No, I am not a member of some feminist organisation and I haven’t ever gone for campaigning across the city to spread awareness about feminism, though I would love to do that someday. And no, I might not be a feminist if you go by the definition of the word in some oxford dictionary. I don’t even bother to check that.
But yes, if I look at the people around, even women, and their psychologies, I do end up calling myself a feminist because I see how rest of the people are either least bothered about issues concerning women, or if they are, they unconsciously themselves contribute to the harm in some manner that they don’t want to correct. I oppose both these kinds of people.
Since I don’t know when, I haven’t found a single day when the newspaper does not carry a rape story. It hurts me to the core, and yes, I know, it hurts everybody. I hear everyone calling that unfortunate, and spending hours talking about how unsafe the country is and how irresponsible the police are. I don’t deny any of that, but my problem is that nobody wants to go beneath the surface and dig for the root causes. What I believe is that the sick mentality of seeing women as objects is the root cause of all that is happening around.
But who is forming this mentality?
The big and visible causes are not my concerns, because I know they get taken care of, at least to some extent. My worries are the causes that come under the skin of ‘modernisation’, and ‘sounding cool and youthful’. My worries are the causes that under their disguised forms slowly creep into the subconscious bank of our brains and unknowingly do the damage that we never happen to notice.
One major thing that disturbs me is the widespread acceptance of how women are being portrayed in Bollywood movies. I wouldn’t go on naming all the movies and the instances, because you would find more of them over the web than I can list here. In fact, most of us even know most of it. But what pains me is to know that nobody wants to speak it out. We know it is wrong, but then it is fun. So why bother? We paid the ticket and they ensured we laugh throughout, that’s all we care about.
Sure, movies are meant only for entertainment purposes, but they play a magnanimous role in shaping the mentality of the entire nation. It does not need any explanation to prove how it has shaped our habits, how much it has added to westernisation, and that it does play a subconscious role in forming concepts. It is just not okay to say that I respect women outside the cinema hall but for three hours let me make fun of them, and enjoy them being portrayed as sexual objects, because after all I have come for fun.
I am not saying we should stop watching movies or hold widespread protests for each dialogue, but only this acceptance and awareness that whatever is going on is wrong, and not actively supporting it, would slowly change the equation. Because you are being showed what you want to watch.
And because, it decides what we think, and what we want our children to think. Do not expect your son to see women with that dignity if you cherish the sexually explicit item numbers yourself.
Another highly objectionable thing, which seldom gets noticed, is the way we talk these days. The way the very people who call themselves supporters of women causes, and in fact women themselves, talk.
I remember the first time I came to know that there exist abuses that are directed specifically to mothers and sisters, I was shocked. I mean, seriously, if two men are fighting, and are angry at each other, why do they have to abuse their sisters who are sitting far away at their homes and probably do not even have any idea what their brothers did. It has always been beyond my sphere of comprehension.
But more offensive is that how these words, slowly, have become inevitable parts of our speech for reasons of sounding cool and open. Not only men, even women don’t mind using it in every single sentence. You feel it sounds cool and makes you feel so fun loving? I tell you, I haven’t used any of these words even once in my lifetime, and I can go hours laughing, having the craziest fun, I can make you laugh unstoppably, and dance in ecstasy, and be the coolest of the coolests! And I don’t feel an inch of a need to verbally rape a woman for any of this. Believe me.
What we need to understand is that mentality works on a very subtle level. If at one time you say women do not get enough respect, and at another time you dance on the beats of ‘chhoti dress me bomb laage’, are you respecting women yourself? True there is a difference in supporting women causes and enjoying beats of music. But then, there is also a fine line between having fun and offending someone to create fun and make it sound like it isn’t offensive at all.
Being a woman, I believe, if I accept the obnoxious jokes, songs or words as something which I just have to accept because everybody is, on a subtle level, I am accepting the mentality that demeans women. I am accepting that it is okay to make sexual fun of women just for play.
Only if we establish that such comments that disrespectful could not be tolerated even in a song or a movie or language, a child from the very start would be groomed in a society that subtly compels him to respect all women.
Taking a stand against such things, I have been labelled as being ‘too serious’, or someone who cannot enjoy any movie. But I don’t mind. If I have to ‘accept’ the established norms of such insult so as to be fun-loving, or the compulsions of seeing any woman as an object to enjoy a movie, I would rather not have any fun or go for any movie.
Unfortunately, I also hear women themselves calling it extremism. I call it respecting women from the core of the heart, and not only when a woman is being molested. I call it upholding the dignity of women in all forms of fun, not only when the fun gets serious because it wasn’t stopped when it was at the level of fun.
I call it feminism.
By Khushboo Panjwani
who is a creative writer, and is very sensitive to the use of the right words for the expression of thoughts. She has a passion for writing, and enjoys writing research-based articles, generally on topics like spirituality, healthy eating habits, women empowerment, and education.