Interview: Rohan Joshi by Tara Kaushal

December 2017: At United Against Sexual Violence, we introduce you to allies who actively use their privileged positions to help create a fair, free world. Rohan Joshi, one of the founders of All India Bakchod (AIB) talks about the feminist agenda of the comedy sketch group.

 One weekend in Bengaluru, a few months ago, my bestie and I sat laughing at the many hilarious All India Bakchod videos that have populated the internet for a few years now. The cherry on top of the (very funny) cake is the straightforwardly feminist content—from the first viral video parody where Kalki Koechlin and Juhi Pande school women on how not to get raped, to Kangana Ranaut’s vagina anthem which took social media by storm earlier this year.

It's obvious they try. The refreshing candidness with which this comedy platform tackles socially relevant issues, especially in the all-influential Hindi film industry, is welcome and necessary. The world of comedy has long been mired in misogynistic attitudes (what with Bill Cosby and Louis CK leading the march of sexual offenders into hell), and only those who are members of this community can tackle this misogyny, from within.

In this volatile time, with gender politics at the forefront of global conversation, AIB has also been accused on not trying hard enough—that the content not labelled as 'feminist' seems exempt from feminist guidelines and can verge on the sexist; that women rarely feature in the content not labelled 'feminist'; that they focus only on women's problems.

That said, it is obvious they try. As Andrea Gibson says, "It is impossible to be routinely and actively engaged in the betterment of our hurting planet without at some point messing up.... So to be artists and activists right now requires our acceptance that we will likely at some point fail." I speak to Rohan (29) about the process of trying...

So, you’re feminists. What are the things that have informed your feminist sensibilities—as individuals and as a group?

I can’t speak for the group, but in my case, a lifetime of being raised by strong women who brooked no bullshit and called me out on all sorts of terrible, gendered behaviour definitely helped. And for the rest, there’s just the conversation right now, and the things you learn from shutting up and listening to people sometimes.

AIB has been putting out a lot of feminism-positive content lately. What has the reaction been like?

From what we can tell, pretty positive. While you have the occasional #NotAllMen ranter show up, for the most part what we see in young people at least is an acknowledgement that certain gender biases and stereotypes need to change, an acknowledgment of a need for a conversation or a reckoning of some sort even.

What is the process of writing a feminist joke? How does one disassociate from one’s patriarchal conditioning when writing?

We never self censor while writing. The process is usually, a joke is pitched, no matter how offensive it may sound, following which it’s stress tested to see whether saying this harms the conversation or reinforces damaging stereotypes or cultures, and then it’s kept or dropped. Sometimes the process can be more nuanced. For example, what happens when we’re writing a character who’s *supposed* to be a sexist pig?

AIB is one of the most openly feminist creators of content. How does that translate into your workspace? How does feminist thought translate into feminist action?

We work hard to make our workplace inclusive and diverse, and more importantly then ensure that everyone is comfortable within that diverse open space, and nobody feels threatened.

As an artist and a performer, what is the need to account for one’s privilege? 

Massive. I think in 2017 there’s no excuse for not being aware of your privilege, and how it’s helped you in comparison. I’m not suggesting there’s a duty on artistes to go out and acknowledge it every single day in every single performance, but when working with material where that privilege can come into play, it’s massively important to be sensitive. Like, I’m always aware that I’m a Hindu Brahmin Cisgender Heterosexual Able-Bodied English Speaking Wealthy South Bombay Man. And that string of adjectives is terrifying when you think about it.

What does it mean to be an ally? Does it mean content must be created along the lines of the ideology of allyship?

I think what it means to be an ally is to support the conversation and participate at every turn, while being careful to not centre yourself in it, and being aware that you’re here for someone else, whatever that group may be, and sometimes that just means shutting up and listening. Occasionally, content must be created along the ideology of allyship also, but the thing we never tire of telling people is, we’re comedians first. So some jokes just… are. With no higher purpose, allyship, ideals, or goals.

People in India have very strong opinions about women’s bodily autonomy and sexual freedom. What are your thoughts about these opinions?

A person’s body is theirs, their choices are theirs, their life is theirs. Anyone who wants to traffic in restrictions and conservatism in this regard can go fuck themselves.

This interview appeared on Pass the Mic, the blog of Why Indian Men Rape in December 2017.

Feminism & the Indian Man by Tara Kaushal

November 2017: Understanding consent and rape in a gendered society.

