Corporate brand feminism !

A couple of days ago, I chanced upon this interview of Estee Adoram, who is a successful comic show booker in the United States carried by the Lenny Magazine. The subject and the highlight of the piece was her refusal to be identified as a feminist. While in her long career in the comic show business, as one could imagine, she would have had to overcome many challenges to reach where she is today, her iron-clad self refuses to acknowledge any. While this approach may work for her, it is rather disappointing to see her fail to reach out to women who deal with misogyny and discriminatory treatment at workplace.

I invited a dear friend- Gargi Mishra to give us her opinion on this interview piece. To me Gargi is an avid reader, thinker and a critique. I am often brought up to speed on raging debates through her stimulating emails. Her view on feminism is also complemented by her work in the arena with the Women’s Rights Initiative at Lawyers Collective.

Here is what she had to say:

I grew up in India in a middle-class family, and my parents valued academic success above all else. They never made me feel that I was intellectually inferior to my male peers. I had the same opportunities as boys of my socio-economic background, and I worked hard and did well in school. It was easy for me to slip into the belief that only personal talents and qualities mattered in life. But while I didn’t have any fetters placed on my academic or professional ambitions, I soon found out how stifling and dangerous our culture can be for girls. I could not dress in a certain way, I could not talk to boys on the phone (“what sort of a girl has guy friends? Certainly not one from a decent family!”- my parents would ask accusingly), I could not even whistle in the house or in the street (“That’s not what girls do!”). I found myself shrinking from the openly lecherous glances of men on the street, I had to fight back tears when anonymous hands grabbed my breasts in the milling crowds in Delhi’s biggest metro station and I hated myself for years because I did not fit into societal standards of female beauty. But I did not see this as a part of a wider, structural problem. Yes, many of my female school and college friends too had been sexually harassed on the streets, and reading the papers everyday brought one face to face with the reality of rapes and domestic violence. But I had somehow accepted it as the natural order of things. Bad things happened in the wider world, girls were vulnerable in the public sphere and so one had to take certain precautions to be safe.

It is feminism that opened my eyes to the reality, that provided me with a startling perspective on things. I learned about patriarchy, the prison of gender, the underlying factors behind violence and discrimination against women, the corrosive beauty standards imposed on women. Feminism was a lens through which disparate things like beauty, violence, love, history were brought together and made coherent. It taught me to think in ways that made truth accessible and knowable and it was wholly empowering. It also taught me about privilege and power.

I was born into a upper-caste family in India, and I too benefited from centuries of advantage and entitlements granted to my caste. My father was in stable employment and he saw the value of educating me in the best schools in Delhi. Being in Delhi, having access to books and the internet and caring teachers, I was exposed to an expansive world view and had the opportunity to pursue a career of my choice. And feminism helped me to see that these circumstances were really a privilege granted to me by reason of my class and caste. I learned to see the deeply entrenched structural disadvantages facing poor, “low”-caste men and women and the staggering barriers that disabled people or LGBT persons fought against.

Feminism encouraged an ethic of empathy, of learning to see the world beyond the narrow confines of my own identity. And that is perhaps what Estee Adoran and women like her should also learn.
In a short interview by Lena Dunham, Estee Adoran, the charismatic doyenne of New York’s stand-up comedy club the Comedy Cellar, takes care to stress that she is not a feminist. As a white, Jewish woman in America, she has risen to the top managerial position in the celebrated club that hosts such comedy greats like Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K. She is a friend and a mentor to many comics and Dunham notes Adoran’s magnetic personality and the warm regard and frank admiration that she enjoys from famous artists.

Adoran says that she joined the club as a hostess and rose to her current position as “Every time someone left or died, I got a part of their job“. She attributes her success to her ambition to be the person in charge. She says that, “I was in charge. I have pictures to show, to prove it. There is something in my character, I guess, that makes it happen. I never felt: “I am not allowed to do that because I’m a woman.” Feminism would step in and say, this is a blockage here. I never felt that. I worked, I worked hard, and I always was recognized for the job.

This exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of feminism- feminism is not an ideology for inventing excuses and barriers to progress and success! It is also unfortunately a very common misunderstanding. Perhaps it’s encouraged by the particularly American myth of hard work and grit being the only factors responsible for success. Adoran, being white and Jewish (Hollywood and American media have a significant number of Jewish people in positions of power), has benefited from the advantages of her race. Saying this is not a way to diminish her talents and her hard work. Her success and fame is admirable and laudatory but it does call for an acknowledgment of her privilege and attendant responsibility.  She is in a position to help young, struggling female comediennes to navigate a hostile, male-dominated entertainment industry. She recognizes that there may be a problem of unequal pay, but chooses to limit her observation to the fact that yes, she would like to make more money but “it’s not an issue” for her.
Her decision to not identify as a feminist is an unfortunate cop-out, an evasion of the debt that she owes to feminists that made it possible for women like her to be equal citizens in America, to be independent and respected business-owners and managers. Since the struggle for equal rights is still not over, not by a long shot, powerful and successful women like her can do their bit to advance the cause. But it requires a willingness to look beyond oneself, to recognize one’s responsibility and power.

Back off! Its my muesli!

Get this- So a couple of weeks ago, me and my flatmates got into a huge fight. It started from me asking one of them if they had seen the pineapple I had bought, since it had gone missing from the refrigerator. They replied no and began a hugely unnecessary name calling which apparently arose from our collective apathy towards the cleanliness situation in the flat. While this person totally succeeded in sidetracking the issue, I persisted and found out who the pineapple thief was.

Well, they had the decency to buy me another pineapple, but since then, I have been experiencing another problem. Someone is stealing my muesli! At first I began to suspect it when I would walk into the kitchen and find muesli bits scattered on the counter. What compounds my suspicion is that no-one else has got muesli in their shelves. So either my muesli is doing a toy-story or someone has been manhandling it.

This afternoon, when I went into my kitchen I found myself, staring at bits of my precious coconut muesli hideously  swept under the garbage bag. I went to check my muesli bag, it was closed so securely that my suspicions of it flying out under zero gravity conditions and landing behind the bag were put to rest. I must admit. This is mildly annoying. Has any of you dealt with such a situation before? Let me know what you did and help a sister out! 🙂

 

P.S. – Apologies for this post being after such a long gap. I promise I will try being more regular!

This is not a cooking blog

Once you figure out how are you going to fit cooking in your youtube video watching schedule, it can be quite a pleasant exercise. Some of you like my cooking (there has got to be something wrong with you guys!), so I am writing this to share a cooking hack. If you are a workaholic, this is the right post for you.

The ingredients include some spaghetti, instant mushroom soup mix, salt, oil, water and mushrooms (use quantities by approximation, I trust you are not an idiot!). You can begin by putting the spaghetti to boil in water. Sprinkle a hint of oil and some salt and wait for it to cook. It should take about ten minutes in total. When the spaghetti is close to being cooked, put a pan on heat and sauté the mushrooms in some oil. As the spaghetti is close to cooking, pour the spaghetti along some of the cooking water in the pan and add the instant soup mix. Stir continuously to avoid lumps and let the spaghetti cook in the soup. Go ahead, grate some cheese on top if you are feeling cheesy!

And it turns out something like this:

spaghetti and soup
Yumm!

Showering in a parallel universe!

showering in parallel universe!
‘So this is more or less how it feels’

So you know how shower is the place where some people get the best of ideas. Some people even plan their days in the shower and so on. However, there are certain things in the shower which are incredulously annoying. Firstly, we have this motion sensor exhaust fan in the shower, which turns on every time it senses movement, and even goes on, when you are just walking across the hallway. This makes me feel like the fan is saying, ‘I’ve got my eye on you, baby!’

Also, the shower knob which controls the mix for hot and cold is my arch nemesis. I am never able to find the correct mix and more often than not, either end up getting scalded or frozen to death. And then of course, there is the one off instance when someone tries to get in the bathroom while you are inside. It goes somewhat like this. You are inside the bathroom, going about the business. Then you see the light turn off and a turn at the door knob. That should give the person outside a hint that someone’s still in. But occasionally an idiot or two will think that they just didn’t have a good enough go at the knob, and try again. So, in that case, I would turn the tap on for a second or two in order to create some noise so they know I am inside (as if the door being locked isn’t sign enough!).

And then again, I wonder, why didn’t I just call out to the person to let them know that I am inside. How do I explain this? I think it is because when I am in the bathroom, I feel like I have gone through a worm hole and crossed into another universe, and I no longer wish to communicate with anyone in the universe I just left behind. Is this just me or any of you feel the same?

