Monthly Archives: March 2012

One Of The Boys

I’ve recently been watching ‘My Boys‘ on Comedy Central, a show about a woman (PJ) who hangs out with a bunch of guys who are her brother, an ex-boyfriend and couple of other male buddies. I like the format, mainly because I relate to PJ’s character. I was her, at least once upon a time. And I was her for so long, I sometimes forget that I’ve changed for the world. The boy and almost all the people who’re close to me today have known me for the past single-digit years. When I let slip that I used to be a tomboy, I get a “Yeah, right!” accompanied by eye-rolling.

Somewhere in the early part of the last decade, I made that transition from tomboy to woman. Or ‘one of the guys’ to ‘a babe’. I’ve often harped that the changes are purely cosmetic; it’s just packaging that has changed and I’m still the same person inside. Or so I thought. I am after all, a result of my attitudes as well as the world’s responses to them.

Curiously enough, I realized that this transition to being ‘not one of the guys’ coincided with another personally important milestone – dating. Literally the minute I stopped being the buddy-girl, I became ‘dateable’. Initially it was as superficial as the kind of clothes I wore. Over the years, it has seeped into the way I walk, sit, laugh and behave. Somewhere along the way, it also shaped the way I think and speak.

Today, I find I have few male friends but I’ve had a large number of boyfriends and admirers. The role of men in general, in my life has changed just as who they see me as, has shifted. I occasionally miss being ‘one of the boys’. In addition to the fuss-free comfort, there is a certain charm in male friendships.

An episode of ‘My boys’ dealt with PJ having to accept that she wasn’t always going to be the most important woman in the guys’ lives. I think that’s the aspect of tomboy friendships that women like me find it really hard to admit to (though PJ did take it like a man).

A girl who is one of the boys still is a girl, even if the guys don’t see her as such. It’s a harder transition to adulthood for such a girl since she’s used to being treated as an equal. When she goes into the universe of love & romantic relationships, suddenly she is not an equal but a complement, a different role to play altogether. I think this is also the reason that a lot of friendships-turned-relationships struggle. Are you similar, playing for the same team? Or are you two different people, with differing agendas, viewpoints and attitudes to sex & commitment? It’s extra bewildering when the person you’re with is someone you’re used to seeing as one of your own side, instead of coming from a different place.

To come back, I spent a lot of time ruing the loss of those friendships as I (and my former buddies) got older. But I realize now, that I had to stop being one of the boys to become a woman. I’d never have been able to experience romantic relationships fully without exploring my feminine side (which necessarily meant letting go of my tomboyish side). And also, I realize that’s been a temporary phase of keeping one aspect of myself on the backburner to bring out another emerging side. I’m now at a place where I’m able to consolidate both sides of me – the woman’s woman as well as the ‘one of the boys’ girl. I’m neither a chick nor a tomboy. It’s a different identity, a different attitude altogether that balances both.

In terms of sheer numbers, I don’t immediately fit into a beer-chugging boys night out any more than I easily slip into a shopping-and-bitching kitty party. But I have a few close guy friends with whom I can lounge about in my pyjamas. And I have a couple of girlfriends I can be chicky with. Last month, I had a late-night conversation with a guy friend about his girl troubles. And through the night, I found I was switching between giving him the woman’s perspective to empathizing in a “Yeah man, that sucks” way. I realized I couldn’t even tell which side was my tomboyish side and which, my chicky side any more.

From one of the boys to chick to woman – that’s a good personal quest to take.

* Image via Entertainment Wallpaper.

Down With Women’s Day!

It has been awhile since my last post. I have let myself get caught up in things I must do and not paid enough heed to things I love to do. So here’s me saying, I’m going to make sure to post at least once a week here at XX Factor! It feels wonderfully appropriate to come back with my spewing self at this time. The barrage of communication, that popular media is bombarding at us about March 8th, can’t have escaped anyone’s notice.

Women’s Day is the new Valentine’s Day. I don’t think this day was ever meant to be more than a manufactured marketing opportunity, much like the 14th of February. By 2012, the blatant commercialization of it is hitting me hard enough to swear off the event.

For starters, the premise of a ‘day that celebrates women’ seems ridiculously parodist. The suggestion is that making a big brouhaha about women on one day, cancels out mistreating them the remaining 364. “Obviously not!” I hear the defenders of Women’s Day retort, “It symbolizes the movement and honours the struggles of women”. Fair enough. But the fact that it stops there is what bothers me.

There is a certain kind of woman who celebrates and is celebrated by ‘Women’s Day’. This is the kind that is well-educated, has access to modern media & other creature comforts and receives gifts of jewelery, clothes or a fancy dinner date. But, well, there are other kinds of women, aren’t there? Let’s not get into rural India, even in the cities, women comprise nearly half the population. The maids, the women constables, the bank clerks, the fisherwomen, the conservative housewives, the daughters & wives of sweepers, taxi drivers and watchmen – they’re all women too. Women’s Day (not belying its all-encompassing name) doesn’t include them.

I think Women’s Day in 2012 is an ugly combination of Valentine’s Day and the Gay Pride movement. Let me explain. The former was created to sell more chocolates, greeting cards & jewelery. The latter has been hijacked by a small but very visible group whose joint agenda appears to be self-promotion rather than actual upliftment of those denied basic human rights. (read this thought-provoking diatribe against the ‘Queer Movement‘).

I had a conversation with a cab-driver the other day. We were stuck at a crowded Bandra signal, rush hour made worse by mismanagement by the traffic police. He pointed to one uniform-clad figure and opened his mouth. I settled back for a minute of co-ranting about the inefficiency of the department & the neglect by BMC. Instead, he said,

“Why are they making that woman direct the traffic? Give her some comfortable job in an air-conditioned office. What would she know about a hard job like this, standing in the middle of dust and fumes & noise?”

I had barely registered the fact that the traffic constable was a woman. I was astonished by the fact that the taxi driver truly believed that he was being supportive of women. Perhaps sensing my discomfiture, he assured me that he was putting his daughter through school and that women were usually more hard-working and honest than men. Further astonishment.

You know, I don’t like being thought of as more hard-working on account of my gender. For one, the pressure that lays on you is unimaginable. And further, it turns a complete blind eye to an obvious fact – women can be just as lazy, incompetent and talentless as men. No more, no less. Setting us up on a pedestal is just as bad as grinding us down under boots – it’s still differential treatment. Why do some people equate deification to empowerment?

Which brings me to yet another thought. I think I’m going to cry if I hear or read another thing about Shakti and a woman being able to take the forms of Lakshmi or Durga as she pleases. Personally, I believe that these archetypes represent values, not gender-based prototypes. But that’s a discussion on religion that I don’t want to get into. Suffice to say, if the only powerful women one can think of are religious icons, how powerful a message is this to the common woman? Really, there’s nothing else that this country can think of, to say to empower women?

I know that I am exactly the target audience of the Women’s Day brouhaha. And I reject it for reasons other than altruism or boredom. I feel it actually demeans me. I don’t want to be treated differently (badly for 364 days, splendidly for 1). Celebration suggests a different form of discrimination. I need no special treatment. Behaving differently on one day of the year is hypocrisy, not empowerment.

It also hasn’t escaped my notice that this year Women’s Day falls on the same day as Holi, another occasion that has been debauched into a cover for unbridled sexual harassment. Now, isn’t that ironic?

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