On Women’s Day and Beyond: A Poem for the Perfectly Flawed Woman

Since it is not just about today, but everyday! My tribute to all the amazingly fearless women out there.

The Perfectly Flawed Woman

If I don a short skirt as I cross the street,

I am stared at by both men and other women – as they pass a stare scanning me, from my face to my feet…

To those who judge me for the amount of make-up I put and if I like to cook,

Hey people, there’s a lot more to me than how I look…

Yes, I am a perfectly flawed woman,

No superpowers but I am definitely human.

I may be terrible at pleasing the rest,

But when it comes to being a friend, daughter, sister or partner, I am no less than what defines the best…

I make mistakes and I cry,

But only to bounce back and retry,

It’s my life and it’s not a lie,

Yes, I am a perfectly flawed woman,

No superpowers but I am definitely human.

If only others had flaws like mine,

World would be a much better place with less crime.

If only the existence of a woman was celebrated every day,

The world would belong to us but without a fray.

Let’s question if you would choose to be perfect or human,

Now that the tagged ‘perfect’ is mostly not a gentleman.

Go for being an imperfect human, while we say…

Yes, I am a perfectly flawed woman,

No superpowers – but I am definitely human.

 

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Why ‘PadMan’ is only a ‘Means’ to the ‘End’…

As an issue which continues to plague the country for as long as we can recollect, the taboo around periods and sanitary pads seems to have mustered some kind of support from  cinema. The Super Star Stunt-Man of the Indian Cinema, Akshay Kumar, has turned into a Pad-Man to reflect upon a key issue as he puts on the domino of a man with a mission- a mission to perish the perils associated with menstrual menace in India.  With Pad-Man not being a first to highlight periods in the cinema, Phullu was another movie which got released in 2017 but failed to induce dialogue or provoke thought. PadMan on the other hand, is based on true events, the upcoming movie is a fiction on the story of Arunachalam Muruganatham who in 1988 embarked upon a seemingly impossible journey of making sanitary pads easily available for women after he saw his wife using old rags as substitute for the essential commodity.

WHEN AEONIAL LAXITY CALLS FOR ACTION​

Since decades, there has been a complete state of denial and stigma attached to confronting the menstrual troubles of women or even discussing periods for that matter in our country. The societal taboos have pervaded reality where Barely 12% of India’s menstruating women use sanitary pads. While most women are not allowed to visit temples during their periods, others are treated as untouchables within the premises of their own houses.  While stepping inside the kitchen (which is considered to be the most pious spot of a house) during periods is forbidden for most of them, it is men on the other hand who refrain from acknowledging the various medical ailments and problems their counterparts tend to go through.

While nobody forgets to expect a baby out of a woman, what they forget is that she too is a human and needs proper care for maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle which will eventually lead to the birth of a healthy baby.

Substandard state of menstrual hygiene over a long stretch of time, has led to worsening health conditions. Women in our country now suffer from reproductive tract infections, urinary tract infections which in most cases leads to cervical cancer which itself kills around 72,000 women in India every year, more than anywhere else on the globe.

MENSTRUAL WOES BREAK WALLS- IT’S HYGIENE VS EDUCATION

So far, there has been an immutable trade off between women trying to educate themselves and women on going through their menstrual cycle. This grave situation has been on the rise due to lack of basic facilities and hygienic access to women during menstruation. In India alone, 1 girl out of every 5 girls drop out of schools because of something as natural and basic as menstruation. A total of 28% girls in our country end up abstaining from school and the ones who attend tend to perform poorly owing to the stigmatized perceptions and hesitations their minds are preoccupied with. As unfortunate as it may sound- in a country which envisages itself as one of the major global fore-runners when it comes to technology and power, at least 1 in every 5 girls drop out of the schools due to something as basic and natural as menstruation.

BIG SCREEN VS SMALL AUDIENCE?

Though the movie carries forth a message as strong as that of promoting menstrual health, the question is, how many people in our country will be able to visit cinema halls to watch it?

