Wednesday, December 3, 2008

feminists, anyone?

Whatta tag season this one is.. I'm almost at the verge of taking a break from blogging and doing some serious tagging these days. Not that I'm complaining. I like doing tags. :)
They remind me of those writing exercises back in school..
The difference now is that I can speak my mind, talk stupid or whatever and still get away with it, as against those days with strong emphasis on structured writing and stuff.

Seema tagged me this time on 'Feminism'.
Controversial topic, eh? sheesh.. Seema, how could you do this to me?
For all that you know, you could be driving away all my potential knights in shining armor.. you know.. with pot-bellies and bald-heads n probably a divorce to flaunt too. :P (no offence intended)
No, really.. it's something I have noticed. Any guy who's remotely interested visits my blog, and I can see from the tracker trails that they almost always unfailingly hit on the label 'women'. They fear I'm a feminist!! :D Almost making it sound like a monster. And then they start acting all cranky in an effort to sound empathetic. They tell me how they resent women who love pink, like red roses, swoon over chocolates etc etc... Now how do I tell them that I can die for pink, kill for chocolates and will love to death the guy who gives me a red rose. (tragic truth: No guy ever gave me a red rose. Well one almost did, way back at college, but I drove him away with one of my 'dont-you-dare-honey' looks... *sniff sniff*. Btw, for some strange reason, girl-friends always shower me with bunches of red roses. And when I share my sad ominous red-rose story with them, they specifically warn me against telling any guy that girls gift me red-roses, you know, for obvious reasons! :| )

My point: Being Feminine doesn't make anyone anti-feminist or vice-versa. Sadly, Feminism is almost always seen as an antonym of Femininity.

I've come across this question : "Are you a feminist?" quite many times.
and my all-time fave reply is a deep sounding: "it depends on your definition of feminism"
(psst psst.. that's my staple answer for any question flirting on the lines of a probably controversial discussion. How convenient! :P)

Feminism being an oft mis-represented/ mis-interpreted word, the 1st thing I did was to hit for the meaning of Feminism.
Going by which, it is :
1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
3. feminine character.

And as long as we stick to that definition, I'd say, 'Yes, I am a feminist'

Though my perception of it is that it's all about providing equal opportunity irrespective of a gender bias. Now how a person chooses to use this opportunity should be totally left to the individual, but the 'opportunity' should be available without a bias.

Yes, just like the caste system prevalent in our country, which specifies caste specific tasks which were being followed through generations, there were also gender specific tasks which were religiously exercised all through ages. They say it's a part of our tradition / culture. But as any society improves with civilization, the caste based tasks kind of fade away and so does many of the gender based classification of Do's and Donts. But the prejudices attached with it still linger on. New age feminism, I believe is more about breaking the shackles of these prejudices.

Personally, I've been in situations where I was at a disadvantage, just for the reason that I'm born a woman. I have reacted differently every time.
Sometimes I fought back : Does that make me a feminist?
Sometimes I decided to just ignore it : Does that make me an anti-feminist?

# I've been to a school which was a co-ed till 4th grade. We all collectively hated the guys, and waited for the day when we can get rid of them from our school. I remember fighting them with wooden rulers which we were using like swords. We used to hurt and get hurt. I dont remember any of the girls whining when they got hurt.
It was fair play. I did not know what Feminism was, then.

# I went to a co-ed college for my pre-degree, and realised that things have changed quite a lot. I learned I'm not supposed to jump over a half wall, but should take the stairs like a lady, while the guys could always take the shortcuts conveniently. 'Not fair', I thought.
But then, realised that girls are much smarter and they have their own workarounds to turn those disadvantages to their advantage. A few ladylike moves, graceful smiles, thoughtful words and fluttering eyelids can get the guys to do almost anything for you. There you go! So that's the way women have their shortcuts. Impressive. But I chose to differ.
Was I a feminist then? No, I did not know its meaning then. Mebbe I was just too proud. or mebbe I did not like being manipulative. It just wasn't fair play.

# Engineering college: That was more or less a man's forte for a very long time. C'mon, how many of our Moms are engineers by educational qualification? In all these years, I just know one friend whose Mom's an engineer. And apparently, she was the only woman in the whole college then. Needless to say, one naturally feels like a second grade citizen in there, at times. I'm sure most of the girls would have. Some of us were aware of it, some never gave it a thought, and some chose to ignore it. "Oh Girls? They just mug up their lessons and get good grades. They sure are eye-candies in the college, though".
I never reacted to it. Did that make me a loser then?

