Men are Allies in the Feminist Movement


Welcome to the fourth edition of The Feminist Reading List. Find the previous lists here. And don’t forget to tell us what else you are reading or what you think about these reading lists.


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Notice how we phrased our title here? We are in no doubt that you awesome male-bodied folks out there are kindred souls when it comes to the feminist movement. We understand and forgive your confusions. We know you have questions and we want to be the people with the answers or at least the resources that contain the answers.

We know you have opinions, and we know many of you are better attuned to feminist discourse than a lot of us, and we tip our imaginary hats to you. We want to befriend you and have occasional brunches with you. No, we won’t attack you if you disagree with our ideas. We want to have civil, open-minded dialogues with you.

Let’s also get another thing clear – we the feminists don’t hate men. Or rather, we don’t blanket-hate all men just because they are men. We may end up hating or disliking or ignoring some men for specific reasons, but then that’s another story.

This list is for all those men who at some point or the other have been commanded to “man up!” We know that’s a lot of men!

This list is for all those men who like pink but won’t dare wear pink; who like reading ‘women’s’ magazines but do so only on the sly while sitting on the pot; who are befuddled when accused of ‘mansplaining’ or ‘manspreading’; who believe women are from Venus; who openly declare their feminist credentials; who don’t know the first thing about feminism; who think all feminists have hairy legs and bushy crotches; who have/have not read textbooks on female anatomy.

In short, this list is for all men! And women! And for all the people who give no shit about that gender binary!


1. What is feminism?

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This fundamental question seems to flummox many, many women and men alike, even in these times – irrespective of educational qualification, geographical location, and level of interest in the music of Beyoncé. Time magazine even wanted the word ‘feminism’ banned last year.

We know, it’s kinda sad!

Why ‘feminism’ remains one of the most misunderstood terms in the lexicon is down to multiple factors. Its true definition got lost in translation across the third wave, and got pushed along to confusing banks as the Internet took up the cause and launched a million blogs. But the word, the movement, the belief was and remains fundamentally the same as it has always been – it means equality of choices, benefits, opportunities, and rights between women and all other sexes, and men.

Keep it simple! Read –

Feminism: What is it? (via Eastern Kentucky University, 
Women & Gender Studies
I Asked Indian Men On Tinder About Feminism. 
Here Is What They Said... (via Huffington Post)
What Men Learn What Feminism Means and Then 
Realize Something Obvious (via Upworthy)

2. Do men belong in this movement?

FRL 04Hell yeah!

The Feminist Movement has been historically led by women (duh!), but to hold that against the movement is to ignore the realities of those initial times. The first few decades of feminist movements were fraught and often disparate. Women were forced to jump in front of horses, starve in jails, and face up to all the ignominy of spinsterhood to communicate their points across. These were women who were bold visionaries, fiery speakers, and fearless activists. But not even all women were in on this equality movement; even the seminal Suffragette Movement had spawned very active, women-led anti-suffragette camps.

To think that feminism has from the start been a gargantuan gang of all women of the world was as false then as it is, unfortunately, even now. Why initially there were few men joining the movement or even peripherally supporting it is in fact a reflection on the men of the times, and not the women. In all probability, the latter would have welcomed every iota of support from the former. There never has been a decided campaign against men joining feminist ranks, there has just always been the reality that men never thought it their ground to join, or rather, mistakenly thought it was an assault on them.

It wasn’t as well articulated then as it is now that feminism is in fact an assault on the patriarchal system, one that sneakily and constantly insults and imprisons both women and men. The men who have realized this have rallied with women, they have written in support of women, they have sung songs for them. And so many of them have shed all inhibitions and called themselves ‘feminists’.

So, yeah, men can be feminists, men have been feminists. ‘Feminist’ doesn’t define or represent a gender. It is a commitment to equality between women and men. Period. Make it a habit to strongly disagree with anyone who tells you otherwise. Read –

What Roles Should Men Play in Feminism? (via Finally Feminism 101)
A Few Good Men – India’s Hidden Male Feminists (via Kafila)
So You Want to Be a Male Feminist? Here Are 11 Simple Rules 
to Follow (via mic.com)

3. Gender stereotypes are two-edged swords

Few women will disagree with you when you as a man choose to assert that you feel the obnoxious pull of patriarchy in your life as well. We all know you do. We know how stupid it is to be dictated to about the colours you can wear, the kind of music you can listen to, how you are expected to be brave all the time, how the Marlboro Man should be your ideal of manhood and not your neighbourhood hipster with his androgynous choices. How you get called a ‘pussy’, or ‘henpecked’, if your female partner earns more than you, or is taller than you, or is more vocal than you. Rest assured, even the US President, Barack Obama, cannot escape the idiocy of these judgements.

These stereotypes are dangerous and insidious, and have played havoc with the minds and relationships of generations of men. If you have ever thought about how to become a feminist, you could start right here, by vociferously questioning these rigid gender-specific roles, and by daring to forge healthy relationships with women beyond these dictates. You have every right to be yourself and be free of imaginary rules of ‘manhood’, just as women have every right to be truly free in their lives.

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You see, our fight is more similar than you had ever guessed! Read –

How Patriarchy Hurts Men Too (via Feminism in India)
Because Boys Can’t Wear Pink (via 365-reasons-to-be-a-feminist)
When Men Experience Sexism (via The Atlantic)
5 Stupid Sexist Things Expected of Men (via Salon.com)

And Watch –

Movie Recommendation: Revolutionary Road (imdb)

4. That said… don’t try to derail feminist discourse

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Patriarchy-dictated gender stereotypes affect both men and women. We are in agreement. Completely. But this line of thought becomes hugely detrimental to the feminist cause when it is thrown around every time women want to focus on grave issues affecting them. There is even an acronym for it – PHMT – Patriarchy Hurts Men Too – devised specifically to express our irritation with this trend. To constantly bring up your sufferings as a man while discussing the plight of women, some of whom have suffered crippling disadvantages all their lives, is selfish at best and smugly condescending at worst. Once you start misusing this ‘I am a victim too’ card to wantonly drown the voice of the majority of women, you become part of the massively annoying culture of derailment of feminist understanding, and in fact, may possibly make even the most liberal feminists wary of your presence around them. Because every time you do that, you are re-asserting that old habit of pushing down women’s concerns and making men’s gripes the top order of things. You are telling us that, ‘Hey, you think you got problems, look at me, listen to my concerns, and then let’s compare degrees of suffering!’

