A Lifetime Sentence of Being Woman

Earlier this month, I tweeted the following:

“More and more it becomes obvious that testosterone and machismo are the biggest problems this world faces. Can we just ban men?”

The reactions I received proved my point and make me firmly NOT apologetic for it. Personal attacks. Rape threats. Attack threats. Abuses. Trolling. It went on for over four days.

One woman badgered me about the sexism and said I was as bad as the men I had complained about earlier, who indulged in casual sexism. When I tweeted later about the attacks coming my way, she called it ‘convenient victimisation’.

Men who did not attack me badgered me to ‘prove’ that these were rape threats. I was asked how I felt about women drivers. They demanded that I prove these were attacks.

Two male friends got involved and how? By talking down to me, by mansplaining and by telling me not to attack all men. One of them unfollowed me when I retailiated. Another one posted a sly complaining tweet and has not bothered to have a conversation even after I’ve reached out. Why really should I care about men and what they feel? Because if I don’t, I’ll be punished over and over again.

Four people reached out, on the phone. That’s it.Not one of the causes and people I’ve supported over the years said a word. Everyone else continued tweeting as per usual, outraging about the fashionable causes and intellectualising about movie censorship, women’s rights and comedy.

I felt an immense sense of betrayal and shame for days. Why do I want to stand up for the cause of women when they won’t support me but actively take part in attacking me? Why should I support gay rights, transgender rights, environmental activists, social change drivers when not a single one of them gives a f&*( about my safety? I’m just a number to add to their support figures.

I am so disappointed in the world. And every time I express this, I get versions of ‘But why are you so hard on men?’ and ‘Not all men are like that’ and ‘Arre, you are just unlucky. Ignore the trolls, na.’

I don’t have a way to end this post because I don’t want to spew curses on the world I’m superstitious enough to believe that all of it will only rebound on me and well, do I really need any more problems? I’m already a prisoner of a lifetime sentence of being a woman with a voice. No further punishment, please. I’ll learn to STFU eventually.

Update: The trolls have followed me to this blog. What kind of a farce allows people to call themselves feminists while also harassing a woman who said something that men didn’t like?

Menstrual Myths and Products That Matter

Today is World Menstrual Health Day. I wonder if they chose the 28th of this month because of the 28 days that are a cycle average. Well, there is certainly a lot to be said about menstrual health and I think I do a lot of talking (and writing) about it already. But it appears to fall to the few of us to keep it going. So, if you are a woman or if you truly care about at least one woman in your life, think about what this means and contribute to the conversations.

There are a lot of myths around menstrual health. My favorite ones (to poke holes into, that is) are:

1. Menstrual blood is dirty! Heh, Adhyayan Suman anyone? Witchcraft and evil galore. Well, no. Menstrual blood is not shit or urine. It’s not ‘dirty’ in that way. If anything, menstrual blood is the raw material that makes up a human being. It’s what would have been left of you, had your daddy’s sperm not fertilized your mummy’s egg. It’s no more dirty than you are.

2. Menstrual health is about getting your period on time. How cute. That’s like saying a movie is about the two hours that you see it on screen. The female reproductive system is intricately organised (entirely internally). It is also self-regulating and self-cleaning. And it involves a lot of hormones, their production and their dispensation. Hormones are chemical and anything chemical is complex and involves hundreds of things that could potentially have concern areas. Honour the most important system in your body, ladies and know it.

3. Gynacologists are to be visited when you’re pregnant or when you’re about to get married. Really. And you should probably see an eye specialist when you’ve completely lost your eyesight. Look at point 2 and think about whether it makes sense to assume that everything is okay until something is drastically different?

I don’t want to talk about any further myths because most of them have to do with social beliefs rather than scientific facts. I’ve also created two videos that may be of interest, while on this.

The first is the unboxing of a new menstrual cup. Reema has decided to try a different brand, given they all come in varying sizes and shapes. I’m considering a new one myself, after the somewhat decent experience I’ve had with SilkyCup. This is the She Cup and the video shows what it looks like and what else the package contains.

The second is the unboxing of a parcel from CossetBox. They’re a new service catering to women on their period days. Take a look at the magnificent box they sent me to try out. It contains a lot more than the usual suspects of sanitary napkins and chocolate.

All these are commercial products but they cater to women’s health and it is in all our interest to talk about them. It’ll be a fine day when we can discuss menstrual cups, vaginal wipes (not ‘intimate wipes’) and female condoms with the same unblinking confidence with which we speak of shoes and lipstick. Happy World Menstrual Health Day, ladies!

