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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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When A Man Writes A Woman

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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

XXFactored Feb2013: Complicated Relationships, Dating Tests & Stereotypes

This wasn’t a perfect Valentine’s month. But then, last February was and look how that turned out. Still, I got through it (this one and last year). The journey back to life is neither neat nor straight. At least it wasn’t boring. Here’s what kept me company along the way:

XXFactored Feb&Mar2011: Sex Charts, Mad Men & Causes Gone Wrong

I didn’t post an XXFactored update in February because the month was so busy that I barely had the time to scout for links. Other people however, did share links and I really wanted to showcase them. While on this, allow me a brief crib about the new Facebook page format. It shows the page admin’s links on the main page but other members links in a tiny box. Not cool, I say. It totally kills the spirit of community that link-sharing used to do.

Now on to the links.

  • Someone’s idea of what happens to people of either gender when they fail their exams. It sparked off a heated debate. (via Lakshmi Jagad)
  • HOWL-a-rious! ‘- 14 Realities of Romantic Relationships in chart form‘ (via Cracked)
  • In memory of a remarkable woman and a talented musician laid to waste – ‘I’m Every Woman
  • I’m sure a whole lot of us will be silently thanking the makers for this handy tool! – ‘5 Signs You’ve Been Stalking Your Ex Online Too Much‘ (via How About We)
  • Harsh, hard-hitting….dare I say…true? The undeniably justified cause of gay rights, seems to have become no more than a free ride of attention and entertainment for those so privileged.  ‘The Queer Movement is dead; Long Live the Queer Movement!‘ (via DNA Newspaper, link courtesy Dhamini Ratnam)
  • A hilarious set of charts – check out the ones mapping people who use Twitter daily versus others. – ‘10 Charts about Sex‘ (via OkCupid)
  • Why Indian Men are still boys‘ (via Tehelka, link courtesy Gautam Ghosh)
  • No, Catcalling is not a compliment and here’s why’ (via Hello Giggles, link courtesy Ashwini Mishra)
  • If this 60s show has sparked off your fancy, here’s a look at some of the female stereotypes of the time by how Don Draper sees them. ‘4 Types Of Women Don Draper has Dated.‘ (via YourTango)

  • What Your Favorite Mad Men Lady Says About You‘ (via TheGloss)
  • This is totally off the edge – ‘Marketing Xenosexuality: Women & the Sex Robot taboo?‘ (via Future of Sex, link courtesy Gautam Ghosh)
  • “Lighten up” can be the most passive-aggressive chauvinistic phrase ever! ‘The Million Little Barbs of Lighten Up!‘ (via BuzzFeed)
  • Where Have All The Young Men Gone?‘ (via HR Blogs, links courtesy Gautam Ghosh)
  • This is true of any movement – rabidity only works against you in the long run. ‘How Pro-Lifers made me a Pro-Choice Activist.‘ (via TheGloss)
  • 5 Warnings to go with 5 Types of Men who make great husbands‘ (via From Outside The Mall, link courtesy Gautam Ghosh)

You can catch the links as they come in and even post your own to The XX Factor Facebook Page.

A crisis of stereotypes

This is going to be a personal post not a fiery commentary on ‘issues’…this blog has gotten to being quite aggressively feminist. Ever since I started writing XXFactor, I seem to have gotten an image of a feminist, which I’ve been hotly protesting. Now see, that is the whole point, isn’t it? Its not about what I believe but how passionately I believe it and how vehemently I express it. I still maintain that having an opinion doesn’t make me a feminist, it only makes me opinionated…and that much I am willing to acknowledge.

Why am I so anti-feminist? Well, as a matter of fact I do not believe that women are the superior sex. I don’t like stereotypes and the feminist point of view is as rigid a stereotype as the male chauvinist one….this whole new woman, (a la Cosmopolitan or whatever mag is propagating it) and the ‘kill the men’ syndrome. Like Sensorcaine once said, “I’d like to know where they’d all come from and what they’d have to talk about if it weren’t for men at all!!”

It struck me this morning that some of my opinions are probably very little to do with real belief. My revelation for the day is that I suffer an identity crisis. No, not an identity crisis in the sense of the “What kind of a person am I?” I pretty much know the answer to that and it is that I’m the kind of person who always has an answer to that, only it’s a different one from minute to minute. No, my identity crisis has to with gender. I have never strongly identified myself as female. Before you jump to any conclusions about my sexuality, I haven’t ever strongly identified myself as male, either (“a man trapped in a woman’s body” and all that…phooey, I didn’t say that). What I am trapped in is a stereotype-obsessed society.