Would you bring up your annoyance with a car break-down at a meeting about cake-making? No, right? Exactly. Pick your moments, respect all discourses, and never act like your issues are more important than the others. Read –

Patriarchy Hurts Men Too (via Geek Feminism Wiki) 
#YesAllWomen [TRIGGER WARNING: The content includes mentions of 
gender-based abuse and/or violence] (via Slate.com)
Male Privilege, Discussion Derailments, and the Politics of Politeness 
(via Vegan Feminist Network)

5. Question male-privilege

FRL 08This is another fantastic way of asserting your commitment to feminism – by recognizing how you, as a male-bodied person, have certain undeniable privileges in your everyday life. It is tempting, especially in an urbane environment, to out-rightly reject the notion of such a privilege. But it can’t change the fact that it does exist. Have you ever felt the compulsion to change out of sweaty/baggy clothes just because you are stepping out of the house, even to buy milk? Has anyone ever suggested to you that you are successful only because you have a fine rack and/or probably gave the boss a discreet hand-job? Have you felt your heart flutter in panic every time a stranger came too close to you while walking on a street? Have you ever had to stay on in abusive relationships because you have been told that your child needs a father, no matter how violent or indifferent? Have you been called a slut for wearing make-up and short dresses, and made fun of as a drab queen when not?

Jumping into these uncomfortable questions and realizing that in all probability most of your answers are negatory can be a great first step into a feminist state of mind. How you choose to go from there is of course your decision. Read –

13 Questions That Men Never Have To Ask Themselves (via Role Reboot)
10 Ways Men Can Combat Sexist Entitlement in Public 
(via Change from Within)
Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist (via Not a Pattern)

6. The Male-Gaze and Phallo-centrism

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These two ideas are massive monoliths in the academic kingdom of gender studies. If you consider yourself male and are sitting on the fence about feminism, we highly recommend that you put on some Patti Smith music in the background and read up on these terms. The male gaze especially has taken on a million layers in this age of unbridled exposure to media of all forms. It brings to question how we modern folks define sexuality and sensuality when it comes to women; who we anoint as sex symbols and pin-ups, and who we tear down as whores and skanks; how we choose to represent women on the screen, what their clothes and dialogues seek to communicate; why only ‘jocks’ can ‘land’ ‘hot chicks’ and the rest of the male-kind must pick at scraps; why men and women can never be platonic friends who empower each other’s thoughts and outlook; why James Bond is awesome for being able to sleep around with no commitment issues, but no major female-hero film figure can manage to be that guiltlessly promiscuous. This list is long, folks. Read –

This essay will give a clear overview of the Male Gaze theory
 and how it applies to media. (via Storify)
The Male Gaze Has Outlived its Usefulness (via Movie Mezzanine)
We’re Taking Lesbian Sexuality Back from the Male Gaze and 
the Result Is Awesome (via Everyday Feminism)

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7. Assigning convenient definitions to a gender

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To conflate one person’s idiosyncrasy as being the hallmark of the entire gender that person belongs to is a serious mistake we all tend to make. So, if your boyfriend is sloppy and can’t work a flush, then ALL men are sloppy and need flush coaching. If you had bad sex with an ex-girlfriend who had small boobs, then presto! Now you know that ALL women with small boobs are going to give you blue balls.

What a load of crap!

This kind of simplistic thinking is exactly what is turning books like Men Are From Mars….etc. into bestsellers. And also filling the Internet with endless memes and posters and GIFs that push distressingly stupid ideas about women and men. And these often get pasted onto Facebook feeds, and then people go ‘like’ it, and ‘share’ it, or go ‘sooo true!!’ in the comments section. Phssssh!!! We have lost count of the number of times we have mentally slapped people who have uttered the words “Men will be Men” in front of us!

So do this – next time you are tempted to think that women/men are this and that, try remembering that there are billions of people on this planet and that there is a thing called the law of averages. Let’s beat this drivel with some good old scientific thinking, and some faith in the complexity of human behaviour.

What It Means To 'Be A Man': How Male Gender Stereotypes Try 
To Fit Growing Boys Into A Mold, And Fail (via Medical Daily)
Gender & Gender Identity (via Planned Parenthood)

8. Protect the man

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There is no point in denying that there probably exists a fiery sub-brand of feminism that possibly dreams of mass castrations and the annihilation of all male-kind. The second wave of feminism did indeed produce some thinkers who wept at that extremist altar. But, just as it is unfair to denigrate an entire religion because of the actions of some fundamentalists, so it is unfair to consider the entire feminist landscape as invested in just one violent line of thought. Indeed, even self-proclaimed feminists need to constantly whip their hair around trying to keep up with divergent thoughts on what women want and should be fighting for or against.

So, yeah, we get why some men around the world have thought of protecting themselves from feminists, and of launching ‘meninist’ movements. Technically there is nothing wrong with such arrangements, we are all allowed to protect our own interests against real and perceived dangers. But the ‘meninist’ movement at its worst comes across as an institutionalized derailment tactic against feminism. It misunderstands the latter’s capacity to stand up for aggrieved men as well. It tries to play up the ‘men as victims’ card to do just what patriarchy expects men to do all the time – make sure that their voices are the most dominant, and to view any female expression as some grandiose evil plan aimed at usurping power from the male. In short, let’s make sure that everything is back to being all about men. Thankfully, we are not buying it.

Why calling yourself a ‘meninist’ is both insulting, and stupid. 
(via Day of the Girl)
Will 2015 be the year of meninism? (via Telegraph)

9. Feminism and friendship/love/sex/casual attraction

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Rarely will you come across a girl/woman who will co-relate your stubble with your political beliefs. So is the case with body hair when it comes to women – in most cases we keep it, or shave it, or just don’t care either way about it, only as a matter of convenience and not because the feminist charter forced us to take an oath about it. Girls and women embody all sorts of quirks, and to believe in nonsense like all women hate video games is just as annoying as saying that all guys love video games. Your dating ‘game’ should not be coloured by ridiculous claims that all women are over-sensitive kooks and that you as ‘men’ need to be on guard against manipulations. These notions of behaviour are constantly piled onto us by businesses who look to make tons of money by playing us as their pawns. Did dousing yourself in that deo make mini-skirt clad women fall all over you like dandruff? Exactly!

Rejecting this trend that treats men and women like airheads is a fantastic statement in feminist thinking. If you identify as male and happen to be dating a person who identifies as female and is vocally feminist, then hey, pop out the champagne! Because you will be the recipient of eye-opening dialogues on female orgasms, female tropes, vaginal mysteries, body-shaming, clitoral stimulation, rape culture, and so much more awesomeness.

Sex with a feminist is awesome, sex as a feminist is awesome. So is love, so is everything else. Because it is based on mutual understanding of equality and respect and opportunity. The moment you stop viewing a feminist, or rather any woman aware and communicative of her feelings and opinions, as a threat to your manhood (whatever that is), you have crossed over to the other side. Don’t let anyone tell you what makes you a man. Read –

I am a Guy and I Hyphenated My Last Name When I Got Married 
(via Lover.ly)
What’s The Best Way to Have Great Sex With A Woman: 
Just Ask These 11 Kickass Men (via mic.com)
Gloria Steinem Explains Feminism’s Perks For Men (via NY Mag The Cut)

10. Rape Culture and what constitutes Consent

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In this age of thinking up labels for all things and happenings, one of the terms we are most glad about is ‘rape culture’. Because it scoops up micro-aggressions as well as everything beyond that relates to rape. It is time we all stopped thinking of rape as one incident somewhere against some person by some random salivating stranger in a dark alley, and start looking at it as a compound problem that has every day symptoms, affecting a lot of women, and also a significant number of men. Rape culture afflicts not just actions, but language, gestures, presumptions, clothes, and more.

