Sunday, December 14, 2014

That film look


That film look

“An apprentice knows all his tools and an expert knows which ones to use, but a master can predict when their need will arise.”

One cannot survive a battle without attacking, defending and ducking in adequate proportions; the adequacy being determined by the flow of events. Some battles can only be won by ducking all the time except for the deciding moment. Filming is exactly one of those battles. You can prepare yourself for every possibly lighting scenario, equip yourself with the best of hardware, and yet find yourself woefully out of your comfort zones at the location on the day when all your training matters the most. To give you an example; you plan an outdoor shoot and equip yourselves with all the lighting that could be used for a heavily overcast day, and plenty of reflectors and diffusers for a bright sunny day. And it pours buckets all through the day. If you didn’t plan an alternate location, or at least an alternate use of the location, you are stuffed. If you are a professional working in the field with professional artists and crew, you cannot shoot the gig without rebooking the entire bunch along with the location, again. Imagine the catastrophe you’d find yourself in were you to be on an overseas shoot that had to be planned with permits acquired well before the d-day. Heavens forbid if the production was running on a tight budget!

So now that we know how important it is to get the planning right, it is safe to say; “when you want to shoot, just shoot according to a plan.” And the very first vector that determines the direction of your planning blue-print is the final look you want to cast your finished product into. Depending upon whether you are shooting a broadcast oriented material or screening oriented stuff, you may want to consider a few factors before deciding the frame rate for your project. Advertisements, documentaries, soap-operas that are meant for television need to be shot in a frame rate that will match the utility-frequency of the country or region the program is going to be broadcast in. For example, for US the optimal frame rate would be 30 fps, while for UK it would be 25 fps. This is because the electricity supplies in the two nations are delivered at 60 Hz and 50 Hz respectively. This means that the electric current completes 60 or 50 cycles per second; or the television screens go blank 60 or 50 times per second, and powers up the same number of time. So if your frame rate will not be a mathematical match of these magic numbers, your program will suffer the banes of flicker or banding (anybody remembers the old tuning knob in black and white televisions).

The choice of frame rate however is relatively easy if you are shooting a movie meant to be screened in cinemas, or if you are shooting a music video that you want to look like a movie for styling reasons (just like yours truly). We all want a cinema or movie look for our projects and the magic frame rate to get that look is 24 fps. But the question is why 24 fps and not something else? Let us tackle this question and some other important factors that determine the ultimate look that a project will get.

ð Frame rate:

Traditionally 24 fps was the frame rate used for shooting movies as it was the minimum number of frames needed to make the human mind perceive a continuous display of photographic frames as continuing motion. Less wouldn’t have worked and more would have blown a budget hole for the production houses, because back in the day when filming was done on photographic rolls that were then set by chemical processing, it was cheaper to have a girlfriend. However that dreamy appearance of 24 fps on 35 mm film roll became synonymous with cinema, and today we can’t help but associate that look with the quality of a production. Television looks and feels cheap!

Before we go any further it is important to understand why 24 fps generate that look, and then understand why shooting in any other frame rate and then using a 3:2 pull-down process (or other techniques, the addition of artificial blurring) cannot generate the same effect.

Using 24 fps means that the motion that you are recording is captured as 24 pictures taken in a second. Each picture contains the motion that took 1/24th of a second to complete. Each frame has thus captured a natural motion blur worth 1/24th of a second. When you will use any higher frame rate, say 30, 48 or 60 fps, they will capture correspondingly lesser amount of motion blur; their pictures will be crispier than the 24 fps records. This is the reason why television and handycam videos look much cleaner, realistic and bland. They don’t have that dreamy blurring. So if you want to have the film look for your project, you need to capture the film style blur.

True, modern editing softwares allow one to convert 30 or 60 fps footage into a 24fps result by using various pull-down mechanisms in post-production and then adding a bit of motion blur to the project, but this cannot imitate natural record. Take for example an actor walking towards the camera. As the assistant-cameraman will pull the focus to keep the actor in sharp focus, using position markers, actor’s body’s different parts will have a different amount of motion blur in every frame. While the leg moving forward will have more motion blur, the one rooted to ground behind will have progressively decreasing amount of blur, with practically nil amount for the toe planted on the ground. Softwares cannot imitate this graded effect. Moreover it’s the actor who’s walking, not the ground beneath, and the stationary objects around. I guess you get the idea!

So if you want the look of 24 fps, then that’s what you need to shoot your project in. However, as I mentioned, planning is the key. You need to break down each and every scene before you even set your foot on the location to do the shoot. You need to know exactly which scenes will be over or under cranked subsequently, so that you can adjust your frame rate accordingly right when you are shooting. Besides, there could be other reasons to have a different frame rate than 24 fps as well. My upcoming music video for the song “Show me the woman that you are” has been shot in 25 fps. This frame rate not only gives me the look extremely close to 24 fps, but it also means that my song could be played on television in majority of the world without any pull-down needed. But the biggest reason was; I wanted to have a liberty to slow the footage down by a frame, for that would give it an extra smooth and dreamy slow-motion effect, without altering its quality in any way.

ð Lighting:

An urban legend often propagated around is that the films have a different look than television because of the lighting used in them. Again, it depends upon the planning that you put in behind the project (and we are talking about each and every scene over here) before you actually shoot the project. If you are shooting a candy-pop video or a chic flick, no wonder much of your shoot will be with glamour lighting at 1:2 or 1:4 ratios at the most. But the moment the scene or story shifts into the dark zone, you may want to alter your lighting to 1:8 or even more contrasting ratios. Shooting a mean manly look in any project will demand a lighting that would highlight the contours of a face. And then there are different styles of lighting that can be used. Most dark music videos and movies employ a lighting style often classified as short lighting (as opposed to broad lighting where the broadest part of the subject is well lit while shadows are limited). Then there is Rembrandt style lighting often employed in super-hero or gothic styled movies.

