Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day 90 of Feminist Joys: Passing on Gifts

A few years ago, the Guy had gifted me an iPod for my birthday. He even had it inscribed, "The Voices in My Head." I loved it and used it a lot for a year or so.

And then I... stopped. Too difficult to add songs; I don't much like headphones; we got a little Bose speaker at home and that's so much better. I felt sorry it was lying unused, but I couldn't think of anyone who liked it as much as I had.

Until a couple of months ago, when Sabbah Haji sent out a tweet asking for MP3 players for her school.

And now this:
If any of you have used MP3 players and would like to tell them, tweet @imsabbah!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 89 of Feminist Joys: Pride

Here are some things I'm proud of.

I did it all on my own: every job, every decision. No birth-family network or mentoring or support - except a bit of financial support.
I got the only job I wanted that was available at campus placements.
I later moved to a marketing job - referred to it by a friend who worked there.

Every job - that one and since, I've got because of  my writing and editing skills.

I have a blog I made friends through. That has been the best thing about keeping this blog going -- and not a benefit I had expected when I started it.

I volunteered regularly for years. Even if I don't have the energy or drive to do it anymore.

I have written extensively, especially on marketing.

I started and ran a startup. Even though it went badly, even though I made so many mistakes, I got it a good deal of visibility too.

I work in marketing at one of the biggest companies in the world.

I haven't given up writing.

I was ill and doctors couldn't figure out what it was. It took a few years, but I figured it out, I healed myself. With a lot of help from the Guy.

I have a relationship that's amazing, that's always a source of strength, and seems to grow better every year.

What are you proud of?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 88 of Feminist Joys: This Cool Video about Women's Choices

If you haven't watched this video starring Deepika Padukone yet, check it out. It goes further than I had expected. (I don't much like the last line, but apart from that it's pretty cool.)

Via Starry

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day 87 of Feminist Joys: More Nursery Rhymes

This time it's Samit Basu on India.
C is for Cow. Cow is our mummy.
May it roam everywhere except your tummy. 
F is for Family. Key to our lives.
Lock up your daughters and find your sons wives. 
M is for Modi, may his name be blessed!
Fighter of crocodiles, always best dressed.

W is for West, the despoiler of values
And also for Women, the cookers of aloos.

Edited to add: Here's Part 2, and it might be even more awesome.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 86 of Feminist Joys: Cheering on Women Who Fight for Our Rights

I'm sure you have heard of Shreya Singhal already, but if you haven't, you should.

Thank you for fighting for our rights, Ms. Singhal, and congratulations on your victory and ours.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 84 of Feminist Joys: Reforging a Family

They hadn't been much of a family. You'd think a mother and two sisters would be close. That the sister would be a loving aunt to her nieces.

But there were too many bad memories; too much history; too little trust.

There had been abuse: some physical but mostly emotional. Harsh words spoken too often: almost all the time. Tearing each other down, tearing themselves apart.

But it's now been some years since the man left their lives: the man who controlled them, who exercised his little power by being a petty tyrant.

And they've all slowly gained control over their lives. Made their choices and slowly drifted towards the lives they wanted. The years that were lost will never be regained. But there's always today, and tomorrow.

And today, somehow, they've come together again. And learned to be friendly, if not friends. Polite, if not intimate. Happy in each other's company. More forgiving of each other's faults.

They're learning to be a family again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 83 of Feminist Joys: Meeting More Feminists at Work

It happened again.

I was at a meeting with one of the agencies I work with. We were crowded around a small table at a coffee shop, three women and a man. They told me about some interesting work they had done lately, including a webinar one of the woman (the co-founder) had participated in. Where she ended up using the words "From a feminist perspective..."

I don't know if it's my job or Bombay or what. But this is so incredibly affirming, so amazing that I get to meet and work with women like this.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 82 of Feminist Joys: Misandrist Puns

I'm lactose intolerant.


I have a dude allergy.

(In Hindi, doodh = milk)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Day 81 of Feminist Joys: Interrupting Men

Reading the Shakesville post I linked to yesterday reminded me again of how often men seem to interrupt and talk over women.

