SOCIETY

Women hog half of blogs
Blogging services are easy to use and women have been using them regularly. A survey conducted in the US finds that there as many women writing blogs as men, reports Naunidhi Kaur
W
OMEN have finally arrived on cyberspace. Weblogs—more usually referred to as ‘blogs’—are arguably the most significant indicator of online activity today, and a recent survey has found that men and women share the ‘blogosphere’ rather equitably.

Sisters at home
Gagandeep Kaur says women bloggers in India may be too few to reflect popular sentiment but blogging is helping them form help groups and remain connected with each other
I
NDIAN women are opening up their lives in virtual space like never before. They are increasingly using the space to voice their protest against crime against them. It is the sheer democratic nature of Internet and blogging, which makes women reveal more about themselves, their problems and their lives.

Sur-Indra: Singer of the Soil
Her life was a song and she brought into the open folk songs sung by Punjabi women in their homes. Nirupama Dutt pays a tribute to the inimitable Surinder Kaur
O
NE hears the anklets tinkling. The image of a fair girl beckoning passes by. And one hears a song written by Nand Lal Noorpuri: Gori dian jhanjran bulandian gayian (Anklets of the fair girl beckon). The next moment one hears a lyric by Shiv Kumar Batalvi being sung with utmost feminine guile: Mainu Heere Heere aakhe, hai ni munda lambrhan da (Look, the village headman’s boy addresses me as Heer).


Deepa Mehta

Deepa ready for Exclusion

 

After giving the world hard-hitting movies like Fire, Water and Earth, Indian director Deepa Mehta is getting set to make a film about the lives of Indians refused entry into Canada nearly a century ago. The filming for the movie, which has tentatively been titled Exclusion, is scheduled to begin in 2007 in Canada and India. — ANI

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Women hog half of blogs

Blogging services are easy to use and women have been using them regularly. A survey conducted in the US finds that there as many women writing blogs as men, reports Naunidhi Kaur

WOMEN have finally arrived on cyberspace. Weblogs—more usually referred to as ‘blogs’—are arguably the most significant indicator of online activity today, and a recent survey has found that men and women share the ‘blogosphere’ rather equitably.

"While earlier there were more men blogging, now there is a tie," says Lee Rainie, Project Director at The Pew Internet and American Life Project, a Washington DC-based NGO that regularly conducts surveys on trends in the use of Internet. This comment is based on a random telephone survey of 2,000 people that Pew Project had conducted in January-February this year in the US. The survey found as many women writing blogs as men.

A blog is a web-based publication in which the writer can publish his or her thoughts regularly. For the past few years, blogs have taken the idea of Net-based communication to the next level by providing commentary and links to other websites, and presenting creative writing, art and music to interested readers.

The results of the 2006 survey are not surprising though, given the fact that earlier Pew Project had found that women actively use Internet as a medium for exchanging thoughts and ideas. The survey ‘How women and men use the Internet’ was conducted in December 2005, and found that women are more likely to use e-mail to keep in touch with people and enrich their relationships. Some 94 per cent of the online women and 88 per cent of the online men use e-mail. The survey summarised results of a variety of tracking surveys on the use of Internet between March 2000 and September 2005. The 2006 survey, in fact, continues the work of last year’s survey.

These results contradict a common perception that women are less active on the Internet than men. Krista Kennedy, a PhD student in the Department of Rhetoric, University of Minnesota, said that there is a common assumption that girls are reticent in trying out new technologies as compared to boys. "There are plenty of women who program, develop, and research technologies. But these are not the faces you see on the news or in movies when technology issues are discussed. Instead, we see men." One of the research interests of the Department of Rhetoric is looking into participation of women in writing blogs.

Kennedy says blogging services are easy to use and women have been using them regularly. "For most women, the bigger problem is of finding the time to blog. Women still take on the responsibility of running the household and, therefore, end up with less time for leisure activities like blogging."

Software engineer Lilly Tao did not let lack of time deter her from blogging. She began her blog ‘GirlHacker’s Random Log’ in 1999. "My weblog is an outlet for me to create quality writing and share interesting, often unique, information on topics that I find enjoyable," says Tao. These topics range from Queen Elizabeth’s pink diamonds to launch of Play-Doh perfume. "The reason I started blogging was to practice reviewing and editing my own writing. I wanted to see if I could follow the discipline of regular writing, so I had a daily schedule at first, then every weekday, and I kept that up for five years until the birth of my son."