Reading about the proliferation of rape culture will naturally lead to the question of consent, again an issue that should be fairly simple, but is expressly not. We could all go on and on about ‘yes means yes’ and the absence of ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘yes’, but a lot of people will still be confused when faced with the possibility of easy sex with a drunken girl friend or acquaintance. The one good solution could be to educate oneself and as many folks around as possible so that there are enough voices of reason to yank confused brains back to rationality.

And as a side note, never say “I know you want it”. To anyone! Ever! Jeez. Read –

[TRIGGER WARNING: The content below includes discussions on sexual abuse and/or violence.]

What is Rape Culture (via Women Against Violence Against Women)
This is Rape Culture – And Look at the Damage It Does (via The Guardian)
Yes, Rape Culture Is Real, And Here's What It Looks Like 
(via The Huffington Post)
This Woman Just Explained Consent With The Most Perfect Metaphor 
(via The Loop)

11. Feminist fatherhood

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We as daughters cannot overstate the influence our mothers can have on us, both great and tragic. What we cannot also ignore is the deeply significant role a liberal, feminist father can have on our lives. Really, this example can colour everything from our relationships to our parenting philosophies. A feminist father can impart valuable lessons on what a healthy relationship truly means, and on how to identify abuse, and most importantly, imbibe that crucial level of confidence in their children to walk out and seek better lives for themselves when the going gets unfair. A feminist father will raise feminist sons, and in effect, will help realize a feminist generation.

10 Tips For Feminist Fathers (via Feminist Fatherhood)
Thanks, feminist movement, for making Father’s Day better for dads 
(via MSNBC)

Information Asymmetry in the Informal Waste Ecosystem


SELLING IN THE DARK


kabadiwalla connect

MUSINGS ON WASTE (Part 7)

As a general rule the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.
– Benjamin Disraeli

LEARNING FROM THE EXPERIENCES OF THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR

What do Indian farmers and rag-pickers have in common? At face level, both groups couldn’t be more different: one’s livelihood is based on producing crops, while the other earns a living by salvaging waste. But interestingly, both operate within sectors that are structured in a very inequitable fashion.

Consider these statistics: according to a report published by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) in 2013, the average monthly income of an agricultural household is INR 6426. Dr Rahul Singh, from the Birla Institute of Management Technology, estimates that Indian rag-pickers earn anything between Rs. 45 to 80 in a day – an average of Rs. 1875 each month. In both sectors, however, the final product accrues much more value at the higher end of the supply chain, and is traded for much higher prices than what farmers and rag-pickers receive.

There are many reasons attributed to the unequal distribution of profits, especially at the lower end of the supply chain; one important factor is the unequal access to crucial information relating to the market.

In technical terms, this is referred to as ‘information asymmetry’ – a market economy which has ‘imperfect information’ between all the players. Information asymmetry can be defined as a situation where some party in a transaction benefits from having preferential access to information, leading to power imbalances in transactions.

Information asymmetry can exist across different industries and verticals. In India, it is particularly prevalent in the agriculture sector. A recent report describes the disconnect that exists between the industry’s multiple activities – including planning production, growing, harvesting, packing and transport, among others – which can lead to increased transaction costs, market friction and a situation in which particular stakeholders wield more power than others.

SELLING IN THE DARK | COMMONALITIES BETWEEN THE WASTE AND AGRICULTURAL MARKETS

In the agricultural sector, this asymmetry manifests itself in a variety of ways. In terms of structure, the industry comprises of farmers who produce crops, traders and middlemen who aggregate, wholesalers who bid for the produce aggregated by the traders, and eventually, consumers. Buying and selling of produce takes place at specified neighborhood markets, or ‘mandis’ and these are largely dominated by traders.

In general, farmers at the bottom of the supply chain are completely dependent on these traders to push their wares to consumers. They are particularly disadvantaged because of fewer opportunities of what is called ‘spatial arbitrage’; since they are not mobile, they cannot collect cumulative information on current prices and patterns of demand across different markets. This is an expensive operation that is far beyond their capability and as a result, they are unable to make decisions that would maximise their profits

This situation is clearly illustrated in the survey conducted by the NSSO. According to this data, farming households are relatively unaware of government procurement options for crops and crop insurance schemes. They are also far removed from new technologies and guidance from state-run research institutes.

On the other hand, large traders have the capacity to collect this information from different markets, which gives them better bargaining power over the farmers. It also gives them an understanding of how to hike the prices of produce, significantly increasing their mark-up. Besides this, large traders have the advantage of temporal arbitrage; that is, those who have the capital to store large quantities of produce for longer periods of time can also affect market prices in specific localities by doing so. The end result is fairly straightforward: while consumers pay competitive prices for produce, farmers receive only a fraction of the income.

Interestingly, Kabadiwalla Connect’s primary research has shown similar cases of information asymmetry in the waste space. Much like the structuring of the agricultural sector, the informal waste space includes a variety of buyers and sellers along a complicated chain. At the bottom-most level are mobile rag-pickers, who source waste manually from street dumps, landfills and homes. Waste is then passed on to itinerant buyers (who have the added benefit of a vehicle) and stationary scrap-dealers of varying capacities and scales. Finally, waste is routed to recyclers who upcycle it to a product of a much higher value.

THE INFORMAL WASTE ECOSYSTEM | LACK OF INFORMATION HITS THE BOTTOM OF THE SUPPLY CHAIN HARDER

Predictably, it’s the rag-pickers and itinerant buyers who are most disadvantaged because of the lack of information. While they source and salvage waste, they do not have the knowledge or ability to add value to it in any way. On the other hand, scrap-dealers (especially those at the higher end of the chain), are much better equipped to do so. They purchase waste at extraordinarily low prices from rag-pickers and then align their management process to better meet industry demands. As you travel up the waste chain, they sort waste into increasingly specialized categories and aggregate it to the extent that will make them maximum profit. They also know to transport waste to geographies where demand is highest.

The knowledge of these dynamics is what allows scrap-dealers and wholesalers to push up their revenue while simultaneously paying their suppliers a bare minimum. What results is that players at the base level of the supply chain are highly underpaid – in countries like Nicaragua for example, waste-pickers earn between $1.50 to $2 per day, while in Mexico, the average is around $7 a day. In his paper ‘Waste Picker Cooperatives in Developing Countries’, Martin Medina writes about how waste-pickers in Colombian, Indian and Mexican cities receive only 5 percent of what the recycling industry eventually pays for waste they supply.

