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Archive for the ‘issues’ Category

The unfortunate shelving of the movie ‘Heroine’ by Madhur Bhandarkar and the subsequent drama that has ensued has cemented my view that Bollywood is as misogynistic as I thought it was.

A pregnant woman is kicked out of a movie, the reason cited for that is the movie is heavily dependent on the lead actress, and she is required to be shown smoking, drinking etc, and the schedule is hectic. While it is true that pregnancy tires a woman out, it is not a disease or a condition. A pregnant woman gets as much work done as a non-pregnant one does. Also, the actress in question was not going to really smoke or drink anyway, shew as only going to act like she was, on-screen. And it is only the Indian directors that are doing this, Penelope Cruz was working on Prates of the Caribbean – 3 throughout her pregnancy, and no one kicked her out or blamed her for being pregnant. The worst part is that the said director of the movie actually blamed this actress and said he is shelving this movie for her own good and that this whole process has caused him a lot of anguish. Wah, talk about being dishonest.

Not only is it unfair to Aishwarya Rai that she is being discriminated on, she is also being blamed for the movie being canceled and the subsequent loss of jobs for hundreds of technicians, artists etc. When she signed on the movie she was given a schedule that stated that filming would be over by the end of July, which meant that she would be done with it by the time she was 5 months pregnant, and let’s face it, most women don’t even show the first 5-6  months. And while the first trimester brings with it glorious nausea and fatigue, surely there are ways to get to work in spite of that. We all have worked 8 hour days through out first trimesters, we weren’t kicked out of our jobs for being pregnant. And if Bhandarkar was so worried about Aishwarya’s health he would have made the movie but would have been extra careful about her, not just gone to the press saying she caused him anguish. Way to treat an expectant woman. If he was more worried that she would start putting on weight, and would not look the part, he should have come out and given that reason, rather than hide behind the “oh this is all for her good” wall like a coward.

While some might call her unprofessional, and I agree to an extent, it is not fair to expect a woman in her first trimester to go announcing to the whole world that she is having a baby, when most gynecologists and everyone else keeps warning her about an early miscarriage, throwing the high first trimester, first pregnancy miscarriage statistics in her face.

Finally, I feel like if the woman in question has no complaints about her working when pregnant, and when she is physically able to perform her duties, and look the part, in this case, there is no valid reason for kicking her out except that there is this huge reservation in the Indian psyche about the lack of desirability of a mother. While men can get married, have children, grow a paunch and still get roles as teenagers, women, God forbid so much as have a baby(while still looking smoking hot) are relegated to bit parts or bhabhi, ma roles. Way to kick her while she is down, Bollywood.

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Being a woman in India is hard. Being a woman who wears whatever she wants is harder. God forbid you are a woman who wears what she wants AND goes where she wants all by herself. You are surely a SLUT! Yes, that is what most modern women who speak their mind and wear what they want are called. And that is why I get the motivation behind slutwalk. But I have a problem with it.

If the idea of slutwalk is a march where women will ” dress in everyday wear (to symbolize ordinary women that are sexually assaulted during everyday activities”, then all I have to do is to walk down to the grocer or to the bus stop dressed in my regular clothes. Irrespective of whether I am wearing a salwar kameez, a sari, jeans, mini skirt or a burkha, I know there will be hoots and catcalls as I walk. I know there will be people winking suggestively, and trying to say things to me. So what I wear does not really protect me from being assaulted, and my talking about the assault is only going to make men term me a slut for having invited the assault.

But why should the woman call herself a slut? I am no prude but that word bothers me. Even if sarcastically, I don’t want to call myself a slut, because sarcasm is lost out on a lot of people, and they take it literally and my calling myself one will only encourage such people to behave worse with women. And that is the problem I have with Slutwalk. Nuances and sarcasm are not well understood by most men of the ogling and sexual harassment variety, and if they take the Slutwalk literally, it gives them more opportunity to do more of the same, i.e., continue to degrade women in public. Would that not defeat the purpose of the walk?

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Apathy to human suffering

This past weekend we started and finished watching the 6 part PBS movie series Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State and I have been trying to gather my thoughts about it. Firstly, it was extremely hard for me to understand how a group of people can, without emotion or humanity, kill millions of fellow human beings out of prejudice. Since lots has already been said about the suffering of Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, and everyone else who was different, in Nazi Germany, I don’t want to talk about that. What can you say about something as horrific as the holocaust?

What I want to talk about is something I discussed with my husband while we were watching the movie. One of the commentators at the end of the first part said that there is nothing to be learnt from the holocaust. There is nothing worth learning, because trying to get some meaning out of the incident would be equivalent to trying to rationalize what happened, and there is no way such monstrosity can be rationalized.