Tao says she has deliberately not let her identity as a woman affect her blog content. "At times, I offer a female perspective on issues but largely my blog is not different from a man’s blog."

While Tao’s blog is an example of random and interesting jottings, other women have used the Internet for making their voices heard on the blogosphere on a variety of topics—from fact-based political debates to reproductive rights.

For instance, ‘Reproductive Rights Blog’ has been generating discussions on diverse issues, including stress and pregnancy and contraceptives given to pigeons in Thailand to control their population. Feministe and Blogsheroes are two hugely popular feminist blogs. While blogs on and by women cover different issues, their important contribution is in bringing the voices of women to the forefront and initiating discussions.

The blog ‘One Good Thing’ certainly seems to be doing that. It contains the blogger Flea’s writings on her children, politics and porn for women. Flea’s personal jottings elicit responses from men and women who seem to relate to the world of a seemingly stay-at-home mom.

Kennedy says that besides feminist writings on blogs, another interesting area to look out for is of ‘mommy bloggers’ writing about their experiences. "The underlying fact is that blogs by women and about women are growing in numbers on the Internet," she says.

And it is not only women who find their way to blogs—young girls are also using blogs to express and connect. In a survey titled Teen Content Creators and Consumers, conducted in November 2005, Pew Project found that, among teens, girls lead blogging activity. Mostly, they like to share stories, drawings and photographs. The data for the survey was collected through random telephone interviews of 1,100 parent-child pairs. This survey found that 25 per cent of the girls in the age group of 15-17 keep a blog, compared with 15 per cent of the boys.

Deborah Wilcox, mother of two girls, is not surprised that teenaged girls are more into blogging than boys. She said it could be explained as a continuation of activities undertaken by boys and girls in pre-teen years. "Between eight and 12 years of age, boys arrange themselves in competitive sports, whereas girls seem to enjoy interactive sports. That later reflects in the use of computers as well. The boys are more into competitive games on computers, whereas girls seem to enjoy interactive activities like chatting and blogging." — WFS

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Sisters at home

Gagandeep Kaur says women bloggers in India may be too few to reflect popular sentiment but blogging is helping them form help groups and remain connected with each other

INDIAN women are opening up their lives in virtual space like never before. They are increasingly using the space to voice their protest against crime against them. It is the sheer democratic nature of Internet and blogging, which makes women reveal more about themselves, their problems and their lives.

A prominent Indian website www.blanknoiseproject.blogspot.com is a case in point. Initiated in 2003 by Jasmeen Patheja, a Bangalore-based arts graduate, it started as her personal reaction against eve-teasing. Today it speaks about events being carried out in almost all metros. Women write about their experiences of eve-teasing and how it affected them. The project, they explain, seeks to "recognise eve-teasing as a sexual crime and establish the issue as something that may be normal, but is unacceptable."

"The threat of being sexually harassed every time I was out of home and then labelling this invasion of my privacy with such an innocuous term as ‘eve-teasing’ made me realise that this is an offence that has often been ignored or trivialised. Moving to a new city at the age of 19 made me feel more vulnerable to the situation where there was no ‘home’ to run back to. When I would discuss it with my peers, there was a normalcy attached to it — ‘yes, it happens everyday’ or ‘it’s normal’, or complete denial, like asking, ‘how come this happens only to you’. But I was sure that it wasn’t just my problem," says Jasmeen.

Also, it goes without saying that women blog for the same reason that they used to write dairies some time back. Firstly, it makes them let off steam, and secondly, it gives them the feeling that they are in better control of their lives. The sheer anonymity offered by the Net also entices them to write blogs. "The great thing about the Net is that people tend to articulate thoughts which they might be hesitant to do face-to-face`85whether this is a frank recollection of a nasty experience or even open hostility`85people write without mincing words," says Hemangi Gupta, one of the co-founders of blanknoiseproject.blogspot.com.

Cyberspace is also becoming a protesting ground for youngsters fighting against dowry. A website called ‘idontwantdowry.com, launched some two months ago, has already received more than 2200 entries from young brides and grooms who don’t want dowry.

"It is basically a matrimonial service for people who are not interested in dowry. This will help a lot of Indian women who can’t afford dowry," says Satya N, the brain behind the website.

