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4

On an internet where a woman with opinions attracts a flock of men advising her on the opinions she should have, women who refuse to listen often become targets of those who decry them as feminists. And sometimes end up applying the label wrongly. As in my case. I am not a feminist. I think feminism is too focused on men, too focused on the face off with power than results, and has tepid goals.

I believe that every person on the planet should have the freedom to pursue his or her goals without interference as long as they don't harm anyone. Women face far more interference in the pursuit of their goals than men do. Often in the form of artificially imposed limits on what they should or shouldn't do, or preemptive demoralization about what they won't be able to do. Also I am a woman. So I take particular interest that women find ways over, under around or through unfair blocks to their pursuit of their choices.

Unlike feminism, I'm not bothered about men with regard to women's rights. In a country like India, where rights of everyone are trampled to some or other degree, wanting equal rights as men would practically amount to committing to limit yourself. If I'm fighting unjust limitations, why in the world would I commit to fighting them only to the degree men are able to? Besides, who died and made men the gold standard anyway? Society today is structured to suit men. Getting an equal stake in it will still not make it suit women unless women go ahead and create what fits their needs. And they are capable and they are doing it. And when blocked, they deserve the support to get past those blocks. Asking a male dominated society or government to grant women rights is totally not my game. I don't acknowledge the ownership of the male gender over rights of the female gender to grant or otherwise.

I don't care for the constant face offs with patriarchy that feminism gets into. Sure, they are necessary sometimes. But most times, it is just giving too much importance to what should be undermined, not persuaded. I prefer to get women past blocks by hook or crook and leaving misogyny to deal with it. In a magnanimous mood, I may even offer sympathy for their loss of power over women and provide some tips on surviving in a changing world. I prefer sneaky ways that avoid confrontations and spend the energy on results for women than teaching reluctant men lessons they don't want to learn.

I also find that feminism focuses on very few and specific problems women face - which usually aren't the biggest in normal pursuit of self actualization. While fighting injustice is important, the excessive focus often borders on surreal and can be very counter productive for women. And a lot of guerilla tactics women use to succeed in day to day life in real life, which I heartily endorse because they get results, would go against the ethics of feminism. Particularly under conditions of extreme repression. For example, compromising with patriarchy and wearing a 4 foot ghunghat, but using the "virtue" goodwill and negotiating the right to hold an indepeendent bank account - an area far more important that "tradition" doesn't have much "guidelines" for.

To give the bottom line, I'm interested in knowing what is the priority for the woman in question and using every trick, clean or dirty to help her achieve it, before moving to next priority. Picking battles. Sneaking in goals instead of face offs against a far more powerful and dangerous entity.

Feminism today works on TV. The ground reality in India is vastly different. A girl who falls for the propaganda to believe she has the right to wear what she wants WILL end up catering to the male gaze in the name of her "right", often sacrificing hard authority for acceptance and approval. Because what is "fashionable" caters to the male gaze. In the process, if her boobs get taken more seriously than her marksheet or if a rapist who is fully wrong ends up wrecking her life, it doesn't really matter who is wrong, because she will foot the bill regardless. Where are the voices explaining what women who wield power know from hard experience? That like you can dress to convey authority and professionalism, you can also dress to convey sexual permissiveness - which is what a lot of fashion does? Where are all the feminists who insist "I never ask for it" explaining how they dress strategically to present themselves advantageously in situations? Even to the point of conveying aloofness to imply authority? Merely stating the extremes of what is allowed is not empowerment. Knowledge is power.Having a competent strategy for situations that may put women at a disadvantage is power. Yep, you can totally flaunt your body if you want. Here is how and when to do it, so you get the results you want, instead of having to dodge gropers or having your brother arrested for your murder. THAT is empowerment.

We have a lot of theory - which is good. But there is little tying it to hard practical life experiences. Most of the conversations are in the stratosphere in a country where a woman can tell her friend "last night was fantastic. He totally raped me" - implying vigorous sex and not a rape at all. Where are the initial conversations that set definitions and ground rules on consent before the esoteric stuff on what the slightest rape is?

So no, I'm not a feminist. I'm a whatever worksist. Including falling in with patriarchy to mitigate risks for the more important stuff that must not fail. My idea of winning strategies is those that succeed before people wanting to block them even realize the move was made. And if they do realize, I'll choose my attacks, not meet them on their turf. The goal is success, the blocks are a waste of time and to fully be avoided as far as possible.

