Thursday, May 17, 2012

On Objectification - by K

First, meet K. She writes over at Bitch Slap Barbie. I've known her since 2006, when we met at Madras University. [fondly referred to by the alum as Mad Uni.] We then worked together for two years at TOI. We are also great friends and pact-holders. Sometimes, I think I might marry her, because she's so amazing! :) She's someone I trust completely and someone who I run to in times of needing objectivity. An amazing writer and a super brain and an even better journo. Yeah, I know, I'm gushing. But she deserves every vowel and consonant in this introduction.

On that happy note, I would like you to read further, on her response to the comments section of this post.


When I was young(er) and in school and generally being more angsty than I am now, some friends had a name for me. She-woman/ man-hater. I really have no idea where they got this from and this was in school mind you, when I was not displaying, overtly, my tendency to also appreciate the f. of the s. And I have for long lived with this label of ‘feminist-type’ woman.

But then there is a fundamental problem. What kind of feminist would I be? The kind who embraces her femininity and says different does not mean unequal or the kind who goes on about how I can do anything a man can? Would I be the, I will not shave or wax or do my eyebrows/ grow a beard type or would I wear lip-gloss to go with my kolhapuris and wooden bangles? Would I shun little black dresses and high heels on a particularly lovely Friday evening and not go dancing with my girlfriends or would I sit alone in a coffee shop, drinking black tea, reading Jamaica Kincaid?

Honestly, I have done it all. I have shaved. Some days I have not. I get my eyebrows done and some days I let them turn into caterpillars. I wax when I feel like it. And I also never miss out on a chance to wear a Bengal cotton. I have an appreciation for beauty, particularly of the feminine kind. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with men, and continue to do so with one such person of the charming kind from the opposite sex (despite evidence pointing to other direction, at this point in life I must say I am straight and monogamous). I am not the best driver around, but I am happy to drive men around and buy them dinner. I open doors for other women and think chivalry deserves to stay alive – as a sort of a beautiful song and dance that people do around each other, a hangover of the past that reminds us that a bit of formality, a little bit of distance is a mark of respect, a sort of ‘I promise to not take you for granted’ statement.

So what am I? To spew a cliché, I am a product of my generation – socialized into believing that I have the right to be anything I deem right, at any given point and that I control my life. (Zigmunt Bauman writes famously in his Individually, Together about establishing a de jure automony in his foreword to Ulrich Beck’s book, Individualiazation, on how sociology as an institutionalized rejection of individualism is no longer possible and that individualization itself is institutionalized in the modern era. I would advice anyone with an interest in modernism to read it).

So coming to the question at hand, why do I not mind ‘accessorizing’ if objectification (of the sexual kind) hurts my intelligence? Well I could write an anthropological/ sociological explanation – talking about gender and roles and beauty and self. Or I could ask how does representation of a gender in its traditional sense a. qualify as non-feminist b. qualify as ‘up for objectification’?

If my grandmother wore a beautiful nose ring with seven stones that sparkled every time she turned her face towards the light, and I grew up watching her, considering her to be the very definition of what beauty in its most raw sense must seem like, and decided to go ahead and order myself a similar nose ring and wore it, does that make me up for a marriage at 13, or does that signal an organic continuity that has accommodated enough change to go with the times?

Here’s the bottom line. I am not here to defend my gender. I am hardly the mean, median and mode. But I am here to say, I am not ‘only’ my gender. Yes, it rankles that ‘we’ have been historically oppressed, shortchanged economically and handed a raw deal most times, are a sort of a walking time bomb, reminded constantly that the clock is ticking if our uteruses haven’t been suitably institutionalized, and thought of as failures until we manage to snag a man, but we have learned to brush it all off and say, ‘Oh, what are you gonna do? Life’s not fair. Let’s get on with our jobs, listen to Beyonce sing, Who run this mother or All the single ladies, read Jane Austen and watch Tina Fey, listen to Oprah and wonder why oh why did Jayalalitha let Sasikala back into Poes Garden?’

As you can see, one has a million things to worry about. Add keeping track of your menstrual cycle, pedi-mani / waxing appointments, work, meetings, girlfriends, men – in general, male friends, psychotic exes, heart aches, rejection, acceptance, love, lust, drama, drama, more drama, tears, rum, choosing what to wear when – appropriately, finding sleep, waking up on time, making it to work on time, mother, mother’s banter, what mother will think of this man, what mother will think of your clothes, what mother’s reaction will be to this late night rendezvous, etc, etc, etc. In the middle of all this, really, do you really think we must make time to wonder if we have fallen prey to our own clichés or must we embrace the charmingly, sometimes frustrating idiosyncrasies that come as a package deal when we are old enough realise who we are and what we must be like?

For the record, what I do consider an insult to my intelligence is someone, anyone (particularly if the said someone isn’t even from my gender) telling me I must read some text book somewhere written by some somewhat frustrated (aren’t we all?) lady giving us her version of what I, by virtue of being an independent individual must renounce – erm is that not tautological and self-defeating?

