Rantings from an Otherwise Sensible Woman
In the last couple of days, a few things have rattled my otherwise calm and contemplative nature. It has been a great time for such happenings to occur since lately I have been working hard at becoming an even better version of me. Therefore, my responses to these injustices, misinterpretations, disrespects and slights have been quite balanced and pragmatic. Nonetheless, I consider myself very, very lucky to always have my writing to turn to in such moments. It brings me joy, understanding and therapy, all rolled into one seamless package! To explain myself best, I shall list five basic undermining actions, without giving away names, indicative facts that would insult anyone and without been too, too specific.
IF ONLY YOU DID THIS, THEN YOU WOULD GET THAT
Were it that I could have gotten a dime for every time I have heard a variation of that phrase in my life, I would not be sitting here blogging from my apartment in NYC but rather from my seaside mansion in Bombay, while servants fan me and cooks delight me. Of course, it’s usually about my character “Be less strong and men will like you more ” or “Be less emotional and you’ll do better as a writer” or “If you keep going to parties (for work-related things) then men will think you are a party girl” or the latest and personal favorite “If you want a man you should grow your hair long”. This last one, uttered by a man sitting across from me who had already uttered the first two, plus a variation of the third and had just finished telling me how he would not change a single thing about himself to please anyone else. Needless to say, I called him on it and have not heard from him since… But my point is that life is all about opinions and we are bound to hear countless of them — right, wrong or anywhere in between — before our days are done. It’s the reason why so many people are in therapy or buying self-help books, because they listen to most of the opinions dished out “for your benefit” and end up hearing voices and feeling torn. OK, so I won’t be getting a guy who wants a soft-spoken and shy woman. Check. And I also won’t be getting a mutant who requires his girlfriend to be a Stepford Wife. Check. And I can also check off the list a man who reads me as a party girl in the environment where I work and am quite clearly only being professional. But most of all, I will definitely not be dating a man who can only see me through the length of my hair, and doesn’t notice the vibrant, shining, intelligent woman I am beneath my hairdo. Oh, and let me not forget to mention that long hair these days can be easily acquired, intelligence alas, cannot.
YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND/RATE/DECIDE/COUNT BECAUSE YOU ARE WOMAN
If you think that a phrase like the one above is no longer uttered, you have not put yourself out there as a woman in some distinctly male circles. Sometimes it is not as infuriatingly overt in delivery as this sentence, but it is indeed still “whispered” a lot. As an Italian female writer and promoter of Indian cinema, fashion and culture, it is quite often that I find myself surrounded by a majority of males. Though the country is slowly shifting, undeniably men still hold most positions of higher power in India, my countrywoman Sonia Gandhi being an exception. I write about Hindi films, which seems to make me an equal opportunity annoyer running the gamut from young, nearly illiterate wannabe critics on cinematic blogs, to thirty-something filmmakers with only one film under their belt to the occasional rogue pretty-boy actor who still has to find his breakout role. And the behaviors in question from such individuals also run the gamut from ignoring me completely — quite literally as if I never spoke, wrote or even existed — to personal attacks when I write a critique on a film I like, to agreeing to interviews and then disappearing without a trace or excuse, to belittling my work by either praising other which is worse by far, or thanking me for my piece by saying “thank you for that cute essay on your little blog”. Which brings me to ranting number three.
