Positive Female Role Models


Now that I have dissed on one of the feminist book of 2016  here, what are the alternative? What are the positive (female) role models I would recommend? These recommendations are not for females alone, it is for all genders.

Note – To be honest, I am unable to offer resources for people of all genders (like trans) or all sexualities because I have limited time and can only consume a certain amount of media (in terms of books, movies, blogs, and TV) and I will look for relevant resources should the need arise in my life.

Books

  1. Zita the Spacegirl series
  2. Delilah Dirk Series
  3. Giant Days series
  4. D.I Kim by Angela Marsons – Well, women have their demons too but smart, strong women for the go.
  5. Amy Stewart’s Kopp Sisters series –  I loved this one.

TV Series

Many of the shows I watch have excellent strong female role models (I am surprised as I thought of it for this article because I wasn’t analyzing it when I was watching them that way).

The Arrow – Felicity, Thea, Sarah & Laurel Lance, the villains – all smart, intelligent, funny, amazing women and some are lesbians/bisexual.

DC Legends of Tomorrow – Sarah Lance is a lesbian leader of the group. She is smart, strong and an excellent warrior.

SuperGirl – The main characters are strong women. There are coming out scenes and same gender relationships.

The Flash – Again, no shortage of strong, intelligent women with healthy relationships. There are 2 interracial relationships at the moment now. The women are strong, decisive, intelligent and give great advice.

Ash Vs. Evil Dead – Strong women. They are smarter than men actually.

Lucifer – Again, the women are strong with a better moral compass and all of this without hating.

Now that I think of it, there are so many healthy role models around. We don’t really need a book spewing hatred to teach feminism.

Baahubali 2 Wowed Me


Baahubali 2 wowed me but not mainly for the visual effects (which are great) or the fight scenes. I was bowled over by the portrayal of Devasena’s character and her love story with Baahubali.

There has been criticism of the portrayal of the love story between Shiva and Avantika in Baahubali 1. I noticed that Avantika turns from a warrior to a docile ‘my Shiva will do my job‘ after falling in love. Looks like the director did take note of the criticism.

Note: No spoilers ahead.

Why was I so happy? Because for the first time in a mainstream Indian movie:

  • The woman is the same before and after falling in love/marriage. She does not tone down in her retorts or become obedient and servile.
  • She dares to talk back to her boyfriend/fiancé/husband ‘s mother in front of everyone several times and there are no repercussions from her partner.
  • Her partner never once says – ‘You need to apologize  to my mom‘ or ‘She is like that. She is old. Forgive her and adjust‘. Not once.
  • The guy is a total momma’s boy from the beginning but he dares to oppose his mother in the court in front of everyone in support of his wife/fiancée/girlfriend.
  • He still stands by his wife even when his mom ignores him and stops talking to him.
  • Arrogance in a woman is not punished.

Usually, the only women who can get away with arrogance or talking back in Indian movies are villains or women who don’t get the guy in the end (think Padayappa). The lead women usually don’t talk back like that after falling in love. Of course, the rest of the movie goes into clichés like having men to the rescue and revenge.

The reason it is so ground breaking in my eyes is because everything from popular culture to our society don’t endorse or showcase such behaviour. It is always about respect and blind obedience to one’s parents. I have heard a lot of times about how Indian (and other Asian) sons do not support their wives or speak up for them in front of their families and instead tell their wives to adjust or along the lines of ‘sorry, I can’t do anything‘. Check IHM’s or Madh mama’s blogs for examples of letters from women whose husbands don’t support them and instead keep mum when it comes to their parents.

I tried to think of an Indian movie where a similar thing happens and I could not think of any. Do you think there are other examples in Indian movies where the lady is rude/talks back to her partner’s parents and still has her partner’s full support and is not portrayed as reformed or remorseful after that?

