"If "femininity" means female sexuality and its loveliness, women never lost it and do not need to buy it back. Wherever we feel pleasure, all women have "good" bodies. We do not have to spend money and go hungry and struggle and study to become sensual; we always were. We need not believe we must somehow earn erotic care; we always deserved it.
Femaleness and its sexuality are beautiful. Women have long secretly suspected as much. In that sexuality, women are physically beautiful already; superb; breathtaking.
Many, many men see it this way too. A man who wants to define himself as a real lover of women admires what shows of her past on a woman's face, before she ever saw him, and the adventures and stresses that her body has undergone, the scars of trauma, the changes of childbirth, her distinguishing characteristics, the light in her expression." - Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth.
"This issue is not trivial. It is about the most fundamental freedoms: the freedom to imagine one's own future and to be proud of one's own life. Airbrushing age off women's faces has the same political echo that would resound if all positive images of blacks were routinely lightened. That would make the same value judgement about blackness that this tampering makes about the value of female life: that less is more. To airbrush age off a woman's face is to erase women's identity, power, and history." - Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth.
Wish I could plaster this everywhere.
Feminism is for Everyone is a great book to read as an introduction to Feminism. Bell Hooks does such a great job of explaining terms which are otherwise quite confusing, but what this book mainly did for me, is that it drove home how much more I need to learn on the topic. This was another great point she made; no one is born a feminist.
I just finished reading So Now You Know: Growing Up Gay in India by Vivek Tejuja and what a pleasure it has been.
Your words, @vivekisms comforted a middle-aged woman who lives halfway across the world from you. Thank you.
I have a thing for memoirs, especially those which center on parent-child relationships. But the memoirs that completely undo me are the ones written by mothers for their children and the ones written by sons for their fathers.
My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for his Family's Past drew me in right from the start. I like Ariel Sabar's honesty. I like the way he writes; such a lovely blend of journalism and storytelling. And I was completely fascinated by this story of family, immigration, and most importantly, language. "There is a counterpoint to the familiar immigrant story of opportunities won: It is a story, less often told, of cultures lost. It's trope is not "a better life for our children" but broken bonds to ancestors, land, identity, and history." - Ariel Sabar
It's been a few years since someone took this picture of my father. He is a little older, a little greyer now, but still young and vibrant.
As a child each time, my father left home on a long work trip, I danced around our Peiking apartment singing; thanadar, chalay gai (the constable has left) and broke out in my best dance moves.
But I am no longer scared of my father. And I am no longer the little girl who used to peek at the world from behind his legs either.
Now, I listen in amazement as he pulls out strange tales of my childhood to share with my completely unimpressed children and I grimace in annoyance as he and my husband bond over made-up stories of my eccentric behaviour, and I beam with pleasure when he shows up at my readings to listen attentively even though I am certain he can't hear a word I say on account of my voice being too low (why do you have to mumble, Mina?) and his bad hearing.
Though I am sure the fault is more with my mumbling than his hearing.
Just yesterday, I read a chapter from a memoir his best friend is working on and I discovered aspects of my father which have always fascinated me because I wasn't allowed to see them for myself. I had good chuckle, imagining all the adventures he has had. And I had even more of a chuckle when my father dropped by and tried explaining to me that his best friend had simply embellished certain stories and that in reality, there were never so many girls and really, nothing ever actually happened even with the ones mentioned. Sure, Abu, I believe you completely. And I am certain, Mama does too.
My father is a lucky man for there are very few of us who get to live a life as rich as the one he has had. That spot behind his legs was a good one for peeking at the world without being seen.
So I will begin with a confession; I am a M.G.Vassanji fan. The kind who has read every, single book the man has published, the kind who copies down long passages from those books to read again later, and the kind who frequently gifts his books to other unsuspecting readers.
If you follow me here on Instagram and know anything at all about me, you will know that I am a hopeless romantic, a sucker for tragic love stories, and so Vassanji's latest book, A Delhi Obsession was right up my alley.
A Muslim man and a Hindu woman meet and fall in love in Delhi - you know while picking this up that the stage is already set for disaster. Now add to it that he is a writer visiting from Canada and she a practicing Hindu and a devoted wife, mother, and daughter, whose husband works for a "security agency." Vassanji is very sympathetic in his treatment of these two star-crossed lovers. You will find no judgement in his depiction of them. He describes what transpires between the two as a "passion" and one that they accidentally stumbled upon, rather then something they set out seeking. I felt for those two. You would have to be heartless not to feel for them. You know they are doomed and yet, you root that much harder for them.
Because of the miles that separate them most of the time, they text each other. Occasionally, they risk a phone call. When in Delhi together, time alone and privacy are difficult to maneuver. In Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, the part of the world I am originally from, privacy is a luxury few are afforded. (Actually makes me wonder how people in South Asian manage their love affairs.) I was disappointed with the ending. It was too blunt for me. Perhaps because even though I don't believe in happy endings, in this particular case, I actually wanted a fairy tale ending. I wanted happiness and hope, instead of the tears Vassanji left me with.
From the author's note in M.G.Vassanji's A Delhi Obsession.
This is a work of fiction. It has been inspired, or called forth, by certain attitude I have noticed since my first visit to India, and some disturbing trends that have been on the rise recently. It has always bothered me that in India you could not, as a person of Indian origin, just be, but were always branded communally-Hindu or Muslim in my experience-no matter your beliefs, background, upbringing, complexities, peculiarities. I don't mean a casual description-we all can be described in various ways-but a labelling of your very essence, who you are. It seems unavoidable. Sometimes even the kindest gestures seem directed at your brand. Perhaps that's the nature of India. But that brand or label always comes identified with a politics, a history, a global identity, a status, and an exclusion. Recently and increasingly this division-Hindu and Muslim-has been used politically and at times with hatred and violence. Coming from a time and place outside of the experience of the Partition of India, and the hatred and suspicion it has left in its wake, I find a communal or religious label antithetical to my very being. During my many travels-my Bharatdarshan, friends called it-across my ancestral homeland, I would sally forth, as myself, known by my (fortunately) neutral last name, an individual: always annoyed by the presumption of those who, gleeful classifiers, nevertheless discovered my species and pinned me down; and always nervous lest an accusing finger brought down the weight of a historical and cultural baggage upon me. And so this novel, about a naive returnee to Delhi.
It's been a while since I read anything as emotionally direct and politically charged as Who Killed My Father by Édouard Louis (translated by Lorin Stein). Actually, I have never read a book quite like this one.
Louis examines his filial relationship with unflinching honesty and in the same manner names the ways in which oppression works, how the elite feed on the working class. "Are a woman and a man simply what they do or is there a difference, a gap between the truth of who we are and our actions? Your life proves that we are not what we do that instead we are what we haven't done because society forbad it... verdicts have been handed down against us because we are gay or trans or woman or black. Verdicts which have placed certain lives, certain experiences, certain dreams out of our reach." - Édouard Louis
Fatema Mernissi and One Thousand and One Nights are both favourites of mine for a number of various reasons, but chiefly because she and 1001 Nights, take everything the world assumes about Muslim culture and turn it on its head.
This quote is Mernissi discussing one of the tales from 1001 Nights. "The message that he keeps forgetting is that it is foolish for a man to pretend to name what only a woman can control-her sex. For men to control what they cannot even adequately name is therefore pure delusion." -Fatema Mernissi, Scheherazade Goes West.