Female Independence is attractive – no Need to play needy! – 30 Aug 16

I yesterday mentioned something that seems to have enraged the feelings of some of my feminist readers. I assure you, dear ladies, that the words that you read were not meant the way you understood them. I am indeed in favour of independent women and don’t think you can only ‘get a guy’ if you are needy.

This question actually came from a sentence I wrote: “As long as you are showing the world that you are the tough single woman who faces life on her own and loves her independence, there may be few men who would dare making an offer.”

A few of my female readers obviously felt offended by this sentence, interpreting it as a statement asking women to be needy, dependent and unable to face this tough world on her own! Or that you can only get a man who loves you if you are like that. Ladies, please don’t get me wrong, that is really not what I meant and I thought the next sentence made it a bit clearer: “You don’t seem as though you would want them in your life!”

So, again, a bit more in detail: please be independent and tough! You can face this world on your own and you definitely don’t need a man for this. I don’t think that all men actually want to have child-like beings that they have to take care of in every way. No, I believe it is attractive in a woman if she can stand her ground and I am surely not the only man thinking this way!

At the same time however, a lot of these women actually simultaneously send a signal to men that keeps them away. They are practically telling them to back off by their actions, behavior, gestures and even words! Maybe inside yourself you think every man wants to have a needy woman and that’s why you defend your independence! You assume that a man would attack you for this and so you prevent any such action from their side by showing them they should better not approach you at all.

That is what I meant with my sentence. You don’t need to pretend to be needy to get a man. However you may want to consider not scaring them away. You can show that you are open for getting close to someone. You can show that you would be ready to go further if the right one comes – a man that respects your independence.

No, cleaning the House is not unmanly at all! – 9 Dec 15

When I was yesterday writing about the school book that suggested you should be scared of at least one family member, which would mostly be the father, I had to reflect on gender roles a little bit. I came to the conclusion that even in modern countries, people still struggle with what they are ‘supposed to do’ simply because they are either a man or a woman.

Obviously, in India, the traditional distribution of tasks according to gender is still very much in place. The man is the provider for the family. In a lot of families, women only go to work if they absolutely have to so that their family can survive. Even among the poor families of our school however there are also some of those fathers who would see it as a big shame if their wife worked and contributed to the family income! That’s how they would rather go to bed hungry than letting their wives go to work. And that is the case even if the woman is more than willing to go and earn money!

Of course, in India, many women still stay at home right after their marriage and when they have children even though they have completed studies at their university. They have master degrees but because they are women, they have the task of taking care of the house, bearing children and raising them.

In the west, too, however, I have seen that both women and men still are not at ease with completely leaving these roles. I believe it is completely fine if a woman wants to be at home after being a mother and raising the children. If it is financially possible as well as something that makes her happy, I would encourage that. At the same time however it should be just as fine if her husband decides to do this instead! She goes to work and finances the home while the husband does the tasks from washing the laundry to doing diapers!

Unfortunately, men who decide to take this step are very often laughed about. Their efforts are belittled – which only shows how very little you actually respect women who do all of this work! You still think the work that is done at home is less important, less difficult and can be done by someone not qualified to do the ‘higher work’, the one that earns money! What a nonsense! The best cure for anybody who thinks like this would be to just try it himself! Take the challenge and show me how you can clean the whole house, go shopping, cook for the complete family and wash everyone’s clothes with two toddlers running around you!

Isn’t it unbelievable that still today, 15 years into the 21st century, there are a lot of people thinking it is unmanly to wash your own clothes and cook your own food, not to speak of feeding your offspring, those who will one day do the same for you?

It is the same reason why people think men should not cry, the same reason why in the west you will see women walking arm and arm but not men. Why showing affection is something reserved for women and alcohol is the solution to problems instead of talking about your own feelings!

Stop putting too much pressure on a man’s shoulders while not valuing and respecting a woman’s abilities! Women have their own burden to bear – but more about that tomorrow.

Why a western Woman’s Independence sometimes scares her Indian Partner – 24 Jun 15

I yesterday wrote that western women and Indian men in a relationship need to consider the woman’s situation after marriage – will she stay at home or go to work? While many such and similar questions also depend on where in the world you decide to get settled, there is a general difference between an Indian woman and a western woman and an Indian man and a western man which you will definitely discover once you live together, no matter where. I thought I might already give you a few ideas about western women’s independence and why it may surprise Indian men.

