Are Men And Women Really Different?

Men and women are often told that they can be equal but they must acknowledge that they are fundamentally different. However human behaviour follows a predictable pattern and it leads to the question, is gender really a reliable indicator of behavioral differences between men and women?

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

A while ago I had a discussion with a man who felt compelled to discuss with me how polyamory was a superior practice to monogamy. Let me be clear, I think polyamory is a wonderful practise (between consenting adults who are happier that way), because the ability to share love and feel joy at your partner receiving love from as many people as they want is extremely fulfilling in many ways. It also affords people the opportunity to really understand their own insecurities and jealousy. Poly is not, as many believe, a perversion or a method to sleep around or even a ploy to resuscitate a dying relationship. It is a system built on honesty, communication and vulnerability from all sides and it can absolutely work. However, my acquaintance did not exactly see it this way.

“I think women should understand that men are wired this way,” he said, “Women should allow their husbands to have sexual relationships with other women because it is healthy for men.”

“That’s problematic on many levels,” I told him, “Are you saying women shouldn’t be “allowed” to have other relationships and this is really just about men and sex?”

That is often how it is viewed, and I am aware of that. However I find employing the Socratic method often encourages people to dig within their own opinions and ideas and mine for reason instead of conceptual bullshit. It works about 50% of the time. This was not one of those times.

“That’s not what equality is about,” he said, “Women are more hormonal and emotional, they don’t want to have multiple sexual partners and biologically they don’t need them like men do.”

I know for a fact that I am masochist because I know how often I get in discussions with people knowing full well that the outcome of it will be things that make my ears bleed and my brain explode. I do it anyway. There is no explanation other than masochism.

“What you are describing doesn’t sound like poly at all,” I told him, “It just sounds like men wanting to sleep around and using biology to convince women a two-way street isn’t equality.”

“But everything isn’t about feminism,” he said quite confident in his argument, “Men and women can be equal, but they are different.”

And there it was.

I am sure we have all heard this, and many of us have said it as well. Men and women are different. Men are rational and women are emotional. Men like the visual aspect of sex and women like the emotional aspect of sex. Men like guns and cars, women like silks and chocolate. Men are stricter “more effective” parents and women are soft, loving parents. Men are perverted and women are pure. Men are messy and women care about neatness and well-kept houses. Men are ambitious and women want positive feedback for everything to do it. Men want sex all the time and women just do it for the health of the marriage (and of course, no one does it outside of marriage and gay/trans/non-binary people just don’t exist). Men like numbers and women like human resources. There are numerous examples of these “differences” that we are just expected to take at face-value as fact. A lot of people will tell you that they are all for equal rights but they think they aren’t feminists because feminism is trying to erase gender or claim that men and women aren’t different and for some reason, a faction of individuals has a lot invested in women admitting that men and women are different.

Well, I call bullshit.

Let me explain.

The truth is more about the fact that men and women have different social experiences. Men are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour like guns or fast cars because “risk” is something men have to seek out whereas women we live with it on a daily basis because of the extent of harassment and sexual violence that plagues society. Men are not stricter parents, society has normalised absenteeism on behalf of fathers, lauding them for every little thing they do like they should get an award for changing a diaper a month while women are tasked with being the ever-present parent who does everything. We aren’t supposed to say anything about this because, after all, in the majority of cases men are providing the money for the women “to be able to sit at home” and take care of the child because women’s labour as homemakers or mothers is disregarded and working women are actively penalised professionally (read: the motherhood penalty) for having children and so ultimately, financially, it makes a lot more sense for women to not pay for help, quit their low-paying job and let the men continue working because men are financially and professionally rewarded for having children (read: the fatherhood bonus).

Men are not more ambitious than women because by design of the system women have to be four-times as ambitious just to get to the places where men get with ease. Women are given more “feedback” because in professional spaces people are more likely to have a bias against women’s intelligence and feel the need to coddle or explain things to us. I’m a trained journalist with multiple degrees, and I have men (who are not at all in the field) explain the press to me on a daily basis. Any woman will tell you any number of stories like that, just ask. Men don’t want “more sex” than women, women just have very little agency when it comes to who they want to have sex with and when. Therefore women who do not wish to have a lot of sex within marriage or relationships, would be much more comfortable having a lot more sex if they were attracted to their partners and while arranged marriages can be healthy, it is rare to come across one where the attraction is at the same level as the affection and sex is about attraction. Not necessarily physical attraction but attraction nonetheless. I’ve been with men, women, gender-fluid people, non-binary people and trans people, everyone wants sex (except the asexuals but I have been with them as well and sometimes they do), they just want it with people who do something for them. If they don’t, they don’t want it. It’s really simple.

Men are not necessarily more messy, men are necessarily more likely to have been brought up in an environment where they were not responsible for the mess they made and someone else (likely a girl or woman) was tasked with cleaning it up and when these men live by themselves, they’re messy. Women who have been cleaning up after themselves since childhood, don’t see cleaning up as as much work as men do. Even then, some women are messy. I mean, my house on a Wednesday afternoon looks like an abandoned laundromat and women are shamed for that. Women are taught as girls that they can be ambitious and work but they also have to keep the house, that’s what makes a complete woman. Women care more about tidiness because not caring means being judged for it and that is okay with some of us, it shouldn’t have to be okay with any of us. And also men aren’t perverted and women aren’t pure. Men rape and take, due to entitlement, which we normalise as perversion and evidence of men’s sexual needs. Women aren’t organic coconut oil, purity is not a measurable thing in people, and are just shamed and attacked a lot more for displaying sexuality.

But those are all just the little arguments, the argument that is loudest and most often repeated is this: Men are rational and women are emotional.

Can I call bullshit twice?

The rationality argument is fundamentally flawed because human beings aren’t computers, emotions are not contradictory to what is rational behaviour for a human being (fear, for instance, is a rational evolutionary response in human beings and pretending not to feel and not acting upon it is inherently irrational) and perhaps most importantly, the word rational has been misappropriated to the point where it is has lost all meaning. Rationality would mean being able to take information in, analyse it for fact and draw the most effective conclusion. In practice, rationality would dictate always finding the most effective course of action in any given situation and applying it with minimum labour and maximum efficiency. Might I suggest that a very small number of people are actually rational? And men especially, by virtue of socially engrained behavorial morays, contain in multitudes something that is in direct contradiction to this.

Ego.

I am not suggesting that women cannot be egoistic but we aren’t allowed to be in the same way. We are not allowed to be arrogant, prideful or egoistic without being condemned for it whereas we are given to understand since girlhood that men are egoistic. We are taught not to cross the pride of our fathers. We are taught to appease the ego of men by never making more money than them. We are taught to be attracted to the arrogance of men. However, ego is fundamentally irrational by the current definition of male rationality. Ego is an impediment to efficiency. It adds layers and layers of emotionally charged bullshit to goal-oriented activities and recreational socialization. Or as men would put it if women engaged in the same behaviour, drama. Which is not to say women cannot be passive-aggressive, aggressive or manipulative, it just means we all are. Men are just also likely deluded about their own motivations when engaging in such behaviour because they have been allowed for centuries to pass egoistic pride off as acceptable masculine behaviour.

