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Why Digital Dating Means Nothing New For Indian Women

Tinder. OkCupid. Secret. Anonyfish. Even Couchsurfing. India is on the digital map and we of the brown-skinned, spicy-food-eating ilk are exploring digital dating too. Here’s what I found though.

On one end of the spectrum, we find the matrimonial sites. They were the original Indian dating sites, pre-dating the recent apps by a good ten years at least. What, you don’t count those? Matrimonial sites are parentally-sanctioned ways to meet members of the opposite sex, with a view to forming a sexual/romantic relationship with them. Aside from the parental sanction, how do these differ from the average dating service?

All services

At the other end of the spectrum are these dating services that have everyone commenting on the new India. Here is what is actually happening. There aren’t that many women on them, which won’t surprise anybody. There are fewer women in the country and less of us are connected/digitally savvy. Most women don’t enjoy the kind of independence/freedom that dating requires. Women are also less open to these services. I found they have good reason to be.

Tinder, the hot app of the season, picks up from your Facebook profile and lets you see who you have in common with the other person. You can’t imagine the number of married men I found there. A male friend tells me he is equally astounded by the number of married women he finds too (wedding photos as profile pictures!). I can’t tell whether it’s dumbness (“Maybe they thought it’s a chat service,” he thinks) or sheer arrogance (“People will hit on me anyway.”) that makes married people sign up for a dating service. Not all of them are that easy to catch though. I imagine knowing how to navigate the net and mine information from the social media is a skill that helps. At least four conversations proceeded with interesting men before a stalking session revealed their marital status – a Facebook picture tagged here, a forgotten social network profile with their status as married, a photograph carrying a baby followed by comments like ‘Congratulations on becoming a father!’. Really, why are these people here?

We come up against a different issue on OkCupid. This service has been around for ages and it shows, in the dated design and early millennial interface, even on the app. You’re required to fill in an entire profile and there are no privacy settings, no filters on who gets to approach you. The minute I began the lengthy sign up process, my inbox was flooded with messages. This before I had written a single word or even uploaded a photograph. All these people had to go by, was the fact that I was female. I decided to brave it and weed through the crowds for an interesting connection. It has proved to be an arduous exercise. Indian men do not like hearing no. They believe persistence to the point of stalking, is a virtue. Rape culture is alive and well as long as the Indian man exists. Yes, I said that. I was stalked from different profiles (same photograph) and abused for saying no or even for not responding.

Now let’s come to Secret, the uber-hot-hot app that only us digital hipsters have caught on to. Secret lets you post messages anonymously. You can see secrets posted by Friends (anyone on your contacts lists – phone and email) and Friends of Friends but no one can tell who has posted what. I actually uninstalled it in three days because I couldn’t bear how depressed it made me feel. The conversations and a lot of threads about known women. The secrets were usually about one person ‘having the hots for’ or ‘being really turned on by’ such a woman, while the comments would include various versions of catcall responses such as tearing the woman down (“Are you crazy? Total thunder thighs, man. Everyone gets to see them.”) or lascivious jeers of agreement.

I signed into Secret again two weeks later and I find there is a little more variety. Now people also confess to cheating and being proud of it. Comments calling them out result in abuses and versions of ‘You must be such an ugly bitch, nobody wants to fuck you’. There’s also an occasional secret that may be posted by a woman. All of these, plus comments get others begging for a contact with them. This, even to comments that are outright nasty towards men. I know Indian men in large numbers may be like this, but it’s disheartening to see so many people that I know, behave this way too.

Digital Dating2*Images courtesy David Castillo Dominicio and sattva on FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Now, let’s step back from the obvious problems. There must be some worthwhile men, right? Right. There are men who are articulate, intelligent and educated. They quote pop culture, read good literature and work for respectable MNCs. These are the same men who refer to the dating apps as pick-up services. One of them asked me what kind of a woman clicked on such apps. Another told me he respected me because I said no to his booty call (after one conversation). Welcome to the modern Indian man. He believes that women’s liberation means booty calls and dutch dates with women who wear short dresses.

Now, for the hookup culture, that scary thing that’s got everyone above the average digital citizen age in a flutter. Where does that fit into India? I’ll tell you. It’s married people using the fact that they were forced to marry, as an excuse to explain cheating. It’s people who are too ‘respectable’ to buy sex, seeing an easy unpaid option. It’s ‘modern men’ who treat the woman in a hookup as a hooker who won’t charge them. I thought hookups were just about having sex with a person you barely knew and both parties not thinking too much about it later. When did gender-biased judgment and bad behavior come into it?