LEARNING FROM OUR PRIMARY RESEARCH

One of the scrap-dealers whom we interviewed is based in MMDA Colony. Most of his competitors work out of rented or makeshift locations and purchase several categories of waste in small quantities. However, he has utilized his financial capability and knowledge to build a more successful enterprise. He invested in a 2400 square foot yard to aggregate material, and chose to specialize in only one category: paper. Rather than source his material from several stakeholders, he worked out contracts with a few printing presses in the city. These presses not only produce vast amounts of waste paper, ensuring a steady supply, but also shred it before handing it over to him, cutting down on the processing procedures he has to implement in his yard. Once the paper is brought to his yard, his staff sort it into super-specialized categories and bale it to save space. The scrap paper is aggregated until it can be sold for the highest price. His monthly revenue is over INR 1,00,000 – several times what an average kabadiwalla would make.

On the other hand, another scrap-dealer whom we spoke to in Kotturpuram had a very different model. He deals with 13 categories of waste, running the gamut from plastic and paper to metals like copper and aluminium. His suppliers are varied and operate in an ad hoc manner, and he has no understanding of the volume game, neglecting to aggregate his waste before selling it. He makes less than INR 10,000 every month.

TECHNOLOGY INTERVENTIONS | OPPORTUNITIES AND CAVEATS

There have been various attempts at tackling the information asymmetry in the agricultural sector. An interesting model sought to make market information available on a mobile platform, since cellphones are easily accessible in rural parts of the country. However, there are a few factors that limit the efficiency of these systems. For instance, many farmers are unable to bear the cost of using an online or mobile platform, which means that the service has to be free in order to have a wide reach; but on the flipside, services that are not economically self-sustaining also tend to lose support in the long run. Moreover, these systems are not always created and implemented with a good enough understanding of the needs of the farmers.

There doesn’t seem to have been any highly successful technological interventions tackling information asymmetry in the waste space. However, governments that have lent support to informal waste networks by regularising their functioning have, to an extent, managed to facilitate the free flow of information. In Brazil, for instance, the informal waste sector has been provided with institutional support and organised into unions and cooperatives, making it easier for rag-pickers and scrap-dealers to access information collectively. In India, while there are instances of self-organisation within the informal waste sector, we still have a long way to go until there is no exploitation within the ecosystem.


– Written by Siddharth Hande and Kavya Balaraman: Kabadiwalla Connect is a Chennai-based project that aims at reducing waste sent to urban landfills by leveraging the potential of the informal sector. Our partners include Gubbi Labs and the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability, IIT-Madras. Read the post on their blog.


Sources

‘Waste Picker Cooperatives in Developing Countries’ – Martin Medina
‘Role of AMIS in Resolving Information Asymmetries in Agricultural Markets: Guidelines for AMIS Design’ – Laxmi Gunupudi and Rahul De, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
‘Socio-Economic Issues in Waste Management By Informal Sector in India’ – Dr Rahul Singh, Birla Institute of Management Technology


Motherhood: Pro, Anti & Everything in-between


This third edition by The Feminist Reading List is for pregnant women, expecting fathers, people who don’t want children, people who have children for way too long, and people who just can’t understand why others annoy you to have children. It is also for children whose parents have shouted, “You will understand this when you have one of your own.”


Social duty?
Natural impulse?
Social obligation?
Biological dictate?
Personal choice?

Depending on your current station in life, motherhood could mean any, some or all of the above; or mean nothing at all. Few issues (if one may call motherhood an issue) relating to women inspire greater communal concern and panic as does the idea of pushing out and raising babies. Few issues can also cause as much moral and mental confusion, societal judgement and guilt-tripping among them. Motherhood is, of course, a beautiful experience. There is power in being able to give birth to new life. There is something magical about how the female body can sustain life like it does; how it seems to twist and re-mould to accommodate an ever-growing being within its pit. There are many deeply indescribable things in being able to feed your child’s body and mind; and there is courage in taking up this massive, irreversible responsibility. But understandably, this massive onus of a little being’s holistic development is also a bumpy road, not in the least helped by hardened expectations of how ‘good mothers’ should be. As if all the physical and emotional churning is not enough, there is the unholy specter of male privilege to deal with, wherein the man in the equation can guiltlessly move on, leaving the woman holding the baby alone. Motherhood’s biological and anatomical magic often is on collision course with the practicality of living in an unequal world where a mother’s labour has no value. And therein lies a truckload of problems.


1. Why have children?

High Heels and Training Wheels

Though cultural context is often a major factor here, the answer to why exactly do we procreate has always been rather vague, selfish-sounding, unconvincing to those who think they don’t want children, i.e., to exactly the people who are often accused of being self-centered for not having children! Irony, sigh. The truth that is emerging in countries where women are privileged enough to enjoy a few fundamental human rights, including that of education, is that motherhood is being questioned. Women and men here are pondering over its repercussions, fallout, benefits, history, irritations, joys, stigma, and so much more; which is great. But then there is the rest of the world, where there remain legions of women who get married criminally early, have little to no control over their bodies, are never offered contraception as an option, and have their lives defined and judged by motherhood that they had no say in. There exists in our world right now a basic clash in viewing motherhood as a choice on one hand, and a rigid, socially-demanded obligation on the other. Read:

Five Reasons To Have Children (via The Guardian)
Why Women Aren’t Having Children (via The Atlantic)
What If You Just Don’t Know If You Want Kids (via NY Mag The Cut)

2. Not feeling sacred or grateful or in control

FRL309Grateful Leadership

Imagine this – one night, a woman pees on a pregnancy test stick, discovers she is knocked up, and then retires to bed. The next day, she wakes up with a ladle in one hand, and a diaper in the other. She looks into a mirror and she sees a goddess, halo and all, looking all kinds of divine. Her veins no longer are sewers of junk-food/nicotine/alcohol tarnished blood, but of purified goo that is composed of love and compassion for the upcoming baby. Her smile is made of indelible ink and stardust, it can’t be wiped off! Sounds ridiculous, no? But, heck, this is exactly what we expect of mothers. All the time! If and once knocked up, the mother-to-be must appear to develop a glow so pure that it cuts out all crap about doubts, moods, regrets, and anger. While undoubtedly any woman who wants to view her pregnancy as a parachute-ride across a rainbow is totally allowed to do that, it is deeply unfair to saddle ALL mothers with these expectations. Primarily because the women don’t stop being who they were pre-pregnancy, they just grow, adapt, tweak, re-align. There is a difference. And secondarily, because it ignores every normal biological phenomena related to motherhood, from morning sickness to post-partum depression. Read:

I Wish They’d Stop Calling This Sacred (via Renegade Mothering)
I am silenced by the tyranny of impending motherhood (via The Guardian)
I Was An Unwanted Child (via Experience Project)
Israeli Photographer Elinor Carucci’s Haunting Series 
on the Realities of Motherhood (NSFW) (by Elenor Carucci)

