Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: On Women Changing Their Names After Marriage

I read this, and found myself nodding along.
Your name is your identity. The term for you is what situates you in the world. The cultural assumption that women will change their names upon marriage – the assumption that we'll even think about it, and be in a position where we make a "choice" of whether to keep our names or take our husbands' – cannot be without consequence. Part of how our brains function and make sense of a vast and confusing universe is by naming and categorizing. When women see our names as temporary or not really ours, and when we understand that part of being a woman is subsuming your own identity into our husband's, that impacts our perception of ourselves and our role in the world. It lessens the belief that our existence is valuable unto itself, and that as individuals we are already whole. It disassociates us from ourselves, and feeds into a female understanding of self as relational – we are not simply who we are, we are defined by our role as someone's wife or mother or daughter or sister.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mid-Week Read: on Rape in Fiction

I'll leave you just one thing to read today, and it's a long one. Sophia McDougall writes about sexual assault in popular culture, referencing A Song of Fire and Ice (which I haven't read, and don't intend to, given all I've read about it), Batman, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and James Bond.

She asks this interesting question:
So where are they, all the raped male characters? People say, it would be unrealistic if she wasn’t raped, but take it for granted that of course he wasn’t.
My go-to example for this used to be James Bond. “Is it realistic that James Bond has never been raped?” I would say. How many times has he found himself utterly at the mercy of men who want to hurt, degrade and humiliate him before killing him?

 My first point is not that I am arguing for all this rape; it’s that if you are going to argue in favour of the current level of fictional rape of women and girls, you should be. You, if you care so much about realism, must demand the rape of Batman and James Bond. In fact, given not only that so many male fictional characters find themselves in such high-risk environments but that male fictional characters outnumber female ones about 2 to 1,   we should be seeing nearly as many raped men in fiction as raped women.
Read the whole thing: it's great food for thought. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Books I've Loved Lately: "The Wildings," "Was," and More

The Wildings was beautiful. Lovely story, engrossing characters -- I hadn't thought a novel populated with just animal characters could be so interesting! -- and beautiful illustrations. Buy it, for yourself or a lucky child. If you're not convinced yet, read Jai Arjun Singh's lovely detailed review.

If you liked the Oz books as a child (or even as an adult -- I would like to reread them soon, and discover the ones I haven't read), you might like Was by Geoff Ryman. It's not a children's book, and the defining mood throughout is sadness, but it's hauntingly beautiful. (I found it through here.)

I'm really enjoying Steven Havill's Posadas County series. They are police procedurals set in a tiny town in New Mexico. In the earlier books, the hero/narrator is an elderly man, who has heart problems, eats too much, and isn't very fit. But he's sharp and funny. In later books, it's his younger protégé, a female undersheriff who's almost an adopted daughter to him.

The paper books on Flipkart are expensive, but the first of the series is free on the Kindle, so maybe start with that and see if you like it. I started with Red, Green, or Murder, also free on the Kindle. I especially enjoyed Scavengers, though.

Since I've been spending a lot of time in bed lately (first the ankle, then food poisoning that left me so weak I barely got out of bed for four days), and haven't even had the energy to read anything new and interesting. So I've been re-reading old Agatha Christies on my Kindle. I can see all the flaws in them now (racism, misogyny, lazy writing, stock stereotypes in place of actual characters), but they're still such comfortable reading.

What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mid-Week Reads: Work, Flexibility, and Gender

I haven't got around to writing an actual post here, so let me fob you off with other stuff. I wrote on Women's Web about working from home: the recent ban by Yahoo sparked off some thoughts. I write about how working from home can be a good thing for both employers and employees. (At least, partly working from home. I do think it's good to go into office and meet your coworkers, and if you have a small collaborative team, being in the same room can make a lot of difference. But a blanket ban is just... weird.)

Anyway, here are some tweets (most of them mine) about work and gender and such, and they include a couple of articles you might want to read. (The first few tweets are also in the Women's Web article.)


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Story of the Foot

So, my feet seem particularly accident-prone. Last week, I sprained my ankle and am now in bed recovering.

Here's the story.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Mini and Me - 2

I made my way to my office, the headquarters of a software company with offices in many countries. I wasn’t sure how I landed up here. I had taken computer courses along with my graduation, while Mini was attending music workshops and debate competitions. After college, while Mini attended her teacher’s training, I enrolled in an advanced computers course while I looked around at what I wanted to do next. In a year, before I had decided what exactly I wanted to do with my life, I got a job. The salary was twice what Mini could have hoped to get in her first job. I would have been insane to refuse. Besides, I was in a hurry to get married.

We got married within a few months, as soon as Mini had completed her exams. Then she found herself this job. The only hitch was that it took her an hour to get there every morning. My delicate, anaemic Mini changed two trains every morning and then walked a kilometre to her school. For the first few days, I was anxious, even driving her there and picking her up a couple of times. But she got into the rhythm, and never complained. While I was away, she enrolled in a driving class, got her license, and started driving to school. It took even longer, but she told me she enjoyed being by herself in the car with her thoughts, sheltered from the bustle and the crowds. I felt slightly guilty about driving to work while she must be struggling to find a seat in a crowded, filthy train.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Mini and Me - 1

(Something I wrote a long time ago. Reading it now makes me cringe!)

It was a long flight. Much longer than the flight I’d taken six months ago, coming out. I hadn’t been able to sleep much last night. The excitement had kept me awake. But even though I was tired and my back and legs ached, when I closed my eyes I didn’t see nothingness. I saw my home again; I saw Mumbai – chaotic, noisy, familiar; I saw the laburnum from the balcony of my flat; and I saw Mini – smiling because I had come back to her.

The stewardess placed dinner – or was it now breakfast? – before me. But one bite nauseated me and I lay back and closed my eyes. Maybe my next meal would be with Mini, I thought and smiled.

My back hurt, and I shifted. I would go to the doctor when in a few days. Vinay would tell me what to do, or refer me to a specialist. Anyway, now that I was out of the freezing cold and back to my old familiar life, I might get better. I should start walking every morning, or join the gym. We could do it together. I’m sure Mini would like that. It would be a nice way to start the day.