Coming back to the crisis….would it be a crisis at all if people didn’t insist that it matter as much to me as it did to them? I was a tomboy in my childhood, then a near sexless being in my adolescent years, surrounded by a bunch of hormone-ridden boys who never even noticed I was female. And now? I’ve learnt the trappings of this stereotype. So I dress a certain way, talk a certain way, behave a certain way.

No issues then, no one has mistaken me for a man for many years now. Now oddly enough, when I started blogging, in the early days, before I wrote about the woman’s role today, my readers assumed that I was male. It irked me then. Just like it irks me now that people assume I’m a male-hating feminist now. And oh, this being described as a ‘chick-blogger’. It is the most mortifying experience on the blogsphere!! I mean, what the hell….on a medium where people have never seen what I look like or sound like, only read my views, all I am is a female body?

In a circuitous way, I’m going to backtrack to why this is offending me so much. My problem with each of those descriptions is that I don’t see them as any part of my identity. My gender…is simply the way my body is built….and it has very little to do with my real identity. Dammit then, I don’t want to be seen as a headstrong woman or even a strong woman. I want to be seen as a strong person.

I suspect some of this conflict comes because I grew up identifying far more with my father than with my mother. Freud could probably explain the mixed-up gender roles that followed from my wanting to be ‘like dad’, being attracted to men who were like him but also wanting to please them all by being the complement….and oh, I’m out of steam by now. But I’ve made my point I think.

Like the Godfather said, “Everything’s personal.” Incidently, quoting that character is a more masculine habit than feminine but I was referring not to the movie, but the book(which is a feminine thing to do since women are supposedly more verbal while men are visual.) :p I’ll shut up now. Whew…rant over.

Soul sisters

I finished reading “Bridget Jones’ diary 2- The Edge of Reason”. I could identify with the protagonist. Just like I could identify with Ally McBeal and the characters of Sex and the City. I read an article in the newspaper today, about the status of urban, upwardly mobile, independent single women. That’s the one reading BusinessWorld on the bus, the one with a nose ring browsing the high-end mobile phone section, the party animal at the pub on Friday night. We exist in every continent, every culture that allows us access to technology, independence and the right to our own minds. The Modern Woman. I am not alone.

At 26, I’m worldly enough to know how to have my way, how to look good, how to impress and influence. I’m smart enough to have an informed opinion and independent enough to voice it without having to worry too much about what other people think. I also suffer loneliness, guilt, confusion, stress. I lead an unhealthy lifestyle….no exercise, too much of junk food, not enough sleep. Thankfully I don’t smoke that much but well, living in this city is as good as being a chain-smoker.

I worry incessantly about my job and my looks and I think nothing at all about my family. I drift in and out of bad relationships and the only man I can stand for longer than a few days is someone I know I’m ‘just good friends’ with. My conversations with my girlfriends are a chaotic mix of bitching about men, agonizing over our looks, obsessing about our work and complaining about the lack of time, money, clear roads, decent guys, good beauticians and tasty, healthy food. So much for simple living and high thinking.

The generation gap has become an un-bridgeable chasm. At 26 my mother had been married for three years, become a mother and made the transition from the spacious house in downtown Delhi to the cubbyhole flats in suburban Mumbai. She was running a household, tending to a hyperactive preschooler and battling in-law issues. I, on the other hand, have rash-driven through the entire spectrum of bad relationships (abusive, neglectful, power-obssessive, shallow, cheating, rebounds…take your pick), struggled through courses I didn’t want to study, had 4 jobs, quit mysteriously and jumped in and out of crazy split-second decisions. Recently I announced that I was considering moving out. The reaction was explosive to say the least. Amid other things, there was “We are Indians! We don’t do things like that! What did we begrudge you???” I hate this. This having to be the model daughter…the definition just changed from ‘good home-maker’ to ‘smart professional’. All this while not getting the freedom that goes with taking responsibility for one’s life (and others). While still being seen as less-than-complete because I’m single (God, how I hate the word ‘unmarried’ as if being married is the natural state for a 20-something to be and anything else is an aberration)

I have few real friends who are women. The others are all married. Most of them have settled down into matrimonial bliss and the joys of parenthood. Which is fine. I have no objection to anybody being happy. But why are people so insistent that theirs is the only way to live life? Smug Marrieds as Bridget Jones calls it. The few others who manage to be not so smug, seem almost wistful when they look at my life and how carefree they think I am. It’s a bloody catch-22….no peace for my generation.

There’s always work of course. After suffering male chauvinist professors (“Why don’t you stay home and learn to cook, madam?”) and jealous peers (“Opportunist bitch, I bet you slept your way up”), welcome to the world of the Boss Lady. I’m not even going into the horrors of having a female boss. I’m going to be one of them soon.

These issues are big on my mind all the time. Hell, I write a blog about them! There are no answers. Yet, there’s solace in the fact that I’m in good company.

The bitch brigade takes a bow.

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