At  The Feminist Conference,  at St. Andrew’s Auditorium in Mumbai on May 17th, 2018, we saw a spectrum of voices and beliefs. Opinions were exchanged about matters like the responsibility of feminists, the need for supporting each other, body shaming, prejudices faced by the queer community, how cinema can empower women and the likes. The speakers motivated the audience to take steps in order to change our society for better and inspired them to fight back against every injustice and prejudice that comes their way.

Here’s a compilation of what each of the speakers said about Feminism.

I’ve grown up in a household where the head of the family was my mother. I went to an all-girls school where the head of my school was a nun. I never needed to think of what feminism really was. It was the world I grew up in. There was never one day where I decided that I will be a feminist, I grew up in a women’s world by default.

Gurmehar Kaur, Activist & Feminist

Feminism has empowered me to develop a platform that show cases queer India via books, films and events including an online film festival. Queer Ink works in collaboration with story-tellers, experts and funders to provide authentic stories for the mainstream, to get to know about sexuality and gender diverse family, friends and colleagues.

Shobhna Kumar, Publisher Queer Ink

नारीवादी सोच की चर्चा तो आजकल बहुत होती है, पर ये आखिर है क्या? महिलाओं के साथ हो रही हिंसा, अत्त्याचर, जोर जबरजस्ती नारीवाद क्रांतियों का मुख्य हिस्सा है आजकल, और ज्यादातर लोग इन्हें ही देखते हैं, पर असली मुद्दा ये है की महिलाओं को हमेशा सत्ता से दूर रखा गया है – इसी पर अब सवाल खड़े हो रहे हैं|

नारीवादी केवल हक अधिकार की बात करना नहीं है, ना ही इसका मतलब ये है की इन अधिकारों के अर्थ को समझना ज़रूरी नहीं| नारीवादी मतलब अगर महिला गलत है तो हम उस पर भी सवाल उठाये, इस बात को ध्यान से देखे और समझे की सत्ता की डोर किसके हाथ में है?

इसलिए आज के माहौल में, नारीवाद क्या नहीं है, ये समझाना भी अनिवार्य है| एक तरह से नारीवाद और नारीवादियों की ओर कुछ दिखावटी काम भी हो रहे हैं, और ये बहुत ही खतरनाक है|

Feminist thought seems to be in vogue these days, but what is it really? The conversations around it right now are focussed on violence and abuse, but the real issue is that women have always been kept away from power – and that is what is being questioned now, in some places.

Feminism is not only about rights, or the blind granting of them. If the woman is wrong, then we must question her too – feminism means being able to see who holds the rein of power, in whose hands lies that control, that power.

And we must be careful to know what is not feminism. Lip service to feminism and feminists is aplenty now, and it is very dangerous.

Meera Jataw, Co-founder, Khabar Lahariya

A big part of being a feminist comes from my family where I am the older sibling. So, my younger brother literally looked up to me (though not any more, he is way taller now!) My alma maters inculcated that sense of individuality and standing for something – not once was I ever told that I was lesser than a man. Men are beautiful partners and have their own strengths and weaknesses, we have to be kind to everyone equally. Equal opportunity, non – chauvinistic attitudes of men and women around me, merit determining success – what a privilege to grow up around! Hence to me, feminism is pure and simple equality. If you believe men and women are equal, you are a feminist. It is rather archaic to ‘ask’ for a feminist society – the very act of asking for feminism derides it. However, societies the world over have fallen prey to forms of normalizing inequality and unjust practice. Feminism has nothing to do with rich versus poor, privileged versus the needy – it is about breaking an existing and internalized power structure that allows disrespect in any form towards women. Since I’ve spent most of my working life in the radio, I have had the wonderful chance to ‘seed feminist thoughts’ every day through my show. Radio is such a gender neutral medium that way – giving importance to your thoughts and content over ‘who’ says it. I have been able to take stands, give opinions, ask for accountability and make change through this medium. I won’t lie – it takes everyday coaching with my team to look at ‘sexist’ statements that are made just ‘off the cuff’ and reminding them that we, as makers of media have to be most conscious of the impact we have on a mass audience.

Rohini Ramnathan, Radio Jockey

Feminist Conference

Feminism also means making constructive real efforts to end violence against women, because women have an inalienable, equal right to life, liberty and dignity. -Alankrita Shrivastava

Feminism to me is that people of all genders must have equal rights and equal opportunities. And I do believe that the battle for women’s right to a more equal world, does entail the current beneficiaries of the patriarchal world order having to make space for women. Feminism entails a challenge to the status quo. And feminism does mean the creation of a social, economic and political dynamic where women (and other marginalised genders) are able to freely manifest their highest potential, where all doors and windows of opportunity are equally open to them. Feminism also means making constructive real efforts to end violence against women, because women have an inalienable, equal right to life, liberty and dignity.

Alankrita Shrivastava, Film maker

“Feminism is a sorority of collective experience, and if used to expand our consciousness of life, rather than constrict or bracket it, it creates a layered understanding that helps us help each other up.”

Gayatri Jayaraman, Author and Journalist

“A mother is a mother. There isn’t any assigned gender to be one.”

Gauri Sawant, Transgender Activist

“Feminism to me means gender equality. It’s telling that there is no opposite of feminism because the word itself signifies balance and equality. And gender equality really means that both women and men have an equal voice and an equal choice. Both respect and participate in each other’s decisions.”

Srishti Bakshi, Activist, Project Crossbow

Follow all the conversation on Twitter on the #FeministConference here

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