“Breathe” Microfiction in Cosmopolitan this month

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The Married Feminist this week on on Donna Karan, Women and Dressing Provocatively

A slight detour from the men and women and marriage circuit that this column normally deals with this time round. What has got me granny knickers all in a twist today is Donna Karan. For those of you who haven’t been following the news, this is about the spirited defense fashion designer Donna Karan put up for movie mogul Harvey Weinstein who has been accused by a number of women for sexual inappropriateness and outright abuse. Weinstein and his wife also happen to be dear friends of Donna Karan, for the record.

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To quote from the Daily Mail, “During a red carpet interview at the CinéFashion Film Awards on Sunday, the DKNY creator was asked to weigh in on the scandal hours after the disgraced film mogul was fired from his company. Unlike many Hollywood stars and celebs, Karan did not condemn the 65-year-old, who has been accused of sexually harassing multiple women over the span of decades, and instead pointed the finger at his accusers.”

“I think we have to look at ourselves. Obviously, the treatment of women all over the world is something that has always had to be identified. Certainly in the country of Haiti where I work, in Africa, in the developing world, it’s been a hard time for women.

“I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?”

“You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.” she said.

This inexplicable show of support to the abuser and the level of victim shaming, given that she is part of an industry that has been built on commoditization of women as fashion plates, is astounding.

Donna Karan was slammed, rightly so, for those remarks. She apologised a day later, saying her remarks were taken out of context, but the damage was done.  In that one statement Karan had undone decades of exemplary work dressing women in fashion that was powerful yet feminine, a strong line of fashion she brought into the forefront that was powerful, confident, and yes, occasionally provocative. Some of them very provocative indeed. Did she intend, when she designed those garments, that women who would buy them and wear them were asking to be sexually assaulted?

Read the rest of the article here

Woohoo! Among the top 50 bloggers in India

I find myself listed among the top 50 bloggers in India, tucked away under the hunky Arunoday and above the immensely popular insta supernova phenomenon Rupi Kaur. It is probably the closest I will ever get to Arunoday in this lifetime, so let me relish the moment.

Thank you Femina. The blog is wheezing along asthmatically, with the occasional update when I remember to, but this is my equivalent of the Lifetime Achievement Award and now, ab bas, retire ho jao.

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In The Married Feminist this week: The Fund all women need

The Fund that we don’t talk about is the one we really need. Kiran Manral talks about the stories of secret savings in her column The Married Feminist

It’s been called by various different names over the years. The Fuck You Stash, the Fuck Off Fund, the Woman’s Secret Savings. And across continents, cultures, countries, married women have been known to keep away a hidden stash either in a bank account, or in cash, away from their husbands, whether in happy marriages or not. Money that was theirs to own and spend, away from the intrusive, controlling eye of the spouse. Money that gave them, whether earning an independent income or not, the financial security of some degree of financial autonomy, because of course, running a house, child raising and housework is still not perceived as work with value nor remunerated accordingly.

In the USA back in 1839, a set of laws called the Married Women’s Property Act empowered American women to assume a legal identity separate from their husbands with the freedom to own property on their names, and keep their salaries if they were earning an income, for themselves. Back then the banks had what they called a stocking room for their female customers, where they could go in and remove their ‘stocking money’ discretely, money they had stashed away to be deposited in their personal savings accounts.

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We all grew up with it,  mothers who had little plastic packets of saved money tucked between the sarees they mothballed, and the woollens they stashed away in trunks, taken out and checked ever so often to ensure the silverfish didn’t get at them. Perhaps many of us do the same, instinctively, keep some of our money aside, build up a nice little nest egg, “for an emergency.” Aunts who would keep savings at relatives’ homes to be taken back when needed, the maid who asked you to keep a bit of her salary safe for her in safe custody for her children’s school fees. If she took it home, there was no guarantee it wouldn’t be taken from her under coercion or threat.

Read the entire column here

Boo: 13 Stories That Will Send a Chill Down Your Spine

Delighted and honoured to be part of the superb anthology of spooky stories curated and edited by the wonderful Shinie Antony. I’m in some terrifyingly formidable company in this one.

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Here’s a bit about the book.

Thirteen paranormal tales, each uniquely haunting in its own way

Boo is a collection of well-crafted spooky stories about a he-ghoul, a departed son’s soul, whispers and visitations from beyond, night howls, unearthly claws that erupt from bellies and the very first ghost in the world, among others. Penned by Shashi Deshpande, Kanishk Tharoor, K.R. Meera, Jerry Pinto, Usha K.R., Jahnavi Barua, Manabendra Bandyopadhyay, Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, Jaishree Misra, Kiran Manral, Madhavi S. Mahadevan, Durjoy Datta and Shinie Antony, the tales in Boo are sure to send a chill down your spine.

You can order your copy here.

