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Recently at the Indian Express Adda, Actor Swara Bhaskar was confronted by a man who identified himself as a BJP member about feminism.
The questioner tried mansplaining to her on how feminism supposedly forces so-called conservative women into doing what he considered modern things. He went on to cite examples of the USA and Russia where he said women have voted for conservative leaders.
Ignoring the fact that it is the feminist movement which helped these women achieve voting rights, he claimed that being a feminist and propagating feminism to such “conservative Indian women” is not right.
He condescendingly explained and misinterpreted the facts trying to prove that feminism was something wrong, with hardly any knowledge about what feminism is.
Firstly, in the post 9/11 world, in countries like the USA and Russia, many have become extremely afraid, almost paranoid about safety. Not only have people made safety their first priority, they have also turned this insecurity into intolerance to a large extent. This explains why one of Donald Trump’s first rules was that of the travel ban imposed on 7 predominately Muslim and allegedly dangerous countries and not something anti-women (although that too has followed).
Secondly, he completely disregarded the fact that women in the USA and Russia have comparatively more freedoms than the average Indian woman, even if they have their share of problems. Recently a friend narrated to me the culture shock she experienced when she could walk in Miami wearing a bikini without being judged or gawked at by a single person. Marking the difference between India and the USA she also recounted an incident when many people here commented and criticised her for wearing a deep neck blouse with a saree, making her feel extremely uncomfortable.
But wait, feminism is not just about clothes, which this gentleman along with many others has failed to understand. Feminism is a series of ideologies, a set of political and social movements that strive to achieve equality of sexes. Or in Swara’s words, “Equality not just of representation but equality of opportunity and equality of accountability, which is something that not just women but a lot of communities in India have not had.”
The women he calls ‘conservative’ in India may be conditioned to believe that the patriarchal system is fair and just by using religion and authority. They might not like it but have over time become comfortable with it due to which they follow it without question. This does not have anything to do with the clothes they wear.
Plus feminism does not force any women to do anything. It only tries to create a better life for all genders by bringing about equality.
People often fail to understand that feminism is a movement that has a history just like the freedom struggle in India or the anti-slavery movement of the US. Feminist movements have brought about changes in society and are the reason why women can today vote, receive equal pay, own property, take maternal leave and also use anti-rape and harassment laws when necessary.
Feminism has an enormous history, literature, and philosophy. It has brought about significant societal changes that have affected all our lives today. Unfortunately today, male chauvinists afraid of losing their power have turned the word feminist into an insult. This gentleman mansplaining feminism to Swara is also about power dynamics, where he contemptuously tried to define feminism as something bad.
Feminism is not about just about women wearing what they want, partying or being able to go out at night, although it can include all of those choices. It’s about equality for the sexes in thought, speech and action. So before trying to insult someone by calling them a ‘feminist’, think! You can study it from various lenses – philosophy, anthology, psychoanalysis, economics, sociology, literary criticism, art history or simply google it!
Image is a still from the video
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