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* If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

The Mother Box – Poetry & Acid

I wore a saree to a poetry event today. Unlike the last time, it was a rushed drape of an unstarched cotton. I look like an amma. But I was on my way to a new poetry event. And I thought it would be nice to do gentle romantic piece. But on the train, there were three women who were travelling with an adult height male being. When I protested his presence in the ladies compartment, they abused me. The last time I tweeted a picture of such a male creature in the ladies compartment, I got abused by women on Twitter. It made me mad enough to bring out my vitriol from last week. Truly, mothers/sisters of men in this country have to be the most irresponsible, self-absorbed, cussed group ever. My deepest derision is saved for you. Here’s Mother’s Day, performed at Kulture Shop.

When I finished, I felt somewhat incensed. This country is what it is. And as a bona fide uterus carrier, I will live the rest of my life with men hanging their insecurities on me and blaming me for it. Where I can, I will shoulder that burden womanfully (yes, what is manfully? that to me, just means in a weak, undependable and entitled manner). So here’s something that I do do well – offer comfort and solace. Lullaby for your listening pleasure.

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* If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Faking It Because I Don’t Think I’m Making It: Two Poems

I haven’t written in awhile, a whole month and nearly a half, in fact. I haven’t felt enough in love with the opposite sex, with my own gender identity or with the world to express an opinion on it. April was very hard, full of difficult lessons that I’ll write about when I’ve had time to sort them out in my mind.

And in the meantime, one continues to keep breathing. And with this one, the best of those breaths speak poetry aloud, even if they’re all fiction. Here are two pieces I performed recently, both of which are entirely fictitious. I’ve never had anyone that I felt enough hope with, to ride through an unglamorous season 2 with. That is the crux of the piece that I call ‘Patchwork Relationship’. Considering the response it usually gets, I imagine that enough of other people have felt this. I guess a writer’s job is to hold a mirror up to humanity, even if they can’t see themselves in it.

By the way, the night I performed this, I was very, very sick. I threw up several times before I went up on stage. And after I came back home, I spent the night dry-heaving, too weak to stand. I thought it was possible I wouldn’t make it through the night and that I might choke on my puke. As it turned out, I didn’t. The performance is the only time that stands out in that day as shining clear, feeling one with the universe and okay with life. The stage is my second blog now. I feel like the true me up there and like everything else is an act I’m putting on. Even when what I’m performing is entirely fictitious.

The second piece is one I wrote and read out at the Hive’s Great Indian Poetry Challenge. You’re given a prompt and one hour to come up with an original poem. My prompt was ‘Wrong Time’. A new friend observed that I usually wrote ranty, angry, feminist poetry and he challenged/suggested/coaxed me to try something different. And he was just so sweet about it that I wanted to go along. So here I am, fictioning it up again with ‘Wrong Time’. For fact, this is probably how my two steady relationships went – my holding up the glory and sparkle and magic above the mundanity that each man was trying to force upon me. I lost in both cases but the memory remains. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to do that again for any other human being (two is quite enough pounds of flesh that the universe has extracted from me, don’t you think?). Now I’m a writer, so I can make shameless use of all of it in poetry.

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* If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

The Curious Case Of The Newly Divorced Man

A few years ago, I wrote about navigating the boundaries of a friendship with a married man. My first guest contributor, The Single Married Man shared a firsthand account of the confusion of being in transition from ‘married’ to ‘divorced’.

I am finding divorce in every by lane of my social circle these days. Over the years, I’ve bemoaned relationship breakdowns with girlfriends and together we have learnt to deal with it. For some reason, when I was in my 20s, we tended to seek solace from others of our own sex. But these days I find myself in more conversations with men about their failing/failed marriages.

Perhaps it’s because the boundaries between the sexes are blurring. Maybe it’s because marriage is a complex universe involving families, landlords and the law so one can’t afford to be picky about where one finds one’s support. Or maybe like I once predicted would happen, the men of my generation are just finding it harder to cope with the realities than women.

Image via Unsplash/Thomas Lefebvre

Image via Unsplash/Thomas Lefebvre

They are all men in transition. They have been independent and intelligent, they’ve believed in gender equality and love and commitment. Now with their worlds tattered, they’re rebuilding how they see the world, life, the opposite sex and themselves. I can see them struggling to fit me into relationship models familiar to them.

One of them propositioned me. I deflected him gently so it wouldn’t bruise his ego. “But you’re the one who told me to get out and have some fun!” he said. I meant it would be good for him to loosen up and experience the lighter side of interactions with the opposite sex. That could include casual sex. But I didn’t like his taking it for granted that I was offering myself up.

Married people, especially those who were not single for very long, often tend to take a superior stance on the single life. Marriage is a lot of work, they tell us. What they don’t realise is that being single is a different kind of battlefield. It’s not all days of How I Met Your Mother/Sex and The City style apartments, hitting the town each night and regular Tinder hookups. It’s constant loneliness and never being sure, it’s eating for one, knowing total strangers have the ability to hurt you and constantly evaluating how lonely you are versus how little your options appeal to you. Recently divorced people have a lot to learn, this is true. Welcome to the world of ONE.

