Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why am I not playing the “fabulous woman” tag either

A few days back, there was a lot of hullabaloo when I questioned women nominating each other to rise up to the challenge ofmotherhood and post their pictures. Thinking that two wrongs can make a right, someone with a lower IQ started this even more disturbing chain of nominating each other who are proud to be fabulous women. Here, take a look:

“I have been nominated to post a picture that makes me happy/proud to be a woman... I'm going to tag the ladies that I think are fabulous, and who do not need to be a mom or a wife or a daughter necessarily, to post a happy/proud pic of their own. If I've tagged you as one of these awesome women, copy the text and paste it to your wall with a picture, and tag more ladies who can hold their own, without any labels!!!”

Now this is what I find so wrong about this post other than the three exclamation marks, there periods and typos (picture is not pic), and the fact that you claim “without any labels” although you ARE labeling yourself happy/proud/fabulous/awesome/lady in these lines.

I don’t do these tags because I am not considered as fabulous [insert noun of your choice] by most women. Neither married, nor a grandmother or mother, nor a wife or even a pet owner, most women consider me a freak, someone not in their league. And why wouldn’t they? I am in my thirties and still single by choice. I spend my free time traveling the world or watching air crash investigation videos. I live in hostels during my travels. I try to avoid Indian potluck parties, and show no interest in bonding with women who cannot hold a conversation beyond the prices of lentils at different Indian stores or an impending visit of in-laws in summer. I am not a part of any makeup group where you post (scary) close-up pictures of all the makeup you were wearing when you went to do that weekly grocery chore. I don’t pose wearing sarees and standing in a group like the choo choo train, exactly at an angle of 45 degrees to the ground, showing shiny straightened hair and perfect dentition. I have nothing to contribute to a conversation about diapers, Gerber, or how scary it is to drive a car. Most Indian women of my generation wouldn’t even consider inviting me home, let alone tagging me in any of these posts. However, there are more important reasons.

I see these tags and labels as being not only offensive, vain, narcissist, and divisive, but also dangerous. A combination of two words often has more meaning than the simple addition of these two words. For example, to call myself fabulous is something (honest, maybe vain at the most). To call myself a woman is a truth. But when I call myself a “fabulous woman”, it has many underlying layers of meaning. Fabulous compared to whom? Other women whom I am calling less fabulous? Or a fabulous woman, compared to a fabulous man? And what exactly have I done to deserve this label? Even if I was fabulous, shouldn’t others be the one calling me that?

Now think about this. What if men started a similar chain of posts, tagging each other as fabulous and posting their pictures? What if they started describing why they are fabulous? It will not be long before someone is going to call on them, labeling them sexist (even though they never posted anything sexist). Sexism isn’t always about men propagating it and women being at the receiving end. I find this post on Facebook equally sexist. If I was a man writing this blog post, I would be instantly labelled a sexist. 

In principle, I usually post stuff that is either informative or entertaining for others. This kind of post is neither. It is not like those “ten books I read” or “twenty movies I loved” tags, which at least is informative to some. It could be vaguely entertaining for the self, but not for others. Can you tell us why do you consider yourself a fabulous woman? Have you overcome a disability? Saved someone from drowning? Climbed a mountain? Donated for a cause recently? How exactly is the narcissistic picture you just posted portraying the legacy of a fabulous woman? To call oneself fabulous (or fabulous human) is something, but the tag of a fabulous woman comes with even more accountability. And by the way, what is the credibility of the woman who just tagged you (and herself) as being fabulous? What is her claim to fame?

Would you be okay sharing stories from your life you are not very proud of? Like maybe when you hurt someone or judged someone? Would you be willing to own up to those stories? Stories of glamour and glitter don’t make you fabulous. Stories of you being first in class don’t make you fabulous unless you are willing to share stories of the times you failed. Stories of you flaunting your shiny new car don’t make you fabulous, unless you are willing to share a story of about your shortcomings. And even if you did those, let others be the judge of whether you are great or not.

You can argue that these are innocuous posts that do not mean much. For me, if you post something on social media, it comes with a lot of responsibility. Be accountable for the words you write. Take responsibility for the messages you give and the energy you bring in to a conversation. Nothing you post on social media is innocuous or without a message. It shows who you are, and what your values are (much more than your claims of who you are). I find it intriguing that men never participate in such posts (unless it is a challenge where they have to pour a bucket of ice on them in the freezing cold). It’s women who tend to propagate such divisive messages. Married versus single. Mother versus non-mother. Awesome versus not-awesome. And women versus men.



Padmanabhan said...

//In principle, I usually post stuff that is either informative or entertaining for others. This kind of post is neither

oh, a whole lot of people find this kind of posts very entertaining. provides them with their daily dose of vainglory, 15 minutes of fame, etc.. someone should do some social experiment on this to find out how far people will go with this kind of stuff, or may be that's what all this really is haha

Ruminating Optimist said...

So true. I liked your thoughts on claim to fame and accountability. Just to illustrate - People call themselves empowered, but do not understand the responsibilities that come along. Calling oneself empowered, or giving more power to the already empowered, or always staying in a group of empowered ones does not make an empowered person. What really makes sense is you putting a good amount of effort in empowering the not so empowered. I know same word appearing so many times, but so is the irritation with this specific word off late.