Something incredible happened a few days back! A man chanced upon my article on the myths of feminism and after reading it, he dropped a message in my inbox. He mentioned that he was someone who used to quite often mock the concept of feminism and though he did not intend malice, he enjoyed flouting at his feminist friends.
However, he admitted that he felt guilty after reading my article and realized the damage he was causing by countervailing the efforts of those contributing towards the movement. He also confessed that his own understanding of feminism was flawed and now he has resolved to actively advocate for this cause. After having come across derisive comments about feminists splashed all over social media every other day, I had to go through this reader’s message several times to ensure I was not hallucinating. No prizes for guessing that I am absolutely ecstatic after reading his note to me. Through the power of my pen, I had set out to do my bit to bring about a change, albeit a small one at my level and this incident reaffirms my belief that I am on the right track. For someone who has been told innumerable times by many that “Nothing will change” as an outcome of my endeavour, this feels like a vindication of sorts.
This incident actually made me traverse back in time. It has been more than four years, since I actively began to get involved in volunteering with NGOs. I can vividly recollect some of the things I have been hearing ever since.
“Anu, I am proud of you. But, will doing all this really change anything? Trafficking will continue to happen. Nothing will change till the mindset of people changes”.
“Why will someone change their views just because you or for that matter anyone else is asking them to? Do sensitization workshops really work?”
“Oh! It is wonderful to read what you write but those who really need to change will not change just by reading an article.”
So in a nutshell, “Whatever we do, nothing will change till the mindset of people changes.”
We are also cynical about the positive transformation of this ‘mindset’. Why? Humans are meant to evolve and I know a good number of people who have changed their thought process and outlook with time, including myself.
Let’s take the example of the recent #MeToo campaign which had taken social media by storm and rightly so. While many of us came out in support of the campaign, there were some who expressed their concern about whether this would just end here, which I agree is a valid one. But, what irked me in all this, was reading the posts which totally undermined the value of the movement with a complete disregard for the intention and rationale behind it.
Did they not realize how this makes a noise about the magnitude of the problem? Did they not appreciate that coming out in the open and talking about what they went through could mean the world to many survivors? Just the feeling that one is not alone can be a huge comfort and source of strength for the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
The problem is that social media is often thought of as a futile platform/forum to talk about issues which need other ways to reach out to the uneducated, rural sector. Though, of course, the real change needs to happen on the ground. While we do not need armchair activists, we also need to acknowledge that social media is a powerful tool when used wisely, to spread awareness and initiate dialogue about these burning topics. Every social vice is prevalent in cities as well in the minds of those with degrees and plush jobs. If you really think otherwise, I would simply say it’s time to emerge from that bubble you are living in.
If I talk about India, we know that more than half of our problems are because of our mindset, approach and attitude. If we can be more respectful and mindful of others, we would be in a much better situation than we are in today. But does that mean we sit and do nothing and wait for the circumstances to change on their own? How do you think the mindsets will change? Till we keep believing that nothing will change, evidently nothing will change. Something like the way an entire country thinks cannot change all of a sudden.
History is proof that revolutions do not happen overnight. It all starts with either minuscule or huge changes and the sum total of all these together bring about a revolution, an awakening. It is an iterative process. It works like a chain reaction. We may not be fortunate to witness it but the generations to come will surely reap the fruits of our hard work, just like the way we are benefiting from the inexorable efforts of those who wanted to give us a better world.
Remember that even if you are debating with a friend on a subject that matters, you ARE bringing about a change. If you are standing up for your spouse against an injustice meted out to him/her by your family, you ARE bringing about a change. If you are helping with the education of a child, you ARE bringing about a change. If you are bringing up a child to become a responsible and sensitive citizen of the country, you ARE bringing about a change. A writer writes, a filmmaker makes movies, an artist sketches or paints – we all do what we can and every contribution is significant. Not all of us can be a Mother Teresa or Sunitha Krishnan. But, all of us can be conducive in our capacities to our society’s uprising and the world needs everyone’s involvement.
I strongly believe that we are all the potential change agents of society and the only difference between the changemakers and others is empathy and an inner belief and hope. Our empathy translates into the way we live our lives and then consciously or unwittingly, with every little action, with every word, we are taking that one essential step towards a more equal, inclusive, civil and sensitive planet. Undoubtedly, there will be times when you will lose hope. I do too, in so many instances. But, the burning flame within you will reignite the hope in your heart every time you think it has died down.