Everyday Endeavours: The Simple Act of Eating-Drinking

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Everyday Endeavours is a new column by Mamta (aka @silverlightgal) about the things women do everyday and how they are different or experienced differently because women do them.

One of the first urban culture shocks, I experienced on migrating to a city a few years ago, was seeing women eat alone at a restaurant. Growing up in a small Indian town with a middle-class upbringing, life had been quite different from that in urban cities. In my town, women and even young girls rarely ventured out alone. They often went out together in twos or threes, whether it was for shopping or watching a movie or just a simple walk. The town’s few restaurants often saw families and on several occasions, lone men trickling in for snacks or dinners. But we never ever saw a woman eating alone. I hadn’t even considered the possibility that a woman could actually eat out alone.

In the city, I discovered that this was not just possible but happening around me. Though it still wasn’t common and did attract curious glances, at least it wasn’t an impossibility anymore.

The men, on the other hand, often ate out alone without attracting any attention or curiosity. No one around them speculated as to why the man might be eating out alone.

There could be various reasons why you would choose to eat alone. You could be short of time and in too much of a hurry to round up the company to eat with; you could be short of money and want to eat a simple meal by yourself, without having to split a huge bill with others. Or you could just want to savour the pleasure of a delicious meal all by yourself, without any distractions.

Even the waiters and maitre’d behave differently if you are a woman eating out alone. The first thing they will want to know is if someone would be joining you at the table.  It’s only after you reassure them a couple of times (or more) that you are indeed going to be dining alone and perfectly happy to be doing so (as in, not stood up by a date), that they leave you in peace.

This is the scenario in urban metro cities. In many small towns even today, it’s considered either ‘too forward’ or ‘embarassing’ for a woman to be seen eating out alone. Some men on seeing a woman alone at a table think it an open invitation to go and hit on her.

The arrival of Internet-and-mobile based food delivery apps are perhaps a blessing in some way, but what if a girl didn’t want to eat out of a box and craved to eat out by herself and experience the ambience of premises other than her own? Wouldn’t it be nice if regardless of whether a small town or a big city, a girl could go about doing this without raising any eyebrows or worrying about some random man hitting on her or fearing judgement from others?

Alright, let’s move on to the chai tapris now. Who doesn’t like a hot cuppa every now and then, especially in the monsoons or winter? And not everyone can afford Starbucks or a Café Coffee Day everyday. The streetside tea stalls with their masala teas are far lighter on the wallet. Quite often it’s just a matter of convenience and budget to prefer streetside stalls over the coffee/tea outlets.

But how often do you see women or girls sipping their cuppa alone in a streetside tea stall? I haven’t seen even one, to be honest. If a girl does manage to gather courage and stand waiting for her tea, there may be curious/leering glances thrown at her now and then.

And this is only about tea, we are not even talking about pubs or bars yet.

Why is it so hard for our society to create and encourage a space where women could eat/drink their choice of food/beverage by themselves without any hindrance? It’s not illegal to want this; it’s not immoral to want this. It’s just a simple need. A need that men take for granted.

Here’s how you as a reader can help. The next time you see a girl or woman eating or drinking alone, just let her be. Don’t judge, don’t keep staring in curiosity, and most importantly, don’t hit on her. Just let her be.

Mother’s Day 2017: Is woman the only care-giver? by Neeraja Hariharan

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flowersIs woman the only care-giver?

A traditional “Housewife’s” first duty is to look towards the happiness of her husband and his family. The next step is to look after her children and the happiness of her children. In between she has to balance family society to create social happiness. In this entire life-long journey not many stop and ask her what she wants. If you ask a housewife how many times her family has praised her publicly or privately for her work and not just cooking, She would be able to count it on her fingers.

