Who said you could do that?! (Or: Consensual sex and the lack of it in the 21st century)

Because really, who said you could? Who said you could touch my butt on the train, or grab my breast in the line for movie tickets? It has become second nature for men to treat the bodies of passing women as their commodities, but we haven’t quite been able to deal with it.

As a woman, this is an everyday problem, to the point where it has just become easier not to dwell upon it. Because who wants to create a scene? And yet, this silence has become their license to continue, undeterred and unafraid of consequences. While such men may be a passing figure in our lives, take a moment to think about those who have these perverts as husbands, brothers and fathers.

Such is the impunity if men in this world, that they believe it is their right to assault women even in their homes. There are countries such as Saudi Arabia, India etc., where marital rape is permitted under the law. Basically speaking, it is NOT unlawful for a man to have sexual intercourse with his wife without her consent. It doesn’t matter why she refuses sex. It doesn’t matter if she’s not in the mood, or is exhausted from household chores, if the husband is drunk or abusive to her. The bottom line remains, if HE wants it, then SHE better do it.

I did try to understand why men treat a woman’s consent as unnecessary, and came up with a few possible answers. The first one off the top of my head, and one which shows up every now and then in the discussion of dynamics between men and women, is that of ownership.

In several societies men believe that they own their woman. Her time is theirs, her name is theirs, and so is her body. Providing them with sexual pleasure is not only her duty but also a privilege bestowed upon her, so she should be extremely thankful while she sucks him off. The idea of ownership goes to such an extent that she is no longer a person; she is more an object. An objects, inherently, do not talk, or talk back, or refuse. Does your car refuse to be driven? Does your pencil refuse to draw lines on paper? When they don’t refuse, how can she?

The second thing that strikes me is about pleasure. You may think I’m rather dumb if pleasure came to my mind so late when sex is in fact, all about pleasure, but that is not the case. Sex is no longer about pleasure, it is about a man’s pleasure. All that is important is if he is enjoying it, if he is getting off, if he is having his orgasms. A woman’s comfort, her pleasure or her enjoyment are totally superfluous. I’ve read several articles about women not achieving orgasms and while there may be a mental block or a physical problem with attaining climax for some of them, it cannot be ignored that when the sex is happening only according to the man’s preference and convenience, the woman feels like she is unnecessary in the act itself. I haven’t even come yet to those regressive cultures, where a woman is looked down upon or considered to be shameless for expressing desire, whereas no such restrictions are put upon their men. How can women then ever attain pleasure in such  a situation, where they are considered sinful for enjoying the intimacy?

Sex also, is becoming less and less about love and more and more about bodies only, which is a downright unhealthy way of looking at it. Now I’m not talking about Romeo and Juliet, the forever-love that Taylor Swift sings about, but even basic affection, lust and attraction have become redundant. Men seem to be driven by the agenda of just taking what they want. It has ceased to matter if the object of their desires is a schoolgirl, or a hospital worker, if she is married or unmarried, has a partner or not, if she has refused them several times, or if she even likes them but is holding out on sex for whatever reason. It has become okay for men to force their lust on women, to take them by force, to hurt them, physically, psychologically and emotionally in the process, to break bones or give them a bloody nose, to leave them incapable of trusting a man or have a happy and functional relationship for the rest of her life. As you can break a pencil or smash a car into a wall, women are being broken into pieces by men who just won’t take no for an answer.

I know there is a solution for all this, and while it may just seem like a word it is so much bigger than its seven letters, and that is – RESPECT. There needs to be respect for our words, our bodies and our refusal. If we want to have sex, we’ll tell you. If we’re too shy to tell you, we’ll drop hints. And we respect it, when you ask us to have sex, or initiate it in a subtle way which leaves room for refusal if we’re uncomfortable. There also needs to be a fear of consequences. It needs to be understood that if a man tries to force a woman into sexual intercourse, she will LEAVE THE RELATIONSHIP. She will cut the man out of her life. He will not see his kids, Not touch her money, and have his name maligned so that every woman is wary of getting into a relationship with a man with such a history. There is irrational fear about the word ‘fear’. The truth is that fear keeps the best of us from over-stepping our boundaries. It is why we do not storm our principal’s office for a badly evaluated exam and why we don’t just rob a bank if we’re short of money. It is not just because we respect the principal, or because we are aware that it is not our money. It is the fear that we may be expelled and we could go to jail. And who is to say how much a little fear will help a woman ward off untoward advances from the men who are supposed to love and shelter them.

