No need to abort female foetuses or drown baby girls: A practical solution from Baba Ramdev and company

Want to be ASHTA PUTRA SAUBHAGYAVATI ? Without aborting the female foetus. Or drowning the newborn baby girls. Or raising them teaching how to be perfect Sati-Savitris?

An army of Hindu fertility experts are coming to rescue you from the misfortune of being mother to a girl.. or gasp… many girls… or gasp gasp… no kids!! Baanz… apshakuni women of holy India- rejoice!!

You can buy a boon, a medicine, a male heir from none other than Baba Ramdev ( Jai ho) that will instantly make you pregnant with a KULDEEPAK.

First they said that every Hindu woman should produce at least 4 kids. Because otherwise Hindus will be a minority in Hindustan. Then they thought 4 is too low. So they made it 10. A nice round figure you know. Dashputra Saubhagyavati Bhav!!

Now you have a 100% guarantee that majority of these ten offsprings to be sons.

All you have to do is pay a few hundred rupees and bear a glorious male child. Or ten of them. Baba Ramdev’s pharmacies bring you the golden elixir that is guaranteed to produce a glorious Hindu army of 56 inch chaati males in our Bharatvarsha.

I have a male dog. So maybe I should call myself ‘EkKutra Saubhagyavati?’

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Homeland 4

I binge watched the season 4 of Homeland. After Season 3, I had almost given up on it, and this season continues its gross misrepresentation of Muslim world. However, like many addictions go, there is no clear answer to why I love this show to the point of compulsion.

After cringing at Carrie’s increasingly bizarre characterisation, the very problematic portrayal of Islam, the near ridiculous plot twists in Season 2 and 3, in this season, we are greeted by pretty much same level of Islamophobia made worse by horrendous Hindi and Africans playing Pakistanis. Talk of racial imperialism you know, Africans.. Asians… same thing.

However, Carrie is back to her being one of the best characters in recent times. Claire Danes is mind-blowing stunning. Her hyper, so-called Bi-Polarisms in season 3 are wiped out, thank god. And she is back to playing this intriguing character with nuance. I also loved the exploration of her motherhood. I was afraid that she would be this I-am-a-reformed-mother-of-my-dead marine/terrorist/ congressman/fugitive/patriot boyfriend. But she is not. There is a very tense scene in the first episode in fact where she almost drowns her baby. She is inept as a parent and is not exactly criticised for her choice of choosing spying over motherhood.

Of course she is selfish, takes self-destructive decisions and manipulates everyone. She seduces a teenage boy and ultimately becomes responsible for his death. She is also not a great boss. Her nonchalance over bombing of civilians nudges her towards the darker characterisation.

And that has prompted me to think again about my recent obsession – ideology of cool, grey female characters in recent times. Feminist critics have criticised Carrie for being a tool of patriarchy- choosing to be just one of boys. They have also criticised implications that a powerful woman can’t be a good person, a good mother, a good boss.

And there is merit in the critique.

But beyond this, I think there is an overriding ‘cool grey’ness to her character which should not be chastised just because she is a woman and ought to be a great feminist example. Virtually all popular cultural figures revel in borderline greyness in recent times. From Joker to Walter White TO House of Cards. Even Carrie’s own male colleagues are imperfect and walk on the thin line of morality. None of them have normal, family lives. Peter Quinn lives like a malfunctioning robot. Brody and Saul exploit their wives who reluctantly put their own lives secondary to their men’s obsessions and beliefs.

So I don’t really see why Carrie should be expected to bear the white flag of normalcy. Rather, it is her grey cool ness which makes her a true anti-hero of a popular show. I am not saying this grey coolness is something I champion, but lets admit it. A BiPolar, impulsive, self-destructive, driven, brilliant CIA Agent makes for a far more compelling character, no?

I for one love the fact that more and more women are portrayed in the grey zone.

On another note, the only person who overshadows Carrie is young medical student Ayan, played by our ver own Suraj Sharma. His performance is so nuanced and so heartbreakingly real, that I won’t be surprised if he walks away with several major awards this time.

Work – Family Balance

If you are a woman, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living. You could be a commissioner of police or a CEO of a Billion Dollar corporate a la Indra Nooyi. There is only one question the humanity has for you.

How do you manage your family with high pressure job?

Needless to say, a man in power is never asked the same question, because it is assumed, and correctly so, that there would be a supportive woman who would take care of his family. Sorry, ‘her’ family. Because while the family might carry a man’s name, it is the responsibility of a woman to look after it and take a step back when it comes to her career/ individual growth.

What is surprising is that many people would like to believe that in todays ‘post-feminist’ world, (a.k.a where equality is totally achieved and we don’t need feminism ya all), it is a ‘choice’ that women make.