One Hundred Nights of Hate


I read this book – The One Hundred Nights of Hero (Early Earth) which has been highly acclaimed and suggested as the perfect gift for daughters for introducing feminism – One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenburg. This has been hailed as one of the best graphic novels in 2016 and has a 4.5 stars rating on Goodreads. To me, this is not feminism. This is more like a book written from the viewpoint of a man-hating lesbian.

The art work was okay. The stories were not that engaging. I was not dying to finish the book but I read them only because of Uncle’s critique of the book and he wanted me to judge for myself. Honestly, the book did not touch me.  The book is more of a reimagination of the creation story and Arabian nights.

My Critique of the Book

  1. The blurb on the back says that this is a book about love but the overall theme in the book was pure hate. I was surprised at the amount of hate emanating from this book.
  2. The entire book was about men vs. women. No cooperation. No kindness. I am not sure how we can spread feminism if we make an entire section of the society unwanted and unwilling to support feminism.
  3. The book perpetuates stereotypes of  women as dumb, naive, petty and mean falling for the first man who is nice to them. How is this even empowering?
  4. The book goes on and on about sisterhood. From my life experience, sisterhood exists but we cannot make an assumption that all women look out for each other. They are equally capable of betrayal and leave you in the lurch as much as any other gender.
  5. Open agenda against one gender.One hundred nights go hero
  6. The author’s attitude. When people critique her book as man hating, she uses it as an example and an extension of the men in her book on how they control women and lock them up and don’t let them read books.Isabel Greenberg Response to critique
  7. According to this book, the only true love is lesbian love.
  8. No healthy heterosexual relationships in this book.
  9. All the men in our lives are vile creatures according to this book

Do I really want my daughter to see the world this way? I will not prevent my kid from reading this book but I will not be gifting it to anyone. Instead I would love to discuss with my kid on how this is not okay. If an entire book were written stereotyping women and showcasing them as an evil gender today, it would not be acceptable (though there are several examples in history). Similarly, a hateful book about any other gender is also not acceptable. This is 2017 not 1373. If an agenda against homosexuals/bisexuals is not okay, then an agenda against heterosexuals is also not okay.

Sadly, books in favour of traditionally oppressed groups putting down and blaming the dominant group have been bestsellers and really popular. The popularity of this book reminded me of Susan Cain’s book – Quiet which blames extroverts for everything from the recession to wars and how superior introverts are. Something like this book.

Feminism does not mean hating other genders or blaming them for all the world’s problems. Instead, I would call this ‘placing women on a pedestal‘ syndrome wherein we start believing that the root of all evil is men and that women are incapable of any wrong. The truth is the world would not necessarily have been a better place had women been in charge because we are all humans and there are good, bad, ugly, mean, selfish, nasty, wicked people irrespective of gender.

What is Curry?- 2


How do I explain curry to foreigners? Here is an article that does 🙂

Some relevant quotes:

“The idea of a curry is, in fact, a concept that the Europeans imposed on India’s food culture,” Lizzy Collingham.

“The Indians had specific names for each and every dish of theirs (rasam, korma, rogan josh). Not only did the British call all these unfamiliar dishes “curry,” but once the British went home and had to satisfy their cravings using only the spice mixes prepared by their cooks back in India, they sprinkled these spice powders onto anything and everything and called the dish “curry.”

“British used the term curry to describe dishes from every Indian region. This was a boon as well as a curse in disguise: A curse because they glossed over the regional differences and compressed the staggering heterogeneity and diversity of Indian cooking into a simplistic box;”

“Indians call their dishes curries while referring to them in English, notwithstanding the fact that they are referred to by their individual names in the native language.”

“Curry powder was an attempt by the British to capture all the Indian cuisines into a bottle, a pan-Indian spice mix. “

Indians – Please do not use the word ‘Curry’ to describe Indian dishes to foreigners.

You might also like What is Curry?

News: High Rates of Suicide Among Indian Housewives


Why are so many Indian housewives killing themselves? Because a lot of them have no other way out of such a patriarchal system. They have no freedom in any sense from economic to mental and no support from their own families or their husbands.

