MW 20TH Anniversary Special: The Ever-Evolving F Word
The slogan of the feminist movement, which resonates with me the most is, ‘the personal is political’. Because people don’t realise that, with all the other ’isms’, the enemy and oppressor is outside. The only ‘ism’ or movement of equality in which the oppressor is the people we love the most, is feminism. For women, the oppressor or people who are most likely to take away your freedom are the people you love the most. It’s the hardest thing to do, to bring that equality in our homes, because the oppressors are the people we love. As a working woman who doesn’t know how to cook, my life depended on my maid. That’s when I realised that these are the earning women of their families, ones who run households. We don’t even realise this, and they don’t either. These are working women, they have jobs that they do responsibly. I started seeing the empowerment and it changed the understanding of empowerment for me. We need to get women to realise that they are empowered in their daily lives. I think people misconstrue feminism because they don’t bother to read. We are a generation with an attention span as long as a TikTok video. Any kind of change is disturbing. And people who are least okay with change are the people who are in power. Feminism makes men and a lot of women uncomfortable because it signals change. It is unfamiliar territory. It is a process of turmoil. You fight, learn, and negotiate with each other, so it’s a messy process. I think that’s also where some of the misconceptions come from.
During Veere Di Wedding, Kareena Kapoor Khan said, “I am not a feminist”, and she got a lot of flak for it. I told her if you don’t want to call yourself a feminist, don’t. But at least realise that your life choices are all feminist. Your whole life is an inspiration for working women. That’s feminism right there. Don’t call yourself a feminist, but for me, you are one. We can learn to have differences but still find a way. My parent’s relationship is the biggest example of the practice of feminism. My mother went to NYU in the late 90s to do her PhD, leaving her two children, my eight-year-old brother and me, behind. My father took care of us. So the idea that women can’t balance, or have it all together, is bullshit. I have seen my parents do it. I didn’t hear the word “feminist” till I was in college when we had to study it. Now when I look back, my parents are the example of feminism. My maternal grandmother was the biggest feminist — a woman who only studied till class 8. She stood by her daughters and their choices. On her deathbed, she told me that I can get married, but I should remember to keep my bank account on my name, always. These are my people.
I understand the anger. I understand the desire for cancel culture. I get it because at one level, the whole #MeToo movement is so sad for women because we are simply asking to continue having a job, to be just able to come to work and get money at the end of the month. It’s such a risk that you have to risk your personal safety and deal with trauma that these people put through. So I understand the anger. But equally, as I said, I also understand that because we are talking about criminal liability, you cannot negate due process. When it comes to the pay gap, especially in Bollywood, you have to understand that male heroes are shooting for 200 days and the female actor is shooting for 60 days. Of course she’s getting paid less. So, maybe what we need to do is, we need to change the stories, so that the women are shooting for 200 days as well, or men are shooting for 60 days. I have been in films where I have been the highest-paid actor because I am shooting the most. We should remember the struggles to vote, to have property rights, maternity leaves, and equal pay. That is, eventually, the evolving legacy of feminism.