My male friends getting involved with a western woman: you are in for a surprise! Simply by the way how things work in the west, your western lady will come equipped with several skills that you may not even know much of yourself! Due to the fact that girls are far more equally raised to boys in the west, girls get to do all the same stuff. Society does not restrict women as much as it happens in India. It is often safe for women to go nearly everywhere at any time alone where a man could go. And based on the fact that the cost of human resources is much higher in many western countries, people learn how to do a lot of things themselves instead of paying something to get them done.

In the consequence, you have to get used to the fact that a western woman will, in general, be far more independent than your average Indian wife would be. She won’t shy away from carrying suitcases, painting the house and climbing trees. She pays electricity bills, drives a car and travels on her own around the world.

Instead of trying to restrict her, respect and appreciate her skills! Learn from her how to soften these gender roles and try something new which you considered a ‘female task’ until now! See how much you benefit from this, as you share responsibilities rather than having to shoulder it all!

You however, my female friends, will need to be patient and understand where it comes from when your Indian partner feels uncomfortable about some of your bolder actions. Even if you are just climbing a ladder to change a light bulb – he is not used to women doing such tasks! Indian women often prefer being the nurturing and caring mother or the tender and delicate princess that needs her husband.

Show your man that you are very well able to use your hands and legs. Insist on keeping your freedom where you need it – and let him sometimes carry your suitcase, too! Enjoy that your Indian partner will do more for you in this regard and be more helpful than a western man might be. I am sure you can, at least from time to time, appreciate the image of the strong man that does manly tasks. He may just need this at times.

Finally, of course, if you are living in India, listen to your husband if he tells you not to go alone to certain areas in town. As soon however as this gets too much and feels like a restriction to you which bothers you, you need to talk – his urge to keep you safe might have taken over and maybe crossed the limit of what is necessary!

These are all of course not only things to talk about but also to practice, which can only be done when you are together. But you will, at least, have an idea already and lots of chance to discuss!

There are a lot more topics to consider – and I will write more about them in the next days!

If you are not raping your Wife, you are just one of 25 Percent in India – 10 Jun 15

I told you yesterday how a discussion about clothing caused distance in one of my friendships. We have a very different opinion on this topic, as he obviously believes that rape happens due to the clothing women wear. The conversation went on and I would like to tell you about the remainder of it as well.

I know that there are really a lot of people who believe that any kind of sexual assault on a woman is actually her fault, at least until a certain point. And the wrong clothing is the main point of her guilt for these people. But do you really think when a 2-year-old girl gets raped, it happened because she walked around naked in front of her uncle? Is that really her fault?

Statistics of the National Crime Bureau show that 93% of all rape cases actually happen with people who are known to the victim. This is a fact. And there are people who don’t believe this.

It is uncles, fathers, brothers and the best family friends! To be exact, it can as well be aunts, sisters and other female family members or friends because harassment does not stop with the gender. Adults tell children not to tell anybody or nobody would love them anymore. Grown women get raped and feel ashamed, guilty themselves, not wanting to admit it, maybe also out of fear to be blamed!

There are people however who say that these statistics are all fake – although there are such statistics all over the world! My friend is one of these people! He actually said ‘I know so many families and in none of them, there has been any rape!’

Why would they tell you? And maybe they don’t even know about it themselves because the victims are shamed by people like you who think it is their fault!

There is another statistics, this time by the United Nations, which even members of the Indian government called fake: 75% of married women in India are raped by their husband.

My friend answered that this figure had to be wrong. His reason: ‘No, I never raped my wife!’

I was speechless for a minute! I cannot even think in this direction, why would you reply like this? Of course you don’t rape your wife, I never thought so – but that only makes you one person of the 25% who don’t do that! This does not mean that there is nobody who does!

The problem is however that traditional and religious people who believe that old Indian culture is something great that needs to be preserved as it once was, close their eyes in front of reality! They lie to themselves and say this should not happen in their religion or culture and so it just doesn’t exist!

It was incredible to me that my friend would not believe in those figures – but then again, I know that many people think the same way. Tomorrow I will write more about this manipulation of the mind.

