Sylvia Plath, the fig tree, and chick-lit

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is a piece of iconic feminist writing, which is dark, witty and extremely painful, outlining and diving into the experiences of a woman who is mentally disturbed and agitated with antiquated gender roles and stereotypes. There are several wonderful things that the book explains with a perceptive and smart protagonist, someone who is self-aware and yet, a part of a tumultuous society that just will not take her seriously. She is not the heroine of the story; instead she is a brilliant woman who is slowly sliding into the inner depths of her own psyche and losing touch with what matters most to her. Personally, the harrowing experience she narrates about being depressed is all too real, and palpably painful.

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In 2013, Faber & Faber came out with a new edition for the book The Bell Jar. The cover featured a lady powdering her face, making it a standard “chick-lit” novel that would be marketed specifically towards women. It hid the actual idea of the book in the recesses of its redness; one of a vehement fight against gender roles and the short biographic account of a ‘madwoman’, the kind that Plath had herself been. Chick-lit is generally defined as literature with a female protagonist whose womanhood is severely thematized in the storyline, and by this definition alone, The Bell Jar is, in fact, chick-lit. Jodi Picoult, author of My Sister’s Keeper and The Pact, says in an interview with The Telegraph,

“If a woman had written One Day [by David Nicholls], it would have been airport fiction. Look at The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. If I had written that, it would have had a pink, fluffy cover on it. If Jenny Eugenides had written it, it would have had a pink fluffy cover on it. What is it about? It’s about a woman choosing between two men. What is The Corrections about, by Jonathan Franzen? It’s about a family, right? And I’m attacking gun control and teen suicide and end-of-life care and the Holocaust, and I’m writing women’s fiction? I mean, I can’t tell you. When people call The Storyteller chick-lit, I actually break up laughing. Because that is the worst, most depressing chick-lit ever.”

The issue with calling books chick-lit is that it gives the false notion that the value of the books is only so far as the audience reading it is a woman. This idea, one that men’s books can be read by everyone, but women’s books can only be read by women, is toxic and unpleasant. When the story of the modern woman is narrated by a female author, the issues it addresses are considered to be frivolous, which is why reading chick-lit authors is a frivolous reading activity. Which brings us back to the definition of what chick-lit is – the fact that a book having a central theme as women’s issues is quickly shelved into “women’s fiction”; a book intended mostly for women to read. There is no real reason why a man should be interested in women’s issues or a female perspective, considering that most of these issues are swept under the rug with an air of silliness.

Shelving Plath’s The Bell Jar in a similar manner angers me. It can no longer be a classic produced by American literature, a testament to mental illness, gender disparities, and female sexuality; instead, it becomes a book intended for women to just relate to and keep men out of. It is a book that I would highly recommend to everyone, not just women, to understand the nuances of how depression can tear down an entire personality, about seething self-doubt in the mind of a brilliant writer, and the quirky enthusiasm of a person to end her own life.

A beautiful representation of one of the best quotes from The Bell Jar appeared in the Netflix original series Master of None, which is created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang. The show is a gentle reminder of Louie, which kept me captivated with its surreal style of story-writing, exaggerated humour, and the dark wit of Louis CK. Master of None captures the essence of a second generation Indian man living in the US quite well, and addresses issues related to race and ethnography in a humourous manner that I already loved Aziz Ansari for. The show is not merely funny though; the characters seem real and well-thought out, and in one of the episodes they made great use of a quote from The Bell Jar. A man quoting Sylvia Plath as a perfect depiction of what he is feeling at the moment felt to me like a step away from thinking of women’s fiction the way that it is at this point in literary circles.

A summary of what he feels his life could be like is perfectly described in the book with these lines, which is one of the best quotes I have ever had the pleasure of reading:

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/feb/01/the-bell-jar-new-cover-derided

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/11/opinion/the-snobs-and-me.html?_r=0

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/authors/jodi-picoult-its-really-hard-to-love-America-sometimes/

 

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My two cities

Living in Gandhinagar is akin to living in Gurgaon with the only similarity being the closeness to a larger, faster city – Ahmedabad and Delhi. It is an ill-informed association my brain has now made – delaying everything because everything amazing is happening in a city too far away. But coming back to Gujarat brings a wave of unfamiliarity sometimes, especially now that I have spent such a long time away from a place I called home for 4 years. The buildings are not as anxious to rise up, like how I see back in Gurgaon; unfinished skeletons of metal and stone that are neither going to be finished any time soon, nor are they too welcome in an atmosphere of bad planning and numerous urban issues. Everything is low and quiet. Even the dogs I see here seem to be thinner and smaller, not needing to be thick in a harsh environment. Most of them are still docile and suspicious of anything humans do (of course it depends on the area), even the heavy lull of a motor cycle. 

