Boss….

Oh I am sure you have already seen and ranted on this ad. It is actually so bad ( one who got what product is being advertised will get a gift of Manchurian Masala), that it is surprising for it to have hit so many nerves.

Perhaps its pseudo-realstic- pretentious progressivism-gone-horribly- wrong is the reason for the mass rants against it. And perhaps the fact that we are smarter in spotting sexism these days.

This is why I am going to link it and proceed to rant about it myself:):)

After years of ‘woman is the CEO/boss of the house’ useless-pat-on-the back trope, we get a ridiculously sexist ad that shows a female boss telling her subordinate-at-workplace husband to stay back to do extra work at office, and then proceeding to go home and cook him a delicious meal and seductively asking him to come back to enjoy the said food.

Lest you think this lady is somewhat cuckoo in her head- because didn’t she ask him to stay back herself? Short term memory a. la. Aamir Khan in Ghajini? Or someone with a split personality like Aparichit? ( Hey, these popular Indian movies are totally accurate in depiction of any mental disorder, OK? Don’t be so snooty).

Noo… you realise she is a good Indian wife, who makes it up to her subordinate-at -work husband by cooking for him. After all, aren’t we all Indian women supposed to do that? Get good grades, earn well, look pretty in short hair and go on to cook perfect meals for our husbands?

Note ladies, that she softly says ‘sorry guys, you will have to just do it’ when her team complains about the timelines. Those of you whose boss said sorry to you, before asking you to stay back after-hours, please stop reading the post now.

OK, now for the rest of the 99% of the mortals who have continued reading this post- note that she looks slightly abashed- especially when she sees the disappointment on her team’s face and even asks her teammate ‘how is it going’, with a kind and considerate tone( we don’t know he is her husband yet.) Because if you want people to like a woman, especially a woman in power, you have to show her ‘soft’ side,lest people call her a bitch.

She looks tranquil in the car. Soft. Pondering. Soft. Sensitive. Soft.

And then she launches into WIFE MODE by asking her husband ‘Rohit’ ( the 21st century default Indian male name that replaced the erstwhile ‘Rahul’ of the 1990s) about what would he like to eat tonight. Because the moment a woman gets a free moment after a gruelling day at work, she likes to think about her husband’s dinner. It is totally natural. All of you, who after a long workday DON’T sprawl on sofa watching your favourite TV show over food cooked by someone else, or at least fantasize about it, please stop reading this post now.

OK, I see 99% of my readers are still reading.

Voila, she twists her hair in a pony at home, ponders about the contents of the fridge philosophically and rustles up a decidedly Udupi looking Chinese meal.

Then Rohit – the same team mate forced to stay back for work gets a call from ‘Wife.’ He sardonically replies ‘ Aaj late hoga. Boss ne bahut jam diya hai.’ ( Biiiiitch!!!)

Wife, who turns out to the said boss( Creative minds!! fantastic idea!!! whatta genius conceptualisation), sends him the video of the meal she lovingly prepared for him.

NOW, NOW, NOW WE GET THE PRODUCT which paid for this ad.

Those who DIDN’T think that the ad was for electrical kitchen appliance or a new brand of Indo-Chinese sauce, please stop reading this post.

OK, now for the rest of the 99% mortals still reading this post. The wife whispers seductively on the phone, ‘Boss ko bolo wife ne ghar bulaya hai’.

Then, the airtel tune starts and you realise that this piece of shit was actually an ad for 3 G connection. You sit quietly contemplating thousands of years of human evolution and how you always hated that Airtel tune and how right you were to pick up Vodafone. (Because how can this brain-dead ‘modern couple’ even compete with a cute pug?)

For all of you who DIDN’T think this woman is quite scary with her short-term memory loss and split personality and Udupi meal, a round of applause. Maybe you haven’t been watching instructive movies like Ghajini and Aparichit.

