Author Archives: IdeaSmith

Is This Feminism? – Negative Space

We are all facing the question of what privilege means, do we have it, how much of it and what this bodes. Race, caste, gender, religion, language. Privilege creates barriers & hierarchies. Because it’s inherently unjust, it’s also subtle & silent.

People with privilege literally cannot see it. Because their whole existence is based on believing in their worth & rightness, being the default setting of humanity and others being abnormal or undesirable or wrong. Privilege conversations are made further complex by intersectionality. A person may have one kind of privilege (race) while lacking another (gender). We focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do. So we miss (ERASE) those who have neither.

JK Rowling thinks someone whose lived experience is different from hers is ‘erasing’ her own. But to say trans women are not women is actual erasure. Same for All Lives Matter or Not All Men. Focusing on one group is not discrimination against another.

When a group of people say Stop erasing us, they are saying that they exist, they are not abnormal, not deserving of less. To think this means erasure of others is to assume there is only room for one kind of person to live with safety & respect. When someone asks you for respect, they are not asking to disrespect you. When a group asks you for safety, they are not demanding attack on you. They are saying you run the society they live in and have overlooked their needs as human beings.

The only thing the above threatens is the privileged person’s sense of absolute, unquestionable superiority. If you believe that people should not dare to question the treatment you mete out to them, you are being discriminatory. This is not an attack, it is a fact.

Erasure is bad so let’s use the word with care. The page is big enough to accommodate us all. 

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NEGATIVE SPACE We are all facing the question of what privilege means, do we have it, how much of it and what this bodes. Race, caste, gender, religion, language. Privilege creates barriers & hierarchies. Because it's inherently unjust, it's also subtle & silent. People with privilege literally cannot see it. Because their whole existence is based on believing in their worth & rightness, being the default setting of humanity and others being abnormal or undesirable or wrong. Privilege conversations are made further complex by intersectionality. A person may have one kind of privilege (race) while lacking another (gender). We focus on what we don't have rather than what we do. So we miss (ERASE) those who have neither. JK Rowling thinks someone whose lived experience is different from hers is 'erasing' her own. But to say trans women are not women is actual erasure. Same for All Lives Matter or Not All Men. Focusing on one group is not discrimination against another. When a group of people say Stop erasing us, they are saying that they exist, they are not abnormal, not deserving of less. To think this means erasure of others is to assume there is only room for one kind of person to live with safety & respect. When someone asks you for respect, they are not asking to disrespect you. When a group asks you for safety, they are not demanding attack on you. They are saying you run the society they live in and have overlooked their needs as human beings. The only thing the above threatens is the privileged person's sense of absolute, unquestionable superiority. If you believe that people should not dare to question the treatment you mete out to them, you are being discriminatory. This is not an attack, it is a fact. Erasure is bad so let's use the word with care. The page is big enough to accommodate us all. ——————————————————————————- **#IWear-newsprint saree+magnifying glass makeup for @alphabetsambar #CrimeCapers theme. ——————————————————————————- 🎶: BORN THIS WAY: Lady Gaga #theideasmithy

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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.

Bon Feminist!

Are sealions good to eat? How about sadboi trolls? Incel brodudes? Interrupting shitposters?I thought about my claim that my feminism eats these guys on toast then realised it was time to diversify my feminist palate.

Poached MRAs

Let’s start with breakfast, my favorite meal of the day. Thanks to my nighttime go-to-hell-attitude, I’ve said something that draws in that aggrieved breed called MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists), crying about how haaaaard it is to be a man. They tend to be fragile, thin-skinned, full of golden privilege that they hide. Just like an egg.

The worst kind of lockdown man is a lockdown MRA complaining about having to *gasp* clean his own house. And the easiest kind of lockdown egg is a poached egg.
Ingredients are just one egg + a cup of water. Takes under a minute to prepare & another minute to clean up, since there are no grease stains or chopping boards to wash. And it fills you up enough for a couple of hours at least.

Set a small bowl of water to boil. Work up your head of steam so you can blow off several MRAs in one go. When tiny bubbles rise, swirl water clockwise. While it’s swirling, break egg on side of cooking range (not the bowl, it rocks & breaks the egg) and drop a NOBODY CARES into your replies. Drop contents of egg into center of swirling water. The swirling motion keeps the egg white from spreading around, forms into a tiny galaxy shape. Thank you, centripetal force & MRA self-centeredness.