A general habit I’ve formed over time, as I assume most women might have, is immediately count the number of women I can directly see in my vicinity. It is a number, I think, that truly tells me whether or not I am safe in the circumstances I am in. If women frequent the given area at a given time, it gives me the reason to do the same. Of course this is not to say that all men are to be distrusted, but the presence of women can give one a reason to tell oneself that one need not feel too guilty of venturing out at night, for a reason as frivolous as getting ice cream to satiate an urgent craving. I feel myself at ease. On the contrary, if I am the only woman around, it makes me uneasy and I try to reason if there is any particular reason I should feel that way. If something unfortunate were to happen, will the lack of women other than myself be of any importance? Will there be places in these cities we live in, where a lone lady’s presence will be seen as an intrusive irresponsibility? 

Living on the outskirts of a city that is infamous for its treatment of women is not a joyride. The highway seems daunting; dark and full of big vehicles and rich cars – mostly careless about traffic rules. An overwhelming number of people with beer bottles out in the open; a culture shock that I wasn’t able to overcome even after a year of living on the same road. On one such occasion, a need for some or the other little craving, I travelled to a location such as this at 2 in the night. Being on a two wheeler made it worse, even though I wasn’t alone. I am a person with a distinct inclination towards worrying too much, and maybe this is what it was. I told my friend to drive straight home if there is any suspiciousness around; I was just being cautious like I’ve been taught I should be. The site, however, was a welcome one. There were definitely beer bottles and lots of men around, but there were plenty of women too. It was a model Friday evening, people buying cigarettes and finishing up beers with whoever they were partying with that night, including women. I felt instantly at ease. I got down, stood alone for a while until our errand had been run, and reached safely home. 

On the other hand, I have also been yelled  at outside a movie theatre in Gurgaon by someone seemingly drunk and with his family, for no real reason than standing outside and saying the movie was absolutely rubbish (in my defence, it was Pyaar ka panchnama 2, a movie I will regret being made for as long as Bollywood will exist). I am not ashamed to say I cried after that incident, that I lack a backbone when a man tells me he will slap a woman like me. There are braver women who live in these cities much more independently than I do, who experience this way more than I do, and whose spines are made of tungsten, who won’t let a petty man make them cry. But I am not such a woman. I wish I was. 

Living in Gandhinagar has given me no such incidents, but I have been followed while riding a scooter back in Rajkot. That is not eventful, it had already happened to every girl I knew who drove a two-wheeler. However, some late night trips (before midnight) in the part of Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad I’ve seen most made me nervous; the lack of women was astonishing. Of course, none of these personal anecdotes can be used as judgment under any circumstances; it is only to understand why a woman might or might not feel safe in a given area.

I don’t know what it is that decides how much I discourage myself while getting out at night – whether it was the dark albeit short walk from my office to my home when I first came here, or now, when I find myself at a movie theatre late at night, driving back home with my friends. Is it the number of women around me, or the kind of men around me? How do I tell by looking at these men and women about how much at ease I should be? Do I notice how they are dressed, or what kind of company they are with? Or is it what they are talking about, if I impolitely eavesdrop (which I am aware I tend to do)? Am I that judgementally shallow? 

Women reclaiming spaces has to be a solution to this. People might stare, some of us might even find ourselves in unseemly positions, but the day women are kept off the streets because of fear, is the day patriarchy wins. This fear is not always a real fear; it is one that has been taught to us based off on some real experiences. Those experiences are horrifying, but like all extremes, are rarer than the alternative – leaning towards availability heuristic. When I was told repeatedly that Gurgaon is unsafe, as it statistically might even be, I calculated my risks and stayed frightened. And it will continue to remain unsafe for me, until I actually see for myself, even so far as actually risking my safety too. But it has to be done. And with sweaty hands, darting eyes, and clenched fists, we will do it. 