Incredible pressure to juggle work and family responsibilities: Indian parents-in-laws aren’t known to be particularly supportive. A typical Indian mother’s day begins two hours before everyone else, cooking, packing lunch, making breakfast, sending kids off to school and only then does she get a chance to get ready for her day at work

Unequal partnerships at home–Husband’s “Hands-off” approach: In several Indian homes, there is “unequal partnership”. After a long tiring day (even when the working mother works hard/sometimes even harder than her husband). Once she returns home, she is still expected to cook, clean and take care of the other demands of husband/children and maintain the house.

Mothers quit job to take care of her baby: Still in India the mother is expected to take care of her baby. It’s only the duty of the mother to take care of the baby, as if it is not the duty of father. Why it is only the duty of mother? Why can’t the father take the responsibility of the baby? He is also the parent. Isn’t it important for him to take care of his baby?

After giving birth to a baby, the mother is given two options. Either taking care of the baby fulltime or go to work and as well as take care of the baby. It is not an easy task to go to work and also taking care of the baby without the help of her in-laws and her husband. Ultimately she won’t get help from her husband and the in-laws will be too old to take care of the baby. She has to quit her job. And take care of her baby her herself.

When it comes to raising a child, mother is expected to quit her job. Why can’t the father quit his job to take care of his child? Why it is always the mother who quits the job?

Mother’s Day 2017: Life of a Mother, by Shrivaiyshnavi.N

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LIFE OF A MOTHER

For the lady who came out of her family just because of traditions and customs,

Who starves just because she has to eat after her husband eats,

Who kept us safe inside her womb for ten months,

Who breast fed us in spite of all her pain,

Who sacrificed her sleep just to pamper and take care of us.

For the lady who works all day at home no matter how sick she is.

Who cooks food for the choice of others,

Who washes clothes, and restrooms which stink,

Who bares all those Period Cramps

Who still manages to do the gender roles assigned to her by the society.

For the lady who does all these things, but gets no recognition.

What she really gets is a title saying “SHE IS JUST A HOUSEWIFE”

Whose sacrifices are not seen, or noticed.

Oh! Yes, Its Mother’s Day Today, and what we do is just post Facebook Status about our beloved mother for this day alone.

For the lady who did all those things without expectations,

Why can’t you spend quality time with her?

Why can’t you treat her everyday like the way you treat her on mother’s day?

Why can’t you get to know about her and her favourites?

Why can’t you take her out for her favourite movie?

For the lady who protected you for your low grades from your daddy,

How well do you know her?

Do you try to get to know her favourite food?

Do you try to get to know her favourite book?

Do you try to get to know her favourite actor?

Do you try to get to know her favourite place to go out?

For the lady who MAKES the house a HOME,

Let us make her feel special everyday,

Let every day remain MOTHER’S DAY.

by Shrivaiyshnavi.N  

I will–An Ode to Myself, by Michelle Ann James

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I will – an ode to myself

by Michelle Ann James

(Michelle reads her poem.)

“Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the happiest of them all?”
That would be me. Yes. Me.
Happy and in love with myself.
I will celebrate myself like a king would
After his victory.
Conquering patriarchy by its beard.
Then throw a lavish feast, to ravish me
And all those women and men before me
Who held themselves unworthy of debauchery.
I will live for that little girl who was assaulted
Even before she knew she had a vagina.
I will live for that little boy who was groped
Even before he understood what pleasure is.
I will live for that teenage girl
Who feared that discreet knock on her door.
I will live for that pubescent boy
With the story no one would believe.
I will live for that woman
Who slogged her body and heart at the gym
Hoping her man would love her a little more.
I will live for that man
Who sucked it all in and died inside
Because society claims men must not cry.
I will live for all those lives
that patriarchy took.
I will lionize every modicum of my existence
And never shy away from the looking glass.
I will treat myself to rich food
And laugh gallantly.
I will dance and sing to my own rhythm.
And set boundaries –none.
I will strive to be kind and generous.
Humble and wise.
I will glorify my whole being
Relentlessly defend my integrity and pride.
I will not wait for a moment
Or a person
Or a label
Or a phenomenon
To define me or celebrate me.
I will execute my freedom
Most recklessly.
I will live to the fullest and a little more.
I will seek who I am and find her
Bring her to life and let the forces guide her.
I will restore the pride of my clan
I will reclaim every spoil from history
Behold! I will strive to rewrite history
No glory. No shame.
No country. No name.
No pseudonyms. No pretense.
No labels or penance.
Just me. Baring everything.
Never surrendering to somebody’s idea of me.
Never ceasing to be I.
And in a while, you will hear the clatter of hoofs,
Race-less horses and soldiers, hardened from bloody wars.
You will witness a rebellion rising in the east.
Hear! The wind bearing my war cry.
I am the new woman, awakened, reborn.
Flawed and flawless.
Feared and fearless.
No kingdom will have any hold over me.
I am she.
I am me.
And I will be free.
I will.

