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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Unwilling women

Now that my daughter can be treated as an almost full-grown woman (unlike lots of women in their 30s and 40s I know!), we have begun to have those long and deep conversations that I had been looking forward to for so many years. Only recently, for example, we were wondering together why, although I have quite a few female members of all ages here, she and my old friend Shilpi in the US seem to be the only two who read regularly and comment frequently (much of my daughter’s commentary I hear at home, obviously). Most others, it seems, never have anything to say, although I write on a very wide variety of subjects – of course, that doesn’t include fashion and cooking and gossip about celebs, but still. Several have communicated very eagerly but briefly, and then vanished out of sight without a word of explanation. Not that some males don’t also behave like that, but the proportion of females is vastly greater. What is it about me that turns them off? Some girls and women have told me privately that it’s unfair on my part to base judgments on the few women I know: my riposte is that, if they are honest, they will admit they are themselves always doing the same thing (because it is the natural thing to do: everybody has to make decisions in the real world primarily on the basis of personal experience), and besides, I have known far more girls and women personally and often pretty closely over long periods of time  than most people either male or female. The average male or female does not get to know more than fifty women well in a  whole lifetime…

In any case, I’d like to hear my readers’ opinions – including and especially women’s opinions, if you please – on this question. Why do so few females feel the urge to comment on my blogposts, even (if I may assume) that many of them actually read these? And if women don’t as a rule read my blog, why so?

Just don’t say it’s because I routinely discourage critical comments, because I don’t, as anyone who has been an attentive reader for a while ought to be aware of. I admit criticism, from males and females alike, often even if it is obvious that it is irrelevant, uninformed or somewhat foolish, just so long as the writer is not blatantly and unnecessarily offensive. There must be a more serious reason than that: maybe several. And I’d really like to know. On the very last post, for example, I had been expecting a lot of comments from women, seeing that I have heard so many complaints about the current crop of teachers from women who are mothers of schoolgoing children now. Not one has come in yet. If my readers don’t feel, like me, that this is very odd indeed, I should also like to know why.

And a reminder – for the umpteenth time – to the interested reader not to confine herself to the home page but click on the links to old posts, where she will find a lot more interesting stuff. Such as this one, and this. Just to show I can give attention, respect and praise to women where it is due: apposite, I think, in the context of the current post! Goes without saying I’d love to have more comments on those two earlier posts, too.


Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

the Recent Comment section shows the 10 most recent posted comments across all the blog posts. This provides a good way of keeping a tab on all the recent comments/activities in recent as well as old posts. It also shows if a comment has been posted or not :) There's a problem though in handling special characters in the display of the highlights. 'bad' is displayed as 'bad'- the single quotes being displayed as ASCII characters, in Firefox 9.0.1 at least. I have searched for a fix or workaround for this but there doesn't seem to be one.
Suvro, on the gender ratio of participation, what's the stats on your daughter's blog? maybe that shows some trends.

Dipanwita Shome said...

I am a relatively new reader of yours. But, our conversation started out on a fantastic note. I wrote for the first time in response to one of your posts, but I did not really respond to what the post said, rather I wrote you. I wrote you and about you. I was promptly published. And this, despite the fact that what I had written could have been completely misunderstood. There was a hint of that misunderstanding in your response, but despite that you responded to my comment in a full post. You had no doubt that the writer whose writings you were responding to is a woman. I vouch for your unbiased attitude towards women who are worth the name, from my personal interaction as well as virtual.

I read the two posts that you have here referred to and I have seen your eclectic relationship with your wonderful wife and daughter. I am yet one of the women who “have communicated very eagerly but briefly”. The reason is a very blunt one. But, that later. When I write to you, I do not write as a woman, although I am aware that unconsciously owing to my bringing up (something Judith Butler would be chagrined about), I do. I am sure a lot of your (women) readers actually might respond to you in the same way. Even when I don’t respond to you, your posts either educate me or touch me in a place where I am most human. Am I rambling?

Dipanwita Shome said...

Now the reason.You know, as Woolf says in that wonderful book of hers called Orlando, we are not one self, we are many selves, many persons, we are about a million minds to one soul. You stir me like that. I become different minds with your different posts. I don’t write so often because I find you too profound and too moving to respond to. I find it immensely unpleasant to be voluble about such emotions or about such writings. You might have noticed that I am one of your (women) readers who voted your blog to be a lot of things but did not write a line when you suggested shutting shop. I am sorry for what might have seemed to be callous behaviour, but I just cannot respond to such things. You have read about Ira Pishi in my blog. I had her, but you know I also did not have you. I am not trying to be flattering. I say this with conviction because one of your absentee admirers is a faithful traditional Indian student who repeats you from memory and heart. My education is not complete, hence I am incompetent to bring together and assimilate all that my different selves feel.

Also, I am not an instinctive writer. My school and university did not require me to write more than in tests and examinations. Hence, sometimes I just CAN’T write. I read this post yesterday but I just could not write anything although I felt a million different things in my heart and head. You know, when I read your posts I also read the ensuing comments and counter comments. I sometimes wish I could be like Shilpi. I don’t know her but she seems to have this wonderful ability to put whatever she is thinking in sane language. I don’t have this faculty and I don’t write spontaneously. There are too many things on my mind at all times and I find it difficult to pick and choose. This is perhaps because I don’t have a filter and I react to anything that comes my way.

Dipanwita Shome said...