Access to lingerie

While I was at home, I came across a very good site that sells lingerie. It has almost all sizes possible, has sales almost all the time, and is overall just a very good place to shop. I bought things for myself, and celebrated the fact that I finally had a place where I did not have to wonder if it had the sizes and types I wanted or not. (For the women, here is a subreddit that will tell you how it is highly probable that the bra that you are wearing currently is the wrong size and how important it is to wear the right one.) My happiness of thoroughly subdued when I attempted to open that site again when I was back in college. This was what greeted me:

zivame trouble

 

Now, I know that our college (and a lot of other places) does not allow for a lot of sites to be accessed. These websites are generally of pornographic nature, contains violent content and/or has some gaming related importance. Apparently, swimwear and lingerie is also one of the categories that disallows me to view this particular commercial website. I am obviously not for too much censorship, but I have never really given the blocked websites a lot of thought. After all, it is not that easy to get around it anyway. I have, in fact, visited content that my college doesn’t want me to visit. That said, this was something that does not fare very well with me.

Lingerie is an inherently sexualized topic, in spite of the fact that almost all women do wear innerwear. Cyberoam is automated, so of course this site wasn’t blocked specifically. The official website for Jockey India, though, is not blocked. Was the keyword for the blocking, then, ‘lingerie’? The lingerie and nightwear section on Flipkart, though, can be accessed. What is specific to Zivame.com that renders me unable to access it? I have yet to figure this out. Regardless, it cannot be denied that the lingerie has had such a negative and pornographic connotation, in spite of the fact that it should really be normalised to a certain extent. Other than the pornographic sites, lingerie sites will most likely be shopping sites. The top searches for lingerie are actually all official websites for lingerie companies. These are products that are specific (almost) to women and are not accessible to women because some people have decided that it is not appropriate.

But how can a hypocrite complain about this? I asked around if there was a way I could point this out to the college authorities, and tell them that maybe this site should be unblocked. I found out that I need to contact a student member who is responsible for technical happenings of the college. I froze. How was I going to convince a stranger that a lingerie site (that I want to shop off of) is something that I want? There are numerous connotations to this act. I did not want a stranger to know what I shopping for online; I was too ashamed, and this was in spite of the fact that this is no secret that only I know. All women use lingerie, all men know that we use it, then what is the problem? Although, I am now unable to come up with a solution for this, I suppose I will have to talk to the student member to try and get this particular site unblocked. I will discuss further about how ‘secrets’ that are exclusive to one gender are talked about in such hushed tones because of taboo, and how hypocritical it is, but for now, I have to get some courage and do this. God bless my soul.

Cigarette people

A cigarette is a sad misfit of all things inanimate.
Out of the dirtiest dutied items
(which may include toilet paper and menstrual equipment)
A cigarette lives the worst life.

A friend once rolled a cigarette in his hand and opened his palms, like he was praying to smoke in all its denial and looked me in the eye and said, “You will never forget your last cigarette.” I went back to him during various times in my life, every time with the iron taste of failure in my mouth, and I waltzed around his statued, glued body. I look at his dirty, tobacco fingernails, his convoluted mouth, and his symmetrical hands holding the one thing that he never holds the same way. I go back to him every white funeral, I escaped to his cupped hands when my husband first asked me to pass the salt and did not look me in the eye, and I pulled his boneless body into my arms when the remnants of a once healthy brown binding, were torn and rejected in front of my eyes. I walked into his bedding when I swallowed my child deep inside the fibroids of my motherly womb, and when I found the empty tin-can of a preserve it had become.

The smooth paper aims for one thing, the lovers of all my lives. It aims for distinction, it aims to become dusky miscellany of something that is immolated by self-righteous passion and toxicity. They burn whole and waiting to become ash, not like us humans, who drag death like a doll through a life-like ritual. They do not bury and burn slowly, but they do weep like adults, no sobs, straight backs and tears that roll down the insides of the eyes and saliva that drips inside the mouths. But what cigarette smoker smokes a whole cigarette? It is left half smoked under piles of other leftovers, leftover people, leftover foods and leftover memories. And there it lives forever, like an outcast, like a curse that is to live forever.

I have known cigarette people closely, watching their weeks turn to eternity, where they destructively live forever. They lunch on the surplus breeze pieces that are left behind, they love without any capacity to love, and they die with heavy eyelashes, and light hearts. I have known half-cigarette women, who paint faster with every stroke, and who are not worried what age they will be deemed useless by biology. And my favourites are the cigarette children, who are hungry eyes in hungry sockets.