You think Bikinis are wrong? My Wife wears them at the Beach – are we still Friends? – 9 Jun 15

I yesterday told you about my friend with whom I unfortunately don’t feel very close anymore. I would like to give you an example of a situation in which our different beliefs, views and attitudes have created a distance in between us. It was about the question what women and girls should wear – and whether they invite rape and sexual harassment by not covering up.

My friend is a practicing Hindu believer, he is pro-culture and pro-traditions, while you most probably already know my stand on all these topics. We had a conversation on an image which had also caused me to write a blog post which you can read here. The image gave the message to men that they should teach their daughters to ‘wear full clothes’.

I vehemently objected to this thought and gave all arguments against it but obviously could not convince a person who believes in a life according to old, traditional and religious Indian culture.

After this conversation, I did not feel good at all, as I remembered a day, just a few weeks before, when I had shown my friend photos of our time in Europe. There were pictures of my, my wife, daughter and friends at the beach. We were all in swimwear with my female friends and of course also my wife in bikinis and my daughter in a swimwear for children – which just looks like colourful underpants.

If you, or anyone, believes that clothes that don’t cover the full body invite rape, if you think that women should not wear bikinis but go to the beach in full clothes, my holiday pictures will invite wrong thoughts in you! I share a holiday photo and you share an image saying women should cover their bodies?

What will you be thinking of my family, of my wife?

I think it is quite obvious and I really cannot have this feeling of closeness with someone who thinks in this way about my wife!

You all already know that I don’t hold back my thoughts and that’s how I told my friend exactly this in very clear words. His response was ‘You think too much!’

No, actually you don’t think enough! Your religion doesn’t allow you to think and that’s how you just think as much as your scriptures and your priests are telling you! God is doing his thing anyway, so why would you bother at all?

But when you make a statement, a statement of any kind, which is as general as the one that says ‘Clothes are for covering our body, not for exposing!’, you are speaking about everyone, everywhere. Your statement also applies to me, applies to my wife and applies to my daughter! If you say it doesn’t, you are lying. You won’t want to see the truth but this is what is on your mind and even though you may secretly admire the freedom that my family and friends enjoy, inside of your mind, a voice says ‘That’s wrong and sinful!’

No, I cannot feel the closeness of a really good friend in the face of such incidents. I may regret losing the feeling – but not when I think of the reason for this loss!

Saving Men from Women’s sexual Desire – A Plea for Gender Equality – 7 May 15

When writing about marital rape yesterday, I noticed how again and again the question comes of a woman’s consent when it comes to sex. I have actually never read about the question of a man’s consent! Nor have I ever in such a discussion read about a woman’s need for sex! How come?

As I explained yesterday, Hinduism expects women to just obey their husbands. This means if he wants to have sex, she should be available. Islam is, as you can imagine, equally disrespectful of a woman’s wishes. In fact, I recently read that Muhammad specified the required availability of a women for her husband very much in detail: a woman should not refuse her husband’s wish for sex, even if she is ‘on a camel’s saddle’!

Wow – that prophet had quite vivid fantasies, didn’t he!?

So the whole discussion is about the consent of a woman. She should always be ready for sex for her husband. But what happens if her husband never – or very rarely – asks her? What about her own need for sex?

It is all and always about men wanting to have sex, like animals, at any time of the day! No, not only any time but no matter what their situation their wife is in – except for the time of her menstruation of course because then she is impure and untouchable. Could it not be that a man actually doesn’t feel like having sex?

Oh yes, and that a woman really wants to have sex very much? Don’t ever underestimate the sexual desires of a woman! Many women would go to great lengths trying to get a man to sleep with them when they want, no, when they need it! The ‘weaker sex’ gains incredible strengths and has a much wider repertoire of weapons to use than men, whose brains, as we all know, are not the most active part of their body when the blood flows southward! And with the help of their intellect, the ‘fairer sex’ can even turn out their less fair sides!

That’s how I hereby plead for the consideration of male consent in any future discussions on consensual or non-consensual sex! An appeal against discrimination of male lack of lust and a demand for gender equality!

Holi at the Ashram – crazy but safe Fun – 8 Mar 15

Holi is over! We once again had a special, wonderful, incredibly colourful celebration for this colour festival!