# The professional world: It's been 7+ years, in an industry which is comparatively fairer to women than many others. My 1st job: The ratio of women:men in the team was 1:7. At my 2nd job, it was 1:5. By the time I took up my 3rd job, the ratio was 1:10. When I was hired, I was literally the only woman in an otherwise all-men team. So where did all the women disappear? As much as I remember, when I went to college, we had a 1:2 strength.

In the past 7 years, I've been asked more than once in job interviews, about "When am I planning to get married?" How many men would have faced that question for a job interview?

I have been told by one of my reporting managers, very frankly that generally managers are finicky about hiring women. 'If they are single, there's this constant threat of them taking a flight as soon as their parents find an NRI groom for them. If they are married, we are worried when they are going to avail a maternity leave. If they have kids, there's this constant fear of them taking a break to take care of their kids. Women just don't make dependable team members, you see'. How fair is that?

Which brings me to the most talked about reservation topic. I never wrote about it in this blog. Yes, I do support reservation.
Ok, so mebbe, personally speaking I am too proud to ask for a reservation. I know I'm privileged enough (comparatively speaking) to have got equal opportunities in many arenas to depend on it. But then, I should also acknowledge the fact that there are many many more women out there (rather 'in' there) who've been victimised by biased prejudices. Don't they deserve a chance to live their life like anyone of us? No one is talking about pushing the housewives to work. But isn't it just fair to provide them an opportunity, just in case they'd be interested in taking it up?

We try to play it down telling how the women would be turned to mere puppets. But hey, why don't we give them a fair chance and see how things turn out? The way people use their opportunities, is totally dependent on an individual, irrespective of their gender. We cant say all men in power use their opportunities better always, right? Then how can we assume that all women who are given an opportunity to be in power will misuse it?

Of course 'Reservation' is not at all a welcome word. That's why they are implemented forcefully against the wishes of a majority, which would rather not give that equal opportunity to the lesser privileged, and want to monopolise it for their own advantage. Period.

#Marriage: Well I haven't yet reached there to make a statement on it, but then from what I've seen and heard all this while, I guess I have my 2 cents of wisdom to share.
In a not-so-distant-past, men used to be called chauvinists if they demanded their wives to be housewives. Now, they say things have changed. Men look for working brides. Preferably working in MNCs. Tier I companies most welcome. And guess what, they are broadminded enough not to mind if the bride earns more than them. Very convenient. And why not? They have taken housing loans to build homes in their hometowns for their parents, and of course they are expected to send money home too. So, obviously, they can do with the wife's paycheck to maintain a lifestyle + buy a swanky apartment in the City. All in the name of being tolerant and modern. Very very convenient. Plus, she'll cook for you, manage your household, take care of you and rear your kids. Nice, ain't it? And lemme not get started about the Dowry system now!
Guess who's being manipulated here time n again?

#Streetsmart: I'm on my own most of the time. I don't quite like taking side-kicks along, or being a side-kick while I'm out there. It comes with its own share of issues, though.

I've been thrown stones at, by boys one-third my age, in the heart of Bangalore city. I wonder where they pick up such ideas from? I dunno if their folks at home treat their women like street dogs. They were a majority in terms of number, so I could not have reacted as I would've liked to.

I ride a scooter. In the small by lanes, I come across pedestrians who like walking on the middle of the road, just for kicks. I give them the alert horn. They turn back. 'Oh its a woman?! well, she can wait'. They get on with their elephant gaits. (You think I'm exaggerating? If you are a woman, try walking half a kilometer along a pedestrian path of any Indian metro city, and count the number of times you have to step aside for a man to pass by. The funny part is: half the time, we dont even realise that we're stepping aside. It comes naturally!) They used to bug me initially. Now I grin when I see them. One of my fave passtimes is to go give them a nudge with my scooter's handlebar. I love the look of disbelief on their faces, when they turn back startled. 'How could she?' written large on their faces. It's fun. The left side rear-view mirror of my bike's almost always on a state of swinging around just because of this habit of mine. Yes, I am evil.

4 years back, I took up this job in Chandigarh. Missed the office cab on the second day, so walked upto the nearest rickshaw stand, and the driver demands quite an unreasonable fare. I don't quite oblige, and the next thing I know is about 10 rickshaw drivers rounding up the one I'm in. One of them says: 'madam, hum paise hi toh maang rahe hain, koi zabardasti thode hi kar rahe hain'. I knew better not to talk any further.