Make love, not war.

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The Homicide of Chivalry

While this is not a post where I will be ranting about love, there is something to be said about the modern dance of dating that utterly confounds me. While I have been witness to and thus am convinced of the variety of ways in which the world is unfair to women, I am afraid that men get the shorter end of the stick when it comes to certain courtship rituals.

I thought I would list the number of ‘monkey tricks’ that guys must do to pass the eligibility test, but I am sure you are all aware of them so I am not going to bore you. Jumping straight in with both feet, let’s talk about the ‘bill’ or the ‘check’ as it is known in different places. Forget common courtesy or such, I know girls who think it is blasphemy for them to be expected to pay for their meals. First off, I don’t think the value of money is lost on anyone in today’s times. Everyone is careful about where they spend their money and how, people try to save each penny, sharing the expense when out with friends is the norm and yet, all common sense is lost when it comes to the ritual of dating. I sit in restaurants and watch, with slack-jawed horror, as seemingly independent and well-off girls sit as still as a statue as the man pays, tip and all. It’s not like your money is hard-earned whereas his money just grows in his backyard, is it? And it still makes a little sense if the girl is not earning or is unemployed, but there is absolutely no excuse when you earn and still don’t open that fancy purse.

It needs to be mentioned that most of the crowd is young and fancy-free, still just students, so when the guys pay it’s not even his money, it’s his parent’s dough he’s handing out like tissues. If such is the case, then parents should stop giving their daughters allowances the moment they start dating; all their expenses will be taken care of from here on out.

I know people think that a guy paying is no biggie at all. They even think it’s romantic, and sweet and all that mush, but girls don’t realise that by playing along with this rule they are negating all the efforts being made to liberalise women. This practice stems from ‘Man is the breadwinner’ rule, and thus by extension bears all expenses that his woman might have.

This causes a multitude of problems. Firstly, when a man pays for you, you become obligated to him, much like you are obligated to a landlord when you pay rent and occupy their housing. Just as the landlord and the tenant do not have equal ownership over the apartment, and the landlord occupies far greater importance in this equation, similarly the woman becomes subservient when the man provides for her. It then becomes obvious who is the decision maker in the relationship, the balance is upset, and the two members are no longer equal.

The problem is intensified if the woman makes no move to pay despite having a paying job. Just as a man is deemed ‘cheap’ if he cannot loosen the purse-strings, a woman is similarly judged if she has money and yet won’t pay. Think about it: Do you think highly of your friends who mooch off of you every time you guys hang out at a restaurant or a club? Even if no one says so outright, it is at the back of their minds.

If a woman thinks that being taken care of financially by her husband/boyfriend is her right, think again. When arguments crop up, and accusations are hurled without thinking, it is not unheard of for the man to question the right of the woman to even be dissatisfied with him or complain about him, because he pays for everything, and thus by default is above judgement. The same sentiment is carried into instances of domestic abuse, sexual assault and general ill-treatment of a woman in a relationship; how can she complain when she doesn’t even pay for the clothes on her back, the food she eats, and the vehicle she drives in? These issues occur because the rule of the world is that the ones with the money make the decisions, and subconsciously these rules apply in our personal relationships too. And the fact remains, that anyone with a smidgen of self-respect would pay for their own stuff.

I have similar objections when men pull out chairs and open car doors for women. I also do not think much of women who insist of being treated such. Do they not have functional limbs? Are they monarchs of some nation, perhaps? If none of these are valid in their case, I see no reason for someone to wait on them hand and foot.

Yes, I understand that treating your partner in a special way is desirable in relationships, but as I always say, it should go both ways. After all, it’s not fair to expect males to make extravagant gestures to express their love, women should do it too. Then, the general populace will realise that material declarations of love cost a hefty sum and maybe love is best expressed in the classic ways – with gentle words and lasting promises and everlasting commitment.

Damn, it got romantic anyways. Oh, well.

