Walking at night- a fantasy?

Before I start with my own story, I would first like to marvel at this very simple yet powerful and effective comic strip. This comic strip is a part of Sinfest, a web comic written and drawn by American comic strip artist Tatsuya Ishida (a pseudonym, I guess). He’s an invisible web comic artist and one of the interesting things you can see as he matured is that he’s gone from drawing pimp ninjas and geisha sluts to developing a very feminist sensibility. I have posted, liked, circulated his comic strips on social media and on my page on feminism, but this by far has been my favourite. Four pictures and three lines: that’s what it takes to speak a million words, words which are so strong that they pierce you from within. It is like he has hit not one but many bull’s eyes with one single dart. It is a shame for this world in this century that walking at night is a feminist utopia fantasy story.

Now let’s get back to my own fantasy story…

The other day I was coming back home after having dinner with a couple of friends. (A note to those who don’t know: I am an Indian woman who is currently living in Munich, Germany). It was about 11 pm, not very late and I was peacefully walking back home without carrying a pepper spray or any kind of weapon to defend myself. The act was very simple I had dinner with some friends, after biding them farewell, I took the underground and from my station I walked till my home. When home, I changed, brushed my teeth and went to sleep. Now you may ask what is so special about this simple act of going home after an evening engagement that I had to write an entire blog post about it.

While I was still doing this simple act, i.e.,  walking back home (I know I am stressing on it and it looks repetitive, but it is important to mention the act) I realised how this simple act was unimaginable for me a couple of months back while I was still in India, how I always needed the company of a trusted male friend who owned a car and about whom I was very sure that he would drop me home safely. I remembered how for many many women this is still a utopia, a fantasy and they might not be able to do this simple act their entire lives. They will go to their graves without taking a walk at night.

Living in Germany since the past four months this act had become a part of my daily routine, my life where I would walk back everyday in the evening either after university or from other prior engagements. I got so used to it that I didn’t realise that it is something special that I should treasure because it is a privilege that I am receiving right now from this country.

And then the hard reality hit me. I am going back to India in a month’s time. I am going back home after five months. I will meet my family, see my friends and loved ones. But was I happy? Yes and No. I was dreading this moment and now it is slowly coming to me. I would never be able to do this simple act of walking back home at night again. I would again require my trusted male friends who would drop me home safely. I would never again be able to smell the night’s air or watch the moon walking quietly behind me.

All this happened while I was still walking and by the time I reached my home and unlocked the door, I was sad, very sad. Only the thought that this is soon coming to an end, that I will have to bid farewell to this freedom spoiled my joyful happy meeting friends night and made me cry, cry not just for myself. not just for my own freedom, but for every woman who lives shackled and oppressed. I was sad and depressed till sleep took a better hold of me. That night I quietly went into my room, changed, brushed my teeth and went to sleep.

The “Dark is Beautiful Campaign”. Why I think the name is unfit.

I recently stumbled upon this page and blog.

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Dark is Beautiful is an awareness campaign that seeks to draw attention to the unjust effects of skin colour bias as well as to celebrate the beauty and diversity of all skin tones.

Nandita Das, an Indian actress is also involved with this campaign and is doing her part in full stride. I really appreciate her efforts because there are only a few Indian actresses who actually care about what they are portraying on-screen and what kind of message and impact it has on the audience.

My post is not against the campaign as this one which criticises it. My only objection is to the name of the campaign and the not the campaign itself. Though I fully comprehend the idea behind the campaign “Dark is beautiful. Beauty beyond colour”, the name still cringes me. There are a few points that I think are quite not right about the name and which give a false impression of the campaign.

1. Dark. So now instead of saying that white/fair is beautiful, we are saying that dark is beautiful. Are we forgetting that we are a diverse country and across the length and breath of this country not all women are actually dark or brown. The moment we say dark is beautiful we are already segregating some women, though a small number but still. Then we aren’t doing anything better than those fairness products’ advertisements because we are excluding a lot of women and now giving an opposite image of beauty by saying that if one has to be beautiful one needs to be dark. Next we know there would be darkness products and people running for saunas and sun tans.

2. Also, it is catering to the western image of brown/bronze skin which is considered beautiful. I find it very silly that we Indians are crazy about white skin and they about brown skin. Why is the grass always greener on the other side? Living in Germany since the past couple of months, I get to hear this at least twice a week that I have such beautiful skin and that they would like to have my tan. Everyday I see people spending hours in the sauna or just sun-bathing to get a tan. It is a very weird feeling to stand in the centre and see how both the halves of this world want to look like each other.

3. My third point is the one which I find most disturbing. And that is the word beautiful or beauty. Why are we still stuck with this word when referring to women? Do women have to be always beautiful? Can’t they be not beautiful just be like they are, or even ugly? Why is it so hard to accept? Why does the whole notion of beauty revolves around women which in turn leads to objectification of women and/or oversexualization of female body parts. Why do we even have to define beauty? The notion of beauty has already brainwashed enough women all over the world. Are we cutting short the value of women on the basis of how beautiful they are? This adjective has been used with regard to women ever since the turn of time and it is high time now that we look beyond these materials which in the long run won’t bring us any good.

So a name which conveys the idea of being comfortable in one’s own skin, regardless if one is white, fair, wheatish, yellow, brown, black, etc, would seem more appropriate. Colour should not play a role and thus not be mentioned.