But all these lighting techniques are used in television serials as well. There is no difference as such in the lighting techniques. But one difference in the way lighting is used in a television production than a movie set is the way background is projected on screen. Television products are generally shot on a handful of sets that are meant to be used again and again over a long period of time. During this time the sets may even become highly elaborate with details that make up the background. On the contrary movies are shot using sets designed for a single project and often are not highly detailed, unless it is an extravagant epic being shot. Thus backgrounds in movies are generally lit in a way to create deep shadows that mask missing details in the background, yet pull the effect the set is designed to fake. This works in conjunction with the other principle, that on a huge screen the audience’s point of interest should solely be the characters, or whatever the director wishes to focus their attention on. Hence lighting has no role to play in determining the look of your project beyond your artistic caliber. A bad lit project may still be able to pull a film look, although a bad lit project will look pathetic.

ð Lenses, sensors and close ups:

Let’s start this part of the topic with a simple statement: shoot close-ups using long lenses (70mm and above). Now before I explain this statement, let us first have a look at the difference between the two types of lenses; wide angle lenses and telephoto lenses. Imagine you are in a room and your friend is standing outside the window. What happens when you walk up to the window to talk to your friend? Your friend being closer to you appears larger, and you can see a whole lot more of the scene behind him, but only if you want to. Otherwise you can focus directly on your friend’s face. This is exactly what a wide angle lens (like 14mm) does; it gives a wild field of view around the subject with great depth of field details, but blows up the face of the subject in focus, making it appear larger. Now imagine stepping far away from the window and looking at your friend with a pair of binoculars. When you zoom in, your friend may look the same size as if you were standing next to the window, but there is only limited stuff you can see in the background, and more so if you only focus on your friend’s face. This is what telephoto lenses (like 70mm) do. They take you close to your subject, cut out most of the things in the background that are not directly in their narrow range of view, and keep their face as it is. And this lack of distortion of the face captures a flattering image of the talents that you are shooting. This is the reason why you should always try to shoot close ups with telephoto lenses. Most people will look good with them, and will hate their blown up faces captured by wide angle lenses.

But what if the space available to shoot a scene is limited, as was the case we found ourselves in when we were shooting the music video I mentioned above? Once again this is a problem that can be easily avoided by adequate planning. A director’s friend in such a scenario is a crop sensor camera. Now we all know how movies were originally shot on 35 mm photographic films. Modern day DSLRs come in two varieties. There are those with a digital sensor (to capture the image) which is equivalent to a 35 mm film (for example Canon Mark III). These are full-frame sensor cameras. Whatever lens you will use with these, the lens will behave as one would expect it to behave with a 35mm film camera. Then there are those who have a crop-sensor; a sensor that is smaller than the size of a 35mm film. These sensors cut out the edges of the frame if you were to shoot the same frame with a 35mm camera. Red One, a camera that gives the same depth of field as a 35mm film camera, is still a crop sensor camera. Depth of field is not the same as the stretch of the other two dimensions that you record. My saving grace was this camera. It is not only an industry standard unit for professionals that has revolutionized the way high budget movies are shot, but being a crop sensor camera, it behaves like crop sensor cameras. When you use an ultra-wide angle lens with a crop sensor camera, it only ends up being a wide angle lens. And if you use a simple wide angle lens, that will end up as a normal lens. This is because a crop sensor does not gather the same amount of two dimensions as a full frame sensor would have in the same situation. This helps when you are shooting in tight locations.

So the question is; what lenses give the film look? The answer is; any one of them. The lenses can determine how your subjects will look on the screen, they can determine how much background the audience will be able to see in a shot, but they cannot determine how much motion blur will be captured by the camera. The lenses will not determine whether your lighting was good or bad. You may find a telephoto lens to be a good option to shoot close-ups, or you may use a 35mm lens with a depth of field adaptor to shoot an elaborate scene involving a lot of characters where background needs to be out of focus. The trick once again is in planning your scenes well in advance.

ð Neutral density filters and aperture:

Why should you use filters (including for indoor scenes)? The use of filters is linked to the use of an extra wide aperture. Generally you should be using lenses capable of pulling f/1.4 or f/2 stops. This opens the lens aperture wide, giving you a wider field of view. It is akin to opening up the window of your room as wide as you possibly can, to look at wider scenery. Think of movie scenes where a character is standing or walking in the middle of the screen, and how wide around the character you can see. After all, you cannot fill such a massive cinema screen by putting a character in the middle of it. The other obvious use of wide aperture is that it decreases the depth of field. So you have a wider field of view, but a shallower depth of field. Thus the objects in a scene, other than your talent, that could be in focus are limited to a shallower range. This helps in keeping audience’s point of interest fixed on what you want them to focus on.

But opening up the aperture also increases the amount of light flooding the camera sensor. Now this is good in a way that you can shoot most of your scenes at an ISO setting of sub 800, thus reducing the noise levels, but it also creates the headache of dealing with the highlights. Luckily we have neutral density filters, just to take care of this problem. But the ND filters not only help in taming the highlights, they also serve another role. These filters further reduce the depth of field, thus driving the audience interest into your talents even further. And of course these filters keep the dust away from your lenses, thus saving you the trouble of wiping the lens surface clean again and again.

Now there are many other tricks that could be applied post production, to enhance the look of what you have shot. But no amount of software fiddling can replace the advantages of nailing the project with actual glassware and globes in the first instance. You can modify colours of the project to give them a specific look, like say washed out colours with a grayish tone in case of “50 Shades of Grey”, or the notorious greenish tinge of war movies, but these are only artistic after effects. If however you wanted to shoot a feature film but ended up shooting the entire movie at 60 fps, you are straightaway starting with the disadvantage of an over-realistic motion. The Hobbit trilogy at 48fps hasn’t fanned super-charged debates without a reason. So plan carefully.

Fatal Urge Carefree Kiss “Amanpreet Singh Rai”


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Familism: A new perspective


Familism: A new perspective

“If my viewpoint is not neutral for I am a male, so isn’t a feminist’s, for their viewpoint is influenced by their thoughts.”

