Western feminism, ancient India: Mona Eltahawy & Nivedita Menon in conversation
What would you expect if you put Egyptian journalist, Mona Eltahawy and Indian feminist, Nivedita Menon together in a discussion held by feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia of Zubaan books together? A total blast of conversations around so many different movements under feminism and the solidarity that really is the way forward.
Urvashi Butalia – the feminist publisher and founder of Zubaan – led an incredibly power-packed conversation, reading out excerpts from both feminists’ books!
There is the question of whether Indian feminists (or rather, Feminist “aunties” as Nivedita Menon put it, saying she’d been called auntie so many times, and more recently, amma! That she has to self-identify as a feminist auntie, kicking and screaming!) are conscious or cognizant of their caste and class privilege, the professor and author of the eye-opening Seeing Like A Feminist, brought up. The fact that these questions are being brought up is clearly a good sign. There are so many fights within the umbrella term, we learn from both her and Mona Eltahawy, who had the crowd in splits with her anecdotes of being mansplained by a journalist in London (a “white guy in London”) who seemed to have taken umbrage to her calling for a revolution when it comes to smashing the patriarchy.
But the problem is that you get typecast and then become a sort of spokesperson or representative of your people – whether that is as an Egyptian feminist, an Egyptian Muslim feminist, a feminist of the global south, an Indian feminist, an Indian feminist publisher, etc. At any given time, Eltahawy said, she has to answer the Left wing, the right wing, the politically correct, and then maybe get two minutes to explain her position.
What’s exciting though is that these are not academic concerns – these are real-life and very real struggles. What binds the feminists of the global south together is perhaps the wider gaze than what the White Feminists see. “Most White Feminists or feminists in the West aren’t aware of the active and vibrant feminisms in the world,” the Egyptian firebrand says.
Menon and Eltahawy brought up the students’ protests in Johannesburg South Africa, where the students are – in a revolutionary fashion – calling for free education. The university students have faced police firing and other shows of force, which is of course disturbing – but there is resistance worldwide to what Menon calls “cosy sorts of mainstream governments” (which have replaced authoritative regimes).
The fact is there is a need for intersectionality – a need to club the movement against racism, sexism, able-ism, all the –isms, and a need to understand that the forces of patriarchy must be fought – together. In solidarity.
We saw young women line up to meet both Mona – to an echo of “Fuck the Patriarchy” – and take photos with Nivedita Menon – so our guess? The movement is alive and well!
Stay tune for our interview with Mona Eltahawy!