Saturday, February 28, 2015

Day 59 of Feminist Joys: Blogging

It's been nine years since I started this blog. I've written several times, on the anniversary (or around, since I usually forget until it's past) about what blogging has meant to me.

Some other day, I'll write about the friendships I've made with other bloggers, which is probably the most important, useful, wonderful thing about being a blogger.

Some day, I'll write about the bloggers I've read and learned from, which has been such an important part of my education.

But today, I just want to take a moment and acknowledge how this blog has helped me feel less powerless. How it's been a way of taking stock of what's good in my life (because I rarely wrote about the bad stuff). How it's helped me think through things by writing. How it's been an outlet for my fiction and poetry, made me feel like someone's reading.

Thank you for being here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Day 58 of Feminist Joys: Quoting the Fall

I first started watching the Fall after reading this, because I wanted to watch the show where the protagonist said such feminist things.

But my favorite quote from the Fall's Stella Gibson -- because it's so absurdly misandrist it makes me laugh -- is "The basic human form is female. Maleness is a kind of birth defect."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Day 56 of Feminist Joys: Misandrist Poetry

Hannah Jewell of Buzzfeed takes some classic poems and makes them awesome.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have men I must make weep,
And tears to drink before I sleep,
And tears to drink before I sleep.
If you're religious, the Toast has misandrist prayers (actually, these are more useful if you're not religious).
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want him.
I require no shepherd.
The keeping of female animals for male profit is a practice that has no place in the new world order.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Day 54 of Feminist Joys: Wear What the Fuck You Want

Too many women I know -- even feminist, liberal women -- think you shouldn't wear short or revealing clothes if you don't have the right features for it (which of course, means if you're not skinny).

It makes me sad. Wear what you want. You'll look wonderful and if someone doesn't agree, it's their problem.

Me? I don't think I look wonderful, exactly, but I wear what I want to and I don't care if you don't agree. I wear short skirts even though my legs aren't shaved, and I wear dresses even though I'm fat, and I'll wear sneakers with a lace skirt and a sword in my ear if I want to.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day 53 of Feminist Joys: Stop Wearing That!

Now that you've got the body you always wanted (or haven't bothered, and decided that loving your own is better), here's what you shouldn't wear to go with it. Not when you're 50, not at any age.

(Hat tip: Banno, as well as other friends who shared this on Facebook -- sorry, I'm too lazy to go look up who it was.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Day 51 of Feminist Joys: Loving Your Body

From Already Pretty:
When I begin a consult, I start by asking what my client loves about her body and would like to highlight, but I also ask if there are any features she’d like to downplay. And these amazing women responded to the latter by saying, “Nothing, really. I like it all.”

I'm not there yet, but I hope I am soon.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Day 50 of Feminist Joys: Be Sinful

This post of mine from a couple of years ago has got a bit of attention:

Be disobedient. Be loud. Be outspoken. Be selfish. Be unconventional. Be immodest. Be persistent.

Let go of the years of conditioning that tell you not to be any of these things. I'm still trying -- some things are more difficult than others.

Do all of this not just to get ahead at work, but to be a person who more actively participates in the world. Let's stop hiding.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Day 49 of Feminist Joys: Grace under Fire

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Day 48 of Feminist Joys: Mocking Homophobia

I'm feeling a bit out of sorts this week, so I'm going to be mostly pointing to stuff others have said till I can muster up the energy to say something myself.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Day 46 of Feminist Joys: Celebrating Love

Well, it's still Valentine's Day weekend.

Some months ago, I met an old friend. As we chatted, she casually revealed that she and her live-in boyfriend had gone to the registrar's office earlier that week and got married. Her brother and a friend were witnesses.

That's the coolest, most low-key wedding ever. I offered a wedding present, she refused, and while I thought at the time I'd send something later I haven't been able to find anything cool enough for this couple.

They did go back to Assam later (where both of them are from) and have a more traditional wedding. So I can still maintain that I have had the coolest wedding of all my friends: little planning, low fuss, and only the people we really loved to witness our partnership.

I have a young colleague though who got married in an even more low-key manner. Her now-husband's parents did not approve, so she told her parents they were going to get married, and they went off to Goa to do so.

Mind, none of these were inter-racial or inter-religion marriages, which would arguably have been more fraught (though the Guy and I are both atheists who were brought up Hindu).

