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)

Advertisements

When She #ASKSTOPEE

via Video Daddy

Hindi/English (with subtitles). Just 3 minutes

Hi girls,

I once had a teacher who forced all the girls in my class to sit down and pee by the roadside, as it unhealthy to hold it in our bladders. Most of us were shy and found the teacher to be crazy that day. Actually she is a genius.

Eighteen years later, I still get angry when a male-friend zips down and pees next to a transformer or tree, not even asking me for courtesy-sake while I dance around on my toes and refuse to think about anything close to water or peeeee.

Do we need toilets? Do we need the right to pee? Do we need some kind of mutual understanding that all bladders are meant to hold urine and are meant to release it sooner or later?

Holding it in longer and longer, only weakens my bladder and sphincter. With all the tubing systems, and anyway the trickling way they pee, I do think men can quite easily hold it in much longer than women. Anyway, watch the video… and share…. and yes #ASKTOPEE and if no one allows you, anyway do it. Otherwise you are going to lose your favourite pair of undies and pants and some parts of your bladder.

Also related to your right to bleed

sam pc

Ride for Gender Freedom Tambaram – Wrap Up

Today, on 19th March 2014, Bharathi Kannan, a filmmaker, had organised four meetings in Tambaram for the Ride for Gender Freedom campaign. Rakesh rode via East Coast Road, Kalaignar Salai, Shozhinganallur, and Medavakkam to Tambaram. He lost his way for three kilometres, but eventually found Madras Christian College by 9:30 a.m. There he had some valuable conversations with NSS, English department, and Social Work department students. Some students have expressed their interest in joining the ride when it reaches their home towns and a professor saw the possibility of making the ride an internship project. After two meetings and some conversations in the canteen, Rakesh rode to West Tambaram and had an open conversation with the women and young girls and boys from that locality. Later, Bharathi Kannan joined him as a rider and both of them rode around Tambaram for an hour or so before stopping for tea. Rakesh had planned a trip back to the East Coast Road, but it has been a really long day. So, Bharathi has kindly invited Rakesh to stay at his place for the night. Thank you Bharathi for all the help today. We hope to see the cycle back on the beaches tomorrow.

Rakesh will be thrilled if you join him for a small or a big part of his journey. To coordinate with the rider follow the Ride for Gender Freedom on this blog or this facebook page.

Good night.

Ride for Gender Freedom around Tambaram

06:50 a.m. Today, on 19th March 2014, the Ride for Gender Freedom first heads towards Madras Christian College, in Tambaram, Chennai. Bharathi Kannan, a filmmaker and alumnus of MCC, has arranged for an interaction with college students and staff from 9:30 a.m to 10.30 a.m. After the interaction, Rakesh will be accompanied by Bharathi Kannan and a couple of students from Madras Christian College. They will cycle around Tambaram locality, through the in-roads. Call 08939592991 to coordinate with the rider.



Turbulent

1998. 09 mins 08s.

Shirin Neshat at an open discussion about her ...

A dual screen video installation by Iranian visual artist-in-exile at New York, Shirin Neshat. Watch and listen to singers Shoja Azari, the man, and Sussan Deyhim, the woman, with their voices bore into gender, culture and history within the framework of ancient Persian music and poetry.

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Sultana’s Dream

by Begum Roquia

Roquia Sakhawat Hussain

Roquia Sakhawat Hussain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Begum Roquia, also known as Begum Roquia Sakhawat Hussain, Begum R. S. Hussain or Begum Rokeya, was a pioneer of women’s liberation movement in the South Asian subcontinent. Sultana’s dream was first published in The Indian Ladies Magazine, Madras, India, 1905 in English. This text has been reprinted from Marxists Internet Archive. Please feel free to copy, share, distribute and perform this text and please attribute it to the author and MIA. 

***

One evening I was lounging in an easy chair in my bedroom and thinking lazily of the condition of Indian womanhood. I am not sure whether I dozed off or not. But, as far as I remember, I was wide awake. I saw the moonlit sky sparkling with thousands of diamond-like stars, very distinctly.

All on a sudden a lady stood before me; how she came in, I do not know. I took her for my friend, Sister Sara.

“Good morning,” said Sister Sara. I smiled inwardly as I knew it was not morning, but starry night. However, I replied to her, saying, “How do you do?”

“I am all right, thank you. Will you please come out and have a look at our garden?”

