Category Archives: Seriously speaking

The serious issues

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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Strong Woman

This label is burden.

I see a look in my eyes, a look I’ve seen on the faces of divorcees, of women who have been beaten up who’ve moved on, in the fleeting expressions of successful women, old women. Because women only achieve success with age. And success necessarily means surviving very bad men. It is the face of a woman that the world likes to call a ‘Strong Woman’. It is a tired look. A jaded look. A bored look. A dismissive look. These are so subtle, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m just being cynical. But I know how this face feels from the inside because I wear it. I know exactly how the frown lines fall, beneath the matte-perfect makeup. I know what grimaces are smoothed away behind liquid lipstick, what acid feelings are tone policed and polished up behind the articulate, confident speech of this Strong Woman.

I heard it in the voice of a yesteryear actress, now married to a business tycoon who it is rumoured, routinely humiliates her publicly. I notice it in the eyes of journalist once partnered with a serial cheater. I see it in faces of at least two celebrities who’ve been publicly beaten up by their partners while their colleagues watched, who’ve sustained injuries and then gone on to marry other people and re-establish that perfect fairytale everyone wants to see – the Strong Woman.

Strength? This is the fetish of a different sort of man from the one that caused the wounds in the first place. Or maybe it’s exactly the same kind of man – the kind who sees a glass edifice to be shattered, who thinks broken women are beautiful, who writes poetry about this pain and expects to receive admiration, love and sex in return.

It is also the desperate need of a certain kind of woman. My age makes me an automatic, if reluctant role model. The trouble is, because I’m also a woman, they think it’s not just my job to inspire but also rescue and protect. Male role models aren’t asked to do more than be distant beacons. I never signed up to be anybody’s knight in shining armour.

All I ever wanted, was to be a person. The Strong Woman in the mirror rolls her eyes. 

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STRONG WOMAN This label is burden. I see a look in my eyes, a look I've seen on the faces of divorcees, of women who have been beaten up who've moved on, in the fleeting expressions of successful women, old women. Because women only achieve success with age. And success necessarily means surviving very bad men. It is the face of a woman that the world likes to call a 'Strong Woman'. It is a tired look. A jaded look. A bored look. A dismissive look. These are so subtle, you'd be forgiven for thinking I'm just being cynical. But I know how this face feels from the inside because I wear it. I know exactly how the frown lines fall, beneath the matte-perfect makeup. I know what grimaces are smoothed away behind liquid lipstick, what acid feelings are tone policed and polished up behind the articulate, confident speech of this Strong Woman. I heard it in the voice of a yesteryear actress, now married to a business tycoon who it is rumoured, routinely humiliates her publicly. I notice it in the eyes of journalist once partnered with a serial cheater. I see it in faces of at least two celebrities who've been publicly beaten up by their partners while their colleagues watched, who've sustained injuries and then gone on to marry other people and re-establish that perfect fairytale everyone wants to see – the Strong Woman. Strength? This is the fetish of a different sort of man from the one that caused the wounds in the first place. Or maybe it's exactly the same kind of man – the kind who sees a glass edifice to be shattered, who thinks broken women are beautiful, who writes poetry about this pain and expects to receive admiration, love and sex in return. It is also the desperate need of a certain kind of woman. My age makes me an automatic, if reluctant role model. The trouble is, because I'm also a woman, they think it's not just my job to inspire but also rescue and protect. Male role models aren't asked to do more than be distant beacons. I never signed up to be anybody's knight in shining armour. All I ever wanted, was to be a person. The Strong Woman in the mirror rolls her eyes. 🎶: THANK YOU – Alanis Morissette #theideasmithy

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

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Fairytale Character

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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.

The Ugly Male Face Of ‘Cannot Cope’

I always thought India hates its daughters. But now I believe it hates its sons even more.

One of the biggest advantages that I have is that I was given a realistic view of the world’s indifference and even hostility to my existence. Yes, this is an advantage because growing up aware that you need to work hard and fight for every good thing possible lets you develop this skillset. It teaches you that if the world does not accept you, you don’t shatter; you just try harder. It lets you not take anything or anyone for granted. True, it gives you trust issues. But in our world today, I think I’d rather have trust issues than survival issues.

I predicted this years ago, when my twenties were full of boy-men treating me and other women callously, thoughtlessly, cruelly even. The tables would turn and they are. It’s not that women are getting a better deal. No, we’ve learnt to cope. After all, we were trained to deal with betrayal and unpredictability, in a near-Spartan manner since we were little girls taught to flinch under the male gaze, tiptoe around fathers and brothers and work for their approval. We’ve survived and continue to do so.

But the men? Look at the male half of most break-ups, divorces, broken friendships and even layoffs. Do you see more calories? Greyer hair? Lesser hair and more paunches? More missed calls but also fewer Tinder matches? Higher debts on accrued credit card bills? More rumpled clothes? More dripping venom against life in hate-speech on the internet, stage performances, watercooler conversations? Fewer friendships? More bad behaviour at parties?

This is the ugly male face of Cannot Cope, Cannot Deal With Adult Life.

