The following includes descriptions, photos, and video that may serve as a trigger for victims of sexual violence.
Please be advised.
Someone asked me today, "What is 'rape culture' anyway? I'm tired of hearing about it."
Yeah, I hear ya. I'm tired of talking about it. But I'm going to keep talking about it because people like you keep asking that question.
Once in a while I come across articles like this that claim how much they know about feminists and the feminist ideologies, and surprisingly they don’t anger me, but make me feel pity on them. I would have commented on the post itself, but didn’t do so for the fear of her either not approving my candid comments or modifying them using the edit tool that allows the blogger to change the words of the commenter. The first and foremost irony in her article is when she makes a comment that she believes “that a woman can be and do whatever she pleases and should have the same rights as everyone else to do so … ” and yet she thinks that feminism has gone too far. The truth of the matter is this aforementioned “same right” that she speaks of hasn’t been achieved yet, and feminists are doing nothing but making sure that these rights will be achieved as soon as possible. Among these rights is included this author’s right to express her opinion and her views to matter or count.
She speaks of how “women in the past spoke of equal voting rights for women, but modern feminists often talk of how women can do jobs better than men not only equal to them”. Personally, I am yet to find a single feminist that makes a claim that women are actually better than men. I’ve often heard men and women, who don’t align themselves with feminist movement, speaking of women’s loving, nurturing and sacrificing qualities as if they are natural to every woman, and how that makes women better than men in certain ways. I’ve heard average men and women call women an epitome of beauty. However, I have rarely heard feminists talk of three or four billion women as though they are one single person. Whether it be a category based on beauty, or loving nature or anything, every individual is different, and I think most feminists know of this and agree with this. Feminists do not claim that women are better than men, feminists only talk of the potential in women to be what they want to be.
She mentions that feminists these days are veering towards proving women superior to men by awarding ”more skillful, more advanced, higher classed women”, which I find completely ridiculous. For every such magazine that award such women, there are literally thousand others that do so exclusively for men. Also, if you have to talk about media representation of women, how many other examples you can find where women are not only tacitly objectified but also blatantly mocked and ridiculed in the name of entertainment and joke? Furthermore, what is wrong with awarding women that are really skilled, and advanced?
She further goes on to talk about pro-women campaign and questions what would happen if there were pro-men campaign. I would like to encourage her and anyone who seems to agree with her to think of racism for a second. When Martin Luther King spoke of rights for African American, how stupid it would have been if we asked, “What about the rights of whites?” What kind of right are we talking about? If we are talking about right to be privileged and always remain as a privileged group, then one must understand that there is no such right. However, if we are talking about genuine rights, then men can, of course, form pro-men campaign by all means. I am not at all oblivious to all the different ways in which men too can become a victim of gender discrimination and stereotyping. One that stands out to me is the financial burden that is placed on men by the society to provide for their family. If there are men, who choose to speak on these issues, I’m sure most feminists will come out as an ally to them rather than enemies for the simple fact that equality benefits both parties. Women being financially independent is not only good for themselves, but for the men involved in their lives too. By the same token, for anything else that feminists stand up for, it can be argued that men benefit equally.
The author also talks about the “fundamental distinction between men and women”. What she forgets is that all humans are different from one another. Though it’s not right to talk about how one race differs from other, it is an inevitable fact that there are some ailments that people from certain race are more susceptible to than people from certain other race. Does that imply though that one race is superior to the other? NO. By the same rationale, yes there are certain differences between one sex and the other. However, there are much more differences between us as individuals than how much differences we have as people from different sex or race or caste or color or sexuality. Sure, men have more testosterone than women in general, but the truth of the matter is that there are also women, who have higher level of testosterone than average women, and there are also men that have higher level of estrogen than others. These deviations that she speaks of are really not so much of a deviation. These are statistically natural. In any statistical group, there is a large population that falls in the middle; however, there are also others that are not completely in the middle. Variations within a population is completely natural phenomena. Just because they do not embody what a statistically average man or woman would embody, doesn’t make them less of a man or a woman. Also, it’s important to note that these statistically average characteristics are also very largely affected by the societal rules, regulations, and expectations out of people belonging to different gender.
The author also talks about how men are better than women in games, strength, sports etc. While doing so, she perfectly chooses to forget the history of human civilization throughout which women have really never gotten chance to show their potential when it comes to a lot of things. We (both men and women) can increase our stamina, our strength, our endurance etc. by staggering amount in barely one year if we undergo good physical training accompanied by good diet. Also, evolution is real, irrespective of what people believe. How can one deny that generation and generation of women being confined to household chores didn’t seriously debilitate them physically? Furthermore, the author remembers to point out, “…not to say that there aren’t women out there who would be better soldiers than your local male hairdresser, but these are the exceptions…” When some men are better than some women, she calls it norm, and when there are some women better than some men, then she calls it exception. How freaking sexist?
