Types of “Izzat” in Bollywood — Black and white movies to Badrinath ki Dulhaniya

Lalita Pawar, as the evil mother-in-law, has screamed, punched and kicked every Bollywood heroine in their heyday! And the heroines put up with it coz “badon ki izzat”. From then to now the Bollywoodisation of izzat has come a long way. 

Here are a few types of izzat that Bollywood movies have been peppered with in all their misogynistic glory:

  1. Badon ki izzat

The most convoluted form of badon ki izzat is the respect for the nikamma pati and the torturing in-laws. The doe-eyed heroine told anyone who cared to listen that she put up with every form of abuse because her parents taught her to respect her elders. I haven’t for the life of me been able to figure out how this education did not include self-respect. But hundreds of movies and millions of cine goers seemed to agree that this was the ultimate show of respect.

2. Ghar ki izzat

For some reason, this always meant that nobody outside the immediate family came to know about your financial predicament. It meant that you borrowed to keep up appearances, starved as you entertained guests, and beggared yourself while trying to sponsor your son’s fancy education. Then there is the the ghar ki laxmi meaning the daughter-in-law who formed a big part of the ghar ki izzat. And in such movies the bahu would end of torturing the in-laws.

Basically, among elders and the kids, whoever wielded the izzat to their advantage abused the other.

3. Desh aur samaj ki izzat

It was amazing to see a one man army demolish a ton of villains to save the desh ki izzat. Or, winning a cricket match against the goras like they did in Lagaan was enough to restore the desh ki izzat. No wonder we grew up thinking of desh ki izzat as a lost commodity to be restored with gimmicky acts and failed to learn that we need to demonstrate respect for our nation by treating our country and countrymen well. No, I am not going to launch a swachch bharat lecture but you get the drift.

4. Insufficient dowry = pink pagdi kadmon pe izzat

If the heroine’s father took off his pagdi and put it at someone’s feet, it meant total loss of respect. I have never understood what it takes to believe that you have to pay someone a huge sum of money and then beg them to take your daughter because you failed to cough up a few thousand more. And am sure that there is someone who is reading this and chuckling right now but will not even ask their parents about the “gifts” involved in their wedding.

5. And finally the lutne wali izzat 

Of course, we all know that a woman’s izzat is ALL about hymen remaining intact (not only in the movies).

This type of izzat has three variations:

i. “Mujhe bhagwan ke liye chhod do,” when you are rescued

Those were the days when the heroines begged to be left alone for “god’s sake” as the villain tried to rape them. Since the heroines were virtuous and pure, the hero always rescued them and protected their izzat by not revealing the identity of the villains to the police.

ii. “Mujhe bhagwan ke liye chhod do,” when you are raped

Every six year old in the country knew or maybe continues to know that the hero’s sister (read laachaar behen) would scream this dialogue, then vomit, then cry copious tears as she cradled an infant as the hero seethed impotently. If there was an andhi maa involved then the laachaar behen was married off to her rapist, often at gun point, by said hero who knew that was the only way to salvage her honour (again izzat) and that of the family’s.

iii. “Mun kala karana or naak katana” when they have sex outside marriage

When the woman has sex outside marriage, whether she gets married to the guy or not, she loses all types of izzat — from ghar ki izzat to the samaj kya kehenga to the duniawale, everybody is affected by the rupture of a tiny tissue…Uff the nose gets cut and face is blackened to cope with this trauma!

Badrinath is a movie that tries to move away from that kind of misogyny by telling the audience that guys and girls need to fight against regressive customs from dowry to honour killing. It also tries to highlight that marriage is not the ultimate milestone in a man or woman’s life. But, it loses these lofty ideals somewhere along the way. Between glorifying stalking to laughing when some villains are trying to “looto a man’s izzat”, the film reverts to gender stereotyping. Oh wait a minute, no hymen equal to no izzat maybe…Maybe that is why they think it is ok to laugh at attempted rape or believe that rape is a gender crime and heinous only when it happens to a woman!

Either way, Badrinath talks about a different type of izzat when Alia Bhat says that love is not enough when they don’t respect each other. This is a significant development in mainstream Bollywood cinema — the notion that respect is mutual and separate from the notions of izzat we have been used to!

Qtiyapaguy Arunabh Kumar — sexual harasser or not –The TVF defense: One big sweeping denial and many loopholes!!