Women and the domestic life – Part 1 — feminismiscommonsense

Despite the progress that has taken place in recent times, the topic of housework remains murky. Simply put, housework includes all the work that has to be done for the upkeep of the place we live in, be it slightly dignified work like washing clothes and vessels, to the downright dirty shit that no one […]

via Women and the domestic life – Part 1 — feminismiscommonsense

Women and the domestic life – Part 1

Despite the progress that has taken place in recent times, the topic of housework remains murky. Simply put, housework includes all the work that has to be done for the upkeep of the place we live in, be it slightly dignified work like washing clothes and vessels, to the downright dirty shit that no one wants to do (pun fully intended) like washing the toilets or getting rid of the kitchen waste. Since times immemorial it was the perception that it was the woman’s job to take care of these things, while the man earned a living outside the home. By and large, at least in more progressive cultures, this opinion has changed. But, like all other issues which require feminist intervention, this topic of domesticity and who takes up the load at home is stuck in a limbo of pseudo-feminism.

Case in point: A large number of men willingly take up the task of washing vessels or vacuum cleaning the house. But how many are okay with cleaning a latrine? How many are okay with clearing a fridge which may have a week’s worth of food to be thrown out? It is a tendency of men to throw up their hands when the disgusting tasks turn up. So much for being the ones to get their hands dirty, am I right? The point is, men do housework with a sort of detachment, like it’s not really their job, which they probably think on some level that it isn’t. They are mostly looking for pointers from a female of the house with regards to how to go about it and aren’t concerned with the outcome. Basically, they might dust the furniture in the living room, but if it’s not up to the mark, not their problem.

One would think that with all the tales regaled to us women about a man’s possessiveness and just how desirable the quality is, it is surprising that this territorial side doesn’t show when keeping their ‘den’ in top condition. One of the possible reasons may be that a man will never be pointed at for the failure of keeping a house neat, but it is a definitely a black mark in a woman’s report card. If a woman is not good at keeping house, what is she good at? If a man is not good at it, certainly he may have other redeeming qualities, but the same leeway is not extended to a woman.

Of course, without going into a lot of convoluted explanations it is fairly obvious that men consider housework to be beneath them. It was deemed a woman’s responsibility, and most of them are secretly incensed that they are asked to partake in it. Since this kind of ideology is now frowned upon, they have amended it to consider certain housework beneath them, which includes the aforementioned latrine project. This mentality will not change until men do not look at their abode with the same fierce belonging and pride as most women do, and thus start taking care of it in the right fashion.

I cannot say that women are without blame here. First blame goes to the parents, and in particular mothers, who raised the sons of the previous generations as bratty little shits who were not expected to lift a finger at home. Next is the wives who give up on their husbands, citing that he just doesn’t have a knack for housework after seeing their first attempt. This is a feeble lie and one should be shrewd enough to see right through it. Push comes to shove: a man will clean the house if his life depends on it. Stretch out on the bed with a migraine the next time your husband’s boss is coming over, and watch him lick the house clean from floor to ceiling. It just goes to show that when his reputation is at stake, a man will lift the broom and mop with no qualms at all.

The other notch of the idyllic domestic lifestyle is the charm of cooking. You will find most expatriates and hostel bred youngsters swearing up-and-down on home cooked food, as though the food was cooked by the walls of their native home, with no human intervention at all. On the contrary, home cooked food is the result of tireless effort by wives and mothers who have literally sacrificed their entire life and any ambitions and dreams they must have held in order to provide the members of their home freshly cooked and familiar meals three times a day. To see these women being treated with thanklessness and ingratitude is a shame and yet the truth of this world. Because no matter how much we may strive to, how many of us thank our mothers for our tiffins and lunches? We invariably forget. These women are condemned to a life of being unappreciated by the ones they love. Ask the men of the house to help out with the cooking once in a while, and hell is raised.