Though I would love to, I think twice (well definitely more) about going on a roadtrip all alone to a new place. I have to. If something untoward happens, there'll be hundreds of them who wouldn't think twice before before calling me adventurous enough to deserve it. I don't think I could ever make a trip like that without worrying about the fact that my parents would be spending sleepless nights worrying/praying for my safety.

I wish things were better.

I know this is some topic I can go on and on about, just like any other woman worth her salt. I just choose to stop it at this, with whatever rushed to my mind in the past few minutes, in the light of some personal experiences.

I know I'm at an advantage to be born in this age and time, as compared to my Mother or my Grandmothers. And I wish, hope and believe that the daughters of tomorrow could inherit a world which is more fairer to them.

Now, for the tagging part, I realise most of my blogger buddies around have already done the tag, so this time around, I'm passing this on to my newfound colleague-friend-blogger, S.


  1. Hey Buddy,

    Thanks for tagging me on this one. It's an issue so close to my heart that I sometimes feel that despite me not being a feminist, the whole concept added a lot to the individual I am.

    Do you know that it's illegal to ask a woman in a job interview 'when are you planning to get married?' I learnt that after I was asked and answered it for our current employer:-) I was even asked if I had a boyfriend/lovelife. Next time, someone asks me that question, I am not going to care about losing that job. It sounds like I am being judged on areas that are personal issues for me and in no way gurantee business success for the employer.

    I am sorry for what happened to you in Chandigarh. I come from north and I have been asked to keep quiet and accept aggressive eve-teasing as a part of my life. and I know exactly how messed up even one single eve-teasing incident can leave any self-respecting, sensitive woman. More about this issue in my blog:-)

    Your observations about this issue are damn accurate. Most of us do believe we have equal rights. Most of us are perfectly happy doing stuff a traditional male chauvinistic society would demand from a woman. So, I don't where the balance lies.

  2. i am at loss of words -
    "Though I would ... praying for my safety" - sad reality, which i wish, would change.

    I dont believe in gender bias - in my opinion, it is not gender but individuals what matters.

    But when I see the world around, I realize there is definitely a difference between genders in the mind of society.

    Hope a day will come when you can live in world like the way you want, irrespective of you are a guy or a girl...

    (ps: about the nudging part - that is good - keep doing it. and, change your horn to a more powerful one - it helps. )

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  4. *phew* that was long !! but each word was so well written !! *claps* :)

    interesting view was :

    I have been told by one of my reporting managers, very frankly that generally managers are finicky about hiring women. 'If they are single, there's this constant threat of them taking a flight as soon as their parents find an NRI groom for them. If they are married, we are worried when they are going to avail a maternity leave. If they have kids, there's this constant fear of them taking a break to take care of their kids. Women just don't make dependable team members, you see'. How fair is that?

    wonder what my manager thinks !!!!

  5. Hey,Thanks for taking up the tag.. And so well said too.
    Points on Marriage: Can't agree more!! So true, how convenient, never thought about this before.
    Scooter ride: LOL, Next time I come to India, Mohali trip definitely just to see that nudge you give
    and oh.. No red rose for you for obvious reasons of course :P

  6. @shweta: Thanks for stopping by to comment, girl!

    yes, I now know it's illegal to ask personal questions like that during interviews for employment. I learnt that just a few years back. And yeah, the next time an HR rep flashes that question at me, I know this is exactly what I'm gonna ask her (ironically, it's been a HER who's asked me this question all the time!) that "Ma'm, do you know it's illegal to ask me that question?"

    You're so right when you talk about the repurcussions of eve-teasing. The kind of damage it does to the girls' psyche. But Shweta, I feel, irrespective of North / South, whichever girl I've ever had a conversation with, on this issue, always always said that their hometown / the place they grew up in as a kid was the worst. I've wondered why they say that, it's because, as li'l girls, it hurt us much more badly then, we were experiencing things which traumatised us then, and made us feel much more helpless and victimised because of the fact that we were li'l kids.. and it always remained etched in our minds as THE WORST.

    And yeah, you said it, about the happiness quotient which is expected of a woman. I'm looking forward to knowing your take on it! Cheers!

