PMS: Three syllables that could rock your world. But what does this word mean? As a man, it is one of those words you never want to use to describe away women’s seemingly irrational behaviour. Unless you want to hear a very loud and shrill rant. Or if you know the women I do, get a prompt kick in the crown jewels. For women, it is the constant irritation of dealing with pop culture and stand-up comedians love affair with PMS jokes.
But is the alternative to making crass oversimplifications, just shutting up? I think not. The fact is, in our increasingly politically correct world, we do not address some things just to pacify, well, the angry women. The women whose eyebrows go up when you mention PMS and tell you “Don’t even think about it!”
Now here’s my problem with that. Society and culture thrives on making certain topics taboo- female sexuality, periods, rape, etc. When you cannot even talk about something openly, it provides a connotation of shame to it. How do you expect women to believe there is no shame in their being women when everything about their bodies is brushed under the carpets as ‘inappropriate’?And it is that culture that tolerates locking up women when they menstruate, treating them as social outcasts and of course dismissing them as professionals. For years, men thought women could not be involved in outdoors activities and professions because of- wait for it- menstruation!
This was fine in the world that was but it cannot be a part of the world the Modern Man seeks to build. In order to deconstruct what he has been raised to believe he needs to understand. So women can continue to be overly sensitive about words like ‘vagina‘ and ‘PMS‘ and god knows what else. But the Modern Man is not a gentleman. He is no knight in shining armour. He has little patience or indulgence for your baggage and who has been oppressing you.
The fact is, the more ‘secretive’ and ‘inappropriate’ any topic is deemed, the more power it has to dominate and repress people. So what we propose is this: rob it of its power by taking away the secretiveness. That is the key to a lot of the issues that come with the conversation on gender. It certainly is the key to this one.
And if you want, I can start. Men don’t hate talking because they think it’s a bore. Men hate talking because most women don’t really want to hear what they have to say. And ignorance breeds bigotry. Or in this case- sexism.
I will end with a quote from South Park by the delightfully offensive Mr. Garrison:
“I’m sorry, Wendy, but I don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”
Sure, you can call him a chauvinist pig. But what then? What then indeed.
*Image via MicrosoftOffice
The woman who can’t decide if she wants to be the Nice Girl or the Business Skirt
There is a certain kind of woman that I’ve been becoming more and more conscious of, in the past decade. I found her right after I started working. This woman may hold down any job, from adwoman to pilot to salesgirl to journalist. She’s got the degrees, the skill set and even the resume. She’s confident, can speak the right jargon (in business situations) and lingo (in social situations). She may also have the other requisite paraphernalia for being a Superwoman, such as a cool hobby, an offbeat alternate career, a with-it social circle, a quirky love life and the mandatory ‘progressive’ outlook on gender equality.
On my first job, my company hired a bunch of people for a short-term assignment after an interview process. During the actual project, the woman in charge of managing a front desk was found combing her hair (at that very desk). When questioned about the whereabouts of certain materials that she was responsible for, she looked bewildered and said, “I don’t know”. My cutting (and in retrospect, harsh) reply was, “You have two hands, two legs & a head. Hopefully you have a brain too. You were hired to use all of them.”
There is the weaseling out of uncomfortable situations such as being pulled up for bad (or incomplete) work, by crying. You would think it’s easy to tell what kind of woman would break down if you pointed out a mistake on her report. But this is not the pretty, dainty princess sort. This is the toughie, ‘I can hold my own’ sort who ambushes you with an emotional response. It’s all the more difficult to handle such a situation because you never saw it coming. We deal with people along the equations that are set in place based on power dynamics & social roles. This particular situation means the woman abruptly changes all those, leaving you weaker to respond.
And finally there’s the kicker of turning to male support. Personally, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about having to ask a guy for help. I admit this may be an ego issue, since I’ve had to take offense so often against sexist remarks. But there’s nothing permissible about a professional who needs ‘rescuing’ on account of her gender.