And that is what different.

Men, women and others, all the same. Our social experience, different. I know that is sometimes hard to hear because as human beings we seem to be wired to seek out our specialness and we all have things that are unique to us, but none of us are special. We go through the same life experiences. Birth, puberty, youth, middle-age, old-age, death. Birthdays, heartbreaks, sex, love and betrayal. We all act in predictable ways and no number of stories about your ski-trip or your mercedes will change the fact that none of us are special. Or different. We’re just creatures destined to die.

But we’re treated differently in the world.

That’s not on nature. That’s on systems we created.

Refugee.

A poem about the alienation of people in a country that claims to welcome them with open arms.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

From the window of the old storage room,

leaning over the broken handle of the broom,

in their red robes we watched them return,

our prying eyes hidden behind the fern.

From the blue bin beside the locked chest,

we stole unshelled pecans as a form of unrest,

as we wondered aloud with our tired jaws,

how they ended up there for their cause.

Oh but the endless questions we asked:

What is it with which they were tasked?

If we spoke to them would they understand?

Can they speak the tongue of our divided land?

Where did all the hair from their heads go?

Why do they speak in hushed tones so low?

Why didn’t they have a country of their own?

Who sent them here to our cold, quiet zone?

Why did they raise slogans in the street?

Why couldn’t their kids come and meet?

Why could we rent them part of our home,

but were forbidden from calling their phone?

And when our mother came looking for us,

to rescue us from the trappings of dusk,

we pretended the locked chest was our mission,

as if we weren’t just spying on living friction.

At dinner we listened to our parents talk,

and even in sympathy they would mock,

these people torn apart by a strange war,

hoping they wouldn’t steal our old car.

As we grew tall and bright, we learnt,

how their leaders had themselves burnt,

how they fought for justice and freedom,

while we stole forbidden nuts from a drum.

The years passed and away we went,

our world, for us, a big welcoming tent,

where we could roam our lands so free,

our skin no barrier to what we could be.

The people we once hid and watched,

in their lands continued to be torched,

as the ways of the world became clear,

we learnt everyone’s life wasn’t so dear.

Some were into our world so gently brought,

to be kept away from our children and thought,

and while we opened to them our doors,

we relegated to them only our dirty floors.

Decades later when back home we came,

from the storage room we looked at our shame,

the ferns and trees had all but disappeared,

as had the men we had once so feared.

Gone to live among their own kind,

in sight but never welcome in our mind.

Our mother pointed at the box with the locked lid,

and asked if we had ever learnt what inside it hid,

but all we knew was that we had killed the tree,

and sent away the man called refugee.

This land we owned we gave him only on rent,

and he understood what that affront meant,

by birth some were destined for painful history,

inside locked boxes doesn’t always lie the mystery.

It Really Just Sucks To Be An Indian Woman.

This week alone we’ve had the Chief Justice question women’s roles in farmers’ protests, a brutal gang-rape resulting in the death of a woman, a minister suggesting all women be tracked and another insinuating that women are only baby-making machines, but somehow any time I complain, I hear people tell me that women are goddesses in this great country. Well, I’m a tired goddess, and I don’t have the energy to pretend anything is great anymore.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia.

It’s been quite a week. Quite an outrageous, nerve-wracking, infuriating week for women, and before you posit that I could just be talking about any week of being an Indian woman, let me break this week down for you. The Coronavirus pandemic continues to rage while the nation debates the merits of the two vaccines, the farmers continue to protest as the Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on the matter in what many worry will be an eye-wash and while women are still recovering from the comments of Chandramukhi Devi, a member of the National Council for Women (irony, huh?), who last week said that the gang-rape in Badaun could have been avoided if the woman had not gone out alone in the evening, our politicians have continued to present us with a barrage of their problematic views.

First, the Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde, questioned why women and the elderly were being “kept” at the farmers’ protests insinuating either that women did not have the agency to decide to be at protests themselves or that women have no part in the farming industry. No one has ever asked why men are being “kept” at protests against rape, just saying. The insinuation that women do not belong at a farmer’s protest in India is patently untrue, women comprise a large part of farm labour and agriculture employs more women than any other industry in India, they just happen to have a very small number of land-holdings and exist in a state of disguised employment for which they are not necessarily remunerated and, you know, apparently we’re a feudal society too now.

Then Shivraj Chauhan, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, in sparking a debate about raising the marriageable age for women from 18 to 21 also suggested that all women be tracked, especially those who have moved out of their parents house for work. He seemed quite pleased with his idea that women register at police stations and mandatorily download an app that can help the police keep track of them. For their own safety, of course, apparently the law needs to act like an overprotective grandmother in order to allow women to live freely in this country. In responding to Chauhan’s comments Congress MLA and former minister Sajjan Singh Verma asked why the age of marriage needs to be raised when doctors say that even a girl of fifteen could give birth to children because, you know, women are only baby-making machines. To cap off this absolute shit-show of a week, homemaker-turned-actress Rajni Chandy did what I thought was a really normal and beautiful photoshoot but because she’s 69-years old and posed in skirt, she was trolled for being too “obscene” for her age. Apparently older women must only wear sarees and talk about sex-appeal like a trinket they lost many years ago. Then it’s a nice book, but if they visually look it in present day, then it’s unpalatable.

That’s as much as had happened when I last checked the news 13-minutes ago and on behalf of the women of this country may I just say to the leaders, protectors and spokespersons of this country: FUCK YOU.

No, seriously. I considered writing about each of those things individually and taking apart the culture that enables them but instead on entangling myself in a mire of politically-motivated nonsense to try and make sense of these things, I’d like to, for once, discuss how they do not make sense. At least, to me. Women’s oppression has never made sense to me, not even in the way that minority-oppression makes sense (though it is not in the least justified or exonerated) due to minorities by definition being outnumbered by majority, but women’s oppression makes no sense even in that regard because women have been around, in more or less equal number, forever. I do not understand how being biologically-enabled to give birth or having squishy masses of flesh on our chests was interpreted to mean that women are weak or less deserving of rights. I literally cannot fathom how this began. I cannot. I can tie it to war, religion, patriarchy, whatever but none of those to me explains how it ever fucking began. It makes no sense whatsoever.

The other thing I don’t understand is patriotism when everything in your country is fucking broken. No, really, I love my country, right? It’s cool and weird, but my love is kind of like the love of the parents of an over-achiever. I love it, but I need it to prove to me why it deserves to be loved. I’ll be proud of it, when the pride is warranted. I’ve said this many times and I will never tire of saying it but when you belong to a place about which the best things you can say all happened thousands of years ago (or only in straight-up epic mythology), something is very wrong with the present day situation in that place.

And something is very wrong in our country today.