I think I was born a feminist, although obviously not fully formed (still evolving!), and I have been deeply interested in gender violence in particular. It is apparent that a lot of the impositions imposed on women—don’t go there, don’t do this, don’t wear this, don’t laugh too loud, don’t stay out too late—come from a need to protect us from violence. With reason: I have and do pay a price for being someone who pushes the boundaries, as do countless other women just wanting to live their lives. Not that we are always safe at home or in marriages…

But the focus must move away from the women and to the cause—the perpetrators and culture of violence. And, understanding the problem is the first step to solving it. Thus the question: why do Indian men rape?

Research Methodology & Primary Findings

My primary research methodology involves spending up to a week each, undercover, with 10 perpetrators across the country, in their home environments; interviewing and observing them, and their family and friends. This is in addition to all the books I’m reading, experts I’m interviewing, etc.

We live in a particularly gendered society, with deeply entrenched rigid norms. Then there’s the internet, bringing liberal, modern, feminist ideas into minds and homes through phones. Plus there’s the unfettered access to porn from an early age. And then, there is NO understanding of consent and rape, neither legally nor socially—how can we, when we still have arranged and child marriages? There are so many instances of mixed legal signals—a woman who has lived with a man for 32 years is allowed to claim ‘rape’ if he doesn’t marry her; Mahmood Farooqui was acquitted on the basis of the complainant’s ‘soft no’; child marriage is illegal but recognised, yet sex with a child wife is rape—contributing to this confusion.

As these and other paradigms meet, the gender dynamic is fraught with conflict and different expectations—of each other and for ourselves. One of my subjects, known to gang rape women found alone with their boyfriends, didn’t believe such a thing as rape exists—no sex happens without a woman’s consent, according to him, ignoring the role of his gang’s coercion and power.

From this khichdi “into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.”

How We Deal with the Idea of Gender

We retain the Victorian model of the gender binary long since it has been challenged—if not abandoned—in its country and since its era of origin. Historic texts show that many Indian religions-societies-cultures acknowledged gender plurality and the existence of a third gender (although its social roles were also rigidly defined). Yet we are only now giving ‘others’ on the gender spectrum legal recognition—because the IPC is based on the puritanical English legal system of the time.

Men are trapped in gender binaries as much as women are—forced to be breadwinners, protectors and perpetrators of their positional superiority, emotionless automatons. This binary is unhealthy and excludes people who don’t fit in to it owing to their sexual or gender orientation—or simply, their individuality. Why must the Hijra community congeal outside mainstream society? Why did the post-op trans man who worked with me have to deal with such vicious rumours in our ‘liberal’ media organisation? Who defines normal, and what is normal anyway?

The change has to come top-down, through the legal system and enforcement, and bottom-up, through media and education’s impact on society and culture.

Impact of Education & the Relevance of Western Feminism in India

Education, the media and the internet are exposing people to ideas of female liberation and modernity. This is having a trickle-down effect, percolating all societies and cultures, even in the remotest villages I’ve visited—whether or not cultural custodians like it. The other day, I watched a man teach his wife to drive a scooter on a village road. “Dekho, madam,” said one of my companions, picking up on a conversation we had just been having, “dus saal pehle toh yeh aurat ghoonghat mein hoti, ghar se bahar nahi nikalti… aur ab akeli road pe scooter chalayegi.

But there is a long way to go. A dear friend is a highly educated and successful professional, who, in her 30s, married another professional she met online. They moved abroad, but the marriage collapsed shortly after. “He wanted me to make him a tiffin everyday, babe,” she said to me, “and he didn’t want me to travel for work… Why didn’t he just marry some village girl if that’s the kind of marriage he wanted?” Men and women are trying to negotiate these new realities, and fumbling.

Neither Western feminism or Indian feminism can be considered hegemonic cannons; they are pluralistic and continue to evolve. I believe that feminist theory and the ultimate goals—freedom and equality (through equity)—are common; its practice is experienced and lived in context.

Challenges Before the Feminist Movement in India

There are many Indias, living simultaneously in many centuries, and there are feminist battles to be fought at all levels. Elements from all waves of Western feminism—legal rights from the first, social rights from the second, individual expression from the third and online activism from the fourth—are all valid here. While privileged feminists battle for the right to retain our surname after marriage, the length of our hemlines and other ‘evolved’ issues, we’re still battling dowry, child marriage and the right to education on other levels. The twain meet in strange ways—I’ve heard of women earning to help pay for their own dowries!