One friend threw a tantrum last month because he felt like meeting me for dinner and I said I was busy. I had to be firm, patient but also subtle in conveying to him that I was not obligated to meet all his needs. It really hit me even more painfully then.

Many of these men, even the most independent, thoughtful ones, by virtue of our Great Indian Family Culture have never been allowed to deal with difficulty on their own. They have been mollycoddled from disappointment and insulated from Nos. They have no reference for what to do in a world that does not have time to meet their every demand. Their families are older and possibly less able to be their shields. Often, the families are showing their humanness in bringing in their own prejudices. What is this boychild in a man’s body to do?

I am also noticing some of them lapsing into cynicism and active hatred of women. It’s a scary thing to be around. Most women know that a man who doesn’t get what he wants, is a dangerous man. At what point do I stop being supportive and decide to walk away? When does one decide that this person, this friend of so many years is more dangerous beast than friend?

Take socially sanctioned male entitlement, sprinkle in a vague flavour of independent thinking, throw in some outraged sense of betrayal and mix liberally with confused East/West value systems — that is the brain of today’s recently divorced Indian male.

I do not intend to fall into the common trap of playing mommy to any one of them. Life and the system has extracted its own pound of flesh from me. But they are becoming different people because of their divorces and our relationships are changing too. I guess I’m afraid of what that could mean for them, for us and ultimately, for me.

Image via Unsplash/Daniel McInnes

Image via Unsplash/Daniel McInnes

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* If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Boyzoned! (No, Not Those Guys)

No, I’m not referencing my generation’s equivalent of Justin Bieber (times 5). I’m speaking of a very specific phenomenon that happens between men and women.

* Image via Unsplash/Lea Dubedout

Say you’re a single woman who is friendly and lives in a place that affords plenty of interaction with both sexes. Most men’s first interaction with you tends to be at least a little flirtatious. You learn not to take it too seriously. After all, you don’t want to be one of those girls — the ones that imagine wedding bells ringing whenever a guy smiles at them. So, no, whatever, really, you thought I was going to go soppy on you, no dude, we are splitting the bill equally. You know you’ve had a close shave when the guys bitch and snark about those girls. You’re a Cool Girl.

It happens so suddenly you never see it coming. A burp here, a torn/food-stained teeshirt there. It’s okay, he’s human. Oh never mind that you NEVER do any of that around him.

Then he keeps you waiting for an hour and when he shows up, he says he got caught. Fine, you fume a bit but you get late sometimes too. Then he starts telling you about what a horrible week he’s had and how his job sucks. Well, you listen. I mean what else can you do? And he leaves before you get a chance to tell him you’ve been working 14 hour days straight. But well, okay, maybe next time. You’re We’re-Close Girl.

It’s all cool for awhile except he’s really busy. Then when you meet and you’re aching for some nice company, he’s distracted. He shows up on time but he’s constantly whipping out his phone. You go silent. He doesn’t even notice. Then he looks around (never at you) and says this place isn’t that great, how about leaving? You realise he is just not that into you. You thank your stars you didn’t fall in love. You eat some chocolate, drink some wine, talk a little too long to a girlfriend and then it’s okay. You’ve got a couple of other people calling and asking you out anyway. You’re Independent Girl.

Two weeks later he calls when you’re in a meeting. You can’t take his call and when you’re finished with work, you just want to go home and get to sleep. He calls again the next day and you can’t take the call just then, your head hurts because your period is due and you don’t really feel much like talking. Then your Whatsapp starts pinging like crazy so you have to look at it. He wants to know why you haven’t been responding and what’s wrong and are you feeling okay? You smile at the phone and think that’s sweet and tell him you’re not feeling too well so taking a day off. You have a pretty nice conversation on Whatsapp, which you don’t ask to take to a phone call. It is your day to yourself after all. You hang up after an hour feeling proud of your independence and your willpower, feeling good about the world. Even the period cramps don’t hurt so much.

The next day you call him. He doesn’t answer. Two days later you call him again. He answers with a curt, whispered “Hellocan’ttalkrightnowI’llcallyouback”. There is a phone call a day later which you don’t want to think about who initiated. There’s only this much willpower a girl can have right after her period. It’s been a crazy time he tells you. Same here, you say loudly, determined that this time you get to talk about your work woes too. You spend ten minutes mutual bitching and you decide to ‘do that event’ that evening. There are plenty of your common friends around so you barely have a full conversation. But it’s nice to see him. Your back is still aching so you leave early. He doesn’t offer to drop you home and if he did, you’d scoff. Pffff, are you mad, it’s only 8 o’clock, stay, have fun, I’m alright, just want to get to bed early. You’re No Fuss Girl.