We can blame everyone for it or no one. We can say all was well before 2014 or we can say everything has been fine since. We can say this isn’t “real” indian culture and somehow the internet or PubG are responsible for this too. We can have many opinions on this but there are some facts we must contend with. Facts like we live

a country where the head of the National Council for Women publically denounced feminists, not sure what she was told about her job description, but really terrified to find out. A country where a court once acquitted over 30-men for the rape of a woman because she was already “habituated to sex” and while that decision was appealed 8-years later it has left its legacy of tying morality to virginity. A country where a Dalit woman is raped and her body is cremated in the middle of the night without notification. A country where private-school kids use whatsapp to share videos of teenage girls they fucked (hey, how’s raising the age of consent working out?). A country where I am still being told I shouldn’t touch the pickle if I am on my period. A country where it took a woman being brutally murdered on a bus for your uncle to be able to say the word rape and not even the death penalty instilled remorse in those rapists. A country where period products are still not freely available to almost 40% of woman. If I continued making this list I will have used up all the words available for everyone in the world.

That’s where we live. That’s the truth. The truth isn’t some mythical version of this country where women are goddesses and if I hear one more person tell me how women in India have divine status, I will let my divine tongue loose on them so hard, they’ll have to look up the point at which verbal abuse crosses into verbal assault and then verbal manslaughter, realise they should be dead and die from the sheer agony of the words I launched at them. I don’t want to be a goddess, I don’t know any women who do really. I want to live in a place where misogyny and sexism and violence aren’t so rampant that I can make an entire career out of it. A place where we can’t make heartfelt movies out of a widow’s desire to put Holi colour on her skin because nothing that fucking ridiculous would ever happen there and there would be absolutely no connection between widowhood and colour. I want to live there. Where I can use my brain to contribute to the growth of the world instead of having to spend my entire life trying to correct wrongs and establish equality between the sexes for the first time since human history began (presumably).

I mean we think so much about what was done, what is being said, what policy will change this or that, what does and doesn’t have pockets, what’s been attacked et cetera but we spend no time thinking about what was really taken from us.

Our potential.

And our Saturday nights.

So many women have devoted our lives, professional or experiential, to fighting against or dealing with the fallout of a misogynistic patriarchy that is in control of our experiences in many ways still and if we never had to do that, what all could we have done?

That’s what was taken.

If none of it had ever happened, today could have been one of the happiest days of my life because on a personal, professional and emotional front I have had a really fantastic day of achievement, but instead of being thrilled I’m just fucking pissed off as all hell because the circus of Indian womanhood is the show that really seems intent on going on forever. Instead of relaxing with wine, I have to angry-drink vodka on my Saturday night.

That’s what was taken.

And before you tell me to find inner peace, let me suggest an experiment. Take a glass, break it, and then stand on the pieces, then jam a pencil in your eye, pick up a crying child, pacify it while doing a calculus problem with you left hand on a wrinkled sheet of paper without a hard surface under it. Then try to find inner peace. If you can, I’m really flattered you read my work Dalai Lama. If you can’t, then stop fucking telling women to find inner peace in this hell-hole.

Because while I’m all for this goddess-based beautifully safe and serene space where women thrive, I am also aware of exactly where I live.

Are you?

If not, might I suggest, the news?

The Girl In The Painting.

A sample from my upcoming book of poetry, The Girl In The Painting is a poem about womanhood and how its stories are co-opted by other voices. Stay tuned for more information about my first published book of poetry.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

On a dirt road she walks with bare feet,
under the orange hues of abating heat,
and beside her walk a group of others,
an army of sisters, friends or mothers.
Her laugh frozen upon a fading canvas,
perhaps extracted by a rustic cuss,
or a joke that would no longer evoke joy,
as I watch her on the frame labelled ‘toy’.
A pot of water is balanced on her head,
covered with a cloth so bright and red.

Beside me the experts say they can see,
how she found happiness in captivity,
in a moment from a life never lived,
they say they can see what women hid.
They say she was a victim of circumstance,
and to a man’s tune she was destined to dance,
and her world that we painted was broken,
and all the beauty was but a mere token.

They say they can see a story so immense,
but all I see is a woman’s continuing silence,
where we watch with the eyes of a sniper,
and with assurance continue speaking for her.
We imagine her life and her constant pain,
call it art so it passes unsuspicious, our gain,
while we hush the girl beside us with ease,
as she begs for her pain to be heard please.

As I watch the woman hanging on the wall,
I hear from behind me a beckoning call,
and turn to have the lights flash in my eye,
and the child in my arms begins to cry.
I say I didn’t want to have that taken,
but like the painted woman I am shaken,
and my words they don’t want to hear,
my story they must package and share,
so I can hang somewhere else muted,

where their renditions cannot be refuted.
I wonder what they someday will see,
in that picture they just took of me.

How Consumers of The News Killed Journalism.

Over the past decade, journalism has become a dirty word and journalists the easiest targets for everything that is wrong in the world. The last year saw the highest number of attacks on journalists in years, as our credibility was slowly replaced by Google searches, sponsored content and WhatsApp. It’s convenient to blame journalists for all that’s wrong, but I argue that it’s you, the consumers of news, that killed journalism. This is how.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia.

Andrew Sam Pandian. Damodharan. Subhas Rai. Peerzada Ashiq. Masrat Zahra. Gowhar Geelani. Arnab Goswami.

Chances are that you are not sure what this list of names is meant to signify and that you only recognise one name on that list. Well, this is the (woefully incomplete) list of all the journalists that were detained, arrested or booked by the police or in courts in the year 2020.

In April, Andrew Pandian was arrested for reporting on supply chain challenges brought on by Covid-19 and corruption in the Public Distribution System. Damodharan was arrested in Tamil Nadu for capturing footage of medicines being distributed without prescriptions and was subsequently labelled a fake journalist. Subhas Rai was arrested for reporting on villagers near Varanasi who had to resort to eating grass to avoid lockdown-induced hunger. In March, Masrat Zahra was booked in J&K where she is a prominent, outspoken figure against human rights violations for “criminal intention to induce the youth and promote offence against public tranquillity”. Geelani was booked for “glorifying terrorism” for questioning the veracity of the anti-terrorism claims made by the current government. This is merely a minuscule cross-section of the list. In the latest rendition, India slipped two ranks from 140 to 142 on the “Reporters Without Borders” index that ranks 180 countries on the basis on press freedoms due to “pressure on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line”. In March 2018, a Cobrapost exposé titled Operation 136 found that a dozen news organisations of repute were accepting payments from “operatives” to push “soft hindutva” stories. There is no state or UT in our country where a journalist wasn’t physically attacked for doing their job last year.

Yet the only time the country went up in true uproar was when it came to Arnab Goswami. Suddenly we were all extremely concerned about press freedoms and willing to stand for journalists. Suddenly a national institution was being attacked and the glory of the fourth pillar needed to be restored. Suddenly injustice could not stand.

Lol.

In truth we had abandoned our journalists long ago and the popularity of panel-based screaming news shows weighed against the slow and certain demise of local news has been proof of that for years now.

So, who killed journalism?

Well, it was you.

The consumers of journalism killed journalism.

There is a deep misconception about journalism and what it does. Either it is viewed as a glamorous field filled with morally-ambiguous people who travel a lot, smoke and seem to know a lot of people. Or it is viewed as a “soulless” profession where individual reporters are seen as the bastion of corporate lines and political slants. Do news outlets have political biases and sometimes corporate sponsors? Of course. Does that impact how each individual reporter does their job? Not quite.