Arunabh Kumar Qtiyapaguy

Here are the big loopholes in the Arunabh Kumar defense:

  1. Who is this woman? They (Golani, Nidhi etc.) claim such a woman did not work there. How do they know from an anonymous post, where the woman is obviously trying to conceal her identity?
  2. It did not happen to me…The “I did not face any such issues” disclaimer by Nidhi Bisht. Yes you are a woman, but not all women who worked there. So what did or did not happen to you can’t be used as a yardstick.
  3. I am a hot blooded single guy! The admission that he finds a woman sexy and tells her that off work and not at the workplace. This is a dead give away. He couldn’t out and out deny the film maker Reema Sengupta statments because she had apparently confided in others and also revealed her identity. So he responded in this way, making it sound as though sexy is a compliment and as though stating he is a “heterosexual male” covers it. News flash: Harassment begins where attention is unwanted and unappreciated.
  4. To investigate or not to investigate is that the question? The official statement that they want to bring the alleged victim to justice and the statement made by Nidhi that they take such allegations seriously is completely at odds with each other. If they have a policy, then they need to investigate. They can’t have investigated so quickly and declared her guilty and all in the same breath.
  5. This writer can predict the future! Bisso’s tweet about more such employees that are going to pop up, doesn’t aid the cause any, ‘coz employees or not more such women have popped up.
  6. Go(lani) wordplay! Schadenfreude makes for a great word of the day. But, your haters would need to really work hard to put together such a team of young women from neighbours to independent contributors to former employees…Wonder what is to hate so much? You guys were getting all the love, so this term was premature or was it prescient ‘coz you expected the backlash after the blog was out.
  7. Arunabh: Press charges or go to internal HR! If that is not a subtle threat I don’t know what is. He knows that once she quits he can’t go to HR. She claims that the legal team threatened her, if that were true she can’t press charges. Offering a neutral environment or offering to present himself to an impartial panel or something along the lines of being open to investigation while assuring complete protection would have been more sensitive than a tweet.
  8. Twitter don’t blame me no more! Lashing out at tweeple is not a defense, Arunabh. People are watching your reactions and if your fans are taking a stand against you, it is you who is digging your own grave and not the accuser.

Tinder Chronicles: Part I

I lasted for 5 minutes on Woo and about 15 minutes on Aisle. I always had this daunting image of Tinder — the big daddy of dating apps. I  thought it would be sleazy. I thought I wouldn’t be able to deal with it coz I am not even sure about dating. Plus I am not a texting kinda person. So I downloaded it for a lark and am trying to figure out what the big fuss is all about.

One thing is true. Everybody (most everybody) is on Tinder. It is not just this or that. Not just a dating app or a social network. Not just a place to be social or a place filled with sleaze. Whatever notions you have about Tinder will be shattered in the first 5 minutes.

You are unprepared for sleazy message on Instagram or the odd creep on twitter and on Tinder you think you know what you can expect. But, nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the mass of humanity on Tinder.

Guys what are you thinking? Sticking your tongue out in a selfie is a strict no no! Please don’t hook your thumbs on your pockets. Are they your life jacket? Why oh why is your friend’s arm draped around your shoulders? Or worse, why are your friends in the frame with you? Who the hell clicks a pic with an idol in the background? So you smoke, but stuffing 3 cigarettes in your mouth naa-aah. Another big turn off — the ear hair that is threatening to stretch right out of the photo and dangle off my phone. And what do you
mean by you are are not there for hook-ups or romance or marriage? Plus , what’s with mentioning your height in your bio as 6.2 and a 1/2. You are a sapiosexual and interested in conversations — really you think no one understands this is code speak for my wife will cut off my balls if she finds me here?

This list is long but I am saving it for another time.

At first I was hesitant to swipe anywhere. Left is for Nope but be careful coz if you swipe Up it means Super Like. And the reservations about ‘hearting’ any profile pic held me immobile for the first few minutes. Then I got this message that I was super liked by someone. I had to google and figure out how to find out who super liked me. You see
Tinder doesn’t keep track of who you liked and all that. Unlike Instagram which not only shows you who liked your pic but also the posts you’ve liked, Tinder doesn’t bother with keeping count. So you are free of any and all baggage. You are truly in the moment as you
ruthlessly tap the X or heart icons. (Still not trusting my swiping  skills.)