*Image via Pixabay

These are cracks appearing in the Raja Beta syndrome, as its foundation stones of the manipulative, infantalising family, ages. What happens to a full-grown adult who has been handicapped of social skills and deprived of the freedom/ability to take responsibility for his life, when the crutches falter? That is a damaged human being. Meet The Indian Man.

This one is struggling through a divorce, still bewildered that such a thing could happen. That one is dealing (very badly) with palpitations, diabetes, blood pressure, liver troubles and hating the medical system for it. This one feels inadequate at work, can’t find a way to rise and decides his women classmates must be sleeping their way up. That one can’t stand to see his wife spend so much time on Whatsapp and Facebook, can’t stand the TV they watch and can’t stand it when the electricity is off either. This one hates his colleagues, hates his fellow commuters, hates the spouses of his wife’s friends, hates his neighbors, hates the service staff and thinks it’s just that the world is wrong. That one thought he did everything right, degrees, labels etc. and yet everyone else looks happier than him. This one thought he was the cool one so where did it all go wrong? That one has no idea what to do when his spouse doesn’t get along with his family, is clueless when a job or a relationship ends and has no idea how to take care of his parents. Or himself.

This system is harsh on me but it has actively betrayed the Indian man. I’m truly sorry for all of you. I will not take care of you because that’s just allying with the system. I know many of you will not see that. I also know this the reason you turn your nameless rage against the system onto me and other women. But I’m still sorry. It’s the system, people who were supposed to love you that let you down, not me. All I can say is, it can get better and hatred is not the way.

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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.

Fuckboys & The Support Fuckboys Brigade

I saw the fuckboi yesterday. He is part of the same circles and I refuse to acknowledge him anymore so his presence in isolation is not such a bother. But I am surrounded by his manipulative behaviour, in the form of other women who look as starry-eyed as I *cringe* probably did back in December. (Notice how I feel ashamed of myself for a positive emotion and a pretty good performance; thank you, fuckboi.)

Some of them are women I know and I’m caught in a quandary. Should I warn them, risk the heavy ugliness that society and men thrust on a woman who dares speak (including from these very same women themselves)? Or should I stay silent and let other women fall prey to the same fuckboishness that makes them doubt themselves and cripples them in male-dominated spaces? I need more women like me in the spaces I frequent and I can see how behaviour like this costs our kind dearly. What a catch-22.

Maybe it’s highlighted by the fact that I’m watching Mad Men right now. But doesn’t “Oh, he suffers social anxiety” just feel like a modern, fashionable version of, “He’s deep and brooding” (Mr.Darcy), “His parents didn’t give him enough attention as a child.” (romcoms featuring white males and Manic Pixie Dream Girls) and other such excuses? A fuckboi is a fuckboi. There is absolutely no excuse for treating another human being badly and making them question their self-worth. Women have problems too (rape culture, online harassment, salary disparity, biological clock ticking, unsafe spaces) and most of us don’t get to use that to tread all over men and get applauded for it. No, fuckbois, I don’t care if this is politically incorrect but I’m not buying it.

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*Image via sarcasmlol

I am thinking about whether this particular fuckboi and my strong reaction to him is just a symbol of my deeper feelings for my ex, the longest running fuckboi in my life. That one issued a vague apology last year on Twitter that could have been aimed at anyone but that I suspect was about getting in on the ‘I’m a reformed man, applaud me’ trend. I wish my friends had not bothered sharing it with me. I was going along in my life, having put that particular nightmare behind me. But with that screenshot fed into my inbox, I was forced to think about him again.

His apology was public and got him a lot of positive attention. He never once said sorry to me, in person or in any form of private communication. He did not even acknowledge my existence. I concluded that he was no different from who he was in 2011-12 when he isolated me from my family and friends, stopped me performing or working, hit me, gaslighted me, abused me, allowed his family to subject mine to dowry demands, ended the engagement when I called it out, said “It’s not my problem” when my period was delayed and then “So what? Breakups are difficult.” If that apology was aimed at me, I say

“Not good enough. Too little, too late. Wait, was that an apology or your version or Being Human?”

But no one cares, do they? The truth has not changed but I’m forcibly pulled into this Fuckboi’s drama every time he feels the need for attention. And everyone who knows either or both of us even slightly, is looking at me expecting me to hand out the bouquets like the gracious woman I am supposed to be. I lose every way I look at it. Is there any escape from the land ruled by Fuckboidom?

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The current fuckboi of course, didn’t get to do a fraction of what that one did. He vanished, then when I stopped, he reappeared with gifts and love poetry. When I relented and agreed to have a conversation, he pointed out that “You come across as having very strong anti-male sentiments”. When I refused to take note of it and him beyond that chat, he took care to message me and remind me that “I listened to your work. No, you are not anti-male.” Back-and-forth, back-and-forth till the unpredictable approval could be distracting enough to be all I would think of. So familiar. He’s just another in a long line of fuckbois who don’t care or even really see the women around them. Not  in any way other than breasts, butts, vaginas to grope, ears and arms to receive their existence and words only to validate them. I am still grappling with how to deal with so many men being this way. The challenge grows exponentially considering that they’re surrounded by women who fall prey to them and enable their fuckboi behaviour, even to the point of hurting other women.