And how finally, after ten years in the workforce, I have got to the point where I interrupt and talk over a man right back when I have something to say.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Day 80 of Feminist Joys: Calling out Powerful Men

This is so cool.
On Monday, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and acclaimed Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson were wrapping up a SXSW Interactive panel that had focused on diversity, when an audience member called out the two men for repeatedly interrupting their fellow panelist, the United States' Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. 
Even more awkward? The audience member who posed the question was apparently Judith Williams, who heads up Google's unconscious bias program.
Here's how it went down: Schmidt, Isaacson and Smith were onstage together for a panel called "How Innovation Happens." One of the recurring themes of their hourlong talk was diversity in tech, and how the U.S. government and companies like Google can get more women and minorities involved. 
Both men interrupted Smith several times — not unusual for moderated panels — but Williams felt it was particularly poignant given the day's topic of diversity. During a session with the audience, Williams, who is Google's Global Diversity and Talent Programs manager, asked both men if they thought their interruptions were a sign of the unconscious bias they themselves had been talking about.
"Given that unconscious bias research tells us that women are interrupted a lot more than men, I'm wondering if you are aware that you have interrupted Megan many more times," she asked, which immediately prompted a round of cheers and applause from the packed room.
Via Shakesville.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 79 of Feminist Joys: Building Great Schools

There are so many great things about this story: a wonderfully dedicated principal, a smart young student, the person who spearheaded the campaign to help them, and the community who chipped in to help.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Day 78 of Feminist Joys: Building Diverse Workplaces

I've always been a fan of the startup Buffer. In spite of being founded by two young men, it never seemed like the bro-friendly kind of place most startups are. And this is awesome. That's true inclusiveness -- don't just say you want diversity but show it. Do something about it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 76 of Feminist Joys: Finding Feminists Unexpectedly

So we've successfully completed three quarters of a century and are soldering on.

Some months ago, I had a date to meet a couple of women who I mostly knew on Twitter. I was both nervous and excited: since I have so few friends in Bombay, I was keen to make more, but I haven't always had great luck in the past meeting people I don't know very well.

But as we sat and sipped our coffee, one of them chatted about a friend of hers, and said to the other, "You'd like her. She's feminist too."

And I sat back with a pleased smile on my face.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Day 75 of Feminist Joys: Working with Women (2)

Last Friday, I was in Kolkata for work. I'd traveled with my boss, and we spent the day in various meetings. At one, where we met a couple of women we work with, one of them commented favorably on how our team is all women. (We get that pointed out a lot. I wonder how often people point out an all-men team (though I certainly notice)).

"[Boss] doesn't like men," I joked.

One of our colleagues immediately quipped, "Oh, who's the lucky person?"

And we laughed and went to lunch. (Fabulous, by the way. I have to go back to Kolkata again just to eat my heart's fill.) After lunch, one of them told my boss how she looks up to her, and it's nice to see a woman in a higher position. And I grinned, because I'm proud to work with her, and she's a terrific boss and I feel lucky.

Part 1 here.

Edited to add: I had left the most massive typo in this post -- the second paragraph said "[Boss] doesn't like women," which wasn't funny at all. And I'm seeing this after months, so I guess no one is still reading. But still. If you come back, I'm sorry, that was stupid of me.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Day 74 of Feminist Joys: Reading Rainbow Lowell's 'Eleanor and Park'

Eleanor and Park is the most wonderful romance I've ever read. As a romance, it's better than Romeo and Juliet (hahahaha) (though it offers the best deconstruction of Romeo and Juliet that I've ever read, through 16-year-old protagonist Eleanor), better than Pride and Prejudice, better than anything I've ever read or seen.

This is a young adult book. I wish someone would write a story like this for adults but I've never found one (and I've just read Rainbow Lowell's Landline, which was good, but not the same at all.)

16 year old is brilliant and weird and feminist. She's the new girl at school, and is either ignored or picked on. She has a very difficult home life, four younger siblings, red hair, and no friends. She is fat and very smart.

But many romance heroines have smart, interesting heroines. The heroes, on the other hand, are rarely nice. (Minor spoilers below.)

But Park is probably the nicest 16 year old ever. He is somewhat geeky, even though he's sort-of friends with the most popular kids. He's always polite to his parents -- the only way he defies them is when he starts wearing eyeliner and continue to see Eleanor, which makes me like him even more.

They are the cutest adorablest couple, but other people aren't so nice, and there is plenty of angst and conflict too.