News is not all about uncovering scams, political/corporate espionage and making shocking revelations, it is about the bedrock. The alphabet of the world around you. It’s how you know what road is closed because of an accident or construction project. It’s how you know who provided the funding to make a hospital. It’s how you know why there is a power outage or where there has been an earthquake. It’s how you know what the parliament or your local municipal council is doing. It’s how you know about ISIS. It’s how you know court judgements. It’s how you are able to understand the budget. It’s how you know the results of elections. It’s how you easily access the millions of sheets of statistics that are uploaded by thousands of agencies every year in a single page.

It’s not glamorous. Glamour is not what most journalists do, only a very small percentage of journalists do that. We do the things that most people would spend hours doing if they had to get all their information straight from the source of the information. We read privacy policies. We read supreme court judgements in their entirety. We read bills and amendments like CAA and GST and break them down into 10 salient features for your clearer (and easier) understanding. We explain what net neutrality is and how it affects you. We pull data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and gather press releases to explain what the ministries and big companies in our country are doing. We are in the business of making information easily accessible and most importantly we are in the business of separating fact from hearsay and bullshit. Too often we view news only by its loudest and most nationally-prevalent factions but news is a lot deeper than that.

Of course, in today’s day and age, with the internet and social media, everyone is a journalist. My degree and years of experience lend the same credibility to me as the WhatsApp account of literally anybody else. We wouldn’t do that with a doctor or lawyer but we are comfortable telling journalists that their core skill (which is, again, gathering and representing facts) is the same as anyone else’s. It’s not, though. Media literacy is at an appalling point in our country (and a lot of the world today) because we aren’t taught how to judge what information is trustworthy but we are taught to denigrate the institutions that are littered with people trained to do exactly that. Journalists don’t just write whatever we feel. There is a process. An incident or discrepancy leads to the coverage which involves citing sources for the information, interviewing people involved in the situation, visiting the location that is at the heart of the situation, providing background data for the situation, representing all of those elements exactly as they are and then following up on the responses to and developments in the story, sometimes for years after anyone else still thinks those stories are relevant.

Opinion pieces are a different thing. This for instance, this is not journalism, it is my commentary on journalism today and should not be viewed as fact. Most news institutions have strict fact-checking practises and even reporting someone’s age as incorrect in a news piece is a serious thing and while fact-checking processes sometimes fail, the most blatant recent example of this being the reportage in the Caliphate podcast by the New York Times, it is a failure of process that needs to be checked by re-establishing professional standards (you know like we did after the money laundering scam in banking in 2014, no one stopped putting their money in banks, yeah?) or a failure of the ethics of an individual in the institution, it cannot be checked by deciding the entire field has the same credibility as your Google search.

Which is not to say journalism is in itself blameless. It is not. I believe the issues of this generation of journalists began with the Radia scandal in 2008 which revealed the unique powers a journalist can acquire over time and how those biases can infiltrate policy when made available to lobbyists. Funnily no one who has ever attacked me for being a journalist has ever made that argument. The problems consolidated with digital media taking over as the most likely source for the dissemination of information which took the news cycle from 24/7 broadcast to a demand for constant new content 24/7. Print ads were a more lucrative model for the press and online ads just do not generate the same revenue and with newspapers going out of business at an alarming rate there was just no way to keep up with the competition online. Additionally journalists are now required to be more social media strategist than reporters and content that does better online is not necessarily the good journalistic content. I mean cats are consumed ten times more as content online than detailed analyses of municipal corporation budgets.

Journalists who worked on stories for weeks and sometimes months to ensure thorough reporting and fact-checking were suddenly required to produce 2-3 blog pieces a day or risk losing their jobs. A majority of what we see today, even on news channels, is not news but people discussing the news. For the online consumer, content is not viewed as “news” or “not news”, it is viewed as “interesting to me” or “not interesting to me” so the news has to masquerade as clickbait and exciting headlines that promise scandal and shock. Even then the majority of local news outlets the world over have struggled financially, with a record number of then either closing or significantly downsizing over the past decade. Shutting down local news while strengthening the loudest national voices as the undisputed faces of journalism is how you enable the structure to disseminate propaganda. Local journalism is what supplies national journalism and without it, there is nothing at the heart of information.

Ultimately there is one thing a fair, free press needs to be independent enough to be able to do its job. To be independent, we need money of our own. Plain and simple. And here is the fact that for me is the definitive argument that the free-press was killed by its users:

No one wants to pay for the news.

Think about it. How many online news organisations do you pay subscription for? How many have you ever sent money to? We feel entitled to the news and any news outlet that asks for money is immediately dubbed immoral online. Or, you know, because most of us cannot justify calling The Economist immoral (and if we actually came to the melee with good arguments, we could), we just ignore it. A fraction of the people who used to buy magazines will pay to access the same content online which to me says that when it comes to journalism people were always only willing to pay for the paper on which the work was printed, not our work itself. There is no other profession that we would treat the same way. A lawyer won’t give you an hour-long meeting to discuss a case they haven’t even taken without being paid first and we are all okay with that. We just expect journalists and news organisations to be able to function without money.

Well, they can’t.

So journalism went a dangerously problematic route when they realised that advertising doesn’t work the same way for news organisations as it does for influencers. We went the route of ‘Native Advertising’ otherwise known as sponsored content. The best example of this is BuzzFeed, they write about products and companies in formats of personal experience and exciting announcements (while accepting payments from these organisations) and while they do attach disclaimers (as do most other organisations who do this), media literacy in our world is at a point where the consumer is barely able to distinguish paid content from the news and by virtue of paid content appearing on a news site, it has automatically become more credible than it would be on the website of the organisation itself. When we were unable to make money through any other means we began to sell our credibility and that’s on us. It’s working, though. We are gaining funding and we are losing credibility.

But who do we hold responsible for this?

Journalists.

Being a journalist is like living in a Facebook comments section nowadays. I’ve told people I am a real-estate agent just to avoid having that discussion where they feel like it is not only okay to blame me as an individual for all that is wrong in my field but also to unload all over me about every frustration they have with the country while simultaneously blaming me for it and refusing to pay anyone in my profession for providing the services they demand. When farmers protest because their livelihood is threatened, we see individuals who need to be protected, but journalists are rarely afforded the same privilege. Journalism is one of the most underpaid professions in the world and even more so in our country. Journalists are paid worse than even teachers which, let me be clear, is disrespectful to both journalists and teachers. My first two years working as a journalist I worked two full-time jobs and one part-time job just to be able to afford living in Delhi. I missed five Diwalis and Christmases in a row because I could get time-and-a-half working on those days and I needed the money.

Most of my friends started with salaries too low to even make rent and many of them still persist at only slightly higher incomes.  We expect the same thing from journalists that we do from designers of video games: constant crunch and to work at salaries lower than we deserve for the love of what we do. And it works. Most journalists love being journalists. We feed off the abuse and bear with the constant confrontation because we love what we do. We bear attacks, questions, arrests, unlawful detention, threats, lack of safety, wage insufficiency and endless deadlines because we believe in what we do and its importance.