If you think women should know their place, I'm not a feminist, playing by the rules of a male dominated society. I'm much, much worse.

2

Dear Meritorious Chief Minister,

Congratulations on the sweeping win of Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi Assembly elections. As someone cheering the rise of the promise of more inclusive democracy in India, I have been following the story of Aam Aadmi Party since the beginning.

Yesterday should have been a day of celebration. It was not. The reason is your all male cabinet. Worse, for all your claims of listening to the people and being accountable, there has not been so much as a whisper of explanation for excluding women from the seat of power in Delhi. The Aam Aadmi Party that bragged about the quality of its women candidates is apparently at a loss to find a single one worthy of the cabinet.

In your speeches, you admitted to arrogance of victory in Delhi leading to the defeat in the Lok Sabha Elections. This time after warning followers, your arrogance in Delhi will lead to the defeat of 46% of those who supported you, while you cannot be shaken from your position for the next five years.

Because it is arrogance that decides that you will deliver women safety, yet sees no need to include women in the cabinet. Women are more impacted than men by issues related to water, education, health or inflation, as those tasked with the functioning of the household in limited resources in the vast majority of Indian society. It is women who ferry water the most, make compromises in nutrition to be able to afford food daily, care for the ill and as the ones giving birth to babies and caring in their early years are also a large segment of healthcare consumers in addition to routine health issues common to all. It is women who face greater resistance to ambitions in education. It is women who face catcalls and gangrapes and sexual harassment far more than men.

Being a woman in India is a different view of the world than being a man in India. No matter how sensitive or capable a cabinet minister, I doubt if he will THINK like a woman.  The idea that a woman's thinking does not need to be present at all in the highest decision making body for the state is misogyny. In all your grandeur, you may imagine that men are more efficient and deliver best, but the fact is that many women not from the upper classes cannot speak freely to men. In all your wisdom, you may believe that it is not important for the Minister for women and children - who would be the one meeting victims of brutal rapes once this intoxication with your own yet-to-be proven competence dies down. I doubt a victim sees it the same way. Or is the plan to speak with doctors and male members of the family instead of the women or conveniently use some woman MLA without authority for the purpose?

I don't doubt that a man handling the wellbeing of women and children is a refreshing deviation from the norm, but the need for PR stunts is over. Does a cabinet that cannot even see competence in women in understanding issues of women better than men respectfully handle the difficulties of women? I don't think so.

So far, it seems AAP is happy to use women volunteers to work. Will use a few women candidates to stop looking like cavemen, use their eloquence as spokes people and high profile campaigners but when it comes to nurturing women or recognizing their competence or being willing to share in POWER, AAP so far seems to have come up with a big fat zero.

From seven candidates in the previous election to six in this election. From one woman to none. Your party has consistently claimed to plan to empower women, but in this one year what we see is a deterioration. Not just a failure of Aam Aadmi Party to put up women candidates in any proportion vaguely corresponding to that mythical representation, or decreasing numbers in the tiny number offered.

A woman MLA who joined AAP in its darkest hours, stayed loyal, worked her ass off for the party, including being one of the strong pillars for your own efforts in Varanasi, has experience being on the women's commission, IS a woman herself is apparently not "competent" enough to be on a cabinet where a male lawyer handles the portfolio for women and children. And I am sure the other women candidates have competencies too. You don't get to be a good councillor without being able to handle authority or work. Two of AAP's women MLAs have been councillors. One of AAP's woman MLA's is an ex-cabinet minister in the previous AAP cabinet.

Here is a quote from your party website, since a sub-category of your supporters no longer seem to think I am in Indian interest:

"We believe that until the Women’s Reservation Bill is passed by Parliament, there is a lot that political parties can do to ensure proportional representation for women. "

http://www.aamaadmiparty.org/womens-day

Here I am, getting organized "blocking" of my handle by your supporters on Twitter, for upholding the views of YOUR party that you seem to have forgotten. Or was that an election Jumla?

There is a Muslim and a dalit in your cabinet and rightly so. I don't imagine this is an accident given that several other favorites are not on the cabinet, so I assume it is okay to take the representation of women for granted, while other kinds of representation are still respected.

Worse, you or your spokesperson don't even think this important enough to address openly and with your much advertised accountability. Not before the cabinet swearing in, not after. It is not like you are unaware when you retweet an absurd tweet by Javed Jafferi about Bandana Kumari being a Deputy Speaker as though that should be enough. What power does a deputy speaker have to govern?

