Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall Of The Feminine

A few weeks back I had written a post about how the media has not kept pace with the changing role of women in society. Our movies relegate female characters to the sidelines as mere showpieces, simpering and sizzling, applauding the hero’s antics and ready to break into a song and dance at the drop of a hat. In the 21st century, women continue to be objectified.

Someone put a very pertinent question through the debate that ensued – how did we manage to evolve from a Devi worshipping society to a society where baby girls are murdered because they are guilty of being a she, if she is fortunate enough to live, she lives to face discrimination, threat of assault or even death for the sake of family honour. Ahh... this happens only in villages, we the city people are far more progressive. But it is in these cities, girls are dragged out of bars in the name of morality. Brides are burnt for more dowry. Cars slow down when they see a woman walking alone on the road. Many of them, with the entirely honourable intent of making her life more exciting, try giving her a friendly nudge, sing a song or two and make declarations of lust. A very senior teacher in my school stopped driving because she had a terrifying experience on the road. A bunch of young boys driving their Daddy’s car mistook this 50 something lady for Lara Croft and gave her a heart thumping chase. Not content with a few friendly dents they even tried to stop her car. Why?? Because it is fun harassing a woman.

Where or more importantly when did we go wrong? From times immemorial the woman has played the role of the nurturer. There was a time when cultures across the world worshipped the power of female and her ability to produce life. I am sure many of you have read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. In his book, Dan Brown put across the theory of how the predominantly male church demonised the sacred feminine and called it unclean. “The original sin” and Eve’s contribution to downfall of human race was created by man. Women, once the sacred giver of life, had now turned into the enemy.

The worship of the divine as female has a long history in India as well and continues to be popular even today. But a curious phenomenon emerges- the more a culture deifies women, the less rights women actually have in that culture. Time and again the woman is told that she’s weak and needs to be protected. Sadly it is often at the cost of her freedom. Remember your History lessons and the infamous Manu who codified societal norms? In childhood a woman must be subject to her father, in youth her husband and when her lord is dead, to her sons. To put it simply a woman must never be independent. Society and religion imposed a code of conduct for women and she was expected to adhere to the roles assigned to her. These roles are often patronizingly referred to as virtues. Coy, obedient, subservient – good girl, your parents taught you well. Go getter, ambitious, strong willed – office bitch, no wonder you’re still single. Women suppression also took form in clothes. Victorian era women were expected to squeeze themselves into corsets for that expected 18 inch waist and more often than not ended up with medical complications. Chinese girls had to bind their feet in their quest for tiny feet. In the so called modern times is it any better? I doubt it. Women happily submit themselves to the surgeon’s knife, get painful botox injections, starve themselves in their quest for beauty. Beauty is a virtue, cellulite and wrinkles are cardinal sins. If a woman gets raped it is her fault – what was she doing all alone at the bar, wearing that short dress, smiling at strange men. What was she thinking?? She deserved it!! I hate it when I have to tell my teenaged daughter that she has to learn to deal with unwanted male attention, telling her to dress down every time she goes out on her own Do reservations for women in Parliament, in buses, in the metro really help their cause? Ahh poor thing, let’s be nice to her. The Protection of women against sexual harassment bill has finally been tabled after 13 years of dithering but why aren’t the women popping champagne in jubilation? Opinion is divided and the debate is on how the law continues to look at women as dependents in need of protection. My shoulders do not square up in pride every time I hear the “Kindly vacate your seats for the old, the disabled and women” announcement in the metro. Do women really need patronizing or rather should we continue to accept it?

Unfortunately feminism is a much abused term. It is not about using cuss words, sending your emotions into a deep freeze, being ruthless and behaving like a man. It is not about viewing the opposite sex as your biggest enemy and scribbling I hate men all over your wall. We women are unique – we feel like no one can. The emotional fools we are, we can love to the point of worship We can be strong and delicate, angry and loving, emotional and stoic, dignified, graceful ... Rather than feeling ashamed of our femininity lets revel in it. I will snivel and sob even as I watch Bridges Of Madison County for the 14th time, I will come to a screeching halt at the sight of colourful bangles and make you wait while I try all of them on. I will sulk, crib and unload all my PMS-ing on you. But it is me you will long to come back to at the end of the day, to unwind, to share and laugh.

As I conclude my post I can’t stop humming the Shania Twain number “Man, I feel like a woman”. Why? Because I feel proud to be a woman and no thank you, you don’t have to vacate your seat for me, I can take care of myself. But if you need a shoulder to cry on, I’ll be there for you.
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  1. Well written! Good that you raised this topic. Harassment of women at public places is the worst aspect of Indian society. I haven't seen this in any other country that I have lived. How can a country progress when 50% of it's population is not safe and free to move around?