India accounts for the largest number of people living below international poverty line, with over 30 per cent of its population under the $1.90 (Rs.121.28) a- day poverty measure. While a movie ticket costs way beyond what the daily poverty limit is, it is clearly not something which 50% of the rural Indians- Indians who indeed need the maximum awareness regarding menstruation will be able to afford. So, then it again boils down to what more do we need beyond a star studded and intensely promoted movie to sensitize the masses?  Certainly, a lot of active campaigning, and counselling by the renowned celebrities along with ‘free’ access to sanitary napkins to people who certainly cannot afford.

What our governments fail to realize is that, while we can certainly manage without ‘free’ laptop distributions (SP Govt in UP distributed free laptops to to the people of the state), what continues to be a dire need of the hour is free sanitary napkins to the ‘betis’ of the nation.

DISCUSSIONS IMPERATIVE. PERIOD

And, here we are, selling sanitary pads as a blotted commodity enclosed in black wraps. Irony lies in how we don’t shy away from yelling while we purchase cigarettes or alcohol but when it comes to buying sanitary pads, our voices can barely be heard as the chemist wraps up the sanitary napkins in a black polythene, only to depict how dark and blocked the mindset of the so-called progressive India is.

On the other hand, as the men in our country continue to have the privilege of not being questioned, there lies a larger onus of responsibility on them. More men need to come up and speak for those millions of women while they succumb to the societal mindset. The discussion which needs to be striked is- ‘If, a menstruating woman’s blood is impure, isn’t so the entire human existence?’ ….. Definitely, while movies like ‘PadMan’ can act as catalytic initiator, it is imperative discussions, acceptance, receptivity and campaigns by the masses which need to take the lead in the long run. PERIOD…..

5 years to Nirbhaya- What has changed?

5 years ago on 16th of December, an incident which took place in the national capital not only shook the nation on multiple levels but it also raised several question marks on the mindset of the Indian men- the sense of ease and normality with which the crimes are committed, increasing frequency and cipher fear of repercussions leading  to augmented incidents of sexual assaults, molestation and rapes.

Here is an unsettling compilation of some shockers which have covered the entire country over the past 1 year- but need deep contemplation on our part for us to decipher as to where our society is heading to. And more importantly, why is it that the men in our country have turned completely fearless?

PAEDOPHILIA AS A COVER?

An 18 month old child gets raped by a 33 year old man-  this happens in the presence of the man’s children as they watch while the baby girl gets raped. The 18 month-old girl had gone to visit the neighbour’s house to play with their two children when the incident took place. POSCO Act or no, why is their no punishment? Is the pervert mindset of men getting covered under the cloak of paedophilia? 

INEBRIATION NO EXCUSE

Also, towards the end of October, a woman as old as 100 years of age was raped resulting in her death. Investigation suggests that he was inebriated but that certainly can neither act as an excuse nor as  a justification.

SCHOOLS STILL NOT SAFE

Multiple incidents of abusing chlildren, raping girls were reported from schools across the national capital region. Amongst these, there was one where a  9 year old was raped by a school teacher. Also, another 11 year old was raped twice by her teachers in Kolkata, a city which is also home to the Mother House. Arrested but no action till now- the fast track courts do not seem to be fast enough.

STAYING INDOORS NO SOLUTION

This one shook me. An 11-Year-Old was gang raped at gunpoint in front of her very own family- including her mother and her elder brother.The incident took place at 1am when 3 people barged inside a house in Madhya Pradesh, the heart of ‘Incredible India’. While two accused threatened to shoot her mother and brother, the third one raped the girl. So much so for all the advice directed towards girls to stay indoors in order to avoid such incidents- women seem to be no longer safe in their own houses, let alone streets.

WHEN CRIME CROSSED SPECIES

This one is ‘inhuman’ in the literal sense of the word as this is  a crime committed on a female puppy and not a woman! Yes, you heard that right. A 34 year old taxi driver raped the puppy & dumped her where she bled to death in Delhi.  This accused is a father of 2 girls.

Despite having got booked, no punishments for any of these criminals have been announced so far or at least none has been highlighted to infuse a sense of horror amongst other such inhumane perpetrators.

Though a number of reforms including the Nirbhaya Fund, fast track courts, etc were introduced in the wake of the gruesome Nirbhaya gangrape, but nothing helped in the decrescence of crime. Girls  still fear being alone even in the most advanced metropolitan cities post 8 at night,  women are still being advised by honourable ministers like Mrs. Kirron Kher to not sit in auto-rickshaws with men. They named her ‘Nirbhaya’ (Fearless) but wistfully, us being fearless isn’t an option until men are compelled to be fearful. 

