Archive for the ‘Opinions’ Category


Guest post by Pam Johnson, a lawyer who specializes in cases that deal with the unfair treatment of women. She obtained her degree from one of the Top Criminal Justice Degree Programs.

Women have made so many great advances in the past century or so, and they are continuing to find new ways to achieve a status in society equal to that of men. All across the country and the world, feminists are hoping to make a brighter future for women. The question then remains, “Is education alone enough for women empowerment?” Well, you really need a few other components to make it happen.

Understanding Female Empowerment
Part of the problem is thus: Some women believe that feminism is over, and they do not feel that women are denied basic rights anymore. Simply educating them might turn them more into their own opinions. Therefore, getting women to understand that these struggles are real is crucial. Yes, certainly education is a part of this battle, but it has to go to a deeper level.

Connections Between Women
Bringing women together is a major part of empowering them. Individuals who are interested in these types of rights need to make efforts to form and join groups. When women are able to share their struggles together, then greater understanding starts to happen. Of course, one person can certainly make a difference in the world, but the real power and force comes when a group of women are acting together for a major cause and hoping to pave a better way for others.

Platform for Empowerment
Even if the females in a particular community or group are well-versed in what needs to be done, it does not always mean that the rest of the area will support them. When females want to be empowered and to have their goals accomplished, they absolutely must have a platform for doing so. For example, a particular city might have a board composed entirely of women. At the most basic level, groups of women also need to realize that they must present their cases and plans just as anyone else does. Understanding on both sides really goes a long way here.

Acceptance from Outside
A community might allow a group to protest or to speak, but this does not mean that the community as a whole is accepting this group. Better efforts need to be made to inform individuals outside of the feminism realm as to what is really happening inside. Again, education does play a major role here. However, this type of education does not only have to come in the form of lectures and traditional classroom-like presentations. Instead, other people need to understand that the cause is real. They need to understand that while women have gained some rights and equality, they are still not considered to be equals by so many people out there in society.

As you can see, education does play a huge part in female empowerment, and without it, the feminism movement might cease to exist. Still though, education alone is not enough to solve a problem. People on all sides of the equation need to come together to realize a problem exists in the first place.


Guest post by Harleen Vij, a trendy plus-sized activist in the process of launching her first book:

Read a post last night about Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, Mike Jefferies’, reason for not catering to plus sized women and was urged to write down this post.

In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either”

                                                                             -Mike Jefferies

Such comments coming from clothing brands can sabotage women’s confidence forever. It gets difficult to deal with such comments in real life. I myself have been through this and thought of sharing my story to motivate other women like me.

I am a 25-year-old, confident and bold 21st century woman but I wasn’t like this always. The world is filled with people like Jefferies and from time to time, I have had to encounter such narrow-minded people.

Being a fat girl, in India, wasn’t easy; I used to believe this until I read this post. I’ve come to realize now that a fat woman isn’t acceptable anywhere around the globe. People fail to understand the plight; the mental trauma people like me go through. I used to be the laughing stalk amongst my peers. Whether it was school or junior college, I was teased for being fat on every damn chance they found. I went through this trauma even within my family. My cousins and relatives too used to make fun of the way I looked. To top it all, I had a dark complexion, which was another reason for being teased and bullied.

Wherever I passed by, people especially boys; used to pass lewd comments and I couldn’t reply back. I was an innocent, under confident, self-conscious girl. People and their behavior towards me made had me like this. I had lost all confidence. I used to feel shy and hence remained in seclusion always. My peers used to feel ashamed of having me in their group or calling me their friend.

I was good at academics up to grade 6th, after that my grades dropped. My mother could never find a reason to this. She only thought that I am careless and not interested in studies anymore. But this bullying was the reason that affected my grades and me. Despite being fat I was physically fit and into sports. I was a good runner, swimmer and badminton player. I had participated in various other sports during my school days. I still play badminton and go for swimming.

Plus sized clothes were a huge problem. I used to wear ordinary trousers with kurtis that I got stitched from a tailor. Fashion was not meant for me, I used to think.

With time things began to change. I met my best friend (won’t name for personal reasons) who was fatter than me but had a  fair complexion. She was a beautiful blue-eyed girl with a flawless complexion but fat. She was like normal fat people- bubbly and chirpy. She too had this complex but she had learnt to face it with confidence. She wore stylish clothes and was very trendy.

My complexities were within me. Nobody ever noticed or realized them; Neither my parents nor my friends. My best friend came as a blessing in my life. I learnt a lot from her. Unknowingly she had taught me how to live fully despite being fat. In her company, I gained confidence and learnt about fashion too. My clothes too became quite fashionable and there was an evident change in me. I became confident and smart.

