Love Poem With a Twist

Something about you reminds me of
faint college summers, when afternoons
were moulded by the red-eyed
encounters (only to be intoxicated
a few moments later); reminds me of the
summer breeze with its
first wild promise of rain, and
unforeseen storms within the
contours of my heart, and when
your breath filled the nooks
and corners of my being I
get reminded of childhood
summers at the sea when the waves
would whisper sweet nothings
and promises of forever, for when
I would go back they would have
still stayed the same. The liquor
that burns my throat now reminds
me of how the things you love can
hurt you too: remember the nights
your ears went deaf to my
refusal and you ravaged my body
with yours anyway? You said it
was all for love, and that love
can live for just so long without
lust, your belief so strong that my
‘no’s suffocated in the darkness
of my throat. The many cigarettes
that lay stubbed out of their existence
among the ashes of my heart makes
me remember how the things you
love can kill you slowly from
inside and as I stub my last
cigarette tonight, the ashes
shall see my love for you
perish once and for
all, because I know
what love is and what
is abuse, and they can
never
be
the same.

Why Trump’s ‘locker room talk’ is as problematic for men as for women

“This was locker room talk,” Trump said in Sunday night’s Presidential debate. “This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it . . .This was locker room talk. Yes, I’m very embarrassed by it, and I hate it, but it’s locker room talk.”


Out of the many outrageous things that the latest Presidential debates brought to the surface, was this phenomenon called ‘the locker room talk.’ This phenomenon, as understood from the connotations of Trump’s justification to his lewd statements, is a case of macho-masculinity; for in the locker room, when clad in towels and covered in post-games sweat, men can only unleash their most primitive caveman side and engage in hormones-dictated conversation. Thus according to Trump, men, in their most uncensored and natural habitat, would quite instinctively lose their disguise of political correctness and get down to engaging in objectifying and privately harassing women. He is implying that this is, in fact, how the most rich and powerful men talk when not burdened by the mask of social propriety. After all, Bill Clinton’s treatment of women was worse and as long as this rampantly sexist ‘locker room talk’ is not being acted upon, there is not even any inherent harm or danger.

Trump quite unconsciously brought forward what is potentially one of the biggest issues in the current scenario of gender politics- the classic ‘men will be men’ syndrome. His explanation to his lewd comments and rampant disrespect towards women and their bodies, is the inherent entitlement that operates within him- as if, being obsessed with sexual acts or disrespect towards women is the fundamental imperative of being male. As if, masculinity is defined best by such uncensored ‘locker room talk’ and that all men, by virtue of their masculinity, must objectify women as an act of leisure.

If this is not equally demeaning to both sexes, I don’t know what is.

It would be foolish to completely disregard the existence of men, who in fact, do subscribe to such a school of thought. These men lurk everywhere- in our homes, workplaces, public transport; ripping women of their bodily authority, ogling, if not groping, women, and dismissing women as just objects feeding the male sexual appetite. This is precisely the demographic that bolstered Trump’s campaign and took him this dangerously close to being the President of one of the most powerful nations in the globe.

Kissing or groping someone without consent is sexual assault. It’s popular for such men to brag about similar behaviours. Hiding such behaviour in the guise of jokes or meaningless banter is an attempt on the part of such men to make it acceptable. It is not. And the men who do not take pride in such rampant sexism, feel the pressure of reaffirming their masculinity while present in such male-exclusive spaces, and barely can muster the courage to call out on the sexism.

Trump’s generalization of sexism as a male imperative is wrong. It is a warped image of the entire male population; an image that hardly fits all those men who believe in progressive thought and look at women in equal social standing, worthy of equal opportunities. One of the many problems that Trump brought to surface in his debates is this toxic idea of masculinity, an idea to which many have already subscribed and many feel the pressure to succumb to. It is very important now, more than ever, to teach our boys that being male does not entail being inherently disrespectful towards women, does not give them an unquestioned access to women’s bodies.

It is also interesting to note how sportsmen from different arenas have come out, guns blazing, in protest of what Trump wrote off as ‘locker room talk’. American professional basketball player Kendall Marshall tweeted ‘PSA: sexual advances without consent is NOT locker room talk.’ while L.A. Galaxy player Robbie Rogers tweeted that he was offended by Trump’s remark. “Claiming Trump’s comments are “locker room banter” is to suggest they are somehow acceptable. They aren’t.”, said Cleveland forward Dahntay Jones.  