There are many things wrong with our society, and while it is good to have individuals motivated and taking up the responsibility to fix what is wrong, it is also prudent to guard against getting carried away by the flow of their own actions and going off the desired track. Feminism was a movement that arose from a very genuine and grave problem afflicting the entire human race; half of them victims, and the other half secure in the ignorance of their own crime. Over the period of time Feminism first evolved, then flourished, only to puke its’ guts out and getting lost at an intersection of thoughts emerging out of its’ own road-map. It is now so off the original task, it doesn’t even realize the fact that it hasn’t evolved to the changes its’ own actions have already brought in the society. Needless to say feminists haven’t undertaken the gigantic task of evaluating for self, whether the changes they’ve brought about, had any positive impact on the society or their goodness has come at a price much dearer than what the first proponents of feminism might have envisioned. The feminists might argue with me if I said their views were always distorted to begin with, influenced by the views their original proponents held about the masculine dominance. But the fact remains that a conglomerate of theories which insists no two groups of females have same experiences, has so far (and especially in modern times) failed to realize that neither are all groups of men the same, and nor every work ever undertaken in a man’s world had been afflicted with oppressive influences. Feminists have failed to appreciate the deepest meaning of their own fundamental postulate – one general theory does not fit every group of individuals.

I do have a biased opinion against feminists, for I believe they are the most undemocratic of all interest groups, and there is a reason why I say so. While feminists criticize and question everyone else’s opinion in this world, they do not react in a democratic way to opinions that contradict their own beliefs. Feminists’ method of harassing every person who holds a view that questions feministic postulates, then hounding that person as if they were the biggest criminal in the world fit to be socially boycotted, does not reflect democratic methods at any levels. It is a bullying tactic and no different than what the men feminists have criticized over ages used to employ against dissenting voices (both female, and male). So in this article I will first discuss some examples which have defined male-female social relationship in our society since ages, and have led to the voices raising (and rightly so) women issues, then I will quickly touch upon a couple of basic flaws in feministic theories (whether there originally, or a subsequent development), and finally I will introduce the concept of “Familism” which I believe is the step in the right direction for the future of humankind. I will not give a formal definition of “Familism” at this point of time, for that will be an unnatural attempt at defining something in a jiffy. I would leave my definitions for a later time, and let the thought develop its’ meaning on its’ own at the hands of the society.

A quick mention here though: “Nothing in this article is meant to justify any kind of female oppression. We are marching towards a society and future where any kind of bias or oppression has no place. However, to make a learned decision we do need to re-visit the past decisions and actions in an un-biased way, and investigate the origins of the problems so that a proper diagnosis can be made. Treating a cancer patient does not involve killing that person first or taking out all their organs. Yes their internal constitution is studied in detail to appreciate the spread of the disease, its’ source, nature and expected course, and only then is the treatment undertaken to either remove, or control and minimize the diseased tissue.”

ð An “Original oppression” or a “Natural oppression”?

Women’s oppression has many facets to it: domestic violence, unequal opportunities (education, career and work), and sexual exploitation. All these real world problems needed to be addressed, and this is where the Feminists came into the picture. Feminists like radical feminist Catharine MacKinnon and others have often described it as “original or fundamental oppression”. Not only is women’s oppression a common feature across cultural and ethnic lines, but the peculiar characteristics of the two sexes (male and female) that we classify as gender traits, have all along been determined by men with women having been conditioned to believe that their feminine traits come naturally to them. Thus the need to change everything associated with our society (its’ legal, social and political systems) is real and absolute for the radical feminists, while liberal feminists range in views from seeking equal status and opportunity for women to seeking a separate set of laws and norms for the two sexes. These views and some more described below, as radical as they are and as correct as they appear, fail however to reconcile with many observations that could be made in nature (role of males and females in other mammalian species), in society (matriarchal societies where women are heads of the family, and property and title rests with women. Examples include Mosuo, Minangkabau, Akan, Bribri, Garo and Nagovisi tribes), and the silence of feminists like MacKinnon herself on the issue of biological differences, and the criticism of feminists like Irigaray who recognize such a difference, by their feminist peers. In order to truly comprehend the origin of female oppression thus, we are left with no choice but to visit the uncomfortable question; is female oppression a “Natural oppression”, as opposed to “Original or Fundamental oppression”? Let us discuss some natural aspects, and some historical and current features of our society, that might help define various aspects of women’s oppression.

1)   Biological and physical differences: As noted above, while prominent radical feminist MacKinnon was silent on the subject, others like Irigaray who accept such a distinction are criticized by their peers. In fact feminist Margaret Davies in her book “Asking the law question” argues if a clear dividing line between the two sexes can be sustained on biological grounds. She reasons by pointing out exceptions as to how some women are stronger and taller than some men, and how some men are more sensitive than women. Accepting a biological distinction between the sexes would thus be inconsistent with the feminist view, that gender traits for the two sexes are defined by men. This in turn would open the door to questions like difference in the level of abilities, intelligence and rationality etc. The last one on the list, rationality, in fact plays an important role in feministic voices seeking a change in law from male perspective to female perspective, with more emphasis on “ethic of care” (more on this below). As far as the other two are concerned, let us take them separately.

There are two facets to intelligence; physical capacity of the brain, the actual IQ of a person. Physical men have an average brain size of 1260 cc (ranges from 1052.9 to 1498.5) while women have an average brain size of 1130cc (ranges from 974.9 to 1398.1), the data representing European population. There is further distinction of which areas of brain are more developed in the two sexes. However, the important factor that is relevant in determining the intelligence, the IQ, is dependant not just on brain size, but on many other aspects which would include education and life experiences. There are studies which reflect upon how the two sexes differ in their approach to activities involving concentration, attention to detail etc. To reconcile and sum it all up; both sexes could be equally up to any given task, given equal opportunity.