Time to take egg off flame & drain the water. When it looks like the water is almost gone, plop into a katori. Slightly watery but that doesn’t affect the taste & is worth it to have an unbroken yolk. It’s easier to clean than dried up yolk. Dispose off eggshells and MRA sputters with mute button.
Sprinkle a little salt on top and if it’s available, a sprig of coriander. There! In the time it took to write this, I could have poached an egg and zinged a couple of men’s rights activists. With a dash of #YesAllWomen women spice.

Mansplainer 🍆

The substantial Mansplainer is best kept for lunch. Sneak in breakfast before he tells you how waking early will make you prettier & advises you on eating based on his WhatsApp University degree & extensive Wikipedia experience.

Mansplainers are glossy on the surface because they’ve figured out how to speak to (and over) women. Their thorny selves can prick easily. Hello, 🍆. Or aubergine, brinjal, baingan, they’ll have you know. When life gives you 🍆, you haan baba & make a hack babaghanoush.

Don’t slice the tip. Mansplainers may fall apart if you castrate them (women with brains=castration to them). Hold upright, smear 1tsp cooking oil over glossy skin. As mansplainer holds forth, remember to smile. Make a shallow incision lengthwise, ask a polite question. Make 4-5 similar incisions at regular intervals as mansplainer explains your life. Still holding the tip, place him…errr, the 🍆 on an open flame. It’ll take him awhile to realise you’re roasting him. Just keep smiling.

As he starts to deflate, you’ll see the insides of 🍆 turning brown. This is the time to poke holes – in his arguments & into the 🍆. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If he gets a second wind, let him continue roasting. In the meantime, you can do these as you wait: Squeeze a lemon, throw in arguments he can’t refute. Dry roast jeera for 10sec on open pan, list your facts. Stop as he starts to sputter. When you take the 🍆 off the flame, let it & your deflated mansplainer cool for awhile.

In your blender, toss in roasted jeera, lemon juice, salt and depending on how vindictive you’re feeling, a dab of pepper or chilli powder. When things have cooled enough for glossy skin to flake off, you can slice it away. Dump his roasted insides into the blender with the rest of the ingredients. He should have given you enough material to decimate every incorrect fact, every unverified observation and the real zinger – chopped garlic and a dash of “You get so emotional!” Pairs well with parathas or khakras. Serves one smug feminist.

Sliding into Dinner

If like me, you’re prone to theatricality, man misbehaviour decimation will have drawn in suckers for punishment – the DM sliders. I’d love to joke about mini-burgers, about screenshot skewering and more. But after a day of jhaadoo-pocha-bartan-kapde & men getting in the way, it’s time to wind down. So I’ll just do my part cleaning up the digital space I inhabit and my insides that have picked up irritants through a spicy day.

Curd rice is the answer to all evils. I’m Tamilian in this one regard only where I could live in hostile conditions, suffer through unaccustomed weather, unknown languages & strange environments as long as I have a plate of thayir-sadam to eat.

Curd is set in the night with the day’s leftover milk. The best accompaniments are sundry other leftovers. Warm milk just enough to be able to dip your finger in. Pour it into a fresh container (or katoris for single serve curd portions). Add a tiny dollop of old curd to this boiled milk – 1 tbsp for 1/2 liter of milk or just enough to sit on your fingertip, for each katori. Your curd should be ready the next morning and is best kept in the fridge, ready for the night. I let the DM sliders accumulate in my inbox to be tackled together rather than have them intrude into my mood all day.

Rice can be boiled in an open saucepan till you can see the grains turn into the plump, soft rice you like to eat. While you’re waiting, report each DM slider. A little salt added to the water will go a long way in taste. And if you screenshot before you report & block, you’ll have a backup case built in case the DM slider resurfaces.

If you’re feeling upto extra effort, chop up a carrot or cucumber and toss it into the curd rice. And let your DM slider know they’re being inappropriate before reporting-blocking them. Consider it your good deed for the day.

Any spicy/savory food is good accompaniment to curd rice. Salted mangoes, pickles, leftover vegetables, residual gravy, male misbehaviour you’ve tolerated through the day. Put them together, toss them into curd rice.

Bon Appetit!

*Written for @alphabetsambar#LitLab: FoodStories.

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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.

A New Solidarity

#BoysLockerRoom presents an idea of solidarit as a quality used to protect wrongdoers from consequences. Everyone is made to participate as a virtue. I want to reclaim this idea of solidarity. It’s not a fortress meant to protect privilege. It’s a context of support that nurtures people’s better values.

Women are told other women are the enemy, that we can’t be friends, that our relationships with each other can only revolve around a man. We’re encouraged to suffer in isolation. The bonds between women are downplayed, disrupted, even villified. This is because female solidarity opposes the idea of protecting privilege.