Now of course I’m not denying that some men do cook full meals in the house for their families. Before this, let me get the “Most cooks in restaurants are men” argument out of the way and into the trash where it belongs. It’s not the same when you’re getting paid for it. And cooking in a hotel, no matter whether it’s sophisticated or ramshackle, cannot possibly compare to a lifetime of cooking without pay, for the same people day after day, with open criticism to your face without the least regard for your feelings, and no ‘compliments to the chef’ nonsense. Anyway coming back, some men are adept at culinary skills. But that is just how they treat it: like an art. These men don’t realise that cooking family meals, three times a day, day after day, for an entire month, is a task that requires supreme combination of budgeting, variety, subsistence and nutrition. Many women I know complain that the cooking fever sometimes takes over their better halves and they whip up some fancy dish that finishes all the supplies they had and leaves the kitchen in a mess, which they then show no inclination to clean.

To these men I want to say: Hey pal, this ain’t the Masterchef. Domestic cooking isn’t the glamorous gig that television shows it to be. There are no puny assistants to yell at, or fancy six burner gas stoves or blast freezers or giant ovens to shove your culinary delights into. Food for the family needs to be made the way women have been making it for generations: humbly, with balance, foresight and devotion to your family’s health and happiness and no guaranteed promise of a reward. That’s how its done.

 

 

 

 

Don Jon – What I learnt from the opening credits of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut

Can I just say that I think that the first two minutes of this movie are a pure stroke of genius? The names of the cast of the movie roll by frame-after-frame, interspersed with visuals of, well there is no other way to put it, scantily dressed women. Wearing next to nothing, these women smile beatifically, pout, roll their hips and dance to music, but the point to be noted is that, there is not a single naked man in sight.

   While the women are all different and may stay on the screen for not more than six or seven seconds, the manner in which they are present can be explored, layer by layer. Beautiful, exotic looking, nubile young girls with long, fit bodies – you are struck by the amount of skin on display. The clothes when you see them (rarely), remind you vaguely of candy wrappers, brightly coloured and entirely flimsy, easy to tear away. The women somewhat seem like candy themselves, all instant sweetness and sugar, primed for consumption and agents of instant gratification.

Even more stupefying is the expression on their faces- sultry and eager to please. I am fairly certain that no woman has looked quite so desperate even if she was trying to impress or seduce a man. But these women look vaguely like dolls in motion, all big fluttering eyelashes and painted smiles. Also, they seem turned on for the weirdest of reasons, like swimming, also naked for similarly confounding excuses. Why would someone be naked when an arrow pierces through her chest? Or when she announces the next round in the wrestling match? Or gives the weather forecast? What has nudity got to do with any of these things?

Men, it seems, never have to strip down so much when they want to impress the opposite sex. In fact, the layers seem to pile on as the guys get sexier: shirt, over-shirt, suit jacket or blazer, overcoat. Age, also, remains merely a number in their cases. Apparently, the salt and pepper look is perfectly alright for them whereas it’s some kind of debilitating poison which leaves a woman’s sex appeal in shambles. Case in point, the one man in the opening credits who is conspicuously visible is the talk show host, and while being presentable and being liked by the public is in his job description, he is dressed in a suit. The guest who comes on the show, however, wears a red dress tighter than skin and thin as paper.

The movements of these women further add to my discomfort – they seem to bounce a lot. One woman, who looks like a disc jockey, is vibrating on the spot like a motor pump. I’m not trying to be funny; they genuinely move a lot more than the average woman. Apparently, no man can be impressed until you jump and down as if riding a pogo stick and waggle your hips like an eager dog.

The flurry of these images gives you a whiplash, but the lesson humbles us. In a world populated by people, one half of humanity is slowly being turned into objects for the other half’s sexual gratification, moral consequences be damned. These plastic, dumb, juvenile girls are a poor mirror of women the world over, and this generation of voyeur gentlemen would be well-advised not to confuse fantasy with the real world.

It takes two to do the horizontal tango and ‘Don Jon’ leaves you with this exact parting thought.

What’s in a surname?

The norm is that women change their surname after marriage. If it’s Katherine Geller who is getting married to Robin Freeman, after marriage it’s Katherine Freeman. If Anushka Selvam is getting married to Sunil Kumar, after marriage it’s usually Anushka Kumar. Hence in most cases the format is,

If AX – female, and BY – male, then

AX + BY = AY + BY.

If you’ve already seen what’s wrong with the picture, you’ve got the point.

Nowadays the scene’s changed a bit. Now it’s Katherine Geller-Freeman or Anushka Selvam Kumar. So in this scenario,

AX + BY = AXY + BY.