Recently, I went on a short trip out of the city. The tour was organized by a young lady, who seemed full of bright ideas and budding talent. She’s a musician, who quit a corporate job to start a travel tours company with some friends. She was confident, articulate and enthusiastic. She was also charming, at ease with new people and seemed like she’d be able balance all the varying demands of these jobs well. The trip went completely off because of mismanagement of time and as it turned out, people. Each episode was dismissed with a smiling nonchalance. When things came to a head, she shrugged and said, “What can I do now? Just chill out yaar.” Shortly after, one of the male guests turned up to speak on her behalf. Thereafter, it was up to him to sort out the various glitches that had occurred because she had not done her job properly. Even if he did not have any problem with having to do this, he could not be held accountable for any issues that came up from the mismanagement or the superficial solutions that were offered. The lady in question quite literally shrugged it all off, putting it down to other people being difficult.
A number of situations like this have me saying, “I would never hire her!” which comes across as harsh & judgemental. But I am a certain kind of professional, the kind that thinks commitment to work & earning respect are gender-irrespective. If I demand equality in recruitment processes & in salaries, I don’t feel like I can ask for gender concessions while working. Besides being unfair, how can I expect any sort of respect if I do that?
Women like this weaken my stand, both within the professional setup (if they work with me) and for my gender. It’s hard enough to assess whether a woman is going to turn out this way. What’s even harder is the assumption that because I’m a woman, I should condone anything from another woman. There are the allegations of my sex being the proverbial crabs in a pot, not wanting other women to shine. Then there are accusations of being a bitch, as a boss or as a customer. And finally, there’s the assumption that I don’t truly believe in women’s liberation since supposedly, I don’t ‘support’ women in the workplace.
What I’m wondering is, when did equality end at rights and stop being about responsibility as well? I’m asking does the requirement of professionalism not apply to women, just because they’re women? And why at all should I have any respect for these women who’re just using feminism as a convenient excuse to write off sloppiness, laziness, irresponsibility and bad attitudes?
On the other side, I also have to admit that most women struggle with early-imposed notions of being ‘Nice’. At the most basic level, I think it’s important for every woman who goes out to work, to question what being a professional really means. I want to believe that it has nothing to do with popularity stakes and everything to do with getting the job done right.
It’s been an eventful weekend. The boy’s friends flocked in from different parts of the country, to catch up and swig a few ones and check if his claims of a new girlfriend were right. Watching your significant other with other people is an interesting experience. Even more so when the people in question have known him longer, much much longer than you. But that’s not what this post is about.
On Friday night, high on Christmas Eve spirits, we sat exchanging ideas (me) and memories (the others). The conversations were flowing as was the alcohol. I’m normally a conservative drinker, if at all. I don’t go beyond a stipulated number and type of drinks. I pace them out and am keenly mindful of food intake and how the combination is affecting me. In a nutshell, I’m always in control and I like it that way. This is a great place to be in for most part and I generally advocate it as a cause.
However, it is an experience, a learning one (and a difficult lesson for some of us) to let go at least a bit and trust the other person. Drinking provides a prime example. I decided to chance it and push my boundaries a bit – Tequila, never the most prudent of drinks and in a thoroughly unconservative manner. We had a great evening and when we retired, we were all slightly unsteady on our feet but still standing. I wouldn’t have driven in that state but I would feel able to have a conversation. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so smug.
I awoke the next morning with a sharp, shooting pain just over my eye. I had thrown up at some point of time in the night (only slightly embarrassed…I did make it to the toilet, after all) and I figured the worst was out of my system. But when I tried to get up, I found myself heaving towards the toilet again. Retch after retch followed. At some point of time, I was given a drink of lemonade, which I threw up about ten minutes after ingesting. That was just the beginning.
An hour later, I was sicking up every sip of water I managed to down. Half an hour later, the shivers started and I had to huddle under a blanket. And a short way from there the stomach cramps began. For over seven hours from the time I awoke, I couldn’t keep any food or water down. I lost count of the number of times I threw up. At some point of time, I stopped running to the toilet as I couldn’t stand. A bucket had magically appeared by my side and it caught the contents of my tortured stomach.
It wasn’t till later in the evening, after several unsuccessful attempts to eat, two tablets, long naps interrupted by violent retching and cramps, that I regained some stability. I never actually passed out but I was too weak to get up or speak or even groan. So when the worst of it passed, it felt like I was coming back to life. And it was only then, I felt able to focus on the person who nursed me through it. My boyfriend known also as Mr.Everyday.