My point? It's great to see people, especially women, decide who they want to marry and not care about parental approval. Go for it, live your life.

(And if you have a cool wedding or relationship story, come on, tell us.)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Day 45 of Feminist Joys: Celebrating Valentine's Day

I always thought Valentine's Day was kind of pointless. But when the right-wing fanatics go around threatening people who might be celebrating or even merely out in the streets not doing anything special (which is what holding hands is for most of us), I feel less annoyed about those ugly pink and red heart shaped decorations.

I wish I was in Delhi to celebrate the weddings:
All struggling lovers of the world and otherwise! Lets gather in heartfelt gratitude outside the Hindu Mahasabha's head office on Mandir Marg (how apt!) (Closest Metro: Ramakrishna Ashram Marg) this Valentine's Day for the most EPIC mass marriage ceremony Delhi will ever see!Come along in your most colourful red wedding sarees, white dresses, suits, sherwanis and such things! Bring wacky wedding vows, bright flowers, loud dholaks, dark mehendi, band bajaas, poems, songs, dance routines..... Let's make this SERIOUS! 
The organizer of this protest, Lakshmi Bai, seems mad awesome:
 To add to the festivities, everyone will be carrying heart shaped balloons and ghar wapsi tickets will be sold for Rs 11. Also, to show their support to RSS, girls have been asked to wear khaki shorts.
On a more serious note, Lakshmi Bai added that this gathering will be a symbol of "loud protest against this intensified attack on democratic rights by right wing forces."
"This is not about defending the right to celebrate Valentine's Day, but about creatively fighting against forces that seek to undermine our rights to love, to choose, to move and to occupy public spaces," she said. "We register our protest against this politics of hate, oppression and violence -- that constructs notions of 'love-jihad', conducts forced conversions and shudikarans, threatens to force people into the patriarchal institution of marriage, launches aggressive attempts to control women and queer lives and bodies."
Anyway. The Guy and I celebrated by resting after our vacation (we got back yesterday) and wishing each other and not getting any gifts.

And if you have someone you are thinking of getting a Valentine for but haven't yet (which obviously means you're not sure), printing out one of these indifferent or not-interested cartoons might help (best results from a color printer, but of course it's already evening and you don't have the luxury of being picky).

But seriously, look at these. They're awesome.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Day 44 of Feminist Joys: Mending Stories We Love -- the Lord of the Rings

More of Inky's fabulous writing: this amazing piece about Eowyn.
You are seven when you watch your mother wither away with grief.
You run out into the fields the day she dies. They let you go, knowing you will not go far, not good Eowyn, not the obedient second child of Eomund and Theodwyn. They think you are crying, and maybe you are, but mostly you are smiting the ground with your feet and slashing your hands at the gently waving stalks of grass.
You smite the ground. You must wonder, with the memories of your father’s war stories still ringing in your tiny ears. You must wonder, with the adrenaline still high in your veins from a pretend sword fight with your brother in the stables that morning, the adrenaline now warring with grief. You must wonder how a woman of a house so very brave could wither like an ailing flower.
You swear you will never make such useless choices.
And inspired by her, I wrote my own fan fiction. When I watched the movies again last year, I smelled a strong whiff of class prejudice in the way Boromir was treated.

It is so easy for them to sit and talk about taking the ring into Mordor. They have no idea, none, of how powerful the enemy is. Our men and women have dealt with him and his armies for long years. The unprovoked raids onto our territory. The cruel bloodthirsty orcs tearing our comrades apart limb from limb, or digging teeth into their flesh. The sudden appearance of an nazgul in the sky, with harsh screams that strike fear into the hearts of the bravest among us. And afterward, afterward... Having to tell a mother that her son wasn't coming home, though you did. Having another soldier step up to fill the place of the one who was lost. Making strategies for how we could hold our ground in the next battle, knowing full well that it is only a matter of time, as the enemy grows stronger and we grow weaker. Wishing we had the strength to storm their fortress, to stop them once and for all. 
Do they think we wouldn't have gone into Mordor if we could? 
It doesn't matter that I know more about this than anyone else. I am too strong, and I am not one of them. I am not an Elf, or a King. I am but a leader of soldiers, a general who can fight. I am but the son of a Steward. 