In essence, in your ARROGANCE you are saying that men will deliver women's needs and women are not competent enough to do it. Let alone governing other aspects of the state. This is classic patriarchy and gives rise to the question, "Changing politics, yes, but for better or worse?"

If Hindus ruling a secular state is right wing supremacy, how is men ruling a supposedly gender respecting state anything but MALE SUPREMACY?

I also suggest that when AAP campaigns in the future, bragging about its women candidates, it discloses whether the candidates are good enough to be trusted in the cabinet, or just fillers for your statistics on women representation. This is important, because if your women candidates are not competent, then why should the constituencies you conned into voting for them suffer from their "incompetence" while you protect your government and reputation from it? Hain na?

Think about it. It is the start of your government and you have begun it with a grave wrong to gender equality. This will not go unnoticed. Not by citizens, not by AAP's political opponents. While nothing can force you to give this represenatation to Delhi's women for the next five years if you decide against it, it will be a blow to the Aam Aadmi Party itself in other places too.

A blogger who had great hope in AAP and is now worried about AAP being a problem to women's rights.

Vidyut

5

The Aam Aadmi Party made a huge deal out of women's safety. Women were among those campaigning for AAP on the streets. Taking out rallys. Yet the 46% of women voters are represented by less than 10% of MLAs and NO ONE in the cabinet - where most of the power of the government resides.

This is not an accident. It is impossible that Arvind Kejriwal did not realize that there was no woman on his cabinet. It was also brought to his attention. This is deliberate.

I have been bringing this up on social media over the last two days and here are some reasons/responses/excuses I got defending this all male cabinet and why I don't think they wash.

No one should be chosen for gender

Well, there is a Muslim and Dalit on the cabinet. And that is a good thing. But I doubt that they were chosen by accident. So the larger question is why AAP sees a need to show some vote banks a visible represenation but not women who comprise almost half of all voters and voted overwhelmingly for AAP? Their votes got taken for granted and no power needs to be given to their representatives? If no one can be chosen for gender, no one can be excluded for gender either. When there is not a single woman on board, the question is less about choosing for gender and time to ask if the exclusion was for gender.

Even having Muslim and dalit is wrong only capability should be seen not tokenism

If you assume that the natural owners of power are Hindu upper caste men, then them including others is "tokenism" and a handout. If you are choosing to form a team to govern a diverse city, minorities of religion, caste and gender bring with them practical experiences of realities and problems faced by various identities that are not as obvious to the "majority". This is good team formation, not favors done to anyone. If you are ruling a diverse city, perspectives on its diversity are COMPETENCE - not handouts and tokenism and symbolism. To call them thus basically implies that they have no right to power and the default inheritors of power are upper caste Hindu men and anyone else getting it must have to earn it.

Men handling women and children ministry is refreshing

Sure it is. I never said you need a woman cabinet minister to serve as some custodian of the harem. Even if there are women on the cabinet, a man can handle the Women and Children portfolio, though it may take some juggling to manage when dealing with sensitive situations. The presence of a woman brings a perspective on realities of women that is an extremely relevant competence when you made a big fuss of your "womanifesto".

An all male cabinet tasked with delivering women's safety is like a bachelor advising women on how many children they should have. Or an all women's team designing the city's toilets including urinals for men. The logic and intent may be there, but what do they even know about the realities? How many of the cabinet ministers get stalked or groped or catcalled just because they happen to be men?

This is something every woman faces - not just specially designated victims. It is relevant to women's safety. Women are the most affected by issues of water shortage - another huge point on AAP's manifesto. Women form the majority of people ferrying water to households, the majority of people using water for household work. Women are the people most involved with caring for children and the sick. They are the ones who birth babies. They form a huge chunk of those interacting with the healthcare system. Women are disproportionately higher among those taking charge of their children's education. They are those who juggle household budgets and most impacted by prices of food or fuel on the aam aadmi level.

They thus have significantly different challenges from men and thus priorities and a completely different way of looking at problems and solutions because of that. They will have a different approach and perspective on policies . To not have a single woman among the core decision makers of the government is like saying the womanifesto was a JUMLA and 46% women should be happy with what we men decide to give you.

Can't men deliver what women need?

Of course they can. They've been doing it for thousands of years. They can. The Khap Panchayat can too, if it wants, and so can this cabinet if it thinks making a big show of giving stuff to women will get it glory as a good government that delivers. It is called patriarchy. Where women's needs are articulated by men, they aren't capable enough to be among men as equals in important positions of authority and they can have their needs met as men deem appropriate and they aren't capable enough to have a say on their own realities. It essentially says women are too stupid to fix their own problems. I don't respect this rubbish. Particularly given that I find most men incapable of understanding women or respecting their needs.