He brought me a bucket to throw up into. He kept me covered when I was shivering. He stroked my head to soothe my fevered tossing. He spoke to the doctor. He ran to the chemist (twice) for medicine and then again for the fruits that I felt like eating, later. He prodded me out of my sleep and forced water down my throat. He spoon-fed me soup, even as I sicked it all up. He watched me as I dozed, waiting in case I needed help getting up to retch again. He did all this by forfeiting the weekend’s plan with his guests. And spent the day instead, inside a stifling room on the one hot day in December, as I shivered.
Letting a guy, especially one that you’re romantically involved with, see you in a less-than-perfect state, is always a big deal for a woman. The resulting loss of mystique is a fear that dogs the best, most secure of us. What’s more, for our generation of Superwomen, letting ourselves be taken care of by *horrors* a man, is not a situation we come to, gracefully. But perhaps the next step in being secure in our independence is not needing to prove it at every tiny opportunity. And hence, by corollary, not feeling imperfect or weak if we let ourselves be taken care of, once in awhile. I would take care of him if he was unwell and I realize there is a certain ego issue in not allowing him the same.
There is much that we’ve been fighting over in the past few months, our many differences coming to the fore and our equally stubborn natures locking horns. And of course, post-mortem, it’s easy to say that those things are different and apart from a situation like this. But those are things that break a couple. And this is the kind of thing that really cements a relationship. All the sweet nothings, flowery words and romantic dates aside, an incident like this is real, tangible proof. He took care of me and he nursed me when I was sick. And for that, I hope I never forget how lucky I am, that he’s my Mr.Everyday.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —— —
For the first time ever,
in my conscious memory,
none of my dreams
or things that I look forward to
in the future with anticipation
have anything to do with a man.
Isn’t that something? Even if it did take me three decades to get to it.
It was so worth it.
A version is posted on Yahoo! Real Beauty.
The world is my bee-hive
Am I a feminist because…
….I write about the incessant stupidity of men?
….I crib about their committment-phobias, their thoughtlessness, their fragile egos and their hazaar nakhras?
….I claim (as I truly believe) that men are a luxury, a vice, an expensive hobby but not ever a dire necessity?
The dictionary defines feminism as:
1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
3. feminine character.
That’s not quite the same thing.
The modern woman is realizing why men have been workaholics and absent parents all these years.
The modern woman is grappling with the Catch-22 of being equal and wanting to look up to someone.
The modern woman is torn between the age-old power of her sexuality and the new-found one accorded to her gender.
The modern woman loves the idea of a credit card in her name but hates the bill that is also in her name..
The modern woman would want it all if only she could find place for it in her handbag.
The modern woman wonders, if she has the best of all worlds, what’s left to want?
The modern woman is proud of her moodiness, her ruthlessness, her ambition, her aggressiveness in bed, but not of her independence (though she’d like to think so).
The modern woman could challenge your masculinity; she could also rule with her femininity
She does both alternatively and tires of both games.
The modern woman can rationalize, intellectualize, visualize but secretly wonders what happened to plain old thinking and feeling.
The modern woman is privileged and tough and frustrated and bored and high on a combination of vodka, estrogen and aspirin.
The modern woman thinks someone should write new fairy tales.
The modern woman will start to write one, only it will turn out as a journal of her life which will become a management bestseller (whose royalties she’ll collect and hate the fame for its apt hypocrisy)
The modern woman sympathizes with her male peers and pities her colleagues and ex-boyfriends, ALMOST. She’s a woman still.
The modern woman fights for woman power as a concept and hates her clan – she hasn’t changed all that much.
The modern woman hates being vulnerable but she also wonders what’s left of her femininity after even that goes.
The modern woman is taken for a ride by the new-age sensitive man and ponders the phrase ‘role reversal’.
The modern woman wears sneakers, unisex perfumes, toned biceps and her hair short, simply because there isn’t a damn thing the men can do about it.
The modern woman occasionally wears sandals and scarves and both hates and revels in the grateful, obsequious compliments that they get.
The modern woman is either a ruthless bitch or an overwhelming earth-mother or both…even she doesn’t know.
The modern woman is driving the world forward and its driving her crazy.
The modern woman made the above rangoli to personify all that she yearns to be but will never aspire to be – innocence, subservience.
The modern woman will still proudly display her confusion as a sign of her boldness as this one has done.
The modern woman is going down the road to insanity and dragging the world with her.
A later version is posted here.