Chetan Bhagat's 'Letter To Women' is Actually Incredibly Offensive to Feminists

News flash: Condescension ISN'T help.




Recently, Chetan Bhagat wrote a piece that's being touted as a high form of empowering feminist literature. However, as an ardent feminist, I felt the need to break down his spiel, piece by piece, and expose it for the sexism-steeped ball of condescension it actually is. I can only hope other women (feminist men and women in general, really) see my point of view by the end of this rant.

"Alright, this is not cool at all. A recent survey by Nielsen has revealed that Indian women are the most stressed out in the world: 87% of our women feel stressed out most of the time. This statistic alone has caused me to stress out. Even in workaholic America, only 53% women feel stressed.

Really, Chetan? Not cool? I'm so terribly sorry you're stressed that I'm stressed. That makes everything much better. Now that YOU'RE stressed, this statistic actually matters. Interesting, also, how your knowledge of labour laws in this country (far less people-serving than union-run USA) doesn't help you get a handle on how—when a country can replace you with 300 people waiting to do your job cheaper and faster—the stress levels are likely to be far more than in one where the concept of specialisation—and overtime—exist.

"What are we doing to our women? I'm biased, but Indian women are the most beautiful in the world. As mothers, sisters, daughters, colleagues, wives and girlfriends - we love them."

​As long as we're all easy on the eye, AmIRite, ladiezzz?

"Can you imagine life without the ladies?"

​Hell, no! Who would dance in the item numbers and get whistled at at bus stops? Plus, where would dinner come from?

"For now, I want to give Indian women five suggestions to reduce their stress levels."

Oh. My. God. You condescending p#!@k. The very fact that you think Indian women are gasping for your suggestions on how to fix our lives and reduce our stress levels (a subject on which I'm SURE you've recently pronounced yourself an expert, as you have in the past with Indian politics and reality show dancing) is the most stress-inducing, *sshole-esque thing you could say.

"One, don't ever think you are without power. Give it back to that mother-in-law. Be who you are, not someone she wished you would be. She doesn't like you? That's her problem."

Right. Because, outside of my mother-in-law not liking me, there's little that could be troubling my pretty little head. You may say you're only working with a single example (and that I ought not to generalise, like a silly woman), but I love the fact that that's the example you went with. To quote Ronan Keating, "You say it best when you say nothing at all."

"Two, if you are doing a good job at work and your boss doesn't value you—tell him that, or quit. Talented, hard-working people are much in demand."

What a gloriously, over-simplified view of how the world works—free of responsibility, insecurity, and risk. Not everyone has this degree of nauseating overconfidence, I'm afraid, Chetan. I won't even get into the assumption that my boss is a 'him'–but heck, we're just a bunch of beautiful, mother-in-law servicing units, aren't we?

"Three, educate yourself, learn skills, network - figure out ways to be economically independent. So next time your husband tells you that you are not a good enough wife, mother or daughter-in-law, you can tell him to take a hike."

There's a running thread in your words, Chetan. You're not only speaking to a wedded woman at all times, you're speaking to her from the perspective of her service value. You speak as though my roles of being a mother, or wife, or daughter-in-law define me. Not once does my being a 'woman' come into it, really—a fact, which, if you understood us at all, you'd realise supersedes all that. Besides, talk to me from a pedestal is still talking down, however helpful you may've convinced yourself you're being.

"Four, do not ever feel stressed about having a dual responsibility of family and work. It is difficult, but not impossible. The trick is not to expect an A+ in every aspect of your life. You are not taking an exam, and you frankly can't score cent per cent (unless you are in SRCC, of course). It is okay if you don't make four dishes for lunch, one can fill their stomach with one. It is okay if you don't work until midnight and don't get a promotion. Nobody remembers their job designation on their dying day."

The sad thing is, I actually think he thinks he's on our side. However, his sexism is so nuanced and seeps into every pore of this letter, it's inevitably offensive to any woman who knows it's not our job to put any dishes on the table for dinner—that's bloody conditioning that a large segment of Indian men still can't shake—and that it's our prerogative to want an A+ in anything we choose to do. That, to be legitimately thought of as equal, we'd split making dinner with our husbands, as well as juggle the days either of us works till midnight. That is, if we choose to get married at all.

"Five, most important, don't get competitive with other women. Someone will make a better scrapbook for her school project than you. Another will lose more weight with a better diet. Your neighbor may make a six-dabba tiffin for her husband, you don't—big deal? Do your best, but don't keep looking out for the report card, and definitely don't expect to top the class. There is no ideal woman in this world, and if you strive to become one, there will be only one thing you will achieve for certain - stress."

Sigh. A simple 'there's no ideal person' could've fixed this verbal tragedy. The fact that you keep repeating that I don't need to succeed, to be promoted, to top the class or get As is you asking me to lower the bar for myself. Telling me that aiming to be the best I can be will have only one result—stress—is you essentially slapping my fight against a patriarchal world in the face. 'Stress' be damned.

"So breathe, chill, relax. Tell yourself you are beautiful, do your best and deserve a peaceful life. Anybody trying to take that away from you is making a mistake, not you. Your purpose of coming to this earth is not to please everyone. Your purpose is to offer what you have to the world, and have a good life in return. The next time this survey comes, I don't want to see Indian women on top of the list. I want them to be the happiest women in the world. Now smile, before your mother-in-law shouts at you for wasting your time reading this article."

The pompous-ness of this last paragraph is fairly self-explanatory. Number one, again, I don't appreciate being spoken to like a sullen child who's stolen a biscuit. "I don't want to see this behaviour" is downright demeaning—regardless of what spirit you mean it in. Empowering me by speaking to me like you're two seconds away from ruffling my hair and sending me onto the playground is something no woman is bound to appreciate. 

Also, go ahead. Tell me to worry about pleasing my mother-in-law one more time.

"Cherish Womanhood."

Yeah....bugger off.