Category Archives: Feminist on Stage

Feminism Is A Conversation

Navigating A Feminist Identity

Last evening was a series of odd events. It started when I was hosting an open mic. One of the performers ranted about being friendzoned, spewing vitriol on the woman and ended up calling the audience boring because nobody would applaud. While this person was still performing, someone tapped on my shoulder and said, “You’ve got to call this out. This is problematic.”

This was heartening to hear. I’ve soldiered on alone for so long, being called all kinds of evil names, it just felt so good to know someone else found this outrageous and demanded action. When he finished, the silence of the audience was deafening. My god, this is what I touched when I did a silent performance. The whole room voiced their discontent with this problematic piece without making a sound. It was more powerful than anything I could have said or done because the community policed itself.

As a vocal feminist in this very space, I’ve endured hostility & harassment for calling out shit like this. It has also become my calling card, with ‘Have You Met My Feminism?’ getting much more recognition than any of the other pieces I worked harder on. SXonomics was my middle ground, learning to temper my fire to be more sustainable. So I wondered how to handle the problematic performer. I was, after all hosting and it’s my responsibility to hold the space as safe and diverse with minimal silencing or hate.

I decided to let him finish rather than disrupt a performance and then call it out. When I went back on stage, I explained why friendzone was a problematic idea, keeping it as personal attack-free as I could. And then I moved on. But I wondered if I had been too mild about it. It’s hard enough deciding which battles to fight and the decision of how hard to fight is even worse. As I explained it to some of the others who were enraged, later, as a host I sought to encourage anyone performing and helping them navigate their problem areas (including gaps in thought). Many of them thought it was pointless but I figured it was always worth engaging until the other person made it absolutely impossible.

After the event was over, a girlfriend commented on the incident. And then she said another performer had told her she liked performing when I was hosting because I was especially supportive of women performers. But, my friend said, I managed to do it without belittling or neglecting the men. So up my spirits lifted again.

I closed the evening catching up with a male acquaintance. I started to tell him about the incident. “You get why friendzone is problematic, right? No? Okay, let me put it this way. Men are the ones who complain about being friendzoned.”

He interrupted to tell me women got friendzoned too. I said, but the complaining is by men. He agreed and fell quiet….for about 3 sentences before interrupting to mansplain what these guys are like. I asked if he knew who incels were. He didn’t but it didn’t stop him from interrupting me and mansplaining about what men like these were like. I managed to get a word in about the shooters in the US. But not before he started talking about his roommate, yelling about how lots of Delhi guys were nice people. The next 4 minutes (the time it took to walk the road) he kept shutting me down, interrupting, his voice getting louder and his stance getting more aggressive by the minute.

When it got to him shouting (yes shouting) about how everything about me was gender, I just went very quiet and then told him to drop it. You see, this person is not a close friend. He’s someone who contacted me based on my writing (which has all been very strongly feminist and about gender politics). I didn’t even want to bother dealing with this kind of disreputable behaviour anymore.

He didn’t seem to realise I was ending the conversation. I reiterated, “This is over. Go home. It’s late.” He sputtered and said, “You say I’m mansplaining? You…you are woman-shunning!” I walked away before he could say anything more. Angry men are dangerous men. Half an hour later, my phone was beseiged with foaming-at-the-mouth messages from him. I told him if he ever contacted me again, I would report him. And I blocked him.

I’m aware that there will be a lot of people who think I should have patiently heard him out and explained to him. Because after all, I did take that stance with the first problematic man. I even told the others who were angry with that guy, that the only hope we have is in engaging and keeping conversations going. But I also have to draw my boundaries and definitions.

Tolerating men’s bad behaviour till they decide to be better human beings is NOT my job (or any other woman’s). From experience I know such men never will make that decision. Engaging with someone who wants to learn – there’s some merit in that but it is still my prerogative to decide I don’t want to. And I have decided not to engage with anyone who throws tantrums or silences me – I don’t do that and I deserve better than to be treated that way.

And finally, I don’t have to do all of this alone. Maybe the world is changing or maybe I’m moving to parts of it that hold more solidarity with my values. The respect and camaraderie of several women (and some men) who feel the same way versus surviving lots of toxic men – it’s an easy choice when I look at it like that.