This change started taking place when I was in 10th grade and by the time I started my graduation, I was a super confident smart girl. After that I never looked back at those days. They were a nightmare, without a doubt, but I learnt a lot from those days.

Today, I am a smart and stylish woman all set to make a mark in this world with my first novel. I have left those voices way behind me. I believe in my dreams and myself. Being fat isn’t a curse (physical concerns being a separate thing) you just need to accept yourself the way you are and you need to believe in yourself. If you won’t believe in yourself, no one else will. And if you do, the world will believe in you.

I wear clothes that I want to wear, that I feel good in; irrespective of what people think/say about the way I am dressed. I just make sure to wear confidence with whatever I am wearing. Don’t get bogged down by such comments ever. Styling is meant for us too, after all we do have curves and flesh at the right places to flaunt. If you like a dress or a top in a showroom and didn’t find your size, don’t worry, get the same design stitched from a boutique. And bang there you have that beautiful piece of clothing you always eyed.

People will suppress/overrule you if you’ll allow them to do that. Confidence is the key. Being fat is just a state of mind. Put it behind you, put the discouraging people behind you and walk forward towards a new, confident and happy you.

The article can be read here:

Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Explains Why He Hates Fat Chicks

http://elitedaily.com/news/world/abercrombie-fitch-ceo-explains-why-he-hates-fat-chicks/


Guest post by Veena Venugopal, a Delhi based journalist and author of the book ‘Would You Like Some Bread With That Book’. She is a contributing writer for Mint and Quartz:

 

To me, the most memorable scene in ‘Dev D‘ is the one where Paro takes a mattress from home and ties it to her cycle. When she reaches the edge of the field, she abandons the cycle, lifts the mattress on her shoulder and marches to the clearing where she lays it down and waits for her lover. There are no words spoken and the camera holds her face close. Her expression is one of intense seriousness. You can see her desire is a field force of intensity that fuels every step. She is determined to see it through, to let that desire take over herself completely; not surrender to it but to let it explode out of her. You know that when she meets Dev, the sex would be passionate and powerful.  And yet, in the south Delhi multiplex where I was watching the film, most of the audience burst into rapacious laughter. The women smiled embarrassedly at each other. Which made me wonder, why is female desire a laughing matter?

I thought back to the movie and that scene because even now, in the last seven weeks that we have talked about sex, sexuality, power, passion and crime, we are still, yet to talk about female desire. In the conversations about rape that we have had, there have been infinite references to provocation. That if women dress a certain way, they are “asking for it.” To my mind, what this means is that men don’t know when we are really asking for it. Because if I was “asking for it”, it would be a lot more than showing cleavage, or leg. If I am asking for it, dude, you will know it.

When did desire become a male privilege? There is so little conversation about a woman’s desire for sex that a lot of people simply assume it doesn’t exist. A Times of India article last month starts with this surprising headline, Women too have high sex drive. Did you not know that?  To my mind, understanding that there is such a thing as female desire is essential to knowing how we behave. There has, rightly, been a call for the Indian film industry, especially Bollywood, to introspect how it depicts its women. The whole “chhed-chhad” business, the near stalker-ish behavior that hindi film heroes indulge in does influence how men on the streets behave. That it gives that boorishness credibility. And eventually, the girl succumbs. What is important to the girl, it suggests, is acceptance. She does not desire. She does not chase. She does not acknowledge, even to herself, that she wants this man. She gives in, relents, submits.

Truth is, female desire is as much a brute force as male desire. Sometimes it takes us by surprise, often we relent to it. Some of us take risks to indulge in our desire. Some of us fight it, telling ourselves why this particular one is not good for us. It occurs to us just as randomly as it does to men. When we watch a movie, read a book, walk down the street, see someone hot, at the pub drinking, at the temple praying. Sometimes we fabricate it, filling our head with fantasies. Sometimes we deny it. Sometimes we fake it. Sometimes it’s a coiled spring. Sometimes it’s a warm breeze. But what is important for you to know is that we feel it. We know what it is.

In an early episode of Girls, one of the characters reads from a dating manual. “Sex from behind is degrading. He should want to look at your beautiful face,” she reads. To which the other asks, “what if I want something different? What if I want to feel like I have udders?” Because, you know, sometimes we do. In Saudi Arabia, where laughably a lot of people seem to think there are no rapes because women are “properly attired”, the intense segregation of the sexes makes us turn our desires to other women. Don’t believe me? Read Seba Al-Herz’s book, The Others. Because no matter what you believe, you can’t put a burqa on a thought or wrap a hijab around a feeling.

