Dec 12, 2008

Drop Dead, Gorgeous!

"Ladka mare kambakht ka. Ladki mare bhaagyawaan ki." This is said in many parts of India for several centuries now. If this does not give you goose-pimples, here's more. "Now they no longer feed them paddy husk or poisoned milk… They stifle them with a pillow or with a cloth." So says a midwife from a non-descript village in Tamil Nadu.

So, you think all this happens in villages and slums only? Here's a news flash. An educated woman working as an IT consultant at Chandigarh has had four abortions in five years. No prizes for guessing they were all girls. Here's what she has to say. "We knew the doctor at the scan centre and went to the clinic that he suggested and had the foetus removed. The next three times were also okay, except that I got very tired and had to give up my job. My husband said having a son was more important than having a job." So go and eat your words now.

Now I hear you saying that these doctors only operate out of dingy clinics in seedy bylanes. Yeah right! Just read what Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, a famous IVF specialist and one of the most vocal pro-sex-selection activists in India, has to say on the topic of sex-selection and sex-selective foeticide. He in fact goes on to say, "Many doctors would have few or no qualms about discarding an embryo diagnosed as having trisomy 21, in the belief that a baby with Down’s syndrome will have a less than optimal quality of life. So if we allow people to choose when to have babies, how many to have, and even to terminate pregnancies if they inadvertently get pregnant, then why not allow them to select the sex of their child, if it is possible?" The Hippocratic Oath, amongst other things such as conscience or ethics or morality, just went out of the window. And he has the audacity to say that he 'only' has two daughters and is 'still happy' with them. Many thanks, Doctor!

Someone please tell Malpani that a daughter is not the same as a child with a non-curable and debilitating disability. Yet, in this society, many daughters are treated as just that. A child with a disability. The financial implication is high (dowry), the emotional angle is also high (they go away to another family, we invest so much just to lose them to another home), and they bring shame to the family anyway (molestation, rape). So, well, that seems to justify their right not to be born at all!

One cannot 'choose' the child on the basis of its sex because that is the work of Nature. Not of corrupt doctors(?) like Malpani who won’t hesitate to misuse technology for a few extra notes. Tell me, Malpani, if couples have planned for two children and both are girls, why do they try a third time? To 'balance' their family, you say! Would they still do so if both were boys, just to have a girl too and 'balance' their family? Can you answer that, Malpani? So take your 'wisdom' and stuff it up your arse. And stop the facade of being 'happy' with your girls, you filthy hypocrite! Because if it is alright for you to have only girls complete your family, it definitely is alright for everyone else as well.

Edited to add: This affects me so much more because my Dad's a doctor!

India has historically had a deficit of women compared to most other countries, but we now live in a time when a systematic extermination of an entire gender is taking place right before our eyes. Until the 1980s, women and girls were dying either of neglect or were killed soon after they were born. Today, the horrifying reality is that, thanks to 'advances' in medical technology, they are now eliminated while still in the womb. Female foeticide has become an organized crime and the ultrasound machine has mutated into an instrument of murder.

India has become an appalling story of deeply embedded and destructive patriarchal beliefs, disempowered women who have no claim on their own bodies and the active complicity of a ruthless and callous medical and social system. It is chillingly clear that the macabre practice of eliminating female foetuses spells doom for our sons as well as our daughters and is bound to have a disastrous impact on future generations.

For those girls who do make it out of the womb, survival isn't a guarantee, say child rights activists. Many die in their infancy because they are given less food and medical care than their brothers. Those who do survive will generally get less of an education, in both quality and quantity, than their brothers. Life isn't always fair to the fairer sex!

Dec 9, 2008

The Coolest F-Word

Heavens no! I am not advocating profanity. So stop giving your computer screens that look, take your hand(s) away from your gaping mouth, and read on!

The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It's a girl.” So cheers to feminism - the coolest F-word ever! Feminism helps us face the challenge of being complex people in a society that reduces us to pink and blue.

Feminism for me is doing what one likes for one’s own satisfaction, not proving a point to anyone, not even to the men. I don’t believe it is necessary to go out and do everything that a man does and excel in it just to prove that I am equal to the men and thus a feminist. I don't want to be labelled a "working woman" or a "house wife". Just let me be - it is my choice. I shouldn't be expected to work or not work because I am a woman; I should work or not work because I want or don't want to. I should not be expected to cover my body because I am a woman; it should be because nudity is equally unaccepted for both men and women. It is as simple as that.

