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She: I’ve 13 tattoos, how can you miss them?

He: I guess I wasn’t looking.

She: But one is right on my cleavage! You mean you didn’t look there?

He: Why? You want people to look at your cleavage!

She: No…I don’t remember much. Last night I drank a lot & danced like a mad woman.

He: Yeah! You did dance like a mad woman.

She: What! I thought you would say that I danced like a swan last night.

He: I saw Black Swan last night.”

“Now, who would’ve thought that I would get to hear a CLEAVAGE STORY in the workshop today!” Exclaimed our coordinator as one of the participants finished reading his piece.

We were at a Long Form Writing Workshop for Creative Non-Fiction. Our coordinator was conducting an interesting exercise where he asked us to tell the readers about the key character of our piece in a paragraph. The catch was that we were to do this without using any adjectives or descriptive phrases.

So, after we heard the piece as always we were asked to share what we gathered about the character from the paragraph. That’s where the drama happened.

Following are inferences that the men present in the workshop made about the girl in the piece:

  1. Shallow: “She wanted her dance to be appreciated.”
  2. Alcoholic: “She was drunk”
  3. Self centered: “She was talking about herself in that paragraph”
  4. Show Off: “She was talking about her tattoos”
  5. Loud: “She danced like a mad woman”
  6. Obnoxious: “She came across like that”
  7. Narcissist : “It’s so apparent”
  8. Masochist: “Because she had tattoos,  so clearly she likes to hurt herself”
  9. Low Self Esteem: “Because she was fishing for compliments”
  10. Easy: “Dancing drunk”
  11. Vain, Insane, trashy

The list would’ve gone longer, had the lady sitting in front of me not objected to it.

“What about Bindaas, Edgy….” 

She snapped.

“Fun loving”

I contributed.

“Exhibitionist”

A guy added.

The Horrors!!!

I was horrified by such a strong negative perception of the men. From being a masochist to having a low self esteem they inferred it all and from what? Because she had tattoos? Isn’t that an art used for self expression? Because she caught a boy’s lie? Come on, who can miss out 13 tattoos. Isn’t she smart this way? Isn’t she someone who is strong enough to call spade a spade. If she enjoys her drinks, doesn’t it simply infer that she likes to have a good time? Do we have to look for a subtext where there isn’t any & call her an Alcoholic &  EASY!!!! Because for them while fraternity is ‘fucking awesome’, sorority is ‘slutty slutterson’.

And these remarks were not of Khap Panchyat men, or some daft creatures, or someone who is coming from a misogynist environment.

These were the remarks of the young male journalists who aspire to be non-fiction writers. The ‘English Speaking’, ‘Jhumpa Lahiri loving’, ‘modern’,’ cosmopolitan’, ‘The Intellectuals’!

What concerns me more is that they are the opinion makers in the country. What kind of opinions are they going to shape in a country which is already like a horror film for women?

Therefore, I propose a stronger dose of estrogen to the writing world, so that such discriminatory, hypersexualized & hypocritical voices can be neutralized.

Realizing that the workshop was turning into a Battle of Sexes, the coordinator changed the topic.

“Suppose, it’s a 6000 words piece. What do you think happens to these two characters?” He threw the floor open for another exercise.

“This chic becomes a side character & a new girl enters in the piece…” yellow Tshirt guy from the second row jumped in.

“Yeah! A sati savitri” the girl sitting next to him sarcastically added.

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