For a woman, identity is a tug of war between a world hellbent on erasing us and one fragile body, a delicately built identity, a sensitive set of senses, a limited brain. What do women’s issues have to do with identity & solidarity? I’ll tell you.

My sense of self does NOT come from protecting men’s privilege to be monsters. It does not come from competing with other women for validation from that male idea of solidarity.

My existence is constantly challenged by men whose entitlement I reject. Also by women who benefit from patriarchy by compromising their self-respect. Every nasty barb, every attack by a rejected man, every thoughtless word by a distracted friend, every malicious act by a stranger is designed to remind me that the world doesn’t see me as a human.

But I’m healed by female solidarity. Men cannot do this because they do not have our context of struggle. A woman who knows the fight, can see past it really sees me. This validation between women doesn’t say anything about how strong we are. It doesn’t seek to rescue or make excuses for faults. It affirms & heals our best selves.

You deserve to exist. You are good. You are beautiful. You are love. You are power. You are joy. You are peace. You are all. The universe has a place for you. These matter when a woman says them to another.
We hold up each other’s best selves. Women who understand this are challenging the toxic idea of solidarity by making it about support, not protection. 

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A NEW SOLIDARITY #BoysLockerRoom presents an idea of solidarit as a quality used to protect wrongdoers from consequences. Everyone is made to participate as a virtue. I want to reclaim this idea of solidarity. It's not a fortress meant to protect privilege. It's a context of support that nurtures people's better values. Women are told other women are the enemy, that we can't be friends, that our relationships with each other can only revolve around a man. We're encouraged to suffer in isolation. The bonds between women are downplayed, disrupted, even villified. This is because female solidarity opposes the idea of protecting privilege. For a woman, identity is a tug of war between a world hellbent on erasing us and one fragile body, a delicately built identity, a sensitive set of senses, a limited brain. What do women's issues have to do with identity & solidarity? I'll tell you. My sense of self does NOT come from protecting men's privilege to be monsters. It does not come from competing with other women for validation from that male idea of solidarity. My existence is constantly challenged by men whose entitlement I reject. Also by women who benefit from patriarchy by compromising their self-respect. Every nasty barb, every attack by a rejected man, every thoughtless word by a distracted friend, every malicious act by a stranger is designed to remind me that the world doesn't see me as a human. But I'm healed by female solidarity. Men cannot do this because they do not have our context of struggle. A woman who knows the fight, can see past it really sees me. This validation between women doesn't say anything about how strong we are. It doesn't seek to rescue or make excuses for faults. It affirms & heals our best selves. You deserve to exist. You are good. You are beautiful. You are love. You are power. You are joy. You are peace. You are all. The universe has a place for you. These matter when a woman says them to another. We hold up each other's best selves. Women who understand this are challenging the toxic idea of solidarity by making it about support, not protection. 📸: @shrinkfemale 🎶: GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN-CYNDI LAUPER #theideasmithy

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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.

We Should All Be Nightiewali Aunties

I saw a trio walk down the main road that I face, last night. Slow, ambling gait and a shapeless collective shadow. As they passed under the street light, I caught a flash of familiar fabric swathes across their bodies. Dupattas, hijabs, masks – who could say? Immediately the thought sprung to my mind – ‘The Nightiewali Aunties’. Because they haven’t been seen for two months. I haven’t actually ever seen them on the main road before in all the years I’ve lived here. And it was too far away for me to see their faces so I’m not referring to any specific person.

India’s 11 week lockdown has just been lifted. From my window, I’ve watched the neon lit, car horn-infested road dwindle to a solo ambulance vainly blaring its siren, while flocks of birds (so many birds) fill up the air and even the ground. I’ve been outside my house, upto the end of the road to the grocery shops 3 times in this period. And I know most women, especially older ones have not set foot outside their homes in this entire period. Stir-crazy does not begin to describe it.

Why did the Nightiewali Aunties catch my eye? After all, long before lockdown was lifted, the neighborhood thugs have been slinking into lanes, defiantly turning up the volume on their tinny mobile phones. An odd couple or two has darted between street lights, snatching companionship, risking not just social censure but also the coronavirus. Two different elderly men have been strutting about the colony walking track, bare-chested at 7AM every day. Teenagers have played out games of cricket and even toss, glancing at the buildings around every few minutes and just a little quieter than usual. The gardener’s friends, usually invisible because of their social class and melting into shadows, have lounged on public benches. It has been 11 weeks of people grabbing public spaces in obvious defiance. Male people.