It only matters to us though. As far as our community goes it is very clear that only if we descend to the lowest common denominator and openly display bias (towards the current government) on national television will any part of the country stand up to defend us (and you don’t get to complain about how the news is all screaming nowadays when that is all anyone is watching long enough to recognise the people who create it). Basically, we’re on our own. The majority of the journalists whose faces are not on billboards and TV screens are the ones who break stories, do research and supply the information that is consumed by most large news outlets, but those journalists are destined to be unread statistics sandwiched between posts about what Diwali gifts to buy and which Bollywood celebrity lost a lot of weight written by people no one is looking out for who haven’t slept in three days.

So the next time you feel like telling a journalist what you read on Whatsapp or how their job is not worth doing, please ask yourself, what the fuck have you done to keep the news alive?  That fifth lamp in your drawing room, that’s not doing anything to keep your lights on, but it’s easier to pay for that than the people who work tirelessly in the streets everyday to try and ensure accountability from your leaders and providers, isn’t it?

Well that’s on you then.

You get the news you deserve.

Scream Across The Room When Asking For A Tampon.

Any person who has ever bought a menstrual product knows they are sold in black plastic bags as if they are things that need to be hidden. Women are taught to apply shame and discretion to bodily functions and parts, and that is not free of impact. Here is why it would be better to be able to talk about tampons openly at the dinner table.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia.

How many times has this happened to you— You’re in a class, or a bar, or just hanging out with some friends when a woman you hardly know (or may know quite well) slides up to you and whispers to ask if you have a tampon? Or because we’ve changed into a new generation and have as a result changed our method of discreet communication, this girl texts you instead of sliding up. We always have this look on our faces; a combination of embarrassment and need and we always ask discreetly.

For instance when I was in school, one day a friend of mine started her period unexpectedly and she asked me for a sanitary pad. I reached into my bag to give her one and she said that i should put it inside a notebook and pass it to her. It was weird to me that she had this request but over the years I realized that this was norm.

Feminine hygiene products are meant to be hidden even when exchanged between women; much like the societal approach like they put them inside a black/opaque paper bag when you buy these products at the pharmacy. We’re supposed to hide our period and never mention it in company for fear of it being considered improper. I have personally had several people tell me to shut up or mind the room if I broach the subject of the menstrual cycle (which if I believe pop culture makes me leak blue stuff and cry over Bambi) but’s not just the period that is not to be mentioned, it’s various aspects of the female reproductive system.

A few days ago I was with my mother and we were going shopping when we (read: I) happened to start discussing fertility problems.

In this discussion I said the words, “My uterus is driving me insane and i don’t want to release eggs anymore, feel like a goddamn chicken.”

Obviously I was being playfully flippant but it was not that my mother took issue with. She promptly hushed me and pointed to the driver of the car. She whispered that i shouldn’t use such words so publicly (we were alone in the cab with the one person who was driving us). I tried to explain to her why it shouldn’t be considered inappropriate and in my explanation I used the word uterus again which made her decide not to speak again until I stopped using “dirty words”. It seemed like my mother’s approach to the female reproductive system was only viewed through a sexual-shame lens; she would not have reacted this was if I was discussing an infected toenail. It’s not her fault, this is just how we are taught to talk about our bodies, as if their parts are dirty things.

It just seems like we spend our half lives being taught about what is okay to talk about in the presence of men and/or in public and female reproductive health and systems is an inappropriate subject. That is part of why abortion is such a “no-no” subject at parties and family dinners. A man once literally called me insane for trying to explain to him what a female body goes through during a 28-day cycle. He seemed like he didn’t have any understanding of it at all but he was so uncomfortable with talking to me (a set of two holes that can make words) about this issue that he dubbed me insane.

Now I’m not saying everyone has to know women intimately, but no one should have to be shamed and silenced just because they talked about their fallopian tubes or their menstrual cycle with friends. There shouldn’t be a gender barrier on this information. Like in school, the talk about periods and puberty was limited to girls (in fact, we were explicitly told not to inform boys about what we would be discussing). Male puberty was never even discussed, which is a problem of itself. My point is that this information is  vital and if you communicate with women on a daily basis and if you have girlfriends/wives/children having the right information at the right time would benefit men as well but more importantly, freedom of discussion in all spheres will make sure girls and women are better informed. The conspiracy of polite silence for social propriety takes many victims.

I’ve had a fourteen year old sister (despite a Sex Ed class) wonder if men have both penises and vaginas. I’ve had a 20-year old boy ask me how come tampons don’t get lost inside people. I’ve met thirty (and older) year-old women who have never had a pelvic exam because “gynaecologist” is one of those words that is inappropriate to say in a social setting. My own mother had never had a breast exam until two years ago since, she had children. My friend couldn’t understand why I said birth control, and why I couldn’t just say condoms. Digest this please, this 27-year old had somehow missed the fact that contraception does not end at condoms.

However, it’s not just the lack of information, it’s also the misinformation. All the jokes around women being crazy on their period and all the mystery that shrouds that exchange of a tampon alienates women into a species that men and society as a whole cannot understand. It creates the environment that allows the distance between genders to joke about how little they know about the actual existence of one another. Lack of communication is a horrible thing but a system of silencing discourse on one particular subject either in a way that you shut it down or with the subtlety that encourages the discussers to whisper instead of talk creates an environment of misinformation, internalised shame and distrust. No girl should wonder why she has to whisper even though she does it because all the women around her do it. No woman should have to think of uterus as a dirty word.

So maybe, just maybe, next to you want to borrow a tampon you can just ask across the coffee table, just like you would ask for a spoon. Because maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop pretending that women leak blue stuff from their vaginas every month for an unknown mythical reason. That’s stupid. Let’s not live in a stupid world.

13 Unprecedented Big Boob Problems.

Any woman with big breasts will tell you there are a myriad issues associated with them but while some like back-aches and posture issues are well known there are others that get less representation. Here is a (sadly-hilarious) list of 13 problems that may not be commonly known.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

All you ever hear about are back aches and lack of correct bra sizes on the market, the reality of big boob problems is much worse, such as:

One time I got hit in the face with my tit while running. All because I failed to put on the extra reinforced (it’s like armour) sports bra on one fucking occasion. I’m not kidding. One of them just got loose, swung itself around and hit me in the face

Also, when boob sweat accumulates under huge boobs for all the years of your existence, you get blackheads and little pimples under there. Boob-powdering is a thing. A thing I never heard mentioned but have never been able to live without ever.

That “correct way to put on a bra” thing really matters to the big boobed. Otherwise it just feels like packing trash into a ripped garbage bag.

A friend of mine has big boobs that on a size-scale can only be described as glorious, she told me that when she lies on her stomach she has to part her boobs so she can create a comfortable level. Also so her boobs won’t get hurt. Lying on your stomach can be an adventure sport for the big boobed.

Oh and the attention from men! I don’t just mean in the street. See, my breasts have never been an erogenous zone for me but I was often approached by men who were, uhm, fixated on my huge giant breasts. As a result my breasts got a lot of..loving attention. It’s not fair that i should have to endure having my nipples licked by hundreds of guys for hours just because I have big boobs.