An Open Letter To Smriti Irani, Requesting Action Against ‘Pehredaar Piya Ki’

Pehredaar Piya Ki is a programme aired by Sony during the evening prime time slot when families can be reasonably expected to watch TV. It is a show about a pre-pubescent young boy who is obsessed with an adult woman twice his age and shows them in repeated, suggestive — and extremely inappropriate — romantic situations.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, protects children from “offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography”. Depicting a 10-year-old child as a stalker of an adult woman and as someone who has a ‘‘suhaag raat” contextually suggests that the woman has had sex with the child. At the very minimum, it presents the possibility as one that is somehow acceptable.

India’s Child Marriage Restraint Act is clear that minor marriage is illegal. Girls must be at least 18 and boys 21 years old to be legally allowed to marry in India. Despite this, about 29 lakh children in the age group of 10–14 years were reported married between 2001 and 2011, according to a report by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

The report, released by Supreme Court judge Justice A.K. Sikri, states that despite the decline in child marriage, particularly in the age group of 10–14 years, there are 1.1 million boys and 1.8 million girls who were reported married in this age group between 2001–2011.

“Child marriage violates the dignity of the child and is a major human rights violation,” said Justice Sikri. This astonishingly regressive show glorifies child marriage, blurs the importance of consent, tries to present stalking as ‘cute’ and undermines the hard work of generations of social reformers who sought to raise the age of marriage to protect the children of our country.

It is absolutely abhorrent that an entertainment channel should promote a concept that is violative of the dignity of children and is, moreover, against the laws of this country.

Several media organisations have written, panning the show.

Here are a few examples:

Among the objectionable scenes in the show are: The boy stalking the woman in an implied romantic manner. In the first episode, the boy is shown following the woman and taking photographs of her without her consent. In the second episode, there are crass shots and sexual innuendos in the dialogue. E.g. “He is a kid, we don’t know when he will be big enough to satisfy you.”

The show not only violates the rights of children, it also actively promotes misogyny. For example, the boy is shown controlling the actions of his adult wife, telling her what clothes and jewellery to wear, and forbidding her from drinking tea in case her complexion turns dusky. He fills sindoor in the hair parting of his adult wife, and is seen sleeping together on a decorated bed on their ‘suhaag raat’. This show disseminates ideas that are ethically, socially and legally unacceptable in a civilised society.

We draw the attention of concerned authorities to this and request them to enforce the law of the land — in letter and in spirit. We do not support restricting artistic freedom in any form. We appeal to sponsors to desist from endorsing this show and request Smriti Irani, Information and Broadcasting Minister (additional charge), to look into the content and take action against the channel if it is found to violate Indian laws that safeguard minors.

A petition that seeks to ban the show now has nearly 50,000 signatures.

Here are the undersigned:

Kiran Manral (Author and Columnist)

Sunayana Roy (Writer)

Shakthi Vadakkepat (Tech Blogger, Disability Activist)

Sandhya Menon (Writer, Journalist)

Priya Ramani (Columnist)

Harini Calamur (Founder, Vipra)

Nandita Iyer (Nutrition Counselor, Writer)

Harish Iyer (Radio Presenter, Columnist, Professor)

Namita Bhandare (Journalist)

Shaili Chopra (Journalist and Entrepreneur)

Shwetasree Majumder (Lawyer)

Rituparna Chatterjee (Journalist)

Ruchita Dar Shah (Founder, First Moms Club)

The Married Feminist this week: Genetic Mutant Ninja Marriages What Science Holds for Love

Scientists in the USA recently managed to remove disease causing mutations at the genetic level in human embryos. The implications of this are astounding and worrying. For one, we can all hope to eventually someday be able to eradicate hereditary diseases from the next generation. For another, there is the fear that those with the money to pay, can have their embryos genetically altered to enhance desirable traits, including appearance. Is it time to look at what science holds for love?

Well, humans have been doing this for a long time, albeit outside the laboratory. We choose good looking partners most times, if we can. We look at family history, caste and religion. We make discrete inquiries into family back grounds. Now, we seem closer to genetic manipulation to ensure our offspring have the best possible characteristics. The prospect of super humans, genetically manipulated to be perfect doesn’t seem all that far off.

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THE ARYAN COUPLE
Sometimes, the state interferes in the mate selection process. In his desire to build the perfect Aryan race, Hitler created a ‘marriage loan’ program where they made interest free loans of 1,000 marks available for men and women intending to marry each other if they could ‘prove’ their Aryan heritage. This was to encourage ‘strong and pure’ Aryans to have more children, according to the historian Richard Evans. The “weak and racially impure” under the Nazi rule were sterilised. This was perhaps, a natural outcome of Adolf Hitler’s ideas about the ‘superiority’ of the Aryan race. In 1925, he wrote in Mein Kampf, “Everything we admire on this earth today—science and art, technology and inventions—is only the creative product of a few peoples and originally perhaps one race [the “Aryans”]. On them depends the existence of this whole culture.”

Read the rest here: http://www.shethepeople.tv/152530/