All in all, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the dating/mating services. The trouble is the people and the attitudes that populate these services. Dating in India is only highlighting the fallacies in the Indian culture. As an Indian woman, my options are to be packaged like a doll, on a matrimonial service or objectified and discarded on a dating service. We haven’t changed in decades. The only difference is it’s all digital now. No wonder women don’t seem that interested.

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

 

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Mr.Modern Man, Get An Identity!

There’s a strange character out on the loose. He calls himself the Modern Man. I am not sure that I like him very much. For one thing, he’s really hard to find. He pops up, in a sudden self-reference and then vanishes under questioning. Then he resurfaces during what should have been a good moment, to ruin it with a self-promoting boast. I understand that he’s still trying to find himself. While about it, here’s what I’d like to say to him. So listen up, Mr.Modern Man!

Doing a couple of household chores does not qualify you for a medal. Get to doing 50% of the housework, without being reminded, and as well as I can, and you can have the right to advocate equality of the sexes.

Not dictating what your lady wears, who she speaks to, and what she wears does NOT make you a great guy. It just means that you’re not being a control-freak.

Fail in these and your stand of ‘Independent women can take care of themselves’  just seems like a cheap attempt to shrug off even the minimal responsibility that a male chauvinist’s role carries.

What is the meaning of an identity that is defined solely by the evils that one does not practice? A weak one, that’s what. Who are you, Mr.Modern Man? Is there more to you than the fact that you’re not a rapist/control freak/jealous monster? Identity is what you are, not what you are not.

I get how difficult it can be to break free of conditioning and resist archaic social constructs. I do that all the time, myself. But it doesn’t stop there, for me. You go against the grain and you break what exists down, so you can build something new in its place. Try being more than what your erstwhile counterparts were not. Define yourself for your values rather than what you don’t do or how well you meet my expectations. Most of all, get some balls of your own. I don’t recall asking for those to be chopped off when I let go of Neanderthal Man.

You don’t get to be great by default. And if you want to be the equal counterpart to the Modern Woman, you know you’ve got a high standard to match. I’m not saying the Modern Woman is without flaws or even that she knows exactly who is she. But at least, she’s got some sense of identity beyond what you or your brethren want to make of her. And the one thing she won’t stand for is vague, empty words.

Come back to me when you’re a real person, not just a fanciful notion in pop literature. I’ll be delighted to get to know you.

*Image via Idea go on FreeDigitalPhotos.

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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 Nov2011: Texting Etiquette, Gaslighting, Movember & Facebook As A Wingman

The last few months of the year usually tend to speed up into one gorgeous flurry of parties, social events and conversations. 2011 didn’t disappoint XX Factor and I’m bringing you a hot bunch of links to chew over:

  • I want to believe that this is just an excuse to push for more boys’ nights out! ‘Being Too Chummy With Your Partner’s Friends Linked To Problems In Bed‘ (via The Huffington Post)
  • Why is talking about sex, suddenly taboo for men?: Women And Sex: Intimate Adventurers‘ (via The Huffington Post)
  • Fears of flying‘ What do our fantasy superhero powers say about us? And about our gender stereotyping? A great look at 1980s classics, Nagin and Mr.India. (via Ekantipur, link courtesy Annie Zaidi)
  • Apparently this does need to be spelt out: ‘6 Bits Of Information That Should Never Be Relayed Via Text Message‘ (via HowAboutWe)
  • We’re in Movember, which is the month that men are encouraged to stop shaving to raise awareness for prostate cancer. I’m not liking it but I’ll support it. (via HowAboutWe)
  • Thank God Facebook gives you time to check yourself…err, your profile, before that ‘special someone’ sees you!: ‘9 Things To Do When Someone You Like, Friends You one Facebook‘ (via HowAboutWe)
  • Why Women Aren’t Crazy‘ An interesting concept called ‘gaslighting’. But I wonder, what good does it do, just knowing that there is a problem? (via The Good Men Project, link courtesy Ashwini Mishra)
  • Making the modern man cool is Brotips – logos & messages that are smart & PC (via Brotips, link courtesy Karishma Rajani)
  • The top 5 annoying habits of men (via AfternoonDC, link courtesy Ankita Gaba)
  • Why can’t women be more like men?‘ – an entertaining conversation in status update-and-comments (on Facebook, via Kalyan Karmakar)
  • A Gaysi poll but it’s non-sexuality specific! ‘Which is the most important personality trait in deciding if someone is relationship material?‘ (via GaysiFamily)
  • Vitriolic but sadly, steeped in fact: ‘Why Does India Hate Women?‘ (via India Journal, link courtesy Ashwini Mishra)