Also, she claims that the wage difference is largely due to women choosing to enter lower paid jobs than men irrespective of equal opportunities available to them. She also tries to prove how she is educated, and was encouraged to pursue any career she wanted to. She happened to choose a degree based on Economics, and was discriminated during her degree. While I don’t completely disagree with her first statement about women choosing to enter lower paid jobs than men, I completely disagree about her claim of equal opportunities. She starts writing this post with her completely narrow one dimensional view of the world, where she sees all women from diverse socio-economic and political background to have had same kind of privilege as herself. Feminists don’t deny that there are women out there that perhaps have had more privileged lives than even some men had; however, these few instances aren’t enough to deny the grave social injustice that still exists in much of the world. Most women are not as lucky as herself. There are women in this world, whose opinions are not given as much value as her views, there are women out there that irrespective of their interest are not allowed to even go to school, there are women out there that became victims of hate crimes against women. We can’t simply deny their right to be happy simply because some privileged women don’t see any good in feminism.
The very fact that a lot of women choose lower paid jobs speaks volumes about our social construct where women’s career are not given equal importance as men. Right from the small age, women are made to think about their beauty, their prospect of getting a right man, their future kids whereas men are moulded to think about themselves, their career etc. Not only women grow up internalizing different gender roles, they are often even discouraged to join certain career paths citing what they think is apparent inability in women. Take for example this author herself. She claims that she could have chosen any career she wanted. How do I buy her claim, when she is the one who initially mentioned how women are worse than men in sports and physically demanding jobs? Even if she did really gain outside support to pursue any career she wanted to, the differences in gender role that she internalized perhaps played a big role in her choice of career. It’s not too difficult to imagine that someone that doesn’t believe in women’s ability to excel in physically demanding jobs perhaps didn’t even give herself an opportunity to pursue a career in anything that was physically demanding. Had she considered being an athlete or a soldier as a career option, perhaps she would have had more fulfilling life. Who knows?
It is pretty ironic that after reading this author’s post I got even more convinced that feminism is absolutely necessary. Feminism is necessary especially because even during today’s date there are women like this author present in the most developed of nations and even amongst the circles of educated people. These people think they are just so positive people that whatever evidence of sexism is thrown at them, they will deny it and turn it into something positive. She claims of having been discriminated during her degree and her career, but she somehow thinks that those incidences of discriminations by themselves are not good enough reasons to make her believe in feminism.
Hating anyone based on the group they belong to is wrong, whether it is hating men, women, people of certain race, caste, creed etc. If there are any feminists that hate men in general simply because they were born as men but not because of their actions, or their beliefs then those feminists are to be blamed. However, trying to defame entire feminist group and what they stand for simply on the basis of (well) nothing (given that she had absolutely no example of feminist that hated men) is not only wrong but pretty pathetic. “I do not agree with her opinion, but I understand that she has right to have an opinion” no matter how counterproductive it is.
I don’t believe women are epitome of beauty, I don’t believe they are better than men just because they apparently symbolize motherhood, nature and love. However, I do believe women are humans and epitomize spectrum of qualities based on their individuality just as men do. I don’t believe writing few words of honor to all women on the day of Women’s day alone solves the problem of sexism that is ingrained in our society. We should stop limiting the complements to women only on their ability to look nice, be polite etc. These do nothing but perpetuate the stereotypes that already exist.
So, if we wish to do anything significant on the day of International Women’s day let’s just understand that gender bias is not a conspiracy theory, it’s a reality. Violence do happen to both men and women, but violences targeted towards women simply because of their gender are still largely prevalent. The number of women going to school might have risen, but women are still minority in science, math, and technical fields. Women are still not told that there are other things besides their beauty that matter just the same or even more. Women are not given privilege to look ugly, or not be motherlike and polite. What’s wrong with being angry and militant for something you believe in strongly? After all, aren’t these the same qualities that are often revered in men? If we were to really care for women, we have to discard all these stereotypes first, and it begins from us discarding our prejudice about feminism. Let’s not belittle feminism by talking of it as something that men-like, hairy, ugly, sensitive women do. It is for everyone – men and women alike, who believe in women’s potential and right to be anyone they desire. Also, why is it such a bad thing for women to be ugly, hairy, sensitive and why does it already make us men like?