I already told you that Apra was in a kind of Holi fever the whole time. She was playing every single day with colours, asking different people to give her colour and even convincing some staff members to go out with her and buy coloured powder for her! She had a blast!

On the last day of Holi, the 6th March this year, we had our biggest celebration, not only with powder but also with coloured water, water pistols and lots of different colours! Yashendu and the Ashram staff had spent half of the night before boiling flowers to make coloured water and so the water was nicely warm as well. Apra decided that she would rather stick to dry colours and played along on the side, without getting wet.

Our guests however got right into the colours along with us! They enjoyed just as much as we did and just like last year, ended up being coloured at different body parts. After the big celebration, we were all just tired and exhausted – still yesterday, everyone was hanging around, just enjoying a day with less to no movement and of course the tasty sweets and snacks of a festive time!

Yesterday, a German woman came by at the Ashram to inquire about retreats in the next months. She had spent Holi in Vrindavan – but had not left the hotel room on the main day, the sixth March, after some bad experiences on the fifth. She had gone out of the hotel and in the big crowd, she was not only coloured but also groped and harassed. In a crowd like this, crazy in Holi madness, unfortunately such things happen – and a woman experiencing that cannot do much about it except than staying in. It’s a huge pity and a big shame!

That is how travel agencies and online travel forums already started telling women to stay inside on the main day or to only celebrate with a small group of friends, the guesthouse family or another closed party, not out on the road.

We are happy that at our Ashram, we can give people from abroad the opportunity to experience the whole craziness of Holi, and especially in Vrindavan, in a safe environment. Yes, we all get crazy, we run one behind the other and we all are like children looking forward to colouring the other one – but however crazy it gets, we all know to treat the other one with respect. We are our staff, our friends, our guests, our kids and our family. It is quite a crowd but even while rubbing colour powder on another person’s neck, we all know that we are doing this because we all want to have fun!

And it stays fun for everybody who takes part! Now, after the celebration, we have wonderful memories of being like children again and not caring about colour on our bodies or hair! It is the best time of the year – and we love sharing this experience with friends from all over the world!

We are looking forward to celebrating with you next year!

Here you can see pictures of this year’s Holi celebration

The Disappointment when a Girl is born – even in India’s high Society! – 14 Jan 15

When writing about Monika yesterday, I again had to think of her whole family situation and the history of her mother, whose two daughters were given for adoption. Because they were girls, not boys. Ramona had a talk with her gynecologist some time ago – and what she told confirmed once more that this is still the horrible truth also in higher circles of society!

The hospital that Ramona’s gynecologist works in, where Apra was born and where Monika gets treated is, as I already told you, a good one. This means that the doctors know what they are doing, the staff is very friendly and competent and you obviously also pay for it. When the doctor tells of the women who gave birth there, it means they are upper middle class or upper class. They are educated, they often had or have jobs and they are exposed to international media, modern ways of living and the truth about outdated values.

Unfortunately however the doctor told that she constantly hears of superstitions and terrible values and attitudes. She does not only regularly get requests to get a C-section done on the correct date and time – the ‘Muhurt’, which is calculated according to the situation of planets and stars, providing the best birth horoscope possible.

No, another aspect to her work is to console the women who just gave birth to a girl. There are women with high university degrees who go through hours of labour and then break down in tears when the baby is finally born. Not of relief or exhaustion but of disappointment. The words ‘It is a girl!’ don’t bring excitement or joy!

So you see, it doesn’t matter whether the woman is educated or not, whether she already has a boy or not, she can have the idea that a boy is more valuable than a girl. It is the way that she grew up, the things that she hears her family say and the expectations that her family has on her giving birth to a boy.

When we ask children about their family, for example whether their uncle and aunt also have children, we hear them say things like ‘They only have three girls, no boy.’ When girls talk, they sometimes talk about their family’s bad situation because ‘we are so many sisters’. When Ramona was pregnant, at least ten people wished her ‘May it be a boy!’

India is growing and developing – but there is still a lot of progress to be made in order to get rid of such horrible ideas, attitudes and values!

More Women for Management Positions! – 8 May 14

After reading yesterdays’ diary entry, someone told me that I should not be too surprised about the reactions of our guest’s colleagues. After all, she was a woman and obviously doing her job better than her male colleagues. Women in such positions hardly get the appreciation they deserve. This feedback was very interesting to me and I would like to further explore it.