  2. There are a couple of points we could discuss further on, but what is most appreciated is the call to shed hypocrisy and start treating women with respect and gratitude rather than with pity.

  3. WOWOW indeed a question to be asked, I had asked this earlier too that do we think we aregoing backwards or forwanrds with all this development

    Indeed its a shame that we live in such a society where women are being treated os badly...

    so true we have to grow up and shed the hypocracy in ourself and open our eyes to what is actually going on rather then go GA GA over stupid things tat we usually go on about ...


  4. First piece of yours with a serious tone that I read, it just held my attention totally. Lovely, and I agree with you. I suppose men have historically suppressed women more out of fear and jealousy than anything else.

  5. agrees with all the points. fifty percent of our population is denied the right to give any significant contribution to the society..

  6. *Gives a look of approvsl and applauds*

  7. Awesome Purba...Well researched. The conclusion para is perfect.
    Yes, why should we be like men..Both sexes are unique in their own ways.
    Saw women inmates of Big Boss thrusting their assets obnoxiously...I feel at some level women themselves are responsible for the plight they are in.

    Will re-read the post.

  8. That line "In childhood a woman must be subject to her father, in youth her husband and when her lord is dead, to her sons." is misinterpreted. People like to infer exactly that, when it means something very different. It's saddening. Now many might want to start of on that here after reading this, but I don't give an eff really.

    We had a debate about that in sanskrit class years back about that one.

    The correct inference is about the father being there for the daughter, the husband for his wife and the sons for their mother.

    There was a time in India when love was free and women would keep their slippers in front of the door, to let their husbands know they were well...busy.


    It's not religion that fucks things up. It's the preachers who suck the life out of the beauty and enforce a value system that was meant to be inculcated at one's own wish.

    I think the men of religion are just insecure about the fact that women would be better than them and they'd lose their power, Hence.

    Be it in Islam, Hinduism, Christianity or whatever.

    Great post.

  9. It might take another 100years for women to live care-freely but I don't want it to take so long. I wanna wear what I like to wear without worrying about ogling men.

  10. My all time favorite topic and I second every word you have written.

    I have written 2-3 posts in my blog regarding this and I have spoken to many women about how important it is to be independent. But it seems all in vain. So I have decided there is no point in banging your head to the wall because most of the women prefer to be dependent or prefer to be somebody wife or daughter or mother. Suites them!!
    True, feminism is not about hating the other sex but an ability to stand upto what we say and what we do!

  11. Purba, You never ever fail to surprise me. I read this post with wide-eyed wonder.

    I back you on every single thing you said. You're right - We can be strong and delicate, angry and loving, emotional and stoic, dignified, graceful.

    So right! I love this post!

  12. magiceye...This article is for you! You are the one who instigated me to write it.

    Giribala... A skewed sex ratio doesn't help either.

    Harsh...The Maggi multigrain ad gets on my nerves. I love my mum, because she makes amazing achaar!

  13. Bikramjit...Am glad you agree. We need to change our mindsets and that includes women too.

    K...I have written quite a few serious articles :) And agree with you when you say, it is insecurity that has led to women being repressed.

    Always Happy..:))

    Harish...To nurture and care 24x7 without a murmur of protest.

  14. @ Prateek...Gives her trademark toothy smile.

    Alka...You are so right when you say that "women themselves are responsible for the plight they are in". Get rid of the delicate darling act, sit up and do something constructive!

    Ujjwal..Surprising depth for a boy so young. Loved reading your comment.

  15. Nethra...Absolutely, let nothing come between you and your dreams.

    Bhawna...Am sure you are making a difference somewhere. Jolting them out of their complacency and forcing them to think.

    Priyanka...Am glad I managed to surprise you ;)

  16. Very well said. As a woman I suppose we are raised with the idea that when we go out we will be harrassed, to bow our heads , to ignore when comments are passed. But when a woman is prejudiced at home, insulted and treated like a doormat, then life sure becomes hell.

  17. From George Carlin's "When will Jesus bring the pork chops?"


    So why are men like this? I think the overriding problem for men is that in life's main event,
    reproduction, they're left out; women do all the work. What do men contribute? Generally,
    they're just looking for a quick parking space for some sperm. ...

