Category Archives: Times, they are a-changing

Known and tested social structures that are changing due to the gender stereotypes breakdown.

What #TimesUp India Is Making Me Realise About Myself

Last week India’s #MeToo / #TimesUp movement rose (again), sparked off by Mahima Kukreja’s outing of standup comic Ustav Chakrobarty sending unsolicited dickpics and badgering underage girls for nudes. It set off a chain reaction examining the complicit parties, the enablers and patterns of predators. Thread:

Since then it has spread to other performance spaces, to advertising, to media, to journalism, to publishing and more. All these alongside Bollywood’s own filth outing with Tanushree Datta’s allegations against Nana Patekar. And across the ocean, the US is grappling with the same issue over a man named Brett Kavanaugh. Sharing this video here as the only positive note of this story: 

On one hand, I am so glad that these stories are finally finding their voices. I cannot even begin to comprehend the trauma of carrying these toxic secrets for so long and there are so many, so many of them. Every morning I’m waking up in fear over which man I’ve known, read, watched, applauded, appreciated, spoken to, smiled at will be outed as the next sexual predator. We are in so much pain.

It’s forcing a mirror to all of society and not just its toxic males. A few men I know have been outed at predators. Did I know? Did I suspect? Was that action that I shrugged off, actually an indication of something more sinister? Should I have laughed at that joke? Should I have warned this person? I introduced these people; what if one person took that as a trust guarantee and do I carry some responsibility if anything happened? What am I missing in the world and about the people around me, today?

So many of the stories I’m hearing have not even made it out yet because the victims fear that they are too young/unimportant/powerless and that their predators are too famous/rich/powerful. I am grappling with recognising that the victim of an assault or harassment can build an unreal sense of the perpetrator’s power while trying not to invalidate their feelings. How can you say “I believe you” and “No, that’s not true” at the same time?

Then there was the outing of someone I knew slightly and hadn’t really liked (though not because I had an encounter of this kind with him). He was outed by someone who in the past, has enabled my own abuser despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The question that hung over me was ‘Should I support someone who did not support me?’. It was a time of personal reckoning, figuring out who I wanted to be. I’d thought these aspects of my character would be set and figured out by this time in my life. Clearly, character is a lifelong process of testing. I passed. I don’t know that I feel good about it. Is feeling like I was denied justice, a better feeling to live with than guilt and vindication?

This same person, along with a lot of other people also put out a call asking to be told if they were friends with an abuser. It made me really angry at first. And then I realised, people don’t know what they’re asking for, when they ask for that door to be opened. When the sheer magnitude of this truth hits them, many recoil and their reaction is to assume they get to judge whether they should take action or not. No, I say. The minute you ask for the truth, you are asking for the victim’s trust. And the minute you bring judgement in, you are violating that trust. Complete trust in return for total lack of judgement is the deal. Here’s my thread on this matter:

Having said this, I’m realising that maybe I invite confessions and sharing from people just by talking about these issues. Over a decade ago, when I wrote this post about child abuse, it provoked a volley of reactions that I did not expect and did not know how to handle. I considered quitting blogging. A friend told me that I had stood for something and that mattered to the people who were sharing with me and that I had a responsibility towards them. I interpreted that to mean I’d have to be a space of listening (since I’m not qualified in any other way to advise, heal, police or protect). If you read the above post, please also read this as the conclusion of that. I am rethinking this now.

I asked a close friend (a survivor and an activist) for advice. This person asked me how many people who were spilling their truths onto me and expecting me to rescue them, showed up for me back in 2012? I could argue that some of them were too young, some too married (like this is an illness that renders one incapable of logical and just thought towards unmarried people), some not strong enough (as if strength is a talent some are born with and which becomes public property to exploit). My answer was…NOBODY. I have tried hard not to become cynical about people since then and I’ll admit I often slip up. I cannot forget that I live in a world that enables and applauds my abusers for the same things that they attack and condemn me for experiencing. It is so hard to feel empathy for enablers, even harder than feeling it for the perpetrators.