Now coming to the physical abilities; male and female children born to the same parents have distinct physical differences in height and muscular development. Of course an average Caucasian or African woman would be taller and possibly more muscular than an average man of East Asian decent, but would it be the case if we compare the same average Caucasian or African woman with an average Caucasian or African man? Margaret Davies’ exceptions are not a universal norm, and an exception cannot be sufficient to sustain a premise. But let us break the biological difference down to the structural level and analyze the issue impartially. Women have a markedly different skeleton structure around pelvis as they are adapt to bear kids. Men have broader shoulders, and so on. The muscular system is similar for most part, but some differences in the amount of particular type of muscular fibers, one type called fast twitch and the other called slow twitch, means men are genetically stronger while women are resistant to fatigue. In addition there are hormonal differences between the two sexes that highlight the physical dissimilarities more. Testosterone is considered a male hormone even though females produce it in their bodies too, but to a limited extent. This hormone plays an important role in determining difference in physical strength of the muscular system.

The difference in physical strength indicates that men were able to physically dominate the women even before human beings organized into a society. Such a physical dominance is not a feature of human society alone, but males in other mammalian species are generally domineering in physical strength to their female counterparts. This dominance suggests that the physical aspect of female oppression had a natural origin, rather than a fundamental or original significance that could be attributed to the way human society was organized.

However, the society we live in is not governed by the laws of the nature where only the fittest survive. The defining feature of a civilized society is the discipline it lives in, and the individual rights that are held paramount and protected by it. Had this discipline and supremacy of rights not been a feature of our societies, stronger men would have taken away all the rights and property of weaker men, even enslaving them (which used to be a case in societies as late as 19th Century). Equality of every human being irrespective of their colour, religion or sex is and will be the hallmark of our future society. Physical and biological difference should not and will have no role to play in determining individual rights. But truth has to be respected, not sidelined or swept under the carpet, else the artificialness of any resulting system will spell its’ doom. Feminists fail to understand this.

2)   Origin of property rights, and property rights issue: Before the development of law giving property rights to women, property was transferred from men to their sons. A widow who was her husband’s responsibility, used to become a responsibility of her late husband’s estate that her son would inherit, and also take care of her. This was a salient feature of most patriarchal societies, and one in direct contrast to matriarchal societies where women are the holders of property rights. It may not be easy to reconcile the two distinct forms of society, but let us revisit the origins of male property rights in patriarchal societies.

Land was ruled and won by men; by force! Women had no place in the battlefield where sheer size and strength were the most important determining factors. Men used to work, earn and buy land and property. Women’s role was confined to running the household and raising kids. Women that worked for nobility, or assisted their men in family business occasionally, were not considered to have made any impact on property acquisition by men (primarily because they wouldn’t actually have, given the disparities in salaries and the limits to their freedom to work in market, but also because the majority of women were not involved in such work, and thus there were no reference points in society). Slaves possibly had no property rights, and that would have included men and women equally. In any case, given the responsibility of raising the kids and managing households, we would be arguing just for the sake of it if we were to insist that women had the earning capacity to influence property acquisitions. Besides in case of invasions such rights amounted to no value as winners used to take it all or save it all. And winners were always men!

This history of property acquisition and the power that reflected in property means that men’s exclusion of women from property rights was a natural oppression originating out of the way the physically stronger men controlled their fellow weaker men. There could be a very good argument in the fact that if men were involved in earning, women were putting in their efforts by raising the family and taking care of the household. But it is an argument prone to a fundamental rebuttal. Kids are an equal responsibility of both father and mother. Fathers were fulfilling their responsibility by providing money for food, shelter and education, while women were fulfilling their duty by taking care of their other needs, i.e. by raising them. If women were taking care of a man’s house, man was providing her with a house. They both had sexual needs from each other. The property that man had acquired, or even the house that he owned and let his wife share with him after marrying him, were never a part of the bargain.

But this natural oppression had some serious downsides to it, which were in direct contravention to the way a just society is organized as opposed to a jungle. Men, who were acting incoherently with moral standards and ditching their wives, were causing grave injustice to the women who were innocent. Widows were in no better position if they were issueless, or if they only had daughters. They were constantly handed injustice by the estate of their dead husbands and his living relatives. The only way to safeguard a woman’s interest was to give her a right in her father’s and husband’s property, a right which had not existed in the original way such rights were manifested in the property. Feminists can argue against this point but they will have to intentionally overlook the historical facts, and thus yield an argument which would be historically incorrect. I must also mention here that there had been exceptions in history where women had risen to power, like Razia Sultana, Rani Lakshmibai, Rani Jind etc. But such reigns were only short-lived as their powers were usurped; once again by men.

But all this changed with the advent of industrialized societies. Today women are earning equal or more (the inequality of pay issue is discussed separately below), and are actively involved in property transactions. In modern world, women do have a natural equal right in property, and this is reflected in the laws of most modern nations (developed and developing).

The societies where women still don’t have property rights, or are denied access to their legal rights, are societies where women are still not actively involved in creation of those rights (by being denied opportunity to work on account of skewed socio-domestic arrangements). The right to property in such societies can only be achieved by the first of the two situations described in the two immediately preceding paragraphs. Feminists won’t like my saying this, but the principle is simple; if you haven’t earned it yourself, you have no natural right to it. As far as the question of earning that right naturally is concerned, that is directly linked to the right to work; a separate issue outside property rights. Yes, right to work will eventually create a natural right to property as explained in the second scenario in the paragraph preceding this one directly. But if feminists are to insist, that such a right exists naturally, we will be wasting our time on a never-ending debate, and it will serve no one’s cause; neither women, nor men, nor families, nor society. Future cannot and should not be created by overlooking or distorting history, else important lessons are lost and future is forced to learn those lessons all over again.

3)   Can men be like mothers? Can men give birth or breast feed a baby? In one of the subsequent topics I will discuss (and rebut) how feminists argue that law reflects a male perspective, and needs to be changed and given a more feminine outlook with an emphasis on “ethic of care”. This point has been stressed by feminists like Leslie Bender (see her article “A Lawyer’s Primer on Feminist Theory and Tort” published in 1988 in “Journal of Legal Education” volume 38). Another feminist Carol Gilligan (see her work “In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development”) conducted a psychological study of both men and women, then concluded that for a given ethical dilemma, while women focused on relationships and used an “ethic of care” in reaching conclusions, men had a more logical and rights based approach. Contrast this with the feminist query; why can’t men be caregivers (to children)? (Feminist Margaret Davies in her book “Asking the law question” argues that women appear to be more suited for some roles possibly because we all have been socialized to believe it that way. Or in other words, she is saying that men have defined feminine traits in a certain way that it appears only women are best suited for the role of caregivers.)

