Tag Archives: women

Lady Doritos. There They Go Again.


I know – a lot has been written about PepsiCo’s genuis idea on Lady Doritos. But, I cannot let this go without putting in my two pence. Also, it’s hard not to react. So, here’s the rant.

Am wondering how this went. There’s this whole capturing the market segment thing – and gender is hot these days. So, the process was probably like so – someone at PepsiCo (I really want to know who) has this bright idea and says – “let’s make heart-shaped chips for women, with pink packaging and rose-petal and lavendar flavour” (awww, how sweet – they should’ve added #wesupportwomen on the pack for good measure). The team then proceeds to pat themselves on the back for the novel idea, makes a quick presentation (no doubt, in pink) and gets several nods from several heads – and viola!, the product is on its way into women’s hearts.

It baffles me how companies like PepsiCo (and Kinder – because they do much the same with their pink and blue chocolates) think. And what they can pass off under the tag of “market survey”. Let me add here my basic problem with this decision – no matter what the survey says (am willing to give the devil its due and believe, if momentarily, that the survey concluded that women like chips that make less noise) the point is this:
You cannot paint all women with the same brush – sure there will be women who’d prefer low crunch chips, but then there may be an equal number of men who would prefer those too. There may be men who would dislike the salt messing their hands too (or those of their children – here’s another idea PepsiCo and I said it first remember – less mess chips for kids). So just make low crunch chips and let those who want to buy them, buy them. Why make this about women? All the product has done is tell women (and little kids who are easily conditioned) that it’s not ok for them to eat making sounds and get their hands messy – not so much for men – loud, crunching sounds emanating from mouths of men are really ok.

I am no MBA and I ain’t done no market survey, but the fact that this product went from an idea to the shelves is simply shocking. On the one hand there’s all this talk about equality and Planet 5050 by 2030, on the other there are so-called progressive organizations that still believe that the best way to sell to women is to paint the product pink and harp on pre-conceived notions of feminity – two parallel worlds.

What’s next? Soups you don’t have to slurp, that magically land in your mouth without sipping sounds?

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The Problem That Has No Name


I first read ‘The Feminine Mystique’ when I was in my twenties. I was just out of college and anything feminist had instant appeal. Betty Friednan, I was told, was the original feminist (as it turned out, she wasn’t, there are many claimants to that appellation. She sparked, what we learnt later, a second-wave feminism). But, these were pre-Google days, rather these were pre-the-world-as-we-know-it-today days, and our biggest sources of information were our teachers and, who we liked to call, the Phd-types (we had no idea where they got their information from; it remains a mystery to date). Needless to say, their word was law. If they recommended a book or an author, we would go scurrying to libraries (any that we could get access to, which weren’t many, hence the scurrying) to lay our hands on the them. Friednan was suggested one such friend, who was really a step above the Phd types, she was the sure-shot-UPSC-type (though later I found out that she married her local guardian’s son and proceeded to live an obscure life defined largely by motherhood)

She was the real thing, however, in those days –  the sort who would read ‘The Communist Manifesto’ before bedtime; the Oracle we would go to before any exam in the hope that we would generally absorb the wisdom that seemed to float around her like a glowing, massless orb. She had read The Feminie Mystique like a pop-fiction book and passed it on to me. And since anything she read was Gospel, I had declared my liking for it before she had had a chance to offer it to anyone else (I preferred it to ‘The Communist Manifesto’). I accepted the book with a mix of alacrity and grace, and read it from cover to cover, spouting quotes wherever I could, mainly to make points in arguments and debates. The real feminist book to read, of course, was The Second Sex, but my friend probably thought it too dense for non-Phd types like me, and had thus recommended Freidnan.

Years later, I came across the The Feminine Mystique again. For all my enthusiasm about the book, I realized that I didn’t remember much of it, except the fact that the women being talked about in it were far removed from my life – I didn’t know much about suburban American wives as a twenty-year-old. I remember understanding it, but not being able to relate to it, even if I quoted liberally from it (to appear academically superior to my peers; it mostly worked).

This time, however, I had no such problem. The opening paragraph made my hair stand on end, as I realized that the reason I could not relate to it earlier had nothing to do with geographical boundaries, but to do with the age I was at. I was twenty, single and full of idealism that youth bestows in abundance, blissfully unaware of the realities of life. Now, as  a thirty-eight-year old mother of three who had been on a break from work, I was anything but unaware. And Freidnan’s words spoke directly to me: “The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night–she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question–“Is this all?”