Trump is the poster image of a brand of sexism aided hyper-masculinity that has pushed forward rape culture to what it is today. It is important for all of us now to unite and educate, and prevent any such innocent ‘locker room talk’ from giving rise to more such Trumps in future.


Why male empowerment is just as important as female empowerment

I’m a feminist, have been so for quite a while. And here’s the thing about feminism. The name itself appears to be so gender-specific and women-centric that right at the very inception of the term, men started feeling alienated. Somehow, the concept of a movement aiming towards gender equality and yet being named after the fairer sex didn’t seem so, well, ‘fair’ to them. And that’s perfectly understandable.
Now the very clarification of the term feminism is very important. As I said even in my last feminist blog post, feminism is the radical notion that everyone, irrespective of sex, color, sexual orientation or any other societal segregation is entitled to fundamental human rights and dignity. However it is called feminism and not equalism or egalitarianism because it’s the female qualities that are ridiculed, shunned and considered inferior and women are still devoid of many rights men are born with. Even though activism is an integral part of feminism and achievement of equality, an even more important part of achieving this is empowering women- and men- to rise above patriarchal oppression.
It’s very very important both men and women are empowered equally to truly achieve equality.

Now you may ask, how can we possibly empower men? They are already so empowered. Well, explicitly, it really does seem so, and in many cases, they feel a lot more confident of themselves than the average woman is. But here’s the deal- more often than not, we miss out all the cases where men feel pressured by what patriarchy expects of them. Expressions of virility so trivial, like fondness towards beer, sports, a perfectly sized up body and the unfairly extra pressure on them to succeed professionally are the very implicit but unjust forms of patriarchal oppression men face nowadays. Among other ‘masculine’ stereotypical qualities involve stoicism, athleticism and a default fetish for the STEM subjects. These rigid boundaries that lock the space a man can call his own are toxic and often lead to detrimental results. Boys raised to fit these stereotypes end up embracing other harmful stereotypical qualities- like a inclination towards acts of violence, insecurity of his own body and most importantly the belief that he’s born superior to females and hence a lack of respect towards them.

Hence, needless to say, women empowerment must be complemented with male empowerment for a truly egalitarian world. Men, just like women, should be given the choice to either join the workforce or not and the pressure to succeed owing to him being a man (read: sole bread earner of the family) must be done away with. Men must be reminded that it is not for society to chalk out what their career choices, likes and dislikes should be, but it’s entirely their choice and they would be worthy of respect no matter what they choose. Men must be reminded to be comfortable in their own skin and not to strive for toxic body standards propagated by popular media, but strive to stay fit instead. They should be reminded that the lack of a beard doesn’t make them any less of a man. They should be encouraged to be vocal about their feelings and to not be scared to ask for help. Men should be encouraged to participate in housework; in fact, statistically speaking, men and women who participate equally in housework and childcare share a stronger bond and are less prone to divorce. And last but not the least, they should be taught to respect, be kind and hold in equal esteem their fellow human beings irrespective of their sex, sexual orientation and color.

It is hence imperative both men and women be adequately empowered and loved and respected for the person they are, not for the social construct they belong to. Only then will feminism hold true to it’s meaning and the world can be made a better and more peaceful place.

To the men who mistook our womanhood for their pleasantries

 

Our flesh inflamed, frenzied, and moist-
a fervent appetite for you scorching inside.

The curve in our bosom an inadvertent invitation
for you to dig your claws
in us.
Your gape an unsolicited validation of
the verity of our womanhood.

The cake on our cumbersome
concealer because acne is
for boys.
Striving for pretty
because it is an imperative
of being woman.

So this is to you,
who thinks that
our womanhood is for yours to devour
and ravage
and to leave in vanquished ruins.

It is not.

It is not the answer to the clandestine
midnight cravings of
your loins.

And  we shall not
drape our form over you
and paint our tender flesh
to catch your eye.
We shall not wait
for you
to make meaning of us.

So next time you see us walking,
remember, that the sway in our hips
and the spring in our step,
The touch of our skin
the beauty in our existence-
you did not give meaning to them.

