Speak your Motherfucking Mind

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lady bushes

Silencing is a technique that social scientists say exists as a means of controlling the communication of any marginalized person addressing privilege. Naturally, it’s a common technique used by society to shut women up when they complain or call out sexism — violent, nonviolent, endemic or peripheral. This technique includes, but is not limited to intimidation, harassment, shaming veiled as joking or teasing, humiliation, dismissive-ness or simply denying the legitimacy of a complaint. Silencing becomes an even more serious problem when it comes to issues like rape, sexual harassment/abuse or violence, for obvious reasons. But it’s also important to be aware of it in our everyday life.

In your daily experiences, especially if you are from South Asia, do any of the following sound familiar?

“The line between what is harassment/assault and what isn’t is so thin. How can you say someone looking at you is threatening?” (ermm…because, context. no?)

“You are just saying this to ruin my reputation”

“Focusing on sexism is inhibiting your progress as a gender. How long will you play victim?”

“Free speech, free country”.

“You are saying this/behaving like this to get attention.”

“I asked my female friend/mother/sister/spouse and she didn’t think this is chauvinism”

“I am feminist, but…”

“This is just an isolated incident. Not a trend.”

“This is a ploy to hurt men”

“Boys will be boys”.

“You should be flattered”

And countless more well documented shitsprays from “she asked for it” to my personal favorite, the male experience trump card, also known as “mansplaining”. In this, a man explains to me my own experience and adds the exact manner in which I ought to behave within the context of that experience so as to not be perceived as a bitch.

If you identify to one or all of the above techniques, let me just quote the Queen of Rap, Nicki Minaj and say to all the amazing, intelligent and beautiful women out there: “Stop feeling like you shouldn’t speak your mind cause somebody’s gonna call you a bitch.

Speak your motherfucking mind.”

The Small Print in Dreams

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through the looking glass mixed media

“Rose-colored glasses are never made in bifocals, because nobody wants to read the small print in dreams.”

Mixed Media 3: Brushpen, Watercolor, Thread Embroidery

Love of Labels

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tramp stamp

If you wear western clothes, you are a slut.

If you speak too much, too abrasively, too feminist-ly, you are a cantankerous shrew.

If you smoke, you are a bad, fallen woman.

If you smoke AND drink, you are a shame to your family.

If you do all this publicly, you deserve to be raped.

Please feel free to add to the list. Because, we may not label our merchandise but we label our women with enthusiasm and ease.

Mixed media 2: Sharpies, brushpen, watercolor and digital.

Family Jewels

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wedding jewels illusration

Mixed media project- 1:Watercolor, beads, sharpies and gold foil on paper.

“I am keeping these aside for your wedding”, Ma said, as she looked down at all her gold jewelry. Some of these were from her own wedding and had never been worn since. I was in high school at the time, but I remember thinking of the day when I would be rewarded with these jewels for finding a queer, composite creature who is successful yet humble, rich yet down-to-earth, modern yet traditionally Bengali. A man who our entire extended family and social circle would approve and who in turn, would recognize my true value – augmented by my mother’s gold, of course.

Despite all the gold, I worried about the off chance that I might fail to be fetching enough to achieve this. And why wouldn’t I worry? Some of my older girl cousins who were doing “too well” academically, caused our families to panic about how this might pose a challenge in “getting them married”. One of my cousins grew too tall and big, and every family dinner was open call to discuss how difficult it might be to find a suitably large man for her.

Marriage was inevitable and aspirational at the same time.  My cousins and I, we all knew and were even vaguely excited by what would start a few years later — a test of our true worth. A hunt for the perfect groom. An army of uncles and aunts would go forth, armed with a horoscope, a postcard-sized glamor shot and the one other thing more precious than all the family jewels – our virginity.

P.S. I want to hear your stories, experiences or thoughts about growing up female in Asia – a crowd sourcing of ideas, if you will. You can leave it in the comments section or email me if you want to keep it private. Without your stories, I don’t think I will be able to finish what I have started!

Mixed Media Project – Being Female in South Asia

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I haven’t posted anything new this week. The reason is, I have recently come to possess a small little Japanese sketchbook. It has 20 beautiful, thick, creamy pages and is about 3.5 x 5 inches. So I have stared a mixed media project, drawing on certain social aspects of growing up/being female in South Asia. These will be slightly different from my usual style. I will be looking to pair traditional media with stitching, embroidery, stamping, and digital – which means it will be time consuming to both conceptualize and execute.

I will be talking about my personal experiences, of course. But it’s also a look at the socio-politics of gender that is sometimes unique to South Asia and at other times, universal. So it would be great if people of the interwebs and the amazing ladies who read this blog could help me by:

a. sharing your own stories or thoughts, irrespective of whether you are South Asian or not.

b. helping me with some suggestions for a name for this project.

Here are some progress shots. I’ll start posting the individual finished pieces soon.

japanese sketchbook 2

japanese sketchbook

embroidery art

At-Home Pedicure

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pedicure at home

My biggest complaint in Singapore is the pedicures.

So here’s the thing. I have very little grooming needs – I am not hirsute, so hair removal is unnecessary. I barely have eyebrows so that’s out too. My skin is sensitive so Singapore’s favorite pass time, facials, are not on my list. And I hate oily naked massages ( I know, I know).