Patriarchy is a shutdown, silencing, a one-way order. Feminism is a conversation. And a conversation can only be two-way (or multi-way). It can only be between people willing to listen to the other. Anything else is not my business.

(The events earlier in the evening)

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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.

Meeting My Feminism

I grew up feeling like my life would follow the same path as other people – work and you shall achieve, be and you shall receive. It baffled me when I was attacked or called entitled for this, when the boys I knew, weren’t.

I wrote about this often. I created a comic about a little girl in a green dress, throwing barbs and smiles at a world trying to put her in a gender box (The Idea-toons). Humour became an easy way to deflect the always present horror about the idea that people have tried to impose on me all my life – that I don’t deserve what I am/do/have.

I resisted the label of feminist for too long because I didn’t think I deserved to be categorised with people who ensured that I had a vote, an education, the right to a job, to not be an object of ownership. I didn’t feel that important. It would be years before I realised living that belief is far more important than a label.

I wrote this piece on a whim, sitting in a coffeeshop waiting for a friend. It had easy witticisms and sharp edges because it was only for fun, not craft like my other pieces (Paper Plane, Goddess, Flamingos). I would perform it on my first time at a stage that would go on to be my favourite. The creators of that space would notice me and friendships would be born, bringing me support for my work. I would also get marked as a target, by other people’s misogyny hidden under camaraderie. I didn’t know it then.

In 2017, Simar Singh would tell me about his idea to promote poets and poetry and ask if I’d open his first event for Women’s Day, with this piece. Sure, I’d say, without much thought. Later, they’d find technical glitches in the footage, teething problems for a first-time team and decide not to use it. I’d shrug. There were other battles I was fighting.

Two weeks ago, UnErase Poetry put up the first ever video they shot at their launch show – mine. It crossed 75k views in a week. 😄 I still don’t know – which battles I can win without even realising I’m in a fight and which ones I’m doomed to perish in. But I am a feminist.

Watch the video on YouTube or Facebook on the UnErase Poetry channels. Have you met my feminism? 

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MEETING MY FEMINISM I grew up feeling like my life would follow the same path as other people – work and you shall achieve, be and you shall receive. It baffled me when I was attacked or called entitled for this, when the boys I knew, weren't. I wrote about this often. I created a comic about a little girl in a green dress, throwing barbs and smiles at a world trying to put her in a gender box (The Idea-toons). Humour became an easy way to deflect the always present horror about the idea that people have tried to impose on me all my life – that I don't deserve what I am/do/have. I resisted the label of feminist for too long because I didn't think I deserved to be categorised with people who ensured that I had a vote, an education, the right to a job, to not be an object of ownership. I didn't feel that important. It would be years before I realised living that belief is far more important than a label. I wrote this piece on a whim, sitting in a coffeeshop waiting for a friend. It had easy witticisms and sharp edges because it was only for fun, not craft like my other pieces (Paper Plane, Goddess, Flamingos). I would perform it on my first time at a stage that would go on to be my favourite. The creators of that space would notice me and friendships would be born, bringing me support for my work. I would also get marked as a target, by other people's misogyny hidden under camaraderie. I didn't know it then. In 2017, @simarsinghtrolled would tell me about his idea to promote poets and poetry and ask if I'd open his first event for Women's Day, with this piece. Sure, I'd say, without much thought. Later, they'd find technical glitches in the footage, teething problems for a first-time team and decide not to use it. I'd shrug. There were other battles I was fighting. 10 days ago, @unerasepoetry put up the first ever video they shot at their launch show – mine. It crossed 75k views in a week. 😄 I still don't know – which battles I can win without even realising I'm in a fight and which ones I'm doomed to perish in. But I am a feminist. Watch the video on YouTube or Facebook on the UnErase Poetry channels. Have you met my feminism? #theideasmithy

A post shared by Ramya | IdeaSmith 🎤🌱📚💄🏊🏽‍♀️ (@ideasmithy) on

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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 Stance Podcast: Ep. 17: SXonomics, Modern Mumbai, A Ballet Collaboration with Zakir Hussain, Playwright Natasha Gordon

 

Last month, SXonomics met the Stance Podcast team. Stance Podcast is an independent arts, culture and current affairs podcast exploring diverse, global perspectives. Presented as a transatlantic conversation between broadcasters, Chrystal Genesis in London and Heta Fell in San Francisco, Stance aims to inform, entertain and inspire action.