I looked again at the moon through the open window, and thought there was no harm in going out at that time. The men-servants outside were fast asleep just then, and I could have a pleasant walk with Sister Sara.

I used to have my walks with Sister Sara, when we were at Darjeeling. Many a time did we walk hand in hand and talk light-heartedly in the botanical gardens there. I fancied, Sister Sara had probably come to take me to some such garden and I readily accepted her offer and went out with her.

When walking I found to my surprise that it was a fine morning. The town was fully awake and the streets alive with bustling crowds. I was feeling very shy, thinking I was walking in the street in broad daylight, but there was not a single man visible.

Some of the passers-by made jokes at me. Though I could not understand their language, yet I felt sure they were joking. I asked my friend, “What do they say?”

“The women say that you look very mannish.”

“Mannish?” said I, “What do they mean by that?”

“They mean that you are shy and timid like men.”

“Shy and timid like men?” It was really a joke. I became very nervous, when I found that my companion was not Sister Sara, but a stranger. Oh, what a fool had I been to mistake this lady for my dear old friend, Sister Sara.

She felt my fingers tremble in her hand, as we were walking hand in hand.

“What is the matter, dear?” she said affectionately. “I feel somewhat awkward,” I said in a rather apologizing tone, “as being a purdahnishin woman I am not accustomed to walking abut unveiled.”

“You need not be afraid of coming across a man here. This is Ladyland, free from sin and harm. Virtue herself reigns here.”

By and by I was enjoying the scenery. Really it was very grand. I mistook a patch of green grass for a velvet cushion. Feeling as if I were walking on a soft carpet, I looked down and found the path covered with moss and flowers.

“How nice it is,” said I.

“Do you like it?” asked Sister Sara. (I continued calling her “Sister Sara,” and she kept calling me by my name).

“Yes, very much; but I do not like to tread on the tender and sweet flowers.”

“Never mind, dear Sultana; your treading will not harm them; they are street flowers.”

“The whole place looks like a garden,” said I admiringly. “You have arranged every plant so skillfully.”

“Your Calcutta could become a nicer garden than this if only your countrymen wanted to make it so.”

“They would think it useless to give so much attention to horticulture, while they have so many other things to do.”

“They could not find a better excuse,” said she with smile.

I became very curious to know where the men were. I met more than a hundred women while walking there, but not a single man.

“Where are the men?” I asked her.

“In their proper places, where they ought to be.”

“Pray let me know what you mean by ‘their proper places’.”

“O, I see my mistake, you cannot know our customs, as you were never here before. We shut our men indoors.”

“Just as we are kept in the zenana?”

“Exactly so.”

“How funny,” I burst into a laugh. Sister Sara laughed too.

“But dear Sultana, how unfair it is to shut in the harmless women and let loose the men.”

“Why? It is not safe for us to come out of the zenana, as we are naturally weak.”

“Yes, it is not safe so long as there are men about the streets, nor is it so when a wild animal enters a marketplace.”

“Of course not.”

“Suppose, some lunatics escape from the asylum and begin to do all sorts of mischief to men, horses and other creatures; in that case what will your countrymen do?”

“They will try to capture them and put them back into their asylum.”

“Thank you! And you do not think it wise to keep sane people inside an asylum and let loose the insane?”

“Of course not!” said I laughing lightly.

“As a matter of fact, in your country this very thing is done! Men, who do or at least are capable of doing no end of mischief, are let loose and the innocent women, shut up in the zenana! How can you trust those untrained men out of doors?”

“We have no hand or voice in the management of our social affairs. In India man is lord and master, he has taken to himself all powers and privileges and shut up the women in the zenana.”

“Why do you allow yourselves to be shut up?”

“Because it cannot be helped as they as stronger than women.”

“A lion is stronger than a man, but it does not enable him to dominate the human race. You have neglected the duty you owe to yourselves and you have lost your natural rights by shutting your eyes to your own interests.”

“But my dear sister Sara, if we do everything by ourselves, what will the men do then?”

“They should not do anything, excuse me; they are fit for nothing. Only catch them and put them into the zenana.”

“But would it be very easy to catch and put them inside the four walls?” said I. “And even if this were done, would all their business, political and commercial – also go with them into the zenana?”

Sister Sara made no reply. She only smiled sweetly. Perhaps she thought it useless to argue with one who was no better than a frog in a well.

