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  • Because, of course, you must teach us our place

    TWO WEEKENDS AGO, my cousin and I had a girls’ night out and ended up watching the late night show of Rock On. After the show ended, we hailed a cab, hopped in and sang like wannabe rock stars all the way home, between squabbling about who was the hottest man in the movie. She dropped me off with a loud “Rock on!” and a wave and rode away in the same cab toward where she lives with her husband and daughters. It was 2 am. And I came home and realized I should send up a silent prayer that I was safe. Continue reading

    Scavengers As Models: Exploitation Chic or Empowering?

    I FOUND this news story about Indian “sanitation workers” (scavengers, if we avoid the euphemism) modelling in New York pretty bizarre. I do hope you’ll read the article before proceeding to comment, but in a nutshell: 36 Indian sanitation workers were invited to a conference as part of the UN’s International Year of Sanitation. In New York, they took part in a fashion show called Mission Sanitation, walking the ramp beside professional models.

    Scavenging is deeply dehumanizing work, and an end to the profession would be truly welcome. But why modelling (not professionally, I must add, but as a novelty event)? Continue reading

    Taking the Stitches Off

    THE HIGHEST COMPLIMENT in my grandmother’s book was “What a sweet girl! She keeps her mouth stitched up.” Of course, in Bengali, this has a nicer ring to it but it essentially means a girl who keeps quiet, who is silent in the face of adversity (and torture and ill-treatment), who endures. I grew up hearing this and, of course, consequently thought of myself as a very bad girl indeed. For as a child, I was what is commonly called ‘moophat’ in Hindi, loosely meaning brash and thoughtlessly expressive. Over the years, I mellowed (—or was made to?) and recently, I have sometimes found myself unable to speak even when it is urgently, desperately required. Continue reading

    Taxing the Taxed: The Case for Differential Taxes

    WORLD OVER, tax is the highest source of government revenue. Even as the finance minister in India was raising the ceiling on taxable income for women, there was a petition in the Madras High Court questioning this. The petitioner alleged that the provision of taxing women less violates men’s constitutional right to equality. The HC, in turn, asked the Union Government to respond on why tax benefits should favour women. So why should men and women taxed differently? Continue reading

    Fearing the Life of a Housewife

    WITHIN ME lies a paradoxical divide regarding housework which I’d imagine is familiar to many. On the one hand, cooking and cleaning provide a certain busyness and peace because of a sense of creating nourishment or a tidy environment. On the other hand, there are other hazy feelings leaning towards dislike and fear of “women’s work”. So there’s a conflict between wanting to respect the traditional realm of tasks which women have been doing through the ages and wanting to break free of the shackles and spend time on other things that are (construed) as more rewarding or valuable. Continue reading

    Girl Friday at the University

    Meena Kandasamy

    She wanders like a flimsy ghost
    in the two-hundred-year-old
    university where love thrives
    in large abandoned third-floor
    classrooms, monkeys shag on
    corridors, restless gossip piles up
    like dirty dishes in the canteen,
    and young women learn some
    tough lessons.
    Continue reading

    Of Need and Exploitation: Domestic Workers in Karnataka

    ‘I BEGAN WORKING when I was ten. I used to look after a child for which I was paid ten rupees a month. Today I am almost forty and I continue to work as a domestic maid. The difference is that my bones ache and I do not have the same energy. This is what happens to most of us who do domestic work. This job has no PF or ESI or anything like that. We work at others’ houses our entire lives and are left with nothing at the end,’ Maariyamma is angry but she continues to chop the double beans with great ease. Continue reading

    Balancing Work and Womanhood

    I CONFESS, I AM reading Dr. John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: Together Forever. His insights are valuable, in a generalising “men are like this and women are like that” kind of way (though he does make disclaimers that not everything he says fits with everyone, just like different outfits may suit different people). I am drawn in (sadly?)—perhaps what he says may help me in my relationship and I cannot simply disregard it. Plus, my mom lent me her copy, and she’s one wise lady. Continue reading

    Women in the Media, Listen Up!

    By Nithya

    Maybe there will be a shift some day between the power held by blogs versus mainstream media. For now, no matter how you slice it, the media still rules with its ability to reach critical mass, stir up discussion and engage with citizens in dialogue. While blogs like Ultra Violet are doing a bang-up job of articulating what it means to be a feminist in our society, it’s mainstream media that’s still lagging in using its powers to shatter stereotypes. And often, their retrograde attitudes spill over onto new media platforms as well. Today, I read a blog post by ‘journalist’ Sumita Chatterjee on NDTV.com. Sumita tackles a topic that might have been a strong debate for the feminist movement but quickly waters it down with her gutless and facile stance. Continue reading

    Of Exports and Other Exits: Women in the Garment Industry

    GARMENT WORKERS dying in and around the premises of factories where they work reveal an extremely disturbing trend. Two days ago, 39 year old Padmavathi started vomiting at her workplace at 9.30 am. She requested her Production Manager at the Shalini Creations Factory for leave so she could go to a hospital. She was immediately shouted at and sent back to work. But a couple of hours later when the vomiting did not stop she was allowed to leave the factory. She left, only to collapse 50 meters away from its gates. Passersby carried her back to the factory and her colleagues then shifted her to hospital, where she died by 1.00 pm. Continue reading

    Curtains at the Workplace and Gloria Steinem

    TAKING OFF from Dilnavaz’s post on menstruation and the shame surrounding it, what I find particularly irritating are the practical implications of this at a workplace. In most offices, men and women work in close quarters and it can get really awkward because one is expected to hide something that’s so integral and, well, regular. Depending on how conservative the office is (although I have known this to be a taboo topic even in ‘free’ work atmospheres), there can be a veritable dance of deception. Continue reading