The biggest challenge of the Indian feminist movement is to unify despite these differences, to be truly intersectional and recognise the context of each of these battles being fought—acknowledging considerations of time, place, age, religion, caste, class, economics, etc. Feminist activists are pushing as many boundaries as they can in their respective milieus, and we need to respect each other.

Do we understand feminism… I don’t know. My own circle of friends and followers is an echo chamber of feminist thought, but this is not representational of India at all. In the upper and middle classes though, I have a bit of concern about the popularity of ‘choice feminism’ that is evoked to justify the resurgence of karva chauth and other old-fashioned practices—not all choices made by women are feminist, just because they are women’s choices. And there are the open-ended questions—is a woman performing an item number empowered or pandering to the male gaze? Should the fear of pandering to the male gaze make her cover up?—that drive us mad.

Effect of Class & Caste on Gender Roles

Class in India can be described as an intersection between religion and caste, culture, money, education, language, and the historicity and vocation of the family. And the gender dynamic is unique to each situation. For instance, women are taught to aspire to marry wealthy men, and doing so is a badge of honour. However, women married in to wealthy families are often very disempowered—they aren’t encouraged to work in light of the family money and/or their earnings are ridiculed, and their economic dependence can lead to situations ripe for domestic violence. Needless to say, my advice to women is to ensure their financial independence at all times.

Class position impacts the level of entitlement men feel, and it follows that gender violence tends to follow class lines, with men of any class feeling entitled to women of their class and below. (Of course, there are instances where these class lines are subverted and power dynamic shifted, like in the Delhi Gang Rape because of the number of men, or where the domestic help violates the child of the family, etc.)

At the crux of the matter lies the fact that egalitarian ideas, including feminism, are at odds with the hierarchical Indian caste system, the very basis of our cultural structure. We need to learn to respect the personhood of people across classes, extending to the women.

How Can the Indian Man Join the Feminist Movement in India?

In inviting Indian men to join the feminist movement, I could extoll the advantages of feminism for men, and there are many. But advantages to the men are somewhat irrelevant.

Truth is, not being a feminist today is an unconscionable stand. You either don’t see the historic privileges accorded to the male gender, or you don’t think other genders deserve those privileges. Which makes you either stupid or an asshole… or both.

An edited version of this article appeared on CJP in November 2017.

All Changes Great & Small by Tara Kaushal

July 2016: A discussion about plastic surgery through my personal experiences.

When I was 23, I got myself a rhinoplasty. Though my nose is perfectly straight and sits well proportioned in my face, the somewhat bovine curve at the bottom bothered me. Not the curve, per se, but a childhood memory related to it.

When I was about six, my mother had casually told me my nose looked like Barbara Streisand’s. Which, in itself, is not a bad thing to say (though it doesn’t, what were you smoking, Ma)? Forgetting all about seeding this comparison and my spectacular memory, a few months later she said, “Barbara Streisand has a really ugly nose.” This comment, for a reason that completely escaped her, caused her little daughter to weep and weep until my little heart nearly gave way.

And though my nose really didn’t/doesn’t look like the long-nosed singer’s at all; it wasn’t/isn’t really ugly and no one had/has ever said so since—the unintentional scar remained on my psyche, immune to all reason. I wouldn’t pose for side-profile pictures and was convinced it wasn’t my best face forward.

So one fine morning, mother in tow, I consulted a plastic surgeon. A few days later, I protested as he injected my nose with local anaesthesia (ouch!) and endured the hour-long tugging feeling (not ouch). I walked away with an inconspicuous bandage and a little pain that stayed a few days.

It’s the psychological scar that the rhinoplasty fixed. It fixed nothing else, physically speaking, as there is zero discernible difference before and after, despite going back a second time. My aunt, in an effort to make me feel good, kindly said, “Oh, but this is the true test of plastic surgery—you shouldn’t be able to tell!” And then, what exactly is the point?

The curve at the bottom still exists as it always did; but whereas it once looked to me like something you’d stick a ring through if I were a cow, I’ve now made my peace with it. Difference or no difference, pain or no pain, money down the drain or not, the surgery made me feel much better about myself. As I wrote overconfidently in an article fresh off the experience ten years ago: “I no longer feel that Aishwarya Rai is any competition at all…”

Trial & Error

Since, I’ve had other permanent changes made to my body. In addition to the navel ring I’ve had and loved since I was 19, I now have many more earholes than the socially prescribed pair, a nose piercing not seated in the cultural milieu in which I was raised, and eight (and counting) tattoos.