And a moral of the story for the remaining 99% of mere mortals. Here goes. Quite unintentionally , the ad makers have hit on the exact disorder that our society suffers from. That women are expected to have two distinct personalities: Modern professional woman outside and traditional wife/ mother/ daughter at home. They need to have a short term memory. Wipe out the BOSS identity as soon as you leave office and slip into WIFE identity.

You can be a boss with a corner office, have short hair, wear Sonia Gandhiesque sarees, ride in a chauffeur driven car, earn more money than your husband. But you have to slip into the ideal Indian wife mode as soon as you are in private sphere.

Otherwise, the balance of power just might tilt and patriarchy will shake. SCARY THOUGHT!!!

The ad stupidly celebrates the schizophrenia of our patriarchal society and I won’t even link the garden variety dumb excuses of ‘ WOMEN LIKE TO COOK FOR THEIR HUSBANDS SO WHAT IS WRONG IN SHOWING THE REALITY WHAAAAAA WHAAAA’ thrown by the ad makers and supporters of this ad alike.

But the good news is, that the ad has ruffled many feathers. And people are debating the ad, which has opened up a dialogue about the double shift many Indian women are ‘forced to do’ ( unlike ‘choose to do’ according to defenders of this ad). This is good news that ads like these don’t get a free pass for being covertly sexist. A debate on this ad is especially welcome because,

Because it pretends to be realistic unlike hundreds of ads that show sparkling women talking about detergent or their kids schoolbag as if it was some life-or-death issue.

Because it pretends to be progressive by showing a lady boss and goes on to justify the prevalent sexism in the society by perpetuating the worst and most dangerous stereotypes about women.

Because showing short-haired-lady-boss doesn’t make you a progressive.

Because it refuses to show a powerful woman who doesn’t look guilty in front of her subordinates for doing her job.

Because it reflects the pseudo-equal modern Indian marriage that women are calling out for what it is- a pseudo equal relationship built on age old stereotypes.

Because it champions the ultimate status of modern Indian man as ‘ boss in marriage’ and brushes his insecurities about the rising power of women.

And ALSO because it comes across as advertising CHINGS UDUPI SCHEZWAN CHAUPATI SAUCE and not a 3G CONNECTION.

There.

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What is in the name?

I have always wondered why women who don’t take their husband’s last name after marriage, end up giving it to their kids?

The woman is not a ‘property’ of her husband anymore ( progress!! 21st century!!) and thus is not bound by law to take his name.

Many would still take their husband’s name. For the sake of convenience as well as social customs.

Several, if not many women don’t choose their husband’s name these days. But 99% of those I know, will give the husband’s name to their child.

I don’t mean to sound judgemental, but I am genuinely intrigued again by this choice.

Now even Supreme Court is considering option of using the mother’s name in official documents.

Women invest far more in their children than men do. Be it the actual physical part: periods, pregnancy, birth, care of babies and adolescents. Or socio-cultural expectations and losses due to motherhood.

But when it comes to naming their kids- they invariably opt for the father’s name.

Why? Is it just a convention? Social pressure? Identity crisis? Proof of ownership? Ease of procedures?

This article sums up all my thoughts nicely.

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan

I never thought I would use these words.

The Brother is the most bachelorestest of the people I know- in habits, temperament and life choices. He vehemently brushed away even remote suggestions of marriage all this while and has been a baby of the family in every respect. When our family friend’s daughter he has known all his life proposed and he eventually agreed- we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Because no matter how boho our family is in all respects, to have a great life-partner was what we desired for him the most.

He got married on the BioDiversity day, a simple registered wedding. Although government makes it as difficult as it is possible for a couple- if they don’t want to follow rituals that is. They had to kato several chakkars of the babu office- only to come back every time with some new requirement and documentation. We all were frustrated by the end. It seems like you can be a wife killer or a fugitive from law- all is well as long as you are blessed by the pundit. Produce a picture of you two in garlands with the priest- voila!! But if you want government to bless you- you are fucked by paperwork! What an irony.