 3. The natural instinct or not

FRL303Buzzfeed

Of the million things that women all over the world are contractually obliged to be guilty about, ignoring the utterly natural instinct to bear a child must surely be the most shock-inducing. The woman who makes the voluntary, informed choice of childlessness must surely be off her rockers! Yet, millions of women of this fertile generation have done just that – refused to kowtow to nebulous ideas of motherly instincts and decided to never interrupt their monthly period routine, however annoying that period maybe. Of course, this mythical ‘natural instinct’ is supposedly felt, nurtured, and fed by many, many women, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It becomes a monumental problem only when, here we go again, ALL women are assumed to be under the spell of this instinct. It accords an untouchable quality to motherhood, making it like a cult whose higher power should not be questioned. Or else, you are a traitor to the cause! Read:

How I Signed Up For Letting My Heart Go Walking Around 
Outside My Body (via Womens Web)
Childless, Naturally (via LiveMint)

4. Abortion and Adoption

FRL301Giphy

Once a child is born, who or what decides its destiny? Where that little person stays, what values get given to it? What visuals get shown to it? Who all get to be called its parents and siblings? How truly free this person gets to be? These loaded questions often collide with each in the vortex that is the issue of adoption. It brings to question the overarching, all-conquering force that the love of a birth mother is supposed to be. It dares to postulate that motherhood has little to do with owning a womb. It empowers girls and women with the choice to live a life they are unwilling to derail because of a rape, a drunken one-night stand, a bad relationship, incest. Standing on this very spectrum, albeit on a more prickly stage, is the question of abortion. Some say it is like playing God. Some view it is an essential choice every woman should be afforded in times when the father can easily walk away from all responsibilities. While many others bring up another critical issue preceding motherhood – being ready for it. Abortion needn’t just end a painful past, it could also prevent a tragic future. Read:

The Moralising Compass (via Fountain Ink) 
I'm a feminist and I'm against abortion (via CNN)
Jemima Kirke Talks About Her Abortion (via NYMag The Cut)
Birthmotherhood (via Scarleteen)
An Adoptive Mom’s Powerful Photo Essay (via rageagainsttheminivan)

5. Single motherhood

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One of blogosphere’s most active corners is the one filled with motherly reflections. Some of the most vociferous voices here belong to single mothers, talking about the sheer loneliness of their choices or fates, how they got there, why they stayed, and how they plan to survive. These are powerful stories, related by truly heroic women whose heroism often goes unacknowledged. Read:

An Interview With a Single Mother: How She Survives 
In The Indian Society (via YouthkiAwaaz)
India’s Single IVF Mums (via Friday Magazine)
Surviving Single Motherhood (via ScaryMommy)

6. End of the road for a feminist?

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Feminism and motherhood have historically been an on-again-off-again couple. This relationship has become painfully more complicated as the third wave has rolled in, bringing with it complex questions of choice and gender and sexual agency. The question, “Can a woman manage to remain a feminist after giving birth?” usually gets answered in the most convoluted way possible – with a flurry of more questions! “First of all, do you even understand what feminism is?” “Why did you choose to become a mother anyway?” “Didn’t you know that motherhood is a series of endless compromises?” “You will never be truly free again, you know that right?” And the most awesome of all, “Why are you even asking a question like that?!!” Read:

Feminism and the Mummy Mystique: Why being a mother isn't the 
"full stop" on my life (via New Statesman)
 
I Thought Becoming A Mom Meant Changing Who I Was
 — I Was Wrong (via Bustle)
Death of a Revolutionary (via New Yorker)

7. Judging bad mothers

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Ask your mother, and she will give you multiple instances of motherhood often having been a depressingly thankless job. In fact, this prototype of the demanding kid and the capitulating mom is so commonly accepted that any mother rebelling against it instantly gets slapped with the ‘bad mom’ medal. The ‘good mommy’ is the one who picks up dirty underwear off the floor, whips tasty food out of thin air no matter what time of the day, quietly listens to and often takes the blame for your academic misdemeanors, doesn’t mind you running around like a lunatic inside a department store, has endless money for your insatiable need for toys/clothes/video games, couldn’t care less about the dark circles around her eyes…phew! She is not supposed to mind you forgetting her birthday, interrupting her in public, disturbing her while working, or laughing along when your father is making fun of her. Was ‘good’ motherhood always this warped an arrangement? Can’t say. Read:

The rise of the 'bad mom' in the social media age (via Star Tribune)
We are All Bad Mothers Now (via New Yorker)
10 Signs She’ll Be A Bad Mother (via Ask Men)

8. Screw the ‘yummy mummy’ syndrome!

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Ah tabloids, you with your ugly yellow fonts and idiotic headlines, how you capture the guttery recesses of our imagination! You body-shame every female body that has dared to become famous. You spew lies. You never read any biology textbooks, and you still happily perpetuate nonsense about women’s bodies. You truly believe that a mother’s body is like a shapely puppy that goes missing during a 9-month gestation period, and then can be ‘got back’ only when she submits to a grueling regimen of exercise and starvation. You think a MILF (Mother I’d Like to Fuck) is the only type of mother deserving of space on this planet. You call such mothers ‘yummy mummys’, because the only difference between a woman and a cupcake is that one can wear Louboutins. And, of course, you will never stop what you do, no matter what we say. Because what is a modern mother if not a big odd bag of insecurities? Read:

Free us from the curse of the yummy mummy (via The Guardian)
There's No Such Thing As a Post-Baby Body (Bitch Magazine)

9. Possibilities

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You know how sometimes the best way of showing that something is possible is by shutting up and just getting it done? Just letting the action speak for itself? That is what some pregnant women like to do. They accept their state of vulnerability, their need to get and provide care, but they vehemently reject the society’s dictate of becoming a pampered, unproductive doll for 9 months. Women when pregnant needn’t lose sight of their careers or passions, and if their bodies are willing, should have equal opportunities of choosing to continue what they were already doing, or indeed to find new things to do. Read:

What Can A Pregnant Photojournalist Cover – Everything! (via NY Times)
 

10. Rockstar Countries for Mothers

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The reality of our world today is that some places are just too good to mothers, while others view them as liabilities. State financial support, good hospitals, helplines, trained medical professionals, insurance – there is so much a government can do to support mothers-to-be. And some governments sure are. Clap clap clap! Read:

Mother’s Day Report From A Mom in Norway (via CS Monitor)
10 Surprising Things About Parenting in Norway (via Cup of Jo)
Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes (via BBC)
Women Can Have It All...In Iceland (via Ozy)

 Now it’s your turn to tell us what to read

Women in Myths, Mythologies and Epics


Welcome to the second edition by The Feminist Reading List. Last week, we explored the correlation between shame and the female body. Today, we take you back to the ancient still present today – the archetypes, the mythologies, and the epic women that continue to define the women of today in some way or the other.
These lists don’t intend to be exhaustive, but more of thought/conversation-starters. So please-please drop us links to readings, songs, thoughts in your head and whatnot that are missing out in the conversation here. We want to hear from you.


When it comes to our prejudices, the lines between myth and reality often blur, often without realising it. This is especially true when it comes to the historical projection of ‘the woman’. Some of the biases against women, a lot of the misinformation about the female form/anatomy/libido/moods, and most instances of casual/benevolent/deliberate/murderous sexism and misogyny can be traced back to the ‘life-lessons’ that are packed in our epics. Even for the ones who never ready any of the holy books or the legends, these stories are not completely unknown, and their effects are often sub-conscious and surprisingly well-entrenched.