So has anything changed?

Sadly, what are being men told? Nothing. What restrictions have been imposed on their activities? Nothing. What death sentences or life imprisonment deters have been issued to the sexual abusers? None. Do they fear anything? Nothing. Are women afraid? Yes. Has anything altered? On paper yes- practically- nothing.

Its been 5 years since Nirbhaya got murdered- an incident which shook the conscience of all but the criminals- a crime which put women safety on priority. However, here we are, in a time where not much has changed on ground. It is not only important to remember Nirbhaya and many more like her but it is also equally important to introspect- for in a country where women’s lives hold no value in front of the disgusting lust of men, we need to take a step beyond ‘metoo’. And, that step is to prevent, report, and demand immediate action. This is our Right to Life and No Pervert has the Right to Play with it.

‘Happy’ and ‘Independence’ Day, is it?

On the grand day when  the entire nation is enthralled with feelings of celebration, oozing with patriotism and enjoying a day off, there occurs an incident which questions the entire conceptual privilege around the feeling of being ‘free’ or ‘independent’ in India itself.

I am talking about the gruesome rape of a 12 year old girl in Chandigarh, on her way back home after having attended the Indian ‘Independence Day’ celebrations at her school. Not something new to have happened in our country, but on a day like this when social media, phone texts/ messages  are filled with talks of patriotism, of freedom struggle, there lies an under shadowed reality where the struggle continues. It was in Sector 23 where a man  stopped her, pulled her aside and raped her. He also held a knife to scare the little girl.
Sadly, being a multi-party country, what we are best at are talks, lengthy speeches, but no serious execution. The Union Home Ministry recently held a candle-light march to assert the right to safely access public spaces but where does this end? The march was preceded by nothing but a similar incident just days later.

“According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2015, 8,800 cases of rape on children were registered across the country under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). In 2,227 cases, or 25.3 per cent, the offenders were found to be employers or co-workers”- source: NCRB

These statistics  raise a few questions in mind about How free are we?

Are we free to stroll alone outside our homes?

Are we free to travel alone during the day, let alone night?

The answer is Yes, we are free- but sadly at our own risk! So, what use is this dreaded freedom’ of?

This news neither made me happy nor did it make me feel independent- 70 years down the line, even small children, let alone women, continue to face the same forms of sexual assault and plight which they faced during the British rule and partition.

We indeed are slaves unless freed from crime and the perpetrating criminals. We need to ponder and so do executive, legislature and judiciary- not just for formulations and implementations but also for severe deterrent measures of punishment. By the way, Happy India Independence Day?

 

Feminism: Solution to Patriarchy or a Hoard of New Problems itself?

By Naina Sharma

(This article is on demand by Blogurnalism reader)
Feminism is no easy concept and at the same time way too distinct from what we call a patriarchy. In simple words, feminism can be defined as a movement towards establishing equal socio, political and economic rights between men and women. Patriarchy on the other hand, is a system of society where men or dominant or rather preferred. Complexed through varied definitions and waves of developments, feminism and patriarchy have evolved and require constant modification pertaining to the manner in which they are perceived, as they may or may not be befittingly applicable to the changing society. While some relate the present demands of the feminist enthusiasts to the historically imbibed patriarchy, some others simply see it as an over-rated concept which is distorting the balance of the men-women relationships.

RIGHT TO CHOOSE OR RIGHT TO EQUALITY?

We can sense that something is certainly not going right when we hear the Delhi Metro filled with announcements like- “Please vacate the chairs for ‘women’ and the differently abled”.
Treating women equal to disabled people is definitely not right on so many levels and certainly not what modern feminists would have wished for. This is just another paradigm which conveys the extent to which feminism has been misconstrued in our country.
While the definition of patriarchy is quite clear, Feminism is most often differently defined. When feminism means rights for women, the benchmark shouldn’t be set or restricted to the rights enjoyed by men. It calls for equality which applies for both the genders. If a woman did not get voting rights through the universal adult suffrage until late 20th century, feminists in today’s era wouldn’t have demanded rights similar to those belonging to men but because sadly, the basic rights are always enjoyed by men, it is quite often interpreted as a hunt on men’s rights.
Feminism, as interpreted, is not about snatching rights but by distributing them at an equal pedistle and then leaving it onto a women’s capacity to decide whether she wants to exercise those rights or not. What cannot be denied is that rights have been curtailed through pressumptions regarding women’s actions both in the public and private sphere. It is not about freedom to earn, or freedom to work after marriage but solely about freedom to ‘choose’. Choice has never quite often remained in the hands of women, owing to the patriarchal structure and once given the power to choose, it would then be upon the two genders to support and co-exist in the most suitable way.

