Of late, more and more popular figures have been denouncing feminism as an ideology. Concepts like ‘meninism’ and ‘femi-nazi’ have become popular buzzwords. Clearly, we have failed to understand what the word ‘feminism’ truly means. Masses have come to believe that feminism is a bad word and to be associated with it is not a great thing.
Shethepeople.TV founded by veteran journalist Shaili Chopra came up with the idea of creating public spaces for safe dialogue around the word. Consequently, Feminist Rani was born.
Each country has its own set of issues around gender, and it is high time that we humans come together and discuss issues that are quintessential to India. We need to create a better understanding of the word feminism and the everyday issues it impinges upon.
The first episode of Feminist Rani saw the presence of ace standup comic Aditi Mittal and award-winning investigative journalist and political writer Rana Ayyub. From completely different walks of life, these women engaged in a candid conversation with Meghna Pant, features editor at Shethepeople.TV. They shared anecdotes from their personal experiences, contextualizing their subjective struggle with feminism. A lot of stereotypes were dismantled in the process.
Rana said she comes from a ‘borderline communist family’ while Aditi grew up in a ‘typical middle-class North Indian family of privilege’, where women are typically considered ‘decorated pieces of excitement for the man.’ Issues like sexual objectification, violence against and intimidation of women were discussed, along with the need to include men and public figures in the pursuit of feminism. The panel discussion was later opened for dialogue.
The first episode of Feminist Rani saw the presence of ace standup comic Aditi Mittal and award-winning investigative journalist and political writer Rana Ayyub.
There were varied interpretations of an incident that Meghna Pant narrated. One one of them was an incident Gul Panag rode a bike for her election campaign in 2014, which I found the particularly interesting. Meghna Pant lauded her efforts as she came out of the stereotypical model of a politician, symbolizing women’s liberation from their normative gender roles.
Rana on the other hand, pointed out that Gul Panag did lose the elections after all, for her move could have been interpreted as rather ‘bold’ by the men in the community she was campaigning. They would have seen her as someone who could ‘corrupt their domesticated women.’ Further, Rana also shared one of her personal experiences when she was campaigning on behalf of one of her acquaintances. She was asked to put a drape around her face (hijab), since she would be campaigning in a Muslim community, and her non-conformity to cultural practices could be seen as offensive.
Aditi, in her own unique ways, added humour to the issue as she spoke about how men stare at women, in order to make them feel uncomfortable, and that the whole pressure on women to be feminine was insignificant. Women need to be their ‘filthy, unfeminine self’ without being apologetic about it.
Men matter to the success of Feminism
Talking about men and feminism, everybody on the panel and audience shared the opinion that we ‘cannot alienate men from the process’. Since, the very thing that tells women that they can’t get out of the house at night, also tell men that they cannot cry. There should be no pressures of being the provider on men too,’ asserted Aditi. Although we must also be prepared to face some resistance from men, who are going to give up some of their power in the shift. In intimate relationships (father, brother, partner), in the words of Aditi, we need to ‘negotiate and find middle ground’, where both parties give up a little of their terrain.
Aditi: We need to ‘negotiate and find middle ground’, where both parties give up a little of their terrain
The show ended on a beautiful note; Rana and Aditi spoke about female bonding and the need for women to ‘stand up for the sisterhood’. Some closing thoughts by audiences were also reflective as we realised how, ironically, most of our discussions on feminism revolved around men.
Probably that would be the starting point of the next event of Feminist Rani. We look forward to more of these enriching, thought provoking episodes, hopefully with higher participation from men the next time.