Rather than arguing how feminists seem to be counter arguing against their own postulates, let us focus on how other species of animals and birds react to the task of raising posterity. In all species mothers give birth (or lay eggs and make them hatch), while males provide for food for the children in general (or possibly even ditch the whole family and responsibility thing altogether and make merry). But mothers go the extra length of protecting their babies and providing food to them. There seems to be a natural connection between mothers and children, without referring to any of the feminist works that suggests that women have a stronger “ethic of care”.

However, as already mentioned, society is not a jungle. Men and women have equal duties towards their children. Feminist’s argument that men can be caregivers does not have a basis in nature, but it sure has a basis in reason. It ensures the society will work cohesively and efficiently. Happy families make life worth living for both men and women. No reason is greater enough to emphasize the importance of the role fathers play in the family. But this reason is not good enough to argue that women and men should or can have the same responsibility in raising a child. Their roles are inherently different, and for the sake of ideal development of kids into young adults, and welfare of the family structure, should remain so.

This section of arguments provided above, also applies to the feminists’ assertion that gender traits are created by men. This gender distinction appears more prominent amongst humans not because we are living it every day or because men had a control relationship over women since ages, but rather because we are more intelligent than other species, and albeit more sensitive and selfish as well, so we overlook what does not confirm to what we want to believe in. But the differentiation that exists in nature cannot be attributed to human intelligence. That’s a compliment I as a male am not ready to accept. Call me humble! Jokes aside, this issue becomes relevant when we start talking about “Equal work and equal pay”.

4)   Equal work and equal pay issue: This is one of the issues I deem is of utmost importance to “Familism” and will discuss it below again. But let us get to the origins of this anomaly.

The physical differences in male and female strength (as noted above, and clearly when neither of them is a steroid filled bodybuilder), the role of women in society traditionally (also noted above), and the role of women in raising children (also noted above) meant that when rampant industrialization began and a class of working women emerged, the businesses had to accommodate another class of employees in their existing structures. Women were traditionally not expected, and in most instances not employed for work that was as physically demanding as their male counterparts were hired to undertake. Initially women didn’t have the same number of working hours as well, and the businesses had to factor in the time women would have been expected to take off from work on account of pregnancy related issues, as well as other medical reasons (women still enjoy more number of casual leaves in government jobs in India than males doing the same jobs. I’ve been a high school teacher in a government school and the difference was double). Since businesses are not run for social work, it would be unjust not to expect the businesses to factor in their financial interests while deciding pay structure for their women employees. This difference in pay structure came with an assurance that a woman would be paid for the time she would need to take off from work on account of motherhood or female problems. But then where did everything go wrong?

While feminism evolved and broke the union strength into men labour and women labour, the unions themselves (and feminists included separately) turned into divided houses with political and personal interests overshadowing the common goals. This gave the businessmen an opportunity to retain the pay structure in place for women employees, while progressively withdrawing benefits like paid maternity leave and job guarantees. As a result today, what once was a genuine arrangement, has become a discriminatory pay regime. I will return to this in further detail when I will discuss “Familism” below.

5)   Gender traits, wooing for affection, and a heinous crime: As noted above, Feminists claim that gender qualities are classified by males. Feminist Monique Wittig in her book “The Straight Mind and Other Essays”, published in 1992, suggests that the origin of gender (that is, feminine traits that we identify as woman-like) was the power that men had over women. An extension of this view can also be found in the works of feminist Catherine MacKinnon who says that a woman’s vulnerability as a marker of femininity (and thus sexual attractiveness) to men, and conversely a man’s ability to persuade her as a marker of his masculinity, are the dominant version of sexuality our society believes in (that is, sexuality as defined in our society by men). She goes on to say that the patriarchal version of sexuality implies that a woman cannot be believed when she says “no”, but needs to be persuaded. She believes this view has diluted the line between sex and rape (that’s a big call, and expectedly expect me to rebut it soon enough). Another feminist Ngaire Naffine, in her 1994 article “Possession: Erotic Love and the Law of Rape”, published in “Modern Law Review” volume 57, expressed similar views that the notions of a strong and conquering man convincing a submissive woman to engage in sex, the woman who either doesn’t know her own mind or is deliberately and dishonestly resistant, are outdated notions that invariably crop up in court proceedings. She believes the courts and society need to be educated about being vary of such stereotypes.

Before I draw some examples from nature, it is important to mention that as much as feminists insist that the male views (and those of the society towards women issues), are skewed by a domineering male perspective, feminists do hold a lot of wrong presumptions about males. Not only are men well aware of when a woman is saying “no”, but “rape” is not about seeking a woman’s consent. Moreover, feminists have confused the natural tendency of male (as other examples from nature will show in a moment) to win a female’s attraction with the issue of a heinous crime of rape. The glaring feminist prejudice is highlighted by the fact that while MacKinnon in one of her works suggests that women fake orgasms to please men, but men are still left wondering “How do I know” she’s satisfied, and the rest of the feminists criticize her for summing up all women’s experiences into a simple narrative that does not reflect women of all races, colours and religions, and that her argument seems to leave women no escape from the situation for it appears women don’t have a sexual view of their own, none of the feminists ponder upon a very simple question, “Why do men care for how they make a woman feel?” or quite simply, “Why do men care?” In fact, before I even rebut these propositions, I want to ask women; if I as a man cannot trust you even in the most intimate of acts we can perform together, how can I even trust you?

Coming back to the issue, on one hand we have feminists like Gilligan whose work clearly shows how men and women think differently, there are feminists who say that men influence the way women think of something as personal as sexuality. Were that the case there would have been no lesbians and no gays. Look around yourselves in nature and you will find males of other species wooing their females in their own styles for mating. A male peacock, thanks to the sexist nature, is the only one to have colourful and vibrant tail feathers, and dances around to seduce females. A male pigeon builds a nest and dances to impress his female. The examples will go on and on but one thing that would be clear is; in nature a male has to vie for a female’s affection. Why should humans be any different?