Out of all the inanimate objects, few fizzle their lives into never becoming what they are supposed to. And a cut-up cigarette is the end that will never die. So out of all the dirtiest, dutied items (including toilet paper and menstrual equipment), a cigarette lives the worst life.

Why I am ugly

Before I begin, the reader must note this advertisement:

Touching, huh? I will come back to how nothing about this advertisement is nice (apart from that wonderful, catchy song).

Majority of Dove’s advertising campaign has been regarding how most women do not think they are beautiful and how they are over-critical of themselves. Not just this, after much digging, I found another advertisement from the Real Beauty campaign (former), which was later compared to the Victoria Secret’s advertisement (latter).

Dove "Real Beauty" campaign advertisement
Dove “Real Beauty” campaign advertisement

 

Victoria's Secret "Love my body" campaign advertisement
Victoria’s Secret “Love my body” campaign advertisement

For one, how on earth is this “real beauty” advertisement supposed to make women feel better? None of the women in the former ad has any skin issues, or are even skinny (yes, guess what? That is a natural body type too). It is these kinds of advertisements that has instilled the stupid idea in people’s heads, “real women have curves” (attach photo of Marilyn Monroe beside this quote). No, there is nothing like “real women”, stop antagonizing women who are just a result of society’s vision of what beauty is.

Basically, the thought behind the campaign is that all women are gorgeous and beautiful, and that all shapes and sizes are perfect, and that the media has brainwashed women into believing they are not beautiful. Let us look at some typical ideas of beauty that exist in society today. Depending on the populace history, these ideas are very different in different regions. For example, some 150 years ago, the now first-world countries used to find plump women attractive since this was a sign of wealth (and hence being able to afford good food where most populations could not). Currently this mindset is different, because almost everyone can afford junk food, but very few people can afford nutritious, healthy food or a workout. This has led to skinnier women being considered attractive. In India, a major chunk of the population is till malnourished, and hence heftier women are considered attractive. Of course, India has a range of socio-economic statuses and we now see in the media what the urban populations will find attractive.

Taking another example, we can look into why dark complexion is considered in a country like India. Being dark is perceived to mean that the person belongs to the working class, and has to work outside for a prolonged amount of time whereas fair complexion means being able to stay in the comforts of the home (hence the conclusion that the person is well-off). This was true for current first-world countries as well, but it has recently turned to finding tanned skin attractive, since this shows the economic ability for the person to be able to vacation some place that has a strong sun.

This are only some of the features that are considered attractive but to put things in an umbrella term, most features that are considered attractive are blemish-free skin, flat bellies, an average to large bust, small noses, full lips, long and full hair, et al. Of course, these depend from person to person, but this conclusion was drawn by me looking into how most women are portrayed in popular media, except Dove, since they want to showcase, and don’t forget, cater to “real women”.

Now that it has been established that the society does find certain features to be more attractive than the others, let me go into anecdotal responses to fairness cream advertisements and such. Whenever there is some very deliberate effort to advertise fair women are being more beautiful, a lot of people will stand up for the rest by saying something like “Even dark women are pretty” or some other reassurance like that. Yes, they mean well, and this is not an accusation to any of those people. But this is where I start with what I am genuinely concerned about. For some reason, it is necessary to be pretty if you are a woman. Dark women are not considered pretty? Let us say they are pretty to make them feel better about their skin colour. Let me digress here and say that the whole reason why these fairness creams are working is because dark skin isn’t considered attractive, and that is why they are advertised and still on the market and selling like hot cakes. That is actually what society believes. Not everyone might, but the majorities do, and there is not much that can be done about it. There is a lot of truth in the words of Anna Lappe, author and educator,

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”

Humans are wired to like attractive people better, and there have always been attributes (physical and emotional) that have been considered attractive. People cannot really do much to change that unless it is a mass effort. And I do not think that is ever possible in such a scenario.

Coming back to my initial concern, what the key point of writing this is the mere fact that women have to be made to feel pretty to make them feel good about themselves. The advertisements that I posted above showed women and how all shapes and sizes are beautiful. It is unfathomable to ever see an advertisement like that about men, where you see various men, balding and pot-bellied, hairy and hairless, standing in underwear and telling us that all men are handsome. Why not, you ask? Because it is not a requirement expected of men. Let me put here another advertisement, again, by Dove, to enhance my point further:

TL;DW for the lazy: The advertisement basically consists of several women describing other women that they just saw to a sketch artist, while the sketch artist, well… sketches. When women were shown the sketches that were made with the description of their faces by other women, and sketches made by their own descriptions, one can clearly see that the former is supposed to ‘prettier’ proving that women themselves are over-critical of themselves.