Image by Annalise Batista from Pixabay

After all, having our movements restricted, our spaces shrunk – this is not a new experience for any woman on the planet. But it is an entirely alien idea to almost every man. Even the ones who have experienced this as control from their families have had the permission to rebel, to flounce out in rage, to stay out longer than curfew knowing the most they’ll have to face is an upset person. 11 weeks have not been enough for the truth of an invisible, possibly lethal virus to sink into the minds of men.

The lockdown has been lifted, not because the curve was flattened but because life had to go on, people had to work, economies had to be restarted. The danger is far from gone. The question is just how many more people we’ll lose and for how long.

If the past 11 weeks have been any indication, I’m afraid we’re going to lose a lot more men faster. And because of the nature of the virus, infections are going to surge because they’re carriers – just like with HIV. I have much more faith in the Nightiewali Aunties taking precautions, following safety measures and prioritising community safety over their personal irritation. In the male of the species, especially the young, I’m afraid I have none. What a pity they’re the least vulnerable of all the human groups.

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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.

Saree-Wearers Club

There is a sense that the Saree Wearers’ Club is an exclusive one, limited to women who are married or of a certain age, have a certain body shape and even they wear it in certain ways & on occasions only. Any variation from this invites attack.

I’ve been exploring drapes & styling methods for the saree, YouTube, Instagram, my own creativity as guides. I love the saree for how versatile it is. It is after all, just a length of cloth, modified to body type, region & occasion. The saree is my newest palette, my body an eternal canvas.

I’ve received mixed reactions.

The saree blurs social boundaries as security guards & autorickshaw drivers (who don’t usually target women in my class) jeer & whistle. It confuses middle-class men who make way for me on public transport but stare resentfully.

Many feel my English-speaking, short hair flaunting, liberal self doesn’t fit the saree wearer mold. There are those who ask why I ‘need’ to wear a saree when I’m slim, as if the garment is an apology for a body that doesn’t fit western standards. The takedowns build, listing how my look doesn’t adhere-pallu wrong, shape weird, look funny. “I can’t understand this!” I’m told as if my apparel is a request and as if they get to decide if I get entry to the exclusive club. And I don’t.

I was slut-shamed for wearing a saree to a condolence visit (as reaction to my calling out a sleazy man). The shamer, herself a woman, was saree-draped. Her reaction showed she values only one kind of woman (that I’m not). In her eyes I didn’t merit entry into the Saree-Wearers’Club.

People box women into limited roles. How we dress is one of the labels of the boxes we’ve accepted. My experiments break boxes just by existing. If the very act of dressing is political, this single length of cloth has become my flag. It’s versatile, it’s practical, it has a history but it adapts and it stands for something. Me.

In the picture, I’m wearing a colour-blocked kanjeevaram with a corduroy jacket and boots. I call this the fish-tail drape, pallu doubling up as neck scarf. Like it? Join the club. Everyone’s welcome in mine.

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SAREE-WEARERS CLUB There is a sense that the Saree Wearers' Club is an exclusive one, limited to women who are married or of a certain age, have a certain body shape and even they wear it in certain ways & on occasions only. Any variation from this invites attack. I've been exploring drapes & styling methods for the saree, YouTube, Instagram, my own creativity as guides. I love the saree for how versatile it is. It is after all, just a length of cloth, modified to body type, region & occasion. The saree is my newest palette, my body an eternal canvas. I've received mixed reactions. The saree blurs social boundaries as security guards & autorickshaw drivers (who don't usually target women in my class) jeer & whistle. It confuses middle-class men who make way for me on public transport but stare resentfully. Many feel my English-speaking, short hair flaunting, liberal self doesn't fit the saree wearer mold. There are those who ask why I 'need' to wear a saree when I'm slim, as if the garment is an apology for a body that doesn't fit western standards. The takedowns build, listing how my look doesn't adhere-pallu wrong, shape weird, look funny. "I can't understand this!" I'm told as if my apparel is a request and as if they get to decide if I get entry to the exclusive club. And I don't. I was slut-shamed for wearing a saree to a condolence visit (as reaction to my calling out a sleazy man). The shamer, herself a woman, was saree-draped. Her reaction showed she values only one kind of woman (that I'm not). In her eyes I didn't merit entry into the Saree-Wearers'Club. People box women into limited roles. How we dress is one of the labels of the boxes we've accepted. My experiments break boxes just by existing. If the very act of dressing is political, this single length of cloth has become my flag. It's versatile, it's practical, it has a history but it adapts and it stands for something. Me. In the picture, I'm wearing a colour-blocked kanjeevaram with a corduroy jacket and boots. I call this the fish-tail drape, pallu doubling up as neck scarf. Like it? Join the club. Everyone's welcome in mine. 🎶 CONFIDENT – DEMI LOVATO #theideasmithy #IWear

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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.