We probably don’t talk about what we desire enough. But we certainly think about it. So this will probably come as a surprise to you. When you proposition us, on the road, in the bus, or at a movie theatre, and we say no, we are not saying that we don’t feel any desire. We are simply saying that it’s not you who we desire.

 


Guest post by Nitin Aggarwal, on starting the dialogue on crime against women and raising awareness on women issues:

 

I was travelling in the auto rickshaw the other day when this incident happened with me. The driver was pretty talkative, the likes I am really fond of usually. He talked about the fog, the politics, the traffic, even about his family and what he should do to get his son an engineering degree. He was one of those guys who didn’t care a tiny bit what the world thought of him. And he spoke continuously non-stop during the entire ride.

Till I decided to talk about the crimes against women. Then he fell silent. I was expecting to hear what an ordinary citizen of Delhi, a rickshaw driver had in his mind about the most pulsating topic of recent times. I probed him further asking “aapka kya maan-na hai, kyun hota hai yeh sab? Kiski Galati hai?” (What do you think, why does all this happen? Who is at fault for all the violence against women?) He said only a few words probably knowing why I was asking him this question: “sab ladkiyon ki galati hai sabji” (It’s all the girls’ fault sir). I was not surprised at all, after all many of my elder relatives have a similar thinking. However I was not going to let him go without explaining himself and letting him hear my piece of mind.

I asked him many things after that about why he thought women were at fault? Was their western dressing the issue, or their sense of confidence? Was it because that today’s men felt insecure and jealous of the success some of the women have got? What was the reason he so very easily blamed the victim in a violent attack for the attack itself? But I got nothing from him after that. It was very mysterious indeed. Whether he had some past personal experience of some sort and didn’t want to talk about it or was offended by me in some other way while I was asking these questions, I would never know.

Since that day I have done this with many others, with varying results. Some have willingly talked about this issue with me, some have not. But by doing so I have been able to understand the mentality of general public as well as made at least some folks aware about how wrong it is to think that the women victims are at fault for them being targeted. If we all did this with our drivers, maids, newspaperwallahs, doodhwallahs, and even with our friends and colleagues, it will only help to create that much more awareness all around us.

Of course we need the laws against such crimes and we need a better infrastructure for reporting and dealing with such cases but why cure something that can be prevented. Through this post I wish to request all the readers to go out and ask people you meet “Whose fault is it anyway?” and make them think about it too.


Guest post on an attempt to understand the gender war as a result of fear leading to hatred on the part of both sexes by Ananya Gambhir:

Have you ever been pepper-sprayed? I have. Your eyes burn like the fires of Mordor and you experience pain the likes of which you’ve probably never experienced in recent memory.

Humorously enough, the incident was the result of a complete misunderstanding. The girl, whom I knew quite well at the time, mistook me for a stranger in the darkness and fog of Delhi’s winter. I was the victim of an incredibly paranoid individual, a seasonal phenomenon and the unnerving, ambient creepiness of the inner lanes of East Delhi.

In retrospect, I couldn’t be happier she did it.

Here I am, writing for an initiative that does the wonderful job of teaching women how to defend themselves against potential attackers (and in India, attackers are a plenty), and yet I’ve often wondered to myself: “Are the sexes at war?”

On one hand, we have generations of men raised in a shamelessly patriarchal social setup where, and I can’t say this often enough, we are constantly patted-on-the-back for having a penis. We are brought up in an environment that tells us we have the upper hand, and what way better to exert your dominance over the other sex than by establishing complete sexual control?

On the other, we have generations of women that have gone from being raised to serve their men to being raised to be scared of them. That, I think, is the biggest reason I write about this issue. Women are scared. They are scared of being out in the street unaccompanied by a man, they are scared of wearing the clothes they like, they are scared of having a drink too many at a party. The influence of fear is painfully prevalent in the decisions women are forced to make every day.

And nothing breeds hate like fear does.

So now we have two sections of the world unmistakably at loggerheads with each other, completely antagonistic to their intended symbiotic existence.

Which is why two articles on the internet caught my eye out of the scores of articles about rape that I read every day.

The first one is about Amrita Mohan, a Kalaripayattu champion and Karate black-belt from Kerala who single-handedly beat black and blue her alleged attackers, a couple of men in a government Jeep.

