Tag Archives: feminism

TGIF – In the company of feminists

I’ve never seen as many kick-ass women in one place as I have here at my current  workplace.

There are many positives to being around strong, confident women.Someone will always step up and take charge. Someone will always volunteer to take on responsibility. It’s comforting.

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Every single woman here understands what feminism means.

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We’re all quite vocal about our beliefs too. We’re always looking for converts to our cause.

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And the guys here are feminists too, for most part. Instead of being like this

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They’re more like this

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Guys here understand that dating a feminist has its perks (haven’t witnessed an office romance yet, though).

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Women under pressure from their families to get married don’t cave in and marry the first guy their parents like because

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And for most part we intend to have fulfilling careers.

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And do pretty much what we like

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We’re picky about our movies

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And call it as we see it. I think k it might be because we love Mindy

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What do you think?

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Honestly, I think we’re the desi versions of Tina and Amy

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Girls’ Toys?

I read this article a few days ago and forwarded it to P.  The gist of the original article was:

Barbie should be put back in her box to make way for more “creative” toys such as Lego and Meccano that are traditionally given to boys, one of Britain’s top women scientists says.

I know P has some very strong opinions on this subject – way stronger than mine. Even so her reply was much more emphatic than I expected. So I knew I had to post it for you guys. Let me know what you think!

Before we get P’s opinion, an obligatory pic of the toys Chotu never plays with.

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Makes a nice Thumbnail if you share this post on Facebook!

I think this is a sort of reverse-conditioning that is being imposed on girls. In getting rid of one stereotype, why are we creating another? Why are we giving the girls who do actually want to play with Barbies and cooking-sets a complex? At the end of the day, the kid must have the choice of picking up whatever toy it is he or she wants to play with!

There is such a thing as nature as well, it’s not all nurture. How is this any worse than those parents who “urge” their child to write with their right hand, and not with the left? So yes, I think the child must be given a choice, but this “urging” is bad, one way or another.

On a personal note, my favorite toy was a cute girl with blue-eyes, curly hair and a green dress – I had her with me for the longest time until she was in absolute tatters! I used to love to play with a metal kitchen set my dad got for me and my sis ( yes, my physicist dad, who also taught us quite a bit of physics later on in life!) . And believe it or not, our favorite game was “playing house” 😀

Clearly, none of this reflects on the way me or my sister turned out eventually, except perhaps my fondness for babies 🙂 Conversely, it is not as if all boys who play with Lego sets end up becoming engineers or rocket-scientists!

Actually I find some of the ideas expressed here objectionable and downright condescending. Sample this: “Girls toys are typically liable to lead to passivity – combing the hair of Barbie, for instance – not building, imagining or being creative with Lego or Meccano” . Why is hair-dressing not a creative activity?! How can she say it doesn’t encourage imagination?!

Again, on a personal note, it’s true that I never had any interest in Legos or building stuff, and that I did love to read and do math, and these were perhaps early signs of what I eventually ended up doing. But the fact that I was playing with dolls and kitchen sets didn’t turn me away from science or math, and neither did it dampen my creativity (or so I’d like to think!) . As for internships and such, I know that G served as a bar-tender for a while during his undergraduate days, and then went on to do a math-CS PhD; I think he would have been a disaster at any local garage 😉

It’s not that I’m not admitting that there is a problem : the fraction of women in the so-called STEM fields (even at the entry level) is abysmally small. But I think the approach suggested here is catching the wrong end of the stick. My theory is that it is during the high-school-to-college transition that a lot of girls move away from STEM. A few of them continue on to biology, primarily because of the “scope” of doing medicine later on. Actually if you look at the list of high school toppers in India, whether in CBSE or State-Board, there’s a larger fraction of girls than boys. But when it comes to going into college, they are encouraged to be “practical” and choose fields where there’s a scope of getting a job soon after finishing college.
Long years of societal conditioning makes girls believe that the purpose of a college degree is to get a job, then get married and start a family; that choosing to pursue a research career in science or math or engineering at this stage might entail long years of waiting before the job-marriage-child matrix happens. Most girls give in to social pressure at this stage and choose the more “practical” option…I think *this* is where the problem lies! This is where the societal pressures have to ease and girls should be encouraged to pursue what they are interested in…I don’t think something as simple as replacing the Barbies with Legos will help!