Feminism to me means that I should not be treated as second-rate just for being biologically and emotionally different from men. I should be accepted as equal in spite of the difference. It is the complete ban on the use of the words "No you can't/ shouldn't, because you are a woman." So? So what if I am a woman? How does it make me any less of a human being? I may be different from men in a number of ways, but in no way am I any lesser. I can still celebrate that difference, can't I? I am not inferior in any way - I am just different. Is that so difficult to accept?

Feminism to anyone should be never ever feeling that life would be better if I was born a man. Or never ever feeling that I am entitled to something special because I am a woman. Both these thoughts have crossed my mind only once each. I whined about a flat tire a month back, saying "I wish I was a guy so I could change the tire without worrying about ruining my clothes. I am a girl, Papa! I shouldn't be doing this." Papa actually screamed, "What on earth is that supposed to mean? You have two hands just like a man has. You have a spare tire and a jack in your car. You also have a phone to call up the 'RACE' people if you don't want to deal with it yourself. So does a man. If you were born a woman, it does not make you so inept that you can't help yourself. It also does not make you so special that you deem such tasks beneath yourself. So get going with that car." He then hung up on me. My Papa - the feminist!

Feminism also means that I should not be blamed if I am sexually harassed by a creep who thinks he is a man. Feminism is realising that sexual harassment and related crimes are a law and order problem, and not a woman's (or her dress's) fault. A three-month-old baby girl was raped; surely she didn't flaunt her boobs for the rapist, did she? Similarly, women are raped in places like Saudi Arabia, where all one sees of a woman is her eyes (and that too is only for the more 'free' women, whatever that is supposed to mean). Please, a woman does not ask for it or invite it upon herself. The mere thought is absurd! No woman wishes to be harassed or assaulted, whatever we may think. It is just not possible. And even if someone says '... she was throwing herself at me, encouraging me, ...' etc. etc., I ask him one simple thing. Surely you had the better sense to avoid her than to do what you did?

If I see a man walking down the road or standing in a bus, I do not ogle, lech, whistle, catcall, grope or pounce on him. So why should I, if I walk down the road or ride a crowded bus, be ogled at, leched at, whistled at, catcalled, groped or pounced upon? If I see a man dressed in jeans or shorts or briefs, I do not sexually assault him; I merely carry on with what I am doing. Why should a man behave any differently?

Feminism is also standing up for some women who, for whatever reason, do not wish to or cannot stand up for themselves. It means letting a wife-beater know you will complain and not consider it a 'family matter', because it is not. It means letting a prospective groom know you will not allow dowry to tarnish the wedding, because the bride should only be entitled to her share of the family wealth (just like her siblings) and nothing more. It means helping your wife with the chores because she is as human as you are, and therefore gets as tired as you do after a day of work. It means not making her feel guilty because she works and therefore does not take care of the kids; they are your kids too, so why can't you care for them when she's not with them and you are? Feminism is also not blaming your wife for the kids' poor results or the leaking kitchen faucets, because it is not her fault any more than it is yours.

Feminism is not a fad. It does not stand for women society labels as "bold" or "strong" or even "cheap" and what not. Anyone - men and women - can be a feminist, if they answer "Yes" to the question "Are women human beings?". Feminism is not proclaiming women to be better than men or non-feminist women (whatever that means). It does not mean we hurl abuses at the men in our lives and in the world at large. Feminists do not indulge in male-bashing or bra-burning. We just want to be a woman and still be able to live a life of our choice and liking without being reminded that we are a woman. Hell, we know that already!

And hey, men should be feminist too. They can help create a better society by making sure that they treat their mother, wife, sister, daughter, colleague, boss, neighbour, customer and friend as an equal. How, you ask? Simple - just think of her as an individual and not a woman. Feminism is good for the society, because it is all about refusing to carry out or accept injustice. No society can thrive if half the population is treated as second-rate.

Feminism, therefore, is the 'radical' notion that women are people.

Beginning of an End

XX - the chromosome that heralds the beginning of a life.

Sometimes, the end.

This weblog is an attempt to raise a voice for her who is not given a chance at life - the discriminated woman.