or if she lives in her own house, has a job and if her in laws/spouse are aware that she does have the option of walking out if she is unhappy (Men have had this option all along).

Abuse becomes easier when the abuser knows the victim is helpless. When divorce ceases to be a dirty word, it will become easier for a girl to free herself from an unbearable situation.

…but most importantly it will help prevent that unbearable situation. When the partner and the in laws know she has that option they are less likely be abusive.

You say the word mother-in-law, and the first thought that pops into a girl’s head is bitch! And that’s the truth. Ask any young adult, let’s say 18 plus, whose marriage has been the topic of discussion at any point of time in her house, she will accept this. The mindset of the youth is like that now. Which is the saddest part of all. Works wonderfully for us lawyers though.

IHM: If a son’s marriages and life partners are respected just like a daughter’s marriage and spouse are respected, such divorces will not happen. Unfortunately many divorces are a result of expectations of a boy’s man’s parents not just from their son but also from his spouse. Daughter’s are spared such unfair pressure. Daughters are encouraged expected  to make their marriages work (or to die trying).

Today even if the in-laws try their best to do something nice for their daughter in law, chances are the daughter in law will think something is fishy.

IHM: I am sure this can be solved with communication. If it’s done for her good – and she doesn’t see it as good, then it would only be fair to find out why. Her doubts/ any issues should not brushed aside as her not being a grateful DIL.

No girl wants to give their in-laws a chance these days.

IHM: Not sure what this means. How was this conclusion reached upon?

Reminds me of Ideal daughters in law training school in Bhopal.  The school is either demeaning to women or unfair to men who are never given a chance to be good sons in law and husbands.

The school seems to think that the responsibility of making a marriage work  lies solely with one partner. It also makes marriage seem like a tough, unavoidable test for women. Is that what marriage should mean to one of the partners?

What about the other partner?

Men are expected to stay away from problems related to (their own) marriages – their mothers solve such things for them. Maybe the ideal wives’ school, like this Divorce Lawyer, thinks all men are stupid.

No wife wants to do anything on her own these days. All wives need their husbands to be on their beck and call 24/7. And after a while, the husbands back off and try to make their own way.

IHM: Men have always had the option of divorce or remarriage.

Reasons for divorce were many. If the couple did not have any children or had only daughters, or if the wife wasn’t attractive or respectful enough, if she was sick, or if there was another offer with a better dowry – the man could remarry. This did not worry divorce lawyers – no legal divorces were necessary here, the wife could be just ‘left’. The ‘chori hui‘ or ‘left‘ wife bore the stigma.

Even today women do not like divorce because of the social stigma. They also fear living alone after divorce. If there are children involved they find it even more difficult to walk out of an unhappy marriage.  Being economically independent does not change attitudes.  Children suffer in abusive, unhappy marriages, but women often stay back in bitter marriages for their children.
Take a look at this woman who regrets it now at 60. Too late.

I feel anything we do in life should only help us live better lives, if a divorce can save unhappiness, then it should be seen as a positive step. An increase in divorce rate is not an indication of an unhappy population – it indicates that now finally women can see something other than ‘Getting and Staying Married as a goal in their lives.
So yes, Feminism is involved here. And it’s good for the society if all it’s members have the opportunity to live reasonably happy, peaceful lives, so feminism is good for the society.

What has changed is not that we have more divorces, but that now even women initiate divorces. Does it have something to do with feminism? Maybe.

I also fear we have a tendency to assume that a woman doesn’t know what is good for her – and she needs to be counseled by every neighbourhood sabziwali and raddi walla and a divorce lawyer about how much better it is for her to tolerate a little abuse at home than to be ‘out on the streets’ and be exposed to abuse from strangers. Generally abuse is not even acknowledged or recognised as abuse.

It is difficult for many to understand (or accept) that a woman who wants a divorce must have given it a lot of thought and that even though she has concluded that this is the most sensible thing to do, the step generally still frightens her. If he divorce lawyer preaches her to go back and ‘save her marriage’ there is a chance that she might take his advice and live an unhappy life… (she is likely to have heard the same advice from many other well wishers).

My Sins Against Gender Stereotypes.