The points are endless. When there is abject inequality, you cannot approach it from any side without glaring wrongs being visible.

If anyone makes further arguments worth mentioning, I will add them here.

 

7

What really gets my goat these days is the bull in china shop approach to women's rights, which has a male dominated state and society trying to fix everything (sexual assault) - for women. I am a woman and I agree that there is vast gender inequality in India. I believe that women need to be empowered. I don't see our methods as useful. I have started calling the gender ghetto.

There are two lobbies in conflict determining women's rights that result in actions somewhere in between - usually what is acceptable to both. The "feminist" lobby - which seeks to create sensitivity and ease of justice for women - particularly for rapes. The "patriarchy" which would prefer to control women. Most of the women of India fall into neither of these two influential groups.

The feminist lobby (as per my observation in INDIA) looks to show humanity the right path - regardless of whether change results or is immediately useful for women. In less polite words, it is an upper middle class hijack of the female gender that appreciates itself and interprets "victories" against patriarchy as empowerment of women (which isn't necessarily true).

Patriarchy is on more comfortable ground. They have control and it is about managing so that no women actually get into bastions of power. The best way is to create luxurious ghettos for women, sold to feminists as special attention to women's rights.

As a result, there is an abundance of measures taken specially for women that do very little to change the ground situation. There isn't a single place where women can claim to feel safer after all the agitation, in spite of a steady stream of laws, schemes, special facilities, forces... Unfortunately, this doesn't cause the women's rights activists to pause and wonder if more of the same would be useful either. On the other hand, the special provisions cannot be made for all women - too resource intensive. So you create nice ghettos of women's rights where the loudest voices are - and keep peddling the idea that "something is being done". Unfortunately, Indian feminists ARE gullible enough to fall for it as long as their egos are stroked well.

Human rights as a special grant for women

Safety is a fundamental right. It isn't something that is a favor granted to women. Women only banks, women's credit cards, women police forces (more on that later)... You create a new breed of men who "know how to treat women". You have morally upright people criticizing social media abuse of women "Is this how you speak with women?", as though abusing men is fine... in the ghetto. I'd call it bubble, except it is really a psychological ghetto. Not merely isolation, but marginalization peddled as women's rights, confining women to "safe" spaces with "better" rights that "appreciate" them.

So, your pub going woman getting molested is an outrage, because that space is supposed to be safe for women - indeed, less "inhibited" women are part of the appeal - besides, don't the passes say "couples entry"? On the other hand, the woman getting molested in a seedy country liquor bar should have known better than to be there. Because, the pub is an official gender ghetto. Women are supposed to be in that space. On the other hand, the seedy bar is the "real world", where no concessions will be made to women, and they must know "men will be men" while walking in.

Put your hand on your heart and tell me this is not so. That this is not how your perception works too, even though you'd like to respect "all" women?

The problem is the same. Drunk louts harassing women or worse.

Any woman who has asked a husband, male partner or male friend to escort her to a dance bar (if you're around Mumbai) or red light area will attest to reason for refusal - or at least serious caution - being "it isn't safe for women". In spite of the dancers and prostitutes being girls themselves. Think about why one kind of woman wouldn't be safe in a place where women are the star attraction otherwise.

In essence, this is a class phenomenon, mostly limited to the upper middle class. Very rich people can do what they like to women and get away with it through money power or connections. Lower middle classes hover on fringes, knowing that this protection is very unreliable if the perpetrator is from an upper class. Lower classes get routinely harmed and no one gives a damn beyond stray newspaper reports or the occasional case that has enough TRP value to elevate the victim to a more deserving category of human.

The ghetto can also be layered and existing in the same place as the "real world". In other words, your pub goer getting raped will be news. A pub employee getting raped may be news depending on job (no sweepers, please), but if the woman security guard in the mall the pub is in gets raped by patrons of the pub? Forget it. Brief mention somewhere if at all. News item, not women's rights issue. You don't want unnecessary restrictions on the patrons of the pub over a nobody. It is the same reason that in spite of alcohol being a factor in many crimes and routinely in rapes, you will never find the elites bringing this up. You do not want to create an aura of shame around alcohol if you drink yourself - as a vast majority of public figures do.

