Tag Archives: family

Feminism and the Family – Thoughts on International Women’s Day

Excerpts from my forthcoming book Seeing Like a Feminist (Penguin India/Zubaan Books).

Have you heard of ‘nude make-up’?

This is what it is:

‘Nude makeup looks are all about your skin looking fresh and dewy, without looking like you’re even wearing any makeup. All you need is eyeliner, mascara, nude lipstick, and a highlighting blush that will give your skin a natural-looking glow.’[1]

The whole point of nude makeup clearly, is to spend hours painting your face in order to make it look like you never touched it at all.

The maintaining of social order is rather like that. It requires the faithful performance of prescribed rituals over and over again throughout one’s lifetime. Complex networks of cultural reproduction are dedicated to this sole purpose. But the ultimate goal of all this unceasing activity is to produce the effect of untouched naturalness.

When one ‘sees’ the world like a feminist though, with the gaze of a feminist, it’s rather like activating the ‘Reveal Formating’ function in Microsoft Word (what an earlier generation of WordPerfect users knew as ‘Reveal Codes’). The feminist gaze reveals the strenuous, complex formatting that goes on below the surface of what looked smooth and complete. Continue reading Feminism and the Family – Thoughts on International Women’s Day

Disability and the City Part III

Bed pan stories

“Yet in the different voice of women lies the truth of an ethic of care, the tie between relationship and responsibility, and the origins of aggression in the failure of connection.”- Carol Gilligan.

This piece will stray away from, but not abandon, the discussion about navigating public space with reduced mobility. This time let’s take a little peek into private spaces (ok, let me admit it now:  this sounds more fun than it is!J)

After the initial shock and pain of this injury has worn off,  the first thing that hit me is how dependant I am on others for the most basic things. The excretory system takes on a whole new dimension. Mundane things like shitting and pissing become a chore.  When loved ones stick a bed pan under you and clean you up after, one is forced to break personal boundaries with those people or realize that the boundaries don’t actually exist.

While admitted at the general ward at the AIIMS Trauma Centre, the class pyramid could be seen and felt. I was at the very top. But class wasn’t the only difference between me and the other patients. With one exception, almost everybody else I could see around me were men. All of these men were being taken care of by women, presumably their mothers or wives. While in the hospital, I had four friends, (two men, two women) taking turns as my primary caregivers. Every time the curtain was pulled shut so I could pee, any one of them could have come out to empty the bed pan. The four friends told me that the fellow patients and their attendants would joke with them when they were leaving saying ‘duty over??!!’. No one could figure us out: not the hospital employees, not the patients, and definitely not the other caregivers. Not only was there the eternal mystery of what relationships exist between these people and me, but also a mild scandal when men walk out with my bed pan.

Continue reading Disability and the City Part III

Rakhi Sawant Ka Swayamvar!

“Yeah yeah, take a good show and spoil it by theorizing” said my labour lawyer/bollywood-gossip-junkie flat mate. All I said was that I thought Rakhi Sawant Ka Swayamvar was an “Interesting phenomenon that comments on the articulations of the notion of marriage within the context of fixed notions of culture among upper middle class north Indian families and within that the tropes of gender, normativity and melodrama! And so I should write about it on Kafila”.

Her comment wasn’t entirely unjustified.

The way in which one watches these shows in itself raises a range of questions. The show has taken over my life as of now. The final decision of who she will marry will be made soon and the restlessness and anxiety about it is immense and requires effort to contain. Continue reading Rakhi Sawant Ka Swayamvar!