Then there have been the impermanent changes—I’ve had my lips filled twice: once on a whim, the second time along with some Botox to the skin when I was getting married. My hair has borne the brunt of my desire for change, from shaving it at 19 and 23, to a disastrous perm and a whole host of colours.

The first time I had my lips filled was when I was visiting a famous and overrated dermatologist for, you know, regular stuff. I mentioned I had always wanted fuller lips and her ‘why don’t you try’ response set the ball rolling, part of a phase of flippant experimentation. The injections were painful, despite the local anaesthesia. Worse, when the swelling subsided three days later, I discovered that her heavy hand left me with lips too full.

I looked strange, uncomfortable at work with the obvious and obviously new pout. The teasing by close friends, albeit good-natured, didn’t help. Within a month, my lips receded to the nice and gentle plumpness I had first envisioned; they were back to normal in three or so.

The second time was four years later, in the expert hands of aesthetic dermatologist Dr Rashmi Shetty. I loved it. Painful, yes, but worth it! I loved my wedding photos; I loved how my lips looked on my clear face, the acne pits Botoxed away. Dr Shetty told me the pits would be smaller once the Botox wore off, that the mere act of injecting them would stimulate collagen and self-healing—and she was right, then and four years since. The doctor does make all the difference.

The Commands of Culture

Notice I’ve clubbed the changes I’ve made to my body according to their permanence. Doing this is at the base of my argument—that our acceptance of ‘invasive beauty treatments’ is purely cultural. Ear and nose piercings don’t raise eyebrows in India, whereas a rhinoplasty does; in Iran, the ‘nose job capital of the world’, flaunting post-rhinoplasty bandages is a thing. Also consider the (now outlawed) Chinese binding of women’s feet, scarification in some African tribes and the elongation of women’s necks using brass rings practiced by the Kayan tribe in Burma.

What we are supposed and allowed to do with and to our bodies and hair is completely culturally controlled. Prevailing Western norms idealise seemingly effortless, perfect, ‘natural’ beauty, where we are supposed/allowed to ‘decorate’ the features we are ‘born’ with. Thus our willingness to talk about, indeed flaunt, some changes we make, and hide others. Think about it: apart from the personal pain and patience thresholds, what differentiates filling lips from colouring hair or bleaching teeth, if one takes their chemicals to be equally harmful. (In fact, the most commonly used filler, hyaluronic acid, is less toxic than carcinogenic hair dye. Go figure.)

When I got the nose job, I thought long and hard about whether I would tell people. I decided to do so to avoid the lying and its complications (and then, as I am wont to do, I wrote about it in a national magazine). “No need for a nose job, babe, you’re beautiful as you are,” read Shibu’s SMS. “Kya naak katake aayee hai,” said my witty grandfather. “Great new weight-loss plan—getting rid of 20 grams at a time by chopping off body parts,” teased Shiv.

But, considering just how successful my surgeon’s pursuit of a ‘subtle change’ was and the lack of a scar, I could well have got away without revealing this indulgence to anyone but family. Not so with the obvious pout the first time I got the lip fillers. And with the work around the wedding—everyone just commented on how lovely I looked. This, then, was the subtlety of cosmetic treatments my aunt was talking about.

Keeping It Real

As ironic as it sounds, I believe it’s important to talk about the work beauty entails, in order to keep it real. Bombarded with media and advertising ideas of ‘perfect female beauty’, it’s worse to propagate the myth that it’s cheap, stress-free and natural. When beauty icons thank #metabolism for their bodies and #greatgenes for their skins and features—not starvation diets, crazy workouts and surgery; dermatology; make-up and Photoshop—they make it all seem easy-peasy, and others feel worse.

Compare, for instance, the routes of actress Anushka Sharma and Kylie Jenner of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and their repercussions. When Anushka’s lip job was ‘outed’ on Koffee with Karan—she says she wasn’t hiding, just “didn’t know [she] had to tell everyone”—she took on Twitter bullies headfirst, making a statement about choice. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Kylie spent years denying cosmetic changes, her luscious lips prompting the painful #kyliejennerchallenge on social media. Teens blew up their lips by sucking in on bottles or shot glasses causing painful bruising—until she finally admitted to using temporary lip fillers.

Why Do I Do It?

I don’t think I’m ugly—far from it, I think I’m pretty attractive (and modest, as you can see). Not for the pleasure of the Male Gaze; not for the pressure of perfection.