Identifying a risk factor in rape is not as important as retaining elite freedoms. Not even as a minor caution point like - "Avoid being alone with one or more men you can smell alcohol on, as alcohol is known to reduce inhibitions. Particularly if there has been the slightest unwelcome flirting or sexually crude behavior or short temper." This gender ghetto is selective about risks it protects from. Only some are to be prevented. Others can be condemned in hindsight, as preventing will be inconvenient.

It is also an age phenomenon, where this insistence on safety is largely relevant to young women, but kids get harmed routinely with little protest, as do older women. So it is basically a phenomenon of nationwide statistics of enormous inequality against women used to give select women a carte blanche - which is also an illusion. It is given only as long as it doesn't inconvenience any of those with power. Rape convictions are overwhelmingly more from lower classes. No one has a problem with the nameless louts being taken out of the equation.

Feminism in India is not into hard wars. It prefers moral elegance and the high road. Patriarchy is not going to give up controlling women and treating them as primarily existing to serve the male will. Their interests do not converge on issues like domestic violence and marital rape. So we have some talk about it, but no serious challenge. The gender ghetto is that golden area where feminism and patriarchy agree and create a special safe zone where those who belong can expect safety to be their right.

Patriarchy prefers handouts to sharing power.

Patriarchy sees power as a male domain. It may be allowed to others - within limits. Misogyny actively seeks to exclude women from power. For the misogynist mind, it is better to give women a gilded harem than let them sit among the men as equals. Creating these gender ghettos works very well for them. Political parties having women wings with duties to support but very little control on party policies. Women only banks - even if they are not economically viable. Women's credit cards - why give them male ones when we can tailor features and cashbacks to define their identity with shopping, groceries and so on?

And of course, women to provide security for women, women only police stations... pitting women police against men who are highly likely to be threats to women, rather than create an overall gender sensitive police force. Risks to women were never the problem. The problem was complaints about it. This looks like a grand gesture. See! We gave women power to bring men to justice! Now vote for us please. Yet, do women only forces find it easier to deal with criminals? Why would bringing criminals to book be a gender issue? What are male cops supposed to do if they get a complaint of crimes against women? The same thing as the women cops. Yet, rather than increase the representation of women among the police force at large, it is more misogyny compatible to give them their corner to occupy.

Laws that "protect" women.

While women are overwhelmingly more harmed by men than vice versa, creating laws that institutionalize a bias against men does not help anyone. It is the legal ghetto. That sanctuary for women where they only have to name the justice they need. Of course, there is the "real world" where cops refuse to file cases - or worse to make them go away rather than exercise their rights. This successfully fudges the idea of justice for women, turning it into something that is specially granted for them in a very dramatic and unreserved manner, whereas the reality is different. Nor is creating a special issue out of the right of women to seek justice as generous as it sounds. It is the fundamental right of anyone harmed by another to seek justice.

In our grandstanding that wants to make sure we leave no space for any crime against women to slip through (regardless of applicability in real world), we make laws so unreal, that it is easy to show how a man accused of rape cannot be innocent short of an act of God - effectively turning a rape accusation into something women do that men have no defense against - when it is not true.

Consider a woman filing a complaint that she was raped a week ago by someone when they were alone in the office. Give me any possible way the man could prove his innocence short of proving he wasn't in the place at all. The man is presumed guilty - unless he can prove his innocence - yet, how does one prove an absence? It is a logical fallacy we have enshrined through reckless law making that only aims to deal out grand punishments without a view on the larger picture.

There is a strong motive to do this. To enshrine dramatic punishments as an exhibition of "doing something" to "fight rape". What is essentially a social problem - the inability of men to court women or take no for an answer - gets dumped on the legal system where it can reside happily, out of sight of a misogynist society, which is not required to face how it treats women. Naturally, for this, the law has to sound like it really knows what it is doing. Even if what it is doing is creating the provision to amputate a decade out of a man's life and reputation on the basis of an accusation he has no real way to disprove. A provision - which like India's thousand grey areas will usually be ignored and conviction rates will remain low at the discretion of judges - who must face their varying levels of conscience on sentencing a man for ten years on the basis of the crime described. Some misogynists will let all kinds of rapists go, others will let only a select few go, but the law if implemented to the letter will let no one go unless there is evidence of innocence. This is the legal system basically reduced to the level of a service for women to do anyone in. Non gender ghetto women won't be able to pull it off, because cops will simply laugh them out of the police station.

But surely it helps women? Even if it is an unfair service that caters to a few women, at least those women get empowered, right?