The only beauty thing I really splurged on and truly enjoyed back in India, was my mani pedi. It was an hour long ritual with so much vigorous massaging of feet and calves and so much pampering on vibrating massage chairs while sipping on cold watermelon juice. Sometimes, they would even throw in a back rub just for fun – those kind souls. So when I came to Singapore, I sat on a nail technicians chair and waited for the same experience to unfold. Before I could feel drowsy and after a little bit of scraping of heels, some stressful cutting of cuticles, some hasty polish application – it was over. WHAT? I figured it must be that one place, but no. Several nail salons later I figured, this is what passes for a pedicure in Singapore. I felt cheated and angry (I am totes not being dramatic, my feelings were real) and decided not to shell out any more dollar bills for what I could do at home for free.

The only thing is, it’s bloody hard to circumvent my belly fat and get to my toes. Every fortnight, I sit and try all sorts of acrobatics to bling out my toe nails. So there goes my one simple spa pleasure in life.

That Ang Mo Life

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pastel colored swimsuit

It’s no secret that most Ang Mos live a fabulous life in Singapore, all the while complaining about the heat, the smell in the MRT and their full-time nannies/maids. I respect that. After all, you are expats, and the rest of the color spectrum are only immigrants.

But dear Ang Mo lady at the beach, who matched her umbrella to her shades and her swimsuit to her ice-cream – I bow down to your dedication to the image. However, do not ever ask me to move away because my shadow is hindering your tan. I know you did not know me this time, and expected that much like the very kind locals, I would oblige. So I feel your pain about what happened next.

Abstract Art

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blue-hair-girl-blog

Have you noticed how women are always apologizing for being a mess? We are continually providing explanations to near strangers about the condition of our hearts and bodies. New moms about their bad hair and chipped nails; busy women for their sloppy Saturday outfits; a recent divorcee for her puffy face and lack of self love; a forty-something mother of a special child for her untidy home and dirty dishes; an unemployed woman trying so hard to make up for her lack of “work”. Always with a half smile, dismissing our own condition with the usual and causal, “Oh I am such a mess today”

You are tired or emotionally drained or insecure or depressed but it doesn’t mean you have unraveled into some kind of gooey, pulpy, gloop of nothingness. It’s easy to forget that reality doesn’t look like a page out of Better Homes and Gardens. That no matter what society says, other women are not holding you to some ideal image while you do your best with the cards fate has dealt you.

“You are not a mess. You are an abstract work of art, splattered with the intensity of all things beautiful.” Remember that.

Pointless. Backless. Floral

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backless-floral-gown-illustration

This post has no point except to say to whoever may be reading this – You are amazing and beautiful. It will all work out. You’ve got this.

Some Women are Fairy Tales

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Gold-foil-painting

you are filled

with gold

and the humid magic

of story.

-TN Trivett

Just One Mommy

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mothersday-blog

I did this custom illustration for a friend whose 5 year old was demanding too much attention when she was busy with her older kid. She snapped , “I am doing something for your brother, can you not see?”

“You have two babies but I have just one mother”, pat came the reply in the sweetest voice.

Seriously?

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seriously

Previously, whenever I wanted to say the word(s) “seriously?!(bitch)”, I would. These days I just have a look (illustrated above). Mostly because in the last two years I have been trying to be more adult, and adulthood sucks balls.

You can see this look happen in varying degrees of fierceness when I hear the following:

  • “India is the worst country ever. The British should never have left.” (I think your state subsidized college degree would beg to differ, on the basis of which you now pay rent in a more developed country).
  • “Women need to listen more and speak less”
  • “OMG, have you heard he is gay now?”
  • “I have lived in the US and so I can tell you, the Eric Garner incident was not at all racially motivated. Most black people there are really criminals.” (Anecdotal evidence does not a social anthropological argument make, but explaining that to you would take too much time.)
  • And my absolute favorite is when women give me half-hearted compliments, like so: “That’s a nice dress/shoes/bag”. “Love your lipstick!” “You are so good with makeup” instead of “You look nice.”

I also have a “Bitch you’re dead to me ” face but that one’s hard to illustrate.

iPhone addiction

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iphone addiction illustration

I am on my phone all night, every night. My fingers hurt, my left eyelid is now permanently jumpy. And sometimes I feel a bit sick from all the fast scrolling.

Yet I cannot seem to stop.

Then I wake in a couple of hours and the first thing I do is reach for my phone. I pull open one eye and squint at my phone, ruffling through all sorts of things till I can open both eyes and feel fully awake.

And if someone takes my phone away from me, I have such anxiety, I can’t even tell you. Does this happen to everyone? Is this extreme? Should I seek help?

Life is a Cactus Garden

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watercolor-cactus-girl

Life is an effing cactus garden. It looks nice, some times is has pretty colorful flowers, it’s meaty and rather independent about which direction it wants to go.

But it’s also hella prickly and sometimes it hurts like a mofo.

Partying after 30

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party girls illustration

On my 25th birthday, the girls and I went partying all night. We hopped clubs and danced like we weren’t wearing heels. We started drinking at 9, stopped at midnight to eat greasy biryani at a midnight buffet, drank some more, got in a brawl with the police, stopped at a sandwich joint at 4 am and finally came back home at 5. We then posed in the lawn outside my home and took a photo. We looked a bit off but we looked good. We even posted that picture on Facebook.

Cut to 2015; partying “all night” ends at 2 pm, with one weepy sad drunk, one feeling sick, one throwing up on every free surface and one becoming suicidal-y depressed. We took a photo, but we had to delete it right there and then.

Live fast, die young. That was my motto, until now, when it’s too late to die young. I would live fast, but it gives me acid reflux.

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