There is no doubt that looking good makes me feel good. At 33, I’m fitter than I have ever been (when I can, I work out for at least 20 hours a month, FYI). I don’t envision using lip fillers again and, in theory, I have no problems with the impending wrinkles and the inching sags. My tattoos both display and enhance my body confidence, and I foresee swathes of inked skin. I also see myself covering growing greys with plumes of pink and purple, ‘coz camouflage is clearly my thing.

I do it because I want to. While I’m wary of ‘choice feminism’—not all choices women make are feministic simply by virtue of being women’s choices—ones journey with ones body is ones own. I am individualistic; I do both, rebel against and participate in a variety of cultures. As does my body.

With the body, as with life, one must accept the things one cannot or does not want to change; change the things one cannot or does not want to accept. To embrace it and transcend it; to enjoy it and worship it; to love it and let it go.

An edited version of this article appeared in Elle in July 2016. Read the first article I wrote about my rhinoplasty here.

Curfew: A Feminist Issue by Tara Kaushal

May 2016: Why the infantalisation of adult women by their families must stop.

At a recent sundowner, I met a woman who said she wouldn’t come to the afterparty because “I have the Cinderella problem, you know… I have to be home by 12.” “Why?!” I asked, astounded—I haven’t met someone with a curfew since I can remember, and I had gathered from our conversation thus far that she was a 38-year-old businesswoman. “Parents,” she said (single/divorced, it never came up). 

There are several reasons children are given curfews. For boys and girls, the primary one is safety—dark things lurk in the shadows of the night. With teenagers, parents are also worried about the things they get up to, though someone I know once retorted to his father, “It’s not like we can’t have sex in the day, you know.”

From teenage, one notices a strong bifurcation, where the boys’ curfews are much later than the girls’, even between siblings. Why, though? Socioculturally, boys experiment with alcohol, drugs, porn, sex and drugs, and start driving earlier than girls do; ergo, it is safe to assume that the things they’re getting up to are ‘worse’ than the girls. Alongside the sexual safety aspect, another thing has changed here—here’s where The Big R, Reputation, raises its head for girls.

And it apparently stays that way, until the woman is married, whether or not she lives with her parents. I’ve heard many generations of my girl students from out of town (in Mumbai for a post grad course, around 22-23 years old) tell me how their parents call to ensure they’re home at night. A 30-year-old friend from the North East describes how her mother uses FaceTime or insists on receiving a WhatsApp location. (Every one of them ends up telling their parents the most creative lies, just FYI. As do the boys.)

For a moment, let’s consider—and dismiss—the sexual safety aspect for adult women. Acquaintance rape (by a man you know) and custodial rape (by a man with higher status, such as a landlord, policeman or employer), which are common in India, are as likely in the day as in the night. Assuming a woman is with people she trusts, her passage home late at night is safe enough in most Indian metros. I take my safety in the trains, cabs and autos of Mumbai for granted; even in Delhi, radio cabs and safety apps mean women no longer need a male escort home, as we did when I lived there. No drunk driving either, great.

The bottom line, methinks, is that families fear the nefarious nocturnal activities of their daughters—and the reputation they engender. This infantalisation of women, their wills bent at the altar of patriarchy norms and safety, makes curfew a feminist issue.

Parents: trust your kids, set them free, and know that what’s fair for your sons is fair for your daughters. Women: push the boundaries. Stay out at night, reclaim our streets, play a part in making that the new normal. The personal is, after all, political.

An edited version of this article appeared on iDiva in May 2016.

The Reduction of Seduction by Tara Kaushal

November 2006: Is seduction an outdated art?

Perhaps the most telling indicators of how dramatically the art of seduction has suffered over the years, are the results I encountered when I Googled the word. Here’s what I encountered—

The first site that came up was a semi-porn site, which promised ‘100% free dating tips, sex tips and seduction secrets’. It also featured the promising article ‘How to seduce your ex’s friend’.

Following this promising start was a site on ‘Speed Seduction’ (registered and all huh!), a theory created by one Ross Jeffries.

Third in line was a site that would teach me to use ‘hypnotic tricks, phone techniques, kinesthetics, power rules, foreplay, along with a host of tricks to seduce any woman’.

This search also yielded a porn shop and a lingerie brand called Seduction. The word also showed up in a variety of porn sites…

Here’s what I didn’t know—old-fashioned seduction is truly outdated. It took a Google search to teach me this hard fact of life—years spent waiting around for my knight in shining armour didn’t get this fact into my thick skull!