That seems so true. If human beings had anything at all to learn from the Holocaust, we would not have had the Rwandan Genocide, or Darfur, or Pol Pot committing atrocities in Cambodia, or 1 million would not have been killed during Indo-Pak partition. The Wikipedia article on Genocide lists the various stages of genocide and possible measures to prevent each stage. Most of the early stages are about classification of people into ‘us’ or ‘them’, manufacturing causes to hate ‘them’ enough to deny ‘them’ their basic rights, organizing military units to persecute ‘them’. In most cases of genocide, ‘them’ are always different from ‘us’ either in religion or culture or both. Most of the early stage preventive measures talk about forbidding hate speech, banning military or organized hate groups etc. These preventive measures put most of the onus on the internal government of a country and the UN, which in turn means world leaders like the United States, UK, China, France, Russia, etc. The assumption here is that the countries that constitute the governing body of the United Nations will be strong enough to openly declare that the atrocities are indeed genocide, and that they will do anything in their power to prevent it. Well, look at what happened in most genocides. The UN Security Council did not want the UN to get involved in the conflict, the US did not want to label it a genocide initially, calling it a “local conflict”, as a result of all this, a mass killing that would have been prevented had the world powers gotten involved early, went on for 100 days, and about a million people were killed. A similar thing happened when people were being killed in Darfur, Sudan. People all over the US had to protest against the government, because the government, yet again, refused to label it genocide.

There is really no point to my post. The depiction of atrocities at Auschwitz shook my faith in humanity so much that now I am certain that as long as people keep their racial, sexual and other prejudices in place, as long as there is an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality, there is no way to prevent killing of innocent people. And the more we keep quiet, because we are not getting affected by the events, the closer we are to meeting the same fate. As is well put in this poem:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

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Please adjust.

This post got me thinking. Why is asking for divorce such a big deal that women are asked to stay in unhappy marriages than have a happy divorce?

A good friend was working in an MNC, a very smart girl, very independent and her family loved in a cosmopolitan city, not in the city where most of the people of her community live. When it came time for marriage, since she was ok with it, the parents started to look for a suitable partner from the community. Since she was well-educated and working, it was hard to find a match, and this is where she made her first mistake. In order to appease her parents, she agreed to marry this guy who she barely interacted with.

The wedding happened amidst all fanfare (and dowry/gifts) and the married couple moved to Bangalore where she had a job(he was apparently working too) and that is when her troubles began. Seemingly there was no problem. Like people reminded her time and again, he did not beat her, or verbally abuse her, well, he just did not talk. About anything at all. His mom would show up every few months and shout commands at the DIL while the son sat on his fat ass, watching TV, or sometimes just staring into space. She was frustrated, and did not know what he thought about her, whether he liked her, or did not like her, cared about her or not. Because there was NO TALKING AT ALL. Needless to say, their marriage was not consummated even after 6 months after the wedding. She talked to her mom. Her mom asked her to ‘have patience’ because according to her most arranged marriages are like that. She waited, for another 6 months, until the point that she could not take it anymore. She had dreams of a happy marriage, of a loving partner. She talked to her parents, this time about separation. They were livid. They thought they had given their daughter ‘too much freedom’ and that she was finding it hard to adjust to married life because she had too many expectations. Does he abuse you? Does he have a mistress? Does he drink or do drugs? The answers to all these questions was a NO. She could not tell them that she was still a virgin, after a year of being married, that her husband never looked at her with love or even so much as smiled at her. There was something wrong with him, is what she believed, and so, against her parents’ wishes she started the separation proceedings. The first lawyer she went to(a woman) asked her to ‘adjust’. She dumped her and went to another, who heard her story, this time she also told him that the marriage wasn’t consummated as yet, and those were the grounds for a separation. Today she is single, happy and much more relaxed. The demons of her past still haunt her when she visits her parents and they cry about her being divorced, but she does not care. She says she has been happier in the last few months of her being separated, than she had even been married. Whenever someone asks her why her husband left her, she says I left him. And lives with her head high. She does not know what would have happened had she adjusted, but the one year that she did she was not happy. And that is what matters.

The reason for narrating this story is that a lot of people say if there are no red flags in a marriage you should always try to make it work, and in my friend’s story there were NO RED FLAGS, the kind that most people care about, anyway, and still she was unhappy and miserable.

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The husband’s workplace had office Halloween party and there were prizes for best dressed kids. The husband was thus tasked with selecting one prize that would be good for either boy or a girl(considering no one knew who would win beforehand!)

Now this is where our problem began. Off we went to Target to pick up a gift real quick and come back home to watch TV! Books were out because we needed something appropriate for ages 4 and up. So were clothes etc. Gift cards were deemed too boring(that was me). I liked the idea of a movie DVD like The Jungle Book or something, but the husband thought parents might not like someone else making movie decisions for their kids. So all that was left was toys. Little did we know that toys these days are strictly categorized as Girls and Boys. This is what we found:

Playsets are almost exclusively for girls

Building sets are all boys

There were some doctor sets that sound like unisex to you and me, but NO, leave those for the girls

Most of the girls section toys were creepy, like these Baby Alive dolls that jump up and down in their baby booster seats when u approach them, and make some weird noise like ‘mm mammma’ (ugh reminded me of that Marathi movie where the doll is evil). Then there are pink glittery fairy play things, like wands and wings. The only thing in the girls section that tempted me to death was the super awesome dollhouse, complete with lace trim curtains and pink upholstery. Pretty much everything in the girls’ toy section is pink, or purple and glittery. (not to forget, creepy)

Then the boys section. Most of it was black, or grey or brown, and most of the toys were engines, robots or Lego. Other than the Lego sets I could barely hold my interest up in this section. But it was far less creepier than the girls’. There were some very nifty toy trains and other vehicles that mesmerized me for a bit too.