Friednan had hit the nail on its head by asking – is this all? It was the very existential question I had been avoiding asking myself. As I lay in bed at night and thought about the years that had slipped by, as I shopped for groceries, chased my children with spoons, took them to the doctors, drove them to their piano lessons, tennis classes and birthday parties, I realized I didn’t want to ask myself that question; I didn’t want to address the “strange stirring” Friednan spoke of. I felt old, fat and unemployable. After re-reading Friednan, however, there was no getting away from the question. Also, by now my Phd-type, bleeding-heart liberal friends had been replaced with mommies, who were at a similar stage in their lives and who collectively seemed to suffer from a similar affliction as me – with the problem that has no name.

The more I read Friednan, the more I seemed to meet women she was talking of, except these were women who were living fifty years later, and more than twelve thousand kilometers away from the American suburban wife Friednan spoke of. And yet, they seemed to be bound by a common thread; they felt the exact same sense of “stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning”.

What I must add here is that these were affluent women, much like their American counterparts (and for this Freidnan has faced criticism, but that’s for another story). They lived comfortable lives and had most things desirable – rich husbands, big houses, rocks on their fingers, luxury cars and all that came with being married into wealth. What they lacked, I realized, was a sense of self, a sense of accomplishment and purpose. And, that was exactly what I lacked too. For us (them and me) motherhood had been all consuming, but it had not provided the sense of fulfilment that society supposes it should for mothers. I cannot remember the number of times I have been told that I was doing a terrific job as a mother, the innuendo being that it is something I must continue to do, to the exclusion of all else. Motherhood, women are brought up to believe, is defined by the sacrifices you make as a mother – and this is exactly what The Feminine Mystique addresses – to the fact that women are/were trying to conform to some ideal image, despite their lack of fulfillment.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not belittling mother hood. I know, only too well, what it takes. My problem, so to speak, is with the picture that society paints of a mother – a sacrificing, patient, selfless, long-suffering woman– one who puts her own aspirations on hold for the sake of the ones she loves. And the problem with this picture is that little girls grow up believing this to be the image to aspire to. Worse still, little boys too are led to believe that there are predefined roles and definitions for men and women, ideas which they carry into adulthood.

Which brings me back to “the problem that has no name.” Women, whether in the previous generation, this one, or the next, will continue to feel a sense of restlessness (and depression), as long as they are made to be subservient to men, as long as they are expected to live their lives by rules defined by others, and as long as they try to conform to an ideal image of a woman, a mother, a wife.

The Feminine Mystique inspired a women’s movement in America. It irreversibly changed attitudes about women’s role in society and led to widespread activism for women’s rights and equality. In India, we need such a manifesto for change. We need to spell out the “problem that has no name”, or, as a first step, identify that there exists a real problem, only then can realities change. And while I didn’t read The Communist Manifesto at bedtime, a line from it leaps to mind, which I modify here:

“Women of India unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains”

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Three Books Every Girl Must Read Today

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I am quite the helicopter mom. Well, not exactly. The truth is that though I don’t see myself as this, I am regularly branded as one, (the labelling is, no doubt, a product of ill-perceived notions of what I must be because I am quite the general-in-charge of all things domestic, of which parenting is a large, if unenviable, part – but that’s for another post).  At any rate, I am not perturbed by the unwarranted appellation (I pick my battles). Also, this is one of those grey-area objections I am sitting on the fence about, so I let it go.

That, and also the fact that I choose to take the beaten-to-death and frankly a bit idiotic term (yes, I get the metaphor) in exactly the opposite spirit as it is usually intended. I take it as positive, expert guidance and knowledge I bestow upon my kids. And the one area where I do this best is when it comes to their reading. If you read on, you may see why my expert suggestions in the literary space may not be such a bad idea after all, helicoptering or not.

Before I go on, I would like to add that my girls read everything, and not just what I decide. They read anything they can lay their hands on, some of which have been planted by mommy dearest, but some have just been serendipitous discoveries they’ve made on their own. As they say, it’s a win-win

Ok, so now about the books and why I think that every girl must read these today.