I don’t know why a lot of your (women) readers don’t write to you. If it is because they think you are biased, it is a case of gross misreading. One can’t just read what is written, one also needs to spend some time thinking about it. It is not possible that the women who do respond to you don’t have spine enough to look and write back in anger if you were to be chauvinistic. Therefore, if anybody who understands you to be a chauvinist is reading this, I would request them to think about why it is that women who are reasonably educated and self-respecting read and at least occasionally comment on your blog even if “eagerly but briefly”.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Just three things to say for the moment, Dipanwita:

1) A huge thank you for the kind words. Only makes me wish you commented more often, though!

2) This 'Rahmath' who wrote earlier, my daughter has just found out by checking the blogger profile, is a female. Make of that what you will...

3) How many comments have come in yet from how many people, male or female? Are you counting? Does it say anything to you about my readers in general?

Rajarshi said...

Dear Sir,

Though I can't comment on the reasons why women don't comment much on your blogposts but some of my favourites in the blogosphere are the blogs written by women. They are listed on my blogroll in case you are curious to explore them. Probably, it is no coincidence that most of them are journalists. Again, it may not be out of place to mention that I don't know any of them in my real life but that doesn't stop me from admiring their writing and hope that I come across more women of their ilk in my real (i.e. non-virtual) life.

Best Regards,

kris.. said...

Dear Sir,

I had read this blog entry of yours a couple of days back and had seen the comments too. I read, had a smile and left. And here I was just checking any updates, and oh yes there was some updates. But this time around I think I should at least voice my opinion..

Anyway.. you were looking at why women were not having a more productive time here. ( I used productive, since, if they were having a productive and good time they would be sticking around more.) and as if on cue here comes the first first comment and that too from a woman. If I remember correctly, all she did was just point out a statement, which you had written, with which i guess she had some problem accepting. I remember since i think i felt a slight unease as i read that portion. My point here is not about the merit or demerit of that portion at all. I am just explaining as an independent observer, what I saw. Hmm so what happened next, you replied, it was not just a reply, it was a riposte with a slight condescending tone. I guess she apologized in her next reply, maybe seeing how you take a bit of negative criticism. Its OK, not everybody takes negative criticism well. And what was the reply for that. You accept the apology and still blast her out of the water again. I guess you even put in the classic Hitler reference also for an innocuous comment. So that's enough background.

Now as to why I am commenting.. I think its your last reply here. You had some positive review, you appreciated it and accepted it with grace in your first point and then in your 2nd point you disdainfully mentioned about "this" Rahmath. That as your daughter had checked out now, she was a woman. Then it struck me, you gave her a heavy firing on how(?) she can comment on what you have written, without even bothering to fully understand your stand or by checking out what you wrote in some other of your blog entries. You called that irresponsible behavior, and voila you didn't even bother to check whether "This" Rahmath is a he or a she before you replied..

I think a good conversation is when ideas meet and there is a decent argument with respect from both sides. But the example you gave was, criticism is not accepted and will be dealt with strictly. (I am so tempted to put in the German reference you had so freely used earlier). So naturally, she leaves (I guess deleting her comments also along the way). And.. you still wonder..

I really don't think you would publish this comment or reply to it. But just wanted to say this much..


Kris from New Delhi

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Sayantika Mandal wrote the following comment and asked me to post it for her, for reasons that her own comment will explain:

"Dear Sir,

Since the comment section is blocked in office (though I can read the blog), I am mailing you my comment on your recent post 'Unwilling women'. I keep planning that I would comment once I am back from office, but for most of the time I don't feel like switching my laptop on. This has happened for many posts before and this time, I wouldn't delay any more.
Most of the women I know (the ones who use the internet) think that the internet is nothing but a tool for chatting and posting meaningless status messages and pictures on Facebook. Most of them aren't interested in looking up anything else apart from the Facebook page, and when one chats with eight people(!) at once, it is difficult to read or do anything else. So even if I give them the link, they would put it off till later, which never comes. They even chat when they don't have anything to say, and any serious discussion apart from, as you said, fashion and boyfriends and celebrities, will put them off. The number who read on the net is miniscule and those who comment even fewer. I did ask some of these friends of mine who weren't your students to read your blog. One of them had read the post titled 'A girl who admired her teacher' and perhaps the comments below it. She asked me "Why does Sir have such an opinion regarding girls?" I had replied that Sir has experienced so. I don't know whether that put her off from the blog, but I told her to read some of the many other topics you have written about. The others had read but they didn't comment because either they had nothing to say or they were too lazy to think. Being too lazy to think is something that grips me too, most of the times, and I am extremely sorry for that. But sometimes when I read something that makes me think on a post that you wrote long ago, I do comment.
In your last comment in my blog, thanks for suggesting Of Human Bondage, a book that I had avoided for so long. I am currently reading it and enjoying it thoroughly.

With regards,

Thank you, Sayantika.

My readers will see that I have removed some of my earlier comments here, which were in response to someone called Rahmath, because she has removed her own original comments. I have also posted a comment from someone called Kris (obviously a pseudonym), against his/her declared expectations. I shall leave it to my other readers to respond fittingly to it. Meanwhile, I am waiting for what I hope will be more sensible observations, comments which I should like to respond to myself...

Shilpi said...

Hi Kris (I can lay a wager that this is not your real name),

1. Rahmath, the commentator, actually made an unjustified accusation. So you, Kris, remember incorrectly. She vented that a comment of hers had not been posted, when in fact it had been. Also, she jumped up and down on what she called a clichéd statement, which as the blog writer pointed out courteously is not the same as being untrue or factually incorrect.