By this time we reached sister Sara’s house. It was situated in a beautiful heart-shaped garden. It was a bungalow with a corrugated iron roof. It was cooler and nicer than any of our rich buildings. I cannot describe how neat and how nicely furnished and how tastefully decorated it was.

We sat side by side. She brought out of the parlour a piece of embroidery work and began putting on a fresh design.

“Do you know knitting and needle work?”

“Yes; we have nothing else to do in our zenana.”

“But we do not trust our zenana members with embroidery!” she said laughing, “as a man has not patience enough to pass thread through a needle hole even!”

“Have you done all this work yourself?” I asked her pointing to the various pieces of embroidered teapoy cloths.

“Yes.”

“How can you find time to do all these? You have to do the office work as well? Have you not?”

“Yes. I do not stick to the laboratory all day long. I finish my work in two hours.”

“In two hours! How do you manage? In our land the officers, magistrates — for instance, work seven hours daily.”

“I have seen some of them doing their work. Do you think they work all the seven hours?”

“Certainly they do!”

“No, dear Sultana, they do not. They dawdle away their time in smoking. Some smoke two or three choroots during the office time. They talk much about their work, but do little. Suppose one choroot takes half an hour to burn off, and a man smokes twelve choroots daily; then you see, he wastes six hours every day in sheer smoking.”

We talked on various subjects, and I learned that they were not subject to any kind of epidemic disease, nor did they suffer from mosquito bites as we do. I was very much astonished to hear that in Ladyland no one died in youth except by rare accident.

“Will you care to see our kitchen?” she asked me.

“With pleasure,” said I, and we went to see it. Of course the men had been asked to clear off when I was going there. The kitchen was situated in a beautiful vegetable garden. Every creeper, every tomato plant was itself an ornament. I found no smoke, nor any chimney either in the kitchen — it was clean and bright; the windows were decorated with flower gardens. There was no sign of coal or fire.

“How do you cook?” I asked.

“With solar heat,” she said, at the same time showing me the pipe, through which passed the concentrated sunlight and heat. And she cooked something then and there to show me the process.

“How did you manage to gather and store up the sun heat?” I asked her in amazement.

“Let me tell you a little of our past history then. Thirty years ago, when our present Queen was thirteen years old, she inherited the throne. She was Queen in name only, the Prime Minister really ruling the country.

“Our good Queen liked science very much. She circulated an order that all the women in her country should be educated. Accordingly a number of girls’ schools were founded and supported by the government . Education was spread far and wide among women. And early marriage also was stopped. No woman was to be allowed to marry before she was twenty-one. I must tell you that, before this change we had been kept in strict purdah.”

“How the tables are turned,” I interposed with a laugh.

“But the seclusion is the same,” she said. “In a few years we had separate universities, where no men were admitted.”

“In the capital, where our Queen lives, there are two universities. One of these invented a wonderful balloon, to which they attached a number of pipes. By means of this captive balloon which they managed to keep afloat above the cloud-land, they could draw as much water from the atmosphere as they pleased. As the water was incessantly being drawn by the university people no cloud gathered and the ingenious Lady Principal stopped rain and storms thereby.”

“Really! Now I understand why there is no mud here!” said I. But I could not understand how it was possible to accumulate water in the pipes. She explained to me how it was done, but I was unable to understand her, as my scientific knowledge was very limited. However, she went on…

“When the other university came to know of this, they became exceedingly jealous and tried to do something more extraordinary still. They invented an instrument by which they could collect as much sun-heat as they wanted. And they kept the heat stored up to be distributed among others as required.

“While the women were engaged in scientific research, the men of this country were busy increasing their military power. When they came to know that the female universities were able to draw water from the atmosphere and collect heat from the sun, they only laughed at the members of the universities and called the whole thing ‘a sentimental nightmare’!”

“Your achievements are very wonderful indeed! But tell me, how you managed to put the men of your country into the zenana. Did you entrap them first?”

“No.”

“It is not likely that they would surrender their free and open air life of their own accord and confine themselves within the four walls of the zenana! They must have been overpowered.”

“Yes, they have been!”

“By whom? By some lady warriors, I suppose?”

“No, not by arms.”

“Yes, it cannot be so. Men’s arms are stronger than women’s. Then?”

“By brain.”

“Even their brains are bigger and heavier than women’s. Are they not?”

“Yes, but what of that? An elephant also has got a bigger and heavier brain than a man has. Yet man can enchain elephants and employ them, according to their own wishes.”

