Rima Kallingal’s TEDx Talk Led Me To Think Of Fish Fry As A Metaphor For Equality

Posted: January 23, 2018

I recently watched Popular Malayalam actress Rima Kallingal’s powerful TEDx talk about gender discrimination prevailing in the Malayalam Film Industry. Here is my take on sharing the fish fry a.k.a gender equality!

Rima Kallingal’s speech made in the wake of recent cyber attacks on her colleague and acclaimed actress Parvathy, resonated well with the current rising wave of woman empowerment in the Malayalam film industry. The video is bang on in nailing the main points of unfair treatment of woman both offscreen and onscreen in the industry.

Rima Kallingal starts her speech with an anecdote about how she experienced or rather, how she started recognizing gender discrimination in the form of fish fry. Her mother while serving fish fry choose to divide the only three available fish fries among her brother, her father and her grandmom (the eldest in the family) leaving out the 12-year-old, much to her dismay.

While many applauded the actress for courageously giving voice to the silent victims of female discrimination in an industry which is often deafened by the drums of hero worship, for some the entire meaning was lost in translation. Some just didn’t get the metaphor used to highlight gender discrimination and took the whole issue quite literally, and thus started trolling the actress for the TEDx talk.

Among those biased pieces of feedback on FB, one comment got my attention. A person narrates quite ferociously, (as we can guess from the language), how he worked in another country as a manual labourer for seven years to marry off his sisters and how getting an extra fish fry is a small thing considering he spent a chunk of his golden years to help his sisters make a home for themselves. Such a thought-provoking comment it is! It proves how gender discrimination adversely affects both the genders equally in the long run. Oh, the irony of that statement!

Let’s think objectively about a woman from a financially backward family who decides (assume she has the power to make this decision) to serve a the symbolic fish fry a.k.a nutritious food to men in the family, who do manual labor. For her, that’s the most logical thing to do as men, the assigned breadwinners of a patriarchal society, need to be fed well to ensure further financial prosperity. However pitiable that sounds, many a woman, especially in rural India, might be forfeiting, sometimes even willingly, their share of food, attributing it to the culturally ingrained sacrificial nature.

No wonder more than half of the female population in India suffers from anaemia. This discrimination leads to the much larger issue of undernourishment of pregnant women and in newborn children. While we try to remedy such effects of gender discrimination, the panacea for the root cause is rather evident, Financial Independence of Woman. When we strive to make an equitable society, economic empowerment of woman should be a cornerstone.

Just like the way we, women fight valiantly to break stereotyping and rigid gender roles, it is essential for a woman to create her own foothold of financial freedom. For the coming generations, financial independence should not be a choice given to women. More economic activities by women lead to decreasing opportunities for discrimination. By taking up financial responsibility, women can not only ensure their standing in society but also pave the way for a new culture which future generations can be proud of.

Attaining financial freedom is easier said than done. The basic and crucial step to financial freedom is Education. It opens up a wide array of possibilities to women. Moreover, Education helps everyone, regardless of gender, to create awareness of an inclusive and gender-neutral society which is essential for the development of the country.

So in effect, by getting that extra fish fry, Men also do not seem to be getting any advantage in the long run. It is to everyone’s benefit to divide the fish fry equally. Education and the financial independence that comes along with it can be the great equalizer while dividing it.

First published here.

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