Yet another deeply engaging episode of Feminist Rani kept me up all night last night. The last time we met for such a thing, we touched surfaces of all the key areas that would need our attention and conversation in the months to come. The second phase of Feminist Rani hosted bestselling author Kiran Manral and editor of BuzzFeed India, Rega Jha. While Rega is the youngest female editor in India in the present day and age, Kiran Manral is credited with books on fiction and romance and more recently, parenting.
The best thing about this particular discussion was that it brought into light the two very contrasting paradigms of feminism. While Kiran opted to call herself ‘more of a humanist than feminist’, Rega was of the opinion that ‘it’s okay to name a movement after the half that needs it the most.’ After all, we live in times where humanity is known as mankind.
Kiran went on to say that the word feminism alienates men from the process, and for the success of the objectives of the movement, we need to ‘be more inclusive’. While that may be true, many feminists in the past have argued that if we call feminism anything else to cater to man’s insecurities, we are only perpetuating the cycle of patriarchy by defining women’s needs in terms of man. Also the fact that if we are being inclusive, why not include the nonhumans as well, whose rights seem nonexistent in this world full of self-interest seeking humans.
We also spoke about the male gaze and the thin line between chauvinism and chivalry, which feminists need to define in clearer terms, in order to not appear as ‘feminazis’. Rega said, “I do not subscribe to the male gaze, yet I go the parlor, get waxed.” Kiran, being her witty self, added to the thought by saying, “Women DO NOT dress up for the men around them as much as they do for the approval of the women around them.” Which is true. I feel women have a far better understanding of aesthetics and art, maybe that’s why since the earliest civilizations, we have seen women with more adornments than men.
The male turnout is this talk was higher than the previous one. Hence, the topic was meant to escalate to the importance of including men in the movement. A gentleman in the crowd questioned Rega asking her that women and men have been designed and their roles defined in a way that enables smooth functioning of the civilization, and this struggle for shift is only disrupting that. This is a very common argument that I have faced in my years of feminist research. What men fail to understand is that they are the ones in privilege and hence the cause of the feminist movement might seem redundant to them. Change is the only constant, as they say. One generation is never identical to the next. There is always a slight variation that we bring, each time defining a trajectory and new issues that the next generation will find itself in. This generation cries for parity beyond sexuality or gender.
Other key issues discussed included intolerance on social media, and the kind of responses that men receive versus women, when they put something up that offends a particular group. While men are named after female genitals, women usually receive rape threats and name calling. And why not? ‘After all, there are more men than women on the internet’, Rega said.
From now on, the discussion will only intensify, go deeper into the problem and deconstruct a lot of internalized patriarchy for each one of us. Like Kiran and Rega rightly remarked, patriarchy is no good for anyone- men or women.