Is that what successful women like Lisa Haydon mean when they say that they’re not feminists?
Feminism has become a bad word in today’s modern world for some. At least some people believe so and therefore they no longer want to associate themselves with it. It’s kinda like some people, like me for example, not wanting to associate with religion because as we all can see religion in today’s world is being used to divide people and kill innocents.
But guess what gives me the choice to be anti or pro religion? Ironically, it’s called feminism!
Feminism gives me all the other freedoms and choices in my life as well – from something as seemingly trivial as choosing my clothing to expressing my opinions via this blog to something as major as choosing my career and my life partner. It is thanks to feminism that I am in Mumbai instead of a small town in UP where I grew up and where men & women still adhere to gender roles by and large. It is thanks to feminism that I, and my mother before me and her mother before her have been educated in the top-most educational institutes in the country!
I openly acknowledge that these choices have been possible for me and the women in my family because there was a movement in the 1900’s called Feminism.
Infact this holds true for every other woman who has education, voting rights, property rights and every other right that were for a long time enjoyed by men alone. Women need to realise that not very long ago (and in some parts of the world even now) women were denied these rights that we take for granted in our 21st century world. Women living in the Western world in the 19th and the 20th centuries had to fight for their right to vote and were called the Suffragists. They had to ask for this right that men already had! This started the First-Wave Feminism focused mainly on equal legal and political rights for women. Those women were heroes who chose to break the socio-political barriers, step out of their comfort zones and demand that they and the future generations of girls be treated as equal to men.
In the 20th century they burned bras because it was needed. It was needed to get the attention of the men in power. It was needed to assert their feminine and feminist identities in the rigid and unyielding face of patriarchy. Women spurned patriarchy and threw a burning bra in its face so that, get this right, men and women both could have equal rights. Because some people will be surprised to know that men are victims of patriarchy as well. How? Ask the man who wanted to become an artist but was forced to take up a more ‘manly’ job instead. Ask the little boy who is in pain but is too afraid to speak up because he has been told that “boys don’t cry”. Ask the homosexual male who knows that being labeled as ‘gay’ in our society means losing respect and not getting hired for a job.
But through my blog post I wish to address women who claim that they’re not feminists and do so proudly. There are few such women I know of in real life but two glaring examples shouted at me recently from the internet and I just couldn’t ignore these two women, because they embody the modern educated independent Indian women of the 21st century. Here are the two women who made me hang my head in shame as they professed to not be feminists.
First is actress Lisa Haydon. And second is author Meghna Pant.
This was Haydon’s interview to TOI:
Pant on the other hand labels the character of Ki from a Bollywood film as “anti-feminist” and celebrates it as a “good thing” in her article in Daily O.
When women who are artists, writers and have a place in the spotlight say that India or the world doesn’t need feminism I wonder what the rest of the world thinks? Either that, India has achieved 100% gender equality, safety and rights for all of its citizens or that these women simply let their education go to waste? Well since it’s not the first it has to be the second.
Ladies, do you know why you say that you’re not a feminist? Because you’re a privileged lot in the society living your fortunate lives. I won’t say ‘a charmed life’ because I am well aware that no woman lives one apart from a Disney Princess. You seem to believe that there’s nothing wrong with the world anymore. You have education, supportive parents and partner, money that you decide how to spend, voting rights, you’re English-speaking (which puts you in the category of the educated elite) and you exercise your rights to wear clothing of your choice, drive a car and go to a public restaurant and drink alcohol without fear of rape or sexual assault. Basically you are the Urban elite. Guess how many women in India have the same rights and privileges as you? Guess how many women in India are today making choices for themselves and living their lives on their own terms! Please don’t let your lives in the Mumbai high-rises remove you far away from the real problems at the ground level.
I myself am one of the privileged few and that is the reason I don’t take my freedom for granted like you seem to be doing right now.
Lisa, you especially are living in a bubble that is so shiny and glamorous from the inside that you think the world is like that, for each and every woman. But it’s not. Please visit my home state. Please visit a brothel in Mumbai. Did you know that pimping is legal in India but prostitution is not? What does that tell us?
Or why go that far? Please talk to a few of the women who work as extras in Bollywood. You will find at least one girl who ran away from home and came to Mumbai to escape a bad marriage, abusive in-laws, dowry exploitation, rape/sexual assault, trafficking, economic crisis, honor killing, sex or caste discrimination. Feminism fights against all of the above.
How real is it to say that you’re not a feminist in a country where sex-selective abortions and genital mutilation still takes place? In a world where 63 million girls are kept out of school? Where many women go through life without the right to control their own bodies and sexuality? Or a world where women are being punished for being rape victims and for getting abortions. Really? To me, if you say that you don’t support Feminism then it means that you support child marriage, domestic abuse and wage gap.
It also means that as women you are fighting against yourself. You are happily burying your head in the sand while your male counterparts earn more than you do for the same work.
Not acknowledging feminism is like not acknowledging the Indian independence movement because we have freedom from the Raj now. Why do you celebrate India’s independence every year on 15th August when we are already an independent country? You do it to remind yourselves that our freedom came at a price. You do it to honour those martyrs who sacrificed their lives in order to win freedom and dignity for India. Then why do you want to forget the efforts of those men and women who also sacrificed a lot so that women like us today can enjoy our freedom and dignity?
If my words don’t convince you then Helen Mirren’s might