“Well said, but tell me please, how it all actually happened. I am dying to know it!”

“Women’s brains are somewhat quicker than men’s. Ten years ago, when the military officers called our scientific discoveries ‘a sentimental nightmare,’ some of the young ladies wanted to say something in reply to those remarks. But both the Lady Principals restrained them and said, they should reply not by word, but by deed, if ever they got the opportunity. And they had not long to wait for that opportunity.”

“How marvelous!” I heartily clapped my hands. “And now the proud gentlemen are dreaming sentimental dreams themselves.”

“Soon afterwards certain persons came from a neighbouring country and took shelter in ours. They were in trouble having committed some political offense. The king who cared more for power than for good government asked our kind-hearted Queen to hand them over to his officers. She refused, as it was against her principle to turn out refugees. For this refusal the king declared war against our country.

“Our military officers sprang to their feet at once and marched out to meet the enemy.

“The enemy however, was too strong for them. Our soldiers fought bravely, no doubt. But in spite of all their bravery the foreign army advanced step by step to invade our country.”

“Nearly all the men had gone out to fight; even a boy of sixteen was not left home. Most of our warriors were killed, the rest driven back and the enemy came within twenty-five miles of the capital.

“A meeting of a number of wise ladies was held at the Queen’s palace to advise as to what should be done to save the land.

“Some proposed to fight like soldiers; others objected and said that women not trained to fight with swords and guns, nor were they accustomed to fighting with any weapons. A third party regretfully remarked that they were hopelessly weak of body.

“‘If you cannot save your country for lack of physical strength,’ said the Queen, ‘try to do so by brain power.’

“There was a dead silence for a few minutes. Her Royal Highness said again, ‘I must commit suicide if the land and my honour are lost.’

“Then the Lady Principal of the second university (who had collected sun-heat), who had been silently thinking during the consultation, remarked that they were all but lost, and there was little hope left for them. There was, however, one plan which she would like to try, and this would be her first and last efforts; if she failed in this, there would be nothing left but to commit suicide. All present solemnly vowed that they would never allow themselves to be enslaved, on matter what happened.

“The Queen thanked them heartily, and asked the Lady Principal to try her plan.

“The Lady Principal rose again and said, ‘before we go out the men must enter the zenanas. I make this prayer for the sake of purdah.’ ‘Yes, of course,’ replied Her Royal Highness.

“On the following day the Queen called upon all men to retire into zenanas for the sake of honour and liberty.

“Wounded and tired as they were, they took that order rather for a boon! They bowed low and entered the zenanas without uttering a single word of protest. They were sure that there was no hope for this country at all.

“Then the Lady Principal with her two thousand students marched to the battle field, and arriving there directed all the rays of the concentrated sunlight and heat towards the enemy.

“The heat and light were too much for them to bear. They all ran away panic-stricken, not knowing in their bewilderment how to counteract that scorching heat. When they fled away leaving their guns and other ammunitions of war, they were burnt down by means of the same sun heat.

“Since then no one has tried to invade our country any more.”

“And since then your countrymen never tried to come out of the zenana?”

“Yes, they wanted to be free. Some of the police commissioners and district magistrates sent word to the Queen to the effect that the military officers certainly deserved to be imprisoned for their failure; but they never neglected their duty and therefore they should not be punished and they prayed to be restored to their respective offices.

“Her Royal Highness sent them a circular letter intimating to them that if their services should ever be needed they would be sent for, and that in the meanwhile they should remain where they were.

“Now that they are accustomed to the purdah system and have ceased to grumble at their seclusion, we call the system ‘Murdana’ instead of ‘zenana’.”

“But how do you manage,” I asked Sister Sara, “to do without the police or magistrates in case of theft or murder?”

“Since the ‘Murdana’ system has been established, there has been no more crime or sin; therefore we do not require a policeman to find out a culprit, nor do we want a magistrate to try a criminal case.”

“That is very good, indeed. I suppose if there was any dishonest person, you could very easily chastise her. As you gained a decisive victory without shedding a single drop of blood, you could drive off crime and criminals too without much difficulty!”

“Now, dear Sultana, will you sit here or come to my parlour?” she asked me.

“Your kitchen is not inferior to a queen’s boudoir!” I replied with a pleasant smile, “but we must leave it now; for the gentlemen may be cursing me for keeping them away from their duties in the kitchen so long.” We both laughed heartily.