While blogging is still a new concept in the country, with the increase in Internet access and broadband, the number of blogs is increasing. Women are more emotive and this reflects in their blogs as well. They tend to write about their daily lives and issues close to their hearts.

Unlike in the US, Net surfers in India are too miniscule in number to actually lead to any concrete change or even reflect the popular sentiment. But it is definitely helping women to form communities and connect with each other, though, virtually.

 

Sur-Indra: Singer of the Soil

Her life was a song and she brought into the open folk songs sung by Punjabi women in their homes. Nirupama Dutt pays a tribute to the inimitable
Surinder Kaur

Surinder KaurONE hears the anklets tinkling. The image of a fair girl beckoning passes by. And one hears a song written by Nand Lal Noorpuri: Gori dian jhanjran bulandian gayian (Anklets of the fair girl beckon). The next moment one hears a lyric by Shiv Kumar Batalvi being sung with utmost feminine guile: Mainu Heere Heere aakhe, hai ni munda lambrhan da (Look, the village headman’s boy addresses me as Heer). Suddenly, the mood changes and sad strains of a parting song for a bride are heard: Maavan te dhian di dosti ve maaye, koyi tuttadi hai keharan de naal (It is painful to end the friendship of mothers and daughters).

The voice for all these songs is a deep and sonorous voice that reaches the very core of the Punjabi heart. It is the voice of the inimitable Surinder Kaur, the woman who dared to sing out in the open in times when singing was considered a ‘sin’. Born in 1929 in an orthodox Punjabi Khatri Sikh home in Lahore, Surinder was the younger of the famous sisterly act with her elder sister Parkash Kaur, who had paved the way for her.

Surinder recorded her first song with her sister in 1943 and in the next few years the duo was reigning over the world of Punjabi music and offering competition to such celebrated voices as those of Noorjehan and Shamshad Begum.

Shamshad and Noorjehan came from a different tradition having begun in havelis of courtesans and moving onto radio and films. The ‘respectability’ that Parkash and Surinder were born to put them in a separate league but also created many hurdles. "The elders of our home were not happy. Our elder brother, who was educated and appreciated music, encouraged us. However, I recall that we had to practice with the doors and windows closed so that the neighbourhood would not be offended," Surinder said in an interview for a tele-documentary that I made on her.

The first time I met this celebrated singer over a cup of tea was in the late 1970s when she had come for a concert to Chandigarh. She was at her prime then, full of beans and jokes. The second time she came in the late eighties to perform at the Press Club with her singing partner Assa Singh Mastana and it was a more informal meeting over more than a couple of drinks.

The last time in 2000, when I interviewed her at her home in Riveria Apartments in North Delhi, it was over memories, tears and appraisal of what had passed. Times had changed. Surinder talked endlessly of her late husband, a professor of Punjabi, who had encouraged her to sing literary lyrics. Mastana was no more and Surinder had gone frail. The Metro construction had started and she was planning to move from her home to Punjab.

However, when she sang a magical spell was cast. It was a different matter that tears flowed down her cheeks when she sang the boli Rooh lai gaya dilan da jaani, hadd sanu chakna peya, oh jinde meriye (The one close to my heart took away my soul, I am just dragging my bones, O’ my life). Not many would know that Surinder had sung just one song for a Hindi film and it had become an all-time hit. After Partition, Surinder moved to Bombay and she got a break in Shaheed and the song picturised on Kamini Kaushal was: Badnam na ho jaye mohabbat ka fasaana, Ai dard bhare ansooyon ankhon mein na aana. Her health and other reasons brought her to Delhi.

While Parkash Kaur died young following an accident, Surinder lived a full life, singing as one would say to her last breath. Early 1980s the mood of Punjabi music was changing and the folksy was giving way to the pop. One spring in those years, the hearts of her friends wrenched with pain as she was hooted out by young crowds wanting to hear and see more of Gurdas Maan. But she lived up to her name ‘Sur-Indra’ and continued to sing at smaller concerts to more discerning listeners. Till date, HMV has been releasing albums of the famed sisters and each time these have made it to the top of the charts.

The last five years, the singer of the soil was back in Punjab but she had been ailing. The honours by the government sadly came late for this gutsy woman who gave her rich voice to the songs of Punjab. Her body is no more, but her voice lives and in it her soul.

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