Archive | February, 2013

Do-it-first in your friends circle: Treating females with respect

26 Feb

Disclaimer: I am in no way intending that ALL men are like what I have mentioned below, or that all men behave like animals when in groups.

There has been a much needed hue and cry about women’s safety in India. It’s starting to die down as the news channels find newer stories to cover and obsess about.  The Government has also promised some changes, like  fast track courts, better governance, implementing stricter laws for offenders etc. Also much have been written , in some very impressive op-ed articles about what we as common citizens of India should do, to make India and the world at large a safer place for women.

However, I do need to say, TWO very important factors, which maybe dismissed as trivial, but which I believe is in most cases, the root cause of  assault and harassment of women, and how men and boys could stop it in their own circle of friends.

The mob mentality:

Men when they are in groups, even the most educated ones, speak about women as a commodity. That seem to be their favorite time pass, along with video games, and playing ball. Some men stop  at this level, but a good number of others, take it to the next. They whistle at, or pass a lewd comment, at every single female who pass by them. The gang of men/boys they hang out with, usually encourage this. Eve teasing and groping is a fun task, which only the “brave” among them can do.  A boy/man who has the guts to touch a girl (against her wishes obviously)   is the “REAL” man . They dare each other to do something harassing to an innocent woman, which personally they might consider just a normal every day fun activity. These very men might be harmless and even nice when they aren’t with the above said group.

Like one of my friends told me when in groups men’s morality drops down to the one with the lowest morals.  

I was shocked, recently to hear about an acquaintance, who is educated and now happily married with a baby, who used to be an “expert” in groping girls in his younger years, and he wasn’t the slightest bit embarrassed or guilty about it.  I was enraged to put it mildly, how could he? He seemed a decent normal man to me. What made him do that?

  1. He thought it would do no harm. And it was just for “fun”. He had  no idea (like most abusers), the kind of psychological damage and general fear a woman can be filled with , if subjected to such a treatment even if it’s just once.
  2. “Some” girls enjoy it, after all she dresses up to attract men.
  3. His friends thought it was fun and encouraged him. I do not know how to put it across to all the men and the boys who think its “fun” and that harassing someone makes them manly. It is not fun, (wait till you get into prison and is subjected to the same treatment by your fellow mates.)
  4. There are no strict laws which discourage this kind of behavior.

I am astonished most times, when I hear what men talk among themselves. And maybe a little talk can do no harm. However this is my sincere request to all men, or boys who in groups behave abnormally. Who sometimes do horrible things just to feel included in a group.

Stand your ground.

If your friend boasts about how he misbehaved with a girl, or how he pursued a girl while she was returning from college/school, discourage it. Tell him, there’s nothing manly about harassment. Tell him, (even if that means, being subjected to ridicule,) that it just makes him seem desperate and not manly.

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The mob mentality and treating women/girls like commodity is also closely linked with having no personal relationships with girls/women. The only females most of these men interact with are family, which brings us to the second topic.

II) The lack of Co-Education

By segregating girls and boys in their growing years, the whole stigma around the female, is only developed many times more. I have no idea, why people just love to send their kids to girls-only and boys-only schools. Parents believe that doing so, means the girls and boys will have no chance to have a “relationship” and that is best for them. However, the opposite is what happens. Boys who grow up in boys-only schools may not have a relationship with a girl, but that means, they are also completely de-sensitized to girls, and girls are just a bunch of stories, they make up among each other. Their idea of girls and woman are built on never existing stereotypes, that if they do not grope or harass woman, they end up oppressing and harassing the women they meet in their adult lives, who they want to fit into the “good” girl stereotype, which believe me no normal woman/girl can ever fit into.

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Usually girls in girls-only schools have ZERO clue about boys and men, and due to their complete lack of exposure,  they are easy prey to the only men they do meet. That could be a  bus conductor, auto driver, or someone with a fake facebook id .

The men who say that women in their family shouldn’t  carry a cell phone, or that she should wear her dupatta in this particular way are all just an extension of the children who grew up hearing too many stereotypical stories about “good” and “bad” women. Having  a complete lack of exposure to the opposite gender while growing up, doesnt make boys good or worthy. It just makes them have no idea of what a real woman is.  It is important to have healthy friendships with the opposite gender, do science projects with them, study, play, fight, with them as children, and know  women/girls closely, for men to understand that women are complex beings.

Not commodities and most importantly not someone who takes being assaulted or whistled at or groped lightly.

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She’s Muslim and Married! God save her

8 Feb

I have been asked time and again, why I predominantly write about religion,(because of my Ramadan blog) and if that has got something to do with my marriage. As in, have I lost my identity after my marriage. Marriage in itself is seen by many as a death sentence to a fun life. That along with being photographed in “hijabs” and “burkhas” adds insult to injury, and becomes decisive in people determining that my marriage has oppressed me, and turned me into a shadow of a Muslim woman. “It’s surprising she still has a Facebook account?”  (Yes, having an active Facebook account somehow is now equated to women’s liberty)

Myth about marriage:  Marriage=chores. A married woman, spends all her waking hours, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and nagging the husband, to get groceries. If she still continues to work, which in itself is a shocker, she must be struggling to make “dabbas”, and packing her husband’s lunch.The minute I mention that I am married, I am inadvertently asked about cooking. So when do you cook? What do you eat? How do you eat at work? What about your husband’s food? As if, I  started eating after marriage. Or as if , by marriage, what my husband  got for himself was an in-house cook. The biggest dilemma or the thing of prime importance in a married woman’s life seems to be food/chores. That we are so consumed by chores, that we have no time for ourselves, and will become fat for sure.