    And so, excluded as they are from reproduction, men must find other ways to feel useful and
    worthwhile. As a result, they measure themselves by the size of their guns, the size of their cars,
    the size of their ****s and the size of their wallets. All contests that no man can win

    And let me tell you why all this happened. Because women are the source of all human life. The
    first human being came from the belly of a female. And all human fetuses begin as females. The
    brain itself is basically female until hormones act on it to make it structurally male. So, in reality, all men are modified females. You're an afterthought. Maybe that's what's bothering you. Is that what's on your mind,

    That would explain the hostility: Women got the good job, men got the shitty one.
    Females create life, males end it. War, crime and violence are primarily male franchises. Man-shit. It's nature's supreme joke. Deep in the womb, men start out as the good thing and wind up
    as the crappy thing.
    (Excuse me for the language and length)

  18. In Psycho we used to read something abt the mother-whore complex where a certain type of man swings btw deifying and objectifying women-in India esp its manifested widely.

  19. Purba,

    I really like this post of yours. I like your serious tone, rather love it!

    The incident u mentioned about another lady teacher is horrifying. God!

    A very very well written post, Purba, it grabbed my attention completely.

    Loved these lines :

    We women are unique – we feel like no one can. The emotional fools we are, we can love to the point of worship We can be strong and delicate, angry and loving, emotional and stoic, dignified, graceful ...



  20. That was indeed something great and I loved the last line!!

    I am not saying I am a saint. I stare at women and am stereo typed when thinking of women.
    I would say the real issue is that we dodnot have much forums for real inter sex interaction

    And secondly we guys are programmed to think women are meant for sex....
    I always wonder why i stare at the butts of a woman walking ahead of me...many years back butts were nt at all something I got attracted to...
    It's because the TV, friends, Books said a normal guy should go gaga over the butts...

    It's the same with eve teasers too...they are programmed to think that their deeds will give them a high

  21. Thanks for reminding us once in a while u r the mother of a teenaged girl...your posts are so youngish and energetic...
    better than the moody desperate forlorn teenage blogs we get to read

  22. Bhagyareema...Yes, especially when you have to put up with it for the sake of your children.

    flawsophy...I love reading comments that inform. Thank you, it was a pleasure and I have to read this book.

  23. Varsha...Man-whore complex? ..scary but interesting.

    Restless...But that's what we are, aren't we?

    Jon...I am all for appreciating beauty. And we women love ogling at cute looking guys too. But let's do it in a dignified manner.

    And Jon, may I remind you ...Youth has no age :)))

  24. The very fact that you're starting a post with a reference to a previous, many week-old post that a regular reader can recall...and that you've got so much constructive feedback/response that you're building on them with entire blog posts...this is a good enough sign how much you've grown and established yourself as a Web Logger (not that i'm in any position to comment on your position, but...)

    Every word in this post resonates with purpose, conviction and your belief in what IS the most wonderful, powerful creation of God- the Woman. Adam was, as many say, just a rough draft before the finale :)

    Your intensive research, along with reference to the painful truths that still exist in today's society and our moves the reader.

    Ma'am, I have no doubt that after all your years (months?) of blogging, this post is one of those where you've reached beyond your threshold and surpassed your own benchmarks. This is a DEFINING post.

    If I was to ever tell a fellow reader to read a certain Mrs. Ray's blog, THIS would be the post i'd direct her/him to. Though it's not got your usual tinge of guerrilla humor, you've more than made up for it with just about everything else.

    LOVED it totally. I was always a believer in equality, but you've branded these words so firmly in my mind with your haunting ending-
    1. Come to a screeching halt in front of colorful bangles and make you wait while i try them on...
    2. I will sulk, crib and unload all my PMS-ing on you (ha ha!)...
    3. no thank you, you don't have to vacate your seat for me (AND THE VERY BEST)-
    4. I can take care of myself. But if you need a shoulder to cry on, I'll be there for you

    It would be wrong of me to say that Women have come of age. No. Thanks to thinkers and writers like you, I'm optimistic now that Men will someday come of age.

    Thank you. For the I've always said, and with more conviction than ever before...I'm a FAN :)

  25. Avi...Oh dear, you made me cry. All that stressing, brain storming and gnawing insecurity was worth it. I didn't want to sound preachy and am glad you understood.

    Like I said Avinash...don't love your mother for the achaar she makes..Love her for the person she is.

  26. OMG Purba- i almost missed this one. I am so glad to have read it. I will go bangle shopping with you any any day. " Love to the point of worship"- ya thats me.. and my favorite movie ever- bridget jone's diary.

  27. standing ovation for the last lines....

    i m proud to be a woman... :D


    great work purba...