2. What do you mean by a “condescending tone”, by the way? The blogwriter has never sounded condescending to me, and I’ve known him for a quarter of a century (wrap your mind around that if you can), and in his comment to Rahmath he sounded like a much older teacher talking to a much younger pupil. Rahmath, I dare say would have thought twice before saying what she did here the first time in a face-to-face conversation with an older teacher, wouldn’t she? And what about you? Since you don’t have the faintest idea of what and who the blogwriter is, don’t use words like “condescending” about him – since you obviously neither know him personally nor read what he writes with attention.

How many posts/comments have you gone through? Let’s have a number here. Have you even gone through the two posts that have been linked in this post itself? Or were you, like Rahmath, too busy to read other posts.

3. How did the blogwriter “blast” Rahmat out? You have completely misread and misunderstood the reference to Hitler. Did you read the blogwriter’s comment carefully? He said very clearly that much of the wrong in this world was not because of evil people, like Hitler but because, we as human beings, are careless and unmindful. The blogwriter was NOT comparing Rahmath to Hitler (as any literate human being with more than a pea-sized brain, and basic comprehension skills would have known), and if you imagine he did you didn’t read his comment carefully enough. And you’re tempted to use the “German” reference, are you? Well what do you think would have happened if the blogwriter actually had the temperament, opinions, and the power of a Hitler? How do you think he would have dealt with you? And do you really think you would have written what you have here if you were dealing with a man of Hitler’s temperament? Think a bit if you are capable of engaging in such an activity.

4. Now coming to your own noble and righteous reason for commenting. What does it tell you – that bit? The blogwriter did not even know that Rahmath was a female. The blogwriter was dealing with the commentator as he would have no matter whether Rahmath was a he or a she. Does that not say anything to you? Let me point out the painfully obvious: the blogwriter didn’t care whether the commentator was female or male. He responded to the commentator as a person who had a) misunderstood the post, b)had not obviously bothered to check whether a comment had been put up, and c)hadn’t even read the links or the post contents itself with mindfulness (yes, you might want to check up the meaning of “mindfulness”; your comment makes me sure that you don’t know the meaning of too many common words). The only reason that the blogwriter got to know that Rahmath is a female is because I asked his daughter when we were talking privately to check whether Rahmath was a male or a female. Rahmath’s comment sounded terribly female-like to me and to his daughter as well. So his daughter checked and let her dad know that he mustn’t waste his time responding to “silly” females who are too busy to read his posts carefully (and the links provided) but don’t seem too busy to write back an offensive, unjustified comment!

Shilpi said...

5. And I’m beginning to wonder why you bothered to comment on this post. Did you read the links for the post above? How many posts have you read on this blog? I am repeating my question because now I’m curious why you’ve never taken the trouble to comment on any of the posts but this one (is it because you’re too busy otherwise?) only to point out to your own lack of careful and attentive and mindful reading and thinking and commenting of a post and included links while loudly defending a commentator who actually deleted her own comments.

6. Maybe it would be a good thing for you to look up some words and their meanings. “Guess” would be one, as would be “innocuous”, “productive”, “condescending” and also “yours” apart from the rest.

Let’s talk of “productive” for instance, and let's talk about the one sentence that seemed to have so irked Rahmath and you. Have you seen/counted/done a survey on the number of women shopping for clothes, lingerie, and sharp heeled shoes in the shopping malls? Have you actually done a study on how much money individual women spend annually on cosmetics and skin products and clothes and shoes and dressing-up paraphernalia? Just cosmetics? Just pancake for the face? – These are verifiable facts. Unpleasant facts, sure – so most people don’t normally mention these unpleasant but empirically verifiable facts. These come across as being most politically incorrect. Yet, facts don’t give a damn about political correctness. Now to come to my connected point. Now obviously these well-heeled women doing their shopping rounds “stick around” malls because they are having a “productive and good time”. And no, patriarchy and male hegemony doesn’t really explain why so many supposedly educated women should be so busy dressing up like playthings and preening in public. Once again, kindly look at the numbers, please don’t simply burst out into a rant. Bursting-at-the-seams fancy theoretical arguments cannot explain why there is such a booming market for such terribly expensive skin and body care products (among other products). The idea that this is only because of oppressive males while the millions of females around the world have no part in it nor any responsibility in keeping this market well and alive is ridiculous as well as untrue.
You seem to imagine that women/females would be “sticking around more if they were having a productive and good time” here on this blog? Now your sentence doesn’t make clear sense (apart from the fact that you don’t know what productive means) but let's forget that bit - all I’m saying is this: to be interested and to understand what the blogwriter writes and to realize what he writes is not something that can come to those numerous females who dress up and preen and stick around malls and shopping centres and who obviously have a “very good and productive time” in the bargain.

Oh, and if you simply want to badmouth the blogwriter – don’t bother commenting. It gets terribly boring (I do mean boring) for sensible readers who are looking to read meaningful comments. You can go and smile and smirk and be smug or whatever else it is that you do elsewhere and stay away from this blog. And nobody’s asked you to take up a stand for any of the female readers who do read this blog. Stay away from it since you don’t like it, can’t read, don’t comprehend, don’t have anything worthwhile to say, and have the utterly common female combination of empty-headedness and yet a desire to initiate stupid and girlish quarrels with the blogwriter who is polite but firm, and ‘has forgotten more than you’ll ever learn’ (that’s a liner from what is called a book, by the way). You’ve never come across such a rare combination in a male which is why you ranted in that frivolous, meaningless, and quarrelsome way. I wonder, did Rahmath ask you to step in to take up arms on her behalf after she removed her own comments?