Sex is one of the three most powerful drives in living beings for sex determines the continuation of a species. But sex and relationships work at a different level in human beings. Feminists turn a blind eye to the physical and biological differences between the two sexes and thus take the first step in the wrong direction that leads to the fragmentation of social norms and family life. Men are dominant not because they have always enjoyed power. Men were physically stronger than women even before humans organized into societies, and physical dominance in the natural life of jungle had no social protections. Marriage was a social protection of the interests of both the women and children, for men were used to spilling blood in the name of power and land. The dominant man would have never committed to one woman in life were he not stopped in doing so by the social institution of marriage. Look at our societies now and see which sex is raising more kids as single parents. Freedom based on wrong notions will always lead to wrong ends.

Now coming back to the question of wooing women, I am sorry to say but feminists are too presumptuous if they think that men woo women to have sex, and that they don’t understand when a woman is saying no. Men in most cultures still woo women they love, and sex is still consequential to love. Those who are into women only for sex, even they woo women not to rape them, but to have consensual sex. Rape as I mentioned above, is not about consent. Our society is different than jungle, and our level of understanding is different than other mammals. That men don’t believe a woman’s “no” is a prejudiced over simplification of the fact that unless you are an extremely handsome man or the woman extremely promiscuous, a man cannot reasonably expect a woman to say yes the very time he proposes her. Our views about people when we meet them the very first time are always superficial, as we concentrate on appearances. Whether a person is good or bad is a determination we make after a long and careful evaluation of the person through our dealings with them. A man and a woman’s relationship can thus be no different. A man pursues a woman even after she says no, not because he doesn’t understand the woman is saying no, but because he values her so much that he has a hope that finally she might be impressed with his personality as a whole, rather than judging him on an initial superficial evaluation. Unlike pigeons and peacocks, we don’t live for a few years. Our lives are hopelessly long. Besides, a woman may have never viewed a man as a potential partner before, and might need some time to make up her mind.

Besides, if women can fake orgasms to please men, they are quite capable of knowing what satisfies them. The premise that sexuality is defined by men falls flat on its’ own facts. And remember, sex was there before society.

Now coming to the issue of rape, feminists fail to appreciate that as much as rape is a heinous crime, it also involves a degree of an element of chance. Moreover, feminists blame society’s views about sexuality for rape, but they fail to realize that every rape victim is also a daughter, mother, wife or sister of a man. It is wrong to say that men or society sanction rape against women on account of a distorted view about sexuality. A man intent on having sex with a woman at any cost will not seek her consent, or care for her refusal, but would rather perform the act. Also, he will perform the act either with a woman inadvertently caught in vulnerable circumstances, or when he knows the woman will be vulnerable. Feminists say men need to change their attitudes about woman, and that women should be free to roam wherever and at whatever time that suits them, and in whatever clothes they feel comfortable in. Feminists seek unnatural freedom (for it is not just rapes that happen at nights in lonely spots. People are mugged, killed and assaulted if they happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time), but they want men to control their natural tendencies beyond the social controls set for them. It is unnatural to not visualize a woman in a sexual way for a normal man who is not gay. If every man is not out to rape every woman it’s because there are social controls stopping him. Certain behavior patterns expected from women are not a curb on their freedom, but rather a form of social control that complements the controls exerted on males. Questions to ponder: No one forces women to wear revealing clothes, but why is it that women opt for more revealing and provocative clothing then men? Men don’t need to flash their chests to stay cool, or wear short shorts to work, yet women prefer to show their cleavage and skip the trousers for short skirts.

Remember, sex is one of the three most potent drives, and whatever feminists say, an average man is physically stronger than an average female, more so a female in a vulnerable situation. Law of the land is not an absolute authority on the people; otherwise death penalty would have been sufficient to deter people from murdering others. Law always works in retrospection, trying to rectify what has already gone wrong. People defraud others, mug others and many other crimes happen in society, but they are not a direct result of a society’s views about a particular crime, or a law’s level of strictness with the offenders.

6)   Objective person, social norms and law: Radical feminists, and liberal feminists (from its leading edge), have consistently pitched for a comprehensive overhaul of every system that makes up our society; social, political, cultural and legal. Their objections stem from the belief that everything we know as a society, all our norms, beliefs, views and behavior patterns are a direct result of the male dominance over women, and thus illegitimately influenced by male point of view. In other words, nothing is neutral. As already mentioned, feminists like Leslie Bender and Gilligan have purposed to modify law by incorporating feministic point of view, by reflecting an “ethic of care”, and there have been feminists like Irigaray who have even proposed a double subjectivity in law, effectively meaning a separate law for the two sexes. Feminists have argued that even the reasonable person mentioned in law, is not neutral in its’ sexual implication. It in fact represents a reasonable man. They extend the same argument to the objective person in scientific principles. MacKinnon in her book “Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on life and law” refers to a conversation she once had with David Kennedy (at page 55) when he suggested that the “objective subject” doesn’t have to be a male, and hence it was not gendered. She insisted that if for something to have been gendered, it had to be gendered; feminists like her would have no job to do. She insisted it was gendered and that is why it was a political problem. Now all these were valid observations, but the inferences thus drawn and directions taken thereof, were all wrong.

There can be no doubt that women were oppressed and denied freedom in  our society for too long, that all concepts in law, science, and all social norms originated with a man as a subject. There is no doubt that if someone was to teach a scientific principle and say “imagine an objective subject and he witnesses”, the inference drawn about that objective subject’s gender would be that of a male, for the objective subject is gendered in the subsequent words. Doesn’t matter whether it is a girl or a boy being taught by such a teacher, they would visualize the objective subject as a male. But compare this to a situation where a teacher says “imagine an objective subject and they witness”, in which case the objective subject automatically becomes gender neutral. The objective person is still the same, but it is the subsequent words that preserve their neutrality. Is a scientific law then not from a neutral perspective? And how can the same argument not be extended to the “reasonable person” found in law? If however in the above example a male and a female student both still visualize a male, then the problem is not with the law or the principle, but the problem either lies in the girl’s head, or somewhere in the society.