Something is wrong with this picture too. Neither does maths work like this, nor should people.

Now, sometimes when I talk about surnames people complain that I am nit-picking. They say, “Women are being raped and killed and there is female feticide and infanticide, and all you are bothered with is a surname. Why? Look at the big picture.” I cannot stress enough that when I talk about surnames, I am looking at the big picture.

Why do women have to change their name after marriage? In what religious scripture is it written that only if you take your husband and his family’s last name, the ritual of marriage is complete? And even if it is written, why does this have to be a one way street? Why doesn’t a man take a woman’s last name?

I’ve heard this one too- What’s in a name, as the great Shakespeare said. If there is nothing in it, why change it in the first place?

mr. and mrs.

A person’s full name comprises of a first name and a last name. Taken together, it is like the scientific name of a species, it pinpoints to you. It is what you were born with, the name your parents gave you, which ties you to your family. It is the name you write hundreds of times, thousands of times, on notebooks, on bills, on answer sheets, in fancy handwriting, what you are known by in your school, in college, at the university, at your workplace.

Then all of a sudden a girl is married, and your last name is just gone. Just like that. No explanation whatsoever. And your husband gets to keep his, plus slap his own last name in place of yours. Just like that. Labelling you as ‘his’. Staking his claim on you. Because is it not claiming? When you wrote your name on a pair of socks or the first page of a book, wasn’t it to signify that it is yours? And when women don’t get to do the same to the spouse, what does it mean? It means, simply, that we can’t lay claim on a single thing. There is nothing we can call ours. We do not possess. We do not possess the right to possess.

With the change of name inevitably comes a change of identity. You now belong to another family. Their rules are your rules, their habits are yours. Your rules, your habits are all out of the window. You’ve made your husband’s family your own, taken his name, but when he doesn’t accord the same respect to your family, it just means that your family and their problems, their lives are simply not his concern. Is it fair? You tell me.

I don’t know how many are aware but one of the main reasons families do not want daughters, especially in India, is because having a girl child means that there is no one to carry forth the family name. Because, you guessed it, they change their names after marriage and the family name vanishes.

Example: Suppose there are a family of four, a mother, a father and two daughters. The family name is Khanna. As the girls grow up, one of the girls gets married to a boy with the last name Kumar, and the other to a boy with the name Sharma. Both girls change the surname.

What if they are the last family in the world with the name ‘Khanna’? The girls change their surname, and the name is lost. Once the parents die, the name ceases to exist on a person on this planet. Now, explain to me, if a family risks losing their name permanently if they keep having daughters, and in a country where the family name holds unnecessary, magnanimous importance, why would such families want daughters at all?

This is a prevalent problem in the world, in underdeveloped countries, in conservative societies. There are also certain people who believe in changing both, the girl’s first and last name after marriage. Total ownership.

Women should keep their names after marriage, and should be known in personal, professional and social circles as such. When they succeed, they should bring laurels to themselves and their parents who have taken pains and made sacrifices to raise them. Their husbands and their families have every right to be proud, but they do not have the right to label the girl as theirs. If a woman doesn’t want to have a surname at all, there are legal ways to do it. It should depend on her, not on her husband.

The next argument people pose against women keeping their last name is- What will be the surname of the children? In my opinion, people create problems when they are afraid of the solution and the change it will bring, that the resistance to the solution is directly proportional to the degree of inconvenience it will create for them. Hyphenation seems like a good idea but truth is, if everyone starts giving hyphenated surnames to their kids, we are bound to wind up with a population of citizens with names as long as trains in a few generations.

Thus, I think that when a couple has one child only, toss for it. I mean it. If you have more than one kid, one child can take the mother’s last name and one can take the father’s. Or you could plan it by gender. Girl children take mother’s name while boys take the father’s. Or vice versa, whatever you want, however you like to play it. There is great joy in taking decisions, you realise once you begin to take decisions for yourself. Your family will not look divided to an outsider, believe me. It will be a family where the parents respect each other and the right to revel in their own identity.

Relish the process of making choices, and live your life on your terms. Your name is your own; don’t let no one take it from you. There is a lot in a name.