The three books I mention below are delightful little creations – ones that teach my girls to stand up for themselves, fight stereotypes and have a sassy, spirited outlook towards life. And let me tell you, if this is what you want to tell your daughters too, there are no better books to teach them that than the ones below

Advice to Little Girls – by Mark Twain


Written by a young Mark Twain back in 1865, this is the one book you will want to read to your girls.

I fell in love with it the day I read it. Each page is meant to tell little girls that they must think for themselves, be independent and not blindly obey rules. The wit, the language and of course, the extremely delightful advice he gives to little girls is straight out of my heart (really, at one point I believed I was Mark Twain in my previous life and that I wrote it ). It made my heart sing.

Nothing I can say can do justice to the book, so here’s an excerpt. I absolutely love it..

“Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for every trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted to under peculiarly aggravated circumstances.”.

The illustrations add to the charm of the book. They have been created by an extremely gifted and celebrated Russian-born children’s book illustrator Vladimir Radunsky. See below:


And here’s another excerpt, which I particularly love (given that I have a brother who, as a child, would tease me no end as I went bawling to my parents – I do wish I had been armed with this book then!)

“If at any time you find it necessary to correct your brother, do not correct him with mud — never, on any account, throw mud at him, because it will spoil his clothes. It is better to scald him a little, for then you obtain desirable results. You secure his immediate attention to the lessons you are inculcating, and at the same time your hot water will have a tendency to move impurities from his person, and possibly the skin, in spots.”

If only I knew of the existence of this book when I was growing up. Sigh.

Pippi Longstocking




You’re probably familiar with the red-haired, freckle-faced Pippi Longstocking – who, quite rightfully, calls herself the strongest girl in the world. The fiercely independent Pippi lives on her own with a horse and a monkey (the horse lives in the porch). She had no parents, and there are no adults, no rules – no supervision and all the freedom to do anything in the world (eating off the floor being a case in point).

In the three Pippi books, the reader sees the protagonist through the eyes of the children who live next door to her. They are, no doubt, fascinated, if a bit horrified, by Pippi’s life, because everything she does seems to be the very opposite of what children, especially girls are “not meant to do” – like standing up to authority, turning the house upside down, even telling lies (you have to know her to understand) – she does as she wishes (tossing eggs in the air and letting them land on her head)  and cares little about how things must be – because that holds no meaning for her – she sleeps with her feet on the pillows (only one example of how she does not blindly accept rules)

Sure, this is the real world and kids can’t possibly live as Pippi does (much to their disappointment), but the point of the book, for me, is not that kids should now go around eating off the floor, or have a pet horse on the porch (we’d have to get a porch first, but that’s quite beside the point) – the point is that girls must learn to question and not just accept what’s been told to them. We don’t like that as parents, because we think of parenting as an oligarchy (your truly included) – but it is not and if you make it such, then you run the risk of raising girls who will take anything asinine thing that is said to them, just because it comes from someone older or some authority. We see a lot of that happening in our society today – women being told how to dress, how to live, how not to think – you name it.

My girls, sometimes much to my own irritation, are little Pippis. I read them the book when they were little – as their eyes shone with wonder – and they squealed with joy at the idea of living a Pippiesque life! (I did have to inject reality from time to time)

If you have a girl, get her this book. She’ll ask you many questions after she reads it, but that’s ok – she’ll learn ask tough questions and you’ll learn to answer them.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls


So, this one is not fiction – as opposed to Pippi. It is also not about giving advice to little girls – this is a book that inspires girls with the stories of 100 great women, from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. Each story is only a page (so it makes a great bed-time read) and the illustrations have been done by 60 female artists from all over the world. It is simply terrific.

Each little narrative will teach your child (read this to both your sons and daughters) about what can be accomplished if you try hard and don’t let the world’s ideas about what you can, or should do, get in your way. In the book are stories about women who defied norms and traditions and lived their dreams, often at a cost, but they didn’t dither from their ideals and aspirations (from Amelia Earhart and Serena Williams to Malala Yousafzai and Coco Chanel!). So inspiring are these tales that I looked forward to reading these every night to my girls – because we did this “girl-power” bonding thing as a little ritual and read about all the women the book brought to our world. That’s the thing about books – they can transform the way you think, the things you believe and the dreams you dream..Rebel Girls did that for my little girls.._94926474_malala-1.png

It’s important to teach our children to think, to question and to ask the important questions. I know I am raising Rebel Girls and I mean in the best, most positive possible way – they, I hope, will grow up to be aware, honest and sassy women, who will care for the world they live in, but also not take any dogmatic rules that are thrown at them, simply because they exist as rules and must be, thus, followed blindly.