Some excerpts:

‘More than 20,000 housewives took their lives in India in 2014.’

‘Yet the high number of homemakers killing themselves doesn’t make front page news in the way farmer suicides do, year after year.’

‘Dr Vikram Patel, a leading Goa-based psychiatrist and professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-authored the Lancet study, tells me that the high rate of housewife suicides in India can be attributed to a double whammy of “gender and discrimination”.

Many women face arranged marriages by force. They have dreams and aspirations, but they often do not get supportive spouses. Sometimes their parents don’t support them either. They are trapped in a difficult system and social milieu,” he says.’

What can we do to improve this? Promote gender equality in every sense.

The Need for Independence & Control


I was reading Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’ when this hit me.

The author discusses how old people became depressed being in old age homes as there was loss of independence and privacy. They were being treated like kids – the home tells you when to get up and when to eat and what to eat. This is why assisted living in the original sense (the author talks about how assisted living as a concept changed over years) became popular because people could live in their own home by their own rules. The medical system and the oldies families were concerned with safety while the old peoples were more concerned about living the way they pleased with nobody dictating their lives.

If human nature strives for independence and control which is evidenced by research and old people are so unhappy about being told what to do, what about the countless daughter-in-laws (DILs) and sons in traditional societies who never get to be independent?

The moment the DIL comes into the family, everyone from her husband’s mother to father to other relatives take it upon themselves to show the DIL her place. They tell her what to cook, what to wear, when she can go out and even, if and when she can talk to her own parents. For the sons, unless they have studied/worked in another city, many of them never get the opportunity to explore their own tastes or desires. For the couple, they often do not get to explore setting up their own house or creating a home with their own rules. Often, it is about assimilating into somebody else’s home. 

On top of it, the in-laws and the husband are surprised when the DIL is upset about ‘trivial things’ like the colour of the curtains and wonder why she can’t ‘just adjust and give in’. That is because nobody likes being made to live their entire life according to another person’s whim and fancy. Yes, one could argue that one has to follow laws but everyone likes to have a semblance of control over their own lives to the largest extent possible as an adult.

Also, we (I sometimes do) often tend to go into parent mode with our parents as they grow older. Something we need to work on avoiding. 

Food for though for older people who wish to control their kids and their spouses lives. They may obey but they are not happy and this is why. If you are a DIL who feels irritated but can’t find anything wrong, this is why. Our societal norms are so ingrained in us that it is difficult to articulate what feels wrong. If you are a husband whose spouse complains about your mom/dad/sis/relative picking on her and you can’t get why she is so upset, this is why.

Give space and freedom to adults because that is how we are meant to be. How can one truly lead a fulfilled life if they do not get to live an independent life?

The Need For Approval From In-Laws


The Need For Approval From In-Laws

Why do women have such a strong need for approval from their in-laws?

As I listen to upset women about how their in-laws did not like this or that and read emails from women talking about issues with their in-laws, I really wonder why none of these women talk about their husbands or their parents in the same manner. 

“My dad was not happy because I don’t do puja every day”.

“My mom does not approve  and made remarks that I do not wake up at 5 AM daily.”

“My husband is not happy that I wore a dress today”.

No. I never hear those words from married women. It is almost always my mother in law (MIL)/ father in law (FIL)/ Sister in law (SIL) did not like that.

Why are women socially conditioned into pleasing their in-laws? Do they really care more about their in-laws than their parents or husbands? We are not children dependent on our parents approval. Isn’t love from the husband, friends and family enough? Why do we have to be in the good books of our MILs and FILs as well? There is this strong unwritten social contract that the DIL shouldn’t rock the boat and a lot of women play by that. Add to that, a lot of husbands tend to keep quiet and not support their wives because they do not wish to rock the boat either and because they are not suffering as much because filial piety but this is a story for another day.