  28. wonderful..there have been so may times I have thought about it...especially reservations in metro doesnt give a happy feeling...those lines.."Coy, obedient, subservient – good girl, your parents taught you well. Go getter, ambitious, strong willed – office bitch, no wonder you’re still single." And the saddest thing is that women in general have got accustomed to it..I hear girls around me say that we dont need to be ambitious coz at the end we dont have to run the house...

    gr8 topic and I could have kept adding more n more things 2 it...

  29. Whoa, what a post. Cutting words scoring deep into the minds of the readers. I agree that to some extent women themselves are responsible for their plight because it is easy to follow not lead. And I have always maintained that women can respect themselves if only they believed they were good, even better than men.

  30. Even if I ignore the rest of the post the last paragraph says it all in so few words, sealing the last nail on the coffin.
    Feminism is not only a much abused term but this word is also considered taboo now-a-days. A few of my friends (male yeah) even dare to laugh if you care to utter this word in course of a conversation. Apparently they think 'feminism' is something to laugh about and make fun of.
    Well in any case....women rule. \m/
    And you rock Purba di! :)

  31. well sculpted. Logical thoughts.Differant reactions cross reading through but indeed someone rightly said once "Men's outlook and reactions to women is because men are jealous of women". Women indeed has left behind man down the ladder in various walks of life and not to mention the one truth"women gives birth to life and man cannot...."well well well.indeed.but does women really thinks that they should accept the reservations set for them that tags them as ..downtrodden, underachievers,do they need a helping hand?? .... do they really as rationale human beings?? ...or shout God we dont need them ...we compete , we participate , we share and we excel...Metrorail a face of modern india has a compartment for the rational woman thinks its a favour ..take it or give it back.....

  32. Quite interesting to read the objectification point from the indian perspective, of how our devi worshipping etc has evolved and been interpreted in a manner which somehow always leads to the female being categorised in a certain manner. Completely agree with the point that media has not kept up with the progress that women have indeed made. Infact, research by many sociologists has actually shown how media, of which advertising in particular, have contributed to creation of such 'norms'.

  33. Hi Purba, after a longtime i am visiting your blog. As usual its stunning! Its a fact that in the society there are some stupid men who try to prove their points in the cheapest way possible. Those pests really need some treatment.
    On the other side, I completely respect the freedom of women but the point still remains that our safety is mostly in our hands. Any women sitting in a bar with skin tight, short dress is really not safe. We need to accept the fact that human beings are emotional beings,so when provoked you are sure of some reactions. Expression of those reactions may differ amongst different people. Some lose control and try to exploit the given situation to their favour. So in a society where there are pests it is always advisable to be safe than sorry.

    Loved your post. :)

  34. Curry Spice...Next time when you are in Delhi, we"ll try out all the bangles that were ever made :)) Bridget Jones...I liked the first part...the second one was a stretch!


    Ankita....Women have got accustomed to it because it's an easier way out for them.

  35. Zephyr..."It is easier to follow not lead" so right!!!

    Samadrita...Men think feminism is a funny word, because it's beyond their comprehension and it's scares them! And thank you :))

    Radhakant...Reservation is a much abused term used to gain political leverage.

  36. Wildflower...Yes, media is reinforcing stereotypes and the so called women "role models" are not helping either.

    Anto...Indian men are not comfortable with women flaunting their sexuality. Guess it will take time.

  37. It is the 'worship' that has been our downfall. There is no need to worship us women, just treat us as human beings and we'll do fine. :)

  38. You know I've always felt that men and women both suffer due to this gender inequality. Men can't be soft or empathetic because that is feminine. Both sexes loose out. Just treat us as equal but different, do not oppress, do not suppress, and we'll get by

  39. True.But today's woman knows what she wants and does it.I have a lot of women disciples who have risen far above the men in their lives and know how to face the world. God bless them and may Kali rise now.

  40. i just wana say wahooooooooo!!

  41. Hey Purba! your blog is really an inspiration. I have continued this thought of yours in my blog. Catch my reaction there :)

  42. hey purba...i totally agree with you... women have more than ever been commercialised and objectified...and we have oueselves to blame for letting that happen... but at the same time,being a woman i feel is a gift,that should be thanked for,enjoyed and winked at amongst ourselves,as it is we give men such a hard time at work and home too....let us all have collective pity on them...

  43. Shail...Agree

    Ritu...We are but a combination of the yin and yang. Men will have feminine traits and we will have a few masculine traits. And each needs to live in harmony with each other.

    Krsna...So many women have gone ahead and changed the rules of the game. No longer they are passive, subservient creatures they were expected to be. The CWG medal winners are a sterling example.

  44. Vish....:))

    Anto...Give me a day, would love to read your take.

    Parul...Men at our mercy? Ha!

