Show some respect.

My grandparents live 70 km to the right and my in-laws live 60 km to the left from where my parents’ stay when we’re in India. Which means long drives have become such a mainstay in my life that I have my favourite sights and pit stops bookmarked. Like the shops with heavily plagiarised names of social media networks and barbershops that Brad Pitt and Cindy Crawford unwittingly endorse. Certain traditions have continued over the years, like staying up for the bridge that reminds me of incessant backseat singing, or the strip of road flanked by trees and mountains that remind me of waking up groggy with my face buried in my grandmother’s lap. When I wasn’t travelling with my grandparents or parents, it was with my husband and child. Sometimes it was the sweet solitary drive with a driver, free of conversation, and free to daydream about the day ahead and reminisce about the days past.

On one such road this past month, a girl no older than I am, was travelling with her driver. I imagine she looked at the landmarks that had become her bookmarks on a road often travelled. At a pit stop she perhaps didn’t remember, her driver took it upon himself to let in four other men, who then horrifically molested and abused her for more than an hour while the car drove on.

The fact that she is a movie star doesn’t make this sick, sick, sick act any more or any less deserving of attention. The fact that this happens regularly does.

This news isn’t new, just another version. From the brutal rape, murder and assault of innumerable girls and women from 2 years of age to 60, we are not numb – we are seething with an unfathomable rage that threatens to destroy everything in our sight.

Every time I looked at the Hindu Goddess Kali, I felt a sense of disconnect with the all-consuming angry eyes, the chain of skulls and the trident piercing through a demon’s throat.

Not any more.

That is every woman today, even if she is smiling or crying outwardly.

This Women’s Day, I urge the men in my life to give the Hallmark holiday more meaning. While our sisters in the US go on the Day Without A Woman Strike, I’m asking every man I know to #ShowSomeRespect. Fuck the breakfast in bed and spa vouchers. Fuck the red roses and decorative mugs. Show the women in your life some respect.

Reach out to 10, 5, heck even 1 woman and tell her why you respect her. Because no matter how softly she giggles, she is made of a metal you haven’t even heard of yet. Because no matter how quickly she breaks into tears, she wipes them away and gets shit done.

Because she has to work twice as hard as you do to get the same recognition, while fighting off gropers and patriarchy with her elbows.

Because it isn’t about how hard she toils in the kitchen or how well she takes care of you – it’s why she does what she does, and you may never understand it.

So tell her. Tell her that you see it and respect it. She doesn’t need your protection or approval; she needs you to accept that she is equal and should be treated as such.

Then seek out 10 of your male friends and tell them to #ShowSomeRespect. Call your friends out on their sexist jokes and tell them you don’t appreciate it. Prove to the world that there’s more to locker room talk than vulgarity. Talk about your female classmates, workmates and friends. Talk about their achievements, strength and resilience.

Enough is enough is enough. No more women getting raped. No more putting women “in their place”. No more nagging wife jokes. No more talking over women. No means no.

No, Indian cinema, if her skin is exposed, it is NOT completely acceptable or even hilarious to grab it.

No, Hollywood, the damsels are not in distress.

No, music industry, her arse is not yours to smack.

And no, society, she is not yours to take.

Start now. Whether you make your pledge public or private, make it count. Get out there and #ShowSomeRespect.

Womens-March-on-Washington

It’s only words.

I started writing an amusing (if I may say so) post about getting my legs waxed, but kept getting derailed by one that’s been swimming in my fingertips since November 8 last year.

Tomorrow the free world gets itself a new despot – the Stale Cheeto aka Fuckface Von Clownstick aka Little Donnie Diaperpants aka PEEOTUS aka The White Pride Piper aka…you know what, just go here and here.

I share the sense of disappointment and alienation with the American people; but with it has returned a jarring personal memory for me.

Years ago at uni, I was the unwilling protagonist of a skit. It had all the elements of a timeless “meninist” crass comedy. Sexism, body shaming and the kind of blind confidence that can only spawn from generations of patriarchal entitlement.

I use the non-term meninist in quotes, because it will never be a thing.

I use the term timeless, in that, all these years later, it has never left me.

The skit was about how naked photos of a girl (coincidently, her name was mine with a letter changed) were leaked, and how all the excitement was quelled upon seeing how small her breasts were.

I stood there in the crowd, between seniors, juniors and peers, between friends and strangers. I stood there in the crowd, as realisation dawned on every one and they turned to look at me, one by one. I stood there in the crowd, as eyes pried through my tee, and judgement slobbered around my body.

I just stood there.

When I finally came to, the curtains were being drawn amid loud boos – and one too many cheers. I convinced my friends that I didn’t care what a bunch of immature college nobodies thought of me.

Here I am. 13 years later. Not caring what the immature college nobodies thought of me.

Until recently, I thought it was humiliation and rage that crippled me that afternoon when my classmates pointed at an imaginary picture of me in the nude, and frothed at the mouth before agreeing that my breasts just weren’t doing it for them.

I’ve often wondered what the “creative” process was like. I imagine the boys deciding to put up a skit. I imagine them thinking of what would get the most reaction from the crowds. I imagine someone suggesting me as a subject. I imagine all of them arriving at the premise of the story.

I stop imagining when the bile starts rising.

What I thought was sheer humiliation and rage back then, was my body refusing to acknowledge hurt and disbelief at the violent breach of trust by those who had been sharing the same space with me for four years.

I’m working to find the fabled higher consciousness where you learn to free yourself from painful memories. Until then, that it happened, marks its permanency in my mind.

This is the memory that my brain picked out as the president-elect prepares to take office.

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Megan Lane: Women and Trump, by Tony Ward

Everything about this campaign has brought back how I felt that day/week/year, and I feel for what the American people (and most of the world) are going through.

That people they’ve been sharing their space with all their lives just displayed in front of the world how lowly they regarded them – their body, ability, sexual-orientation, religion, origin.

But rather than standing frozen in shock and disgust, the world is rising up; and goddamnit if it isn’t the most beautiful things that’s come out of all this.

I’m not an American citizen or resident, but I think we can all agree that this poison has seeped into every living room and work cubicle around the world. Luckily, the antidote is making its way in.

When I let that offensive skit slide all those years ago, I opened the doors for every student to pass their judgement on my whole being, and made room on that stage for the next non-conforming girl to get publicly harassed.

Never again.

As an indignant Fox News reporter wondered: Are we planning to be in a state of mass protest for the next 4 years?. Yes, that sounds pretty accurate. I’m joining the global movements against systemic racism, sexism and bullying at every level, in my own way. With it, I hope I can wash away the ugly stain on my memories.

So no, Mr Trump & co., you cannot and will not get away with “Sayin’ it like it is”, because what it is to you, is repulsive to us. These words that you callously toss around because of the podium you’ve been afforded, are validating the basest of opinions and actions. Now we will toss our powerful words around, too. Equality, feminism, respect. Basic. Human. Kindness. And the podium on January 21 at the Women’s March is far bigger than any you will ever have the honour of standing on.