So, there’s my two (three rather) pence on what you should read to your girls.








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It Took More Than Two Years For Uber To Fire The Top Executive Who Secured Rape Victim’s Medical Records


It’s all over the news – Uber has fired Eric Alexander for illegally securing medical records of a woman who had alleged rape by an Uber driver n December 2014. She was raped by, Shiv Kumar Yadav, an Uber driver in Delhi when she was on her way home after a party at night. Yadav, it was later found out, was a serial offender (women in his village knew this well and kept away from him – clearly Uber had not done its homework). After the incident, Alexander, then head of Uber’s Asia Pacific business, along with some other senior executives, had refused to believe the woman’s story and had obtained her medical records to prove that she was part of a conspiracy against Uber.

The story is all too familiar – woman cries rape, man says conspiracy. End of matter. It’s what we see everywhere – either there’s complete apathy to issues of women’s safety, or there’s extreme doubt (somewhere in between there are token actions amid cries of anger and candle light vigils).

Turns out that Alexander had shared the medical records with CEO, Travis Kalanick as well as with Emil Michael, another senior leader. They had come to the unanimous conclusion that Ola, Uber’s nemesis in India, had conspired to bring them down. End of story.

Not quite. It’s come back to bite them, and man am I glad. A law firm in now looking into the matter – as part of a larger, and unrelated to this incident – investigation. In fact, there are lots of other skeletons tumbling out – there’ve been multiple (more than multiple actually) incidents of misbehaviour within Uber and investigations are on. According to online magazine Racode, there have been 215 total incident reports, including sexual harassment, bullying, bias and retaliation.

215 incident reports? And now they wake up? Being made to wake up is more like it – the lawyers are now on them, so there’s little choice in the matter.

Coming back to the Delhi rape, the investigation report says that “Alexander carried around the document for about a year before other executives — presumably the legal department — obtained the report and destroyed his copy, according to the sources.” Wow.

From Donald Trump and Uber to Mahesh Murthy and Mulayam Singh – the thread seems to be similar (I know, quite a motley collection this group would make – and I can think of so many more) – malign the woman, because she is obviously the villain here.

Uber must pay for this big time – and why only the executives who were part of it? Sure, they’ve fired the employees (more than two years later)– but does that absolve the top management of their misconduct? What about Travis Kalanick and Emil Michael? Why must they duck the charges? If they are found to be complicit in this, they too must pay for it. This is a serious offense – to get medical records of a woman who has been raped and then destroy them. This must be a lesson for those who believe that rape is a figment of a woman’s imagination.


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Message In A Bottle That No One Gets – Because It’s A Bit OTT!


If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, goes a popular saying.

It’s a pretty basic rule that I think most brands should really pay more heed to. But they don’t. Rather, they feel this need to better something that’s going well, or worse, make it deliver a social message. And then it backfires.

If you haven’t guessed already, I am talking about the new Dove campaign, which, hold your breath, is about “celebrating the many shapes and sizes of beauty”. And how do they achieve this noble aim? By releasing “six differently shaped bottles of body wash”. That’s right. It’s a part of its new “Real Beauty” campaign. Read on, it gets better.

The new ad declares that “beauty comes in all shapes and sizes”. The idea being that each shape sort-of correlates with a different body types. Needless to add there are all kinds of shapes shown to us – yup from the hourglass bottle and skinny one to the pear-shaped ones.

Not sure what Dove was thinking. That women are going to now go around buying bottles based on their shapes, by virtue of which they demonstrate to the world that they are proud of their bodies? Well, something like that, maybe. Except, that what sometimes sounds like a great idea in a power point presentation, does not really sound so great when the plan hits the ground!

It’s a classic case of a brand taking itself too seriously  – it’s ok Dove – you don’t have to send any feel-good messages – we women are doing quite alright – really, just sell your body wash. When I buy soap I want to know what it’s made of, at best, not what shape it is and the warm and fuzzy message it’s trying to give me.

Yes, they went too far with the whole celebrate-your-body-type thing. Quitting at the top is not something brands get right often. It was a good campaign – but now it reminds me of assorted bottles sitting awkwardly next to each other, trying to tell me something about my body that is totally lost on me.

