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Finding happy

16 Sep

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.

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13 Responses to “Finding happy”

  1. GaNa September 16, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    The list by tinroofpress was the best! Hilarious :)

    • hAAthi September 16, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      Isnt it! I loved it. I love the blog. Nice good refreshing dose of non-serious irreverence :)

      • GaNa September 16, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

        I shall add it to my Feedly. Do you use Reddit? An excellent place eavesdrop on conversations and discussions.

        • hAAthi September 16, 2014 at 9:47 pm #

          No I dont “use” it as a habit, unless theres something I am pointed to via a link. But I find it very combursome to navigate, I dont understand all the layers — basically Im an oldie and I dont know how ti works :P

          • GaNa September 16, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

            Yeah, the interface is the worst! I tried to stay away from Reddit for the longest time because it looks so bad. But now I need my daily dose of Reddit :D Just takes some getting used to.

  2. R September 17, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    This analogy that S used, drove the point home, I thought – it’s okay for me to be scarred forever by dogs, simply because one day, many, many ago, I got chased by a dog (chased, mind you, not even get bitten). But extend the same logic to men who lech and I need to explain myself over and over again and still be questioned for my logic. And the fact that it was highly (by Indian standards) educated men on this forum makes me far more queasy. Do these men, in the privacy of their homes, their minds, think that women make a big fuss over something as ‘seemingly insignificant’ as sexual assault? Molestation? Rape? Is that what they subconsciously pass on to their children?
    That eating manifesto link is bang on – I can’t remember the last time I treated myself to something before asking if I REALLY need to eat it. And yes, the men don’t ever do that, do they?
    I am not going to click on that food link – I suspect it might want me to bake and that is never a good thing!

    • hAAthi September 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

      Yes, someone later brought up the fact that having daughters changes everything. I’d like to see how many men are going to teach their daughters to spend time gauging if their getting good-stared or bad-stared at.. truly WTF wonly.

      I wanted to share the eating manifesto with you when we had our rice discussion :P but saved it for the post. I knew you’d see it and relate totally! As long as Im not binging I am okay to just goddamn eat what I please :)

      The food link is pretty, click it! Eat that brownie, bake that cake!

  3. Santulan September 17, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    • hAAthi September 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

      Sounds about right to me. Thanks for sharing!

  4. egeedee September 20, 2014 at 1:30 am #

    I love the “not all men” argument. Sure, we know it’s not all men. We aren’t even accusing all men. What we would like instead of “not all men” is a, “I’m sorry our kind does that to you” or a “I believe you”, instead of defending stupidity like you’ve just described. I am reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants right now and there’s a part in her book where she talks about being at an anti-bullying conference for women. There were women of all races and demographics and they were asked to discuss in groups when did they first find out that that they were women. She writes how a majority of them shared stories of sexual abuse (eve-teasing is too mild) like being called out by men on the street, which made them realise that they have hit puberty and are women. She questions why no woman came up and said “I felt like a woman when my mom and dad took me to dinner after I won my first debate”. I’m paraphrasing of course. Sexism is so institutionalised and it’s going to take generations to break that all down. I see it happening in the US, a little bit and sometimes in India too. What we need is to appreciate the tiny battles that women are fighting everyday so that we can have a life equal to what a heteronormative male has in society.

    I love the links. I work for a food cart that sells wholesome, unprocessed healthy food and there are still women who come to buy our food and call themselves fat if they get the bigger of the two bowls. I don’t get it.

    As for your former workplace, it’s beautiful! I love it. Did your husband make that video?

    • hAAthi September 20, 2014 at 10:10 am #

      “Sexism is so institutionalised and it’s going to take generations to break that all down.” — word. But somehow the future here seems bleak. Its going to take MANY generations, and a clean wipe out of our current mental frameworks, preferably starting from scratch again, before we fix this. The conversation I witnessed was mostly filled with so called educated, well-read, MBAs — one of whom talked about the course he takes in Womens Leadership. And he was still defending the “good lech” — so you see why I have so little hope?

      The husbands office is loverly, he didnt make that video. But he did make a few others on the fb page :)

  5. egeedee September 20, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

    It is but we can all start somewhere. My husband for example still says sexist things like “you are acting like a bunch of girls”. And every time he does I have to remind him that it’s not an insult. I think he’s getting it? I think :) Challenge the people in your immediate social circle when they say things that you feel are inappropriate or that make you feel uncomfortable instead of letting it slide. It takes a lot of bravery to do that, I feel and it’s so hard but I do it. Encourage the women in your life to do the same thing. We are all fighting the same battles. One of the most obvious downfall of women is that we bring ourselves down by engaging in competitiveness that this male-favoured society tells us is the only way to be. Then we slander other women to get this fake “happy” feeling. If we do this to each other it makes it okay for men to do the same to us. I can’t be shamed, personally but I don’t know many women who feel guilt for being themselves. I love that you are so vocal about the things you like and dislike. You’re insanely driven and talented so I know you can touch lives if you wanted to. Start with what you know. We should totally do a leadership/confidence camp for girls or women when I come to Goa next year.

  6. egeedee September 20, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    I meant: *but I DO know many women who feel guilt for being themselves.

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