Shilpi said...

Oh, and Kris, by the way, I’ve been engaged in social psychological research for a while now and you are shrieking out a little too loudly for anybody’s comfort on a public blog and in a public comment. Look into yourself if you can. Why would you feel the need to write a vapid comment accusing the blogwriter of saying things which he did not when you could have commented on any post, and to this one too after carefully reading the whole post, reflecting over it, and reading the links provided? Why are you trying to pick a quarrel with the blogwriter, who is all said and done a stranger to you? You also indicate that you have problems with Dipanwita’s comment above. Unbearable to you, is it, that Dipanwita can respect and openly admire a man whom you seem to love to hate? I actually study the likes of you day in and day out, and you know what, you’ve just given me some more material via your comment for my next project. Don’t, by the way, try to delete your comment. I’ve already copied it.


Urbi Chatterjee said...

Dear Baba,
I do wish you did not publish comments like that of Kris's and those of Rahmath's. They do not really have anything substantial to say or criticize. They are a waste of space. You are allowing your blog to be needlessly polluted by publishing rubbish of this kind. I'm sure you'd rather have no comments from women than have 'comments' of this ilk.

And now to answer Kris: You yourself acknowledge that your first reaction on reading this post had been a smile. Do you know what they call people who smile meaninglessly? If you were capable of comprehending what this post really says, a smile would have been the last expression on your face.

As for the line that seems to have caused so many of you girls 'unease', let me quote it once more: "Most others, it seems, never have anything to say, although I write on a very wide variety of subjects – of course, that doesn’t include fashion and cooking and gossip about celebs, but still." Tell me, if not yourself (though I have very strong doubts whether you are an exception of any kind) how many of your female friends have you heard speak of anything but these three, when they are not griping against males? In fact, I will cross out even cooking, which is an art and takes a lot of dedication. Why should something cause you unease unless you know it is something silly and shameful? And if you know in your heart that what you indulge in is essentially for sub-human minds (or whatever sub-humans have), then why do you do it at all, and let others sneer at you for it? The way to change men's opinions about women is not by calling them chauvinistic or callous, but by changing women's attitudes and activities.

Whatever else you may be, you are not an 'independent observer'. You have been brainwashed by other equally stupid women to 'defend' women wherever you find 'wrong' being done against them. Your views are not your own; they are the views which are repeated by millions of other Indian women to simply cover up their own faults and shortcomings as human beings. If you were 'independent' in your views, you would have noticed that what was written in this post was sadness and wonder, not really chauvinism and disgust.

Now for not having checked Rahmath's gender. Any sensible person would have noticed at once that that shows how unbiased the writer of the post is. He does not feel the urge to know the gender of the commentator before publishing the comments. It was only after reading the comment that I felt that it would have to be a very sick man who wrote this, and it was then that I checked the gender. Note that I checked it, my father did not care to do so. 'Rahmath', by the way, is a very male name. What does it say about a girl that she has to hide herself behind a male name? You yourself have not revealed your true identity. I know, I wouldn't have revealed mine either, had I been in your place. I would have been too ashamed of myself to let people know who I am.

It is women like you who have given a bad name to feminism, and made it the butt of everybody's jokes. It is women like you who sometimes make me ashamed to acknowledge that I belong to the same sex. I am, unlike you, human first, and just happen to be a woman as well, and it is largely my father who has taught me to be proud of what I am.

Women can write intelligently and sensibly, as Dipanwitadi and Sayantikadi have shown so wonderfully. You really should try and mix with people like them rather than your current friends.

All this is meant as simple criticism, though negative. I hope a 'heart' like yours will be able to take it very graciously indeed.

Shubho said...

Shilpi-di, just fantastic! All I can do is just repeat what you said.

Anyway, Sir:

1. Women are responding – that alone speaks that you should not be unhappy. Those who read your posts but do not respond should not be criticized because there are people who enjoy reading. They read your posts, they learn from your posts and they like reading your posts – they have admitted that. There are posts where I also sometimes do not find anything to write. That does not mean that I do not follow your blog.

2. There are people like Shilpi-di and Dipanwita-di. Having a few serious followers is always better than too many followers who just increase the count. It does not matter whether it is the men or it is the women, rather what matters is how many people are sensible enough to make healthy criticism, and more importantly, how many people are brave enough to face and accept criticism and rectify their mistakes after they hear criticism. Too many people avoid you just because they cannot face what you tell about them (truth is hard to digest – I also find it hard, but I do digest it, because only then can I improve myself), some are unintelligent and uncouth enough to reply in harsh language (if not obscene language) unnecessarily without understanding what is actually meant. They are always waiting like a wounded tiger waits to give back to the hunter what it got from him. (I follow Shilpi-di’s blog, and even though I visit her blog very rarely, I enjoy reading her posts whatever little I read).

3. One request to you – it is better to keep quiet than make a lament over trivial things. These things do not matter. You have got good people around you and for you, people whom you can depend upon. You have got a fantastic wife, you have got a very good daughter, what more do you need?

4. Another request – actually you had told me this thing when I was in the 10th standard, and I have followed it since then. Now it is your turn to hear it from me. “No one has ever spat and no one can ever spit in the face of the sky, (s)he will actually spit on his/her face. All the sky does is sighs, or laughs back…” You do not need to sigh, just smile, if not laugh back.


Shubho said...