This painful realisation made me think long and hard about why the art of seduction is dead—or dying at any rate. (Oh, by the way, I came across a site detailing the ‘science’ of seduction as well—reminded me a little of that chick-flick… can’t remember what it was called… where this girl equates men with cows or something and relates mating behaviours.) From a sociological perspective, the reasons seem to be different for Western countries and for India.

Sociologically, seduction, when applied to sexual behaviour, refers to persuading a person to do something that s/he may later regret and/or would normally not want to do. Seduction is the stage before sex: the many-fold and complicated steps involved in convincing a person of your charms and desirability.

In the West, where arranged marriages haven't been the norm for a while, seduction became a huge part of sexual and social consciousness during the period between extreme prudery and absolute sexual liberty. It was during this time that a man (it was usually a man) had to use his charms and powers of persuasion to convince a woman to go to bed with him. However, the advent of the sexual liberty of the '60s reduced the need for elaborate seduction… going by the traditional definition, women didn’t need much convincing to go to bed, as it was neither something they ‘wouldn’t normally do’, nor something they’d  ‘regret later’! The final fall for this dying art form came with the advent of the internet and the impersonal and brazen sexual norms it brought about—my profile on Skype, which is neither inviting nor too interesting, gets me several offers of ‘friendship’ and more every day!

We, in India, have got the short end of the stick where it comes to our exposure to this fine art. With our arranged marriages, seduction on a purely sexual level was rare and restricted, particularly after the British came to India and left us with their unhealthy Victorian morality (that the RSS has promptly adopted as being part of authentic Indian parampara). Literature and myth in India have several accounts of sexual seduction, and describe a number of gods and their sexual prowess. Lord Krishna and his gopis, the Kamasutra and Khajuraho are all a part of our culture.

Anyway, when dating and sexual liberty finally became mainstream in the '90s, the internet-porn generation emerged simultaneously (or perhaps the emergence of dating and sexual liberty has something to do with the emergence of the internet and free porn—it’s not really a question of what came first: all social movements are interdependent and feed off each other). There was never a chance for subtle physical seduction—we went straight from the eyes staring meekly from under the ghoonghat to them staring wide-eyed at the wonders the internet presented. We now have new and improved virtual ways of meeting, flirting and planning/having sexual liaisons. Unfortunately, the era of seduction has, by and large, passed us by.

Such is the pity. Where are the old-fashioned men who wined and dined a woman, who picked us up at the door and escorted us back home? My friend, lets just call her ‘S’, gets drunk fairly frequently—and does so with a group in which more than one guy is seriously interested in her. However, the guys (and she) think it perfectly all right to deposit her, almost passed out, in a cab to get her home. I mean, come on! Forget chivalry, think safety maybe?

But hey, I understand that everything comes as a package deal. If I were with an old-fashioned guy, who did all the right, romantic things, he’d perhaps also be conventional enough to be intimidated by my sexuality, would probably keep me from writing brazen articles and want to do it missionary style all the time! On the other hand, an unconventional man will probably not do all the chaste and romantic things Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty had done to them. But he’ll accept me, as I am, and I will not be judged for having sexual impulses and making moves as and when the feeling seizes me.

But then, we’ve all grown up reading happily-ever-afters. (Now completely rubbished in our cynical feminist heads—why did Sleeping Beauty need to be rescued by a man? Her ‘happily ever after’ probably consisted of placid domesticity. And why couldn’t Cinderella just run away and become a big-time Bollywood actress if she was so beautiful?) But really, we really want the best of both worlds. We want the seduction and the romance, the flirting and the flowers—not for too many intelligent women are the internet ‘friendships’ and the cold hook-ups (at least not more than once in a while). We all want the best of both worlds—I want the man who treats me like a Princess, but doesn’t expect me to do nothing but sit on a throne! I want a Prince without old-fashioned gender definitions.

My knight in shining armour? The old romantic legend, slightly modified and updated, infused with a liberal dose of feminism and modernism—and of course, schooled in the art of seduction. All the chivalry and none of the chauvinism!

An edited version of this article appeared in Man’s World in November 2006. 

And so much has changed—for me and in the world, in general—since I wrote it! Tinder coexists with shaadi.com, living in is par for the course, feminism is in wave five. And that knight in shining armour I was dreaming of? I found him! :)