Lessons after two consecutive days in bed

 

IMG_20160428_203952218_HDR
‘Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born’, said my lamp (E.E. Cummings) to the setting sun.

As the title might suggest, recently, I had the pleasure of spending two days straight in bed when I got up only to eat, visit the bathroom and a one and a half hour german class to the university. I would describe this experience as one which made me feel immensely lazy despite having slept more than enough and tired while having done nothing at all. I cannot be sure of why it happened, but I concluded that it is easy to slip into this state. Before you go ‘Oh, this is so you!’, I want you to know that I am making progress, so here are some lessons I jotted down for myself for future reference:

  1. Readjust the bedside mirror so your reflection isn’t seen in it while you sleep, or you will have the recurring nightmare about having to fly to Moscow without roubles.
  2. The slight ache in your lower back that you have soon after you wake up will go away after you get out of bed and move about. If it doesn’t, you might want to change your mattress or consult a physician. (Disclaimer: Please do not take medical advice from this blog, whatsoever!)
  3. The bloated feeling you have, doesn’t necessarily mean you have a stomach disorder. Try getting out of the bed and peeing. (Disclaimer, ibid)
  4. Although, bedside table is a convenient place for storing consumables, you might experience an increased propensity to drop cups full of tea (in my case, fortunately the sheets, laptop and the carpet were spared). Therefore, try to train yourself into not drinking tea in bed.
  5. Three seasons of ‘Girls’ is not too many to get through in two days. However, if you get a headache, try reducing the brightness of your laptop screen and focussing (with your eyes) on a distant spot in your room or out of the window.
  6. The ‘still not unpacked’ suitcase lying in the middle of the room is a safety hazard.
  7. Unplug the phone and/or laptop charger once you begin to feel drowsy. Also switch off the bedside lamp before falling asleep or it might remain lit through the day with an increased chance of you not noticing it.
  8. Try not to clean your room anytime during this spell because you will be too lazy to replace the vacuum cleaner to its designated place afterwards.
  9. Fold the duvet back for a sense of closure.
  10. Refrain from spending two consecutive days in bed.

 

 

Message for idiots everywhere- “Don’t look it!”

In my limited flying experience, I have encountered people dressed a variety of ways. But it is the immaculate dressers who never cease to amaze me. Men wearing razor sharp suits at 7 in the morning and women gliding in their 7 inch heels ready to outdo the plane on the runway. I always marvelled at why anyone would go through so much trouble merely for a commute. I observed these specimen from the comfort of my track pants wondering what it would take for me to become them. Except this one time when I was scheduled to fly back to Frankfurt after a month spent at home it was slightly different.

Owing to my meticulous planning, I had reached the airport early. Owing to some packing decisions, I was dressed in a a new outfit. I had also just gotten a haircut so I wouldn’t have to get one in Germany. Long story short, I looked okay. As I kept glancing at the information board to check if the counters had opened. When they did, I ran up to the counter, feeling immensely smart for having the foresight to have done a web- check in. The lady at the counter was wearing a dark blue overall and a red lipstick. After looking at my passport for a minute, she informed me that my visa had expired. Convinced that she was mistaken, I explained to her that I had a one year multi-entry student visa, which could not have expired in six months. After consulting with her colleague and seemingly convinced with what I told her, she handed me my boarding pass and my passport. I glanced at the visa stamp on my passport only to realise that she was right. The visa stamp on my passport had printed October 2015 int he ‘valid upto’ column. I remember thinking, either that was a typo, or I was in great trouble. Still wondering what the problem was, I trotted along to the immigration. Now I know from experience that immigration is a line of government officers viciously guarding the duty free shopping area. I remembered before my visit to Thailand when a sleepy looking salver-kameez clad me with hair spilling out of a braid, encountered an immigration officer who seemed convinced that I was a victim of human trafficking even after I presented every document that he asked me for.

