An open letter to Shobhaa De

Hello Shobhaa,

Your Wikipedia page and other sources of general public information describe you as an author, a novelist, a columnist, an editor of some ‘famous’ magazines and an ex-model. You are also, I believe from my observations, a socialite and a regular face on Page 3 of quite a few newspapers. Congratulations for all of this!

Now I read this recent article of yours on your blog, which (unfortunately) was also published in The Week. And I could not help but write to tell you what you are not.

You are not a feminist. You are not a champion of the female cause. You are not even what can be construed as a part of the face of the modern Indian woman. At your best, you are just another pseudo-feminist with a demented idea of what women want, probably derived from reading the obnoxiously superficial and outrageously deceitful articles about the ‘real’ interpretation of female equality and achievement thereof.

Because when you made a hue and cry about the fact the some men started visiting the same salon as your highness was a regular at, and then when you went ahead to label it as ‘the worst kind of male intrusion into our personal space since the introduction of common lavatories’, you were actually jeopardizing what feminism actually stands for.

I have a problem with this.

You see, I understand where you come from. Your stint in modelling may lead you to believe that a ‘female-only’ manicure and pedicure facility is the epitome of the female equality. Because hey, feminism is all about women having exclusive salons where they can spend the rest of their lives getting rid of body hair and ‘perfecting’ their natural self!

Reality: It isn’t.

You know what, while you were busy ‘spreading awareness’ about the male encroachment in your neighborhood salon, somewhere in this very country a woman got raped because supposedly she ‘was inviting it’, a girl was not sent to school, a female child could not survive the gender stereotypes, a bride was set ablaze for being unable to substantiate her worth in gold and cash, an educated professional lady was sexually harassed at her workplace and many other women were denied even their basic human rights. All this happened, while you were mourning a chipped nail and an unwaxed upper lip. These aren’t the real threats to feminism, Miss. De. We need social, political, economic and cultural equality for women. And forgive my shortsightedness, but I don’t see how your battle is going to be of any help in this war.

Not to mention that the condescending and disdainful tone in which you talk about both men and women who have ‘imperfect’ bodies is only going to reaffirm the superficial norms of beauty that the modern society has so wrongly accepted and even revered. Hair or no hair, we need to learn to respect people for what they are and not how they look. So, if you can’t help with this, please at least don’t screw it up for those who are trying!

And yeah, so what exactly is the big deal if guys have started taking personal grooming seriously? On a lighter note, isn’t it finally a victory for all the women who have, for centuries, been nagging about how untidy and unkempt their partners/husbands/boyfriends are. Yes, painting toenails is taking it a bit too far even for the most metro-sexual of men but I’m just going to treat it as a figment of literary exaggeration a writer of your ‘stature’ has to resort to and live up to, to keep the pseudo-feminists interested and then exclaim- “Hah! Men are so stupid, aren’t they!”

You claim to be ‘all for male grooming’, yet you are averse to the idea of sharing a salon with them? Why, do you have to share a wax strip with a (as you said) ‘hirsute man’? I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Even if for a microsecond we agree to your statement that both the parties might get grossed out looking at each other’s not so perfect bodies, isn’t it also true that this also in some way brings a sense of understanding, even appreciation, of the natural shortcomings that the opposite gender has?

I think it does.

And hey, in this part of the universe we still have hospitals where men get treated alongside women. So with your persistent sense of getting ‘grossed out’, what are you proposing, we get separate hospitals for them?

Shobhaa, another thing. The men you are talking about, they are what we call in marketing language ‘consumers’. You cannot really expect each one of them to open up a salon for themselves just because a woman suddenly feels threatened with men sharing the grooming space with her. You see, not everyone has the kind of money that you get by selling Bollywood gossip and grapevine bundled in smooth shiny papers to gullible people!

As a matter of fact, the business concept of a unisex salon is pretty much a successful one, even in a relatively conservative country like India. You might want to read this article about the growth of this industry. If the idea of a unisex salon was ‘grossing out’ a majority of people (as you would want us to believe), I don’t think unisex salons would have survived, let alone flourish the way they have not only in metros but also in Tier-II cities of the country. So, you know, go easy on Mr.Branson there with your business ideas.

What you have so easily termed as a death knoll for the female privacy and the male intrusion into the female space, is actually more of your own personal problem. Because last time I checked, unisex salons were not there in the ‘list of things that threaten feminism and female equality’.