We met Chrystal and her team on their Mumbai trip, to talk about collaborative performance, sex and gender activism and Mumbai. We are featured alongside our friend Praful Baweja and the podcast also includes stalwarts like Zakir Hussain.

This podcast helped me recontextualise the ideas I and we have been putting out in writing and in performance, within the global framework of important conversations around sex and art. This is tremendously validating and helps move past the misogynist attacks, the microaggressions and everyday hatred that comes my way.

Listen to SXonomics on the Stance podcast ep.17:

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SXonomics is a feminist content producer and a collaboration between Ramya Pandyan and Ishmeet Nagpal. SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and SoundCloud. Drop us a note at SXnomics [at] Gmail [dot] com to chat about feminism, patriarchy, LGBTQIA issues, sex and love positivity!

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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.

 

SXonomics On The Reproductive Justice Happy Hour Podcast

SXonomics was featured on The Reproductive Justice Happy Hour podcast. Just like SXonomics, TRJHH is also a collaboration between two women, this time cross-continental. The podcast takes on feminist issues as they pertain to desi audiences, in India and the diaspora.

I’d already had a chance to talk to Surabhi a few months earlier and it was a real pleasure. When you live in a world where most people tell you that you are wrong for existing, where your ideas are shouted down and deemed ‘manhater’ (whatever that is, since it is not a real word), conversations like this one come as tremendous relief. It’s a lot like being an allergy sufferer in Mumbai. I don’t even realise how much I struggle to breathe until I visit a place that is cleaner and less polluted. Similarly, these rare conversations make me realise what an effort it is, even to exist in my world. And I am still one of the privileged with an education and living in a city. It’s an uphill task, this fight and I often consider giving up.

But just when I do, a conversation like this comes along. Surabhi got us talking about how SXonomics came to be, our creative process and the work we’ve been doing. But she also got us thinking about female solidarity, about what makes collaborations really work. The last such conversation I had that really grew me, was also related to SXonomics and was with Damini, the first person to interview us and take our story out to the world. Damini pointed out that even our combination-performance weaving music, poetry, comedy and drama together was a feminist statement of a sort.

So I guess I’m having an interesting year, all things considered – a lot of grit but also many, many adventures and unexpected treasures. To listen to SXonomics on The Reproductive Justice Happy Hour, click here: https://soundcloud.com/rjhappyhour/opinionated-women-in-the-house-say-hello-to-sxonomics

“All human interactions are transactional in nature. They may not be currency-based but they are transactions of power, of respect.”

SXonomics is a feminist content producer and a collaboration between Ramya Pandyan and Ishmeet Nagpal. SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and SoundCloud. Drop us a note at SXnomics [at] Gmail [dot] com to chat about feminism, patriarchy, LGBTQIA issues, sex and love positivity!

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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 Gifts of February: Surviving Triggers

February brought a lot of gifts and a lot of lessons. Hear that, 2017? Lessons don’t all have to be hard and suffering-riddled. Well, perhaps not true. The #MeToo movement has been gaining voices and echoes all around the world. And last month it hit really, really close to home. This time the pain was not mine but like an old fracture that aches in certain weather, my experiences echoed in the voices of the women who came out with their stories of being coerced, bullied and harassed.

I found myself standing at a crossroads. I could drown in the pain of remembered trauma and let 2017’s horrors (and 2012 and 2002–03) stay alive. I did what I do after every bad decision I make. I decided not to let it define me. These were things that happened to me; not things that are me. And every experience I have had, I have been able to turn into a lesson. So why not these?

I think that is why I was able to live through February without the rage that destroys every woman who has experienced violence of some sort by a man, and finds herself triggered over and over again as it continues in other women’s stories. No, it has not been easy.

I found myself wanting to throw a chair across a room, when I found myself sitting next to stories of violation, inside a room where some of those violations were probably perpetrated. I felt my breath catch as I watched a young girl clutch an inhaler as she spoke, back ramrod straight. Yes, I know what that feels like. I live in that pose most of the time. Determined and petrified, both at once.