  45. Against all odds it is up to woman to decide what she is and how she wants to carry herself at most of the places. Yes at some of the points still women have to go long way.A provocative write up!

  46. Hi Purba,
    Well said.
    I love reading your blog posts - very insightful.

  47. Aparna...Exactly a woman carries herself is entirely her prerogative.

    Thanks Vikram...

  48. An emotional free-flow!!
    Wonderful Post.

  49. Super writing. I agree totally. A woman in the best manager in the world. The way, a woman can manage to do thousands things in a day without cribbing but in fact with a smile on her face is one of the greatest thing about them! :)

  50. Joshi...Glad you like it.

    Aditya..Ohh I crib all the time!

  51. To that woman who has silently made a house a home...who has even more silently become indispensable...who like Goddess Kali is armed, physically and mentally, to multi-task....who, without stating the obvious, is the boss at home...who takes any job to a higher level of efficiency...Hats off every hat head that dons one!
    A quiet but permanent revolution is going on, and I am happy to be participating in it in my life and also by commenting on all such writings.
    I missed this post... preoccupied with my hubby dear's surgery...I came by from Anto's mention about this post and just had to read a fellow crusader's revolutionary post!!! LOL

  52. Nalini, hope your husband is doing good now. But I have to tell you this, I was actually waiting for your opinion. Whatever you say is expressed so beautifully, it makes me read it again and again.
    Women are becoming more vocal about their needs, they are voicing their opinions and thankfully a few men are listening. Am glad you consider me a fellow crusader.

  53. Somehow this post of your got skipped but thanks to Blogadda, here I am.You have said it all, cheers.

  54. Beautifully said, Purba!

    We would rather have our place under the sun - with no reservations or special policies, and to live life the way we want to - as women!

  55. Thank you, Ayyangar Sir

    Smitha...Yes, the way we want it, the way we like it.

  56. The mainstream national media is giving good awareness about women who break the trend on regular occasions.

    Our female children need sufficient exposure to strong women role models, right from their school days and childhood.

    You would have handled the experience differently, because of your brought-up.

  57. Unfortunately most of their role models are barbie doll like filmstars!

  58. dont know how i missed this gem...but a gem it is..
    hits the on...

  59. Well written Purba!! Kudos!!
    I guess its best written this way to convince Desh that it is scary for women in Delhi - it was hard to convice him!
    Also, lately some women have been lucky and found a husband that supports her dreams and encourages her urge to surge ahead! And miniscule percentage are taking advanatage - traumatize the spouse and threaten with abducting the kids or false law suits and police complaints. I would say both men and women have taken feminism to an entirely different height!

  60. Menon...You were busy being in love with your I-Pad.

    Kavita....Desh, refuses to accept that others may have a point of view too.
    The war of the sexes - is a nasty game of one- upmanship. Let me teach you a lesson, that you"ll remember for the rest of your life....Sad.

  61. I always wondered whether I was really a feminist. I would swing between being one and not being one. Though I feel very strongly about all the 'women issues' but I don't blame MEN for all that is happening in the society. I feel women are equally responsible for tolerating all the nonsense.

    This was a great write-up Purba. A very balanced one indeed!

  62. wow..great work..I'm your fan.

  63. I still do not get it why a bunch of guys tease that one shy guy as girlish... why is the word 'girlish' taken as a synonym for coward or unworthy? It is so sad...

    Nice post.. Loved it..

  64. Wonderfully written, dear Purba... I am all swelled up with pride on being a 'woman'!!!
    You have done a great job and congrats on 'the pick'!
    If only people would understand and accept this...

    ps:I have missed so many of ur wonderful posts...I had been really tied down...let me check it out:)

  65. Hi Purbha

    You wrote this a long time back and it's won recognition too.

    Agree that women get rotten deal in this country in spite of being venerated as a Goddess and Mother.

    Women in India have come a long way, but there a lot more to cover. And I think women have to help women much more - today even there the wires seem tangled.

    It's only mini-celebration time now - more work to be done, bigger mountains to be scaled.

    Your article was a good read.

  66. I am quite surprised by Manu's views and directions for women. How could he have been such an idiot when our mythology is replete with tales of strong women who kicked ass?

  67. Bravo! There are times when you cannot find something profound or witty to say when a piece is so good that you have to fall back on cliched words.

    By the way, a Society that assigned a subordinate role to women also, in theory, enforced respectful behavior with women outside the family setup, This respect appears to be disintegrating because the more prominent and independent role that women now play in Society challenges the fragile ego of a significant proportion of men. Let us hope it is only the trauma of an adjustment to change and not an evil that has come here to stay.


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