“How my friends at home will be amused and amazed, when I go back and tell them that in the far-off Ladyland, ladies rule over the country and control all social matters, while gentlemen are kept in the Murdanas to mind babies, to cook and to do all sorts of domestic work; and that cooking is so easy a thing that it is simply a pleasure to cook!”

“Yes, tell them about all that you see here.”

“Please let me know, how you carry on land cultivation and how you plough the land and do other hard manual work.”

“Our fields are tilled by means of electricity, which supplies motive power for other hard work as well, and we employ it for our aerial conveyances too. We have no rail road nor any paved streets here.”

“Therefore neither street nor railway accidents occur here,” said I. “Do not you ever suffer from want of rainwater?” I asked.

“Never since the ‘water balloon’ has been set up. You see the big balloon and pipes attached thereto. By their aid we can draw as much rainwater as we require. Nor do we ever suffer from flood or thunderstorms. We are all very busy making nature yield as much as she can. We do not find time to quarrel with one another as we never sit idle. Our noble Queen is exceedingly fond of botany; it is her ambition to convert the whole country into one grand garden.”

“The idea is excellent. What is your chief food?”

“Fruits.”

“How do you keep your country cool in hot weather? We regard the rainfall in summer as a blessing from heaven.”

“When the heat becomes unbearable, we sprinkle the ground with plentiful showers drawn from the artificial fountains. And in cold weather we keep our room warm with sun heat.”

She showed me her bathroom, the roof of which was removable. She could enjoy a shower bath whenever she liked, by simply removing the roof (which was like the lid of a box) and turning on the tap of the shower pipe.

“You are a lucky people!” ejaculated I. “You know no want. What is you religion, may I ask?”

“Our religion is based on Love and Truth. It is our religious duty to love one another and to be absolutely truthful. If any person lies, she or he is….”

“Punished with death?”

“No, not with death. We do not take pleasure in killing a creature of God, especially a human being. The liar is asked to leave this land for good and never to come to it again.”

“Is an offender never forgiven?”

“Yes, if that person repents sincerely.”

“Are you not allowed to see any man, except your own relations?”

“No one except sacred relations.”

“Our circle of sacred relations is very limited; even first cousins are not sacred.”

“But ours is very large; a distant cousin is as sacred as a brother.”

“That is very good. I see purity itself reigns over your land. I should like to see the good Queen, who is so sagacious and far-sighted and who has made all these rules.”

“All right,” said Sister Sara.

Then she screwed a couple of seats onto a square piece of plank. To this plank she attached two smooth and well-polished balls. When I asked her what the balls were for, she said they were hydrogen balls and they were used to overcome the force of gravity. The balls were of different capacities to be used according to the different weights desired to be overcome. She then fastened to the air-car two wing-like blades, which, she said, were worked by electricity. After we were comfortably seated she touched a knob and the blades began to whirl, moving faster and faster every moment. At first we were raised to the height of about six or seven feet and then off we flew. And before I could realize that we had commenced moving, we reached the garden of the Queen.

My friend lowered the air-car by reversing the action of the machine, and when the car touched the ground the machine was stopped and we got out.

I had seen from the air-car the Queen walking on a garden path with her little daughter (who was four years old) and her maids of honour.

“Halloo! You here!” cried the Queen addressing Sister Sara. I was introduced to Her Royal Highness and was received by her cordially without any ceremony.

I was very much delighted to make her acquaintance. In the course of the conversation I had with her, the Queen told me that she had no objection to permitting her subjects to trade with other countries. “But,” she continued, “no trade was possible with countries where the women were kept in the zenanas and so unable to come and trade with us. Men, we find, are rather of lower morals and so we do not like dealing with them. We do not covet other people’s land, we do not fight for piece of diamond though it may be a thousand-fold brighter than the Koh-i-Noor, nor do we grudge a ruler his peacock throne. We dive deep into the ocean of knowledge and try to find out the precious gems, which Nature has kept in store for us. We enjoy Nature’s gifts as much as we can.”

After taking leave of the Queen, I visited the famous universities, and was shown some of their manufactories, laboratories and observatories.

After visiting the above places of interest we got again into the air-car, but as soon as it began moving, I somehow slipped down and the fall startled me out of my dream. And on opening my eyes, I found myself in my own bed lounging in the easy-chair!

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