Kangana Ranaut and feminism: Kangana Ranaut has been off my radar for some time now due to her social media and real-life antics, there’s so much as one can take. But her recent tweet on women achievers, with which she had put out a 1885 picture of the first three licensed women doctors again got my goat again.
Appreciation tweet for ancient women who not only represented their individuality but their entire civilisation,cultures and nations. Today if such achievers are to be clicked they will all wear torn American jeans n rags like blouses,representing nothing but American marketing. pic.twitter.com/0k2yjUuF07— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) March 3, 2021
I kept wondering what does she want to say, she being someone who we’ve seen being clicked in bikinis and plunging necklines, has she forgotten her own wardrobe? Twitterati of course did not let her forget that easily and posted pictures of her in distressed denim and Ts with copious retweets. But today I don’t want to discuss her wardrobe, I want to discuss her brand of feminism. Firstly, because you just cannot keep ignoring her and let things pass and also because I believe a woman’s wardrobe or dress has nothing to do with being a feminist.
How it began
Yes, I was once a Ranaut fan, I confess. She, a stark outsider had entered Bollywood, achieved success on her own terms and became the voice of the ‘outsiders’ against ‘nepo kids’ (read star kids). She called out 'powerful men’ in the industry whom she calls the ‘Bollywood mafia’ and unapologetically spoke about bias against women. When her film Queen released I clapped and cheered for her. I loved the fact that she chose to wear dresses and gowns to receive her national award and not the safe sarees as other artists do.
What started off as Ranaut's bold attempt to smash misogyny and favouritism in the industry has escalated into a spree to attack, shame and embarrass her colleagues. Maximum of them being women" Kangana Ranaut and feminism
Well, this was who she is or who I believed she was. I admired her for her remarkable choice of scripts and also for just being the badass rebel that she was. I did go to watch her Manikarnika and Simran along with my eight-year-old daughter. Thinking these are the right kind of movies for her.
That was then, now this achiever has become a self-proclaimed ‘flag-bearer’ of feminism, someone even called it pop feminism, which most don’t agree to, including me. Let me tell you why.
Misogynistic slurs and sexist remarks at other women is not feminism
What started off as Ranaut's bold attempt to smash misogyny and favouritism in the industry has escalated into a spree to attack, shame and embarrass her colleagues. Maximum of them being women.
Rangoli Chandel, Ranaut’s sister, cum spokesperson cum manager cum PR, called actor Taapsee Pannu ‘a sasti copy’ of her sister. Why, because she put out a tweet applauding the trailer but not specifically Ranaut’s performance in Judgementall Hai Kya. Not stopping there, Ranaut went on to call both Taapsee and Swara Bhaskar ‘B-grade actresses’ and ‘needy outsiders’. After Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide, Ranaut once again grabbed headlines, this time as a crusader for #JusticeforSushant. Vilifying the late actor’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty by calling a ‘gold-digger’ a ‘murderer’ and a ‘small-time druggie’.
Further, Ranaut referred to Deepika Padukone's struggles with mental health issues as ‘depression ka dhandha’ which is both regressive and deplorable. In September, 2020, Ranaut in an interview called actor Urmila Matondkar a ‘soft porn star’. She even ridiculed one of the dadis at the farmers' protest. Saying even dadis can be bought, insinuating that the Shaheen Bagh dadi and farmers' protest dadi were the same woman. She later deleted the tweet.
For people who follow her tweets and comments, these unnecessary attacks seemed major contradictions of her own efforts to fight against discrimination in the film industry. If Ranaut is against the industry giving more importance to star kids, don't the outsiders deserve her support? Shouldn't she have led their struggle together to establish themselves better in the industry?
Ranaut has an opinion on everything under the sun and someone who does not agree with her are immediately labelled ‘anti-national’ or ‘terrorist’. Taapsee Pannu, Swara Bhaskar, Richa Chadda, and Urmila Matondkar all disagreed with her hence the treatment.
She did not leave even an international pop star like Rihanna, who had tweeted in support of the ongoing farmers' protests. After which I just about closed my eyes and ears to anything she said or wrote.
How can she call herself a feminist when she attacks her woman colleagues so viciously just because they do not agree to her political leaning and views?
Understanding bargain with patriarchy
It is said that women are women’s biggest enemy, do you know why? Do you remember Lalita Pawar as the evil mother-in-law, Manorama terrorising young girls, the vamps Bindu and Helen as husband stealers, Kunika Sadanand Lall interfering in other women’s family and business. Most recently, Sheeba Chaddha who plays Alia Bhatt’s mother in Gully Boy is shown policing her own daughter. These on-screen roles portray off-screen reality in many ways.
There is a feminist theory called patriarchal bargain, first put forward by Deniz Kandiyoti, a Turkish feminist economist, in her seminal work titled ‘Bargaining with Patriarchy’. She says women uphold patriarchal norms that disadvantage other women but maximises their own power and safety. This is the key to understanding why and how women turn oppressors against other women, while being simultaneously oppressed within patriarchy.
Ranaut, by demeaning her colleagues, her tribe, is enabling patriarchy further: Kangana Ranaut and feminism.
Why not to ignore her
After everything I have come to the conclusion that Ranaut is not the disease, she is just a symptom. She simply validates the prejudices that are rampant in our society. Her massive support base tells us that a majority of our populace either have inadequate or no understanding of feminism, or they simply do not care.
Ranaut's fans perform two functions, one that it makes them look and feel ‘woke’ by supporting a self-made, successful woman, it obviously flatters their egos. Secondly, her regressive views endorse their own bigotry, ignorance, fears, and insecurities.
The only way out I believe is to teach, learn, question, and listen to one another. This will hopefully make us realise that a shallow, elitist, and entitled form of feminism is of no good to anyone concerned.
Image Credit: IANS
The views expressed are the author's own.