In my view, it doesn't. Judges who are often notoriously misogynistic will protect rapists for "small mistakes" when 10 year sentences seem to be disproportionate for an act that leaves no trace. Number of rapes on record will go high, but conviction rates will drop so dramatically that filing an FIR for rape will be rendered a joke. This will additionally provide fodder for misogynists to trivialize the act of filing a rape complaint itself, and it will be very difficult to debunk, because they will use the impossibility of proving innocence as their argument, even though lack of convictions will prove that "impossibility" false in practical application. All in all, a whole avalanche of controversial rapes will crop up, giving great boost to the feminist industry, but will lead to increased perceptions of danger limiting women, as well as increasing hostility from men once they start looking at cases. It will do a grave wrong to women whose PROVABLE rapes will now be further competing with scarce legal resources for justice.

***********

It seems we identify an ideal that should be, and start acting like it is fact and simply ignore what doesn't fit. We want uncompromising punishments and we also want every single wrong to be punished and we would rather a few innocents get punished than a few victims fail to nail their abusers.

Yet, is all this hand holding resulting in more assured women? More confident, more safe, more purposeful? Or merely more reckless? What is it that we are achieving, and how long is this supposed to continue and at whose cost? Why is it that we are choosing a hyperbole laden decision making process rather than something more scientific, measured and balanced?

Who will it hurt if women stop getting special favors and instead get their rights?

 

2

I believe that the women's rights struggle is evolving from a phase of being controlled by men within the family to being exploited by men outside the family, and feminist lingo is increasingly being used to discredit any resistance to the exploitation, while ignoring the vast majority of real exploitation. This is not women's rights, it is simply patriarchy reloaded.

Consumer Feminism

New rabbit, same hat.

A tweet I can't find anymore nailed it. "Fake boobs, fake hair color, fake nails, carefully cultivated images, and you want me to see the real you."

We see no paradox here.

The idea of beauty imposed on women when the most important expectation from them was to provide comfort, bear kids and do household work was one that glorified tidiness, simplicity, soft-spokenness (when not silent), curves and a strong body. Today, the stereotype of beauty in a woman is one that catches the eye, lacks fat, looks younger and younger, dresses to accentuate sexuality and interacts freely with the opposite gender. The skinny image fed to our eyes as a standard to aspire to is so unreal that unhealthily thin models still get fixed in photoshop before gracing magazine covers. Yet we do not see the similarity in a woman chasing unattainable virtue and unattainable beauty - both of which have been defined for them by someone else.

I don't see much of a difference in both. Both are based on the utility of the woman. Both ignore the reality of the woman. The only difference probably is the lesser violence associated with disobeying the latter, though let us not dismiss peer pressure and ridicule and the sometimes extremely cruel bullying that lightly too.

[Tweet "We do not see the similarity in chasing unattainable virtue and unattainable beauty."]

Clothes make the woman - or don't they?

Consumer feminism sees power in products more than community. The consumer feminism style of empowerment uses the power of projecting an image - think business suits, evening gowns, casuals, jeans, cheap and gaudy nylons, flowery prints, designer saris or traditional handlooms and so on, but blithely deny that they had anything to do with rape. We see no paradox in claiming that clothes present a personality and attract on the basis of that, but they do not attract anyone we don't want them to. Consumer feminists seem to have lost touch with vulnerability, because all it takes to find women issuing "invitations" to all and sundry is to open your eyes and see what really goes on with young people.

They are the indiscriminate feelers for admiration of innocent growth - they are not evil, and seeking attention is not a sin, but emerging from a past without acceptance of such behavior, there is no traditional safety for this innocent growth, and girls must be taught to manage their sexuality and safety just as surely as boys need to be guided in understanding women and consent. It is reckless to provide them with a blanket approval for all actions regardless of consequences. Turning the whole subject into a no talk, blanket defense zone, consumer feminists play into the hands of patriarchy - as obstinate in endorsing the innocence of women and blaming men, as patriarchy is in endorsing the innocence of men and blaming women. In the end, it does not help the girl, who must learn to engage functionally with the world in any case, which will include office dress codes and traditional clothes and occasionally clothing to attract - whether it is jeans or a low cut blouse or a bikini. She will eventually outgrow the era of wearing cocktail dresses in educational institutions and find the balance of appropriateness and the impact she wants to make.