And although there were no rituals- there were 700 people at the reception and we had to ensure everything was bio-degradable and no wastage and follow all other staunch beliefs of the couple. We all worked like dogs for days- invitations, supervising contractors, running around for random things that one can’t recall now- but were of national importance when faced with then. It was exhausting but I am glad I was of help to my parents- for whom arranging function of this scale was a first. ‘ First function is 36 years’, my father would repeat 36 times a day. It was their own wedding he was referring to.

It was successful. Bone tiring but happy and fun and sweet and elegant- exactly befitting the couple.

I am extremely fond of his wife since she was a baby. And I am so glad that they both would be there for each other to support, love, care, share, have fun, experience joy of life, grow- together.

Marriage, murder, etc. Part 1

Hitchcock, the maestro of suspense and morbidity, introduced his iconic show ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents succinctly. ‘ Television has brought back murder in home, where it belongs.’ Said the man who loved to wring our nerves to bits by creating the best suspense ever.

Now the hot selling ‘Marriage thrillers’ are taking up the book world by storm and Hitchcock would have loved it to his morbid pits. Marriages turned sour or plain boring, cheating spouses, deadly secrets, subtle mind games and usually a couple of dead bodies, voila, a successful book that is usually marketed with a tagline, ‘if you liked Gone Girl…’

Gone Girl is a book too clever for its own good, and sexist to boot, but addictive nonetheless. I have devoured almost all the recco readalikes from 2012 onwards and some are good, some bad, some excellent. Overall, I love the premise of intimacy of relationship gone putrid, and these books take a special pleasure in ‘twisted’. If you like Gothic genre, which is also fantastic from feminist point of view, (A post on it some other time.), you will see how this new trend heavily borrows from it. This article does a great job listing these classic female noir writers. (I am not a big fan of the classic noir, but it is interesting how these women writers were sidelined completely in a genre that celebrated depression era angst and virulent sexism at its worst.)

Marriage thriller, typically features a couple in troubled relationship, with a few deadly secrets and eventually a nasty meltdown, usually resulting in a dead body or two. Or three. The writing is evocative, full of tiny details that string the relationship, psychologically nuanced and smart/witty. An elegant morbidity a la Hitchcock hangs in the air, poisoning it oh so daintily, till the facades are torn and ugliness wipes out the oaths of ’till death do us part’.

There are several reasons quoted for the success of this trend. I agree with some of the analysis. After all,intimate relationships ( spouses, lovers, friends, parents, colleagues) are always potent with power dynamics. And it is very easy for power to turn abusive, for abuse to turn violent, for violence to turn bloody. The tiny details that make the relationship dynamic simmer, make for a delicious brew that slowly drips venom in the guise of sweet, normal moments of togetherness.

I also think the trend owes its success to crumbling of marriage as an institution. On one hand, the wedding business has gone through the roof ( it is only business that was not hit by recession, according to a close friend who is a successful wedding photographer), but the naiveté that accompanied the premise of marriage is no more sacrosanct. Virtually everywhere in the world women are asking for divorce in higher numbers and the stereotype of a ‘pathetic middle aged divorcee’ is drowned by high earning power of ( many, if not all) women of a certain class.

But think it boils down to a simple truth: women, like men, want to read interesting and thrilling stories featuring women, and men.

So far, majority of your typical interesting stories in crime/ action genre marginalised women’s experiences , and/or only authorised certain experiences seen from a certain perspective as worthy of being told, and/or ignored a woman’s point of view by making female characters objects rather than active subjects. Now, we have women writers topping bestseller lists in crime genre, writing about diversity of experiences that treat women as people capable of an array of choices in life and women are dominating the readership, thus driving trends.

Many, if not all, writers of this genre are women, and if publishers are to be believed, so are the readers.

What do you expect happens then? Hmm… women’s lit!! Or chick-lit!! Or in this case, Chick Noir.

