Not my brand of feminism

I am quite the feminist. Anyone who knows me well enough will tell you that. I like fairness when dealing with gender issues. As a rule I tend to detest sexist notions and stereotypes. Especially the desi types. But I also like to keep it real. Raking up gender politics only for the sake of raking them up sounds puerile to me. So I came across this video on Facebook feed about how Indian women are fed up with all the sexist comments thrown at them, and how one sassy lass keeps her critics in place. I love it when women fight back and claim whats their own, those are my kind of fun stories, but this one I found disturbing.

Here’s why:

#1. In clip one, a desi mom is chastising her daughter for not knowing how to cook. “The way to a man’s heart is through is stomach,” quotes the solemn mom, in a very ‘Bend it like Beckham’ moment. The daughter does an eye roll and makes a lewd comment for shock value.

What I found wrong: As a feminist I think my saner line of thought would be to push the sons into cooking rather than asking the daughters to quit it. Why should women quit learning how to cook? It’s an essential life skill; the way to health, survival and satiation. What’s so sexist about being equipped to deal with day to day life? Men who don’t know how to cook are as much at a disadvantage as a women who don’t know how to drive. So prod the men of the house to pick up the ladle, for God’s sake, but don’t ask the women to throw theirs away! If this trend continues, we will have a generation of couples who can only survive on takeaway and ramen. How is that a good thing?

#2. A drunk man and a relatively sober woman are sitting at a bar. The woman asks for another round of alcohol and the man makes a snide remark about her being irresponsible by drinking so much, despite being a woman. Our lady has a scathing comeback about how she can hold her drink better than the man and we are all supposed to be cheering for girl power.

What I found wrong: Seriously?!! Instead of telling our men to sober up and become responsible, we are asking our women to become just as unapologetically callous in the name of equality? So a woman is only kick-ass in as much as she can compete with the idiocy of her male counterparts?

Sure, it’s wrong to have double standards; it’s wrong to make allowances for male drunkenness and get preachy for the female version. I would have thought the feminist approach to correct this hypocrisy would be to reprimand irresponsible behavior IRRESPECTIVE of gender, not glorify it when women do it, in order to be on equal footing!

#3. A female uses disgusting cuss words in jest. A male reprimands her for her un-lady like behavior. She responds with repeating the same profanities in mock whispers while the male sullenly looks on.

What I found wrong: Where do I begin? I would shut my son up for using filthy language  just as I would shut my daughter up for the same. If cuss words are unbecoming for a lady, they are just as unbecoming for a gentleman. And I intend to raise decent individuals. THAT is equality, in my opinion. Priming up my daughter to talk filth ‘like a man’ might make her equal to the men around her- equal in being disgusting, that is. I think I would rather she rises above such men. Just as I would expect my son to rise above them too.

#4.  A man reprimands a woman for dressing skimpily for a night party, making some inane comment about leaving nothing to imagination. The woman retorts by asking him not to use his brain much.

What I found wrong: OK this one’s complex. You may or may not agree with me on this one. I am not judging you, so bear with me too, please. However, in a country where sexual assault is so brazenly rampant, I do feel it becomes our responsibility to be on our guard. It’s just common sense.

For example, this: My brother once went to get cash from the atm in the wee hours of the night on foot. An elderly local shopkeeper spotted him, was alarmed at his ‘audacity’ and asked him to hop on his bike so he could drop him home safely. While leaving, he told my brother it wasn’t wise for him to be walking alone in the dead of the night with so much cash on him.

Was the man wrong in his intervention? Was he trying to ‘put my brother in place’? Was he trying to impose his world view on him? Was he glorifying potential muggers and making my brother the culprit for enticing a robbery? I think he was just being careful.

Whether we like it or not, we live in an imperfect world. We need to combat the sexual assault culture by all means- by protesting, by demanding better law and order, more accountability, but most importantly,  by asking our men to ‘lower their gaze’. It’s strange how we put in so much emphasis on our women to cover up but almost no effort in training our men to avert their glances. THAT, in my opinion, would be the ‘feminist’ approach- to teach our sons to be gentlemen. We spend enough energy in vilifying women for being sexually enticing. It’s time we spent at least an equal amount on reprimanding our sons for being consumers of such objectification.





Dear Emma Watson


Dear Emma Watson,

I have always loved your work. You clearly stood out as the most talented of the child actors when the Harry Potter movies were released. You were quite the natural, all effortless and with so much flair. Your Hermione was so strong, so brave and so full of grit.  Of course, you were playing the dream role -a feminist heroine penned by a feminist writer, and suddenly girls all over the globe had a new role model. You brought sass back in vogue. You were the heroine who relied on courage and knowledge rather than a pretty face, when it came to solving a problem, or even better, saving the world. As a young woman and then as a mother of a young girl, I was glad we had public figures who were more than just the sum of their body parts.

You carried your confidence and self assertiveness well beyond the Potter years. You advocated for women’s rights and were admired likewise. And then suddenly, you do a half naked cover for a fashion magazine. And then you go and justify it by saying that feminism is all about ‘choice’. Seriously, Emma?

So OK, yes, as an independent woman I need to be able to make my own choices. I am with you on that one. But does that absolve me from all the wrong choices? Even if they’re committed in the name of feminism? If that were the case,  Lindsay Lohan would have been the most ideal role model for all the 90’s teens. With all due respect to her situation at the time, she was not the kind of behavior we wanted our girls to emulate.

As women the world over are fighting against sexual objectification and fighting to be taken seriously, your cover seems tone deaf to the very cause you espouse. To quote you: “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it.” 

We do not want to beat you with your own stick, Emma, we really don’t. But then again, we live in a world where women are frequently groped, females are secretly rated by male co workers according to their sex appeal and women face growing social pressure to either sport a certain ‘sexy’ look or be dismissed as hags. Heck, even an accomplished lawyer like Amal Clooney’s worth  only boiled down to how she carried her baby bump. You see the pattern here? If all this is unequivocally sexist, how is your provocative cover not?

You didn’t start these trends. No, you’re better than that, so I wont blame you for something you don’t deserve. But my dear, dear Emma, you are most surely perpetuating the same sexist tradition. Showing off your t*@s does NOT make you a feminist- a term you have publicly identified with for years. I agree with you on that feminism is NOT equal to man hating, but in my books feminism is NOT equal to man titillating either. And let’s face it, a (semi) nude cover DOES intend on titillating outcomes, whether you like to admit it or not.

Please, Emma, there are many young girls who look up to you. Girls who believe they can achieve anything they want to, even without having to flaunt their t*@s. We live in a milieu when it is not unheard of women being asked for sexual favors in return for what they deserve rightfully anyway. Please don’t make it OK for them to think they need to ‘sell’ their talents in more ways than one.