A couple of more weeks pass. You had a couple of Tinder dates. All of them wanted instant sex. None of them even wanted a conversation. You didn’t want any of them. You are in touch. On Whatsapp. A joke, an emoji, a photo of his new Kindle, more emoji, a random sentence that you can’t decipher followed by “Sry ignire plz”. You shrug. You won’t be GrammarNazi Girl.

One time you call to tell him about this music event you’re going to and will you hang together? He says no, he’s working really hard. You go back to being Solo Date Girl.

It’s over a month before you hear from him. It’s a phone call and you tell your Independence to shut up lecturing you for feeling good about seeing his name flash across your screen. He’s calling to ask what was the name of that restaurant you went to once where you had to leave early because you didn’t like it? No, it wasn’t me you insist, he’s the one who had itchy pants that evening. He laughs at that and challenges you to a drink-off at that very place and you’ll see who has itchy pants.

You meet him three days later for the drink-off. It’s a Sunday afternoon but you might want to go home to your teddy bear after one Cosmopolitan he says. You give him a LOOK and order your usual rum-and-coke. You’ve always been A Girl Who Can Hold Her Drink. You finish before him and wait for him to catch up (sniggering, pointing out his half-full glass). He gets a call. You’re made to give directions, cafe suggestions, accompanied by elaborate indecipherable facial expressions from him. When he hangs up, he chugs his drink and calls for the bill. What, you start to ask. He tells you he has to go, he doesn’t want to keep her waiting and will it take longer to get there by road or should he take the train? Chuck it, he says, he doesn’t want to get smelly in the train. He grabs the first cab that comes along. You get a text from him ten minutes later saying “Sry babe, hope u dint mind.” You’re starting to get a sense of what Girl he sees you as and it’s not any kind of girl. Boys treat other boys this way.

He calls a week later and this time you’re out with a new guy, your first date in ages and ages (well maybe it is, but you’re not going to be the first one to call it that). You mute the call, resolving to call him back the next day. But Whatsapp starts ringing and you have to unlock your phone to mute it. And now he’s calling again. If you don’t answer it, you’ll have to tell your not-date why not. So you answer meaning to say you’re busy and can you call back. Before you can even say hello, there’s a barrage of words flooding through the phone in his voice. You look up at the guy sitting in front of you. You listen to the guy talking to you. Which one of them is likely to stick around longer in your life? You take a deep breath. You are an independent woman and you don’t have to let a new guy dictate your life. Your friend needs you. You get up and take your phone outside. He’s ranting about the shitty restaurant and can he come over right now? Not now, you manage to tell him, you’re outside. But you’ll meet him over the week. When you return, the bill has arrived. Your not-date is not a date anymore.

Rinse and repeat, Boyzoned Girl.

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* If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Take A Day Off Each Month From Being Me

This tweet by ChhotaHulk got me thinking.

I didn’t rally with a Yeah women! cry. I didn’t have to. Rather proudly, I replied that,

It’s true. This is something I first started doing because I didn’t have a choice. At least once a month, when my period hit, I’d keel over with cramps, nausea, headaches and low blood pressure (which makes me faint and when conscious, depressed). Once I fainted in a crowded Mumbai local train. After being lectured on eating better, exercising and what not by family, doctor and employers, I began doing that. But over the years, even in my fittest months, I struggle to cope with a regular day when I’m bleeding. I mean struggle, a physical, emotional, mental effort that leaves me wishing I had just been killed off as a fetus.

For the past few months, I’ve tried to give myself one day where I go easy on myself. I’ve slept in, eaten crazy things and shut down work. I’ve discovered that it actually makes me more productive, taking that day off instead of struggling through it and having to redo or strain through working harder on the same thing.

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Image via Unsplash/Christopher Sardegna

Over time, I’ve started learning to be even kinder on myself. My usual OCD self takes a break on that day too. I don’t make my bed. Sometimes I don’t even get out of it all day, except to get something to eat (in bed) or visit the toilet. I’ve taken to not opening my computer. Sometimes I even leave my phone in the other room and pretend I’m dead to the world. The months I’ve done this, I’ve found by early evening itself I’m feeling cheerier, hungrier, more enthusiastic and wanting to get back to my life.

And finally in the most recent past, I’ve also began giving myself the permission to drop the Social Me. That’s not bothering to be polite, not worrying about diplomacy (as little as I do anyway), not caring about who thinks what or the consequences. Each time is a revelation on just HOW MUCH I tolerate from the world. There’s the daily stupidities of people that you take just because it’s too tiresome to not do so. There’s the small cruelties and petty nastiness that people inflict on you, especially on the internet, unthinking or perhaps just because they can do so. And there is all the entitlement of men. This is rarely from men who are very close to me but comes my way by the bushel from slight acquaintances, distant friends and strangers.