So it turns out that you can only find out who super liked you by actually swiping through profiles till you find one with a blue bar and a blue star. So I went through the drill of hitting X and heart and finally reached the profile with the blue star and tapped heart ‘coz it was the very first Super Like. Yayyy. I was prepared for creeps and had my guard up. But, I needn’t have been worried. I had an innocuous conversation about Goa with my first Match. He promptly unmatched me after I said Good night. So far so good. Got another super like, but he seemed busy.

I realised that Tinder shows you profiles of even those who are out of the distance range that you define in your settings. And even those profiles you have marked as Nope keep reappearing in the deck. I kept shuffling the deck by changing the distance and age settings. So maybe it was because of that.

Then I started reading some blogs on the art of mastering Tinder. One of the recurring themes is not to feel guilty about swiping left or rejecting a profile based on the pic. Tinder encourages you to be exactly who you are. Sometimes in the physical world you can’t escape small talk with unsavoury characters. On Tinder you can Unmatch a person
if you don’t like the way they say Hello 🙂 Now I can understand how an entire generation, which thrives on instantly knowing whether or not they are interested in someone, does not make allowances for long term relationships to bud, let alone bloom. This is not about being old school here. Just an insight or a possible explanation on why most relationships and bonds are fleeting…It is not because of Tinder. It is in fact the other way round, Tinder thrives because that is exactly how people are or how they want to be. You realise just how importance physicality is. And no it is not about good looks or a particular type of feature set. It is about how a person strikes you as attractive or not at that very moment. Unlike the real world where you might take offense if someone you are chatting with replied after ages, on Tinder neither you nor the other person feels obliged to chat continuously. The feeling that nothing is permanent is all pervasive. Or was it just me building walls, I don’t know.

All I know is that I deleted my account after a couple of hours or so. But, I will definitely visit again. Maybe with my girl gang and laugh and poke fun and make light of it. Yes it sounds cruel but that’s not going to change, so if you are on it then you need to be made of stronger stuff 🙂 And who knows someday I might even find a Mr. Right-for-the-moment on Tinder. Tally-ho!

Why rape culture in India is as much YOUR fault as the rapist’s

This is not the first or the last time that anything other than the rapist will be held responsible for Indian women getting raped.  A swami something or the other is ‘trending’ on Facebook for mouthing asinine stuff like women are getting raped because of worshipping Shani. Yes. It is ridiculous but what is worse is armchair activists and Facebook vigilantes taking umbrage over the issue. These are the people who actually do not give a crap about rape. They are the ones (or should I say ‘you’?) who post everything from the Nirbhaya case to this Swami’s stupid comments on your page with a comment expressing disgust and shock and loathing, but will never get a grip on their own mindset.

I know so many of you who post or “share” such links and obnoxious videos and pictures with politicians and rapists talking rot and stupid photos of Deepika’s cleavage or Kate Middleton’s Marilyn moment with remarks like “wtf” and other forms of disbelief and shock and rage. The discussion is often just a momentary reaction, no deep, meaningful conversations on even exploring their own gut reaction. Because aside from the collective revulsion towards the perpetrator, what is it that you all feel exactly?

Rape is horrific because of the physically violent nature of the crime and instantly provokes a reaction. But, this is not about the nature of the crime. It is about perpetrators of crimes against women blaming the women. Have you ever blamed someone for walking the street provocatively dressed and then “asking for it”? Or, said she was asking for it when you saw a father hit his daughter? Or said that it was her fault she went to the guy’s apartment? Or, what was she thinking when she slapped her boss’s arm playfully? Or called someone a slut? Or condoned a “guy” for just being a “guy”? Or laughed when someone made an inappropriate sexually offensive remark in your presence? Or wondered how a guy like him could be with such a “behenji” type?

All these attitudes go a long way towards shaping how as a society we condone the perpetrators of the so-called softer crimes and then we are so shocked when somebody does exactly what we have been doing – blaming the victim.

Rape as a horrific outcome always gets our goat. But, we ignore the collective mindset which encourages gender discrimination and male privilege and never examine our own attitude, which endorses rape culture. How are you helping this culture thrive and creating an environment where people mouth off like this Swami? I would like each vigilante to explore the answers to a few questions:

  1. What would you do if your own cousin, aunt, sister, mom, or daughter told you they had been sexually abused?
  2. What would you do if they told you that it was x,y, or z “guy” who you know so well and would never in a million years think he could do something like that?
  3. What would you think if it was somebody in your own family who was being abusive or offensive or guilty of any other crime against women, which is not rape?

