How has feminism changed over the years? Are feminists of the earlier movements in agreement or disagreement with the new generation? Are the millennials marching away or towards a similar movement? Or a different one? Do older feminists see the new ones with scrutiny? These were the questions discussed at the panel on Intergenerational Feminism at the Feminist Conference.

SheThePeople.TV hosted India’s second Feminist Conference empowered by UN Women India, at St. Andrew’s Auditorium, Mumbai. The first panel took up the concept of intergenerational feminism. The discussion explored the points of convergence and divergence for these feminists and aimed to reach a compromise.

The panelists included activist and Founder of SheSays, an anti-sexual abuse platform, Trisha Shetty, UN Women’s Nishtha Satyam, women’s rights activist, Dr Syeda Hameed, Director of Population First Dr A.L. Sharada along with moderator and founder of SheThePeople.TV, Shaili Chopra. The panel discussed the ways in which different generations navigate feminism differently. Through the conversation, they brainstormed how different generations can be allies rather than antagonists.

Trisha spoke about how a young woman reached out to her on Instagram reporting that she had been raped continuously in her marriage, and when she reached out to her mother about this she got the response, “adjust karlo” “do you think every time your father had sex with me it’s consensual?” She told Trisha, “ I feel like I’m weak that I cannot adjust to this rape”, and thus elucidated how her spirit wasn’t broken just by her husband but her mother’s acceptance of this behaviour as “normal”.

They discussed whether the discourse on feminism was sharply divided after the #MeToo movement and how we can examine whether feminists from different generations view the movement differently, i.e., what are the points of divergence and how can feminists converge on how they see and drive the movement and its objectives in India.

“We as a society, have glamorized the women’s struggle, it’s a vicious cycle” says Syeda Hameed. “There were 10 men and me, just one woman in the planning commission during my tenure there. And it was very tough. How do you navigate that kind of situation? Does shouting help your cause? If there was another woman there would have been such a great resonance in planning.” She adds, “I had to bite my tongue, I had to stay back,” citing the struggles of earlier feminists were not different from the current ones.

“Those battles were fought by the older feminists, who did the work on the ground, we can’t deny we sit on a platform.” -Nishtha Satyam

Nishtha Satyam recounts the time she was criticised for not being a staunch feminist when someone said “she is not even a bra burning feminist.” Nishtha explains, “Those battles were fought by the older feminists, who did the work on the ground, we can’t deny we sit on a platform.” She adds, “Now where do we take this movement?”

She explains the advent of technology and social media platforms to explain the shape feminism or activism can take today, “We are at the brink of a gender equal world, the big change is social media, never before was 140 words or a status on Facebook seen as a political opinion.”

“Our history book have done us a massive disservice, it does not account for all the women that fought hard for every right we have and are still fighting for today for things like the women’s reservation bill,” says Trisha. She further explains, “being trolled by other young feminists for our movements helped me develop sympathy for the struggles of the women from the older generations.”

Nishtha adds, “Strength and vulnerability can exist together, the fight for equality, to quote Hillary Clinton, ‘is the radical notion that women too are human beings,’ at some points we fight from the position of strength and at some points we talk from the position of vulnerability and that is okay.”

Dr Sharada concludes by telling the audience, “As feminists we need to expand the reach of social media to the grassroots, we need to actively work to make technology accessible to them.”

Also Read: How SXonomics is Making Feminism Mainstream

Akansha Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.

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