“I THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE NICE! WHY ARE YOU NOT BEING KIND TO ME?? I WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO ME. I WANT YOU TO TAKE CARE OF ME. I WANT YOU TO PAMPER ME. I WANT I WANT I WANT.”

….come the messages steamrolling me every single day. Well, that’s the one day in the month when I shut the door on them and throw cold water on their heads from the window.

The thing is, I’ve been doing this somewhat defensively and perhaps even a bit guiltily. But ChhotaHulk’s tweet made me realise it’s very, very, very tiring to be a woman every day. There is so much demanded of you, so much riding on your perfect delivery of these things, so many consequences of each tiny thought or action. It’s enough to make anyone crack up.

As I’m writing this, ChhotaHulk and I are still talking about it. He suggests that I not care about anyone and damn well do as I please. I truly appreciate his thinking about what women deserve but I know he doesn’t really understand.

Maids and landlords can make your life very difficult if they don’t approve of you. If you’re a woman, this doesn’t just mean your credit-worthiness and whether you stay quiet and clean. It also means whether you live up to their standards of what a woman should be like (read – shop for vegetables, cook from scratch, get up early in the morning, don’t drink or smoke, wear Indian clothes). Don’t believe me? I’ve had a landlady who got peeved with me because I was going to a work meeting instead of shopping for vegetables and decided to tell the dhobi, kachchrawala and the bai not to knock on my door. I’ve also had bais who would show up at any random hour because after all, “aap to kaam nahin karte ho ghar ka“. There were the watchmen from hell who would lech at me as I walked past in jeans and conveniently ‘forget’ to keep salesguys from knocking on my door. Plumbers, electricians, dabbawallas, shop delivery boys – all of these decide how well they want to do their job or if they’ll even do it at all, based on what I’m wearing and whether I smile at them. None of these have ever applied to the men.

I won’t detail again how strangers feel entitled to your empathy and politeness if you are female. I’ve already talked about that and interestingly, among the responses was a suggestion that I ‘reply politely and respectfully that I appreciated the man’s interest in me but I was a bit busy and would he mind if we didn’t talk now?’ I give up trying to explain that to anybody now.

And finally, here’s something else. As a woman, I’m rarely if not NEVER alone. It’s just not safe for me to be alone anywhere. Even in a city like Mumbai, going solo is subject to all kinds of conditions of place, time, dressing, occasion, day of the week, my age etc. Do you know just how big a luxury it is for me to disconnect from everyone? My bed is the only place I can do that in, that is all I am afforded and I’m still one of the lucky ones that has a room of my own.

For my own sanity, I’ve decided I am taking one day off each month from the responsibility of being ME, a big part of which is being a woman. The world can bloody well learn to deal with it and welcome me back with open arms when I return.

Do You Have A BiFF?

It’s an important question. A BiFF can change your whole outlook to the opposite sex, to love, relating, societies, work. A good BiFF is all good things rolled into one, a sort of Human Being Plus. I’d go so far to say the BiFF is like one of the X-Men. Wait, what’s a BiFF, you say?

A BiFF my dear boys and girls, is a Bisexual Friend Forever. I’m a big believer in friendship with the opposite sex so my BiFF has to be a bisexual man. Let me tell you why BiFFs are so amazing. But first, what do we know about bisexuality?

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*Image via thaikrit on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rainbows are everyone’s favorite cause on the internet and we’re steeped in images of men kissing men, women marrying each other and matched pairs everywhere. Where do we stand on people who swing both ways?

At one end of the spectrum is the Sex and The City school of thought that sees bisexuality as a kind of greed, of not wanting to settle with just one sort. At the other end…well, need we call it an end since it’s pretty much the rest of the icebBoyerg? Yeah, anyone that’s not matched into One Male-One Female is not human. That. Let’s return to Sex and the City since that’s pop culture’s most recent revolutionary offering around sexuality. It’s over ten years old and that in internet years, could constitute four generations. I don’t know how bisexual people felt about it then but I’m not going to worry about that now.

Let’s set aside the theory bits and let me tell you about what I’ve seen. My first interaction with an openly bisexual man was when we were out on our first date. He told me that he had kissed another man. And then he paused in his story. What I said went on to define who I am (and I’m so proud of this),

“Did you like it?” I asked.

When he completed his story, I thanked him for sharing something so private with me. He smiled and told me that it was test to see whether I’d think of him as weird. No, I thought considering, not really. It felt as normal as anything else and I couldn’t find anything inside my reactions that felt revulsion. He went on to introduce me to John Mayer and Sex and the City. He was the only guy I knew who had even heard of the show, let alone owning the entire VCD collection. It would be a few years before I became involved in the rainbow cause and longer still for friends to start talking about their own bisexuality.

