Archive for the ‘invisible women’ Category

If Steve Jobs were a woman…

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

…he’d be treated as a CEOILF.

…there’d be incessant carping about his sense of fashion (rather, the lack thereof).

…he could either be hard-working and unlikable, or incompetent and likable. Pick one.

…the over-pricing of his products would be evidence of his narcissism and be seen as a personal failing, not as evidence of his good/bad business sense.

…TV commentators would complain about his boring presentations, and wonder if he was *pimping* out his products a bit too vulgarly.

…late night comics would make jokes about raping his kids. Only the girls, of course.

…people would say ‘why doesn’t he just GO AWAY already?!’ while simultaneously clicking on every news link about him.

…people would make videos about punching him in the face, strangling him, and sexually assaulting him. In humor, of course.

…people would complain for years about how he was selfish in not having kids.

…people would be horrified that there were rumors of a kid he didn’t acknowledge.

…people would complain about how selfish he was in having kids and not staying home and taking care of them himself.

…people would complain about how selfish he was that he stayed home and took care of his kids for a few years, thereby *abandoning his company*.

…battle-lines would be drawn around his parenting choices – whether he chose to breastfeed or not would indicate how good a parent he was.

…his falling out with John Sculley, Gates and others would be seen as evidence of his b*tchiness, and he would NEVER get past it.

…sleazy pseudo-journalists would camp outside his house and write tell-all books about his family.

…sleazy journalists would say *good lord, isn’t it horrifying* about the brown and black (wo)men he slept with in India and elsewhere.

…his ideas would always be ignored. Even when they were good.

…his ideas, if un-ignorably fabulous, would be appropriated sans acknowledgement.

…his product names would be treated as evidence of narcissism rather than personalization (iDevice)

…there would always be deep insinuations about how much influence, exactly, Laurene (who? his spouse!) had on his work and the firm.

..he would never, ever, EVER be seen as a visionary. No matter what he did or said.


Deepika IS or DOES?

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Via MissMalini, yet another example of ‘men DO, women ARE’.

Deepika Padukone: “Killing them softly with her smile” – Deepika’s feminine mystique prompts us to dig deeper into….. what makes Bollywood’s current dream girl tick
Imran Khan: “I should lead by example” – Actor Imran Khan writes….on how he works on greening life in the metropolis.

It’s like palmistry when I was growing up – they all kept saying you should read the right hand of men, and the left hand of women. And then, further, that the left hand is what you start out with, what is ‘God-given’, and the right hand is what you make of it. My mother, then still a feminist, said categorically that I should always extend my right hand – because “nowadays women are also in control of their destinies – or should be”.

If women even today in 2009, in the most privileged class of Indian society, including the most visible, most successful career women – are only about their beauty, their looks, and who their families are, there’s very little chance that they can do or be anything different from the cards they were dealt. And one of the fundamental ideas, if not the fundamental premise, of modern human civilization is that no matter who you are, you get a chance to make of your life what you want to – through hard work and smart use of the resources available to you. It’s still not an equal playing field by any means – but each one of us has the right to try, the right to the ‘pursuit of happiness’ (and not just in the US of A). And when half the population is denied that basic human right, how on earth do we call ourselves civilized?

Ugly girls must rightfully be abandoned

November 2, 2009 Leave a comment

The story is, in itself, sickening – who was this orange-sareed-woman who could so callously drop off a new born infant the middle of a busy Indian road with cauliflowers on top of her head? What was the system around her that compelled such action? And what are the bets that there’s no police searching for this woman or her family, even though she’s attempted to murder a human being in cold blood?

But the last line in the article should get a prize.

Newborn girl found abandoned in vegetable bag
AHMEDABAD: The cries of an infant from a bag kept in the middle of a road confounded passersby in Amraiwadi area on Friday night. Some curious people ventured to probe and found a newborn girl, wrapped in a white cloth, kept under vegetables.

According to residents of Amraiwadi, a woman in her 30s, clad in orange saree, was spotted by a few handcart vegetable vendors placing the bag on the divider around 9.30pm. They thought she would come back for the bag. However, she did not return.

When Ramesh Gadhavi, a local resident, was passing by Hatkeshwar Circle at 10.30pm, he heard the baby’s cries. He opened the bag with the help of others and found the infant.

“Vegetables such as cauliflower, eggplants and potatoes had been placed atop the baby. We then rushed her to Civil Hospital where she was examined by doctors who found her healthy. She weighs 2.55 kg,” said Harshad Patel, a social worker from Amraiwadi.

According to local residents, the circle, bustling with activity, has been used very often for abandoning unwanted children. “The girl is very pretty. One cannot understand why such a child has been abandoned by her parents,” said BR Patel, inspector of Amraiwadi police station.

Women are dumb

August 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Not in the dumb=stupid sense, but women literally do not speak in public. I notice this at work all day, and in the news, on TV, in movies around me. Remember the Lindsay Campbell Moblogictv video Where My Ladies At?, where the less men know the more they’re willing to spout their wisdom but women always, always are so reluctant to speak – afraid, intimidated, hesitant, nervous, silent.