We did.

 

 

 

 

Defying gender roles: Feminism 101

I have been studying feminism for about a while now, trying to deconstruct what it really is and how the goals of feminism can be achieved. Before I go to the substance of what I actually meant to write about today, let me try to put into words what I believe feminism to be and why it is so important.
Feminism is the radical notion that every human being irrespective of sex, race or sexual orientation is entitled to basic human rights. What feminism tries to achieve is a society free from the oppression of patriarchy and what it dictates, a society where men and women are perceived as socio-economic-political equals and where human empathy prevails over narrow gender roles.
Now, feminism deals with a wide spectrum of issues and works towards finding their solutions, for the well-being of human beings in general, like body positivity, eradication of rape culture, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion rights etc. I want to write about none of that today, even though all of them are very, very important. I want to go down to the very core and crack the code to how we apply feminism in our daily lives and make our lives better by freeing ourselves of patriarchy.
And it all starts at this very basic step:
We must defy gender roles and embrace and practice basic human kindness.

Now let’s look at what gender roles really are. Gender roles are a list of requisites and rules set down specifically for each of the sexes to fit the poster image of that sex as chalked out by a society that has so gloriously segregated humankind into man and woman and made it an unnecessarily significant part of our identity.  As women, we are taught to do it all- be a nurturing mother/wife/girlfriend, be able to single-handedly manage the entire household, raise the kids and ALSO have a distinguished well-paying job and excel at it. We are expected to be docile, soft-spoken, compromising and outwardly (and inwardly) appealing enough to the male gaze and psyche. As men, we are taught to shun weakness that might manifest itself in in any form, always be strong and resilient, successful and affluent, be the sole bread-earner of the family and ditch creative pursuits or anything that might not be perceived as ‘manly’.

This has resulted in generations of men and women raised in unjust and unfair ways, with the bogus poster images of man and woman settled as the yardstick of their worth in the society. Women even now have been victims of chronic or terminal bouts of acute lack of self-confidence and the feeling of not being good enough. As soon as we fall short of ‘doing it all’ and/or the ability to have stable/successful relationships with men, we feel less of a woman and judge ourselves with all the cynicism that we can possibly muster. This has not only resulted in women being judgmental of themselves and systematically undermining their own abilities and opinions, it has led them to be judgmental and cynical of the women around them who apparently excel at what they are expected to be. This has fueled girl-on-girl hate, as defense mechanism of one’s own insecurities and shortcomings. For men, the shunning of emotional weakness and vulnerability and the unjust pressure on them to succeed has led to disastrous results. Patriarchal roles result in men feeling inadequate when not harboring an interest in so called manly pursuits or when they feel vulnerable to their emotions. They feel ashamed to ask for help or to speak up when they are victims of abuse, for society has made it seem like it’s their fault in not being tough enough to resist it. It has disillusioned men into thinking that their opinions are supreme,that they have some kind of ownership of females and their bodies and that a violent sense of dominance is the primary requisite to occupying a space called man.

Interestingly, the instruction manual of how to defy these gender roles is simple and common to all, and it starts with a very simple act.
And that is, to be kinder to one self.
Women and men should understand that it is not their moral (or gender?) imperative to fit into the roles they have been involuntarily assigned to. That it’s okay if they are women and they do not like cooking or wearing pink floral dresses. It’s okay if they are women and DO like cooking or wearing pink. It’s okay if a woman wants to voice her opinions or succeed in their career before they have a family.Your worth is not a measure of the number of men you have been able to charm. You do not need to change yourself for that, no. Similarly it is okay for a man to like poetry more than sports, it is okay to feel upset and ask for help, it is okay if you want to be a stay at-home dad. You do not need to pay the bill just because you are a man, you do not need to give up your seat just because you are a man. Chivalry is a thing of the past, but kindness and humaneness are not. Hitting people is NOT okay, irrespective of whether you’re male or female. One should always give up seats to whoever needs it more than him/her. Success is not gender-normative, neither is kindness, creativity or vulnerability.
In short do whatever keeps you happy and treat those around you with empathy and kindness. This I believe is the first step to achieving equality of sexes and for the betterment of this world.