And finally, I am realising how easy it is going to be vomit, to dump, to offload resentment and rage. Neither of these are logical or fair-minded. They just are — powerful and unstoppable. I’m trying hard not to talk about my own experiences partly because I do not want to co-opt the narratives of the people speaking up for the first time and partly because it might become a case of Chinese whispers with people blaming my perps for things they did not do as part of the pervasive ‘Men are trash’ feeling. As justified as that feels, I know I cannot live with those feelings. I just can’t.

Mercifully a friend who’s been away from all this rescued me in a single conversation last evening by asking me to remember to retain my capacity for joy. That’s all. We each have to live with the consequences of our actions, our emotions and our words. What’s most important in the long, long run of life? I choose joy.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay you.

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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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If You Won’t Let Us Laugh, Someday We’ll Make You Cry

I watched ‘Veere di Wedding’ today. Don’t worry, this is not a review. The film is getting enough of hatred on social media to inspire enough curiosity in you to watch it. There is uproar over the swearing, the drinking, the raucous laughter, the sex talk. Everyone and their grandmother is horrified.

I’ll give away no spoilers and just say, I loved every minute of the film. And now I’m cueing up ‘Gone Girl’ on streaming as a nighttime watch. Me, who shudders at the thought of Bollywood horror films and basic slashers — I enjoyed the story of the sociopath and I will gladly watch it again. At night. You know why?

Because it gives me a sense of vindication, of justice even. I won’t talk about ‘Veere di Wedding’. Let’s talk about ‘Gone Girl’ instead. Why did so many women LOVE it? Because every single one of us has identified with the feeling of doing so much, being so much and still being edited and worse — invisible.

What does that mean? It means we don’t exist the way men exist — as people. We exist like a 24 x 7 customer service operation that must seamlessly and boundlessly cater to the male gaze, the male need, the male ego, the male everything. We don’t even get paid for it, let alone acknowledged. And any sign of our own humanity comes with severe, very severe consequences. What consequences, you say? Slut-shaming, body-shaming, single-shaming, rape culture, violence against women, silencing of women, mansplaining, manspreading. To name just a FEW.

I could not see a single reason any reasonable human being would dislike ‘Veere di Wedding’. It was funny, it was frothy, it was glossy and it was entertaining. It made a few digs at the expense of men’s glaring flaws but you didn’t REALLY believe that we never talk about you, did you? Wait, you did? Then why is the Bechdel test even needed? Literally that if two women can have even one conversation on screen that is not about a man, it passes. So few films do. So clearly we’re expected to yap about men only all the time. Did you think we wouldn’t complain or joke about you? HA!

Curiouser still, didn’t you all really enjoy ‘Hangover’? How about ‘Pyaar ka Punchnama’, that gut-sucking punch to every woman on the planet? That looooooooong diatribe against the entire female race that all of you liked so much, it’s practically a viral poem on Youtube now. ‘Veere di Wedding’ didn’t have even a third of all that. The ‘motherlover’ line? What, now we’re not supposed to tell the truth? You do worship your darling momma, don’t you and wish every other woman was more like her? It’s called The Oedipal complex and all she was doing was stating that. I guess we should leave personsplaining to the men.

But never mind all that. Clearly you can’t handle women’s laughter. But want to know what happens when you suppress her natural positive instincts? ‘Gone Girl’ is what happens. It’s when this woman wakes up one day and realises that this life is shit and it really is so much better without you. She runs everything of course, without credit and with all the harassment and silencing. Why does she need to carry your sorry-ass as well?

Sure, call her a sociopath like Amy. After all, what was Amy but someone who loved Nick very, very much? Yes, that is wrong. You certainly don’t deserve it.

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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.

 

Breaking Up With The RomCom

I have been a fan of romcoms since it became possible for me to choose what to watch. I rejoiced when the Romedy Now channel showed up on my set. A 24 x 7 channel dedicated to funny, hopeful stories, YAY! But of course. The romcom is the fairytale of our times. And it is with a heavy heart that I concede that this so-called ‘modern’ fairytale is just as oppressive and problematic as the Snow White/Rapunzel/Dainty Princess-Prince Charming narrative I was fed as a child.