Here’s what I know about bisexual men. They have none of the homophobic hang-ups of the straight men I’ve dated. This means, they’re a lot more relaxed in their own skin. They aren’t as horrified by women’s power as most straight men (obviously or otherwise). They are not defined by limited notions of what constitutes manly behavior. Interestingly, some of them are even alpha males.

At the same time, they are not as weighed down by the discrimination meted out to the gay community (of course this may just be the specific people I know). They are not either screaming themselves hoarse waving rainbow flags or devolving into sulky passive-aggressiveness against straight people. Their sexuality is just one more thing about them, like the colour of their hair or their favorite food. Isn’t that interesting now? By being pan-sexual, sexuality ceases to define them. Think about a man that is not defined by who he chooses to sleep with.

I’ve always thought that homophobia and low self-esteem are both led and reinforced by straight men. Okay, a very specific kind of straight man. It’s that guy who keeps alive notions like, ‘Ooh boys’ night out! Because women are terrors to be gotten away from’, ‘Woman on top! Yay, porn! No, not in real life!’ You can see why I think the Bisexual man is an advancement on this breed.

Once upon a time, the gay best friend was a fashionable idea, conjuring up images of boy/girl duos shopping for pastels and ogling men together (“Is he for you or for me?”). In reality, the friendships are nothing like that. Shopping and bird-watching are the most trivial of pursuits two people can undertake together. And with people who are supposedly as emotionally evolved as women and gay men, really is that the best one can come up with? In truth, I find the conversations boil down to who is feeling more marginalised, more discriminated against (Women, of course! We’re the biggest mistreated minority in the world! But then I’m biased). If a conversation goes beyond that, it’s because we are two people who like each, regardless of our sexuality. And the sexuality bit is just something that well, we don’t have anything in common. Gay relationship dynamics are very different from straight ones.

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*Image via stockimages on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But bisexual men make for great friends to women. They think like men but they are also able to relate to the way straight women think and feel. Picture this. You’re getting ready for a first date with a hot guy. Turn and ask your caricatured gay friend for advice. Run around wheeing and clapping hands and jumping up and down. And then the rest of the week agonising about the date.

Instead ask your BiFF about the date. He’ll give you a once-over and say,

“Looks good. Less lipstick. I know you like it but if I were him, I wouldn’t want to kiss that. If you want to get kissed, lose the lipstick.”

So you go, “Hmph. It’s a first date. We are only going to have dinner.”

“So?” he counters, “Don’t you want to have sex with him?”

“I haven’t thought about it,” you bluster, “It’s only the first date!”

“You met him on Tinder,” he replies and looks away.

No, he isn’t being respectful and giving you time to wipe your tears in private. He noticed someone hot walk across the room.

“Your hair looks really nice, by the way,” he interrupts your stream of thought, as he starts to get up. “See you later.”

He pays, his eyes never leaving his target and reaches for you with one arm. You sigh and resign yourself to the side-hug. “Call me if you need to get away” he whispers into your hair and vanishes.

Yeah, like I said, the BiFF is all things good about a man. What happens if your date is a creep and you have to call him and he’s busy? Well, that’s the subject for another post.

Celibacy, Sluttiness and Everything In Between

Now that we’re all adult and modern and can talk about sex openly, let’s.

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Image via Unsplash/Jairo Alzate

Only let’s not do that dialogue about repressed sexuality, about the male fear of women’s sexuality about all the cliches. Let’s talk about how women feel about their own sex, shall we? Wait, The Vagina Monologues already did that, didn’t they?

Okay fine, but let’s do more of it. Because this here is a blog and we love talking about ourselves and not enough of it gets done and it’s always about how we are in relation to men. I say enough, I want to talk about me, about how I am whether men exist or not (well, obviously they do because sex, right?). I want to know how other women feel about themselves.

So sex. One of my first and most deeply entrenched ideas has been (Note the use of ongoing present tense or whatever that thing is called) that all my body organs will fall out of my vagina. Think about it. Gravity. So much stuffed into one body. A hole right at the bottom. Yeah. Of course I worry when I cough or sneeze or well, shit too hard.

Then there’s the one about the man being an intrusion. Look at even the language of sex. Penetrate. Bang. Ram. Horny. Hitting that. At the other end of it is the too coy, the nauseatingly abstract. Making love. Becoming one. Barf.

I have learned that sex does not have to be, actually should never be painful. Well, not you, 50 Shades of Grey peeps. My body is wonderfully designed to stretch, to contract, to bend, to twist in all manner of ways. Not inefficiently did Mother Nature design a body that could sustain multiple orgasms. But it’s learning that has come over time, over much challenging and forcing my way through preconceived notions, over inhibitions and over censure. It’s been a mental as well as a physical journey.