This time, I wondered how I had managed to turn up to the airport with an expired visa. This seemed like something one would prepare for in advance. As I walked up to another immigration officer, I tried to assure him that the expired stamp on the passport was all the visa I needed. However, unlike the ‘lady at the counter’ he did not give in and kept insisting that I must have a ‘card’. As I politely pleaded aimlessly, I was increasingly becoming convinced that I was not going to be able to board the flight. Somehow, just before I was going to give into dejection, my rational brain decided to come back to its senses and I realised that I had obtained a one year residence permit months ago. I showed him the  permit, and was cleared in less than three seconds. As I walked on, I couldn’t help but think, how I had managed to obtain the boarding pass despite the obvious inadequacy and the way the immigration officer had the patience to repeatedly explain to me what he needed after I had failed to produce the singular piece of evidence required to be presented at immigration.

As I pondered this enigma over breakfast with idli-vada and filter coffee, my thoughts were interrupted by a friendly looking airport worker, who came up to me and asked, “Seri?” (which in this context translated to “Are you finished?”) before whisking away my plate. Pleased for having been mistaken for a tamil, I thanked him and proceeded to my boarding gate. Over the walk from food court to the boarding gate, I realised that instead of a security tag only a loose string remained attached to my handbag. Clearly, my troubles for the morning were not over. I dreaded having to go all the way back to some security counter established for fools like me who misplaced their security tags. But there was no way I was going to be able to get in without a security tag. Helpless, I went up to the gate crew to tell them that I was going to need another tag. Funnily enough, it turned out to be the same lady who had issued me the boarding pass. She merely smiled and informed me that one of her crew would shortly help me, and I merely had to wait. Surprised and happy that she hadn’t told me to go back to the security check, I waited and waited, until the boarding finally began and I was still without a tag. As I proceeded to board mouthing and pointing that I was still without a tag, I was merely ushered on with understanding nods. How could that be right, I was being let on a flight with a bag minus a security tag. I was a self- declared safety hazard.

As I approached the the last checkpoint I saw an officer checking boarding passes and security tags and I became convinced that that was going to be the point, where I am sent back to redo a long string of security processes. Amidst mounting tension, as the lady before me was checked for her tags twice, I awaited my ordeal. However, contrary to what I expected, I was let inside with a mere look at my boarding pass and a huge smile.

I could not understand this behaviour. The day was turning out to be contrary to everything I had experienced on flights thus far. Despite my callous behaviour, the airport staff had been unfathomably patient and helpful contrary to numerous occasions when I had to deal with numerous hassles despite having had proper documentation. And then it dawned on me that the only difference that airport staff perceive between me today and me every other time was the appearance. Every other time I had all requisite security tags but was plainly dressed. This time however, even though I acted like a certified idiot, I happened to be dressed fine. The realisation that the world judges you merely on how you look was not a surprising one but was unsettling nonetheless. I wondered how many well dressed idiots are walking amongst us being allowed to do what they are doing as long as they look all right.

Birthdays are like egg fried rice

The periodic commemoration of the day you began to breath air instead of amniotic fluid. Not many people question the reason behind celebrating birthdays. In the present day culture, birthdays have come to be considered rather celebration-worthy.

Surely, about 200 years ago, people must feel amazed that they managed to survive another year without succumbing to cholera or plague. However, after the advances made in medical science and the resultant increase in life expectancy, for quite a few of us (at least the vigorous birthday celebrating demographic) the more worrying causes have been reduced to dementia induced from facebook overuse or the emotional trauma we went through when the dress we ordered online didn’t quite turn out to be what we had hoped for.

However, the real reason I am averse to the idea is not because I think it is an insignificant occasion. (I  sometimes like to mildly celebrate how good my clothes smell after they have just come out of the dryer or having woken up at 10 instead of 11 in the morning). I am no one to judge what someone’s choice of celebration should be. The only reason it bothers me is when it places upon me an expectation to wish the ‘celebrator’,  especially when they mind if you forget, which is what happens most of the time. This is also a tad pitiful for those of you who manage to remember, courtesy- hoards of messages pouring on the ‘celebrator’s’ wall. Even if once in an eternity that one does manage to remember/ see someone’s wall being painted with birthday messages, there is this roughly  48 hour window  to wish the person after which can be considered acceptable. This 48 hour window can be compared to the duration of time you can keep a plate of egg fried rice in your room before it starts to smell. And if you are anything like me, you will most probably miss it on account of being lazy. Once you have missed the window, you don’t have a choice but to live with the slightly annoying feeling of being aware that you missed it and pray that you do not have to speak to that person ever again. Am I the only one who feels like this?