I find myself wincing during rewatches of films that I loved the first time I saw them. How could I not have spotted that stalker-masquerading-as-hero character? How did I think this entitled mansplainer was an ideal man? What on earth did I find funny about that misogynist tirade?

220px-Hitch_poster

Topping the list is HITCH, a film that I loved for this sassy dialogue and the utterly droolworthy Will Smith. Not to mention its nonchalant diversity (both lead characters being people of colour without the film making a BIG deal out of it). In hindsight though, isn’t it a story of a pick-up artist actually helping other males prey on women using every manipulative technique he can think of? Oh of course, it’s charming Will who ‘actually likes women’. And yes of course, it’s because his heart was broken when he was younger. Notice how that is ALWAYS used to excuse away men’s misogyny on screen? Right down to our desi misogyny frontrunner — PYAR KA PUNCHNAMA.

There’s WHEN HARRY MET SALLY checking off all the boxes on toxic masculinity and utterly horrible relationship models. “A man and a woman cannot be friends because the sex always gets in the way”?

That was being challenged by Bollywood in the 1980s and by (of all people) Salman Khan. Who lost. Not to mention being copied scene-for-scene in the noughties. Down to excusing the male Im-a-screwup-so-love-me storyline. Boo.

Shall we think about female characters? After all, romcoms did follow the chicklit trend of the 90s/00s with women as protagonists. A hot topic was to address ‘her real problems’. Let’s look at how that turned out. We have 27 DRESSES and BRIDGET JONES DIARY to thank for telling us that being single means we are antiseptic martyr/prudes or alcoholic hot messes. Just until the right man comes our way, of course. And even if he’s a stodgy, dull, boring ‘Good Boy’, he kisses like a dream. Ugh, thanks for setting us back on all the sexual empowerment Sex And The City did (the TV show, not the movies but more on that later).

Oh and thanks, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING for showing women can be ruthless bitches when it comes to not getting what they want. Feminism definitely is about letting us get off the pedestal of being picture perfect. I just wish Julia Roberts’ character hadn’t ended up being shown as the villain. Reverse the genders and the story of a guy who will do anything at all to land the person of his dreams (including lying, seducing an already attached person, gaslighting their significant other)— does that sound like a villain? No, it sounds like Shah Rukh Khan.

Then there’s HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, an absolutely appalling story even at its time, about two nasty people setting traps for each other. A side character neatly sums up the story in her line, “Sounds needlessly vicious.” A man making a play for a woman to get her to fall for him, so that he can land a client account. A woman torturing a guy with ridiculous behaviour (Apparently this is what women do wrong. Uh no, this is what someone who never learnt how to be a human being does.) so she can write a magazine article about it. What is either funny or romantic about this story? And let’s put that through the gender filter. The story assumes that they’ve each done equal bad to the other. Is that so? Does seducing a person under false pretences compare with interrupting their boys’ night out? Can I get a Hell, #MeToo here?

I won’t bother talking about the Sex And The City movies because I’ve already done so when they each came out. And now here’s a rather disappointing analysis of why romcoms may not be that popular anymore. It’s time for new fairytales. Hey Classic RomCom, you and I are done.

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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.

Fresh

What can I say about love and sex and womanhood and gender and relationships and feminism that I haven’t said before? Hope. That is all.

All bets are off the table. It’s a new year. Anything could happen.

I want to leave you with this lovely poem that brings me hope often.

Because love and identity and life should be as fresh and wide-eyed as you once were.

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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

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.