5. For kris. Beware! Had you thought that you could so easily insult Sir? Well, Sir is actually cleverer than you think he is. After all he is much more aged, much more experienced and intelligent than you and I, and can be much more cunning and wicked than you can ever expect! You had thought that you would hurt Sir and he would not post your comment. Well kris, you had misjudged his intelligence! He published your comment and let the whole world know that you are the wounded tiger. Hehehehe is all I can say for you – poor kris! By the way, although a bit out of the track, kris, I think your English teacher had not taught you that you should write “I” and not ‘i’, and also “and oh yes, there were some updates”, not “and oh yes there was some updates”! Hehehehe, unlucky that poor kris is! Well kris, why have you hidden your profile? Are you afraid? Sir is neither a gangster, nor a hacker, nor will he report to the police. You needn’t be afraid, kris. Hehehehe, foolish that poor kris is!

6. A small request to everyone (both men and women) – please give sensible arguments in polite language, not more coarse than you would use with your own teachers and fathers. I have said this because I do not know whether “this creature” called kris is a male or a female. Well, if kris is a female, then I would say, “We men would like to see women who can give sensible arguments in polite language, not more coarse than they would use with their own teachers and fathers, otherwise replies like this from men like me is inevitable”.

7. Another request – kris and his/her likes are requested to refrain from writing comments in this blog. These comments make the blog look dirty. Please help us keep our minds clean. Most people who write in this blog do not like fighting or quarreling unnecessarily. We criticize, we face criticism, and all that is done in a very healthy manner. Dirty comments stink!

By the way, Shilpi-di, I loved the word "shriek".

Well Sir, I think I have to go and have lunch now. We will discuss about this later over the phone, or when I go to your house. Good bye Sir.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Well now, I hope this little fracas was just an unpleasant and unfortunate diversion, and does not say something deep and bad about womankind as a whole. I should like to put it behind me, and look forward to sensible, thoughtful, educated women (and men) telling me the real reasons why women comment so much less often than men here. Surely I write not only on a lot of diverse topics, and many of them entirely gender-neutral? Economic issues, for example, and religion, travel, education, poetry, movies and politics...? How can it be that my women readers find them all too uninteresting/uninspiring to comment upon?

And the reason Sayantika gave for not sending the comment herself - that blogs are blocked at the office and she's too tired to log in with the laptop at home after staring the whole day at a computer screen - surely that sort of 'reason' cannot apply much more to women than to men? Likewise for arguments like 'there's a network problem here', or 'I don't have a computer with a net connection at home', or 'I've been very busy for a while'. Similarly if it's fear of being rebuked for being silly or uninformed or rude that holds them back, why doesn't that stop men/boys equally forcefully?

So if we brush aside these arguments as not applying specially to girls/women, what may be the real reasons why they comment much less often? I would so like to know. Wouldn't readers tell me without losing their tempers or talking of irrelevant things?

Sarbani Roy said...

Dear Sir/Suvroda,

I started reading your blogs when my cousin suggested it to me. And I, in turn suggested this blog to another of my friends. I really do like to read your blogposts (although I have read just a few of them till date - the recent one on books, the one on intelligence and the one about yourself as a person…and of course never commented) and think they contain a wealth of knowledge.

I am one of those females who do not comment, and there are several reasons I don't -
- I don't think I am intellectual enough to comment in your blogs
- I thought only your students, or people you personally know are supposed to comment….
- I am a little shy of actually presenting my opinions, in a public forum. To get out in public, with my real name (because, then people can judge me). At present, I like to be a bystander.
- I generally don't voice my opinions if I totally agree with it. I am not very opinionated and don't feel that my opinions really matter too much.
- And finally, as Sayantika Mandal pointed out (and am a little embarrassed to admit even to myself), I am a little lazy, not to think, but to write what I think. Facebook chatting, although a very unnecessary way of wasting valuable time, filled with pointless chats, still allures me (I am trying to get out of it though).

I also had read the blog you had posted about silent admiration of a teacher and though I was a little agitated with your take on female students, at first, after reading all the comments and after thinking it over I realized... what you said was true. I actually asked all my friends present at that time (two girls and three boys) about who were in touch with teachers they admired. And including me, the girls were not in touch though the boys all met up with their teachers and professors whenever they went to India, or were in some way in touch with them. Even my brother meets up with his favorite teacher and talks about him with great admiration. All I can say is...I am also like the majority of your female students, whether it be in terms of commenting or in showing respect to a good teacher.

- Also, I did not think that some traits are more common amongst the female population before reading your blogs and chatting with my cousin and recollecting what I have noticed at a very small scale. The reason for this could be that most women are more self-centered and obsessed with themselves and their families to be actually participating in intelligent conversation. For example the "adda" groups for generations, have been a typically male thing (I don't know how much of the "adda" is meaningful...). Although women are not typically housewives anymore, that urge to "gossip" rather than "discuss", has not yet abandoned them (/us). The average woman probably does more housework, and attends to the family than the average man, in addition to working at the office. At the end of the day, it probably feels easier to relax and gossip and chat, than take part in a discussion. Also the fear of sounding "silly or uninformed or rude" perhaps scares women more than they do men. Actually the men I have come across generally happen to be more informed than women (I am not aware of the actual statistics in the world). The men I think are more comfortable with what they are, and what they feel than women. There is also an insecurity of some kind in women....

Sarbani Roy said...

I have also heard many stand up comedians say, women think a lot more than men do... They say men have separate boxes of thoughts, while women have all their thoughts linked up with wires. If that is true, men can just take a box out and comment on your post, while an average woman would most probably connect so many dots and not be able to come up with a sane reply to your post… Just like Dipanwita said.