HARMS OF FEMINISM: PHYSIOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS vs PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS

There are a few ways in which feminism can do more harm than good to women in the longer run, going against its own objectivated Grail. Though a movement with a wis intent, it has created a world where women as viewed as victims. And this is where women need to move beyond the boundaries of patriarchy. What once existed cannot continue to define women as a victim forever. They are and need to be strong enough to let go off the patriarchal barriers. You can be a woman and not be a victim. Women don’t have to hide under the umbrella of feminism when the world, law, judiciary views woman as an equally capable adult. if you have the perception that the world is out to get you.

A woman who can let an entire human out of her body is strangely considered to be quite fragile and infantile. Thanks to viewing it as a battle rather than step towards empowerment.

Prolonged dependence on feminism as a label has created a sphere of competition between men and women. This has created more problems than solving many where life has become a race for the two genders to decide on who is better rather than filling the gap of what the other lacks. Well, there is definitely more to a human than his /her gender. If a man is a better cook than you, he is so because he is talented, this hasn’t got much to do with him being a man. Just like women don’t wish to be shouted at as defined through male dominance, similarly, men don’t wish to be dominated either.

….. SO, SOLUTION, PROBLEM, BOTH OR NONE?
The problem doesn’t lie in giving women an option to choose- to choose between being an homemaker or a working woman, what creates issues is when women try to change themselves drastically in order to satisfy the societal demands of the feminists. If feminism isn’t confused with disrespecting men or trying to bow them down, if it is a call for equality, then so be it.
If the extreme feminists wish to outrun all the chivalrous acts of men and if feminists wish to not be treated in a coy manner then again there exist two categories of women. One, who would want to be treated with care and two, who do not wish to seek men’s help in any case. Remember, if a man helps a woman it shouldn’t be treated as a favour and it is women who need to understand that for it is a two way street. Since men are in many ways dependent on women, if women accept the same it wouldn’t do any harm to their feminist goals.
Personally, more than getting entangled in a term which has been constantly changing its meaning over years, I would wish to be a female who has the freedom to choose and treat the requirements of both genders as equal. While patriarchy talks of male dominance, feminism doesn’t speak of female dominance at all. One speaks of superiority and the latter of equality, at least in terms of actions. So yes, in order to boost the process of shedding supressive male dominance, we do need feminism as a catalytic initiator. Once the job is done, it is upto the women to lead a life which neither looks upon them as victims nor as self centered. So, yes feminism to an extent is a solution to patriarchy. But yes, only to an extent. Remember, the idea is too hyped that only a handful would know of Matriarchies existing in parts of Kerala and Karnataka. Yes! Matriarchies exist too. And yes, men are feminists too. So feminism isn’t a battle between men and women, it is a movement for women- a movement which can flourish better in cooperative cognizance between the two genders, thereby shunning patriarchy in the process itself. Patriarchy is not the only problem feminism must deal with. It is in fact the non-patriarchal societies who endorse feminism way more than the  rest, suggesting that feminism is being applied today, under the situational considerations of the past decades. The concept needs alteration for women in a modern society aren’t victims. They have the rule of law to solve problems more than any book on feminism would.

 

(Picture Courtesy- Factmyth.com)

As Trolls Rise, Should Celebs Pay the Price?

By Naina Sharma

Trolling has become a core component of social networking in India. From trolls like “Tag a boyfriend for her” to jokes on celebrities over their choice of clothes, there has been a rise in the variety of trolls. Most often, it is the Indian actresses who are made the sharpest target of trolls in India.