On a different note, I have literally never been able to find any of the stuff I’ve lost in there. I once lost a piano, maybe someday my nipples will find it and teach themselves how to play it.

And the bra size thing is actually a problem. Pretty big boob bras are more expensive than pretty small boob bras, even the trashy stuff, it physically hurts me when someone rips one of them. I probably sacrificed a week of rent for that bra but that’s not the actual size problem, there are constraints but I am usually able to find the right size and style. The real size problem is that clothing brands refuse to recognize that someone can be a size 16 around the chest and a size 12 around the hips. Expecting a woman to have a uniform dress size for her whole body is the real unrealistic expectation if you ask me.

Also if you text me after midnight (ie: when I am half-laying on my back in bed), at least 50% of the text is typed by my boob. They keep sending half completed texts and clicking on spam links. Goodness knows how many Nigerian princes I’ve almost helped smuggle money out of the country.

Speaking of lying on my back, if I arch backwards, my boobs smother me and i die. They are a deadly weapon attached to my chest and I’m destined to die in friendly fire.

Honestly sometimes I can’t breathe and feel like I have no neck when I settle into bed for sleepy time. When I’m ovulating, I’m basically engaging in auto-asphyxia. (Kindly note how I didn’t say auto-erotic).

Chest meat comes with upper-arm meat. Upper arm meat is hard to drop.

Also, you know because of the connection between weight and gravitational pull sometimes my boobs point downwards and i can’t find my nipple through the bra because it has decided to relocate seventeen inches south of where it is supposed to be. My nipple is pierced and i still can’t find it.

I haven’t left the house without a bra since 2001..when I was 10.

Big boobs really are a pain in the back. Gotta go smother myself to sleep now.

11 Ways You Can Tackle Casual Sexism Everyday.

If you ask most women, sexism is everywhere, and if you ask some men, they want to help tackle it but if all ask all people, many of us are not sure what we can do on a daily basis to help. Well, here’s what you can do.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

I know it is bold of me to assume that anyone really wants to learn how to combat everyday sexism, misogyny and the rape culture based on the sheer number of people I know who won’t even admit that these are real things but inside my hard-crusted nihilism there is an impermeable center of optimism and I try to execute my ideas from that place. However here is the main idea: If you do actually wish to make things better everyday for the women (which is not to say things cannot be bad for men or transgendered people or gay people or chickens) there are a few basic tenets from where you must operate before you read the tips that could actually help you be less sexist and combat more sexism in everyday life:

a) Accept that women actually deal with sexism on a daily basis whether that is in the form of a server at a restaurant always handing the cheque to a man or being called a slut for wearing a skirt or having to use our initials instead of our female-sounding names in publications. There is a vast cultural, legal and professional framework that exists and enables sexism.

b) Understand that a sexist, patriarchal framework enables and supports the culture of violence against women. If you feel like women should not be crying about dresses without pockets when rape exists, understand that when you break these things down they lead you to the same place. They are borne out of the same fire.

c) Stop viewing a conversation about women’s rights as an attack on men. If you feel robbed because more women have the same degree as you, that’s your problem and not a woman attacking you.

d) Understand that women’s rights is still a nascent movement in many ways. I know there is a temptation, especially among men, to think that this women’s rights thing has been going on for so long and everything is different now. Just place it against history, woman really only started having rights (like men do, as in legal fucking rights) last century. Compare that to how long men have had rights before you tell women to stop complaining all the time. There are many, many things still to complain about.

e) And finally, learn that being open to understanding and changing your own sexist behaviour isn’t like admitting evidence against yourself. We’ve all been there. Women too. I had to learn what behaviours of mine were problematic and work towards changing them and doing that doesn’t rob you of your identity.

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If you are on board with those things, only then does it make any sense to even read further because obviously if you aren’t on board, you aren’t on board with checking your own sexist behaviour either. However if you are actually interested, I realise there is a lot of nervousness surrounding this idea of sexism where a lot of people are on board with taking down sexist frameworks but aren’t sure what that actually means in execution. Here are some tips you can apply in your daily behaviour and to the world around you:

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  1. If a woman tells you something is sexist, it is not your goal to prove that she is wrong or how it isn’t or #notallmen or to tell her how she has misunderstood the situation.

Here is what you could say instead if you really don’t understand, say this: “I’m sorry to have made you uncomfortable/that made you uncomfortable and I was wondering if you could help me understand how this behaviour makes women uncomfortable?

Let the person affected by the behaviour in question explain how they are affected by the behaviour in question.

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  1. If you are a man (or any other gender even) and a woman tells you about an incident like someone cat-calling her or touching her in the street, don’t say the following:

“Tell me who it was, I will punch him/I would have punched him/I want to kill him.”

…because then you are “protecting” her and telling her it is your job as the dominant force to commit violence on her behalf.

Instead, try saying this:

“How are you?/Are you okay? Is there something I can do to help?”

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  1. Think about things in “Would I do this too terms?”

Say you are a doctor and you happen to be in a discussion about a diagnostic test with other people, none of whom are doctors, would you say that in that situation, your opinion is the one of the expert? Now say you are not a doctor and you are in the same discussion with a sole female doctor present. Do you find yourself feeling the need to correct her or assert yourself as the authority? Or maybe do you find her confidence, arrogant? If you do, cast yourself in her role and check whether you would be as confident as the expert in a role. If yes, check your own sexism instead of ruining her day.

It’s fine, misogyny and casual sexism has taught a lot of us to hate authoritative women but you can teach yourself to recognise that and choose not to fucking do it.

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  1. Don’t tell women what you would have done in their place instead. You’re not in our place. If you were, you wouldn’t have gone and punched that guy in the dark corner of the street because you would have then grown up like us too and known that rape-based scare-tactics fucking work.

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  1. Chivalry is not as important as rights. I am settling this “should I open the door for her or not” question forever: NOT. Okay, some women like it (and will learn to live without it, I assure you) and some women are outraged by it and many many men have admitted to being confused and some seem to believe this means women want to have their cake and eat it too and let me say this right now, no amount of doors opened for me and chairs pulled out for me will ever compensate for being accosted in the street, and if we can only deal with one of those, let’s make it the latter. Don’t open the door for women, don’t order our meals, don’t stand up when we enter a room. If chivalry is hard to reconcile with feminism, you best believe it’s chivalry we are all voting to get rid of.

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  1. Stop fucking telling women to calm down. Seriously, I am not even explaining this. My own mother will tell me not say anything (well, not anymore) if my father is being a pissy diva (sorry, dad) and then tell me to calm down when someone at my work steals my fucking copy. If a woman’s emotions make you uncomfortable then a man’s emotions better make you equally uncomfortable. And if your mind is blown by the discovery that men have just as many fucking emotions then might I suggest going back to kindergarten and starting this whole thing over?

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  1. Practise consent like a fucking religion. Here’s how I suggest you do it:

a. If you have two kids encourage them to ask each other or you (if you have the one) before they engage in any physical play. And while you are at it, discourage physical sibling violence. It’s stupid.

b. If you are a person who masturbates (and not a person who specifically gets off to non-consensual fantasies, no judgement but also sorry because this won’t help you) build consent into your fantasies. It won’t take anything away from them if the person you’re thinking about enthusiastically tells you they are into it. Might even work the other way.