I understand that all of us human beings are somewhat selfish by nature. We have special place in our hearts for people we love, people we know or even those that we have some similarities with. In that sense, it makes sense why the feelings of patriotism would be natural. Perhaps, it emerges from our cultural, social and biological similarities with people that live in physical vicinity. However, what I fail to understand is why patriotism, unlike any other feelings that emerge from inherent selfishness of human beings, is deemed as an immense feeling of selflessness regardless of the circumstances under which it is being discussed. There are couple of things that I want to address on this topic.
- Two random individuals from a same country or same physical location do not necessarily have to have more similarities than two individuals from two different physical locations. As we know, there are multiple facets to being a human being. Our social, economic, political, religious, intellectual etc. views do define us up to some extent; however, it is dependent on each individual which of these views take precedence over the other for them. As for example, for some people that are very religious, their whole being might be defined more by their religious viewpoint than any other aspects of their being. In such situation, maybe they will seek kinship in people that have similar religious background. However, if an individual is guided by opinions and viewpoints that are not too popular among the group of people in their close physical boundary, then the notion of establishing exclusive kinship with their country men/women crumbles.
Few years ago there was a guy from my country on F1 visa to the United States, who was caught by a TV program, To catch a predator on Dateline NBC, for trying to establish a sexual relationship with a minor. Though the fact that he came from the same country as me made me more interested in the news, I never bought any of his excuses simply because of where he was from. On checking couple of forums, where people from my country living away in other countries discuss diverse topics, I found several people defending a person that was clearly caught in the media for being a sex offender. Reading between the lines of their comments, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out that a lot of them were particularly sympathetic to him because of the fact that he was from the same country as them. This kind of patriotism is what I do not buy and get startled by.
- Also, with the rise of political instability in my country, there has been a large increase during the recent times in the out flux of people from my country. There are different kinds of people, who choose to go to other countries for various reasons ranging from studies to menial jobs. Particularly in the case of menial workers, the workers seem to be going through a lot of physical, and mental hardships to earn petty cash. Since, most of the workers going to these countries are often not too well educated, they get easily swindled by brokers starting from the process of obtaining visa up until the time they come back to the country. Because the motivation for most menial labors leaving the country in search of jobs is often related to their economy, they are sometimes viewed sympathetically and sometimes even viewed mockingly by some people for their apparent “greediness”. In the present context of my country, there are vast majority of people that are tired of the corruption, and political instability that has been going forever, which presents very little prospect to the people, who dream of earning good money, getting good job, getting good education or even simply enjoying their life pursuing their hobbies. Most often than not, everyone that goes to foreign country, irrespective of what their motivation is, are scorned at for apparently wasting their productivity on someone else’s country. Perhaps because these accusations have also been placed on me more often than I’d like to admit, I have a lot of problem with this accusation.
- As far as I’m concerned, it’s apparent from my first point that I don’t believe in patriotism. I believe that patriotism has it’s roots in selfishness. Not that it’s wrong to be selfish, since perhaps it’s impossible to be utterly selfless, but I do not choose to be a hypocrite. I choose to openly admit that I’m selfish and be selfish rather than claim of selflessness and secretively be only thinking about me, my society, my country and my people. I do not claim that I’m selfless, and yes I do think about myself, my betterment, my ambition, my opinions and my happiness. I do not want to give up my ambition, my desires and I do not want to associate myself with people that may not be similar to me in opinions simply because they come from the same place as I do. Having said so, being a selfish person I do also love my country and the people from my country up to some extent because after all they are related to me. And in this bizarre way, my selfishness does motivate me to think and hope for the betterment of my country. However, the only way I can be of any advantage to my country and others is when I first do something for myself. Therefore, I can sympathize with people that get frustrated with the political instability of my country, and firstly choose to think about their own personal interest.
- There is also some other faction of people that are relentlessly trying and hoping that the political picture of my country will change soon enough. I admire some of them, but not all. Why only some? The reason I admire some of them is because, they do really seem to be at least walking the talk, to say the least. However, the ones that I do not admire are often the ones whose family members each year apply for the diversity visa to US with the hopes to get permanently situated in the US, or constantly apply to foreign schools waiting for an opportunity to escape as soon as they are awarded affordable scholarship etc. My problem is with those that call grapes sour simply because they can’t have them at the moment.