I am not sure if I have been able to answer your question even partly or have just written pointless stuff, but I have commented on your a blog (and first time voiced my opinion in a public forum)

Thanks and Best Regards,
Sarbani Roy

Dipanwita Shome said...

Well Sir, you can't complain now about the number of comments on this post! As far as Rahmath and Kris are concerned, well, I see the likes of these women day in and day out in a city that wombs mindless pancakes like these as if in wholesale. But what is it about them that I find so familiar? You know in the academic circles (no less than that) in Delhi, women find it fashionable to speak and act as feminists. It's a different case altogether that they know nothing about feminism worth the name and that they end up marrying the first green, blue or yellow card that comes their way, but the pose of the feminist is simultaneously boosted by rants towards anything that may seem too sensible to be of comfort. Therefore, I think comments like these should sometimes meet with apt response because there are too many places in the world where such idiots find it fashionable and immensely rewarding to be like themselves. I hope Kris and Rahmath are raeding this.

Dipanwita Shome said...

And, thank you Shilpi, for defending me. I am genuinely grateful. I am not sure I would have been able to write this sensibly and with such logical clarity had I seen this before you did.

Also, thank you, Pupu. But, as far as your suggestion to Kris goes, I am not sure I have the energy to reform or redirect such illogical vituperation and false poses. But, thanks nevertheless.

Rashmi Datta said...

Dear Sir,
I know that I am commenting on your blog-post after a huge gap. I know that any ‘reason’ I give for it would be simply an excuse when the only plain truth is that I was too lazy. I know that I have apologised about this many a times before promising to work on my consistency of writing comments and failed to keep it. Please forgive me.
Sir, you have asked why women seem to be so unwilling to write on your blog. I may not be able to give you the exact reasons but I have a few things to say here-

1. I personally believe that to read, comprehend and write on your blog, the reader has to have the courage to listen to and the ability to ponder over opinions which are not popular (at least in this country, for example : It is not necessary that everything that parents say and want children to do is right. Another one: Just because one has a very poor sense of standards, it is not okay to think that everyone has to believe Shahrukh Khan to be one of the greatest actors India has known). I think that the average Indian woman lacks these above qualities. I have come to this conclusion after communicating with around a hundred mothers of both Sayan’s and my students together, listening to women shopping in malls, looking at the way the female staff behaved in two of the biggest hospitals of Kolkata and from my experience of staying in a woman’s hostel for four years.

2. I think a few who fall out of touch do so maybe because they have some genuine reason and others may just be procrastinating (like I have admitted and am ashamed for that) but I think some girls and women have different reasons to leave. One, they have very brittle egos and so take offence at anything that you say that doesn’t seem to agree with their opinions (which are often very naïve) . Two, they seem to misunderstand you to be a person who is prejudiced against girls and women. This is because people don’t care to know a person well before forming opinions about him/her. I have no idea why people cannot see that you have welcomed so many girls and women to your blog so warmly, even a complete stranger like me.

3. This point may not be completely relevant with the topic but I still wanted to discuss it. I think one trait that I have noticed in women including educated and working is that in spite of the so called women empowerment, most of them don’t think they need to have any personal space and engage in activities that give them real joy (like painting or singing or reading books).By freedom, they only understand the freedom of spending money. This reduces their self-worth and forces them to cling to their husband’s and children’s ‘success’, making them shallow and closed-minded.

On Kris’s comment, I have a few things to say although Shilpidi and Urbi have said it all.

I have been reading this blog for around three years now and Suvro Sir was my husband’s teacher in his school. From what I know and understand of him, he is extremely well read, very polite and down-to-earth. But, a very good teacher that he is, he always points out what he thinks is incorrect and is not appropriate (irrespective of whether the person is a male or a female, friend or a stranger, young or old) and sights reasons on why he thinks so . It takes a lot of courage, knowledge and confidence on one’s opinions to be able to do what he does.

About what Sir thinks about critical comments, he wrote in an earlier post titled 'Comments':
”I accommodate critical comments too, just so long as the writers are polite, and sufficiently informed, and give evidence of having read my piece closely.”
When he sees that the above categories are not fulfilled, he points it out.
I think it is quite plain and simple.

Rashmi Datta

Suvro Chatterjee said...

First off, thanks, Sarbani, Dipanwita and Rashmi.

Dipanwita, I still do complain. If you notice, actually very few people whether male or female have commented yet. I am, of course, discounting the (mercifully!) few who have written in only to say that they hate me, and cannot bear to read that not all women do. The only thing I wonder about is their morbid fascination to keep visiting my blog. Every person has a right to hate someone (however stupid his/her reasons may be), but the simple prescription for such people is that they keep away from it, don't you think? Anyway, the less said about such creatures the better. They don't count either way.

But, as Sayantika and Rashmi and some others have pointed out, a lot of nice women either can't think of anything to say, or are just plain lazy, or keep thinking about it but 'somehow can't get around to actually writing something'. Some have even honestly admitted that they are 'afraid' to write anything! These categories include males too, but women seem to be more numerous. And apart from something indicated by Rashmi, I have not been given any reason why so far. To those who feel lazy, I say 'Giddap!', to those who feel afraid, I can assure you I bite only the rude and the frivolous, but otherwise all kinds of comments are welcome, even if they are only questions relating to what I have written: you don't have to be an old scholar to comment here. I hope that encourages more people to write in.