As a male I have every right to visualize an objective subject or a reasonable person as a male or myself, but if a girl visualizes the two as a male, and there is nothing wrong with the words defining a law or scientific principle, the problem then lies with how the girl visualizes a society. There could be two reasons for this. Prior to industrialization and women joining the workforce, every job was performed by a male. Be it a cook, a barber, a driver, a policeman, a baker or anyone, women grew up watching men doing every job everywhere. In such a situation, asking a woman to imagine a cook or a baker would have invariably led her to imagine a man. Take a look at our science books and law books. All the leading scientists, lawyers and scholars (not just is science or law, but in every conceivable field including mathematics, astronomy etc) were males. In such a scenario, even a gender neutral “reasonable person” or “objective subject” could be reasonably expected to influence a girl into visualizing a male. Changing the law, science, or dismantling the entire social, political and economic structures will not change this situation. We would either have to remove or discredit every male achiever from all our books that are taught in our schools, colleges and universities, or we need to teach our girls how to visualize a female, or should I say, herself in place of that “reasonable person” or “objective subject”. With time female achievers will start filling up spaces in the books (not that histories of all societies are without female heroes, for that would be disrespectful towards the women who made a mark on the history of humankind) and this special need would thus be lost.

As far as changing law to reflect men and women separately is concerned, just because the two are different, I think we are stepping onto a slide where we will have to subsequently create a different law for different races, religions, sexual preferences and so on. Feminists who argue that law should have a feminine perspective with an emphasis on “ethic of care” also blame the law for not being strict enough in protecting women from crimes like rape. People, whose near and dear ones have been killed, rapped, or who have been brutally assaulted in hate crimes, they don’t want an ethic of care towards criminals, but the strong arm of law punishing the guilty. Besides, including “ethic of care” in law also means adding arbitrariness to law where judgments will start getting adulterated with personal views of the person judging the case, rather than having a standard punishment regime for similar crimes. Besides, the purpose of law on one hand is to punish the criminal according to their crime so that the victim or their family are satisfied that justice has been done, and on the other hand, to ensure an injustice is not done to the criminal by over punishing their crime. Ethic of care will adulterate this neutrality of law. Besides it’s not always men committing crimes against other men and women, or women committing crime just against women. And men and women are not necessarily straight or from same race, religion, etc. Ethic of care is an arbitrary notion affected by all these factors, while crime may have been committed by a person from one group, against a person of completely different group, in completely different circumstances. The only things relevant in judging a crime are the material facts of the case, and the punishment prescribed for the circumstances.

Moreover, if you think of it carefully, if men had created laws with only male subjects in mind, and those laws were not discriminatory in nature, there is no reason those laws would be discriminatory if applied to a woman, or if the reasonable male in them is replaced by a reasonable female. If you replace the “objective subject” in a scientific principle with “woman”, it does not make the law obsolete or disapprove the scientific principle behind it. Besides feminist Carol Gilligan has herself pointed out by her work, that men use logical, rights based approach. So the laws made by men that are not discriminatory (like say, race motivated apartheid laws), those laws will have a logical basis, identifying the rights and duties of every person equally irrespective of their sex.

7)   Origins of feminist struggle, and its’ downfall: There could be no denying that women have been oppressed by males from ancient times, and irrespective of the historical reasons for the origin of such discriminatory behavior, humankind cannot support such injustices going into the future. Feminist voices arose out of muted cries and suffering. They had good reasons to fight for, and they have achieved a lot in altering the social scene. But have the benefits been over stated?

As already mentioned, men and women both are different biologically as well as psychologically. Biology needs no arguments for the differences are easily established by a simple dissection of the two bodies, and psychological differences have been noted by feminists themselves. So even though the feminists won’t like this statement, but the bitter truth is that beyond certain general roles, the two sexes are indeed more adapt at certain roles in family life. It is good to question every social norm, scientific principle and law, for questioning leads to critical evaluation, and critical evaluation leads to development of knowledge. It is however not necessary that every critical evaluation should rebut a theory. Some evaluation can even confirm the previous beliefs and cement them further. Feminism arose out of genuine conditions, achieved genuine results, but it failed to evaluate where it needed to stop or alter its’ stride. In its’ exuberance, and presumptuous and prejudiced opinion about everything male, it failed to realize that certain norms existed specifically to curb the male freedoms.

It is easy to argue that those norms existed because weaker men were afraid of stronger men and they needed protection of their interests involving women, like say norms related to marriage and fidelity. But this view is self contradictory for it fails to appreciate that those weaker men could not have forced the stronger men to follow norms that protected the weaker men’s interests. Prominent radical feminist like MacKinnon can herself refer to males being never sure of if they had satisfied their female sexual partner, but they failed to analyze why would a man care at all for someone who is under their dominance. They failed to understand the value of love. Love was equated as equal to sex. Feminists have made the society lose the meaning of love, and that is why families are breaking apart midway. Every man in history wasn’t dominating of his wife. There were wives who were domineering. Every man did not treat women as sex objects. There have been men, and there are still men who die for women they love. Feminists would likely call this “a male view of masculinity that they need to die for a woman.”

ð Feminism: Where the theory fails

“Feminisms” as it is often called to reflect the various theories grouped together under the general classification head of feminism, is based on many premises. One of the most important premises is that experience of all women are not the same; experiences of white women are not the same as that of black women, and experiences of a Christian woman won’t be same as that of a Jewish or a Muslim woman. This difference affects how a feminist theory can be applied to a particular group of women, depending upon their race, religion, culture and geo-political condition. However, what the feminists fail to account in all their theories is; just as all women are not the same, all men are not same either. No feministic theory can be universally applicable to all men, or all social, political and cultural norms. Any structure developed on a fundamentally flawed base is thus bound to cause erroneous results.