My only wish is that they asked themselves how consistent their belief systems are. If one is to be so extremist in their love for their country, doesn’t it make sense for them to be equally extremist in their love for their race, society, ethnicity, caste, or city? Then why don’t or didn’t those people choose to spend their whole life within the physical boundary of their city or their village where they were born? Why did they choose to marry people that were outside of the physical border of the small town/city or village where they belonged to originally? Marriage implies that the couple will most likely live together; hence, at least one partner will have to leave their hometown. How do they justify their “lack of love for their place” in such case? Also by extension, why do they think the idea of separate countries for different ethnic groups, castes etc. are so much of a ridiculous demands especially since these demands are so similar in nature to the claim that anyone who chooses to go out of the country doesn’t love anything or anyone within the country? For those that believe in extreme jingoism, where do you draw line, and why would you stop just at country, race or ethnicity? Why not make a tribe of your extended family members and live the rest of your life in a cave?
I vividly remember the insensitive, cruel, and ignorant words of some of my female friends from high school towards some widow they both knew. They were calling her, albeit behind her back, “whore”, “bitch”, “slut”, and “witch” for choosing to wear a red sari instead of plain white sari that hindu widows are required to wear throughout their lives after the death of their husbands. The plight of widows in hindu society is best depicted in an internationally acclaimed movie, Water. The situation in most of Nepal may not be that grim anymore, but there do still exist major differences in the way widows and widowers are treated. The tradition that requires widows to wear plain clothing, have modest lifestyles etc. maybe vanishing, but I’m yet to see, even in my close friend and relative circle of privileged people, a single instance of widow getting remarried.
I do understand that up to some level it is an individual choice whether a person decides to get remarried or get involved in another relationship once their partners die. However, it seems to me that most educated women and men of these days use individual “choice” as an excuse to veil the real reasons behind their decisions. Though nothing can be conclusively derived through comparison of an individual man’s case with another woman, like a common saying goes – “statistics don’t lie”. If it was simply individual’s decision, why most Nepali widowers I’ve seen get married within a few years of their wives death, while widows always seem to “choose” to not get remarried? The difference is even more pronounced among divorced couples. Though I do admit that I do not know of many divorced couples in the case of Nepal, I’ve heard of handful of cases where men have cheated on their wives, and have even had long history of sexual as well as emotional attachment with other women. I’ve even seen cases where men have had children with other women, and the wives still didn’t divorce their husbands let alone get married to some other men.
I’ve known handful of men in their fifties and sixties, who’ve gotten married few years after their wives have been dead. They often give reasons such as “my children forced me to marry”, “my late wife’s relatives suggested me to marry”, “my parents were worried for me”, “I needed companion to reduce my grief” etc. Some even go as far as to say, “you know men have sexual needs”. The part that confuses me about all this is-how are all these reasons not valid when it comes to women? Why are children not suggesting their mothers to get remarried after their dads die, or their dads cheat on their moms? Why are ex-in laws not suggesting women to get remarried? Even if widows are ready to get remarried, do they meet men that are willing to choose them over never-married-before-potentially-virgin-young girls? While on the other hand, all the widowers I know of that do get remarried somehow magically find virgin-(at least how society sees them)-never-married-before-young girls irrespective of their own age.
Within past couple of years, one of the famous comedians of Nepal, Hari Bamsha Acharya, got remarried to a widow one year after he lost his first wife himself. A lot of people appreciated him for that, however I saw it as only a reasonable thing to do – he chose someone who was on the same boat as himself. Even the people who were supportive of his actions were slyly suggesting that widows are some people that are to be rescued rather than regarded as no different than any other individuals. This basically arises from the overall secondary status that women often tend to have in their families and society. Even upto this date, arrange marriages, and love marriages that culminate into marriages between two families exist in our South Asian societies. While a lot of us boast about the positivity in such relationships where families play an important role, we forget that such marriages often result into a relationship where women compromise their identity to keep such practices intact. Women are often required to leave their parent’s home and live with the men’s family, where undoubtedly the men will have upper hand. Moreover, the fact that most men become the sole breadwinner of the family lowers the already low status of women in the family. The archaic cultural practices and rituals that men and women continue to carry on reinforces the patriarchal structure even more.
With this, it’s not too difficult to imagine why we don’t hear cases of women being accepted after their extramarital affairs while men being accepted by their wives after such affairs are commonplace stories. In a culture where sex is a taboo, men are given freedom to blame their libido for every wrong choices they make, then no wonder women have to sliver themselves to keep the cycle going. Even after the death of/ betrayal by the husband, women are expected to prove their loyalty to their dead or cheat husbands. What more? Women are even deemed or talked of as asexual beings, whose entire being is limited to seduce men and have no capacity whatsoever to be seduced themselves. I wonder if Nepalese children would accept that their moms perhaps have similar urges to have sex or seek “companionship” as their dads do once they lose their partners? It is not so far fetched idea that it is this dual standard that we have in terms of viewing men’s and women’s sexuality that makes it difficult for women to get remarried if their husbands die or once their relationship gets over.