* Catch the links as they happen on The XX Factor Facebook Page. You can also share a link of your own (if it has to do with dating, relationships, womanhood, feminism, battle of the sexes or gender stereotypes) and you’ll be featured on the XX Factored post at the end of the month!

Featured earlier:

XXFactored Oct2011: Gender Stereotypes, Rape & What Women Mean

XX Factor welcomed its second guest contributor, The Armchair Philosopher, this October. Here’s his first post, laying out the dilemma of being a Modern Man. I am looking at bringing in even more guest contributors so leave a comment telling me what you think about this. Onto the link-love:

  • Do You Think There Are More Women Bloggers Than Men?‘ (a discussion by BlogAdda)
    Portrait of a Woman Blogger, after Frederick C...

    Image by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr

  • ‘The speed in which a woman says ‘nothing’..’A titbit of wisdom on women (on Twitter by DeveshMistry)
  • The Official Trailer of ‘Miss Representation’ (via Youtube, link courtesy GautamGhosh)
  • Why Feminists Have Better Sex‘ (via TheGlobeAndMail, link courtesy GautamGhosh)
  • If being able to have sex (forced) is all that defines you as a man, what does that say about manhood?: ‘Horror Of South Africa’s Corrective Rape’ (via CNN, link courtesy ManojKewalramani)

The Modern Man

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Here’s welcoming XX Factor‘s second guest-contributor. He’s as smart as the next man but he’s still perplexed by the complicated world of women. He brings his brand of wry musings, politically (in)correct observations and gender role confusion to this blog as the ‘Armchair Philosopher‘. Over to the chair.

– IdeaSmith

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Hello everybody. The unicorn’s here. The phoenix, the Bermuda triangle, the Loch Ness monster. The modern equivalent of a mythical creature no one has seen but everyone seems to talk about- “the Modern Man“.

So who is this creature? What does he look like? Is he human? Or has he been sent to Planet Earth by alien feminists? Is it his mission to spread his subversive propaganda about how a man ought to be, in order to ruin it for male chauvinist pigs all over the world?

Can a Modern Man be comfortable with a dominant woman, a woman who has her own life and friends and does not fit any of the gender roles he has been raised to accept as gospel truths? Can he really? Or does he just train himself to make all the appropriate responses? Or worse still, is the only way he can be modern, by assuming indifference?

The Modern Man is a myth because of the sheer relativity of his existence. A Modern Man has no real features of his own. A Modern Man is simply a man who can complement a Modern Woman . His modernity is defined by his responses to the modernity of the Modern Woman.

And therein lies the greatest problem of all. The Modern Man does not know who he is because the very reference point of his existence, the bedrock of his existentialism is the Modern Woman herself. But the Modern Woman does not know who she is either!

Stuck between Superwoman complexes and conflicted between her instincts and her principles, the Modern Woman is a mess. The Modern Man grows up with the naive principle that we are all equal. But when he lives with the Modern Woman, he realizes there is nothing equal about how she is treated. Landlords and electricians address him but ignore her. Waiters at restaurants offer you the bill even when she pays. And let’s not even get started on the great Indian family.

So what do you do when you see that the equality of gender you took for granted was a lie? What do you feel? Guilt and shame for being a man in a world that beats down someone for having a vagina? But when you believe something your whole life, it is never easy to accept it as a lie. So you try and convince the Modern Woman of the ‘equality’ she is blind to. Convince her it’s all in her head. And we all know how well that goes.

This post might seem like a rant of questions but that is the life of a Modern Man. So many questions. And anyone who says they have all the answers is lying. Till then, we shall all chase that elusive unicorn. And till I figure it out, I’ll still open the door for her. I will still carry her bags and buy her chocolates. Because I like how she smiles.  That is the only thing I can really be certain about. Everything else is just questions.

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