One of my friends, once tried hard to convince me , few weeks before my own marriage, about how women let themselves go, and lose their looks, after marriage. I had to send him a gazillion pictures of my ever gorgeous friends, to tell him, how that isn’t always the case. Not to mention that my own married friends, especially women, always thought that all of my interests starting with books to being good at work, will come to a halt as I get married.

Truth:?

It has to be said that, I can cook a decent meal,  (or throw a party)  and now especially because I have a kitchen, I have the freedom to cook what I enjoy and not have to suffer my office canteen food. I have an option, which has made my life better, not worse. I do not spend every waking moment, doing chores. I don’t bother about laundry for more than 10 mins in a week, and the only hassle I face in getting groceries are in counting my sodexo coupons and struggling with my math. And NO my husband doesn’t spend his weekends doing grocery shopping either.

That being said, marriage has certainly made my life more comfortable. I just have a cleaner, bigger and a complete home. I spend most of my time, with someone I like, and am not stuck in a room with girls I do not know. I have a fridge, TV, microwave, all these are luxuries when you  have spent quite some time in a hostel with none of the above. I have an intelligent study partner at my beck and call, and I have read more books in my first year after my marriage, than I have in the past three years.  All these things have, as it should, made my life better and more interesting .

Faith and writing about religion

Myth: You just can’t be fun, if you are a Muslim. You especially can’t be fun or have a life, if you are practicing Muslim woman, who covers up.

My faith does determine a whole lot about me. It means a lot to me, and forms a vital part of who I am, and how I behave. However, the fact that I belong to a religion, which has sadly been equated to being oppressive to women and is probably the most misinterpreted religion in the world doesn’t help.

Also, I have been a practicing Muslim, since the time I was 8 years old. I have prayed and fasted all my life. That was ages before I ever met my husband.  I wasn’t forced or oppressed into it, (most Muslims aren’t) . I was more steadfast in prayers, than most adults in my family. That’s just the environment I grew up in and the brilliant teachers who taught me. Other than the fact that I pull out a prayer rug, once every two hours at work, and that you might see my foot in the sink, in the office restroom.(Read the link where Khalid Latif, who seems to have the same dilemma as me, explains the foot in the sink) My practicing prayer life, doesn’t take away any fun from my life. It doesn’t mean that the only thing I do is pray, it doesn’t mean that I am “too” religious that I can’t be living my life

It just means that I am more at peace, and don’t panic and worry about every other thing. It means that I am more confident, because I believe in a super power. It makes me more disciplined, and makes me a Believer, in all things good. And none of these should in effect make me boring or oppressed. I am extremely excited when Rima Kallingal starts following me on twitter or when Fahd Faasil replies to my tweets. I  jump up and down when Brody is exposed in HomeLand, and  Callie and Arizona of Grey’s Anatomy are my favorite TV couple. I am a normal person, who likes everything everyone else likes, but who also believes in the power of prayer.

Clothing

Myth: If you are modestly dressed means: you are not stylish or modern or logical or educated, and is definitely being oppressed. That poor thing!

Dressing sense is good sense. And as a woman, I duly note, woman and their dress sense. It does showcase a lot of qualities. Your aesthetic sense for one, your class, your grooming skills. That being said, I do know, very interesting and attractive people, who are just OK in their dressing sense and vice versa.

India is sadly a country, where it’s pretty tough to be stylish, while being modest. You walk into a mall, and all you can see is sleeveless clothes, and short skirts. However, with a keen eye, you can marry modesty to fashion in India. Though it’s tougher than probably in Pakistan, or in the middle east. ( I have plenty of Pakistani friends and spent my childhood in the middle east). And being modestly dressed doesn’t make any of us less of a style icon (if done correctly).

Most importantly it doesn’t mean oppression.  It could mean respect to the culture we are in, it could mean, finding clothing that suits your body type as against going with the latest fashion trends. It could also mean, that skin show, needn’t always equate to being fashionable. And you can be wearing the latest fashion fad, and still be oppressed, just that the world wouldn’t know. A dress or a piece of clothing doesn’t determine oppression. It just determines your sense of fashion, and that’s all there is to it.

What is FUN?

Now that Facebook, (and not someone’s eyes), is considered a window into a person’s soul. It remains to be asked, what makes any of us interesting? What makes us want to go over and over another person’s profile, till we know they are interesting (or boring) .Does our updates/profile pictures determine our happiness? Facebook does  showcase a lot of our lives, it shows the places we visited, what we like, who are our best friends (hopefully), where we work, what our professional qualification is, how do we celebrate birthdays/anniversaries? Do we play any sport? So in effect, it does showcase a LOT of who we are. However, it doesn’t determine how kind, accommodating or focused you are. It doesn’t show how judgmental encouraging or liberal you are. It just showcases the parts of you that you want to be showcased.

Can we determine oppression by looking at a person’s FB profile? Oppression means denying anyone the right to live their own life.  Ignoring their talents and forcing them to let go of their individuality. Your dressing sense, faith , pub crawls, or Facebook updates can never determine any of it.