Furthermore, this is the same society that often accepts women’s weakness as a norm. We are told from our childhood that women need men to take care of them physically, emotionally or monetarily. Then why is it so that women, who lose their husbands, are now not encouraged to get remarried? If we were to believe in women’s weakness, shouldn’t we be the proponents of widow marriages? Having said all this, I do need to mention that I, in no way, believe that women are not capable of surviving on their own or need any form of protection from men. The sole purpose of these questions is to bring in light the hypocritical nature of our society that on one hand considers women weaker than men, and on the other hand demands from them more than what it demands from men. It is simply wrong to dismiss grave social issues like disparity between men and women using excuses of individual choices. It is very crucial to see that these apparent differences in male-female choices are extensions of much serious social discrepencies we are faced with ever since our birth.
I had been craving for Nepali puwa, which I had recollection of my mom making from cornmeal while I was growing up. So, I basically just lightly fried cornmeal and little bit of rice flour for 5-7 minutes. Then I added some milk, water, some salt and sugar to it, and stirred until the whole mixture started drying out and became lumpy. It was very gratifying, but then it occurred to me how close in taste Nepali puwa was to cornbread. You could almost call puwa a deconstructed cornbread. So, I decided I’d make cornbread pretty much with the same ingredients that I had made Nepali puwa with. Here is my recipe for the cornbread.
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup rice flour
1 Tbsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup sugar
Firstly, preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Mix all the powder ingredients except for sugar together (flour, baking soda and salt). Mix beaten eggs, milk, oil and sugar together in a separate bowl and whisk together. Pour the liquid mixture to the powder mixture, and mix them together just enough so that the mixture is evenly distributed. Make sure not to overmix. Grease a 9” X 9” pan with some oil, and pour all the mixture into the baking pan. Put the baking pan into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. You can stick a fork into the middle of the bread to check whether it baked properly. If required, bake for some more minutes until it passes the “fork test”. Also, the ingredients can be adjusted to taste. In the picture above, instead of using ¼ cup sugar, I added just one packet of truvia, and 1 tsp of sugar. I also put about half the amount of oil than what the recipe calls for.
Rice pudding is a very popular dish in Nepal especially among Brahmin and Chhetri ethnic groups, who are commonly stereotyped as sweet loving people. Commonly known as “kheer”, it bears close resemblance to the kheer found in any Indian restaurant menu. However, my personal experience tells me that in the Nepali kheer, individual rice grains are not typically as mushy as in the case of Indian kheer. Also, like every other Nepali food, there are not as many ingredients and spices involved in the making of kheer as in the case of its Indian counterpart.
During the holiday season of 2012, I made kheer in number of occasions. I had been craving for my mom’s kheer with floating pieces of roasted non-ground fenugreek seeds that I can still remember vividly after almost a decade of not seeing or eating it. However, I ended up modifying the recipe a little bit by using roasted fenugreek in powdered form instead of using the whole seeds because I was scared of experimenting with the weird taste of whole fenugreek seeds in a desserty food. Anyway, it turned out really good. I hope you like my recipe as well.
- ¾ cup of short grained rice
- 3 cups of 2% milk
- 1 cup of half and half
- about 40 pieces of fenugreek seeds
- sugar to taste
- 1 tsp powdered cardamom
- a pinch of black pepper
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- Optional: some kinds of nuts or dried fruits (cashews and raisins go well in this recipe)
First soak short grained rice in water for about an hour. The reason I use short grained rice over basmati rice or other fluffy rice is because I prefer the fact that short grained rice absorb the liquid much better than other types of rice that are typically better when prepared as plain rice. In a pot, boil the rice with a cup of water and all of the 2% milk. Put the dried fruits, and nuts (if any) into the pot. Since the mixture contains milk, it will easily spill once it starts to boil. So make sure to keep an eye on it. Once it starts to boil, keep on cooking in a low heat for about 15-20 more minutes. Keep on stirring regularly throughout the process. It helps make the pudding thick and not stick to the pot.
In a separate pan, roast the fenugreek seeds until most of them get almost black in color. Powder the roasted seeds in pestle and mortar, or anything else that allows you to make fine powder out of the roasted seeds. Put the fenugreek powder, cardamom, black pepper and cloves into the pudding once the mixture has a consistency of a yogurt. Put sugar to taste. I don’t prefer too sweet dessert, and also because I prefer to eat a lot of rice-pudding in one seating too much sugar makes it almost inedible for my taste. Pour the half and half into the pot. Mix the pudding well, and heat for another 3-4 minutes. Your Nepali style kheer is ready!!