Sunday, March 16, 2014

Why the Success of Queen is so heartwarming.....

The world and their aunts are raving about Queen. I had tried to keep away from as much of the review as I could - for the simple reason that I didn't want to create hyped up expectations. But it was difficult to do, with everyone talking, writing and debating about the movie, and Kangana's depiction of a first-of-a-kind coming of age film of a woman.

Ofcourse the film delivered - passed through flying colors on every expectation. Let me attempt a list without giving away too much of the story...
  • Bang on depiction of the much talked about middle class, protective, loving, yet patriarchal family (asking the fiance whether she could work, the little brother tagging along everywhere she goes etc)
  • Kangana's face acting as a wonderful canvas of emotions - shock, frustration, fear, awe, resignation, anger, realization, and ofcourse, disillusionment, enlightenment and sheer joy.
  • The dream supporting cast - beautiful and bold women, sensitive and easy-on-the-eyes men. (yes indeed, there are guys that can make you swoon just by blinking their eyes)
  • Oodles and oodles of inner strength and courage - not to mention humor
But this post is not a review, it is an awed realization that we have, unanimously, as a nation, welcomed the movie with open arms. A movie which has shown 'culture' and patriarchy on a lighter vein. We have not taken to the streets protesting that the movie has 'corrupted' the minds of our 'behen-beti'; or that there are semi-nude sex workers sharing screen space with the protagonist. We have laughed at the chest-beating auntyjis and the overbearing mummyjis and the confused desi-turned-pseudo-videsi groom.
In the theater, it was a welcome sight to see women and men of all ages living through the ordeals and little triumphs of a lovable young woman, who is an unwilling, unaware champion of equality. Yes, she strikes a chord with many of us, but whats more is that, she made us think.
This is a post written with a smile that comes from realizing that all may not be lost, yet. For surely, a society that can look at the portrayal of a woman breaking free of years of patriarchal conditioning, can, someday, accept that this will happen in real life too. Right?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why Feminism is everyone's job

Spicy Saturday pick for 8th March

 Debates and outrages have been expressed for and against the 'feminism' wave that has been doing the rounds. And yet, if you go around asking people the meaning of feminism, you get answers that make you cringe.

Some definitions by 'educated' men and women:

  • "Feminism is where women want to be men" - accompanied by a smirk
  • "When women do not want to do any housework, or take any responsibility, its called feminism"
  • "When they want to party all night like the boys" - this came from a so-called liberal lady in an urban household
  • "Feminism is anything that tells the women that our culture is bad."
The dictionary says that Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women - not more, not less.

A corollary here - is feminism only a woman's prerogative? Is patriarchy only a woman's problem? I am guessing most of us, even the feminists among us, think it is. Unknowingly, we slight this very important revolution by assuming it is a woman's issue. Truth is, our patriarchal views don't seem to be subsiding in any way because we seem to think that this societal movement is only relevant to about 50% of the world's population (even lower if you take only India into consideration).

Because if words like 'equality' and 'equal opportunity' and 'freedom' are meant to be war cries of only half the people (who are unaware, sometimes unwilling at that) crusading for this, it will never work.

Thousands of debates - big and small, friendly and ugly, thought evoking and absolute bullsh*t - come to my mind right now. All discussions speak of how men 'ought to' be some way or do something because they are 'considerate' to the womenfolk.

We all know what patriarchy has done to the women of our land:
  • the girl child is considered 'paraya dhan' and is raised thus
  • dowry and marriage is the prime worry the moment a girl is born
  • lets not even talk about dowry deaths, maternity deaths and child marriages
  • unequal distribution o wealth and opportunities
  • denied education or higher education
  • pressures to 'adjust' to marriage and married life
  • decisions on what to wear, where to live, who to live with are all taken by others
..... and the list goes on. I am not including here the macro issues like the rape psychology or domestic violence, which have their roots in patriarchy.