And I wrote this for Faramir, living in the shadow of an abusive father:

Your greatest fault, he told me one day, is that you try too hard to please others. Especially our father. Do what you would, Faramir, and he will come around. Don't circumscribe your life for him.

But Boromir is gone now, and there is no one to comfort me, no one to praise me. No one to intercede between me and my father. I think of living in that long hall for the rest of my father's years, in uncompanionable silence punctuated by muttered reproofs, with resentment hanging over the walls. It's not just my father who wishes I had gone in my brother's stead, that he had lived and I had died. I do too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Day 42 of Feminist Joys: Mending Stories We Love -- Narnia

This is really part 2 of yesterday's post about criticizing stories we love. Recreating those stories -- imagining alternate narratives that satisfy us more, or speaking up for characters who were treated badly in text -- is both criticism and creation. 

Inky does this really really well. I love everything she writes, but these especially spoke to me, maybe because I had loved the source stories so well.

Most of all, the series about Susan Pevensie, who was good enough to be a queen of Narnia, but is later banished because she is almost grown up and thinking about lipstick and stockings.

Can we talk about Susan’s fabulous adventures after Narnia? The ones where she wears nylons and elegant blouses when she wants to, and short skirts and bright lipstick when she wants to, and hiking boots and tough jeans and big men’s plaid shirts when she feels like backpacking out into the mountains and remembering what it was to be lost in a world full of terrific beauty.
Part 2:
"You’ve all grown so much," their mother says.Edmund is too young to register, but older now than he was at his first war; Lucy, who had been so young when they had left, grew into herself in a world filled with magic. All of them, they have responsibility pressed into their shoulders, old ropes they can’t even grasp for. No one is asking them to take that mantle on their shoulders, and that’s the hardest part. You get used to the weight. You build your world around it, build your identity into the crooks and crannies of the load you carry. 

Part 3:

Lucy kept faith. Peter kept steady. Edmund chose, again and again, to earn his title every day of his short/long life, trying to make up for a sin that everyone but himself had forgiven him for.Susan lives. 
Part 4:
They say Susan forgets Narnia, but she doesn’t forget all of it. She puts it aside. She forgets faces and names, tax rates and the color of her favorite court shoes. Susan never forgets the weight on her shoulders that came from that responsibility, that power, that loss. She sometimes forgets she is strong enough to carry it. 
Sometimes she remembers. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Day 41 of Feminist Joys: Criticizing Stories We Love

I'm on vacation in Goa right now, and writing this from my hotel room. (So in case I miss a day or two, don't be alarmed. I'll try not to, though..)

The Guy and I have been watching Desperate Housewives on TV here at the hotel. I'd watched a bit of it back when we used to have a TV. I had always found the ads promoting the show quite foul and was then surprised at how much nicer the show actually was. I'm not interested in following the story through the seasons, but some of the episodes highlight interesting issues, even though it's all over-the-top dramatic ("It's on fast forward," the Guy commented as characters got engaged and got married, got suspected for cancer and started treatment while dealing with tons of other drama, all in an episode or two), well, in spite of that, I love that the show centers women's perspectives and the men are mostly pretty props. 

Most of the media that we love isn't perfect. With the internet, feminist stories are easier to find, but growing up we all read stuff that wasn't that great in retrospect but captured our imaginations anyway. But while we love them, we wish they were better. We can scrutinize them and wish they could be fixed, or even try to fix them.

Ana Mardoll has an amazing set of deconstruction series. I especially love her ongoing series on Narnia -- I loved the Narnia books as a kid and was surprised at how bad they were when I tried to revisit them as a grownup.  These posts on Ross (of Friends) are great too. There's also this Hunger Games series, but that's more unabashedly fan homage, because this series is so good. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Day 40 of Feminist Joys: Doing Good

My friend Deepa is doing something awesome: in April, she will travel to Nepal to spend a week volunteering with nonprofits that rescue and rehabilitate sex workers, raise awareness about human trafficking, and help these women rebuild their lives and identities.

This is probably the one cause that speaks most to me. We need to stop letting people being enslaved, we need to treat all women, including sex workers, better.

You can donate to Deepa's program here, and her employer will match the funds she raises. I'm proud of my friend, and glad Google and Salesforce are supporting this.