Read it, read it, read it. Tell me what you think.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Day 73 of Feminist Joys: Loving while Transgender

Read this beautiful story of how a trans woman found love. Both Andy and Drew seem amazing people and I hope they continue to be very happy.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Day 72 of Feminist Joys: Badass Women in History

Women are gentle and feminine, eh? Especially before feminism made them forget their womanly virtues? Let's read about some women in history.

This blog "celebrates the women history forgot" and introduces you to amazing women in history.

Back in the fourth century BC, Timoclea cleverly and violently killed her rapist.

Sayyida al-Hurra and Cheng I Sao were terribly fierce pirates.

Who did I miss?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Day 71 of Feminist Joys: Growing Forests

You've probably heard of Jadhav Payeng, the man who grows forests. If not, go read now. Everything about this story is awesome, but I just wanted to highlight this:
“When the forest grew big, wild animals started living in the forest and they used to venture out sometimes for food, and the elephants used to destroy agricultural cultivation, while tigers used to take away domesticated animals from the villagers,” said Payeng. 
This angered the villagers and many of them wanted to destroy the forest, but Payeng managed to convince them to hold on...
He “soon came up with an idea- to plant more trees, including a lot of banana trees,” he said.
The banana trees ensured food for the animals, while the forest cover took care of the food for the deer, and once the deer population increased, the food for tigers would be available inside the forest itself.
Edited on 28 May to add: I only discovered recently that this story was earlier (and perhaps originally?) covered by Manimugdha Sharma, who's an old college friend I recently reconnected with. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day 70 of Feminist Joys: Jabong's Juice Magazine

A fashion magazine? How is that feminist?

Hold on a minute.

First, I love Jabong. It's where I've spent most of my clothes-shopping money in the last few years. The most important reason is their amazing returns policy: they actually pick up items you want to return, and they've several times refunded me before an order's been picked up. I have had problems with their delivery a few times, but the customer service has usually been great. And of course, they have a great selection of clothes, with a wide range of sizes, and I have found a couple of brands that work for me.

So when I ordered from Jabong last month, they sent me a copy of their magazine. I don't know when I'd last looked at any kind of 'women's magazine' (probably at the hairdresser's a few times over the last few years). I casually flipped through it. And stopped. 

This was the 'love' issue (being February), so they featured a bunch of couples and profiled their relationships. And quite a few of the couples are not heterosexual.

I don't follow mainstream media much, but I don't think this is common. At all. (Which is one reason why I don't follow mainstream media much.)

Two out of the five couples are gay. (And they look incredibly cute and I loved reading their stories too.) (All photos link to the magazine.)

Monday, March 09, 2015

Day 68 of Feminist Joys: Stay at Home Dads

Sadly, I don't know any in real life. However, this will do for now.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Day 67 of Feminist Joys: Happy Women's Day

Women's Day has become something of a Hallmark holiday, but it's actually meant to highlight inequality. So here are some things you may want to look at today. If you have something great I missed, have at it in the comments.

This (very US-centric) article highlights some reasons for optimism.

The Google doodle is cool. And here, have a nice tweet.

And even then, if you read the tweets (don't), many men don't want to give women this one day in the spotlight either.

Anyway. Focusing on joys. Here are 15 women who are changing the world.

And I leave you with:

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Day 66 of Feminist Joys: Reading Shakesville

Much of my feminist education has come from blog: Shakesville has contributed tremendously to this. Melissa McOwen and the other bloggers on Shakesville have made me look at the world with new perspectives and examine my own privilege.

Here are just some of the amazing posts at Shakesville; if you haven't happened on that blog before, you may want to enter through one of these. (I'm sticking to the less painful ones, since the theme of this series, is after all, joy. 

On being friends with men:
This, then, is the terrible bargain we have regretfully struck: Men are allowed the easy comfort of their unexamined privilege, but my regard will always be shot through with a steely, anxious bolt of caution.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Day 65 of Feminist Joys: Reading the Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath was a name I came across again and again on feminist blogs. Her poetry. Her tragic life. And perhaps more often, the ‘bell jar’. I finally read this novel. 

I was a little surprised at first, both at how trivial it was and at a very racist passage. But the strength of the book is in how true the protagonist’s voice rings, and how even the daily business of living can be too much for a young woman in a misogynistic society.
It wouldn't have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat -- on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok -- I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.... 
The air of the bell jar wadded round me and I couldn't stir.
Once, when describing how I feel when I'm battling food my body refuses to accept (I'm sensitive to gluten and lactose), I said to the Guy, "It's like I'm behind these glass walls." I guess there's more than one reason for feeling this way.