When a girl grows up in a world that has indoctrinated her to seeing the male as the answer to all her dreams, why wouldn't she wish for male approval as a validation of her importance? And it isn't necessarily young girls either. I have seen adult women who, when stepping out of the fetters of a restrictive family for the first time, dress and act in a manner that can only be construed as permissive. I know women you can't count on for anything because they are so distracted by the need for appreciation and approval from the male sex, and women don't qualify (unless they are sharing strategies to get the men).

I help women escape troubled circumstances as often as I can, and it is near guaranteed that the first deep breath of freedom brings with it some reckless behavior at least. It is almost a rite of passage to prove to yourself that you are free by doing something you would never be allowed before. Taking responsibility for yourself takes experience, and there will be a period when all kinds of things will be tested and a personal configuration of what we consider a good balance of safe and free emerges. Whether at teenage, or a battered woman stepping into freedom, the process is the same, as it is for men too. And it takes compassion to help people through at times. Restrictions put them in a cage again, fighting to be free. Ignoring leaves them open to severe risks that cannot be wished away regardless of what an "ideal" situation should be.

Make no mistake here. None of this still makes it okay for a rape or molestation to happen, and the girl was most certainly STILL not asking for it, but I think when we remain stuck on this one sentence and refuse to dig deeper, we are doing women finding their wings a grave disservice as well.

There is also a need to empower women by helping them see how even in "freedom" they remain caged if they live by expectations of catering to the male. There is a need to allow them a space where they can wonder why their figure needs to be visible to make a good impression, and what happens to something important they are saying, if they have a cleavage on display. In theory, nothing should happen. In practice, from being clever, they become "beautiful and clever too". Note which comes first and what it does to the real worth they bring with their presence. Most of all, we need to help women discover the power of having personal authority that needs no approval from another.

Seeking male approval is not the same as wanting to be violated. However, a woman who is not empowered has a relatively narrow view of the world around her - it is how women are raised by default for the most part. Ignorant of the larger picture, ignorant of men and the impact of women on men. That knowledge is power. That ignorance is risk.

[Tweet "Consumer feminism appeals to the male on gender rights. Almost as if you can't expect much from women."]

For example, men and women see candid confessions very differently. Women are usually easy about discussing their self and emotions freely. Mostly through lack of expectations, but for what its worth, this is a healthy thing. Their gender identity provides a safe space to learn expression that men don't have. Men are raised to be emotionally stunted with their whole identity resting on an illusion of invulnerability. Expressing emotion is seen as a sign of weakness and expressing vulnerability is something you don't do with anyone except those you'd trust with your life.

Men, not raised to talk emotion rarely understand that speaking of personal feelings is not an indicator that the relationship is intimate in an exclusive manner. Women, with their indoctrinated avoidance of voicing anything unpleasant (and worse, refusing the male authority) rarely assert their space. There are some very real violations of personal and sexual space that happen through sheer Mars-Venus communication. While there is no doubt many men deliberately prey on women for power or entertainment, the vast majority of men are as incompetent at dealing with women as women are with men. Only they are stronger.

The idea that a man will "get" that "no means NO" or that intimate talk is not a yes is very farfetched when they are simply not raised with the skill to understand emotion. Witness the number of men talking about sex "converted to rape". There is a genuine understanding of some things as "yes" within the male gender - not just people accused of rape - that don't actually mean yes to the woman. This is also the space where ideas like "cocktease" or "leading men on" come from - some things simply are interpreted differently between genders.

Additionally, men not being sensitized to being aware of emotions, do not understand how a yes five minutes ago can become a no - genuinely - if the woman finds something distasteful. There is a perception of sex as a contract, that women renege on at whim and then demonize men, because they really do not see that sex is about attraction which may die for the woman if something distasteful to her happens. This is also a fundamental difference in the idea of consent. For women, it appears to be the consent every step of the way and a right to refuse if she feels violated. This is fair and it is important, but for men, consent appears to be a one time contract for the entire act - which may also be born of a need to be sure that it is consensual and it is happening rather than a wish to harm the woman. Regardless, you'll probably recognize this at the root of a lot of debates on rape.

Is not respecting a "NO" wrong? Sure it is wrong. But can we reasonably expect criticism and laws to end it? Not without education and I'm talking of emotional education and sex education here, not just good manners inculcated in school. On the other hand, it is also possible to teach women to say no in a manner that leaves no ambiguity to men. It is an area we ignore for fear of appearing to hold the victim responsible for not refusing. She did refuse, it is clear, but the refusal was not conveyed and there is no accusation in empowering women by helping them learn to do non-negotiable "NO"s.