From Cannes, Oscars to now the quite recent Met Gala, the red carpet looks of actresses from all these international events has been subjected to online trolling. While Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone are quite often trolled on what they wear, the two internationally famous actresses have come up with different reactions on the same issue.

Priyanka Chopra: The Quantico and now the Baywatch Diva, PC was trolled earlier in the year over her white Oscars Gown.

89th-oscars-awards-priyanka-chopra-outfit-trolls-on-twitter7

 

Later, she was also trolled for her Met Gala appearance.

troll-priyanka-5_149373481

(Image: Social Media)

This is when Priyanka Chopra took to her instagram and was quite a sport when it came to reacting to the jokes all around the globe. She created an album on instagram and listed her top favorite picks from all the troll ideas on this Tan Coat. She captioned it as, “**drumroll**to your creativity! I’ve picked a few of my favourites!
Good to know that the dress serves more purposes than just fashion. Hope to continue to stir your creative juices. This is why I love the #MetGala you literally can push the envelope for fashion anywhere! Until next time… #ROFL”

Deepika Padukone: While Deepika did not have much trolls to her name, she drew a lot of flack instead. The XXX fame star was criticized for her gown at Met Gala, and earlier for what she wore in the MTV Awards. To this the actress responded saying, ” Sometimes you may like my look and sometimes you may not. I am not dressing for you, my love. I am dressing for myself. The only time I would allow any sort of comment to affect me is when my mom or my girlfriends give me some flak for it”.

Food for thought? As an individual and a woman, I can totally relate to these two. Though not at a large scale, a common woman is quite often trolled as well on the kind of dresses she wears. Well, I would say this is where Freedom of Choice comes to play. None of us dress up to please anybody else. Everyone has an opinion and it must not affect us. Though it isn’t fair to be over- critical, I would say one must not be over sensitive as well. People would say what they wish to and it is for us to shine beyond the criticism.

“Like a girl”- a new definition

By Naina Sharma

“Run like a girl, throw like a girl, fight like a girl” – said an advertisement as I sat comfortably on my couch. Made in 2014, the ad entered our country recently and is suggestive of shattering gender stereotype in India, a country which continues to idolize boys and where girls face a significant drop in their self confidence since their very childhood. I knew this advertisement was going to stay with me for atleast a couple of days.

That very evening, while walking past the market near my house, I decided to speak to the policeman in charge of the area, stationed at a centrally located booth. Familiar with him, I greeted him and spoke to a stern looking but polite Mr. Om Prakash. “How often do you get complaints from girls in this locality”, I asked him. He didn’t have a firm reply. I made the question more specific and asked the number of calls he got with regard to women being subjected to humiliation in any form. He explained to me that he got a minimum of 1 call every day. With a total of 95 police stations in the capital, that makes it approximately just 100 cases per day and only 3000 cases per month, quite contrary to the expected frequency. Further, Mr. Prakash told me the reason behind the fewer number of cases. “Many women do not file a report since they are not supported and do not have the confidence to fight the implications alone”, he said. “Most of the victims wear short dresses and skirts when teased and their families blame them instead for wearing inappropriate clothes, which is completely wrong”, said the policeman- a father of 2 daughters with gloomy eyes. His statements reminded me of how women are always asked to not wear short skirts and how sensitive men are always mocked at by being asked not to cry ‘like a girl’.

Baffled by the observation, I went back home, only to find that my flatmate was counselling her friend to step up and my maid failed to turn up. With soap and utensils in our hands, we discussed the issue. Her friend, a 20 year old girl, belonging to an affluent family, wasn’t allowed to seek higher education and rather was being compelled to get married. On the other hand, my maid took an off for she had to drop her 21 year old daughter back to the hostel as she pursued engineering. Well, clearly, the 2 contrasting stories indicated that gender stereotype didn’t necessarily have to do with the amount of wealth one had.

Today, I work in a news company which is dominated by women, only to depict that we have finally learnt to stand up for our choices. “Media is not meant for girls”, “You cannot live independently in a flat”, “You are a girl- not built to make a career, your husband will take care of you” – having heard such statements, from the people around us in India (if not our families), the fact that most of us have fearlessly come to live in a new city, handle our problems independently like a girl and wish to continue doing things that we truly believe in, we aim to make ‘like a girl’ depict strength, character and zero tolerance against the idea of compromise.