As passers-by stopped, stared and did nothing, Amrita reportedly beat her attackers to the ground all by herself, securing her the honour of being a symbol of the end of women’s oppression in her state. Amrita was a hero for women in Kerala and all around the country. Amrita had realised the innermost desires of thousands of girls that are harassed on the streets of India every day. She was going to go down in local history as the one who fought back, a hero, a shining beacon of change.

Amrita and four others present at the scene, including her father, now face charges of obstructing the duty of government employees and brutally assaulting them. If convicted, they face up to seven years in jail.

This has, obviously, sparked an outburst of rage across the country. The thought of two sexual offenders being able to turn around and drag their potential victim to court after being warded off by her is, no doubt, a huge blow to the sense of security of women across the country whose faith in the justice system has already been damaged beyond repair given the recent happenings.

I can’t say I blame them. India has changed after the events of December, 2012. The protests at India Gate may have died down, the news channels may have stopped flashing the images of violent agitations on the screen and angry, outspoken news-anchors may have moved on to being angry and outspoken about other issues, but the revolution (yes, I said revolution) of 2012 taught a country of women that they didn’t have to take it lying down. There is a fresh wave of active feminism tearing it’s way through the hearts and souls of women who are beginning to realise they have a choice to fight back.

Amrita symbolised that change for the women of Kerala and every other woman who heard her story. To have that symbol tied down and torn apart isn’t something that will go down with the fairer sex. To grant the two scoundrels the ability to turn this heroic act of Amrita and put her and her family through legislative hell is a luxury we, perhaps, cannot afford to give the men of a country that has already spoiled them too much for their own good. “Fry the bastards” echo the voices of the internet.

I find myself praying to a god I don’t believe in anymore that Amrita comes out of this acquitted with the guilty, whoever they may be, behind bars. I find myself hoping that she was justified in her assault, that the two men in the jeep were, in fact, harassers who deserve the harshest punishment.

I hope for these things because, should the judgement rule against her, we would lose more than a woman, we would lose a symbol. There are enough things in the world telling women NOT to fight back; I don’t think we can afford to lose one that tells them otherwise.

Which brings me to the second article that caught my eye.

The University of Colorado recently devised a list of things women can do to ward off sexual offenders.

Among other things, the list also included telling the attacker you had a disease or were menstruating and, disturbingly, vomiting or urinating to disgust the attacker out of the act.

I’ve always upheld the belief that rape is more than a crime of lust. I’ve always felt that man-on-woman rape is the result of a fierce global patriarchy and, thus, is more a crime of control and power. The idea here is to degrade the other party and assert your sexual dominance over their body.

In that context, supposed deterrents like urinating will not be as effective as say, a kick to the groin.

Conversely, if disgusting the attacker allows the potential victim even a window to escape, then I am, with great shame and horror, all for it.

The list has faced its share of backlash on the internet, becoming the butt of a twitter-joke too many, but what interested me more than the article were the comments that followed. I’ve always found that the comments sections on articles are truly the best places to have a true sense of how the people feel, which is why some of the comments on this particular piece were extremely disturbing.

1

Here’s one that talks about “Real rape” versus “Date rape”

2

Here’s one that talks about “sticking a knife in the psycho”

The comments carry on in a fierce inter-sexual debate which eventually extends into an out-of-control agitation from both sides.

Fear, once again, comes into the picture.

The fear of being subjected to sexual violence helps the university and the readers to justify the degradation of the victim to disgust the attacker out of the act.

The fear of being physically overpowered breeds ideas of extremely violent measures to protect one-self like “sticking a knife” in the attacker.

The fear of being falsely accused of sexual harassment leads men to question the validity of rape accusations.

The fear of being shouted down by “Feminazis” turns men into misogynistic  war-mongers that believe a woman should keep her mouth shut.

Men and women are at War. This is a bigger war than any other in the history of mankind, because it pits one half of the global population against the other. There are no casual bystanders, there are no neutral parties. We’re facing an all-out, no holds barred, win-or-die-trying global battlefield here, and no one will come out of this one an unscathed survivor.

You want to change the world? Start by not being afraid. Then help drive the fear out of your brothers and sisters. The day we can eliminate this inter-gender fear we will have eliminated the root of the problem of sexual violence. It’s an easy road thereon.

But till then, the solution starts with accepting the war, realising that the actions taken by either party in defence is the consequence of this global conflict. That is how we get there, through understanding and realisation.

Which is why, in retrospect, I understand completely why the girl sprayed me in the face with that horrible pepper-spray. She’s just a foot-soldier in this war, ready to strike at the first sign of agitation.

Excellent shot, soldier. Stand at ease.