How do I feel about having sex? Outside of love, outside of control, outside of social norms, outside of all of that. Ever ask yourself that? Do. It’s one of the most fundamental things your body can do, should do.

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I like it. There’s no ‘with the right person’ because that’s too much like a romcom and life, I know has been nothing like that to me. I like it when it’s on my terms, when it is fun, when it carries respect but not reserve and when it goes through and ends with both of us feeling pleasant about it and each other. And there just isn’t enough of that going around.

Tinder, you suck. I don’t even want to meet the men on it, let alone do anything with them. Hookup, what a horrible word. It makes me think of Captain Hook and which sane woman would want that going into her?

I was a virgin for way longer than most people suspect. It’s hard to say why. Early in my life I met a man (boy?) who forced himself on me and tried every mindfucked trick in the book. (“If you don’t give me what I want, I’ll go elsewhere”, “When a guy doesn’t have sex for long, he falls sick”, “You are so ugly, nobody but me will want to have sex with you”). It scarred me for a long time, yes. Also, the only way I kept some vestige of self-respect and control over my own body was by telling him that I wanted to save myself up for marriage. I don’t know how much I believed it. I do know that that idea carried me through what could have been a much more damaging situation than it was. And an idea that saves you, deserves to have a prominent place in your life.

As it turned out, my first time – and I will not call it ‘losing my virginity’, ugh what a horrible way to put it, so materialistic, so fear-ridden – was with someone I loved very much and who I believe loved me then. We were also going to get married. We didn’t and that’s a different thing.

Reconciling that fact took time because it also brought up other things that people don’t normally think are related. What if the reason I had not found the right man was that I should have been looking for the right woman? And what about children? Funny isn’t it, we never tend to think of how we feel about children in the same conversation on how we feel about sex. Oh wait, there are no conversations about how we as women feel about sex.

Two years ago, I reconnected with a childhood friend. Now all grown up, she leads the kind of single, sexed up life that is the stuff of crusty Indian politicians nightmares. She describes herself as ‘a bad girl’ and she does this with a laugh. Look how she has internalised the slut-shaming we are subjected to.

I want to believe that if I do something, it’s got to be worth doing. And if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And there is no shame in that, only pride. And fucking self-respect. Heh. Fucking self-respect about fucking. If you don’t got it, it ruins everything wonderful about sex.

Some days I think about what it must be to be a testosterone-fueled being and I think I’m better off. I want to believe that it’s a myth that male libidos are bigger than female libidos. I mean that doesn’t make sense. My gender is the one that can go on longer, have multiple orgasms and hell, has many hundreds of more nerve endings (thus pleasure points). Momma Nature would never have put all that in a body that just didn’t feel like it much. What nonsense.

I do think that testosterone makes creatures impatient, perhaps even foolish and one-minded. For most of my life I have not had sex. Sometimes it’s been when I did have somebody in my life; sometimes it has been when I didn’t. It sucks to not have sex when you are with someone. But when there isn’t, well, there just isn’t. And there I fall into the opposite trap from slut-shaming, the celibacy-shaming. Why is it such a big deal whether someone wants to have sex or not? What is burning need for it? There are 7 billion of us running around the planet and stepping on each other’s toes. We really don’t need to make more human beings. And as for pleasure – it’s only pleasurable when you’re not doing it under pressure.

Signing off now. No, not to go have sex but because I’m tired.  Yes that happens too. There may be such a thing as enough sex.

Girls Who May One Day Be Gone

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll want to hold back reading this post until after you have. This is not a review but you will need to know the story. Truly, I mean it. Go away, watch the movie. It’s worth it.

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I just finished reading Gone Girl. I saw the movie with Reema when it first came out. It was an important milestone in our friendship. When you watch a movie with another person, you get to know each other a little better. Are you talkers, shusshers or silent seethers? Do you respond with laughs, gasps, moving forwards in your seat or do you stay still and quiet? And most importantly, what do you think of the film?

A story like Gone Girl can be a make-or-break point between people, the kind that reaches deep into your recesses and dredges up fear and horror. This one was particularly interesting because it also teases out where one stands on the politics between men and women.

I had been told that the book was even better and I won’t entirely disagree. It’s a great read, well-crafted and delivered. But that said, it laid out the issues clearly – almost too clearly – and the matter of who the real villain in the story was. The movie, in contrast, still leaves me feeling something quite else.

When Reema and I first saw the movie, we both cheered at Desi’s death. We actually laughed when we watched her stab him right in the middle of sex. It silenced the whispering, giggling bunch of teenage girls behind us (since that scene appears roughly midway through the movie, we spent one half grimacing at the things they giggled about and the other half gleeful about their subdued silence). A few seconds after the stab scene, three men in front of us stood up and walked out of the theater and they didn’t return. It’s a story we both like to tell now.