Look at Mika Brzezinski here, she would make my mother-in-law totally proud with her wonderful portrayal of a good desi bahu in the company of men. In the middle of a heated and very profoundly dramatic ideological debate taking place in front of her. And it’s unlikely that she has nothing to say or think, or that she agrees with both sides – that’s simply not possible, and not now after 15 years and 6 months of public debate on these issues. Notice the only time in both videos that she feels bold enough, or uninhibited enough, to open her mouth – she shakes her head in disgust and mumbles in agreement when Joe brings up the ‘death panel discussion’ – obviously to Mika, she can only compete on equal intellectual terms against a woman, that woman being Sarah Palin. Mika seems to believe that debates are like matches at Wimbledon – you can only play against others your own gender.

And oh, don’t you love Anthony Weiner – and he’s engaged to Huma Abedin. I don’t know which of them I’m more jealous of. Umm, wait, actually, my crush on Huma is a thousand times bigger. But Anthony’s not too bad either, and he’s the only one in this administration or in the public debate to so boldly make some very obvious points – not even Krugman has pointed directly to the large elephants in the many rooms this debate is taking place in.

Shame, power and nudity

July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

huh. Who knew?

Naked girls plow fields for rain

PATNA, India (Reuters) – Farmers in an eastern Indian state have asked their unmarried daughters to plow parched fields naked in a bid to embarrass the weather gods to bring some badly needed monsoon rain, officials said on Thursday.

Witnesses said the naked girls in Bihar state plowed the fields and chanted ancient hymns after sunset to invoke the gods. They said elderly village women helped the girls drag the plows.

“They (villagers) believe their acts would get the weather gods badly embarrassed, who in turn would ensure bumper crops by sending rains,” Upendra Kumar, a village council official, said from Bihar’s remote Banke Bazaar town.

“This is the most trusted social custom in the area and the villagers have vowed to continue this practice until it rains very heavily.”

India this year suffered its worst start to the vital monsoon rains in eight decades, causing drought in some states.

(link via Confluence)

This is like that scene I remember from the TV show in the 90’s based on quaint South Indian stories set in the last century (NOT Malgudi Days, though this starred Girish Karnad, of course) . There was a Malayalee woman who was going to be beaten up by a man (her father-in-law, I think), and as he was menancingly advancing toward her she dropped her sari. The father-in-law, being a ‘respectable society man’ with ‘concern for ladies’ dignity’ (though not TOO much concern, since he meant to beat her up after all) instantly cursed her, and with a very disgusted expression, turned around and stormed away (thinking, no doubt, “how dare she defend herself in this reprehensible way from my beatings. Shameless women!“).

Female nudity has always been a powerful means of communication, of manipulation, and it was especially powerful when it was so rare. It’s just that in the Indian context, female nudity has taken on so many non-sexual or asexual connotations – remember Akka Mahadevi ?- that it bestows oblique power on the woman. Even though that power is derived from the basic premise that nudity = shame, at least there’s some karmic recompense for women who pay the price of that shame.

As opposed to, of course, the female form today and in the West always, which has nothing but sexual connotations (whether or not the woman is nude), and removes every stitch of power or control from the woman and bestows it to the viewer.

Friday night musings and how far ahead India is sometimes – take that, Simone de Beauvoir!

April 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I was watching TV last night – it’s unusual, but was a typical Friday decompression session where I don’t move my big butt for eight hours on end and get P to fetch and carry for me – and caught NDTV’s ‘Left Right & Center’, a political round table discussion mostly about the on-going elections.

First off, the oval table has four participants and one moderator – five people in all. Take a guess on the composition of the panel: FOUR women out of the five! On a f***ing political panel! I know this shouldn’t be such a big deal, I’ve grown up watching panels such as these, but after last year’s disgusting spectacle of US misogyny and lack of self-awareness or self-regulation in the Western media to their utter, complete bigotry – this was like a huge gulp of fresh air.

The moderator was a woman (in a brilliant mauve cotton sari), there was Jayanthi Natarajan representing the Congress (I), a woman from the CPI(M) and a woman journalist from Tehelka. There was also a lone guy from the BJP who was seated in a great position to create impact but ended up making some hilarious – and basic – debate missteps. Not that the others were great debaters, but they all at least succeeded in getting their points across without spewing endless non-sequitors. I re-realized how different the Indian debating style is to the antiseptic, colorless and totally fake ‘debates’ we see on TV here in the US. I suspect J.Jacques may actually be onto something here.

Anyway, back to the panel composition. Compare this with any political talk-show in the US, on television or on radio – including on NPR or Air America. Even, apparently, on the panels debating feminism, men are the majority. And you realize how remarkable this is that in India this panel was un-remarkable and why our rare inclusiveness and gender-blindness must be treasured (maybe we ought not speak too loudly about it or around it, or it’ll just go away?).

Say what you will about Barkha Dutt – her visibility and fame (infamy?) has helped carry forward the tradition of vocal and recognized women journalists, women newsreaders, women news presenters in India. Usha Alberquerque, Geethanjali Ayer, Neeti Ravindran, Minu, Komal GB Singh and all those awesome women – helped ensure India was never on the US track where a woman finally getting to read out the news from a teleprompter was a historic milestone that needed ‘achieving’.

