The half-hearted feminism of urban Indian women.
There is no movement without solidarity and as A-listers of the Feminist Club for Privileged, Delusional Women (FCPDW) we have that -- we are all united in being solid bitches to each other.
Never have I passed an opportunity to malign another woman who posed any kind of threat or trauma to my insecure soul, albeit within the safety net of my own room, in my PJs with my girl gang, mostly in passing.
Jibes about another woman’s appearance and character are common in our lexicon. And it shouldn’t be. I would have added ‘don’t judge me’ in brackets but I know not to have unreal expectations.
I remember a time during my first year in college when too many yuppies roamed around with DSLRs hanging from their necks. Suddenly everybody was a photographer. Something similar has happened with feminism. Everybody on my Facebook now appears to be a feminist. This should be cause for celebration, but somehow it isn’t, and something is amiss. At times it feels like we are only feminists on Facebook and as ‘woke’ millennials, I think its time to question the extent of our sincerity to the cause of equality for women.
A Facebook Feminist is easy to spot. We like cool ass feminist pages with quirky art work about not being loved, we follow Rupi Kaur on Instagram, we go for slutwalks and think Abhay Deol is the rightful heartthrob for echo boomers, NOT SRK. Fair and Lovely is an anathema to our souls and we much prefer artsy-fartsy Body Shop. We are the walking-talking embodiments of the Social-Media Feminist Pop Culture, who are most pop, least feminist and who think culture is just a fancy word for sanskaar, which they obviously hate. This is what the façade looks like online, which runs off as easily as cheap concealer.
Accepting differences is also feminism. Image source: deidramangus.com
Who we truly are comes forth on Whatsapp – bitchy, insensitive not-so-woke, privileged women with punctured egos ready to roll insults off the cannon of our tongues. And this precisely is the paradox that plagues the current feminist movement in India, which is intersectional and yet, exclusive. We are feminists on Facebook and gossip mongers on Whatsapp.
We have understood that we must not repeat the mistakes of our predecessors. That we must not dangle our expensive pads in the faces of underprivileged women who are still defecating out in the open. That our rights cannot be guaranteed unless it includes women from all sections of society, transcending caste, creed, sexuality, and religion. We are the Danys of India, here to break the wheel, once and forever, or so we believe.
But somehow this deep understanding of rights and mutual respect is something we fail to extend to our peers - to the ex’s current girlfriend, to the colleague your boss likes more, to the girl your boyfriend cheated on you with, to the woman who got a little drunk and cosy with the guy you like.
We are supportive of sub-altern and Muslim women, of our maushis and didis and ayas. We want them to be treated with kindness and equanimity and that we think is just about enough to call ourselves feminists. The pin that deflates this balloon full of pedantic feminism into a shriveled limp dick that is no good, is comments like, “OMG is he dating her now?? I can’t believe he dumped me for her! She looks like my maid!” Quick to use the same maid you wish had educational rights, to derogate someone else.
I don’t know if it is more appalling, confusing or simply heart-breaking to watch us while away an entire movement with our perfunctory and callous activism, adorned with hypocrisy and pity. The truth is, we are all oppressors and oppressed, privileged and under-privileged, rulers and ruled at, in this intersectionality. And if we are to acknowledge the truth of intersectionality then should it stop at including women from different races and communities alone? Should it not be extended, simply speaking, to the woman seated beside me?
We oscillate between “Eh give me some goss na” and “OMG that Trump is such a patriarch yaaaa” consciously and unconsciously trivializing social issues and being trivial ourselves.
What feminism begins on Facebook and ends in the privacy of our homes? Where we sit huddled around a laptop, warmed by the borrowed sunshine of the fairy lights hanging on our window sills, falling carelessly over our ice-blue posters, lighting the words ‘Fish without a Bicycle,’ plastered there, to remind us of who we want to be.
But who we are, is the woman in front of a glaring laptop screen, stalking our ex-batch mate, bitching about the announcement of her engagement, making presumptuous judgments tainted with pity about how they must have been forced into it because they belong to a ‘Marwari’ household.
We are not Feminists, we are just unkind people following a fad.
We are the Indian version of the same white feminists, that we use black anarchist memes to trash.
What equality are we asking for when we cannot even treat another woman, whose reality is different from ours, whose choices are different from ours, as an equal?
As a movement, feminism’s playground is the society, but as a principle, it’s like charity. It begins at home and it begins with the self.
What one is forced to think of is the possible decay of an already fragmented movement in the face of this warped sense of equality - where equality means being the same. But feminism at its core wasn’t about equality as much as it was about freedom. The freedom for women to make their own choices, subject to no one‘s opinions, men or that of other women. And somewhere, as we busy ourselves with mindless gossip and the half-hearted activism on our blogs, the movement dies a slow, insidious death.
Marcie Bianco says, “Any activism that pits women against each other is not feminism, because sisterhood is our most powerful tool. The men in charge know this, too—this is why keeping women divided and indulging in catfights in the media is a surefire way to keep women oppressed. As long as women are fighting each other, they are not fighting against the larger structures that maintain and enforce their oppression.”
We, sister, have betrayed us all.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Suman Quazi
Cover photo credit: 9gag.com