The gender communications divide

What is a candid expression of the state of being for a woman can imply an intimacy the woman did not mean, to a man. Women are not used to asserting themselves when things are not as they wish. Men are not used to respecting upset people. Women do not really understand how men think to understand what is harmless talk and what implies a relationship status they do not want. It is a whole mess resulting from the different ways in which we raise both men and women - not just men.

The derailment of consumer feminists

For all the good intentions, I find feminists turning women into consumers of rights that men are supposed to provide for them. This to me is not feminism at all. When we are looking at how women are treated to the exclusion of most perspectives, we are inherently acknowledging that men have the authority over women to treat them in any way, of which we are recommending a better way. This, in my view, is not useful.

I don't know when the narrative changed, but when I first got interested in women's rights, there was a strong sense of sisterhood. Of more empowered women helping women claim their space in the world. Somewhere down the line, this has changed to "equality with men" in a manner that focuses more on the men than the equality. So men protesters in a women's rights protests are somehow elite. Men who are feminists are seen as some kind of ambassadors to men at large. Women protesting for their rights, on the other hand, at least among our so called "modern" classes is not so interesting unless it is a mixed gender protest and just like that, we are back at a protest with men in it being better than a protest without men in it. On the other hand, there was a male crowd protesting at the court after the verdict of the Delhi Gang Rape - in theory a woman's rights issue. That is how bad we have abdicated our own war.

Somewhere, we have turned the women's rights thinking into a very consumerist thinking where specific nice sounding rights must be allocated to women. We have got derailed. Even as we make big talk about equality, we fail to penetrate male bastions of authority in religion, in politics, in business, in homes, while remaining content to talk about rapes, with the blessings of men. We fail to challenge inequality where most men will be challenged, remaining content to address causes approved by a majority of men who have an interest in the minority of men committing those specific wrongs being defeated.

Which is how even when it comes to rape, we are fighting gang rapes. Assaults by strangers. Consumer feminism has yet to do anything with serious threat on the subjects of domestic abuse, economic exploitation, marital rape, unequal wages, lack of value for domestic work, rape by people known to the victim, rapes of children and of course the vast majority of rapes, which are basically sexual exploitation with the lure of marriage or a job. Because those are so common and so well established and useful in catering to the "male world", that few men want to fight them, when it is easier to blame the woman for allowing it if something becomes public as horribly wrong.

[Tweet "So it seems women too will chase women's rights that men find deserving rather than the ones that are the biggest threats to them."]

I think the women's rights movement is becoming a farce, and to come back on track, the need is to take a good hard look at women's problems and attack them aggressively instead of whatever a male dominated media chooses to feed to us. I think it is important we empower women to understand men and use that to their advantage. It is important we help women find their own self-worth that does not depend on male approval. It is important that we teach women to understand how they lose their personal authority through reckless compromise in their pursuit of male approval.

[Tweet "It is important women don't lose their personal authority through reckless compromise in their pursuit of male approval."]

Similarly, women are going to need the wider awareness of the world at large that was previously denied to them to understand that when they wear the latest "sexy" fashion, it is visible to everyone who sees them, and not just the prince that they were imagining while dressing up. If a business suit delivers a message about the person, so does a strapless dress. While rape or molestation or even plain lechery is still wrong, a woman who dresses to flaunt sexuality is not entirely innocent of inviting sexual interest - however inadvertently. Courtship is a natural instinct too, but it is something that doesn't get acknowledged enough. It is an instinct that puts girls in danger over and over simply because of a patriarchal lack of acknowledgment of their sexuality and safe and appropriate expression of it, that is also found among feminists these days.

There is a very real need for women, particularly young teenage girls (who cannot expect guidance from home about their budding instincts for flirting/courting/mating) to have guidance on the larger picture.

Feminists could make a huge dent in the rape statistics of India by simply instilling in women a sense purpose and self-worth. In helping them see that there is no need to marry to have sex, and if what you want is marriage, then there is no point using sex in order to secure it - taking them out of the desperate mentality that sees men as saviors of their otherwise purposeless lives. Vast majority of rapes are when a man convinces a woman that he really loves her and will marry her when he has the money/is able/gets a divorce/etc and convinces her that she has to "keep him happy" and interested with sex till that happens.

Most of all, it is important we understand these things ourselves, so that we do not pretend to fight for women's rights while only doing it in a manner that won't inconvenience powerful men.

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