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1. Not all about Eve

You will find them all here – the all-sacrificing Earth mother with no voice of her own; the ever-pliant wife with no independent identity of her own; the evil wench who dares to speak her mind and satiate her sexual hunger on her own, and thus who must be condemned; the witch who must be burnt at the stake. The list is long, and the moulds these stories set the women into continue to affect our thinking about women till date. Try this mental exercise – count the number of film/TV show/video game/etc. examples that pop up in your head while you read about these female characters.

Read: Hit and Myth – How Old Tales Shape Modern Perceptions of Women (from The National)

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2. The Archetypes Still Rule

Archetypes are like trashy rom-coms – they seem hilariously harmless at first, but become increasingly problematic on deeper introspection. Sexual archetypes trap women inside rigid compartments that exist, mostly, in service of the specific fantasies of men. If you conjure up an archetype, you essentially negate the natural complexity of a woman’s form and feelings, believing that she fulfils one and just one function or role. This excuse then necessitates poly-everything amongst men. Convenient, eh?

The Five Feminine Sexual Archetypes

What Are The Different Roles of Women in Mythology

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3. Beware of the Woman

Misogyny is nothing new of course, we all kind of guessed that. But it is still depressing to note how widespread the idea of the woman-as-the-source-of-all-evil really is. Arguably, every epic or myth or legend that features female characters unfailingly casts them as crafty mischief-makers, or as naïve ingénues who mysteriously inspire wickedness and violence in others (read men). One woman’s evil deed can start wars, destroy entire civilisations, or condemn generations to misfortune. If not for the horrific connotations, women all over the world would rightfully gloat over such fabulous powers!

A Feminist Nightmare: How Fear of Women Haunts Our Earliest Myths

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4. The Idea of Purity – Madonna/Whore Complex

Keep this in mind – a woman can either be virginal, pure, and obedient; or voracious, lustful, and guiltlessly adventurous. The former is ‘pure’ and represented by the chaste ‘white’; the latter is a ‘whore/slut/skank’, identifiable by the insultingly bold ‘red’. The pure one will wait and dream, pout and pirouette; the whore will speak-out, talk-back, and arrogantly seek her own pleasures. If you are a ‘good man’, you must fool around with the one in red, but marry the one in white. Simple!

For better understanding, please watch this video of the song ‘You Belong With Me’ by serial offender and feminist flip-flopper, Taylor Swift:

In case it still isn’t clear, read this: Taylor Swift Thinks You’re A Slut

5. The Irony of the Goddess System

Especially true of Indian culture is the irony of goddess worship and the simultaneous second-class citizen status of women. It is a strange disconnect, this deifying of the imaginary female inside temples, while at the same time systematically oppressing flesh-and-blood women, often in the name of tradition. Seeing a goddess in a live female form can become benevolent sexism – girls are ‘lakshmi ka roop’ and thus need to be protected and cherished – or it can devolve into customs that are frightfully exploitative of young girls and women, but which remain beyond any questioning because of supposed divine approval.

Serving the Goddess (WARNING: Some of the content may be disturbing for sensitive readers.)

There is plenty of academic thought available on this topic: Goddess Cultures in India

6. The Biblical Wife

Following a religion and a religious life-style must ideally be a choice based on free will and reasonable questioning. But as we can guess by the absence of leprechauns in the world, there is no such thing as ideal. Religious texts and their attached mythologies have historically been interpreted to instigate the subjugation of women. The ‘Christian Way’ enforces rigid gender-roles and believes that the patriarchal system, with a submissive wife acting as support staff and baby-making machine, is how God ordained the world to be. This idea becomes chronically problematic when it becomes an excuse for sustained, and of course unreported, mental and physical abuse.

5 Marks of A Biblical Wife

How Playing A Good Christian Wife Almost Killed Me (CONTENT WARNING: This article contains information about emotional assault and/or violence.)

7. I See Blood!

No feminist reading list is complete without a gripe about the inescapable period, so here it is – all the men and women who have strong, hateful feelings towards menses, despair not. You all have been historically condemned to be hysterical (hehe) about this sensitive topic. Blood in the battlefield may signal victory, courage, and power, but blood from the female reproductive system has been tagged by legend as being indicative of great evil and lunacy.

Have you suddenly been reminded of that instance when you accused an outspoken or rightfully angry/assertive woman of PMSing on you? We know you have been!

Menses Madness: Menstruation Myths and the Medieval Mindset

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8. Women as Extensions of Men

Indian epics, like almost everything Indian, are mind-bogglingly complex. There have been many commendable recent efforts in giving the female characters from these epics a louder voice, a fairer fate, and sometimes even chances of delightful revenge. But the originals have stood the test of time and thus have influenced in far greater sweeps than any modern comic or novel. Some repeating themes in these epics are the depiction of women as either 1) pawns or 2) prize or 3) punitive damage. The sprawling Mahabharatha is replete with examples corroborating these themes. Irrespective of their individual talents or intellect, women are primarily presented as beings of honour, as extensions of their husband’s good or bad deeds, as the mothers-of-so-and-so, as willing participants in their spouse’s benevolent polygamy – in short, the woman does not exist without the man. In the land of ardhanareeshwar and yoni-worship, this kinda sucks.

Women in Hindu Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik

Here is what they don’t tell you about feminism and sexuality in Hindu mythology

Feminist Revisions of Indian Epics

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9) Quranic Confusions

Just how well the contents of the Holy Quran have been interpreted will probably be up for debate till the end is nigh, but recent times have sure witnessed much interest in both apologist and fundamentalist reassertions of what exactly constitutes the true Islamic way of life. These waves of opinion crucially touch upon the Quranic position on women, but unfortunately offer no unified inference. Many scholars are convinced that the holy text has always mentioned women as beings lower in stature than men, as ones who need to be obedient and subservient to their husbands. There are mentions of lowering of the gaze and of modesty of clothing. Like many other texts, women are accused of being the harbingers of evil, if gone astray that is. The re-thinkers on the other hand insist that the Quran considers men and women equal, is expressly against violence against women, and that both genders need only be obedient to the word of Allah. The media has tended to focus on the issues of the veil, child marriage, polygamy, circumcision, and domestic violence amongst Muslim women around the world. But even to the most culturally-sensitive amongst us, it is difficult not to see the unholy milkshaking of patriarchal traditions and religious beliefs at play here. And they both seem to be helpfully validating each other’s existence.

The Importance of Women

A Woman’s Worth Relative to a Man’s

Aisha Elahi: Change is Needed Now to Help My Shackled Sisters (CONTENT WARNING: This article contains information about physical and emotional assault and violence.)