What does this tell you about the campaign in itself? It tells me that as a woman, it is very important that I be considered good-looking by everyone else around me. One thing that I understand is that Dove is doing what most beauty product companies are not, making women feel prettier. But this is the wrong way of approaching the self-esteem that women, and a lot of men, have about how they look. Even if one advertisement tells a person to feel prettier, there are thousands more that will make them feel uglier. Especially women. And these women cannot change existing beauty standards, but what we can do is to realize that being pretty isn’t something that needs to be a necessity for women, just like the way with men.

Yes, healthy body image issues are issues that are very concerning, but I do not think the solution to that is calling every woman beautiful. This just isn’t feasible, just like every person being called intelligent or clever is not. The solution is to stop this obsession with physical appearance, and if that doesn’t happen (which it most likely won’t), then for people to say this: “I am ugly and I don’t give a rat’s ass about it. I am hygienic and living a happy, fulfilled life and that is all that matters to me.” This is similar to being able to admit that one is not very smart, which I see people admitting all the time. This is especially difficult for women because of society’s idea that women need to be able to groom themselves better, but there has to be a first step.

And now, I’d like to clarify why the advertisement that I opened with is not liked by me. Those little girls were not camera shy not because they thought they were beautiful, but because they gave these many number of fucks about how they looked like in a camera. And that is why one shouldn’t be afraid of the camera, not because someone is telling you that you actually look pretty. Because maybe when you wake up early in the morning, you so not look pretty. And guess what? That is all right.

Let me also ask you not to forget that Dove is using a marketing strategy and I am sure like most other corporations, they only care about how many purchasers they are acquiring by such advertisement tactics. Unilever is the company that owns Dove, and you know what else it owns? Axe, deodorant products. So is Dove still a company with a conscience? I leave the thinking to you. At least other companies are honest about what they do and do not find attractive. Let me leave this last image with you, which I found on a ‘feminist’ page that I am subscribed to, and I am going to leave you to ponder as to how wrong I could be about society’s expectation of women when it comes to being attractive.

Forgive me, well wishers of all the “real women”, but  I don’t think a woman will like being described as an adjective that is also attributed to a fruit.

 

The Beast

“Beauty and the Beast”, the animated musical, was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1991. The generation of women I belong to, and hopefully relate to, grew up watching movies conforming to standards of gender roles and relationships Disney [and other such production houses] have made, and Beauty and the Beast used to be one of favourite films as a younger girl. The premise of the film is quite simple; a prince, after a series of unfortunate events, has been turned into a hideous beast due to his unkindness to a witch, and will not be restored back to his beauty until someone falls in love with him. Belle, which means beauty, is a town-girl who yearns for a life outside of her own jaded and rut-like schedule. Due to events I am sure everyone knows and understands, she makes the choice of saving her father and being forced to spend her remaining life in the castle with Beast. The beast keeps her away from her family for his selfish reasons, is extremely temperamental and has thinly-veiled rage issues. When Belle refuses to eat with him, he lashes out and decides that she not be given dinner at all. He almost causes her injury when she enters a part of the castle that he had told her specifically not to enter.

On a completely unrelated note, Psychology today defines abuse in a very specific manner. Some of the major characteristics of a textbook abuser are entitlement and an angry temperament. The abuser will relocate the victim socially and geographically to isolate the victim and claim possession. This will lead to the lack of a support system for the victim and he/she will be rendered helpless. This eventually leads to the hiding rage issues emerge in the form of either emotional or physical abuse, or both.

This is not only familiar, but strikingly alike to the behaviour that Beast shows Belle time and again. Let me also explain that whilst the Beast is shown to have a softer side, a side that he does not initially reveal to Belle, it should be noted that Belle had not yet seen that side of him when she pities him and decides to go back with him after running away from the castle. The character sketch of the Beast and the dynamics of the relationship he shares with Belle are fundamentally two-folds:

  1. He is a circumstantial hard-hearted monster who thrives on scaring others [evident from how scared the other residents of the house were of him], and does not understand basic human sentiments of fear and loss. This he hides by rage and anger, and lashes out on people closest to him. He is unforgiving and cruel; and the latter part of the movie shows him a changed man as Belle nurses him back to health and his desire to become a better human being.
  2. The major issue of the film lies in the perspective of Belle, the quintessential Disney girl [of those times, obviously]. Someone who is as forgiving as a woman should be. She has only seen the side of the Beast that is harsh and cruel [and possible incapable of love]. But it only takes the love of a woman to change an abuser. This is precisely the kind of belief that is supposed to be eradicated from minds of innocent young women and men alike, who have been victims of abuse.