I’m very impressed by Sajjan Lone, too, who made a brief appearance on the show. He evidently plays by the Oriental family playbook, not the more familiar Occidental one – i.e., the one with brother against brother for money, sister rivalling sister for a man’s affection, or parent vs. child for political power. Sajjan made sure to scuttle the chances of his sister Shabnam Lone, when she was running in the Kashmiri Assembly elections. But today in the show, the guy was articulate, incredibly humble and sans frands – sans pretensions. I cannot and do not agree with his policies or what he stands for, but the guy sounded like exactly the kind of politician who would not garner political victories simply because he’s too honest and openly intelligent.

Why the furore?

April 15, 2009 Leave a comment

So, yes, along with the rest of the entire planet, I’ve seen Susan Boyle’s performance in BGT 09 here. Go look already if you’ve been living under a rock.

I saw the video myself, and I have to be the only one human being who wasn’t shocked or totally shaken by the performance (there! I said it!). I liked her voice and loved how she sang that particular song, no doubt the performance was great. But nothing before she started singing had led me to believe that she would or would not be good. Unlike the audience there, and the judges (especially Piers), who seemed to expect her to fail – doing what, exactly? screeching? fubbing her lines? falling on her face? what??!!!?

Of all the various critiques and analyses I’ve read and seen, this one at Kate Harding’s by fillyjonk is what I recommend to crystallize half the world’s thoughts (the other half can’t articulate why they like the video). (S)he says in the above link:

In a culture that values youth, wealth, and carefully-maintained femininity, this woman is like a cheat sheet for “don’t take me seriously” signifiers. She’s over 40, she’s ungroomed, she’s on the fat side, and her accent denotes low class. As it turns out, she also has learning disabilities and has never been on a date. She flies in the face of what we expect out of a performer and what we, as a culture, esteem in a woman. The judges respond accordingly: they snigger and mock, and her confident posturing just makes her (in their eyes) more ridiculous, more dissonant. Dissonant because confidence and sass don’t compute from a woman who falls so short of the ideal.

So that was it – unlike everyone there in the video and outside who’d been writing about the performance, for me her doing well was no surprise, no big shock, no re-thinking of mental frames. I should give myself credit for this – not wonder what’s wrong – for not taking those external ‘signifiers’ so seriously. It should – and does – bring me pride in my judgment all over again (e.g. in not thinking Hillary was cold-hearted and conventional and even evil and would eat live puppies because she was old or short or ugly).

This incident reminds me of the time in our college physics lab when I had a surreal – and unintendedly honest – discussion with a friend about how I had no idea how to evaluate beauty: I didn’t understand what I was supposed to find pretty and what not. And she asked me, a bit disingeniously, “you don’t see any difference in me and Gauri ?”(Gauri was a not-conventionally good-looking classmate of ours, dark and scrawny and buck-toothed). I said – I know you’re pretty because you’re popular, because of the way the canteen guy looks at you when you walk by, by how strangers smile at you, and with Gauri, all of that is different. And that was true, I knew Gauri was smarter than her but badly lacking in self-confidence. I knew enough about beauty by then to know that the low self-confidence was probably a result of her not being pretty – and it also exacerbated the problem, because low confidence helps a beautiful girl be more accessible, but makes the ugly ones looks even less like they’re ‘worth it’. And I was beginning to personally discover how being full of gumption and charm and being well-spoken and bold and being groomed but also blasé about your looks can make up for not having any (and so’ve Mallika Sherawat and Rakhi Sawant, evidently in very different ways from me).

So, back to my friend – she was shocked, and repeated, “so you can’t tell the difference between Aishwarya Rai and KSG” (KSG was a professor of ours, who wasn’t supposed to be very pretty – and that’s putting it mildly). This time I said “I know KSG is a bad teacher and not smart or really competent, but that’s my quibble with her as a person, not because of the way she looks”. My frank admission then became a big discussion point for a long, long time and led to many, many sessions of ‘leg-pulling’ over warm winter chai discussions in the Hostel too. I believe it even found its way into my scrapbook at the end of college days. But no one really believed me then, and some parts of me didn’t believe myself either: I was smart enough to subconsciously pick up on who was conventionally good-looking and who wasn’t, because the non-beauty metrics (e.g. popularity, confidence, preening, clothes, etc.) are such good indicators of beauty and self-image of beauty in our world. I’d trained myself by then in life to quickly read everyone’s signals and analyses, and even if I didn’t have any bias I sure acted like I did. In other words – at the same time that I was learning what clothes to wear and how to behave so I could fake being pretty, I was also learning how to behave I could fake my knowledge of what “pretty” was.

Susan Boyle’s video brought me back these memories, and my pride in my own judgment. Even thirty-odd years on, evidently, my knowledge is still fake, I’m still pretending :-). I’ve not internalized expectations and stereotypes, and so, like everyone else is saying, I can say “Susan Boyle has given me pride in myself” – for entirely different reasons, and mean it.

Thanks, Susan!