If you are a woman,

Have you ever wanted something that is considered ‘manly’ ? Like a basketball, a cell phone, a dog, a camera or a new laptop? A new car or motor bike? Ever wanted to be a pilot? A doctor or not a nurse? And the manliest want of them all – The remote! 😉

As a kid did you enjoy playing with a bat and a ball?

There was a time when books were considered ‘manly’, women authors had to pretend to be men – would you say books are still rather manly – women should want to embroider and crochet?

If you are a man,

Have you ever wanted something that only women are supposed to want – like bags, shoes, clothes, creams, perfumes, babies, flowers? A peaceful home and a happy family? Have you ever been afraid of the dark or of insects?

As a kid did you ever want to play ‘teacher-teacher’, cooking or did you like playing with a doll? Have you ever enjoyed cooking? Bought something in pink? Loved chocolates?

Are magazines and books, TV News and blogs for men or for women?

Religion and God? Pets? Politics? Air planes and cars? Technology? – Who should want them, men or women?

So here’s a tag – Please list at least ten things you have ever wanted or done which your gender is not supposed to.

The tag is called ‘My Sins against Gender-Stereotypes’. And you must tag twelve blogging friends 😈 or else you will be cursed to wear blue clothes pants if you are a woman and pink shirts if you are a man – for next twelve years 😈

Since I asked, here’s my list of ‘manly’ things I have done or wanted 🙂

1. Played football in school and now watch the world cup.

2. Have always exercised, loved strength training.

3. Invested in the stock market.

4. I find jewelery cumbersome in everyday life.

5. Dislike shopping (for past many years)

6. Love dogs. And cats and all animals. Even snakes.

7. Love technology – camera, cell phones and laptops (‘men’s toys’).

8. Love books, driving (including an SUV) and new gadgets.

9. I don’t like chocolates.

10. I like red and turquoise (a blue 😯 ) more than pink 😯

And yet, I love clothes, lipsticks, healthy food, dancing, kittens and puppies, birds, perfumes, flowers, window shopping for kitchen and home, decor, soft rock and I cry easily.

I tag Monika, Ritu, Sandhya, Sindhu, Deethi, Shail, Desi Girl, Deeps, Starry, HDWK, TBG, Philip, Nandini, Winnie the Poohi, Indian Pandit, UmmOn, Neo, Vishesh, Gopinath,  Sunder, Nimmy, Hitchwriter, Shilpa, Scorpria, Sraboney, Blabberblah, Vimmuuu, Kanagu, Prerna, Imp’s Mom and Uma. (Can’t tag anybody else, because  then  there would be nobody left for others to tag and they will end up wearing the ‘wrong’ colours ! ) 😯 🙂

UPDATE:

All Sinners are welcome to join Sinners Against Gender Stereotypes (SAGS) on Face Book.

Small Print: You know what happens to those who don’t? Pink footwear for men and Blue beer mugs for women for twelve years 😈

Best thing that ever happened to women.

With young kids one had no time even to enjoy a cup of tea while still hot, or to read – one rarely got a good nights sleep.

Later when they were a little older, I remember finishing a cup of tea without having to get up even once. A little later I could read a little or talk to friends without too many emergency interruptions.

Life started getting easier as they grew older. And I thanked god (for the millionth time) I had only two kids and I wasn’t born in my grand mother’s time.

My grand mom had thirteen deliveries and eleven children. Her first child, my dad,  was 23 when the 13th one was born. Eleven survived.  And that is how one counted those days, how many were born, how many survived! 😦  I don’t remember my grand mother complaining but could she see this happening any other way?

Everything changed once women could control how many children they wanted to have and when. Or have none.

I believe Contraception is the best thing to happen to women.

1. Contraception gave women freedom to choose.

2. It gave women time for themselves.To read, study, work, travel. To live.

3. It gave women control over their bodies, and improved their lives, and life expectancy. They felt younger and healthier.

4. It let mothers give a lot more to each child.

5. It also gave women some time to question what they knew all along was wrong.

Moral Police everywhere hates contraception because they fear it might give women the choices only men had till now. Most religion and a lot of societies worry about it too.

They are short sighted because they can’t see that happy members make a happy society.

What do you think is the best thing to happen to women? 😆