And there we have it, if not from  one of India’s most eminent female scientists (though I’m betting she will count among them soon) then at least from a female scientist who is none the worse from having grown up playing with a blue eyed doll.

It’s a bit of a continuation on yesterday’s theme, I suppose. After all, it’s just another magic wand for parenting. Whatever happened to understanding the child’s temperament and needs and responding to those? Sigh!


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Mommy Guilt – My story

The last time I wrote about Mommy guilt Nitya left a very sweet comment and wanted to hear a little more about these questions I ended with.

So if it’s not my child who’s asking for my every single waking moment and it’s never been the norm anyway, why am I so darn upset about it? Am I trying to prove something? Why? To whom? To what end?

I wanted to do a more objectively researched post but I didn’t have the time to finish it so I’m going to share my story in hopes that it answers some of those questions. Nitya, I hope you’re reading. 🙂

I look at my mommy guilt as three phases.

Phase One: An overly open mind
source: meetville.com
source: meetville.com

When I first got married, I received detailed advice on how to conduct myself as a wife and daughter-in-law from no less than five or six women from both my family as well as The Hero’s. (My mother-in-law was obviously not among them). My MIL was frequently held up as a shining example of a career woman who never let her successful career stand in the way of what is “truly important” – personally handing coffee to guests, packing dabbas for her family, and running her home efficiently. Delivering a hundred babies a month and saving women’s lives be damned, the dabbas are what’s important! Let’s just say I still tried to meet all those expectations for a while. Let me rephrase that. I at least had the decency to feel guilty that I was not meeting all these expectations.

I still remember the moment the switch flipped. I was nine months pregnant and a guy in the lift very sanctimonious told me to make sure I banked my kid’s cord blood. I was furious at his sheer audacity. The more I thought about it the more evident it became that every single person around me wanted me to live a certain way and follow their advice because they “meant well”.

All of these people were so supremely confident about my life while I was always so unsure. I used to take that as a reason to listen with an open mind. Once the switch flipped, I’ve taken that as the precise reason not to listen with an open mind. I’d always been a feminist but let’s just say that was the moment I stopped being just theoretical about it.

Phase Two: An overly closed mind

As a born-again feminist*, I had all the answers just like all my nemeses. I was sure mommy guilt was an external pressure created to make women feel bad about themselves. The expectations to cook, clean, and run a home were definitely external too. The pressure to be likable was classic HBR study and so on. People stopped messing with me. I was assertive. I did what I wanted to. I was on a roll. There was just one problem. I had traded one set of unrealistic expectations for another.

I just am a domestic, sort of maternal, unambitious (career-wise) feminist. I always knew at an intellectual level that the terms aren’t mutually incompatible but I always imagined I would passionately argue the right to choose not to be ambitious in an abstract, airy way not personally out of experience.

So my Mommy Guilt evolution was all upside down. I started off trying to deny it all and ended up admitting to myself, sobbing quite dramatically, that I need to take care of home and child and keep my bed-sheets stored a certain way in order to feel complete. I then neatly walked into the every single minute trap leading to a new state of imbalance.

First world problems they might be, but they are still problems.

Phase Three: Searching for balance

I then took a break from work and everything but Chotu for three months and I finally figured out what’s important to me. (As always, I have intellectually grasped all the answers but my emotions are still playing catch-up).

One, I don’t want societal guilt. I don’t want feminist guilt either. I want no guilt. It’s important to me to cook at least one meal for Chotu everyday and spend X hours a day with him on weekdays and Y hours a day on weekends. Sunday afternoon pakoras are a bonus. This is too much for people who think I’d be better off redirecting my energy from housework to career. It’s too little for people who think I’m neglecting my child. It’s ok. It’s just right for us.

Two, even if I do manage to win a lot of approval (not likely) there will be no room left in life for anything beyond work and family. Personally serving coffee to every visitor takes its toll. Can I imagine shutting down Simbly Bored** for the next fifteen or so years until Chotu leaves for college?

Three, I’m loving and maternal and homely but I’m not overly likable. Screw it!

Source: Pinterest
Source: Pinterest. I <3 Tina Fey

@Nitya and anyone else reading. What’s your story?


* This experience with feminism is personal to me. Please do NOT extrapolate from one data point to conclude that all feminists are whatever-mental-model-you-would-like-to-reinforce.

** Conservatively, I spend about 15-20 hours a week maintaining this blog. A part-time job!


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