There are many such nonprofits in India also. I tried volunteering at one last year, but I couldn't continue to muster up the energy and time. But donating seems like the least I can do.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Day 38 of Feminist Joys: Singing at Street Harrassment

This is the best story ever. Highlights:

Friday, February 06, 2015

Day 37 of Feminist Joys: Following @ambaazaad on Twitter

I've quoted @ambaazaad here before, but really, you should just follow her. Even if you're not on Twitter, open her page once a day or week and read all her tweets. Or go here for a categorized view.

Whether she's criticizing a celebrated movie, affectionately mocking a different movie, ranting about racism in movie casting, demanding answers from upholders of the patriarchy, or dismantling rape culture, both her thoughts and her words are beautiful. Each tweet is an education, and reminds me of how much I have to learn. I sit virtually at her feet in worship. Come join me.

Mocking Songs: Follow Me by John Denver

You guys, I've long wanted to do this but pushed it aside because I felt I didn't have the energy or the time. But I've found the perfect song to start this series with, a song that I never knew existed till a few minutes ago and which mysteriously found it's way into my favorites on Gaana (Guy, I'm blaming you).

If you hadn't heard John Denver's Follow Me either, uncover your ears and let them drown in this.

(Actual lyrics below copied from, because I'm not gonna type that out.) (Also, I'm totally channeling Mallory Ortberg.)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Day 36 of Feminist Joys: Queering the World

In this country where gay people aren't supposed to exist, sometimes I like to imagine that most people on the street are gay.

The dude on the bike without a helmet on? Racing to his date with his new boyfriend.

The woman walking alone with a dupatta over her head and a phone in her hands? Texting her lover that she'll be there soon.

The two young women holding on to each other as they cross the street? Have been in a long-term relationship where excitement has given way to comfort.

The woman trudging home with a heavy bag? A lovely woman is waiting at home and will give her hot tea and a shoulder rub when she steps in the door.

The four middle-aged men in the car? All gay.

The kid crossing the street with his parents? Baby gay.

I'm in a much better mood by the time I get home.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Day 35 of Feminist Joys: Looking Like Shit

So here's to messed up hair, body hair, crumpled clothes, and lack of jewelry and make up. (That is, if that's what you want to do.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Day 34 of Feminist Joys: Conversations about Gender in the Workplace

Read this on Women's Web -- The Diversity Trap: Are Women Really Welcome In The Workplace?

And check out this Storify from @genderlogindia, moderated by Peter Griffin. Some tweets below (a few not from the Storify).

Monday, February 02, 2015

Day 33 of Feminist Joys: The Guy Who Loves Me

I really loved Lionel Shriver’s Post-Birthday World, but I find this recurring theme weird — that no man can be good and honest and kind and warm at the same time. He’s either good and dull and unaffectionate (and maybe cheats on you anyway — though how does that even work with “good and honest”? Or he’s warm and affectionate and fun but also volatile and abusive. That both men can still love you: the “good” man can love you in spite of not being affectionate — he doesn’t like holding your hand or kissing you and he’d rather watch TV than talk — and in spite of taking you for granted — letting you do all the cooking and household shopping and even refuse to accompany you while you’re doing it. And the other man can be manipulative and yell at you and be suspicious of you but that’s just because he loves you and that’s why the sex is so great and you still don’t regret marrying him.

In real life, please stay away from both these guys.

So according to all these books, there’s no such thing as a perfect man (for you) or a perfect relationship. No such thing as an honest, long-term, affectionate partnership. No one you can trust and be truly yourself with. 

What bullshit.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Day 32 of Feminist Joys: TV Shows

I am watching three TV shows these days, and they are all wonderful and feminist and I'm amazed to have three such shows at the same time! And all of them are something to do with crime. If this is your thing, check these out.

The Fall

Perhaps the most outrightly feminist of the three, The Fall is about a woman police officer who is on the trail of a serial killer. Gillian Anderson portrays a feminist detective who calls out misogyny when she sees it, whether in her colleagues or in serial killers. This show minces no words and provides some great moments of validation. There are some scenes of violence though, which are difficult to watch. Season 1 was really great; season 2, which I'm on now, seems less so.

Also, it has the amazing Archie Panjabi, who's in two of these three shows!