Feminine Strength

The sexes need each other and define each other. Patriarchy rejects this by deeming any form of need or interconnectedness as weak/feminine. But all society and relationships are built on the joint and collaborative strengths of human beings needing and fulfilling each other’s needs in balance.

I’ve been asked why I insist on reading or watching things that could be triggering. Some of these questions are neither pleasant nor objective. They are screaming rants and threats (of the “Don’t you dare talk to me again if you read this now” variety) which sounds to me like people terrified that I’d discover the truth. And the truth is what I’m looking for. I want to know why men treat women badly. I want to understand what was going on in the minds of the men who violated, hit, gaslit, shamed or attacked me. I am aware that these will not erase what was done. But by understanding what was going on, I am better placed to see the signs early (no, “all men are like that” is not a valid sign).

I realised something else. By knowing what about my behavior makes a man behave in a violent/abusive way, makes it possible for me to alter that behaviour or express myself in a way that will make him behave better. This is not demeaning to me. I speak in this language, use this medium because it is the best way for me to get what I want from you – your listening and your thoughts with minimal resistence and hate. That doesn’t diminish me, it makes me more. Adaptability and collaboration are strengths, not weaknesses.

Here’s proof. Reading, talking and thinking about patriarchy & feminism doesn’t make me hate my perpetrators. It actually makes me empathise with them. It makes me want to reject the anger-is-good school of thought that a lot of feminists & other activists follow. It even makes me feel strong enough to walk a path alone without the backing of these more vocal groups right now. I don’t feel stifled, I don’t feel vindictive, I don’t feel deprived, I don’t feel angry, I don’t feel hateful. I feel hopeful & inspired. How is that anything but strength? It’s because the truth really does set me free. All forms of other people’s anger and glorifying it, keep from the truth and walking away from it is a small price to pay for the sheer power of knowing.

I know myself beyond the traumas I’ve experienced. I know myself beyond my mistakes. I even know myself beyond what I have to do to keep other people from wreaking my balance. This knowledge is worth all the tears, all the backlash from the groups demanding total compliance.

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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.

Sin Addiction

Don’t I look like all the sins you’re going to commit tonight? I felt it too. Because feeling flows through me the way water runs through the planet, within it, over it, above it and into every creature that lives on it. It feels good to dissolve. It feels peaceful to let go and drown in cool darkness. Words like ’empath’ and ‘boundaries’and ‘toxic patterns’ just flow into sound & light and are swallowed up in the darkness that we are.

Who ever told you that the quest for love would be easy? I knew it wasn’t easy, you say, I just didn’t expect it to be so unpredictable. But how could you think it to be otherwise? Love is the subject of most songs and stories and poems told across the human race and since when did we ever entertain each other by being predictable? It’s an act of rebellion to care. Love is an assertion of life.

But I’ll also say, let go when it feels like self-loathing. “It’s not supposed to be so hard” people say when they mean you’re not worth putting in the effort, you are not worth enduring the agony of confusion for. That is not the time to persist, to prove your commitment. All that is, is pouring your precious self into an endless session of validation. Let go of anyone who can’t make time or space or effort for you because the truth is they won’t.

You are married to a tale. You fell in love with stories because they were bigger than you and you liked to find your place inside them. Why try to shrink that story to fit your hands and your imagination? Don’t hold your breath. Don’t hoard your breaths. Don’t get stuck on the ideas you pinned on the pages of your mind, fearing that your self will be lost if you look away. Feel. Feel. Feel. Your story is being created as you live it, not as you imagine it.

Love is a part of it. It always has been and will always be, even if it doesn’t look the way fairytales and romcoms narrate it. It’s not a sin to look. But it is a sin to breathe and not live.