When addressing me, if you have never shared an intimate moment in my company, that is NOT an acceptable word to use. Do not write it, speak it or even think it actually! Lately, I have been a strong supporter of a fabulous film coming out of Bombay. Although for this particular point it shall remain nameless, the movie is by a strong, intelligent woman filmmaker and is a caring and fantastically made slice-of-life from a specific cultural community in Bombay. It is no mystery to anyone who knows me why I would love this film and become impassionate about helping to promote it. Through Chic Today I am given the ability to do so, the movie and its filmmaker deserve it and bottom line, I like both. ‘Nuff said. A few weeks ago, I had the idea to write a little something about it on a cinema blog I often tune into mostly to follow two wonderful male writers, one an extraordinary director and the other an author/critic. I have to specify that I follow those two gentlemen on there or I’ll be getting some nasty emails about being a male-basher and that is simply untrue. But I exercise my right to defend myself against the chauvinistic behavior I often encounter. Burning bras, unshaven armpits or refusing a man’s hand when I need it, those are principles I don’t believe in. But defending my position against modern-day Neanderthals, definitely! Anyway, the piece was in response to the absolute silence about the film I felt so passionately about on a blog that discusses every single cinematic outing. It had opened in major cities without a peep from the otherwise blathering writers on the forum. My piece was short, direct and simply pointed out my disappointment at this silence but also gave a personal review and a list of favorite high points. The next day, I was absolutely floored by the comments. A psycho who had previously been harassing the director — I later found out — had posted his ranting about this charmer of a film which cannot possibly inspire such feelings, even if the person watching it had done so under torturous conditions and while wearing a wet diaper… Then, I was called everything from the above dreaded word, to “too attached to the project” to implications of being delusional for calling one of the actors “brilliant”. Then, a few days later, a piece was posted on the same blog by a male writer, stating that NOTHING had been written about this film — I assume that writer does not consider articles written by women as worthy, or even SOMETHING — and the same guys who had been bullying me were docile little lambs commenting on his piece, praising his slightly-more-than-mediocre writing and agreeing with his appreciation of the movie. No “dearie”s, ravings or talking down in sight. Double standard? You betcha, and if there is one thing that drives me bonkers it is people talking out of two sides of their mouth. Hypocrites and manipulative types need not apply here. Which brings me to my fourth point.
YOU WOMEN ARE SO EMOTIONAL (AKA: Are you having your period?)
Indeed, women tend to be more in touch with their feelings. We accept them and cherish experiencing those highs and lows which is why on the whole, we tend to be more balanced. Today, I was reminded once again of the kind of horrific damage suppressed emotions can cause. Ever heard of a female serial killer? OK, other than the woman portrayed in “Monster” of course. Or a female shooter who goes into a Post Office, school or in today’s tragic instance into a Civil Administration office to kill everyone in sight, with heavy artillery, no mercy and absolutely no reason? The answer to both questions is a big, bold NO! So, in my opinion, men have their period too, it’s just that when it’s that time of the month for them, they don’t curl into a corner of their apartment with a pint of chocolate ice cream and a chick flick or novel; they go out, buy the most damage inflicting gun they can get their hands on and find a place or person that has done them wrong, to take out their suppressed feelings. Got your attention, didn’t I?! Perhaps, to those misdirected guys out there, instead of telling women to be less emotional may I suggest the next time your girlfriend/wife/mother/sister/daughter is crying, lend a loving shoulder and shed a few tears yourself…
I NEVER ALLOW WOMEN TO PAY WHEN THEY ARE WITH ME
That sounds harmless enough on the surface, right?! I mean, it could be the sign of a great gentleman, and I don’t doubt that it is. But in some instances, it is also the sign of a man who does not want to be shown off by a little lady. Some may argue it’s cultural but how I see it, if I can forgo my Italian culture and avoid the itch I may have at times to join the mafia, then men from other countries must realize they are now living here in the US, and do away with their habits of home. I have two dear, darling friends, brothers who are truly the perfect men in every possible way (sorry girls, they both have gorgeous and intelligent girlfriends!) and they recently asked me to take them out to dinner, to repay them for something wonderful they had done for me. Just like that! And you know what? It was a great step in showing how they considered me their equal. The proof was when they actually started Twittering excitedly to the world about our “date” and writing about me in their FB updates. And not things like “Going out with a Hottie!” which they never fail to make me feel like in their presence, but affirming my power as a writer and cool woman. At the end of the evening, signing that check in front of their totally comfortable selves was a personal success. And the email which followed the next day, thanking me and pointing out that my energy and personality are truly amazing was indeed confirmation that my instincts were right. Of course, I will also mention that at the other end of the spectrum is a man like my ex in LA, who never failed to point out “men pay for women all the time, why can’t it be the other way around?” This when he had run out of money, had no intention of getting a job, and expected me to pay our rent, buy groceries and gasoline and even throw in a couple of bottles of Jose Cuervo on the side, for him and his friends to enjoy while I was away in NYC working… But he was a very special case. Maya Angelou says: “When someone tells you who they are, believe them”. So when a man tells you with pride about how he would never allow a woman to pay what he might actually be telling you is that he expects you to always be in the role of the woman. And we all know that in today’s world, we might want or need to wear the pants sometimes…
Image of Sonia Gandhi courtesy of the Affiliated Press