In the weeks to come, I found myself seeing fear under people’s skin, prickling up as noticeably as goosebumps. Every man I know — in their wary glances that they probably don’t realise makes them look shifty. The damning silences in forums where hard truths are finally emerging from women’s insides. The brittle bluster that left me as disturbed as usual but seemed to leave them spent and a little scareder of me. I had one exhausting discussion where Papon’s actions were defended and where I screamed down the mansplaining and silencing being done to me. Whew.

And yet, February had gifts. I have survived it without falling prey to the mental darkness that plagued me in late 2017, without succumbing to toxic conversations and associations and habits. And that tells me something about that the old fears that surfaced in December when SXonomics addressed the issue of domestic violence. I have lived for a long time with the effects of gaslighting, not the least of all being the damning guilt that it was all my fault. December prised loose what I hope was the last of residual trauma and I spent weeks after that falling sick. But when I began February, I found myself on the other side, washed clean of the lingering effects of a poisonous person. I was never one. Could I be blamed if my skin burnt when it came into contact with toxic substances? I am not a violent person. I never was. I’ve borne too many things in my past, with grace to know this. Gaslighting made me forget. No more. So thank you February, for reminding me about who I am.

Traumas have a way of lingering on and triggers are sneaky things. But the healing can keep going on too. It’s a lot like addiction, really. Every day is a fresh battle with darkness. The world does not understand, cannot understand and possibly does not want to understand. But when the voices die down, it’s possible to find a minute of silence inside yourself. Mourn the death of all that you lost. And then, in that death, find peace. It is not entirely ugly.

February felt full of love though it wouldn’t look like that to someone from the outside. All I did was work. But if you’ve known me long enough, you know I live well when I have the opportunity to work well and vice versa. It’s good to be the person I love — Me.

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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.

From #PillowTalk To #ItHurts

Every piece of art or performance that I work on, is an emotion-mining experience. December has been an intense one, with SXonomics (my feminist collaboration with Dr.Ishmeet Nagpal).

We started with a visit to Delhi, a place with which I’ve always had a complex relationship. I was born there. All my life I’ve associated it with stifling familial pressures and oppression. My early 20s brought me a horribly abusive boyfriend from this city and taught me that men would use my skin colour and my body to violate my being. What happened to Jyoti Singh wrecked the mind of every woman in the country. Delhi, for me the woman, for me the feminist, for me who breathed my first there, has worn the face of a monster.

But we were invited by the Love Matters India team to participate in a Durex event themed ‘Pleasure is a human right‘. For a band with ‘sex’ in its name, we sure took our time getting to it, in our work. But we scripted and performed a set called #PillowTalk addressing libido, attraction, orgasm, sex positions and the questions we carry into bed with us. It got a fantastic reaction from the audience and we had a blast doing this.

We had barely touched down in Mumbai before our next event had already grabbed us. From sex talk to exploring mating rituals, partner searches, relationship milestones and landmines, SXonomics was onto its next chapter. #RelationshipsRedefined was a 2 hour interactive workshop/performance with BeHiver that addressed the universal quest for love and its speedbreakers. Ten people allowed us to guide their journeys through performance, exercises, improv and discussion. After all, our name comes from ‘The economics of sex’ and we transact in hope, expectations and actions, don’t we?

And now here we are, nearly at the end of December and we find ourselves in a dark place (because love and relating take you there too). Every relationship in the world starts with love or at least, with hope. But what comes after that? What does ‘happily ever after’ look like? I’ll tell you. It looks like a naive hope that often gets dismissed as an unrealistic dream in the rigors of the ordinary here-and-now. In our transacting hope and expectations, we also find ourselves unearthing things like disappointment, inconsideration, negligence, fatigue and selfishness. Somewhere before we know it, from making love, we’ve gone to making war. We war with looks, with sighs, with silences, with words and finally with actions.