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SIN ADDICTION Don't I look like all the sins you're going to commit tonight? I felt it too. Because feeling flows through me the way water runs through the planet, within it, over it, above it and into every creature that lives on it. It feels good to dissolve. It feels peaceful to let go and drown in cool darkness. Words like 'empath' and 'boundaries'and 'toxic patterns' just flow into sound & light and are swallowed up in the darkness that we are. Who ever told you that the quest for love would be easy? I knew it wasn't easy, you say, I just didn't expect it to be so unpredictable. But how could you think it to be otherwise? Love is the subject of most songs and stories and poems told across the human race and since when did we ever entertain each other by being predictable? It's an act of rebellion to care. Love is an assertion of life. But I'll also say, let go when it feels like self-loathing. "It's not supposed to be so hard" people say when they mean you're not worth putting in the effort, you are not worth enduring the agony of confusion for. That is not the time to persist, to prove your commitment. All that is, is pouring your precious self into an endless session of validation. Let go of anyone who can't make time or space or effort for you because the truth is they won't. You are married to a tale. You fell in love with stories because they were bigger than you and you liked to find your place inside them. Why try to shrink that story to fit your hands and your imagination? Don't hold your breath. Don't hoard your breaths. Don't get stuck on the ideas you pinned on the pages of your mind, fearing that your self will be lost if you look away. Feel. Feel. Feel. Your story is being created as you live it, not as you imagine it. Love is a part of it. It always has been and will always be, even if it doesn't look the way fairytales and romcoms narrate it. It's not a sin to look. But it is a sin to breathe and not live. 🎶: THIS MASQUERADE – The Carpenters #theideasmithy

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Aunty National

Some time ago, I watched a woman walk into a coffeeshop. She was dressed in a neon yellow jacket, neon yellow sneakers & microshorts and sported a ponytail on either side of the head, held back with – you guessed it, neon yellow ties. She looked like she was in her early 30s. I was consumed by uncharitable thought after judgemental idea – about her overcoordination, skin exposure, colour choice. The vehemence of my feelings shocked me.

Earlier in the year, an old friend attacked my saree styling, called me names, threatened to walk away if I ever ‘dared’ wear one in his presence. He refused to apologise when I called him out for his misbehaviour. The next day, he trolled my blogs.

I used to wear a bright red fascinator to work. I was catcalled at the station, followed home and worst of all, found nasty notes left on my office table. It was upsetting because I was not breaking any rules or harming anybody.

What it is it about apparel that incites such violent responses in other people? When I discovered it in myself, I realised I couldn’t write it off as other people’s issues. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t act on it. I thought it. I too, felt a powerful negative reaction to a stranger’s dressing. Why?

Our bodies are policed by families, by male partners, by female companions, by the fashion industry, by media standards, by gender definitions. I enjoy people’s confusion when I wear a saree (sanskari) with sneakers (tomboy). Or green lipstick (wild) with a kurta (traditional). I tell a story with every look. And my stories force people to reconsider their assumptions.

Each time we see someone presenting differently from what we expect, we experience shock. Alongside come our memories at having been policed for similar behaviour. Maybe we resent the person’s courage. Maybe we hate their naivete. Maybe we miss the security that a prison offers us because all imposed rules are prisons.

I dress to assert my identity and that itself is a protest. I guess that’s true for the girl in the coffeeshop too. The very act of dressing is a political statement.

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AUNTY NATIONAL Last week I watched a woman walk into a coffeeshop. She was dressed in a neon yellow jacket, neon yellow sneakers & microshorts and sported a ponytail on either side of the head, held back with – you guessed it, neon yellow ties. She looked like she was in her early 30s. I was consumed by uncharitable thought after judgemental idea – about her overcoordination, skin exposure, colour choice. The vehemence of my feelings shocked me. Last month, an old friend attacked my saree styling, called me names, threatened to walk away if I ever 'dared' wear one in his presence. He refused to apologise when I called him out for his misbehaviour. The next day, he trolled my blogs. I used to wear a bright red fascinator to work. I was catcalled at the station, followed home and worst of all, found nasty notes left on my office table. It was upsetting because I was not breaking any rules or harming anybody. What it is it about apparel that incites such violent responses in other people? When I discovered it in myself, I realised I couldn't write it off as other people's issues. It doesn't matter if I didn't act on it. I thought it. I too, felt a powerful negative reaction to a stranger's dressing. Why? Our bodies are policed by families, by male partners, by female companions, by the fashion industry, by media standards, by gender definitions. I enjoy people's confusion when I wear a saree (sanskari) with sneakers (tomboy). Or green lipstick (wild) with a kurta (traditional). I tell a story with every look. And my stories force people to reconsider their assumptions. Each time we see someone presenting differently from what we expect, we experience shock. Alongside come our memories at having been policed for similar behaviour. Maybe we resent the person's courage. Maybe we hate their naivete. Maybe we miss the security that a prison offers us because all imposed rules are prisons. I dress to assert my identity and that itself is a protest. I guess that's true for the girl in the coffeeshop too. The very act of dressing is a political statement. Newsprint saree: Pal Bastralaya 🎶: AAJ PHIR JEENE KI TAMANA HAIN-Guide #theideasmithy #IWear

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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.