Because women are ‘women’ while men are people. When men write, produce films, paint, shit, fuck, it is people doing all the said things. When women do the same, it is ‘women’s $#%&’.

And that’s what annoys me, this tag- Chick Noir, that accompanies any dark book which is told from female point of view or has a female character that is not a masturbatory fantasy of a male writer. Like that annoying term ‘Chick Lit’, ‘Chick Noir’ dumps all women writers writing about ‘relationships gone sour’ into one condescending bucket.

Because art that is produced for women or by women is almost always looked down upon, in virtually every culture.

Had Flynn been a male writer or had not written about marriage, but say, about two buddies who play mind games with each other, she would be hailed as 21st Century’s Raymond Chandler. Nobody calls Thomas Harris a ‘serial killer dick lit’ guy, do they, just because he happens to write about serial killers? And you know what, they would have dumped him in the Chick Noir category had he included another strong character like Clarice in his novels and not resorted to Hannibal Lecter fanboyness.

Agatha Christie, the original Queen of Crime escaped the label sheerly because of her male detective, Poirot, while Miss Marple is a far more original detective. Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and other Gothic masterpieces with marriage as a violent catalyst are, well, masterpieces, so they can’t be branded as the offensive ‘chick’ label, can they now?

Sometimes, I want to own this ‘chick %$#%’ label and raise my middle finger. Yes, we are ‘chick’ readers who happen to read about ‘chicks’ who do all sorts of interesting things in a great story. Murder, or invent sci-fi machines, or turn nasty, or do brave acts, or kick ass, or survive in outer space, or rid the world of impending disaster, or teach young kids, or travel around the world looking for redemption.

Because women are people too, I know it is tough to swallow this dramatic truth for majority of ‘man’kind. But it is true. Women’s experiences have been marginalised so far, but it is high time we stopped labelling them as ‘women’s experiences and start looking at them as ‘human’ experiences.

More on some of these popular Marriage thriller books you should read whether you are chicks are not, whether you are married or not, whether you are in a relationship or not, in part 2.

Marriage, islands and ships.. a totally Marine post. AHOY!!

Why is it that women spend inordinate time discussing and thinking about marriage?
( It is a rhetorical question aimed to kickstart a kickass post. Yes yes , the answer is social conditioning and Pride and Prejudice.)

I am into 10th year of my marriage. I need a pause and an applause here. The sentence sounds just so.. awesomely auntish… The reader would immediately know what to expect: a bittersweet description of the decade of togetherness… how it has not been easy, but how it is all worth it….. how it is fulfilling, but how you need to work on it…. how you have evolved in it, but how you have also lost that ‘little free bird’ in you in the process…..and blah da ding tong ta.

Because, people who spend ten years living with one man sort of become ding tongish. And ( soft music playing in the background) there comes a time.. when ding tonging seems like.. ( music picks ups) a natural and comfortable way of existence ( drumbeat). So naturally they want to ding tongify everyone else- sort of like spreading the gospel of the lord. Or spreading germs by refusing to take sick leave from overcrowded office.

I realised, contrary to my claims and self-image, I am dingy tongy for marriage when my brother decided to get married a few months ago. And how I hid my glee and how I would have high-fived him when he told me the good news, had we been siblings who high-fived at important moments, and not the ones who crack vulgar jokes and/ or stare in tea cups intensely. As I stared in my cup intensely, I was bubbling from inside with thoughts like:

Companionship!! Love!! Unlimited sex!!! Someone to hold his hand through life’s ups and downs!!

Translation: Someone else is responsible for him now!! HE HAS HIS OWN ISLAND!!

This Island this is a big thing for me. I need an island badly to exist. And by island I mean a small world of my own in the middle of big world. I step in, wipe myself off the sea surrounding my island and I am free to exist.

My books,my obsessions, my relationships, my angst are all on my island- kept dry and safe from that jaded mediocrity of the world.

I visit and hop onto other islands I love, but in the end, I want my own island to sleep in and to breathe in.

