Bollywood Men Who Are True Feminist Icons
The word ‘Feminism‘ can be confusing for some people, considering there are so many false notions attached to it. People confuse feminists with men-haters. This isn’t true. Feminism is an ideology that believes in equality for both women and men. Its only aim is to achieve equality of genders in all sections of society. That simple. Sadly, in Bollywood too, there are some who do not completely comprehend the true meaning of feminism. Thankfully, the ones who do are also doing everything in their power to support the cause. Let’s look at some of these feminist men.
Farhan is not only an acclaimed actor-filmmaker-musician, but also a humanitarian and proud feminist. In 2013, he stepped up to make a difference in a society. He founded Men Against Rape and Discrimination (MARD), a campaign supporting women’s empowerment.
His offscreen work also got him noticed by the United Nations. In 2014, Farhan Akhtar became the first male UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for Southeast Asia.
“Gender violence and gender inequality is not just a women’s issue. It’s also a man’s issue. It’s not just because we have mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. We’re here because it’s a human rights issue and we are all human beings.” – Farhan Akhtar
On International Women Day, Farhan Akhtar, along with Shraddha Pandit, sung a song ‘Chulein aasman’ for the campaign ‘Bas Ab Bahut Ho Gaya’, which aims to end violence against women and girls. The Bas Ab Bahut Ho Gaya campaign is an initiative by Population Foundation of India (PFI) along with Farhan’s MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination), and director Feroz Abbas Khan. In 2016, the Indian filmmaker and actor penned a powerful letter to his daughter on sexual violence and rape.
“You are growing to be a confident, independent and conscious young woman. You’ve spoken to me about the movies our industry makes, about how women are sometimes portrayed as ‘objects’ and I’ve always tried to answer your questions. It gives me great pleasure to speak with you about women and gender issues,” he wrote in the letter.
Rahul Bose, an actor, director, screenwriter, social activist, and rugby player, is also the face of Indian arthouse. Bose, a progressive thinker, has worked in films which deliver path-breaking messages. An example is Chameli, for that matter, which narrated the story of an Indian sex worker. Bose’s pledges to social causes, especially those supporting the cause for women, make him a true feminist.
His NGO, The Foundation, backs causes across marginalised groups, working towards the cause of equality. He also contributed to an audio book Terres Des Homes: Gudgudi karna, gale lagana; Sparsh ke niyam sikhiye (Tickle and hugs: Learning the rules of touching), which is designed to educate children against sexual abuse. The Poorna director has also delivered lectures on gender equality at Oxford.
“If you are a humanist, you are a feminist. The world needs to understand that women don’t want men to look after them. Women don’t want men to protect them. Women just want conditions in the world that leave them alone and give them the freedom to take their own decisions. And, then if they want to become an item dancer or a NASA scientist, it is their choice!”, he said in an interview.
The perfectionist as people call him, Aamir made his debut on television with a path-breaking show Satyamev Jayate, in which he discussed issues like violence against women, sex-selective abortion, and the growing insensitivity in society.
Last year, Aamir featured in the commercial for television channel Star Plus, vouching for the Nayi Soch campaign. He portrayed the role of sweet shop owner who taught a customer how it was his daughters who deserve credit for his business’ success. The shop board read “Gurdeep Singh and Daughters”. The commercial ends with a dynamic quote emphasising on gender equality – “Success doesn’t differentiate between a boy and a girl. It’s the thinking that matters”.
Last year, when a certain news channel’s journalist grilled actor Sunny Leone in an interview, it received a tremendous amount of flak since the questions, all judgmental, to Leone seemed to be about her past. Aamir tweeted in support of Leone, saying he would love to work with her and had no problem with her past.
Shah Rukh, a lady charmer on screen, is a true feminist off it. Also, Khan now puts the female lead’s name in the credit rolls of his movies before his own.
“I’d like to be a woman. Physically, I’m not. Mentally and emotionally, I’d like to be one. Sometimes, there is a part in me that when I see feminists becoming aggressive, I want to step up in their support,” he said in an interview to Femina.
Last year, Shah Rukh’s reply to an article gathered accolades. He declared himself a feminist, writing that it is “the only mardonwali baat” he knew. This response was for an article ‘Dear Mr Shah Rukh Khan, I Will ALWAYS Need You’.
Discussing about the significance of teaching children the vitality of equality, SRK told the magazine: “I’m bringing up my sons to treat all as equals; as boys, they will have no extra privileges over girls”. While addressing the press conference at the Mijwan Summer 2017 event, SRK addressed the issue once again:
“When we say, ’empower women’, there is nothing like empowering them. They are more powerful than us. All we need to do is genuinely give all the ladies an even playing field. That’s all they are asking for.”
Rang De Basanti actor Siddharth makes relevant statements time to time condemning the injustices towards women. In July 2016, he highlighted how the film industry has glorified and legitimised the act of stalking in so many ways. He did not hesitate to tweet out his opinions about the complicated gender roles portrayed in films.
In November, 2016, he heavily condemned a sexist billboard advertisement featuring Ranveer Singh. In the ad, Ranveer was seeing carrying a girl on his shoulder and the caption read – “Don’t hold back. Take your work home”. Siddharth spoke against blatant sexism criticising the idea.
On receiving flak for the advertisement, Jack & Jones tweeted saying they would take the billboard down.
With these Bollywood celebrities, among many others, vouching for feminism all the way, it’s safe to say that there’s hope in areas like cinema; a platform which holds essential power in influencing mindsets.
Bhawana is an intern with SheThePeople.TV