Feminists claim that they modify their theories according to the women they are serving, but what about modifying their theories according to the world that has already been changed by their own actions? Feminism may have ushered in positive changes in social status of women, but as noted above, it has failed to evolve and safeguard the family structure, thus harming both sexes equally, harming their long term interests, and interests of their posterity.

Feminists claim that the law, social and political norms, they all are from a dominant male perspective. What they fail to realize is that their own perspective is not neutral either, but influenced by their own thoughts about males. Yes, feminists started a noble cause with noble intentions, but their own opinions and presumptions about males have made them to question every social structure to the point of irrationality. Women need equal respect, equal status, equal opportunity and equal representation. Women are also only equally liable in front of law. The very basic need that gave birth to the feminist struggle was a need for equality. However this simplification of the basic premise effectively means that women need half of what men already have, and this would degrade the lofty feministic ideals to the level of a dogfight with men. So to avoid this degradation feminists have started a misguided and ill-evaluated assault at every structure making up the society. The result is broken homes, disillusioned youth and lonely middle-age. Feminists have not given women as much, as much they have taken away from the society including women.

Besides at a personal level for me, if feminists say that everything I say or do is wrong simply because I am a male, what makes them think that I as a male would have anything to do with a movement which questions me, is trying to (supposedly) disrobe me of my own (wrongfully claimed but still mine) rights. Did I miss something? Who is the dominant person in the society? Or am I not the dominant person in the society anymore? If not, what dominant male are the feminists fighting in the society? Can feminists serve the cause of society by only taking along one sex? Is it not a misguided attempt to establish a matriarchal system in place of a patriarchal one? How will it be different and not just the scale tilted to the other side? Besides how is such a point of view and approach going to help me in my future family life if I am going to think that everything I think is wrong because I am a male? Is the real question that of me being wrong as a male, or is it that of me respecting the fact that the girl in my life is also right? Or does freedom mean that I can have sex with any number of girls, and as long as I use a condom and ensure I don’t make any of them pregnant, I can be a stud for life, provided I give them respect when I am having sex with them, and only have sex with the one who says yes to me the first time I ask her? Where and in which direction are we pushing our society into?

ð Familism: A new approach, a fresh perspective

There is no denying the fact that much wrong has been done to womankind by men, but at the end of the day, a woman is still the one that completes a family, and so is a man. An independent woman is still a man’s daughter, if not a man’s wife or sister. Similarly, a man is a woman’s son even if he belongs to no woman. They are both the offshoots of a family. Women’s oppression in reality had only two aspects: their oppression within their family, and their oppression outside it. The solution to the problem is not in destroying the family for the oppression will still be there in the society, and destroying the society will not end women’s oppression for whether feminists like it or not, males are physically dominant and would be more so in a jungle. Making women dominant will not solve the problem but will only reverse its’ direction, and as a man, feminists better not expect my co-operation any time soon.

The solution to the problem is not in looking at scapegoats like “objective subject” in science or “reasonable person” in law, nor will lofty ideals that destroy the very fabric of the society going to help anyone’s cause. The solution is to look within the problem.

Without defining “Familism” at this point, or limiting its’ scope by defining its’ postulates, I would like to propose a view that looks at the family as a basic unit of the society, and first fixes the oppression of any kind in that unit as priority. Once oppression inside a family is fixed, it will be easy to realize that, whatever happens to the social interests of any member of that family that is not just a gender problem anymore. That then becomes a problem of the entire family.  And since every family is a building block of the society, every problem that affects a family becomes a problem of the society. Let us revisit the two issues of “Equal pay for equal work” and “Rape” from Familism’s view.

Women are not just equal earning members of the families anymore. In some cases they are the sole bread winners. In any case, since in modern world no one’s job is safe, you never know when the woman of the family is pushed into the spot of the sole bread winner. “Equal pay for equal work” is not a women’s issue, but it is a family issue. It is not feminists’ prerogative to fight for it, but Familists’ prerogative. Yes, there is that issue of maternity leave, whether it should be paid and come along with a job security, or women will have to take an unpaid leave or drop out of the job. Yes, there are some nations where both men and women are allowed equal amount of such leave, but lets’ also not forget that men don’t get pregnant, and cannot breast feed babies. However, men do need to, and should help with raising the kids by taking a leave continuing on from their wife’s leave, so that the women are not laden with all the responsibilities of raising a young child. But let us also not forget the differences in men and women psychologically (as noted above from feminist Gilligan’s work and Leslie Bender’s proposal), and something which common sense has already taught us many times over since ages, that children are more connected to mothers. Perhaps a balance needs to be worked out, and that balance should be left to the respective families to work out themselves, rather than outsiders like feminists or familists telling them what is good for them. Also a good alternative work scheme would be to have equal pay for equal work, but lesser number of working hours every day for whichever parent is taking care of the kids at a particular time (accounting for the kids’ school time), and a scheme to either provide unpaid maternity leave, or a lower pay scale if the respective parent would prefer to have a paid paternity leave.

Familism as a thought or movement has no more power than law or society in preventing a rape, but by its’ emphasis on strengthening family bonds and inculcating appreciation of common needs and mutual respect (as opposed to rebellious freedom and forceful and destructive approach of feminism), familism can positively impact the views of young adults with regards to consent. Rape happens when men don’t seek consent, or don’t respect refusal. Teaching men that women are free, equal and have independent choice does not preclude their thoughts of physical power over women. Inculcating a sense of responsibility towards women because they are an integral equal part a family will teach them to respect a girl’s choices. Rape as already mentioned is not a woman’s problem, but it is a family’s problem.

ð Conclusion:

The problem with prejudice is that the one prejudiced doesn’t realize that they are prejudiced. Males were wrong, is not the same as all males were wrong. Similarly, male point of view is not the same as unjust. Just like every female is not the same, so is not every man. Searching for neutral perspectives is impossible, for anyone will start their search or observation with a premise. That premise would have been influenced by their own thoughts, thoughts which are a result of their previous personal experiences, or personal observations. Neutrality never exists for everyone judges from their own perspective.

Fatal Urge Carefree Kiss “Amanpreet Singh Rai”