#Menstrual #Leave May Make More Trouble for Work-Place #Gender #Equity

Vibhuti [at the twitter handle @victorvibhu ] tweeted me a question about the ongoing discussion on paid menstrual leave for women. Did I support it? And I said no, because it would further increase the gender pay gap. Vibhuti thought I needed to explain that a bit more, so here is what I mean.

father with childThe difference in pay between employed men and women is a major cause of gender inequity in almost all countries. The Norwegian government found that even when women were equally or more qualified, performed as well, and got equal pay, there still was a gender pay gap. They found this was because women took maternity leave and men did not.

Then the Norwegian government pushed for legislation on paternity leave, and campaigned vigorously for men to participate equally in the raising of their children. This was Norway’s pappapermisjon. Now when a couple has a child in Norway, the parents divide up the 46-week fully paid parental leave. 90% of fathers take at least 12 of those weeks taking care of their newborns, and this is because this is the time quota of the joint paternal leave earmarked only for fathers.

As a result, today Norway has the least gender pay gap and is followed by Denmark and Sweden – the other countries that also have shared parental leave.

I feel if women start pushing for menstrual leave, it will further increase the gender pay gap. While some countries have been able to undo the negative impact of maternity leave on pay gap by pushing for paternity leave, there would be no male equivalent for menstrual leave. (more…)

Is this the Angle to the Clinton-Lewinsky Saga That Feminists Turned A Blind Eye to?

I started reading this book at bedtime, and after the first chapter, I couldn’t put it down. I had to stay up and finish it, just to find out if the Clinton-Lewinsky theme that I perceived in the first chapter, played out through the rest of the book. And for me, it did!

This is ‘The Penelopiad,’ one of Atwood’s lesser read books, and in it she retells the story of Homer’s famous epic, ‘The Odyssey.’ It’s a thin book, a fast read, and even if you are not familiar with Homer’s version it’s OK, because Atwood sticks to the original storyline. The story is about Odysseus, the King of Ithaca, and his wife Penelope. When Penelope’s beautiful cousin Helen of Troy is abducted, Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan war and returns home to Penelope after 20 years, and many adventures. And while he plays the field, making as many love conquests as war victories, Penelope remains loyal to him despite overtures from male suitors, who actually are more interested in the wealth and power she had hold over, than in her. Odysseus is unhappy about these suitors when he returns, and he kills them, as well as Penelope’s twelve maids-in-waiting by hanging them.

However, where Homer’s version is through the eyes of a male narrator and explored within a patriarchal context, Atwood’s version (not surprisingly), is through the eyes of a female narrator (Penelope’s eyes after she’s dead), and explored within a feminist context. And this is what makes it really interesting. This is the same story, yet the questions asked and the conclusions reached by a female narrator give this epic a whole different twist.

What for me was most fascinating was the Clinton-Lewinsky twist. It is true, that the lure of mythologies is that they provide a philosophical framework in which we can eternally recognize patterns of human behavior, responses and relationships. Yet, as I read on to the end, I did wonder, if Atwood was inspired by the Clinton-Lewinsky account in her reading of The Odysseus. Below I share some of these specific excerpts from the book. You decide! (more…)

Herabai Tata: The Power Behind Indian Women’s Voting Rights

There is a need for women in India to know about and connect with the women in our past, who fought for the rights we legally claim today! Indian textbooks continue to take a stubbornly sexist view of the history of women’s rights in India, insisting that it is men who fought for these rights for women, and edit out even prominent feminists, like Herabai Tata and their works into complete oblivion. We must resurrect the women heroes of our past, and resuscitate the feminist movement they had started in India a 100 years ago!


by Rita Banerji

The name Herabai Tata will not ring a bell for most Indians! Unfortunately, not even for most Indian women, even though she is one of the main reasons that women have the right to vote in India!

Born in 1879 in Bombay, Herabai Tata was the Secretary of the Bombay branch of the Women’s Indian Association (WIA). In the early 1900s, she was a central figure in the fight for Indian women’s franchise – the right to vote. In fact she is referred to by Geraldine Forbes who documented the changing lives of Indian women in the early 1900s, as the “real soldier” of the movement.

So why don’t Indian women know of her? The fault perhaps lies with the sexist and patronizing view of the history of women’s rights in school textbooks. Students are taught that it is men who fought for and ‘gave’ women their…

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#Feminism Wouldn’t Do Its Job If It Didn’t Piss Off a Few People!

Below I share an excerpt from an article I just came across, “Why Feminism Needs to be Angry” by Will Robert — a man!  Loved it!  Also see my article “Why Kali Won’t Rage: A Critique of Indian Feminism

Beth Sutton’s interruption of Monday’s debate to denounce  George Galloway as a ‘rape apologist’ may not have been the popular choice but it did succeed, in a small way, in bringing these issues to the forefront.  The outspoken anger that Ms. Sutton displayed on Monday, (which the article claims to devalue the feminist movement) has long been a necessary facet of pushing forward woman’s rights. Voting rights, divorce rights etc. were won through aggressive public campaigning and often without the support of public opinion. 

Presenting a sanitised version of feminism so that it is palatable for the majority does not push woman’s rights forward in any meaningful way. People assume feminist rhetoric against the patriarchy must be anti-man when it is actually fighting against the dominance of men. Accusing modern feminism of fighting for the superiority of women is therefore a weak and misguided criticism…Yet the issue at stake is if men feel threatened by feminism and, as a man, I do not. So I agree with Jonas that “feminism is for everyone” yet it shouldn’t have to bend, compromise or change in order to include everyone. Feminism wouldn’t be doing its job properly if it didn’t irritate a large number of people. So what if it pisses a few people off?

Claiming My Space as a Woman in India!


by Rita Banerji 

When I first went to the U.S. from India, as a student, I was 18.  And it was then that I learnt something about being a woman that I could not have learnt had I stayed on in India.

I learnt, with a certain feeling of jubilation, that it was absolutely possible for me, to walk down streets and into public places, alone – and not be prodded, grabbed at, stared down, commented on or stalked by vagrant men that hung around every street corner!  Like most girls who grow up in India, I too went places only in pairs or in a group.  But never alone!  The feeling of suffocation and repulsion in something so simple as walking down a street as a girl or a woman in India, is dreadful.  It is like walking through a war zone with your defenses up, always expecting…

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