It’s been one of those disappointing FB days. I happened to eavesdrop (on the FB sense of the word anyway — the conversation popped up on my feed because a friend was actively commenting on the thread) on a conversation thread that linked up to an absolutely twisted article about an utterly ridiculous stand on the Deepika Padukone-TOI issue. The article talks about how people’s right to lech at a woman’s breasts is as valid as a woman’s right to wear a low-cut dress. It went on to say as people we are “selectively liberal” and do not consider a man’s right to stare at a woman’s breasts if she chooses to bare them. Somewhere in that twisted logic, the small matter of voyeurism and invasion of privacy (which is actually the issue with this particular TOI) seemed to have gone missing completely.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, 76 people liked the article, and the thread went on to get over 120 comments, the bulk of which consisted of men defending their right to lech, some likening a hot woman wearing skimpy clothes to a sexy car parked on the side of the road. Nobody can stop us from looking and admiring the car, some said.
Halfway through the thread I realised a lot of the asinine arguments, examples being raked up and parallels being drawn while plain horrifying, but were being drawn up just for the sake of an argument. My friend was pretty much one of three people in the conversation defending her stand as a woman who has the right to defend her privacy and call out any behaviour that makes her feel uncomfortable. I was rooting for her, but since the conversation wasn’t on my TL, I couldn’t participate.
With every point made by her or the other women on the thread, there was an active rebuttal with a longer comment containing an even more ludicrous example and argument. Made me wonder just how this will go on, and if much of the banter on the part of the men was just intellectual banter — argument for the same of argument alone. I see this happen a lot on fb and it makes me wonder how much time people have. I’m one to talk because I was having one of those decidedly slow days, and I stayed on, masochistically subjecting myself to the conversation that I didn’t even belong to, to begin with! I relentlessly hit refresh and watched the comments grow as the debate unfurled.
I could feel myself seething with anger at one point and shut down the damn page. But only long enough to eat my lunch, after which I was back. R, S and I had a parallel email exchange about the preposterous proportions the conversation was taking. A lot of the hypotheses — a woman ought to retain her “power” in any potentially-confrontational situation, thereby not assuming every lecher will turn out to be a rapist; leching is not a crime, raping is; some of us know how to lech discretely without making women uncomfortable — were increasingly laughable. But not just that, they were all being made by men. Educated, well-read men, I was told later. Men who have probably never been leched at, faced eve-teasing or come close to being molested, in the way that all of us have been at some point in our life.
And this is just the thing that annoys me about these intellectual debates on fb. It is SO easy for us to pontificate, sitting in our little bubbles of privilege. To hypothesize about what things should and could be like, if only women learned to distinguish between a “good stare” and a “bad stare”. Heck, it seems I need to now learn that from a man!
The TOI-DP debate was never about leching vs rape, that’s a separate and an important argument. It wasn’t even about what’s legal and what can be deemed a crime. But that thread made me realise to what extent people can go to defend their stupid notions, ignoring something as pure and basic as the idea of privacy, of civility and of fine lines between looking at a beautiful person and making them feel uncomfortable.
The number of times and the lengths to which some arguments went to make it seem like it was perfectly acceptable to look at a woman (especially if she was dressed provocatively) as long as you didn’t touch, eventually made me sick to my stomach. It was appalling to see the twists in the discussion, the things that were done in the name of defending mere hypotheses, even when there were enough women ON the thread who had experienced the entire range from invasion of privacy to molestation, and were sharing their experiences right there in the comments section. I was shocked at the levels of intellectual masturbation a forum like that allows. At how we can be so alienated from the truth (in this case the men arguing over something they will probably never experience to the extent women continue to, every single day) and convince ourselves that airing our beliefs like this is a sign of being progressive. No matter that entire basis of the argument is regressive beyond belief.
I’m too aghast to even begin to explain the multiple things on that thread that caused me worry. So I finally shut down fb for the day and decided to share some of nicer things I have seen on the Internet this week. Consider this my attempt to find some happy for the day.
I have been an active followed of Humans Of New York since it began, and I took a little personal joy in reading about Brandon Stanton’s visit to India as part of the United Nations World Tour, for the Millennium Development Project. Many of his photographs are just average, and not stunning in a way that I am drawn to the work of say Raghu Rai or McCurry, but the stories he uncovers are most often priceless. Most often I read the captions before I take a closer look at his pictures. To be able to befriend a stranger in just minutes, to converse with them enough to share some of their deepest innermost stories, and to capture it in a frame that brings some part of that story alive — I think that’s definitely a skill worth having.
Perhaps it is something about hitting 30, or turning the corner of finally owning up to adulthood and accepting it. I may still plenty immature and have so many things to figure out, but in many, many little ways I see my parents in myself. And mommygolightlee shares that discovery so beautifully in this piece.
After seeing everybody’s top 10 most loved books of all time, all over my fb, I was very happy to see this list by TinRoofPress. Im usually turned off by this need to hate, diss or push down something just because everybody’s loving it (yes, why do we do it?!), and even though some of my favourites are on this list, TRPs post made me laugh out loud. Maybe you’ll see the humor in it too?
I was never very good at depriving myself of good food, especially food that I love. Only recently I considered going on a healthy diet, not so much to curtail the good stuff, but to cut out the rubbish and curb eating out a bit. Just to see if it makes any difference to the way I feel, my energy levels and if it makes a dent on my training — and yet, I haven’t been able to dive into it. This piece seems to be written by a girl after my own heart and after reading this, I think I’m going to be abandoning the idea to control what I eat entirely. Just eat that brownie. Or in my case, that extra helping of rice. (God, how I love rice.)
This morning, I woke up with bread on my mind. And promptly, food52 threw this collection in my face. Thanks, Internet for giving me yet another downward spiral to jump into. I’m eying the cinnamon kringel bread and the whole wheat pita. Good lord.
And the last thing I want to show you is this video of the place that brought us to Goa, the place that gave me the longest professional stint in my life. I am never quite able to explain to people what made us move to Goa, to work. I usually just sum it up with “we found a really good place to work”. It’s never enough, but some things cannot be perfectly explained, I suppose. Even now, I don’t miss the work I did (because I’ve diversified and moved on from the kind of work I did then), but I do miss the work place, the atmosphere, the people an the sense of community and camaraderie I had there. Now every time someone asks me how I landed up in Goa, I point them to this video. *goes off to watch the video to make the happy come back again*
And in case that’s not happy enough for you, take this.