Through the eyes of a modern Muslim woman

Book recommendation – The Emergence of Feminism among Indian Muslim Women 1920-1947 by Azra Asghar Ali

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The Many Lives of Paper


LEARNING FROM AN EXPERT


kabadiwalla

MUSINGS ON WASTE (Part 6)

This is a post by one of Kabadiwalla Connect’s research interns, Rajesh, who works at the Indian Institute of Public Policy. Rajesh has been involved in collecting data from the field.

Chennai has a thriving informal market for scrap paper; most neighbourhoods have local kabadiwallas who buy paper from homes and other generators at the market price. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though, since this paper is a crucial part of a much larger recycling network. It’s rather ironic to note that both the paper currency in our wallets and the scrap paper we sell to kabadiwallas carry value.

As part of the initial pilot surveys with the Kabadiwalla Connect team, I happened to come across a large go-down near MMDA Colony. It was around 2400 square feet and used almost exclusively for storing and sorting scrap paper. The piles of paper there were neatly baled and packed into special gunny bags, before being transported to locations around the city where paper waste is processed. The paper go-down interested me, and so I spent some time there finding out more about its functioning.

Paper finds use in several forms based on its quality. Our newspapers are mostly 35-50 GSM, while the inner pages of mid-market magazines pages (like those of Kumudham, Kunkumam, Viketan etc.) are generally 90 GSM. Posters and paper sourced from stationary stores are between 130 GSM and 170 GSM. At the other end of the spectrum, 180 to 250 GSM paper is used for printing high quality magazine covers (like those of National Geographic, Discovery TLC, and Gadget Magazines). Finally, business cards are made of paper of 350 GSM and above.

The owner of the go-down spent time explaining to us how the kinds of waste paper find their way to his establishment. A typical day starts at about 10.30 am, when accounts from the previous day are settled and business hours begin. The owner has established connections with different printing presses in the city, and they call him to pick up waste paper that has been accumulated from the previous working day. They are picked up by daily wage freelance waste-pickers, who use either tricycles (the Vyaparis) or Tata Aces (aka the ‘Chinna Yaanai’, or ‘Small Elephant’). The waste paper is then dumped in the sorting yard where four employees begin sorting it into categories based on quality. The concept of GSM really doesn’t ring a bell with them and so they have their own names for the various types of paper.

Newspapers are divided into English and vernacular publications for the simple reason that each category fetches a different price per kilogram. Bound books are sorted into notebooks, textbooks and magazines. Sheets of paper are divided into print paper (mostly low GSM ad posters that accompany newspapers), white paper (un-used A4 size sheets), black (black and white printed A4 size sheets), colour (coloured low GSM paper) and more. The high quality GSM paper arrives a little later.

Once sorted, the paper is shredded to increasing packing and baling efficiency. Baling not only reduces the space taken up by the material, but also helps in the recycling process, during which time the paper is treated with chemicals, separated into fibres and reconstituted once again into paper.

“We normally get our supply of waste paper from printing presses. In recent times, they have begun to attract a lot of customers who wish to print books, brochures, magazines, certificates, banners etc. For every square metre of paper printed on, atleast 5-10 percent results in wastage,” claimed the owner, adding, “Business is a little low now since not too many people, especially the educated ones, want to recycle.”

He has a point – with the advent of IT companies and the rise in education standards, many have now lost the need to send in their waste paper for recycling. Municipal dump yards have been growing at higher rates with the increase in the number of residential complexes. The only way forward now would be to encourage the public and the kabadiwallas to co-operate and help each other sustain a clean and green environment that would truly embody the spirit of the Swachh Bharat campaign.

So what exactly does recycling paper mean in terms of benefits to the economy, environment and us? Recycling 1 ton of paper saves close to 20 trees, 26 cubic metres of water, 2.3 cubic metres of landfill space, 320 litres of oil and 4100 kWh of electricity, which is almost enough to power an average Indian home for close to 1.5 years! So, the next time you come across waste paper, pick it up and give it to your neighbourhood kabadiwalla.


– Written by Rajesh Ramesh. Kabadiwalla Connect is a Chennai-based project that aims at reducing waste sent to urban landfills by leveraging the potential of the informal sector. Our partners include Gubbi Labs and the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability, IIT-Madras. Read the post on their blog.


REST OF THE SERIES

The Female Body as a Shameful Thing


Look out for this weekly series every Monday by
The Feminist Reading List on Chai Kadai to explore the shapes and forms of feminism around the globe.
The first list brings you articles, songs, and open letters on how ‘shame’ is (/needn’t be) an ingrained identity of the female form whatever its shape or size or body part.


1. Everybody say, “Vagina”!

Most men and women still tend to get tongue-tied when it comes to uttering the V word in public. This either results in the collective skirting of the vagina and its issues, or in the usage of a rather long and sometimes interesting list of nicknames for this critical female body part. But no linguistic acrobatics can hide the truth here – we continue to be ashamed of the vagina and publicly acknowledging its existence is akin to sacrilege.

The Everyday Feminism site is the blog equivalent of a world-wise, liberal older sister. If you haven’t already seen it, we highly recommend that you read through its excellent, easily digestible thought pieces on modern-day concerns of feminism. Here’s an article on vagina hate: 5 Ways Society Breeds Vagina-Hate (And How to Combat It)

Now that we are on the topic, this is a good time to start discovering the magic of vaginas, and we found an excellent article on a (surprise surprise!) men’s magazine site to help you along: 12 Things Everyone Should Know About Vaginas (from Men’s Journal)

2. Historical Art and the Female Form

Vagina/vulva hate apparently goes back far in time and, unsurprisingly, found expression in art as well. If one decides to think about it, when was the last time you saw a vulva slit/opening in a public painting or sculpture of the female form? Heck, even the Barbies are as smooth as mayonnaise down there. Why is the penis acceptable on public art pieces but not the vulva?

The Fascinating Reason There Are No Female Genitals on Statues (from AlterNet)

Art Recommendation: The Great Wall of Vagina – “Changing female body image through art” (NSFW)

3. Big Boobs, Small Boobs

Ah, boobs! One of the most contentious topics that feminists can’t tire of suffering mental breakdowns over. Boobs (‘breasts’ are for medical articles!) continue to fascinate because they seem to be the literal focal point of the male gaze, and thus become an important feminist issue. Women are shamed for having both boobs that are too big, or too small. But then, no one can really classify what the perfect bust size is! So it continues – shaming women for possessing big boobs and daring to show any cleavage, or shaming them for being ‘flat-chested’ and thus ill-equipped to be used as satisfactory sex objects.

Open Letter: Big Bust Shame (from afterthree.net)

An alternate view presented here is this – why are breasts considered weapons of feminine shame in the first place? (from The Atlantic)

For some research help on the topic: Oppressive Beliefs And Breast Size Preference (from Feminist Philosophers)

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4. Crotch Sweat

As girls and women, we desperately wish to inhabit a world where people have come to terms with the fact that we bleed almost every month, pee and poo every day, and yes, sweat even around the privates when we exert our bodies. Till that day dawns, prepare to be bombarded with body-shaming ads selling panty-liners and sweatpants that hide the shameful pit stains that seem to inexplicably develop down there after you, gasp, work out at the gym. Not to mention all the male attention you risk missing out on because you dare to be sloppy and sweaty like a normal human being!