    @xh: exactly, it's the individual that matters. We can never quite make a generalised statement that any man/woman would say/do things in a certain way. Somehow the flash that comes to my mind now is that of Indira Gandhi, and the stance she took for India in some world forums. I've never seen an Indian PM root for our country so aggressively. Again, it's not because she is a woman, but because of the kind of 'person' she was.

    I hope things would change for the better too! :)

    And yeah, I'll have to think about that louder horn, but somehow have always been not so much in favor of much honking on the road.

    @Richa: Thanks for stopping by.

    @Pretty: Welcome! :)
    Well, you shouldn't be surprised if your manager thinks so. Funny though, I've heard quite a few women managers echo the very same thoughts! :P

    @Seema: Thankyous! :) Thanks for sharing that tag with me! It was nice doing it.

    Oh shucks, dont tell me I corrupted another soul with my twisted view of the current marriage market scenario. Well, what made me think about it is the helplessness I see in some of my married women friends with kids. Some of them would love to be at home and take care of their kids, but then cannot as their husbands themselves force them to go to work, or else, their lifestyles will be hit badly, what with double housing loans and stuff. It's sad.

    Oh, and btw, its been more than 3 years since I left Mohali. I never had to resort to these tactics there! This is 'namma bengaluru' I am talking about! :D

    No red roses? wha? now even the girls wont give me red roses?! *sob sob*

  7. Usha,
    Passing comment.
    How many men would have faced that question for a job interview?
    C'mon, this question has nothing to do with gender.
    I was asked this during my B School entry interview and am asked this for most interviews.May be it has to do with relocation and stuff.


  8. Oh boy oh boy - I mean oh girl oh girl I loved reading this. This was like listening to myself talk. But I havent quite got the stone-throwing business... thats new to me.
    I think I should erase my entry and post a link to this one! Well done girl!

  9. well done well done
    bravo bravo

    this post is gonna be one of my refernce read now... for a lot of things... hehehe

  10. hi usha -- interesting reading ....your views on feminism...will keep revisiting

  11. @Nikhil: :O Really? in B-schools? now we know from where the HR folks pick up these habits :)

    btw, when I faced the question, it had nothing remotely to do with relocation. It was brutally personal. The series went more like: 'When are you planning to get married? Why, you know you are actually a li'l past the ideal age to get married in India? You don't have any pressure from your parents to get married?'
    A pity, at that age and time, I had not quite mastered the art of sounding brutally impudent. :| Wish I had asked her whether she runs a matrimonial service agency as a side-business or something!

    @Cris: gee :D I'm flattered. I thoroughly loved reading yours too!

    @Div: :) you guys make my day! :)

    @Comrade: Welcome! :) n Thanks for stopping by to comment!

  12. Hi,

    As the others mentioned, this post is a huge one. Good, you have a very good skill of connecting your thoughts; ensuring readers glue their eyes to your text.

    Any way getting to my learning on the same lines of your post, I believe that we should “Shift + Delete” the whole concept of “Men” & “Women”. With all my respect to your post, we need to start realizing that we are “Humans” and have been created by the Almighty with a purpose in mind. Not waste time on topics like “Men & Women”. Yes, we are different in appearance (Biologically), but it’s our Hearts and Minds which control our decisions and actions, which have no difference, when it comes to engineering of the same. We have been created to look different for one big reason, i.e. Continuity of the Human race on Our Planet.

    We need to respect one another and understand that our world is a better place to live in with Love and Harmony. Love and Harmony could only exist with Respect. Respect is something which is controlled by your Heart and Mind. You have FULL CONTROL on your Mind.

    But all said and done, as the saying goes; “God could not be everywhere. Hence, God created Mothers”. I believe, Every MAN on Earth surrenders to his Woman. That woman could be his Mother, Wife (or Girlfriend), Sister, Friend or Daughter. There are many who admit the fact with a smile, but we have some men among us, who Fail to do so but secretly Do.

    Dear Men,

    Let us accept that without Ladies(in any form of Creation), Our World would have been just a Planet.

  13. Enjoyed reading this.

    The last time someone asked me if I was a feminist, I said I was a "semi feminist" and the person laughed out loud saying that was the funniest thing he'd heard in a while. It is true that feminism is interpreted in multiple ways, depending on whom you talk to.

  14. @Ferox: hmm.. deep!

    @Bindhu: Thanks, Bindhu! and Welcome! :)

    @Rukmani: lol! that was a gud 'un! :D
    Thanks for stopping by to comment!