“Would you feel safe if you knew a woman was flying your plane?” Comedian Ali G’s interview with the late Professor Sue Lees of the United Kingdom’s Centre for Gender Research is more than 15 years old and still funny, still relevant. His observations are astute: “One in two people in the country is a woman.” His queries are valid: “Do you think it is right if girls try feminism when they are drunk?”
There needs to be a more incisive investigation like this. In 2016, we’re still wondering why feminists hate men, want to be un-feminine and shout loudly while brandishing their emasculating personas – a society-destroying combination of au naturel eyebrows, wrinkles from worrying about the wage gap and the fact that one million of their gender are murdered annually before birth or in infancy.
Feminists need to realise that they don’t have exclusive rights to worrying about gender disparity. As actress Lisa Haydon observed, “Women have been given these bodies to produce children and the spirit and tenderness to take care of people around us.” If there are too few women in say, a male-loving state like Haryana, men will be forced to travel as far as Kerala to find a bride. It’s an issue that is so inspiring that actress Parineeti Chopra reassured people that even though “I am very often confused to be a feminist”, she is the brand ambassador for Haryana’s Beti Bachao Beti Padao campaign. The minor fact that she was not officially appointed brand ambassador at all should reassure feminists that they can take the day off to wax their moustaches sometimes. Other people are on it.
In fact, if they could just spend some time, say, being quiet and more feminine, they may have the mental space to reflect on whether feminism even has a place in our culture. We’ve all seen what feminists are like in other countries. The actor Matt McGorry (Orange is the New Black), who regularly speaks out as a feminist, borrowed Miley Cyrus’ and Chrissy Teigen’s nipples to support the #FreeTheNipple campaign against Instagram’s sexist censoring of women’s bodies. Imagine!
Daniel Craig, James Bond himself, appeared in a short film, Equals, where he doesn’t even say a word as a woman blathers on (as they do) about rights and domestic violence and then he wears a dress. A dress! It’s just not decent. In India, men only wear women’s clothes to fulfil religious vows or perform nautanki and other folk theatre because women aren’t allowed to do that sort of thing.
‘I’m not a feminist’
And, at least in India, our famous folk have the courage to say, “I am not a feminist,” even if they qualify it with a but. Like Shah Rukh Khan, whose wife is a businesswoman in her own right, whose daughter plays football, who tempers his statements of trust in his female co-workers with a reassuring “I don’t want to sound pro-feminist but…”
Or Katrina Kaif, “I don’t think I am feminist but I don’t think an actress should be made to speak about the men in her life when there is so much more to her and what she has achieved.”
It’s true of not just actresses. It’s tough to achieve stuff while still being feminine but whether it’s in an Olympic arena or heading to Mars, Indian women manage somehow. They manage to be great politicians, run business empires and risk their lives in their lines of work, at war or investigative journalism or just taking public transport alone, after dark.
It’s not an ideal situation, all this achievement. In a perfect world, women shouldn’t have to go out to work at all. The real inequality is that women are expected to do all of the above despite being just beautiful ovens to bake baby-cakes in. Watch comedian Ali Wong, pregnant and still working (going against all of Lisa Haydon’s advice), explain why the phrase double-income household makes her “want to throw up”. Indian women also don’t need gender equality like those silly, successful, happiness index-maxing Nordic countries where men get paternity leave and share the household chores. What are mothers-in-law and maids for?
Feminists act like their full-time job is sitting around all day being angry-feminists, aggro-feminists, feminazis. Feminists are too busy burning bras in a country where brides are still for burning. Also, bras are expensive and a man’s going to have to go out and buy you a new one if you burn yours.
Most feminists combine the aggro with other qualities. I’m not talking about different feminist ideologies. Please, who has time to figure out if they’re waffling on about radical feminism that fought for gender and race rights? Or sex positive feminism? No no. There are funny feminists who are on Hottest Female Comedian lists who like to talk about food. There are lesbian feminists who talk about feeling the biological urge to have a baby. There are activist feminists, male feminists and, my personal favourite, potty-mouthed pre-teen princess feminists using both the F-words. Some of them are even post-feminists who want to outgrow the binary discussion already.
But they should all take a leaf out of the pages of women like Madonna, Meryl Streep and Sarah Jessica Parker, who have been quoted as saying, “I’m a humanist, not a feminist.” They want to make sure you don’t confuse them for those man-hating, bearded ladies who maybe know the actual definition of humanism.
It’s the feminists’ fault no one wants to use the word feminism in 2016. We must have burnt the dictionary along with our bras. We have our work cut out for us in 2017.