Unless, you are lucky enough to come across a man like this one: This Dude’s Response To Female Crotch Sweat Shame Is Perfect (from Bust.com)

5. Hide Your Sanitary Pads

Have you ever found it funny that most chemist stores in India display a phalanx of sanitary pad ads on their main showcase or doors but the moment you purchase a packet, it is promptly wrapped in a black little plastic cover before being handed to you? The idea of menstruation or the period is just about OK only till is presented in isolation. The moment it draws attention to the female anatomy, or what actually the period entails, it becomes a taboo topic. Generations of daughters have been raised to be ashamed of this absolutely natural physical transition and thus afraid of being seen with pads in public, or god forbid, with a maroon stain on their skirts.

The wonderful Menstrupedia movement is working to change this attitude – Ladies Keeping Periods A Secret From Men Is Unnecessary

And, here is what happens when you dare show on a social media site the consequence of the bleeding: Rupi Kaur Instagram Photo (The Huffington Post)

6. A Mother’s Body Can’t Possibly Be Sexy

Everything leading up to a baby’s birth is magical, only as long as you don’t mention the throwing-up, the weight gain, the tiredness, the water breaking, the vaginal dilation, the blood and the placenta, and all that! The problem with sanitising and soft-focusing motherhood for public consumption is that it breeds unrealistic expectations of mothers, most vicious of which is her prerogative to get back in shape pronto after delivery. The vapid celebrity culture doesn’t help the cause either, unless when some bold famous mothers come forth and flip their middle fingers at the fat-shamers. Find out how 13 celebrity moms stood up to “fat shaming”

7. Would you like to be a pearl or a lollipop?

It would be difficult to find a girl or a young woman who hasn’t ever been told to cover up or dress appropriately because her female form has the potential to attract (male) predators. It comes as benevolent advice, but hides this message – your form is vulnerable and ‘honourable’, and men are rapacious animals, so keep yourself sheathed at all times. Some communities tend to promote graphics that ideally should offend both women and men to drive home this point.

Women are neither pearls nor lollipops (TRIGGER WARNING FOR VIOLENT ASSAULT)

Ad for Hijabs! From Spirit 21 that reposted The National Article

Submerging history, culture and identity

Vibi Yhokha | Kohima, March 25

A visit to Chadong village, a Naga village under Ukhrul district in Manipur will give you a rare view of uncertainty and apprehension living under the shadow of a dam construction. The village carries a deserted look. There are no children playing around, no old people sunbathing outside and most houses are in a dilapidated condition. The Church too appears empty on a Sunday.

Chadong village is one among the 11 villages that will soon be submerged under the Mapithel Dam construction of the Thoubal Multi Purpose Project. On January 10 this year, the Thoubal river was blocked, leading the water levels to rise and submerging 10 hectares of land including paddy fields. By monsoon, most of the paddy fields will submerge.

Standing 66 metres high and 1074 metres long, the dam was approved by the Planning Commission in 1980. Ansal Properties and Industries Limited, New Delhi and Progressive Construction Limited Hyderabad are taking on the construction works. The project is set to produce 7.5 megawatt of electricity while providing 10 million gallons of water to Imphal, daily. However the project will displace over 12,000 people, submerge around 11 villages and 777.34 hectares of paddy fields, 110.75 hectares of homestead, 293. 53 hectares of jhum land and 595.1 hectares of forest land.

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Faced with this scenario, some men gathered in the community hall to talk about their struggle. Each face carried a gaunt look. That look is of fatigue – fatigue from protesting for almost twenty five years against the dam construction. They seem to have lost count of the protests and rallies held. In 2015 itself, four protests were held. One of them mentioned that this fatigue under the shadow of the dam has dissuaded them from building toilets for years. Their struggle is one of the longest against construction of dams in India. (See – Narmada,

Despite the area being a Seismic zone 5 (the highest risk zones), no Environmental impact assessment (EIA) was conducted, nor Social Impact Assessment (SIA) carried out, an assessment that is most crucial in any developmental projects that will determine the resettlement, rehabilitation and relocation of the inhabitants. The villagers were never given any Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

After much protest and talks, the Manipur government agreed to provide compensation, however only a few were compensated, that too in seven installments from 1996 to 2003. Demands were also made to the authorities to do a holistic review of the project.

The government never listened, says Thamni Kashung, a resident of Chadong and Advisor for the Mapithel Dam Affected Villages Organisation (MDAVO). “For us, we will continue to protest until our genuine demands are met,” asserts Thanmi. One of their demands being resettlement and relocation of the whole community together, so that the relationships are kept intact and their culture preserved. However no assurances were given.

(Someone asks about the year of establishment of the village over which Honreikhui Kashung replies, “There is no historical record, because we have been settling here since time immemorial.” Chadong village has been there since time immemorial that the villagers know the name of each plant and insect in their land. As is the case for many areas in the region, records of the village only appear with the arrival of Christianity in 1935.)

Our voice and struggle has become so powerless, says Honreikhui Kashung as he cites how the government continues to use different tactics to suppress their movements, to the extent of using outfits to threaten the activists.

As one passes through the dam site, 5 military deployments can be seen. Inside Chadong village, the Manipur Rifles and the Manipur Police are posted, with one attached right opposite the village church.

“They promised us a better future, but with the coming of the project we are feeling more insecure and apprehensive,” says Dominic, an advocate. He laments that the community that once rejoiced together in festivals is now finding themselves divided.

In recent years, divisions had already started among the villagers. Some groups formed a separate committee negotiating with the government without the people’s mandate. Fictitious households and names were included in a list demanding compensation. Soon the committee members received the money and fled the village.

“People here are all farmers. To look out for an alternative arrangement is very difficult. But we will still struggle. The thought of our future is very dark,” adds Dominic.

The Thoubal River (also known as Yangwui Kong in the Tangkhul Naga dialect) means the river of strength, because of its strong currents. Community fishing is held every year at the Chadong village, where the community fish and feast together. Chadong village is also known for its soil fertility and its bountiful granaries, where a year’s harvest can last for the next two years. The organic food products of Chadong such as bamboo shoots, mushrooms and wild vegetables are supplied in the markets of Imphal and Yaingangpokpi.

Chadong has a population of 1200 people. The project will displace over 12,000 people. Once the dam is inaugurated and implemented in full swing which is most likely to happen by April, Chadong village will submerge by monsoon. The villagers will relocate to another place. They will soon resort to jhum cultivation in the upper range of the lands which will have adverse impacts on the forest lands.

For the Manipur government, it will just be land that has been submerged. For people in villages like Chadong, it is not just a piece of land that will be submerged, but a community’s home, history, culture, identity, and livelihood. What took decades and centuries to build will be submerged within a few months of time.


This article by Vibi Yhokha has already been published in The Morung Express on March 25, 2015. She is a journalist who shares with us stories from the north eastern region of India.