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  1. Monitor your words and the words around you. This one is especially relevant if you have children. Let the child hear you discuss women like you discuss men, by their profession or in their individuality. If you are watching television with a child, point out sexist tropes and invite them to talk about them.

Let me give you an example, my stepson has these sibling-friends, one boy and one girl. He plays with both, however he told me one day that he doesn’t understand why the girl comes to the park and then spends all her time just talking to her friends instead of playing football. So I began discussing communication-space with him by asking him to tell me where else he sees her talk a lot and after a short discussion he came to the conclusion, himself, that because her brother is allowed to always cut her off while she is speaking, talking freely is a valuable activity to her that she doesn’t always have the space to engage in except with other girls.

(FYI, this is why you think women are so chatty with other women, because we don’t fucking get to speak without being interrupted elsewhere).

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  1. JUST LET HER PAY THE BILL! Do you hate money? Or do you want her to have more money? Well, then participate in ensuring women are paid fairly instead of getting your manhood all hurt over cheque-politics. Just let her pay if she wants to.

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  1. Tell the jock to shut the fuck up. Seriously, if you find yourself amongst men and someone says something you know is bullshit like women bosses are ineffective, just tell him to shut up! You don’t have to ally to the cause only when women are watching.

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  1. Resist the urge to conversation mine when talking to women. Seriously, you don’t have to talk to women only about shopping, decor, clothes and children. These conversations can be as boring for us as they are for you. Unless specifically told otherwise operate under the assumption that women do, in fact, have brains.

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Also, just as a reminder, please stop telling women how we feel about our own lives or who we are. We know who we are, thank you.

Why You Should Kiss In Front Of Your Kids.

Growing up in India, most of us never saw our parents express any physical affection to one another and very few of us are comfortable displaying affection to our partners in public. This may seem like a personal choice but it speaks to a much deeper culture of shame, taboo and violence.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

On a bright summer day decades ago, my friend and I had just discovered how babies are made. We had watched a movie that mentioned condoms and our journey through the dictionary (the OG Wikipedia) had led us to this startling discovery. As we sat together in my room munching on potato chips that were staring to make our stomachs turn, there was only one, extremely disturbing, question on our minds:

“Did our parents actually do this too?”

I have since learnt that this is a common question among children who have just learnt about sex. In our state of repulsion we came to the conclusion that our parents must have only done it twice each — to make us and our siblings — and after that we decided never to think about it again. Fortunately for me, my mother was quite proactive regarding sexual education for an Indian woman born in the 60s and over the years she managed to set my sexual ideology straight enough for me to move past my disgust and accept sexuality as a natural part of relationships. That being said, there was and there continues to be, disgust associated with sexuality and especially, with the sexuality of our parents. With the sexual conservatism that plagues our society and the concept of modesty that is informed by both our laws and our culture, this is hardly surprising, but in reality there is a much more deeply-rooted phenomenon that enables this sexual shame:

In India, we never see our parents touch each other.

This is, of course, not limited to our parents. Public display of affection in India is not encouraged and often it is not even tolerated anywhere. Several years ago my partner was away for a few months doing a course in a different city, I went to visit him for a couple of weeks and we spent a lot of time together around his colleagues and course-mates. Now I am a person who is very comfortable in their body, a little too comfortable some might even say (and they can blame the yoga, I guess?), and I touch my partner as much as I possibly can, and I also do it in public (and so does he). We hold hands, we kiss whenever we want, we sit close together, we touch each other on the head or arm or back or whatever. We are people in love and we are deeply affectionate with one another and I guess, it shows in our behaviour around one another. I think nothing of it because it is a habit to me (and it’s not a social habit, I don’t touch people I am not in a romantic relationship with at all except to shake hands which also has been taken away from me by this wretched year) and I am determined to live freely in this world so if the person in my life is consenting to being touched, I don’t much care what anyone else thinks. I haven’t cared for so many years that now I don’t notice it at all.

People notice it, though.

After that trip, I found out that apparently we had been ascribed a moniker around campus. We were “the PDA couple”. It wasn’t said to me in a derogatory way, which is only a function of my privilege and how it enables me to socialise only in certain circles, but I’ve heard it said it many different ways over the course of the many years I have been dating. I have no idea when I got so old but this is bullshit. My mother expresses it in terms of casual annoyance. I think she was hoping we would stop after we married but joke’s on you mother. Ha. Some people poke fun at it in a friendly, jovial manner. Others avert their eyes. Some call you a slut. Others tell you to leave their establishment. Some straight-up attack you. Overall though, as a people, we are not cool with PDA, which makes me wonder what does publically displaying affection actually insinuate. To me touching a person I love is like talking to them, I cannot not do it and it will never not be appealing to me. However, socially and on an anthropological level our actions say things about human behaviour and how they are received makes a statement about our times. These times are strange, which I guess everyone believes about their times, and when we touch in public we say could be saying a few different things.

We could be admitting to an intimate knowledge of and comfort with the body of the person next to us which says that we may have been sexually connected before, and that is not a comfortable admission even in today’s world. We could be saying that while we are aware of society’s standard of decency, we choose to flout it anyway, and that is viewed as rebellion against the morays of our times. We could be saying that we are comfortable with sexuality and our bodies, and while that shouldn’t evoke a negative reaction from society, it crosses a boundary that we deem propriety. Essentially it’s very simple, public display of affection is a non-essential (sexual) touch and the conspiracy of morality dictates that we must love and touch not for pleasure, but only when there is due cause and publically there is only one due cause for touching that we acknowledge: Making babies.

This goes to the very heart of how we teach sex and love. You fall in love, you get married and you have babies. You fall in love, you have sex, and that makes babies. Even though sex occurs way more frequently to the end of pleasure, it is taught only as the process of making babies. If you think about it that is the whole reason why pre-marital sex is so taboo in India, because by law of culture you are not allowed to make babies without marriage which means the only reason you would be having sex before marriage is for pleasure. As a country, we are not okay with pleasure. Pleasure is at the heart of immorality which is why we don’t just condemn public display of physical affection, we don’t even like it if kids exchange chocolate and flowers on Valentine’s day. We don’t like to see anyone holding hands, let alone kissing and we definitely don’t want our children seeing that, because we don’t see that as healthy physical expression, we has prescribed an identity to it on the porn-spectrum. Parents don’t touch in front of their kids because there is something unspoken yet decidedly wrong about it and that is what it is.