View this post on Instagram

In the past few days, @ishmeetnagpal and I have read, listened to stories of, written about and thought through the dark, dark area of domestic violence for the #YforViolence evening. Because this is part of the truth of love and sex too. It has been a difficult journey and we've both been sickened, as we've beholden the ways human beings hurt each other. But we've tried to distill this experience into something that furthers us and the world. Today, we bring you #ItHurts, a one hour @sexonomicsband session involving performance, readings, poetry, audience interactive activity and music. The talented Karthik Rao joins us today with his guitar. And following our session, Ishmeet and I will also be part of a panel with Landmark leader Hari Kotian and Vandana Patil, moderated by @goldenbrownchhavidazzle. This event is free and open to all. Please consider taking a couple of hours to think about this dark issue and the way it impacts us all. #ItHurts #YforViolence #domesticviolence #abuse #IPV #GBV #sexonomics #sexonomicsband #sexonomicstheband #sex #sexuality #lgbtqia #feminism #feminist #feminists #feministperformance #poetry #spokenword #music #improv #workshop #gender #patriarchy #love #relationship #relationships

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#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.

The Love Adventure: Past Sell-By Date

What does falling in love feel like? I don’t remember. I am not talking about sex. I am not talking about the compromises people make for companionship. I’m not even talking about socially sanctioned labels and relationship statuses. I am talking about mind-knocked-over, nothing but this makes sense LOVE. I know I’ve glimpsed it, felt it, been touched by it, even if I am not the most gracious of hosts to love.

I have possibly been in love once, maybe twice in my life and even those I’m never entirely certain. I crush often and easily. I stopped agonising over these years ago. Lust became welcome in my mind sometime ago, making it easier for me to distinguish it from emotion. Attraction? That something plus the lust & compatibility checklists – I’ve been circling around it for years, in my writing, in my experiences and it’s a frenemy I’ve come to respect but not fear.

But these days, I find myself mildly disinterested. I have to work hard to feel attracted to someone. It’s not that there is a dearth of intelligent, nice-looking, friendly, accessible single men around. And by getting involved with someone years younger at 30, I opened up my mating pool to a wider group. But they all feel like more of the same. I’ve seen the moves, I’ve seen the fumbles, I’ve weathered the games, I’ve survived the mistakes. What’s new?

On the theory that attraction must precede love, I stoked up the dying embers for someone who’s been on the periphery of my life for years. It took effort to remind myself to communicate with him, to convince myself to overlook the sheer slowness that all of this takes. It’s not that he’s an unworthy person, as such matters go. Late 30s, intelligent, independent, adequately ‘my type’ as far on the lust meter, single and acquainted (maybe even friends) with me. We were talking about our work and the daily things that occupied us. I heard a note of something in his voice that I didn’t like.

“You don’t think this is a big deal, do you?”

I asked, my tone mild. But he’s wise enough to catch the challenge in my words, if he listens. If he listens. He said,

“I do think that a lot of the issues you’re stressing about are non-issues, yeah.”

And just like that the embers died.

I feel zero, zip, nada, NOTHING for him after that statement. Not anger. He doesn’t get it and he doesn’t have to. Not a burning desire to prove myself. Does it matter to me what he thinks? No, not much. I know relationships take effort. But should wanting to take that effort, itself be so much effort? Oh no.

It has been over a week since that conversation. I have barely thought about him since then. He texted a couple of times and I texted back. Both times we found excuses to not meet. Valid reasons but we’ve both lived long enough and bravely enough to overcome reason when we’ve wanted to. It seems neither of us wanted to, enough.

I guess I’m documenting this here just in case in the years that come up, I look back and wonder why I never considered him. I did. But there was nothing to take it forward. Damn. He was the best prospect in years and years.

Have I tired of men? Has my violently dramatic past burnt out any joy I can take in love, romance and attraction? I am not old enough to be at retirement age. But at the prime of my life when I enjoy a combination of experience-based confidence, hard-won privilege and good health, I feel so little inclination to use them in the humankind’s oldest endeavour – to seek love and companionship. Maybe there is a shelf life to one’s own capacity for wonder, a necessary component in love and attraction. Mine seems to have crossed its expiry date.

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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.

Fairytale For Feminist Girls

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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.

 

GIRL TALK 

Girl Talk

There’s nothing like girl talk between former tomboys.

It’s dreams and drama
and nostalgia and world dominion
and yearning and alliance and fireworks
all in one.

Be a girl.
At least once in your life.

If you liked this, please follow my microfiction/micropoetry at https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy

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