Right.

It is hardly a choice when opted for by overwhelming majority of one gender. It is hardly a choice when that same gender has been conditioned for centuries to focus on her role as a mother/ wife/ nurturer. And when the same conditioning continues even today in mainstream cultural dialogue.

Choice requires multiple options. Economic, structural, social, cultural, medical.. the list goes on. And in our society, majority of women just don’t have them.

Even women who have some structural advantages, find it difficult to act on them due to cultural pressure to be the primary nurturer and Gajar Ka Halwa maker of the family.

If you state this fairly obvious fact, you would be bombarded with angry responses, even from women. About how ‘it is her choice’ to stay home and look after her kids. Or that they happen to ‘ like’ to be there when their kids grow. Or that they are against the crass materialism and inhuman work-pressure. Or that their husbands just happen to earn more than they do and it makes sense for them to quit the job rather than their husbands. And how dare you challenge their legitimate ‘choice’?

Majority of these responses refuse to take into account the overwhelming cultural conditioning, economic factors and inherent sexism in our notions of parenting.

While feminism is about wide range of choices for women, no individual choice can exist in vacuum.

The decision to stay at home with kids or reject the pressure to be ‘powerful’ would be actually be a true choice when a significant number of men also ‘have’ to take that option, thus rendering it gender-neutral. It would be a true choice when women and men have similar options and similar parenting roles. It would be a true choice when there are no ‘mommy-tracks’ or gender wage gap. It would be a true choice when women choosing not to have kids are not looked down upon as aliens. It would be a true choice when rather than phony lip-service, mothers are actually compensated for the tremendous work they do by birthing the child.

Until then, whether we like to admit it or not, it is hardly a ‘choice’ women make in a ‘blissful post-patriachal vacuum.’

So this comes as a fresh breath when a powerful man decides to make the ‘choice’ to stay home to spend more quality time with his kids and blogs about the unfair expectation of women to worry about ‘family-work’ balance, while men never get asked about the same. Powerful men making this choice and recognising that this choice doesn’t exist in ideological vacuum, gives it legitimacy in our world full of dated notions of masculine identity and power.

It also reemphasises that kids have ‘parents’ and not just ‘mothers’.

It acknowledges that fathers also care about their kids and can sacrifice their careers for their kids.

Millions of women have to take this option every day. We definitely need more dads making this choice and being aware of the gendering of this concept. It would not only ease the pressure on women but also bring a healthier and balanced notions of parenting in our society.

Creche in the office

Please help this excellent initiative by signing the petition by going to the following link.

http://www.greenpeacex.in/petitions/make-creches-at-workplaces-a-rule-not-an-exception?bucket=email3&source=facebook-share-button&time=1406290078

Most of the women in our society suffer serious professional downturn post childbirth. Many have to ‘choose’ between working outside home and caring for their children at home. It is hardly a choice when there is no other valid and sustainable option.

When women are put on ‘mommy- track’, we are effectively discriminating against women in general.

While my first question to humanity in general would be ‘why is it almost always a woman’s problem?’ , I am not going to ask it here. Because no matter what I believe about father’s and society’s responsibility towards childcare- I am realistic enough to know it is a tough battle. Which needs to be fought simultaneously.

As quite a senior employee in corporate sector, I have come across several examples of bright and productive women who would have continued and successfully so, had they got support from home and workplace. Many end up quitting. Many end up accepting projects and jobs that are never going to give them robust professional growth.

And the saddest part is that many women choose careers that are not demanding so that they don’t get into this conflict in the first place. Which means our girls are effectively being told to excel academically but choose careers with one eye on the baby.

Having childcare support at office is one step towards giving women more options. If we can make it happen at policy level, it is telling our girls that they don’t have to sacrifice their professional life for a baby. I know it won’t be so hunky dory, but it is definitely a step towards equality.

Please sign the petition.

Supreme Court asks why are mothers ignored?

Thank you Supreme Court!! And thank you Madhav Kant Mishra for stating the obvious:

Mothers hardly match the authority a father commands in official documents necessary to prove a person’s identity. While the father’s name prominently figures in government documents, the mother is usually given the go-by.

And you know what? This bias ties back to my favourite rant. Why do kids, even in today’s day and age always take their father’s last name? Especially, when their mother hasn’t taken her husband’s last name after marriage? 99.99% cases of women I know who haven’t changed their last names after marriage, have given their husband’s last name to kids. Why? why? why? They are usually the ones who take most of the burden of childcare, their lives- physical as well as social- change more dramatically than those of their husbands.