I asked a friend yesterday why I was attracting such nastiness when I tried to steer clear of people and focus on my own writing only. He said,

“You know what you want. Not many do. That creates a dichotomy between you and such people. My advice, if you want it? Not worth engaging. It will tire you and they will not understand what you are saying.”

My friend is right, in part. The tricky thing is identifying the handful that are willing to let me live, from the vast hordes that want to pull me into fuckboiness-and-support-fuckboidom.

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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.

Sorry I Didn’t Wait Till 8 March To Speak

We’re leading up to the grand tamasha called Women’s Day where you can expect to see the world pat itself on the back for giving half its population one day. You’ll also find a lot of men applauding each other for being so considerate of women. And congratulating one another on what good men they are for allowing women a special day. And finally, refraining from PMS jokes for that one day. Well done, men.

Here is a piece that I performed this Monday. Before I went up on stage, I was announced as

‘That poet who the women will love and the men better beware because the poetry is going to slap them’.

Once I finished, I was asked why I disliked men so much. Then a young man I barely knew parked himself next to me and in the semi-darkness during the subsequent performances, proceeded to harass me on my social adjustment issues, my hatred of men and my problematic past. Of note, said young man is also a poet who is infrequent on the scene. He also has a bad stammer and earlier in the evening, I had applauded his performance because I know how much courage it takes to go up on stage. He did not however, feel equally kindly towards me. He also felt perfectly able to attack me in a place where I’m a regular and when I was surrounded by friends. This is not the first time men have behaved in such a manner on the performance/poetry scene and every single time I protested, I’ve been told that I was taking things too seriously or that ‘he’s just young’.

Here’s the piece I performed. Dare I point out that it doesn’t mention men anywhere?

After all, feminism is only feminism when a man speaks about it. A male feminist is a hero and a female feminist is nothing more than an angry, man-hating bitch. Thank you for putting me in my place, fellow poets.

It looks like the stage does not permit me to speak my mind so let me hide on my blog for as long as it takes for the trolls to find me. Tonight a lot of you stay up celebrating a god whose legacy includes blurring gender roles, assimilating the masculine and the feminine and indeed, expressing an open need of his equal half – his female partner and side. That’s it. Think about it. You can wish me on 8th March on the one day in the year I don’t have to apologise for not being male and then congratulate yourselves for doing so. Thank you.

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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.

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.

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.

Gone-girl-EW

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.

The Real Estate Of The Body: I Don’t Understand Why Gender Is A Part Of Identity

I stiffened when I saw this scene. Natalie Figueroa is not a likeable character. But I found myself relating to her words. I really don’t understand transgender women.

I have never been truly content being a woman. This does not mean that I want to live in a man’s body. I hear transwomen make references to being able to dress prettily and gossip with girlfriends as experiences they’ve missed. I guess the transmale counterpart to that would be to shave and have boys’ nights out. I have not felt incomplete for not having had those experiences.

For me, bodies are just real estate for our actions, our minds and our intentions and I’m sitting inside a physical space that has less currency and less value than the real estate of a man’s body. I am fairly certain that who I am, would not change depending on the kind of body I’m in. But the world treats this body with less respect and power than I’d like.

I am not saying I don’t enjoy the nice things about living in a woman’s body. I love dressing up and I enjoy the natural grace that comes from being in a smaller, curvier body. But these are fringe benefits that I can perfectly well live without. They are my way of making peace with inhabiting a physical space that I’m not happy about, compensation prizes if you will. I cannot think of anything that I would miss deeply about being a woman, were I to wake up as a man tomorrow. Because who I am, has nothing to do with the body I live in.

This is also not about who I am attracted to. My physical/sexual side has been drawn to men, so far. But the only reason it has stopped there is because there hasn’t been a pressing need to go beyond. As a woman, there are enough of opportunities available to me to engage with men. The heavy social/emotional burdens of exploring sexuality with a woman haven’t felt worth the effort to me. In that hypothetical world where I’d wake up as a man, I can’t really imagine that flipping over to the equivalent model (being a man drawn to women) would be particularly difficult. That should tell you that my sexuality doesn’t drive my body identity either.

Anybody who possesses a man’s body, to me, is someone who won the luck of birth, similar to babies born to affluent parentage rather than poor families. I really don’t understand why someone would want to give all that up to live permanently in the squalor, the permanent fear and the degradation that a woman’s body is subjected to.

I think about Nadika. We’ve been friends for years and I’ve related to her as a cisman. Then she came out as a transgender person. I don’t relate to her any differently since then, except trying to figure out the right language to encompass her life. I feel empathy for her unhappiness and her struggles, I really do. But I feel it without truly understanding, in the way some men are sympathetic about period pains. Nadika’s freedom story gave me some insight but not really understanding. It made me think that maybe how relevant gender/sexuality is to our identity, differs for us all.

I am not a man trapped in a woman’s body. I’m a person trapped in a woman’s body.

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