Different Shades of Grief

How many things shall I grieve?

I was watching THAPPAD. I thought about the people who have hit me. In plural. I had experienced enough of it before I touched adulthood. Yet, at 23, when a man I loved hit me, I knew something was wrong.

Was it the force of his blow, right across my face so my ears rung for six minutes straight, giving me a full stop in time to register the wrongness of it? Or was it the public nature of it – a movie theatre, yes in the darkness but surrounded by hundreds of people? Trying to reconcile all these thoughts with the ringing in my head, the stinging on the side of my cheek and jaw. Or was it the desperate humiliation of it because a second before I had been kissing him? It was all of it.

Yet, almost a decade later, older, carrying the confidence of having lived through that experience, I didn’t register the wrongness of being hit when it happened again with a different man. Not even when he threw me across the room. Not even when I hit the wall, my head a mere two inches from the corner of the glass shelf I’d cleaned that morning. Not even when I slid to the floor, registering dimly that this doesn’t happen in slow motion like in the movies but in an ungraceful bounce, even with my low-fat boniness. Not even as I sat, breath knocked out of me, thinking the bones in my butt were broken and remembering it’s only one bone – the pelvis.

I didn’t. Because I was too preoccupied with him punching the wall, having to worry about how I’d carry him down three flights of stairs to a hospital if he broke something? Finding a way to get up and pull him back, push him onto the sofa, sniffing in irritation, hating that my nose runs when I’m upset, only realising I was bleeding when I saw the drops on the floor.

I still didn’t see it. There was never time. I went from caring for him to cleaning up the mess, readymade ran-into-door excuse in place, Google search for ‘self emergency procedure’, dig out emergency money stash in case it was needed for medical expenses. And then there was reassuring him, reassuring my family, explaining why we were having difficulties, begging him to let me come home because I’d been standing in the sun for 6 hours on my period and I was afraid I’d faint, crying as he began screaming about the garbage smelling the minute I walked in to the house. I don’t evem remember coming to where I live now. Only the screaming voices, demanding to know what happened, judging me for not making it work, calling me names for a failed engagement, saying I would destroy other people’s marriages, calling me jealous when I said don’t joke about bad relationships. There was no time to hear the voice in me saying, it hurts, this is wrong.

I didn’t register the wrongness. I can register how wrong it feels to be shamed for it, to be blamed for it, to be villified for it. But I am still in shock about not registering the wrong of it when it happened. Was he just that good, better than the ones before him, better even than a small child who could hold the idea of dignity despite numerous attempts to punch it out of her? Am I just getting weaker as the world convinces me that I am wrong? This is what fear looks like.

This is a very different kind of pain from sexual violence, another grief I know too well from 11 and from 22 and from 38, secondhand as I held dozens of MeToo stories.

This is also different from the wounds of speech, from mouths that have carried poison that lingers. It blurs into the body of the man that threw me across the room. It sounds like the man who violated me, then called me dark, ugly and that the only reason a guy would want me was because I looked desperate. It swells into the words of all the people screaming at me since then, telling me to be dignified, to shut up, to not be a man-hater, not be a feminist. It’s a world of screaming pain and I’m disgusted by it all. This disgust is the only thing that lets me distinguish that this is a different grief. I am not disgusted by the people who hit me. I am frightened of them.

I don’t know if rage, fear and disgust are all forms of grief but they feel like it. I can only carry one at a time. And tonight I play chariot to the one that punches, kicks, shakes and throws. All I am is blood.

Menstrual Cup Anniversary: Third Time’s A Charm

In a conversation with new cup users, I went looking for the chronicle I knew I’d written and realised I’d never published it. So here goes for my menstruating peeps, hope it helps!

This is a recap and my learnings on my cup journey. I am very happy, now that I’ve figured out how to use the cup for my needs and I’ve found not one but two that suit my requirements. So here’s me sharing what I’ve learnt.

My journey with menstrual cups

  • July 2015: I started with a firm, medium sized, stemmed SilkyCup bought online. It took me awhile to learn insertion and get comfortable with the cup. But leaks were still happening.
  • June 2016: I decided to switch to a soft, medium sized, non-stemmed SheCup bought online. I thought the leaks may be happening because the previous cup wasn’t unfurling properly. This cup was easier to put in. But it turned inside me a couple of times and once, fell into the toilet bowl when I was trying to get it out. It also leaked.
  • March 2017: I decided to go back to stemmed cups and go up one size to see if a snugger fit would prevent the leaks. I moved to WOW Freedom and ALX Care, both firm, large sized, stemmed cups. I’ve been using these alternately and have had good experiences with both. No more leaks, no difficulty putting in or removing and the cramps have reduced too.

