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Feminism is Still a Dirty Word

Neha Poonia

Updated: December 2, 2016, 4:10 PM IST
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Feminism is Still a Dirty Word
A file photo of Priyanka Chopra.

First the disclaimer- Contrary to what a lot of people will have you believe, feminism is not about hating men, getting Amazons to take over the world or needing to have a certain sexual organ to qualify being a feminist. It’s not about wanting progress for women at the cost of any other sex either. The dreaded F-word is about equality for all women- a privilege men have had a monopoly over for centuries now.

But there are many who ostensibly advocate the principles of equality but still treat the word like the plague. Shah Rukh Khan just joined that hall of ignominy this week, keeping the likes of Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif company.

Here’s how the B-town superstar skirted the issue:

‘I don’t want to sound pro-feminist and say that these girls have made a beautiful film yaar, but they really have.’

Now, Shah Rukh Khan, no one’s asking you to be a feminist. The mere fact that he chose to pre-qualify a statement about making a film with a woman lead, by saying he’s NOT pro-feminist, is telling enough. For someone who has spoken of wanting equal pay for women in Bollywood, who has promised to ensure his female co-actor’s name appears before his on the credit rolls of a film- this was beyond disappointing.

Breaking down barriers- one religious place at a time

Another excellent example of why we need to stop tip-toeing around the word feminism. This week, the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai opened its doors door- allowing women entry to the shrine’s inner sanctum after a gap of five years. From claiming that a woman’s proximity to a saint’s tomb is a ‘grievous sin’ in Islam to begrudgingly implementing the Supreme Court’s order- the fight has been an arduous one.

But the battle doesn’t end here. Next on the patriarchy take-down list? Triple talaq.

The Year of Open Letters

The open letter has been redefined this year thanks to a host of powerful women using this medium to add their voices to the movement. From the Stanford rape survivor’s gut-wrenching letter to her assaulter to Jennifer Aniston’s candid summation of how society constantly objectifies women- it’s been an empowering tool. To wrap-up 2016, the fierce Serena Williams is adding her two pence on the double standards women face.

‘Women have to break down many barriers on the road to success. One of those barriers is the way we are constantly reminded we are not men, as if it is a flaw. People call me one of the “world’s greatest female athletes”. Do they say LeBron is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is Tiger? Federer? Why not? They are certainly not female. We should never let this go unchallenged. We should always be judged by our achievements, not by our gender.’

A vociferous advocate for equal pay for women athletes and someone who has consistently had to put up with being body shamed, Serena signs off with these hopeful words:
‘We must continue to dream big, and in doing so, we empower the next generation of women to be just as bold in their pursuits.’

Make-Up For Domestic Abuse

A cruel reminder of how much still needs to be done for women's rights is never too far away and this week that came in the form of a Morrocon TV channel airing a tutorial that showed women how to mask domestic abuse with make-up. The horrific irony is this- the program was aired two days before the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The channel has since apologized, taken down that clip and called the tutorial an error of judgment and completely inappropriate. The damage, however, was done. Instead of speaking of changing laws that don’t recognize domestic abuse or advocating self-defense for vulnerable women, what played out was a callous normalization of abuse- another example of how far we still have to go.

First Published: December 2, 2016, 3:42 PM IST