It is a sorry state of affair if a woman thinks, believes in and propagates the idea that ‘female space’ literally means how many square feet of a salon the women can have exclusively to themselves!

You can now go ahead and get you toenails done.



The ‘hirsute’ man you don’t want to see in a unisex salon





23 thoughts on “An open letter to Shobhaa De”

  1. The tone of the passage never made me realize that it was written by a man, until I came to the end of the letter.

    1. Does it matter if it is written by a woman or a man, Jenson? 🙂
      In fact I think men who really understand feminism, care about it as much as the fairer sex. I think it is this uniformity of understanding and purpose that probably reflects in the tone here.

  2. Take a bow “the pyjama warrior”! That could actually be the much harsh slap she has been asking since a long long time!
    I really hope she gets to read it and understands how small as a human being she is and that the general public hardly gives a damn about what she tihinks or what she does and least of all bother about her exclusive space in the salon!!!

  3. Amazing article ! I really wonder How Shobhaa’s article was published in The Time. Utter nonsense. And it is an irony that she is a feminist(or claims to be), her thoughts reflected just the opposite.

    1. Yes even I was surprised that The Week carried out something as rubbish as this! :/
      But I guess we all know that journalism has been suffering at the hands of capitalism for quite a while now! What sells is what you see, what you see is what is selling!

  4. Leave feminist cause, She is just another “Object” trying to exploit a market and sell itself. And they would go to any extend, crucify anyone to get there.

    Like you said these pseudo-feminists – They throw around words like gender equality, and gender sensitization, the same time they talk about their “special” need for space, the “special” kind of care they require (apart from things that has an anthropological justification). What they’re really doing is quoting all those “chauvinist/Misogynist” thoughts in their own words – and continuing in denial.

    1. This reminds me.. in hills of Uttarakhand, many women beat the shit out of their husbands if they come home drunk and misbehave. To add to the pain of beating, they also apply “stinging nettle” on them which pains a lot. 😀
      Couldn’t find a better example of real feminists! 🙂

      1. Hey hey hey that’s not feminism dude!! That’s like domestic violence! 😛
        On a more serious note, the basic premise of feminism is ‘equality’! So let’s have a society where no one like, beats anyone! 😛

        1. Haha.. yeah well you’re right. The basic idea was that women don’t cry “feminism, feminism” and are empowered enough.
          They have a lot of independence there since they actually work a lot! Women smoking hookahs n beedis is a pretty common sight. I think it is one of the better examples of places where people are gender neutral in their thought process , which is a good thing.

          The basic premise of feminism used to be equality. But it has taken a turn for worse because of idiotic people like Ms. De. It tends to indicate that women want to be privileged than equal which is totally not what it was about. Hence a lot of women are distancing themselves from the concept.

  5. Firstly, I never knew Shobha De claimed to be a feminist. Though I don’t read her articles, I always thought her to be the typical Page 3 reporting writer. Her articles always cater to this high-society bunch of people. Honestly, I don’t think you should objectify her article so much and take her so seriously. It was after all, a humorous article by the look of things 🙂

  6. A good blow to not just the Pseudo-Feminist in the picture, but to all those tainted-feminists who have been flourishing, courtesy their gullible readers.

  7. hi, I came to know about ur blog thru a friend Tyagi who worked with me at hcl noida. this blog is an eye opener and among the best i follow.i read all the previous articles on the very same night i saw this blog.As far as this article is concerned i cant agree with u more. She(shobaa) is considered a writer by people who dosent really know what writing is all about. i am aan avid reader and i havent read any of her works whatever they may be. as far as the people who buy her stuff are concerned i think that they are pseudo intellects that too of lowest echelon who think carrying a copy of her work(cant come up with a name: dont see the need to google it) will make them look smart. Sarcasm in ur work is like a barret .50 sniper rifle.keep shooting them pseudo liberals. i love u*.

    * i am not gay
    ps: i am not sure but the tyagi at hcl told me he is ur cousin

  8. Hi pyjama warrior!!! I have been a fan of your work since eternity and have always wondered why did you stop!!! I was planning to msg you on fb, but that would’ve meant stalking, which I am not a big fan of (you should’ve been a girl dude :-p)

    Anyway, I have also started a blog of mine, and would be really honoured if you could give me a tip or two if you have time. I know this is asking too much from you, but you are a really decent chap!!!

  9. Hats off to you. India needs people who respect women not Just people who criticize men and write stupid articles in the name of feminism.

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