I thought everyone liked Lego but the salesperson let us know that LEGO is a nono for girls. Is that really true? I appreciate the fact that there are thousands of toys to choose from, but overall, I was not impressed by the way the toys were clearly demarcated. What if a boy wanted to play house? What if a girl likes building sets?

I have no idea how kids these days are, but back from when I was a kid, I played with pots and pans as well as cars and toy trains and building blocks. (Although, boys playing house was still rare). But the pink vs blue seems to have gone a bit too far now. What do my readers think about this?

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I was reading this post by IHM and then this original post by Desi Ghee and Coffee that prompted IHM’s. The original article was about how divorces have become so common because feminism has been taken too far by women. As expected, there are a lot of provoking and thought-provoking things said in both posts, and have been covered really well by both bloggers, but one that stood out to me was this:

Men will always be men. They are all stupid. They can never adapt to anything.

In one statement, this person has effectively painted all the men on earth with this generic brush that shows men as weak, stubborn and stupid individuals who will not lift a finger to do anything to make their relationship better.

I want to know what “Men will always be men” means.

Does it mean they will never change to include another person in their life and that they need their wives to be like their mothers, always providing, and never expecting anything in return?

Does it mean they will never show any empathy for this person they married, never treat her like an equal?

Does it mean they need to be mothered all the time, and there cannot be any expectations of them?

Does it mean they will beat the shit out of the wife if she so much as tries to ask for what is her right? Does it mean they will be nothing more than a wall flower at home while the wife breaks her back with all the chores?

Why is men adapting such a big deal anyway? Don’t men adapt when they change jobs, or if the boss changes and has different ways of working? Don’t they adapt when the company policy changes? Why, then, are they unable to adapt when there is another person to share their life with?

What does it say about the thousands of men/husbands who wake up everyday, make the morning coffee, take a shower before the wife does and give her the time she needs in the morning to get herself up and ready for the day ahead? What does it say about those husbands who change diapers, load the dishwashers, clean the bathroom and vacuum the floors?

It is such regressive ideas about men that are doing most men a disservice. Most men I know, especially of my generation, are equally, if not more, invested as their wives are in the household. Are they not ‘men’ because they have adapted to a life of give AND take?

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Where I reveal my crazy side

I have crazy ideas.

Most of you must be aware of Roman Polanski and his past deeds and how most current Hollywood directors are of the opinion that he should be pardoned because he seemingly already suffered enough for his past actions. How did he suffer? By not having been able to travel to the US to receive his Oscar award in 2003! Ah poor guy!

I hate such double standards where a poor/not very well-known person who commits a crime gets punished but a very popular and wealthy movie director just runs away to another country to escape punishment and that is supposed to be punishment enough! And that is why I refused to watch his new movie The Ghost Writer. It is supposed to me a really good movie, and has garnered good reviews and thousands of people have watched it. But I refuse to make this criminal richer by going out to the theater and watch his movie! Will my staying away really matter? Maybe not! It is only a symbolic gesture, but one that enables me to see myself in the mirror and smile 🙂

I have a problem with another movie personality. Salman Khan. As much as I love his movies(most of them, anyway), since I found out what a sorry excuse of a human being he is, I refuse to watch his movies! He might have a ‘great heart’ but I don’t care about it, all I remember when I see him is how he drove over innocent sleeping homeless people, and how he ill-treated his girlfriend. I don’t care if people dote on him and call him the ‘bad boy’ of Bollywood!

You know who else almost made this list? BP. Then I realized that by not pumping gas from a BP gas station all I would end up doing was to take away from the pockets of the poor local franchises! Most gas stations that don’t have a BP on them might still get their supply from BP!

Another corporation I am trying to weed out of our lives is Monsanto! Monsanto’s chitha of bad things range from dumping toxic waste in UK, to threatening independent corn farmers in the US of lawsuits to now locking horns with the Andhra Pradesh government on their high cost Bt Cotton seeds that they never said were genetically modified! The Bt Cotton seeds caused a lot of farmer suicides. They also introduced a bovine growth hormone that is banned in most developed countries, but thanks to Monsanto’s bribing and machinations, is not banned in the US.

Reading all their misdeeds and watching Food Inc. and The Corporation (they will make the hair on your neck stand), makes me think it is time to stop buying corn, oil or any other product that is made or has ingredients supplied by Monsanto. The only glitch is that the corporation is so huge that it is almost impossible to know where its products are reaching. But find out I shall, and will keep you all updated.

Do you have such crazy thoughts and ideas that you put into practice? Go on, no one is going to laugh at us, I promise!

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