Is that a bit horrifying or more? I may stand accused of drastic opinions by the men I’ve intimidated over the years. But I’ve never been okay with violence or automatically slotting man as monster and woman as victim. And Reema is known to be a peaceful, diplomatic person who is happily married. How did we come to take such relish in the story of a murdering psychopath?

I first put it down to the collective female angst triggered off by the Nirbhaya case. India was screaming and women were cheering on angry female avengers. It’s what made the movie NH10 such a success. The movie’s protagonist kills several men in much bloodier detail and yet never gets called an anti-hero. Why? Because her rage is thought to be justified. She has witnessed injustice and horror and instead of staying dumb and numb, she takes action. GO GIRL!

On the other hand, Gone Girl shows a woman who lies, manipulates and kills. Why? Oh, because her husband loses interest and cheats on her. That doesn’t justify murder, does it?

Wait, does anybody remember a movie called Unfaithful? Released a decade before Gone Girl, it showed a bored housewife indulging in an affair with a younger man. My favorite scene in the film is when the cops come calling on their home to talk about the murder of the by-then-former lover. Husband and wife sit through the interview and after the cops leave, they look at each other. Each look is full of accusation and anger. And then, guilt and understanding. Whose was the larger sin? Cheating or murder?

Let’s come back to Gone Girl. The same question is raised here, this time with the genders reversed. Why is it automatically assumed that hers is the bigger crime because it is murder? The same standard ought to apply to Unfaithful but it doesn’t, because there it’s seen as a crime of passion, of jealous rage. And because – there’s no way around it – Gone Girl’s murderer is a murderess. Amy fakes her own death and wait, she turns up not dead! That has to really rattle the kind of self-righteous male who thinks respecting women is the same thing as playing knight in shining armour. No, how dare she be able to take care of herself?!

You can talk about the different levels of premeditation on each character’s part and argue that the full year that Gone Girl‘s Amy takes to prepare for the whole thing outweighs the few seconds in which Unfaithful‘s Edward throws the snow globe at his wife’s lover’s head. Let’s talk about that snow globe. It represents the mutual affection and memories of the married couple. Edward flies into a rage when he realises that she has given his gift to her lover.

Now let’s think about Amy. Her husband has uprooted her from her home in New York, buried her in a tiny town where she doesn’t fit, sunk all her money in a bar. He has also spent five years ignoring her the minute she stops being his Manic Pixie Dream Girl and takes on the real humanness that marriage brings. And finally, he goes the most obvious way and has an affair with his student – such a damning cliche for a writer. He also kisses this student in the open and takes her to several of the places that were supposed to be special to himself and Amy. Does the sound of cracking up start to sound right now?

NH10 at least punishes its angry girl protagonist. She loses her husband in the bargain. It seems to balance out her uncharacteristic (for a woman) violence. She has been chastised and will have to live with that. I think a lot of men’s biggest problem with Gone Girl was that she gets away with it.

The book lays out Amy’s manipulation and her deceptions in far greater detail than the movie does, right from feigning a fear of blood to conveying subliminal messages to Nick’s Alzheimer-ridden father. It even paints her obsessive personality more clearly than the movie does. But it also brings out her pain better – her deep betrayal by her husband and parents, emotionally and financially. In every way, they bankrupt her, over and over again. She just refuses to stay victim.

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If in a story, a man may be excused for murder solely on the basis of emotional betrayal, why is a woman still vilified for avenging both emotional and financial betrayal? The financial part is important especially today because it signifies the utter loss of independence and the ability to retain one’s personal power. Yes, there is such a thing as alimony but that’s mere money. There’s seething resentment against women who claim alimony, in addition to the relentless social censure they face for having less than perfect marriages. Shame, the world is saying, shame on you for making the man pay. You have his money but it’s something you don’t deserve, you’re not supposed to feel okay about having it. Amid all this, Amy was protecting herself and her interests in a world that would only continue exploiting her.

Just in case you’re wondering how fair it is for Desi to die because of someone else’s marital troubles, the book makes that clearer too. Desi was not helping her, he was keeping her captive. You don’t help an abused woman by coaxing her into being your personal love-toy. Especially when she has no money and no way to transport herself out. True, this points to questionable ethics rather than malicious crime and murder cannot be condoned. Still, how easy it is for audiences to tidy up a character’s actions when he’s male and how much easier to tar when she’s female.

By the end of the story, you get the feeling Amy doesn’t care either way what the people who do know think about her. I understand that feeling well. Scarlett O’Hara would have understood it too. As women we live lives that are given less justice, harsher punishments, many more pressures and far less empathy than our male counterparts. It’s an individual matter, at what point we break and decide we really don’t need to allow this flawed system to determine our inner moral compass anymore.

And I guess that’s why women loved the film and a lot of men didn’t. There’s a possible Amazing Amy in every single one of us.

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