நிச்சியம் சாதிக்க முடியும் (We can achieve anything!)

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This post is by N. Santha, Prajnya Administrator. Santha expresses her faith that women can overcome any challenges that life throws at them, and hopes that the voices of Indian women will resound across the eight directions of the globe.

பெண்ணின் பெருமை

‘பெண் இன்றிப் பெருமையும் இல்லை கண் இன்றி காட்சியும் இல்லை’

      பெண் என்றாலே பெருமைதான். பெண் என்றாலே திறமைதான். பெண் என்றாலே வெற்றிதான். பல பல சாதனை புரிவோர் பெண்கள்.

பாரதப் பெண்களே நம் தேசத்தின் ஜீவநாதம். அந்த இனிய நாதம் எட்டுத் திக்கும் கேட்க நாம் ஒற்றுமையுடன் பாடுபடவேண்டும்.

‘நாம் ஆண்களுக்கு எந்த வகையிலும் சளைத்தவர்கள் இல்லை’ என்பதனை நிரூபிக்கும் வகையில் மண் முதல் விண் வரை சமூகத்தின் எத்துறையை எடுத்துக் கொண்டாலும் பெண்கள் இல்லாத துறையே இல்லை. என்ற அளவிற்கு வளர்ச்சி கண்டுள்ளமையை நாம் இன்று காணக்கூடியதாக இருக்கின்றது.

பெண்கள் இன்றும் பல்வேறு கொடுமைகளுக்கு ஆளாகி வருகின்றனர்.    (கொலை, கொள்ளை, பாலியல் ரீதியான துன்பங்கள், அடிமை தனம்) ஆண் ஆதிக்கத்தின் கீழ் இருக்கும் பெண்களை வெளி கொண்டுவர வேண்டும். அவர்கள் தனக்கு நடக்கும்  கொடுமைகளை எதிர்த்து குரல் கொடுக்க வேண்டும்.

தனக்கு நடக்கும் கொடுமைகளிடம் இருந்து விடுபட சுயமரியாதையோடும், துணிவோடும், தன்நம்பிக்கையோடும், தைரியத்தோடும், நேர்மையுடனும் விழிப்புணர்வோடும்பெண்கள் போராடினால் வாழ்கையில்  முழுமையான வெற்றி பெற முடியும். சாதனை புரிந்த பெண்களாக மாற முடியும்.

Campaigning Like it’s 1969: Thoughts on the American Election Season

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A few months ago, I was at a bookstore and a conversation started between myself and another woman who was probably in her 60s.  Discussion turned to the already divisive political scene, especially with regard to women’s issues.  “I marched for the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] and there were a lot of people who did not agree with me, but I have never felt as under-attack as a women as I do right now.”

Listening to politicians discuss rape, abortion, and equal pay in the months since that conversation has given me sad insight to what it must have been like for women over forty years ago.    An all too real joke has been going around this weekend with our time change: “Remember on Sunday to set your clocks back one hour.  On Tuesday, be careful you don’t set the country back 50 years.”

Locally, I have been doing my part for the past three months giving much of my free time campaigning for a female Democrat candidate for State Representative here in Michigan.  She is running on Campaign Reform- so no special interest or PAC money helping her out.  In other words, she is a long shot.  What saddens me even more than seeing a principled female fighting so hard for every vote is knowing her opponent has not been held accountable for his chauvinistic behavior.