What I mean to say is, my MAC make-up, body shop’s body butter, Himalya’s lip gloss, wooden, glass and pearl bangles, hundreds of beads, chunky necklaces, picked up from gypsies after a lot of bargaining, diamond nose ring… They are all staying. And I am planning on using them for a very, very long time, while I continue to hold high standards and you better watch your step or you may fall into the MCP category even as I expect you to offer to pick up the check and open doors and drop me home, not because you are a man but because I do that too, regularly, even as I call myself a feminist, just as proud of being able to make rasam the way my mother makes as I have been with any academic and or professional achievements.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What I'm thinking of doing

I had written something earlier and seemed to have got a number of replies ranging from empathy to agreement to well, interesting. While in conversation on the thread of comments on the post I just mentioned, I promised the commentor that I would write on the objectification of women and on socialisation.

Now, my problem is this - when I have been confronted with opinions that I personally deem annoying, I go on a rant on this blog and call out the person in question and it gets ugly.

As you know, if you've been reading this blog long enough, when it comes to equality, I'm a hugely frustrated person. Ably illustrated here, here, here, here, and here. I've touched on everything from articles of clothing, to my father's response to some of the things I do to the male population at large.

I didn't want to address a subject with this much potential with my limited vocabulary and syntax. So, I sent out an email to some of the women I know.

Of course, a few got back saying they didn't get the point of my exercise. Some were interested but are busy. Some didn't even bother replying. The first two, I am okay with. The last? I want to kind of slug with a heavy handbag. Not that  I love them any less, just that for now, I want to slug them.

Then, there is K. My one true love! She got back not only hyper enthu about this idea of mine, but also wrote me a brilliant piece that I am going to publish tomorrow.

This post was written for a couple of reasons - 1) I wanted to tell you what this project was about. 2) I wanted to ask if any of the women reading this blog will be interested in writing about "objectification" and the "impact of socialisation on women's equality/issues".

Tomorrow, at roughly the same time, I intend to give K an epic introduction [she un-private-ified her blog just for me, so she deserves it.] and proceed with posting her awesome response to my post in April.

Gotta love an erudite girlfriend. :D

Until tomorrow then.


Friday, May 11, 2012

In the meantime

[That project I was telling you about, is slowly materializing. I need a week more before I can discuss it. In the meantime, do be kind about the random posts.]

I need answers to some questions –

Why do some men send out pity to women who don’t like sport? It’s so strange. I’m playing to one stereotype and you are refusing to let me have it because you think that liking sport is cool? Why? Because it’s a guy thing and all guy things are, by default, cool? That’s strange, no? you don’t think so? Could you then, potentially and possibly immediately, whack your head on a brick wall until your skull opens up and your brain leaks out? Could you? Because your assumptions are making you look like an idiot.

Once you have answered that, you can read on for more…

I’m becoming increasingly hostile to people. I get the feeling that I will alienate everyone and die alone. I mean, I honestly don’t know why. There was a point when I had everyone at a monitorable distance – also known as a Facebook friend list. These days that list is dwindling. I don’t want to keep people at a monitorable distance. I want them out of my line of vision. Here’s why –

They suck at being in touch. I’m sorry but after I say ‘hi” too many times and ask you questions about your well-being, if you cease to initiate conversation with me, you know as a sign of reciprocity, I refuse to keep you in my friends list. After seeing my conversation on someone else’s wall if it occurs to you to suddenly want to speak with me again, then please take your conversation to the people who want to talk to you, because I don’t.

Also, Facebook is not only about ‘friending’ someone and then not doing a blessed thing about the relationship. A comment here, a like there, is not going to physically damage your ‘self’. I don’t see why online exchange can’t be straightforward. Selective over communication with others while you’re on my news feed is not exactly working out for you. Anyway, we’ve established ourselves as narcissistic by being on virtually every communicative platform there is, damage to these fragile online egos will not be taken too kindly. The story is the same for you, so why this sudden “I’m offended” feeling?

I will not give people the opportunity to troll me slyly. I mean, I don’t get it. My life is a pretty open book. Even the people I don’t confide in know what’s going on via my blog, or my Facebook and Twitter feeds, so the whole ‘she’s being secretive’ shit doesn’t even count man. What is that? Who is being secretive? You are shitface! You with your nil uploads and nil content and nil interaction. In real time, do you think friends secret troll each other? I mean, how stupid are you if you think I don’t see through that tripe.

I’m done. I’m finding that nearing my 30s is removing all shreds of patience from my personality. I don’t care any longer. I really and honestly don’t.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Spelling mistakes and new ideas

> You know what? I feel like a loser. I've been ranting for so long about horrid English that there are some posts here that have not been previewed properly and have some silly typos in them. I'm going to correct them soon.

> My last post here has a few comments that could have led to a potentially epic rant on this space, but I have chosen to do something a little different. So far, the responses have been great. I guess you will have to wait for it.

> I've changed my template. Reading a black background was very disturbing to the eye. Hence the new template.

> Are you a Kamal Haasan fan? His office has started an official Facebook page here. Please go and like that page and send your friends there too.

> I got my pay cheque. I'm not broke any longer. Such a happy! 

Okay, I'm done.

Happy weekend everyone! Do something fun!