Ishmeet and I have spent days thinking about this, reading, writing, talking, watching, listening. I’ve dug deep into my writings across diaries, poetry and blogposts. I discovered how much I’ve buried in my hurry to be okay again. The depth of the lies we tell ourselves is astounding. I imagined the violence I experienced to be a two time occurrence. But in my digging, I found the abuse, the gaslighting, the lies, the control games that I’d been living in and with for nearly the entirety of that relationship. It made me bleed all over again to remember how many of those had felt off or wrong and how much pressure I had been under from supposed friends and family to shut up and play the happy girlfriend/wife. I had been lied to so actively and relentlessly, the lies hitting me like attacks from all corners that I don’t even know when I surrendered and started lying to myself. Love (or whatever it is supposed to be) can do that. That, and fear. Maybe there isn’t a difference. But it is the price to be paid to understand the hard lesson of love. What else are we here for, as artists, as writers and as people?

Today SXonomics brings you a 1 hour session titled #ItHurts. We use performance, poetry readings, music, audience exercises and interaction to trace this journey from love to blood. Our session is part of a larger event #YforViolence, aimed at building awareness around domestic violence. Following our session, there will be a panel discussion on domestic violence. Hari Kotian (Landmark seminar leader), Vandana Patil, Ishmeet and I are on the panel, which will be moderated by Chhavi Sachdev.

#YforViolence – #ItHurts: SXonomics session
This event is free and open to all.
At: 5:30PM-8:30PM,
On: Sat, 23 Dec 2017
In: Bombay Connect, BKC, Mumbai.

I hope I will see you there. I really do.

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

SEXONOMICS: Making Feminism Fun

I haven’t written about SEXONOMICS all these months, have I? If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Youtube, you may have spotted a mention or two. Back in the month of love and Valentines, I got attacked at my favorite performance venue. That incident triggered off a polarising among my community with a handful of men victim-shaming me or rushing in to prove their machismo. Many more of them ignored my requests for help. And I realised that I was standing alone for ideas that would get me attacked into submission. I lost all my friends, my treasured relationships.

I also came onto stage, braving crippling stage fright and carrying the wounds of abusive, gaslighting, confidence-shattering relationships. And with this incident, I was being vanquished and systematically bled out.

I found an ally right then, a slight acquaintance that I’d laughed with in the past. She spoke with me and for me. And she asked if I’d like to collaborate on stage. We joined hands with the only man in our space who agreed with our thinking. Drawing strength from each other, we collaborated on a performance piece titled ‘The Parenting Economy‘. We performed it at NCPA during the South Asia Laadli Media Awards. Within a month, we were featured at two other events, one a creative space and one a nightclub. Two months later, another feminist performer invited us to collaborate on a ticketed show.

This is how SEXONOMICS was born.  Dramatic, is that? I’ve barely been able to catch my breath in this journey from solitary feminist struggling for a chance to speak to co-founder of SEXONOMICS.

Each performance has been reshaped in its writing, its delivery but most importantly, in the thought it espouses. We’ve addressed bad parenting, toxic gender roles, troublesome dating rituals, sexist language, the burden of social approval, revenge porn, common fears around sex, gender privilege, feminism and more. We’ve made use of poetry, rap, spoken word, drama, satire and role play. Every single performance has been an apprehensive step fearing retribution like in the past. And every single one has yielded much joy, learning and possibility.

One major milestone this month was Scroll.in carrying the following story about us –

‘With humour and sass, SEXONOMICS  the Band aims to make feminism fun for Indian women’

I am very glad for all the wonderful conversations that SEXONOMICS has made possible for me, with my collaborator but also with others. If you’ve enjoyed my writings so far, I think you’ll like this next stage in my words also. SEXONOMICS is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“People are so comfortable in their minds with misogynistic references,” Pandyan said. “I just want feminism to also be something that is welcome on the furniture of your mind. It ought to be sitting on the same plush sofa that has been the prerogative of Salman Khan or Honey Singh so far.”

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

Welcome To The Friendzone

Here’s something that came to me in the middle of a shower, turning up almost fully formed and demanding to be set free from my brain. I spilt the words onto my computer, edited it on the run and read it right off my screen on stage. The last time this happened, it turned into a piece that has become my calling card.

This thought has been in my head for years now. I’ve already written it as a blogpost before. Misogynist whining masquerades as desi poetry. But this piece showed up in my head just last week, whatever be its backstory and I had fun giving it life.

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

 

 

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