Most of the people I am close enough to give advice ( doesn’t matter if they take it or not) or a comforting shoulder to cry on to, are commitment phobic in a weird way. They are all very sincere, oddly simple and little childish. But none of them are really easy to live with. Unless we live in a commune with separate rooms with doors and large acres of land to get lost in.

These are fairly intense people. And laid-back in their lives. If you have read Secret History of The Likeness, we are a bit like that, me and the people I love. Except we don’t live in the same house and we haven’t killed anyone. But the tone is the same.

So I have advocated marriage or a live-in to virtually all of them, or a live-in because I believe it is not possible to have a commune like the aforementioned Secret History or The Likeness YET. So, we need our own ‘couple a.k.a plan B’ meanwhile.

Translation: We need someone on our little island in this sea of humanity.

This is the perhaps the most loveable and beguiling aspect of Marriage/ Live-in. It gives you, in a socially acceptable way, a little island in this heaving sea of world.

And if you are like me and my people- then you want to create your island.

And when you are on your own, then you are not an island, but essentially a floating ship or something. Which is great a post on the great floating ship a.k.a single life.

But virtually everyone I love are more like a canoe material/ Because of their intensity and weirdness, their canoe can sail literally anywhere, I would rather they have an island and at least be a bit stable.

I am sure this makes absolutely no sense but this is what I feel about marriage OR live-in.

Nope, not done…

A quick note here. I wrote about an Additional Sessions judge’s comments on how pre-marital sex is immoral. Bhagwad‘s very apt comment has prompted me to write a post script to it.

Basically, the situation in which the judge made these comments goes like this. A woman accused her ex boyfriend of promising marriage before having consensual sex with her. She alleged rape because in Indian Penal Code (IPC), sexual intercourse with a woman after obtaining her consent on the false promise of marriage amounts to rape. After checking the email exchange, the judge didn’t find enough evidence that she was indeed misled and thus acquitted the man of rape charges.

But had the law found evidence of marriage promises, the man would have been guilty of having committed rape.

First and foremost, don’t you find this law archaic and extremely sexist?

It assumes that women have no agency/ interest in sex unless marriage is on board.

It assumes women are wronged if consensual sex doesn’t result into marriage, modesty and honour and all.

Do we need to enter in civil union with anyone we have sex with?

Will a woman be forced to marry the man she has sex with?

More so, how can it be called rape if the sex is consensual?

Is it either rape or marriage, with nothing in between?

I understand what a terrible blow it would be to a woman in our society, which puts a woman’s sexual purity above her individuality. But the same logic has been used to force women to marry their rapists in our venerable culture.

So, no. Civil union can not be linked to sexual activity that is consensual. Women’s violated honour can not be used as a double-edged sword.

If it is not consensual, prosecute the hell out of the guilty party. But until it was consensual, women ought to be considered adult citizens by law. And by women themselves.

Pre- marital sex… chee…. chee

Additional sessions judge Virender Bhat is very very upset. And he wants all women to know that pre-marital sex is not only immoral, because duh, it is pre-marital, but also non-religious. If a woman practices it, naughty girl!!!, then “She must understand that she is engaging in an act which not only is immoral but also against the tenets of every religion. No religion in the world allows pre-marital sex.”

Hmmm, inter-caste/ inter-religion marriages should be banned pronto as they are definitely not sanctioned by religion.

Women should be married before they reach puberty and have sons and shave off their heads when their husbands die. Highly commendable practices blessed by religion and guaranteed to preserve the morality of women which equals morality of the religion/nation/ universe/ heaven/ dadadaadadada….

How about introducing a government sponsored campaign to relaunch Sati?

Mr. Bhat is upholding a very pious task of mixing judiciary with religious vows. I propose we perform an Ashwamedha Yadnya in his honour and slay horses to please the gods. Yeeeyy…

Sacrifice a handful of kids as well while you are at that.