One thing that keeps recurring here, I feel sad to say, is that a lot of people seem to confuse criticism with abuse, and insist that those who say nice things to/about anybody are chamchas; critics are only those who can abuse. How sad. Nirad Chaudhuri said that it's in our blood: comes from a thousand years of ghulami. Our parents teach us to be slaves from childhood, and it is characteristic of the slave that he cringes before the master and abuses him behind his back (tellingly, those who write abuse NEVER give their real identities!)

Another point: given that comments on a particular blogpost should be addressed to the post itself, and not be coloured by your opinion of the writer in general, it is truly sad that so few women have anything at all to say about anything I write, whether it be a tribute to Rani Rashmoni or a discussion of India's economic situation or a movie review or an essay on intelligence. Some women have privately told me that that's because all these are basically serious things, and 'girls just wanna have fun'. If I am forced to accept that, it makes me sad, believe me, not contemptuous of women - I'd have loved to interact with women who had minds to think with, and I have found too few. A very observant girl leaving my class 10 tuition recently wrote in an essay about me that 'though he scolds and terrifies the boys far more, I could see that he actually cares much more about them'. All my readers should now know why: the girls gush far more in class, but barring a pitiful few they inevitably forget, or bad-mouth me anonymously once the classes are over.

Debarshi said...

Respected Sir,

Warm regards.The number of comments on this particular blog-post has risen very steadily indeed,but what I find sad is that nearly all of it started after the little unfortunate diversion.One needs to empty one's cup of thoughts first,if one is to learn anything of some lasting value.It is also the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain,discuss respectfully and present one's informed opinions about a topic,the content of which might/might not be agreed upon;the needless urge to engage in silly abuse should be restrained.While commenting upon a post,why is it necessary to form a half-baked opinion about the author of the same?These are some of the questions,Sir,I would like to address to the persons Rahmath and Kris.

Sir,I think that now you will find more comments and relevant ones.

With regards,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Debarshi, I doubt it. I have a feeling that male readers are avoiding this post, while the women carry on being what they like to be - aloof!

Sarbani, I should have said this before: welcome to my blog. Glad to know you are a frequent visitor. From the sound of your comment, I should appreciate it if you write in a little more often, anything you like. It's good to see some women can still say honest truths, though they are unpalatable to many of their own kind. Let me say this clearly though: that does NOT mean I am an MCP - as any woman who knows me closely will vouch, I have a pretty poor of opinion of the average male too, especially if he is Indian. All I say is, it's stupid to generalize that just because men are generally bad, women are necessarily good!

To turn this discussion in another, maybe nicer, direction: despite my growing disappointment with women over half a lifetime, I have an incurably romantic streak, as Shilpi knows, which is precisely why it hurts me that so many women make up their minds about me without getting to know me well enough. Even my daughter has begun to laugh at me as 'boyishly simpleminded' now! As proof, here's a recent Rabindra-pop number that I have fallen in love with at first sound


Thankfully, my wife concurs fully with me as to the quality of the music video, though she rolls her eyes when I tell her that I cannot keep falling in love with such girls instantly, again and again. Last time it happened was with a Corrs number.

Pity, though, that not one woman has yet made even a passing reference to the two older posts that I linked in the last paragraph of this blogpost.

Sumitha Rachel Kurien said...

Dear Sir,

My brother told me that I must read the latest post on your blog and that there were a lot of interesting comments doing the rounds and that it was about women. Considering that we (he and I) had some famous verbal (and at times, physical) spats when we were growing up, over which is the superior sex intellectually, the superior school (xaviers or carmel)etc, needless to say, this one was sure to arouse the antennae of curiosity and interest in me :)

So well, I found that the post in itself was harmless and need not have inspired any of the bitterness that was evidently reflected in some comments (which I couldn't see, only found a reference to, in other comments). It's just a musing on your part as to why most women who read your blog have nothing to say too often. Judging by the numbers on your blog hit counter, I daresay there may be a lot of men as well, who do not do the honours on many occassions (not that I am trying to point fingers, but it's just an aside/observation).

And now to come to the crux of the matter itself, why the lack of commentary from the female readers. I cannot speak for others, and indeed, I think you may be mistaken in saying that it's a girl thing. It may not be at all... I think it's an individual thing. I for one, like reading your blog, whenever time, mood and situations permit. Of late, the latter has not been very favourable, so I have maintained a certain distance from blogs of all sorts. I do not however, comment on all the posts that I read; I do not remember why I did not comment on some posts, but it again might have been the lack of time, a certain mood, or a conducive circumstance.

One of the comments here, from one of your students, mentioned that girls are busy whiling away their time on facebook and in gossip. While there's some truth in that, it's also true that boys spend perhaps and even greater share of their time in trawling these social networking sites and hitting on girls with pretty display pictures. So no, I don't think it's a girl or boy thing at all.

Point in case is the blogspace that we have at our workplace. It's an internal blogspace and some years back, I was a very active contributor. I would post short stories, poems, articles, what not, and get a steady trickle of comments. There were some other people (mostly women), who would just post a one liner, and their comments section would be deluged with a lot of comments from men. So yes, I don't think it's a man/woman thing at all. And to be very honest, these other women did not have decidedly prettier faces in reality or on their display pictures, than me/mine :)

I have a blog somewhere on the www
http://sumbit.blogspot.com it's called. I post reasonably decent stuff in there (decent in terms of content and language); and yet, I hardly ever get a comment. My brother stays away, and so do a lot of other folks, men and women included! :) I don't know why; I think it's because I am just not a virtual world hit. So long as google does not come up and says, "Sorry, because of a lack of subscribers, we are taking down your blog", I am fine with the lack of readers on my blog.