It's only Rs 94 on the Kindle right now if you want to read it. Also check out this comic based on a quote from the book.

Edited to add: This post had been messed up for some reason -- the first two paragraphs had got deleted. Added them back now. Sorry.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Day 64 of Feminist Joys: Reading Dianne Wynne Jones's Howl's Castle

I’ve been reading some awesome books lately, but this one is special. It’s a fantasy romance novel that uses many established tropes — a wicked wizard (who isn’t really wicked), a wicked witch, three sisters, a moving castle, a wicked (not really) stepmother. The heroine spends too much time  believing in tropes herself, and this book is all about doing what you want to do rather than what’s expected of you — a lesson her sisters figure out much faster than she does. It also comments on how it might be a relief, in a way, to grow old: young pretty girls get a lot of attention, while old women are often either invisible or feared. Old women can act as they like and not be reviled as a young girl would be.

There’s a quite satisfying mystery too, and a very melodramatic climax complete with a Bollywood style family reunion. If you like fantasies and/or mysteries, try this out. I didn’t like everything about it, but it was a very fun read with no nasty misogyny to turn me off.

(Don't read Castle in the Air though, which is the next in the series. It's full of vile fatphobia and is also quite boring.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Day 63 of Feminist Joys: The Joys of Running (or Swimming or Playing)

My mother’s always been very healthy and active. She used to do all the housework on her own — we very rarely had house help, and she would also do some gardening, lots of embroidery and knitting, and walk us to school and the swimming pool and all that. She also enjoyed playing badminton, though she only got the opportunity rarely. She spoke rarely of her childhood, but incidents she told me involved climbing trees and wading in a lake (and nearly drowning, but that’s another story) and learning to shoot rifles at NCC camp.

And now that she’s older and lives alone and her time is finally her own, she goes on walks and does yoga. Probably too late now, to take up running or swimming or badminton — and I’m not sure she’d want to.

So it feels great that things have changed enough that so many of the young women I know are athletic. (I’m extremely physically lazy myself, and the only form of exercise that I don’t despise is walking, and I don’t do a lot of that. So this post is about other people.) 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Day 62 of Feminist Joys: Reading Gloria Steinem’s Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions

I’m trying to catch up a bit on my feminist education this year. I recently read Steinem’s celebrated book, and was amazed at her energy and ambition. I wished I had such feminist talks and meetings to go to, as the ones she describes. (Anyone know of anything like that happening in Mumbai — any feminist groups or meetings?)

I was appalled at the trans- and homophobia. I was relieved to read that she has since apologised for her vile comments in the book, but the apology itself left much to be desired.

One of the essays I had read before, and is probably her most celebrated piece, but I enjoyed reading it again. Her piece on menstruation, especially this bit:
But listening recently to a woman describe the unexpected arrival of her menstrual period (a red stain had spread on her dress as she argued heatedly on the public stage) still made me cringe with embarrassment. That is, until she explained that, when finally informed in whispers of the obvious event, she said to the all-male audience, "and you should be proud to have a menstruating woman on your stage. It's probably the first real thing that's happened to this group in years."
Yes, let’s celebrate menstruation, instead of hiding it. Or treat it like a normal though often somewhat painful event. I’m down with that.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Day 61 of Feminist Joys: Mocking Chivalry

Chivalry used to make me angry. Now it only invites mild mockery and amusement. Not just because I'm older and have gained perspective, but more because none of these chivalrous men have much power over me.

And that's the definition of privilege: not being in the oppressed group.

But I worked to get here does that count? I moved myself away from those power structures. I live with a man, true, and a man who sometimes seems to act chivalrous -- but he's not, he's just kind and thoughtful. And I've lived with him for years and years and slowly I've stopped flinching. 

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Day 60 of Feminist Joys: Demanding Diversity

Silicon Valley lawyer Ed Zimmerman refuses to attend all-male tech events, and even dinner parties.
Zimmerman knows that zero women at any professional table is wrong. “Zero out of two I can understand. Zero out of six or 10 I’m not sure I understand why. Zero out of 20 just seems silly,” he says.