Thoughts on International Women’s Day


Much has been said and done today on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Personally, it came to me as an after-thought and I’d even forgotten about it this morning until I came across Sali Hughes’ piece in the Pool.

Dutifully, I put on a red lipstick and set aside any thoughts about the superficiality of it all. I feel like wearing red lipstick, much like celebrating International Women’s Day is all about the significance you attach to it. It can mean nothing and everything at the same time. Yes, that is a banal thought but just look at the variety of views on IWD. I have seen women questioning and debating the need to celebrate IWD while others have spread their good wishes and cheer. Personally, I don’t see the harm. I don’t know anyone who has spent masses of time celebrating IWD- Everyone has gone about living their lives but things are just a bit more sisterly than usual.

HOWEVER. A message from an acquaintance once again highlighted why we need feminism and a day to mark the movement. It went something like this…


Dear [  ],



At the end of the day, we are all someone’s blushing bride

Sharing a picture of Katrina Kaif that I saw in a rickshah the other day.


We thought it was funny because she looks photoshopped into the dulhan get up. That too, she looks like a very realistic bride, as opposed to the stylised version of Bollywood…It almost looks like she could be the rickshah-wallah’s bride!

I’ve been reading Hindu marriage manuals recently and a lot of the rituals and vows seems to ask the bride to be calm, benevolent, patient, servient… Maybe I am reading into it too much but I thought this picture captured it well: Sheela tamed and shaped into the mould of Savitri. What do you think?

Mardaani isn’t great but you should watch it anyway

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead

I’ve been sceptical about Bollywood’s new found interest in woman-centric films. Some of the movies come across as knock-offs. Like a good copies of a designer bag, they look right but don’t feel genuine.

Similarly, Mardaani’s message of women’s empowerment feels flawed. Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukherjee) is a cop who vows to bring unravel a child trafficking ring that abducts young girls and sells them into prostitution.


Idioms from a generation past

Late one night, a friend and I got discussing after she tweeted about using the phrase ‘Jacqueline of all trades’. We felt that it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue and settled on ‘Jackie of all trades’, which is better for being gender-neutral.

Naturally, it got me thinking about idioms and phrases that have a gender focus.  (more…)

Having a gender-neutral Raksha Bandhan

I’ve never really taken Raksha Bandhan seriously, despite having celebrated it for the most part of my life. That is, I’ve never really taken my brother seriously when he’s made that promise to protect me. Maybe that’s because he is younger than I am, and I’ve always considered myself as the “big sister” whose role it is to guide, advise and warn my siblings against what’s to come as they get older. 

These watered-down feelings probably existed because my brother and I spent much of our childhood practising WWF moves on each other (or rather him on me) and Raksha Bandhan was a just once-a-year event where we knew we had to get serious, listen to our parents and behave (or else…). 

Nevertheless, it has always been a fun festival to celebrate. At first, it was the sweets and money and a Diwali-like feeling. As we got older, my cousins and I would take the time to spend the evening together, which reminded me of our shared childhood and that there were 10 others who were like me in one way or another.  

And that feels about right. As I was scrolling through Instagram today (#rakshabandhan), I saw photos of sisters celebrating the festival, without a male in the frame. Growing up, I knew pairs of sisters who would appoint a brother through the action of tying a rakhi on him. There would be a hint of sadness linked with the gesture, such as “we don’t have a brother, so please can we adopt you as ours”… which really throws a light on the perceived effectiveness of a brother over a sister as a sibling. 

Historically speaking, rakhis served as a bond that would protect men from harm as they set out on wars and there are many stories in Hinduism which have fortified the role of Raksha Bandhan in its original brother-protector / sister-well wisher context. But the role of the rakhi and Raksha Bandhan has been evolving. Be it through Rabindranath Tagore, who used the rakhi to strengthen Hindu-Muslim bonds in 1909, or women in Himachal Pradesh using rakhis to protect trees from deforestation. In Marwadi and Rajasthani culture, women also tie rakhis to the wives of their brothers, be it that the move is seen for the well-being of the brother. 

Of course, there’s also the idea about whether a woman needs protection. We can blame patriarchy for this, but in Indian society males have had to play the role of protector and provider of sisters, even if it is only other males that women need protection from.

I came across this advert that Dainik Bhaskar brought out for Raksha Bandhan. I recognise the good spirit of the message but this may explain one of the reasons why the feminist movement has such bad rep in India. 

Women may feel the need to shed Raksha Bandhan in our new climate of feminism and woman empowerment but on a personal level, I feel this does injustice to the males in our lives who have played this ‘protector’ role and well. And yet, we need to see beyond the idea of ‘brother-protector / sister-protectee’ if we want to move on from a male-dominated society. Muscles aside, women can and do play protector well. 

If we must, let us have rakhis tied to us by our younger siblings, male or female. Feeling protective of your younger brother or sister is a more natural emotion, and one that is gender-neutral. This also leaves in tact the well-wishes and feelings of goodwill towards your brothers and sisters, which is what I feel more genuinely on Raksha Bandhan.  


The week in sexism

42-year old women are now desirable to men and we have feminism to thank for it: Yes, older women are breaking free of “the shackles of biology and convention” but why not celebrate it for the achievement that it is, rather than judging it against the yardstick of a man’s desire?

Warrior dictates…the men play sport, the women watch them: Warrior is an American company that sells lacrosse and hockey equipment. They got into trouble last week for complaining about a women’s sporting event being shown on a primary sporting channel. This brought into light their appallingly sexist ad campaign showing women in a series of sexually suggestive images. Also, they also don’t sell women’s gear – wonder why? There is a social media campaign against Warrior and you can read about it here


Weirdos at the FIFA World Cup

It’s World Cup season and social media has been flooded with stories, posts and tweets about football. As with any sporting event, photographers seem to be paying a great deal of attention to “hottie” spectators. Unlike male spectators, there is obviously something incredible and news-worthy about an attractive woman enjoying football.

Around last week, a Facebook friend was posting pictures of his World Cup holiday in Brazil.


Bollywood and body image

I have a friend who regularly trashes Sonakshi Sinha by calling her names such as haathi. Every time, I defend Sonakshi Sinha and argue that we should commend her for embracing her body, rather than giving in and losing weight as convention demands. Sadly, it’s not just this one person who makes such comments and the comments are not restricted only to Sonakshi Sinha. We feel entitled to judge Bollywood actors for their bodies and we hold them up to standards which are incredibly narrow: The women must appear slim and toned. They must not appear too muscular and definitely should not have six-pack abs. On the other hand, abs are totally, absolutely, completely mandatory for men. And unlike the average Indian man, they must be as hairless as a plucked chicken. (more…)