I don't know if there is a thread that binds the various lines of thought in this comment together; if not, I'm sorry. All I wanted to say was, I don't think it's a woman thing at all, and that if people (women and men included) aren't saying anything, it's probably better off for you and your readers; else we would have to contend with a lot of meaningless comments and "likes" and "+1s".

Sumitha Rachel Kurien

Mayuri Mukherjee said...

Dear Sir,

You have often wondered why women don't comment on your blog just like they never participated in the Orkut community you had created earlier. And every time you have brought it up, I have thought long and hard about the issue.

Unfortunately, I have never really understood why this is the case. Sure some of us are lazy while others either have little to say or are too afraid to commit themselves to words. To this let me even add my own vice: Poor time-management. But then again this must be the case with the boys as well.

And yet, there are a few among them who respond and some do so regularly --- which is how it should be. Why this class doesn’t exist among women, at least in this particularly case, is beyond my comprehension. Trying to understand my own experience with your blog has also produced little effect.

I refuse to accept that women are more inclined towards frivolous behaviour and therefore, there are fewer of them on the other side of the spectrum. I feel like I have dealt with equal numbers in both groups, but there is no denying that women have been noticeably quiet on your blog, and even elsewhere.

To this, let me add something from my own experiences: I almost always share my articles on Facebook and Twitter and whatever little feedback I get is invariably from my male friends (apart from the women in my family). This is despite the fact that I have an overwhelming number of female friends and acquaintances as a result of having spent 14 years in all-girls schools.

And yet, there are quite a few women I know who are intelligent, articulate, unafraid to speak their mind and who are doing fascinating things in life. Often I have seen them engage in intellectual discourse online and off the internet as well and this just makes it even more difficult to justify the discrepancy.

On a slightly different note, I must say that I agree with your comment on how years of colonial repression has so seeped into our national character that inhibition and restraint are now integral parts of our psyche. I don’t know if this is enough to justify the absence of female participation on your blog but it surely holds true in a more general sense.

I realised this first hand when I was at university abroad – I couldn’t help but notice how freely and smoothly communication flowed over there. During classes, students easily engaged with teachers; there was lively discussion of the kind that I had considered a luxury back home. In the professional workspace too people were far more relaxed (at least, socially) and there wasn’t really the kind of social awkwardness one often encounters here.

I regret that my contribution to this discussion has been rather inconsequential and vague at best. Hopefully, the others will have to say. I look forward to reading more.


Percipient Shameek .... said...

Dear Sir ,

My mother too is a regular reader of your blog. I read this post yesterday and told her about the question you asked in this post. On reading this post today..she was quiet for a few minutes and then said , when she reads your posts , there are too many thoughts that come to her mind and she finds it difficult to pick and choose. She added that though most of your posts set us thinking about the issues you address , she finds it difficult to put together a sensible comment amidst all those thoughts...and thus the comments come few and far between.

Regards ,
- Shameek.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks for commenting, Sumitha, Mayuri and Shameek.

Well, I don't think I am likely to receive many more illuminating comments here, but I also think that any interested but neutral observer, reading all the comments that have come in so far, will be able to draw some conclusions already.

Sumitha, you're dead right: it was a harmless post asking an honest question, not one meant to provoke a cat fight, but some people - who, I should guess, are not really readers - tried to turn it into one merely in order to spit venom at me, not really paying much attention to the post at all. I'm glad we managed to steer away from that nastiness, and turn the tone sober and civilized again. Mayuri, allow me to grin a little and say that a bit of goading shook you and a few others up enough for you to come forward and communicate! Notice also that in a few respects your views differ from Sumitha's, and I know you both to be sensible people. Shameek, I wish more people like your mother would come forward to present their views. I miss mature people sorely here, and alas, it has been my experience that maturity comes very late in life these days, to males and females alike...

I will take leave by repeating a certain point: not one comment writer, whether male or female, has made any reference to the two earlier posts I linked in this one. I guess that's because those who have fixed ideas about me cannot square them with the fact that I do admire and respect some women, and also, looking at the kind of women I admire, it makes them terribly uncomfortable about themselves, so they decide that it's best to keep quiet! My daughter says neither any of her friends nor teachers know or care about the likes of Rashmoni, Sudha Murty or Abigail Adams...

santanu Chatterjee said...

The fault actually lies not with those nice creatures of God but with us who do not continually go on blabbering about how nice they are and how grateful we are to them for their generous contribution and how wonderful it is of them to take their time of out of their busy schedule to comment in this post.
I do not know how relevant it will be, but would love to ad some of my experience from our FOSS(Free and Open Source Software) community. i am a founder member of a community called PLUG(Pune Linux User Group) where we used to and still do meet up to share our knowledge and some hacks. Although ours is over 12 years old, hardly 12 ladies have came forward and joined. Now here it might be said that in PLUG, keeping in tandem with our global parent community, we are not supposed to say thanks to anybody and humour is welcome and sometimes it used to border on sarcasm. Later on we found out that this is a global phenomena, and our group has the worst sex ratio in the world and everyone started considering us MCPs. So much for women workforce in IT.
It is their urge to get noticed, get thanks at the drop of a hat, a peculiar narcissist attitude which has been vastly and exponentially fed by the facebook era, which i feel is responsible for this situation.

DEBANIK said...

So here's Suvro's way of wooing women.


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Did my post and all the comments I wrote later in response to those which had come in sound like I was trying to 'woo' women, Debanik?