What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a cup made of silicon, which you insert into your vaginal passage during your period. It captures the period discharge. Typically you can leave it in for at least 8 hours before needing to take it out and empty it. The cup is reusable and is said to last for up to ten years, which makes it very cost-effective (think of the taxation on feminine hygiene products). It can be inserted, removed and cleaned by the user herself, in a bathroom, which takes away the problem of disposing sanitary napkins or pads. It’s made of silicon so does not absorb any of the period discharge, only contains it (unlike tampons which have been known to cause Toxic Shock Syndrome). It has no bleach or other skin-irritating products, unlike sanitary napkins (how else do you think they’re that white?). And finally, if you care about the environment, the menstrual cup protects you from having to add to landfill with disposables.

It’s still a very low visibility product since women’s health is not a big priority for the world. I’ve never seen a chemist stock this. But menstrual cups are very easily available online, on all major ecommerce sites. There are several brands and types and they come in a variety of price ranges.

Myths/Fears/Taboos about menstrual cups

  1. A menstrual cup will not get stuck or lost inside you. It cannot enter your uterus. It might go fairly deep into your vaginal passage but it can be removed easily. In the absolute worst case, your gynacologist will be able to get it out of you without any complex surgical procedures. It just requires putting two fingers in and pulling the cup out.
  2. Menstrual cups are not and should not be painful. Most women are not familiar with their own bodies. We are also given a lot of negative messaging, especially about our vaginas. This means most of us will worry and even panic when asked to go down there. This could cause the muscles to tighten which makes insertion a little harder. The trick is to just take a deep breath, relax, wait a few minutes if need be and try again without worry.
  3. Menstrual cups are not for certain women only. Any woman who is menstruating should be able to use the cup, regardless of her age or sexual history. To be absolutely sure, check with a good gynaecologist. Mine had not had a lot of experience with cups but she didn’t see any major worries about it. I’ve been keeping her posted about my progress and her subsequent checkups have shown no adverse effects of two years of use.
  4. Menstrual cups do not need any other support products. If you have the right cup for you, there will be no leakage. By this I mean, literally ZERO leakage. So you will not need a sanitary napkin or panty liner. Your vaginal passage is plugged up with a well-fitting cup that captures all the discharge.
  5. Menstrual cups don’t fill up and overflow uncontrollably. Until I started using the menstrual cup, I never realised how slowly and how little the period discharge really is. Yes, it is bloody and yes, we have heavy flow days. But even at its peak, a period is not like a tap on full, spraying blood. The average cup and user can go upto at least 8 hours without a problem. I always empty my cup every 3-4 hours during the day anyway and I sleep the 8-9hour night without getting up. I have also gone for upto 12 hours without a change and there were no issues. This has never happened to me, but apparently if the cup gets full, it will only move downwards, presumably weighed down and it might leak a bit because of the shift in position.

Keep these in mind while looking for a cup

  • Size is a very important aspect of how the cup works for you. This has nothing to do with your body weight, age or sexual history. Human bodies come in many beautiful forms and yours is unique. Don’t body shame yourself for whatever size cup you need. The cup needs to fit you, not the other way round. A cup that is too loose will allow leaks and you’ll need pads, which defeats the purpose.
  • The stem is another important aspect of the cup. Even cups without stems will not get lost inside you. But you will need to insert your fingers a little deeper to get a hold of the cup during removal. Cups with stems will not hurt you because they’re really soft. If the cup fits well, it will get pulled into your vaginal passage completely and the stem won’t even stick out. Either way, the cup works. It’s a matter of personal preference. Figure yours out.
  • Cleaning the cup seems to be a big deal for a lot of women (based on what I read online). Maybe this is more in the western world where they’re used to bathrooms being dry and using toilet paper rather than water. As an Indian, wet doesn’t equal dirty to me. And I’ve been cleaning myself during my periods for over 20 years now. All you do is sit on the toilet, pull out the cup gently, empty it into the bowl, rinse it with clean water and put it back in. I also wash it with VWash if I’m at home. Sterilising can be done at the start and at the end of the period before you put your cup away. If you can’t do this in the kitchen, use a face steamer like I do or even a sterilising cup.
  • Take your time with finding the right cup and gaining comfort with whatever you buy. This is really important. This product is to help you live easier and better.

All the very best on your journey with menstrual cups! I would love to hear your experiences with the cup too. If you’d like to share, please leave a comment here or tweet to me or drop me a note at ideasmithy [at] gmail [dot] com.

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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.

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