But does it affect the men? Let me rephrase that - does it really do no harm to the 'privileged' menfolk in our society? A few questions that perhaps the men may be able to answer
  • If the men were not raised with the pressure of being the 'provider' would they have pursued their passions more often?
  • If boys were not told that tears or emotions or vulnerability are a sign of being a 'wimp' or a 'sissy' would they have made better friends, spouses and parents; not to mention better citizens?
  • In the urban world today, wouldn't it be easier for men to find partners who they can connect with if there were no patriarchal rules to follow - for them and the women around them?
  • If traditional roles did not dictate who pursues ballet and who plays rugby, wouldn't many men benefit too?
  • Wouldn't there be fathers who want to spend more time with their children while their equal partners pitch in to be the bread-winner?
  • Wouldn't men themselves want to live in a society with added economic productivity and reduced violence? 
What we fail to realize as a society is that patriarchy did have a role to play in civilizations that were still evolving; perhaps in the nascent stages of these civilizations, physical strength was the only measure to decide who was superior; just like skin color was deemed to be the deciding factor in some societies. And didn't human race, as a unit, rebel against slavery, apartheid and caste systems? Why then, is the cause of feminism any different?

Today, defining roles, or confining certain roles or following different rules, based on people's genitals is just as silly as deciding to get treatment from a doctor depending on their hair color!!

And that, is the true meaning of feminism.

*let me tell you where this rant begins from - it has to do with the exasperating questions that 'educated' people have been asking me about refusing to differentiate between my son and my daughter. For them -
NO, I will not tell my daughter that dolls are more becoming of her than her brother's cricket bat.
NO, I will not expect my son to 'protect' his sister - because if the need arises, she will have access to her own brains, and be able to kick a** just as he would.
NO, I will not expect my daughter to rush in with a duster to wipe off spilt water - unless my son learns to do it too.
NO, I will not tell the kids that the Armed forces is a good career option for my son, and Teaching is the best option for my daughter.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Of Broken Hearts and Bonds

A young friend got his heart broken recently. Crushed to smithereens when a long time relationship did not work out. Of course, as friends, we all worry for him, and we all hope he comes out of this unscathed. This is not the only time I have seen a close friend go through a phase in life when all that matters is what they lost.

This young man is almost family for me and he is about a decade ahead of my son. My son and daughter hopefully have a long time before they ever go through something like this, but I can't help penning down my thoughts for them - whenever they are old enough to understand this! So here goes - for you, 'N' - and for my little Gs.

Dear little Gs (I know you aren't little any more),

Firstly, I know you keep thinking I am ancient and all that. Well, unfortunately, that's true - you and I, we are separated by a couple of decades. But maybe, just maybe, I may remember all that it felt to be your age.

You, my dear, are precious to me; and to many people who know you intimately. For us, you have a million wonderful qualities and a few flaws which somehow, make you more endearing to all of us.

Just thinking of you brings a smile to my face, and I find myself thanking providence for having conspired to bring you into my life. (ok..... I may have said otherwise at times, but you both KNOW how exasperating you two can get) Believe me when I say that I am proud of what you have turned out to be, of what you have achieved and of what you will achieve in your life.

What you feel today, is not something that I could take away, even if I tried. You might feel dejected, unsure and disinterested. You might also doubt the very existence of that elusive find called love. You may have a few bouts of I-just-want-to-sleep-out-this-nightmare phases, or a few days when you just don't want to see anyone smiling in this world.

But what if I told you that even if I could, I would not want to protect you from this hurt? What if I told you that this, my dear, is part of who will become in the future? Don't get me wrong - it pains me no end to think that you may be shedding angry tears, or may be working too much to fend off the pain.

But let me tell you what my heartbreak had taught me. It taught me that no incident is stronger than my own will to rise above it - as you too, will soon discover for yourself.

It taught me that trying to find my happiness in someone else is possible only if I am happy with myself.

It taught me that the strongest bonds in this world are the ones that you don't have to labor at. The bonds that seem to last a lifetime are not the ones that try to shape you into someone else - these are the relationships that accept you the way you are, but help you evolve into a secure, confident and truthful young man or woman.

But more than anything, it taught me that in the darkest, deepest hour, I have relationships that don't attach conditions to its existence - unconditional bonds that help me steer into actions or decisions that made me a better person.

Lastly, do not be scared to put your heart out there again, and yet again, my dears. For love, no matter how elusive, does find the heart that thrives on it. Oh, and while you are at it, do remember to laugh along through any opportunity that you may find - you wrinkle much slower that way :-) .