By Shiva Sharma:
Movies are one of the strongest mediums of conversations. As a young undergraduate in the United States, watching Hindi movies was not only a way to get a taste of back home but something I would sometimes use as a way of showcasing my culture to my international friends.
With coming of new age movies, it is deeply satisfying to be enamored by powerful women characters in our industry. The journey of Rani in ‘Queen’, the virile character of Vidya Bagchi in ‘Kahani’, or a Veera in ‘Highway’, Meera in ‘NH10’, Piku in ‘Piku’; they were characters that showcased a strong sense of the changing, although sluggishly, face of Hindi cinema. It is of course not to imply that India did not have movies with strong central characters. However, with this new wave of movies, these strong female characters are becoming household names.
These fine female actors, accentuating these strong characters, became role models for many. I started looking up to these leading ladies with a new-found awe and respect, and therefore, it is personally hurtful when some of these women make irresponsible comments about feminism. Emma Watson in her UN speech eloquently summarized the existing stigma and why it is so harmful to our society. In the recent Jio MAMI interview, Sonam Kapoor on being asked if she was a feminist promptly said that she was a feminist, although she liked to wear her bra. Priyanka Chopra went on a similar stride of insinuating the bra-burning stereotype when asked if her show was a feminist show. She even said that the show did not have men-hating women. This is problematic.
Firstly, because it propagates the myth of bra-burning. The bra-burning trope was established at the Miss America protest. The feminist protest, organized by New York Radical Women, included tossing a collection of symbolic feminine products into a trash can on the Atlantic City boardwalk. No bras were burnt.
Secondly, the feminist movement has gone through various transformations. In fact, there are different points of views held by different feminists’ movements. For example, a liberal feminist focusing on public institutions for gender inequality might have a different approach than, for instance, a psycho-analytical feminist.
However, if assuming that there are feminists who hate men, and these public figures are holding them representatives of feminism; it is a huge problem. It is generalization in its ugliest form, and it is disheartening. What is most problematic, I think, is that there is no conversation about it!
Nobody asks Priyanka Chopra why did you insinuate men-hating when asked about feminism. There is no prolific dialogue happening around it. Not only are these women professional actors, but sometimes also bastions of mass movements.
Parineeti Chopra recently was named the brand ambassador of a feminist movement, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Andolan. She said that she is often mistaken to be a feminist, but she is not. In the same sentence, she added that she is against gender inequality. That seems contradictory, paradoxical, and honestly baffling. Why are we not engaging in a conversation? Why are we not asking Parineeti that heading a feminist campaign, why is she not a feminist? What is the problem according to her with the word? Of course, there is a stigma attached to the word and we are not talking about it, and these women are enforcing stereotypes by making erroneous statements. These should be points of conversations leading ways towards conducive understanding, rather than something that just goes unnoticed. There are too many questions, and no answers because we do not have a mainstream dialogue about connotations of feminism.