Are you going to be concerned at all? Or, is it like the dowry crime to you? Someone has to burn the bride for you to sit up and take notice? Daily verbal torture is not enough?

There are a few of us who seek to understand what we can do as a society to change. There is a simple solution:

“Be the change you want to see.”

Sit up and take note of all behavior that violates a person’s body or mind or both, instead of sitting back and getting outraged at murders and rapes. Female mutilation, rape, infanticide, foeticide and other physically violent crimes are horrific. But, the ones that don’t leave a very visible trail are scarring too.

Well, here’s a list of things you say or do, which contributes to creating a society where rapists reclaim family honour and marital rape does not have legal recognition. Before you argue about how rape is horrible and rapists are psychos and these 20 statements are innocuous and not really responsible for a heinous crime like rape, think carefully, and STFU if you have been guilty of any of these:

  1. She is such a slut, she has so many boyfriends
  2. Don’t come home late, it is dangerous.
  3. What else do you expect with the clothes she wears?
  4. Her poor husband, wonder what she feeds him after reaching home so late?
  5. I can’t believe he would hit her. She probably deserves it.
  6. How can we interfere? It is a family matter.
  7. Why are you wearing lipstick? You go to college to study or attract boys?
  8. Be a ‘good’ girl.
  9. Take a pill to postpone your periods, puja hai.
  10. It’s a little girl’s birthday, let’s buy her a Barbie, what will she do with a Lego set?
  11. Boys do so much masti. You are so lucky you have a girl.
  12. You are a brave boy na, don’t cry only little girls cry!
  13. So what if your in-laws say that? So many of your women friends get beaten or worse!
  14. She is pregnant, should we give her a promotion?
  15. How many female chess players do you know?
  16. Women’s cricket is a joke!
  17. You are a woman, you won’t understand.
  18. You are one of the boys! (And that’s supposed to be high praise!)
  19. God is a man. We refer to him as ‘he’.
  20. And the old classic: You are a girl and don’t know how to cook?

This list could go on and on. But, the point is this: crimes against women will not end till we put a stop to it collectively in our own family, in our own neighbourhood, and our offices. Stop thinking that it happens to other people. I know that in India women are supposed to put up with a lot and we do, but we need to put an end to it at some time. This is my time. Hope it is yours!

Penis = Power? Man’s World by Y Films kinda implies that!

Don’t get me wrong, I loved watching Man’s World and I honestly feel it will help some men empathise and get what it’s like to be a woman in their world. I have embedded the first episode in the series so you can decide whether it does that. It is 4-episode YouTube video series with a role reversal story where the lead character is a man whose identity is flipped overnight like the Freaky Friday movie and he wakes up one day in a world where men are getting the short shrift at home and at work as women call the shots. He has to cook, clean and work till he gets married, just as every other urban woman in India.

But here’s what’s wrong with it: They took role reversal one step further as they switched the reproductive organs so a man could get periods and have a baby.

While the character get’s to experience what it’s like to get periods, or get raped on his wedding night (as the woman’s on top doesn’t give a fig about waiting till he is ready or bother with any foreplay) or have mood swings during pregnancy, it seems like he is in this position only cause he is the one with the vagina.

So the woman who has a penis is the one eve teasing, hitting on men in the bar, getting the plum jobs in office, slut shaming the guy for sleeping his way to get promotions at work.

Moral of the story: Penis=Power?

Fat or balding — still not UGLY

I read somewhere that a woman cannot be truly equal to a man till she is fat and balding and still think she is attractive to the opposite sex!

There were other criteria for the  great equaliser like forgetting hubby at the petrol pump (gas station) and not realising it. But the one about being fat stayed with me all these years. For the longest time, I equated fat to ugly. But, I don’t have a problem with it. I am ok with the label coz it is not a sticky one in my case. I still feel like a thin girl (that’s a stretch, yes, but ‘medium’ doesn’t quite cut it). Call it conditioning, call it whatever, I know how men and women look differently at obesity. Fat guys don’t obsess about their weight, the way fat women do. If you think they do, I would welcome a guest post on men’s issues with body image and conditioning 🙂 But, this is about how women perceive their worth or attractiveness based on how they look.

And as far as balding goes, I heard this one — men who are balding at the forehead think, men who are balding at the crown as sexy, and men who are balding all over think they are sexy! That joke would have never worked with a woman! So that is what makes this Dabur Vatika ad is really tick.