Most of us, we didn’t see our parents touch. They never kissed in front of us. They didn’t hug. They never cuddled. They never even insisted on bedroom-privacy and many of us were just taught that it’s always okay to enter our parents’ bedrooms (with or without knocking). Our parents’ bedrooms were often just a public space of the house for us. Never touching was a habit for our parents and their sexuality was so hidden from us that many of us would still balk at the idea of our parents being sexual beings too. In response to that we will teach a similar idea of love to our children and when they see two people who don’t even seem to love each other (or have a relationship that doesn’t mimick a fraternal relationship) and two people who never touch each other, they will believe that is what love looks like. When they learn of sex and realise those two people who don’t even seem comfortable with each others touch had sex, that will start to seem normal to them. When that seems normal, they will learn that reluctance, discomfort and shame are part of sexuality and that is how rape culture is normalised. When we teach our kids our delusion that sex happens only for procreation and all pleasure is bad because we cannot bear the idea of our parents as people capable of pleasure, we teach them shame too. We teach them the idea that touch cannot be loving and innocent, it must only be shameful, secret and dirty. Look closely at your own sexuality and you will see how those ideas have informed it.

So I touch my partner in front of my stepson and have for years. We hug and we kiss and we make eyes at each other. We express our love and we are comfortable with each other’s bodies. As a result, he is more comfortable with his. As it changes, he openly asks questions about it. He discusses what he feels and questions ideas of gender and society. He is respectful of people’s boundaries and always asks before he touches anyone. He respects our boundaries which allows our relationship its own space and he understands that he has the rights to set up boundaries around his own body. He is physically affectionate and comfortable with being so. He can think about holding a girl’s hand without it being a wrong or dirty thing in his head. He doesn’t find our behaviour disgusting, nor is he uncomfortable with his own behaviour that he sometimes finds confusing. He sees romantic love as a positive and joyful thing that he looks forward to having and understands it has nothing necessarily to do with baby-making.

We keep saying we have to educate our boys in the effort to tackle rape culture, misogyny and sexism. Well, this is how you start to do it. Body-honesty is a great lesson.

A Comprehensive Review Of All Period Products.

Periods and period products are all a nightmare. Here is my hilarious review of all the products I have used.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

This is my extensive and possibly completely useless guide and review for all the period products I have used.

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Product Name: Basic-Ass Sanitary Napkins

Description: They’re fat, cheap, narrow and feel like you’re putting a doll’s bed between your legs. Which is, an odd experience.

Experience: I first used these during my first period. I knew what a period was and what I had to do during it but, I didn’t know exactly how to use this product and I ended up putting the side with the adhesive upwards (stuck to the vagina) leading to a strange week when I wondered why they would make a period product that tried to rip my skin off. I hated them even after I figured out how to use them but over the years (especially after the number of times I just happened to be in villages and small towns when I got my period) after having used several other products I came to realise these are actually much better than other pads. They last about the same time, they’re more comfortable against your skin than other pads and they cost less.

Questions though:

  1. How about putting a “this side down” sign on the sticky end? A girl’s first brazilian shouldn’t be on the same day as her first period.

Worst thing about it: The lumpy feeling between your legs and the environmental impact.

Best thing about it: They are cheap and if you’re going to bleed on something and throw it away, make it cheap.

Expert Opinion: I hate my period, this does not make it better.

Rating: Three out of five blue blood droplets.

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Product Name: Winged, Scented Elaborate Sanitary Pads.

Description: They’re thin. They’re winged. They smell like flowers allegedly. The come with roll up disposable plastic wrappers because why not more plastic?

Experience: Let me just say right away, I hate these pads so much. The glue sucks, especially in the wings so they never ever stay in place, I just always accidentally stick the wings onto the pad somehow (I am not very dextrous). Apparently these pads can absorb a lot more blood but i have never seen that because they also just get bunched up and become like a thin vertical line of bloody plastic-ey cotton. Also extremely rough feeling against your skin.

Questions though:

  1. What’s with the flower scent? It doesn’t actually smell flowery and I don’t actually mind the smell of blood but seriously fake flower+crystallized blood= Barf
  2. Why do you think the disposal wrapper thing works? It doesn’t. Neither your glue nor your environment game is on point!
  3. Explain the name whisper. Seriously, explain it. Who is whispering and why and about what?

Worst thing about it: The fucking scent. Why do you want women’s menstruating vaginas to smell like meadows?

Best thing about it: Nope. Not a thing.

Expert Opinion: I hate my period, this does not make it better.

Rating: Two out of five blue blood droplets.

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Product Name: Tampons

Description: A wad of cloth, cotton, plastic shaped like a bullet that you can choose to shoot into you with an injection style applicator or just push in with your hands.

Experience: The weirdest part of my experience with tampons has been dealing with all the people who are sure I will die of Toxic Shock Syndrome. I find tampons comfortable to insert and uncomfortable to remove, I realise insertion (and how India feels about women putting things inside their vaginas) is the reason they are so uncommon in India. However you can safely use tampons (even if you have never had penetrative sex before). The chances of TSS are quite low especially if you regularly change them. They are easier to store, dispose and carry. They are however more expensive and accessibility is a problem. I have used tampons for thirteen years but in smaller towns and cities, I can never buy them at pharmacies. Some pharmacists have been downright confused by what I asked for and when you get used to tampons, it is actually quite hard to go back to pads. They are however more expensive than all other menstrual products on this list.

Questions Though:

  1. Why have pharmacists in India been storing tampons in the refrigerator? Seriously, I am not kidding. I have experienced this 6-7 times, in multiple cities, and none of them can explain why they do it, they just do.
  2. I realise all tampons say I can pee with them in and biologically I should be able to but then…why can’t I?

Worst thing about it: They dry you out.

Best thing about it: Pretty mess-less. If you care about that.

Expert Opinion: I hate my period, this does not make it better.

Rating: 4 our of 5 blue droplets of blood.

….

Product Name: Menstrual Cup or Diva Cup

Description: A silicon cup that you insert inside yourself and it gathers all the blood through suction in the cup and then you wash it out every 4-6 hours or so.

Experience: So this was supposed to be the miracle cure. It’s 300-500 rupees a year in terms of money so extremely cheap. It’s much, much more environmentally sound than any other products but IT IS DEFINITELY TRYING TO KILL YOU.

Okay.

So I got one. I kept it on my bathroom shelf for a month. Right next to the tampons. Finally I decided to try it. It’s shapes like a cup so you have to kinda fold it in on itself to insert, apparently this is extremely easy, but I beg to differ. Between long, sharp nails and a slight but extremely irrational fear that the suction would suck out my entire uterus (I know that’s dumb!), I could not

for the life of me insert it. I had to get my partner involved (he’s a doctor so he’s really not squeamish about bodily fluids or weird insertions and this is why I cannot be a doctor), and after 20-minutes of trying, he got it in me. It felt like it was suctioning my insides so I freaked out and told him to take it out immediately.

A day later, we tried again. This time I didn’t even try to do this myself, just asked him. It only took 19-minutes that time. I managed to withstand it for an hour. Then I pulled it out and GOT BLOOD EVERYWHERE!

Either this product is a wreck or I am.

Questions though:

  1. How do I get it out without spilling blood everywhere? Not everyone is dextrous!
  2. Is it sucking out my uterus?
  3. How are people successfully inserting these themselves?

Worst thing about it:

  1. This is a two person job.
  2. The job still won’t be done.

Best thing about it:

  1. Cheap.
  2. Really efficient if you hate yourself.

Expert Opinion: I hate my period and this definitely made it worse.

Rating: One out of five blue droplets of blood.