Then why do husbands get to be umbrella identity markers? And please don’t tell me about exceptional cases like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, we are talking of the norm here. Also none of the ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter because last names are just formality/ relics of bygone era’. When majority of children carry their father’s name and not mother’s – it is clearly institutionalised sexism.

Motherhood is all about sacrifice a la Gajar ka halwa!! However, when it comes to real power- mothers can go take a hike. Because from religious rituals to government documents to last names for kids to Bollywood movies to corporate policies, it is the fathers who rule the roost. After all, the word Patriarchy is derived from the all mighty ‘father’.

The petition, filed by journalist Madhav Kant Mishra from Allahabad, says ignoring the parenthood of the mother in government documents is in gross violation of the Fundamental Right to Equality under Article 14 of the Constitution. It sought an ordinance making the mother’s name compulsory in documents.

Why are we asked to name FATHER OR HUSBAND in every frikkin document: from passport to nursery leaving certificates to bank accounts to medical tests to pan card to voter’s card?

Because father ( or husband) is used as a marker of identity.

‘ Whose daughter/ son? ‘
‘This man’s.’

Sort of like when in ancient times a person would be first a part of the community/ caste/ village/ family and then an individual.

It would have seemed quaint has it not been 21st century. And had mother was also used as a marker of a person’s identity.

But it is done rarely. It is not ironical but outright fucked up that while a woman’s femininity is validated the most when she is a mother, her identity as a mother is not good enough to be acknowledged as a marker for her own kid.

She is not good enough to preside over any traditional ceremony, the kids almost always take father’s last name, and she isn’t considered parent enough to be mentioned in any official document concerning her child.

So hope that social, legal, official and cultural norms change to acknowledge mothers’ rights in meaningful manner rather than melodramatic lip service.

Another nonsensical lip service a.k.a MOTHERHOOD IS THE TOUGHEST JOB EVER…

Another ‘pat on your back plus hollow lip service‘ message for mothers.

From President Obama to your neighbourhood Facebook banshees, everyone screams hoarse on how motherhood is the world’s toughest job, like EVER EVER EVER…

Yes ladies, bring forth that Gajar Ka Halwa or its modern childcare equivalent, be garlanded for your holy martyrdom and shut-up about your postpartum depression. You might be a commissioner of the police or a prime-minister, it is NOTHING as compared to the celestial and 24 hr. job of being a mamma. Do not dare to ask for privileges, or equality, because hey, we all know it is also THE MOST REWARDING WORK YOU WOULD EVER DO EVER..

Forget the coal miners or women labourers who break their backs doing construction work for 18 hrs. or finance minister working on annual budget of the country or a social worker working tirelessly with child prostitutes… well, you get the drift.

I really wonder if mothers buy this kind of nonsense? Going by media coverage, a significant number of them do. And other mothers, thank god, call out the hypocrisy and the saccharine sweet gender stereotyping such messages re-enforce. This is a sophisticated version of the Nirupa Roy syndrome Mothers. No hunky Vijay is going to save you from baddies or take revenge or raise you from poverty kyunki mere paas maaa hai!!

It is one thing to recognise the tremendously valuable work of child raring that (largely) women do, for no money, meaningless titles of CEO of the HOUSEHOLD notwithstanding. And it is another to give this dumbified messages which would raise the hackles of any self-respecting woman or man, mother/parent or not.

No country for a healthy debate?

I emerged from travel followed by a presentation to come across this 2 week old article referred to by so many of people on my FB feed, that I knew it was going to be like, you know, controversial without really having any meat on it.

And so it is.

I am sure you have all read the article and have varied opinions on it. ( I think the writer started out with an interesting point and lost out somewhere between Aishwarya Rai, mommy-blogging and goal fetish.)

But have you read the comments? Have you? Have you?

They are tiny little gems, those ether-spewn-pearls of wisdoms..

Most of them are cringingly predictable – (mostly)women admonishing the writer for daring to write about parenthood in negative light. The tone of the comments is sooooo smug and moralizing- that you are almost reminded of Nirupa Roy jokes. Needless to say, all of them ironically confirm the writer’s contentions, rightly or not.

Why are we not used to ‘listening’ and ‘accepting’ other views is beyond me. Someone finds bliss in parenting and wants to write about their kids and schools- great. Someone finds it irritating and exhausting and wants to rant – great. Shouldn’t all voices be heard and debated?

Especially those who might be saying something that has not been said frequently before?

After all, none of the commentators are debating about the inherent flaws in the article- and there are plenty. But all of them are reacting to the very premise that a woman may find parenting not as great as it is made out to be.

This is what makes our country such a terrible bore- people not only have no patience for other’s views, they also feel it is their duty to morally bulldoze someone down for daring to say something different.