From Hollywood to Bollywood, the buzzword these days seems to be ‘feminism’. What has left me perplexed however is the blatant commodification of the movement itself. What is a fight for equality and liberation, has been modified to serve various patriarchal capitalist interests of the film industry. Everything is salable under the regime of free market – unfortunately feminism too. It is indeed selling like hot cakes.
When the models in the Christian Dior show walked wearing T shirts with the quote, “We should all be feminists”, it was all over the internet, social media, and magazines. It was a collaboration of the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Christian Dior, the line taken from her famous 2013 Ted Talk. Suddenly everybody was a feminist; everybody jumped on the ‘feminism’ bandwagon, without really getting rid of the inherent sexism embedded in them, which for bell hooks is critical for the members of the movement to engage with.
Remember that moment in Oscars when Meryl Streep gave a standing ovation to Romans Polanski, the French-polish director accused of rape of a minor?
Why did not Swara Bhasker write an open letter to Karni Sena when a member of her own fraternity was threatened? Wasn’t Miss Deepika Padukone reduced to a vagina then? (Seems like it is much easier to critique a movie). When Swara Bhasker herself was subjected to trolling and severe sexist backlash for writing the open letter, why were voices so muffled?
Why wasn’t Twinkle Khanna critical of the language her husband Akshay Kumar had used for Ms Mallika Dua?
Where were the powerful men and women of the industry when Kangana Ranaut was branded a witch? She chose to speak out right at the time of her movie release. Considering how outspoken Miss Kangana Ranaut is, we didn’t hear her speak much against the threats to Deepika Padukone, did we? Anyway, I am now eagerly waiting for the release of “Manikarnika” to hear her take on issues.
There are numerous examples where Bollywood has displayed its repugnant hypocrisy. This selective participation is what I have a problem with – exploiting the cause of feminism for your gain, to make women empowerment or LGBT an issue of concern only when your or your friend’s movie is releasing or because everybody is talking about feminism.
You proclaim yourself as a feminist for all the wrong reason (using feminism as a tool for personal and solely personal gain), for all the right causes, you indulge in selective participation. I am so tired of your phony statements, when hardly any of it translates to action.
What we see today instead is a blatant misuse and abuse of the term feminism. The recent Padman challenge where our dear Bollywood stars displayed their support for menstrual hygiene, came under much flak for wasting pads. What my concern however is that how many of them really care for the cause of gender equality. In an industry where sexual harassment is rampant, disparity of payment a burning issue; feminism is losing a critical battle.
I am not questioning their beliefs but the whole intention and motive of displaying and asserting their beliefs and concerns right before a movie’s release or for commercial gain by feeding us wonderful quotes and anecdotes about women empowerment. Perhaps you have your heart in the right place, but I am sorry, it looks like the cause of feminism is nothing but a marketing tool for you. After the promotions, you slip right back to groove on sexist songs and effortlessly mouthing sexist dialogues. So much for the talk. Sigh.
Dear Bollywood, don’t sell feminism to me for your personal gain, or just to look good while you reinstate the very structure of power and hegemony, feminism stands to fight against.
There is no doubt in my mind that more and more movies raising consciousness around women and other sexual minorities need to be made. But what we as a movement must be weary of, is this very commodification of feminism. The struggles of our ancestors must not be reduced to that of a PR activity, bill board hoarding for advertisements, movies, clothes, bags and other forms of commodities for mere consumption.
What we must rather focus on is raising awareness and consciousness about the movement, engaging as many people, fighting for equality as we challenge the system. It is crucial that feminism reaches the masses, and not just remain mainstream. Jessa Crispin in her book, “Why I Am Not A Feminist”, is critique of mainstream feminism. She rightly says, calling yourself a unicorn doesn’t mean you are unicorn. The same goes for feminism. I think that’s the message Bollywood needs to get straight.