Beauty and the Beast reveals to us how romantic relationships are perceived to be, and the generation old gender issues that no person needs to conform to. A hard-hearted man need not exist, and need not need saving by love and by a nurturing, young woman. An abuser cannot be enabled, and it is a lesson that we must be teaching young girls everywhere what the signs of an abuser are and to seek help if they understand the consequences and dangers of being around a person like that. That said, Beauty and the Beast is an old film that barely any young girls watch anymore.

Ergo, I will talk about other influences of the contemporary art.

2005 saw the release of the first book of a four-book long series about a vampire-human love story, the Twilight series. Even though the Twilight demographic has been admitted to be the internet-savvy young teenage females, recent statistics have shown that this demographic also consists of middle-aged women and young men. I will specifically talk about the young teenage generation that this series has catered to. Bella Swan has admitted numerous times to being extremely clumsy and socially awkward. Edward Cullen is described as the perfect male; he is enigmatic and extremely stable and caring. He is somewhat jealous and possessive as well. These are probably the qualities that have made him so charming and attractive.

My concern here is the fan base that Edward Cullen has developed. He coerces Bella into doing what he wants her to do, and Bella passively lets him. Edward Cullen becomes attractive due to his aggression and stalking obsession for Bella which makes her fall more in love with him. Bella shows typical characteristics of a weak, flat character – passivity, low self-esteem, immaturity and romantic irrationality. Millions of young girls all over the world are now calling themselves fans of a male character who, even though cannot be called an abuser explicitly, shows subtle characteristics that should not be in any respectable man, or woman. He makes it clear to Bella that he wishes to “feed” on her, and that her blood is attractive to him. His temper issues and his dangerous persona are attributed to him being a vampire, ridding him of blame for his actions and thus, making him seems like the nice person that he may not be.

Fifty Shades of Grey, which has a much older demographic, also consists of a man who is obsessive and jealous. Christian Grey mentions more than once that he has not had any “real” feelings for any woman, and he is 27. Let me clarify here that a man claiming to a woman he is sexually interested in, that she is not “like other women” is neither attractive, nor well. The fact that he has a low opinion of women in general, should be a ringing warning to step back and wonder about the vigour of a relationship.

Male characters are increasingly testosterone oriented, and violence is a facet in entertainment that has surprised me. Young girls are growing up with convoluted ideas of idealization in men, and in themselves. A song like “You don’t know you’re beautiful” is disturbing simply because it shows attraction towards someone who has a low opinion of herself. Women who have a clear idea about their thoughts, actions and life purpose, their strengths and weaknesses are somehow perceived as being unattractive. This is exactly why a woman wanting sex, or sexual experiences, is shunned a ‘slut’, a word that has no male counterpart. How that asserts the stereotype is that, that dominance in a relationship is held by a man alone, whether by pushing the female counterpart down, or fuelling relationship stereotypes with false definitions of manliness or feminity. And the worst part is, that vigorous, able women fall for it.

If a person with low self esteem gets into an unhealthy relationship, something very disastrous could happen. He/she will want to validate themselves by trying to change someone who may never change. That is why it is necessary to have a healthy perception of marriage and relationships by the people surrounding the victim. A person who is in an abusive relationship lives constantly in denial and fear and refuses to relate to other people, and is stuck in being a part of something that they could lose their lives over. I cannot possible imagine the psychology of living such a life, hence I refuse to hold them culpable for not leaving the relationship. But, it is necessary that such a person has friends and family such that they need not think twice before leaving a spouse who has, even once, cause physical or mental injury.

I would rather that if I have a daughter someday, her idea of a relationship, any relationship, sexual or platonic, be governed by her ability to understand herself and not anyone else. Women need to understand the subtle differences between genuine care and concern, and excessive possessiveness and unreasonable jealousy, and the latter is never attractive. Maybe after that, we will try to restore balance to the society.