In Michigan, where the Legislative branch and Governor are Republican, a lot of legislation has been fast tracked with little or no debate.  Back in June, the House was doing just that with a set of bills which would have made it virtually impossible for any abortion clinic in the state to stay open.   Democrats in the House spoke up and forced a debate on the issue.  At one point during discussion on the floor, Brown commented, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina, but no means no.”

Representative Lisa Brown and her colleague, Representative  Barb Byrum, were censured and told they would not be recognized on the House floor the next day for throwing “a temper tantrum”.

When asked about the incident on a radio show that week, Representative Wayne Schmidt said, on more than one occasion, “It’s like giving a kid a timeout for a day.”  That’s right, my Representative in the Michigan House referred to his two female colleagues as one would refer to children.

Of course, anyone following the U.S. elections even passively has surely heard one of any number of candidates’ rants about women and rape.  Todd Akin opened up this absurd and completely unscientific dialogue when he claimed abortion was not really an issue because victims of “legitimate rape” rarely became pregnant.  A week ago, Indiana candidate Richard Mourdock said he does not support abortion for victims of rape because the resulting pregnancies are “something God intended.”  Just this week, Washington Republican candidate John Koster was quoted as referring the the criminal act as “the rape thing”.  When asked whether he would support abortion for rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life, he replied allowances should be made for a mother’s life, but “…on the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s a consequence of this crime, how does that make it better?”

The truth is Akin, Mourdock, and Koster are not nearly as frightening to me as the other Republican candidates running for national office who believe in the same no exceptions rules for rape.  The three in the press sound absurd, these others are not even being scrutinized for their extreme views.

Yet, it really comes as no surprise considering the example being set at the national level.  Governor Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. Many Americans have either forgotten or never knew Paul Ryan supported a bill in the US House that would redefine rape as “forcible” or not.  In other words, if a woman wanted an abortion, she would have to prove the rape was forced.  An unconscious woman, for whatever reason, would not qualify as a rape victim under the proposed new rules.  The bill failed, but Ryan’s belief rape is only acceptable if the mother’s life is in danger lives on.

There is also a movement in some states here–Arizona and Colorado so far– to allow employers to deny women birth control coverage if said employer does not believe a woman should take The Pill.  Women would have to present their case for birth control to their employer, not their doctor, reversing forty years of medical practice. Politicians are putting themselves between women and their doctors in the most personal decisions a woman can make.  At the same time, many politicians are propose to trim budgets by de-funding Planned Parenthood, an organization which provides birth control, STD testing, and cancer screenings (among other medical care) for the poor and uninsured.  More and more women are feeling cornered when it comes to their health care in some of these areas.

But it is not just about reproductive rights. Much has also been made of Mitt Romney’s “binders of women”.  Romney’s response to a question during the second Presidential debate about whether he supports equal pay prompted his story about wanting to hire a woman for an open position and calling for his staff (presumably men) to bring him viable women candidates.  They brought him binders of qualified women and he selected one.

The reality is, women are the majority of breadwinners in America now.  If we are not paid fairly, this entire nation now suffers.  President Obama answered this question by pointing to the fact he signed into law the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (a bill which allowed women to sue for discrepancy in wages when it was discovered, not in a limited time period as before) and his attempts to get the Fair Pay Act passed in Congress.  Governor Romney’s response to the question of equal pay was to say he hired a couple women while in office and he wants to create more jobs in America, some of which will go to women.  While the binders of women comment has become a punchline in many circles, the harsh reality of his answer has become lost.

I am in my early 30s and have been politically active (though on different sides of the aisle at times) since a fairly young age, but I find myself thinking more about my gender over the past couple years than I ever have before.  In my life, women have been able to march forward towards equality.  As I write this, we are hours away from our elections here in the U.S.  I hope my nation is with me and we continue to go forward.