Twitter was on fire and Dove’s UK Branch got the brunt of it (yup, their bright idea)


So, the question to ask is? Why do brands, time and again, fall for it? For the need to appear sensitive and push social messages down people’s throats through their brands that is?

Maybe someone at Dove can explain.

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Nike’s Pro-Hijab Campaign Is A Good Thing


No matter what your views are on the Hijab, you should see Nike’s ‘What Will They Say About You’ campaign. Reserve your judgement about the fact that this is a woman in a Hijab – because there are two, diverse schools of thought about women wearing Hijabs – and no matter what side you are on, there is one thing to appreciate here and that is the fact that  a brand has taken a clear stand on an issue which concerns women and minorities (in a post-trump, post-Brexit, right-swinging world, I think it’s a positive step). Sure, it’s a great marketing idea, but my point is – if it’s a great marketing idea and is also a great one for women and minorities, then why the hue and cry? (there’s been a sort-of backlash on social media, but that’s hardly surprising.) In today’s world of, you-can’t-wear-hijabs-on-our-beaches, I think it’s a bold, positive step.

The fact is that there are brands that indulge in serious gender stereotyping and do that whole pink-blue thing till they go blue in the face, which is revolting, if regressive. Not to mention ads like the ones Gap released last year, which tell little girls how to dress like a “social butterfly” and little boys like the “little scholar” (ugh).

So, contrast that with a brand that’s taking a stand, a very visual, pro-women (Muslim women at that) stand in today’s xenophobic environment. Not sure what the problem with that is. Yes, there’s the argument that this reinforces stereotypes and the whole, should-women-wear-hijabs thing. But that’s not a straightforward issue – are some women forced to wear Hijabs? Do some wear it out of choice? Do such Hijabs encourage more women to get into sports? Like I said, it’s not a simple argument.

Not sure what you think, but comments, on both sides, are welcome. Just keep it civil.



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Feminism Lite Is A Dangerous Thing


If you don’t know who Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is, that’s ok. But, you really should.

To give the Wikipedia definition – she’s a Nigerian novelist, nonfiction writer and short story writer. But that’s not why I am writing about her. And that does not even begin to tell you who she is. I’ll let you Google her and find out more (there’s a lot).

Why am I bringing her up? Because she is a feminist, and I love her for it. I’ve always thought she’s the real thing – as in, a real feminist (which does not mean she wants to biff any man she sees on the head – it simply means she wants equality).

I read something she said recently and it made a lot of sense – and also tied in with what I’ve been saying for a long time. Here’s what she said – “Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional female equality. Please reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing and bankrupt idea. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women, or you do not.”

I couldn’t agree more. But there’s more – which I completely, wholeheartedly agree with. She adds that – “Feminism Lite uses analogies like “He is the head and you are the neck.” Or, “He is driving but you are in the front seat.” More troubling is the idea, in Feminism Lite, that men are naturally superior but should be expected to “treat women well.”

I have heard this from so many of my female friends – even the so-called liberated ones. Male superiority is so deeply ingrained in our systems that we do not even realize it. I’ll give you an example – it’s a line I’ve heard so many of my friends use when they speak of their husbands. Things like, “he’s a really good father, he spends so much time with the kids, he’s really hands-on”. They say this beaming with pride and, in some cases, feeling blessed for having a man who spends time with his own kids. My question is – he’s the father, so what’s to be impressed by here? Do we, for instance, ever say this of the mother? – that she spends so much time with the kids, hence she’s awesome. So, why the accolade for the man?

Here’s why. Because “most-men” don’t do this, so the ones who do, deserve mention.  And that’s really the unfortunate part. It should really be the reverse. It goes to show who very far we are from an equal world.

Chimamanda goes on to say that – ‘feminism Lite uses the language of “allowing.”’. She e hits the nail on the head when she say that. It’s a word one hears a lot – “he allows her to work”. Inherent in that sentence is that the fact that the male has the power and he uses it the way he wants. So, remarks like – “he’s a good father”, or “he’s let her work”, or “he takes care of the house, so she’s really lucky”..the list goes on.

Men and women are equal partners – they shoulder responsibilities equally. That’s the truth – or rather, that’s the real truth, but it’s been stifled and gagged in a world run by men. Read how a British newspaper described Theresa May, the British Prime Minister’s husband: “Phillip May is known in politics as a man who has taken a back seat and allowed his wife, Theresa, to shine.”

I rest my case.









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