Let’s look at this way – if your best friend was dating a guy who was constantly critical and never approved of anything she did, would the most natural reaction be to tell her to try harder or to break up? Why do we ditch logic when it comes to this situation? Admitted, a lot of the older generation (especially Asians) are traditional and do not believe in praising and prefer criticism by virtue of being elder but is it even logical to start relationships like that? With criticism and disapproval? The older folks also need to think about that.

From my observations, even if it is an arranged marriage, many in-laws do not approve of their daughter in laws (DILs) and are extremely critical of them, no matter what they do. A DIL may do whatever they tell her to do but they would still find fault with her. The very fact that she is the DIL (aka lowest in the social order of family) is reason enough. If it is so obvious that your in-laws are never going to approve of you, why even bother seeking their approval? Why not just live the way it suits you because they are always going to find something to nitpick on? If it a love marriage, many parents feel that the DIL should bend backwards because they were benevolent enough to let their son marry her. Many DILs feel guilty because of all the drama and hurt that led to the love marriage and are willing to do a lot to be accepted by their in-laws  and to ensure that there is no further cause for complaint. Often, so many DILs dislike their MIL but most play along in order to avoid confrontation or due to lack of support.

My opinion is that getting along with the in-laws is the icing on the cake. The cake is your marriage. If you look around you would realise that it is quite difficult to have a great marriage as it is, so why add additional people to the equation and complicate your life? It is great if you can get along fantastically with your in-laws but if you can’t, I think it is no big deal. Women would never let their friends/relatives/colleagues walk all over them, the way many DILs let their in-laws do. I do understand that many people do not like confrontations but sometimes, we have to fight it out, set boundaries and cut out toxic relationships if need be. On an average, we form a relationship with our in-laws well into our adulthood. It is not like we invested the last 30 years of our life nurturing the relationship and have difficulties letting go. It is enough if we can be civil and sit through a dinner without yelling or scratching each others eyes out.

“They are my husband’s parents, how can I stop talking to them?”

Yes, you can. You don’t have to engage in long conversations beyond civil greetings and polite meals. That does not mean that your husband should stop talking to his parents or your guilt trip him every time he talks to them. He can talk and visit all he wants. 

“I live in the same house as my in-laws.”

Please move out. In my opinion, moving out is one of the best things one can do for their marriage, especially if it is an arranged one where the woman doesn’t know her spouse well. I blogged about it here. Besides, we can’t get along with everyone in our class or in office. What do we do? Fight every time? No, we just be polite and avoid unnecessary interactions. Same in this case.

Involvement Interference from family and levels allowed is something a couple needs to discuss before marriage, especially if one or both partners is from a traditional or patriarchal culture. I am surprised at how DILS are caught by surprise when their husbands keep quiet or by how much his aunty has a say in your life. Most people avoid discussing these things but they need to be talked about. How much is the acceptable level of interference and how will your spouse protect you (from them)?

Is it okay if your mom dictates my clothes? Will you tell her not to bother me or keep quiet? Do they get to tell me to do puja daily? Can I refuse and answer back if I don’t agree with them? Can I refuse to cook if I am tired? Does my family have equal access to us like your parents? Do I get to argue the way  I do with my parents?

Of course, we have to be nice and kind like we treat all guests and people we meet for the first time. I am not asking you to start your relationship with your in-laws on the warpath. That doesn’t mean you let them walk all over you. It is way easier if you set your boundaries the first time something bothers you than wait for it to happen 20 times before you voice it out because people are conditioned to you obeying. Yes, voicing it out gives you the title of an arrogant/difficult DIL where the norm is obedient but it is a choice you have to make – get the good DIL badge of honor (which is never gonna come) or make choices that make you happy.

I really feel DILs should let go of the need for approval and acceptance from their in-laws. That is really one of the most liberating things we can do. There is no badge for the perfect DIL but not giving a shit about people who don’t approve does improve the quality of your life dramatically.