First of all, there is the statement that management is still a domain dominated by men. There are women in management and in many countries also in high posts but the percentage is still showing that more men reach to the high management posts. Let’s talk about the reasons, such as pregnancy and motherhood, at a later point and let’s concentrate on the consequences.

So there is one woman among a team of, let’s say, ten men. She manages to get better figures in statistics than all of them, while in the minds of these men there is still the thought ‘How could a woman do my job?’ Yes, this thought, this belittlement of women, unfortunately still exists. Society in general thinks of certain work fields as ‘male’ and others as ‘female’, even though big steps have been made towards gender equality.

Coming back to management, men however think that women cannot be as hard and tough as they can be. It is not their nature. They hesitate shouting at their employees. If that is the case and if this toughness shows when you yell at your employees, get loud and treat them as inferior, I believe we should really promote more women into management positions. If men cannot, by nature, control their temper, then women have to come to higher posts and show that there is a way to lead a team without degrading and humiliating others! That you can be strict without getting loud. That you can be polite and nice while leading the way to success.

By having more women in higher posts, the other problems would immediately be solved. Nobody would think that those jobs are made for men. No men would thus be hurt in his pride if a woman got better results than him! And no man could thus tell a woman how to better do such a job.

I know that there are many women in the west in good positions who may not face such problems or maybe just the slightest feeling of not being as much respected as their male colleagues. It happens though and whoever has experienced how a coworker made her feel incapable of doing her job as well as he would, knows what I am talking about.

While it is much better in the west, where the movement for empowering women has had lots of success already, the situation in India still looks very different. There are not many women in leading positions of big companies. The number of working women overall is very low.

You can thus imagine their situation – accepted in low positions, cheaper than male employees and not trusted with difficult tasks.

There is still lots of change necessary around the world. In western and eastern countries. In order to get equality, respect for everyone and a better working atmosphere. In order to have more happy people.

When we prevented a minor Girl’s Marriage – 10 Apr 14

After having told you in the past days about the experiences in our school children’s homes in general and already mentioning the situation of girls and women in India, I would today like to talk about another problem: the early marriage of girls. For this, I will use the example of one particular girl at our school: Pooja.

Last week one of our teachers was approached by a girl of her class, the 3rd class. The fifteen-year-old told her teacher that she would not come to school anymore in the new school year. Upon the question why, the girl said that her parents were planning on marrying her in a few months.

Three days later, Ramona and Purnendu stood in front of her home. They had anyway visited Pooja’s home several times already but never had all children been at home so that they would have been able to take their video. By coincidence, on this day the whole family was there. Pooja is their third daughter and has one younger brother and another two younger sisters. The two elder daughters are already married and have each two children.

Upon the question to the parents whether they were planning on marrying Pooja this year, they replied with a clear ‘Yes’. When Purnendu then asked Pooja whether she wanted to marry as well, she replied ‘I will do what my parents wish for me to do’. What followed was a lengthy discussion in which Purnendu told the parents in all details why it was not a wise decision to marry their daughter in this year.

He started with the legal reasons: before a girl is eighteen, it is against the law to marry her to anybody. They were not very impressed by that – although they seemed a bit uncomfortable. Then he started asking whether they had any expenses from her education that they would save in this way – no, because she is going to our school where they don’t have to pay even one rupee. Finally, he told them about the benefits for Pooja’s future if she studied further. That even women from simple situations like theirs are today successful business women, supporting their families at home. That it would be a guarantee for Pooja that she would be able to earn money if she needed – because one never knows what the future brings.

They finally agreed to let Pooja continue her studies. The most beautiful thing to see was the smile on Pooja’s face after this decision of her parents. It is too early – but it is not a rare occurrence among poor people! We often see young girls with babies in their arms that should be their younger siblings, not their own children!

It is horrible to think what these teenagers experience already before they turn adult, which responsibilities they have and the emotions many of them must be going through.

We are happy that we can sometimes help those girls prevent their early marriage, as we could with Pooja. These are the successes of our work that may seem small in whole but which are huge for the individual children. And for us.

We know we may have to visit the family for the same purpose again next year. But for now, we have gained one more year of studies for Pooja.