For me, simply put, feminism means women are equal to men. Neither is inferior or superior. The ideal society in the future would be one in which we all operated and thought as 'humans' first and gender did not play a role in the treatment meted out to anyone's opportunities in the world.
While that is a Utopian dream in the current day, the reason we need to have such discussions, debates and even fights is to work towards such a future. Attitudinal change in a society won't happen without the same. This is the 'good fight', and worth fighting, make no mistake.
So, in this particular case, I ask: would it be okay for a 'man' to do this?
Be part of a pre-release PR trail for their film and keep talking about relationships and affairs, interview after interview, and bare gory banal details of personal lives and play to the gallery? He would be crucified for it and I do believe there lies the hypocrisy.
In this case, the person is being crowned as the leading light of 'feminism'. Why? How? These relationships were after all those that you chose to have. That they didn't end well or that you suffered in them is sad, but in my book, that does not make for an inspiring 'feminist narrative' beyond a point. Someone is insisting on asking you these banal questions? Put them in their place and steer the conversation. Sania Mirza did that very successfully with Rajdeep Sardesai last year, to give an example.
I do not want young girls to think that the only option they have to navigate the entertainment world is to look for sugar daddies to start with or even whine about relationships and use them as feminist cards. No judgement on your choice of men, but let's just leave it aside as a considered choice and free will?
To play the small-town card over and over again is also not warranted. I have young interns in my company, both boys and girls who have come from small towns to make a living and build a career. Mumbai is full of them. Their journey, struggles and triumphs, just like mine two decades ago, are just as valid. In my book, success cannot be measured by your bank balance or endorsement deals or fame. So all the trolls trying to put me down on that measure, please know that my self-belief in this is un-dented. You cannot shove me down your 'caste hierarchy' of who is the 'more successful'. I am, actually. More on that in another post.
So while everyone seems to enjoy a little bit of gossip, let's not get carried away and place a crown on people's head in such a hurry for being 'bold'.
For me, women like Gauri Lankesh, Varnika Kundu, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Lata Mangeshkar, PV Sindhu, Vaishali Shadangule, Bhanwari Devi, Vandana Malik, Twinkle Khanna, even Susanne Roshan and countless others, many unknown to us and ordinary folks, going through a lifetime of pursuing their goals and standing by their beliefs, are equally, if not more bold and inspiring.
We are a country where there are frightening issues when it comes to women. Apart from those bigger, more obvious ones, everyday is a serious navigation for the average woman in the country. From carrying drinking water for miles home on foot, basic safety issues in public transport to hundreds of others. I could make a list of these issues I'm talking about but I'm sure most of you know them already. So I'm sorry if I'm not carried away by someone's sad trail of failed relationships or anecdotes of who danced with whom on a birthday or who said what on Valentine's Day.
So while everyone seems to enjoy a little bit of gossip, let's not get carried away and place a crown on people's head in such a hurry for being 'bold'
No judgement on any of these 'affairs', we are all consenting adults here after all and in some books marriage is a redundant social construct, in any case. But, in this case, some decency and empathy could be warranted from just about any human, man or woman, since families and children also bear the brunt of such public tamashas, especially if there played out on repeat in the public domain. Having taken the fight head-on legally and winning should be victory enough?
We incidentally took the same family to court on a copyright case years ago and won. It was a first for India in terms of music IP and set a precedent in the Indian courts. There was enough and more coverage of the same by the media reporting the facts. Didn't feel the need to land up in every TV station to gloat over our victory. Refused every time. Still do, during all these 'controversies' I find myself in. I'm not into the 'get famous quick' by yapping on TV everyday tribe. My personal pages are where I express myself as an artiste and social commentator.
I'm not into the 'get famous quick' by yapping on TV everyday tribe
Having said that, I find it interesting and sad that every celebratory and congratulatory post that I have written in the last decade about the triumphs of women like Kangana is mostly ignored on [my Facebook] page by the media and the moment I raise a question, the whole world comes in to dance on the likely 'controversy' and 'conflict' . So, yes, that is the culture we live in and I am okay to embrace it. That apart, some 'feminist' friends of Kangana have come forth other than the usual filmi trolls, part of a larger PR-spending machinery, to try and shame me from sharing my views. I am more than happy to respond to any argument that is rational and fuels thought. Not taking this personally. To those in my audience and in the media who understood my point of view, I feel grateful. Thank you.
Very few in our country are as celebrated and provided with huge platforms to air their 'views' and influence change as 'film-stars' are in India. Kind of sad state of affairs and reflects very badly on us as a society but it's the harsh truth. So a good-looking, gym-going, dieting person and, in this case, one who does act certain roles out well, but mostly many who are propped up by an army of hardworking, talented, creative people, writers and technicians to create his/her persona become the cover of every magazine, the judge of every reality show, singers, participants on 'panel discussions' and 'leadership summits' on all kinds of topics, the ambassador for the UN and other world bodies on various human rights, women's rights, education, environment and even the mascot for 'sports' events like the Olympics. The only 'youth icons', so to say, outside of cricketers. It's like a country of one billion cannot think and see beyond the superficial.
Within this culture, when you are amongst the privileged ones to have reached a position of power to influence change, the least you can do is try and highlight the bigger picture and prepare and share insights from your personal journey and your work in a manner that is not 'low-brow'?
Part of what your privilege and huge commercial returns afford you, unlike the rest of the successful but not-so-rich professionals, is big teams of super smart people that help you strategise, run digital armies, write speeches, dress you up and find you such platforms to share your 'views'. Let me give this to you Kangana, you have done a commendable job on this front, many times around and not just in comparison to your ditzy peers. Fought and won language battles, although I believe your superior and fluent heartland Hindi should in itself have been enough to keep your 'we are Hindi film actors who can barely speak Hindi' competition far behind, stood and spoke for equal wages, fuelled and won the 'nepotism' issue and India's heart. All of this I did and do clap for, like many others.
The current round? No. In bad taste, as I opined earlier. Nothing more, nothing less. That you have been a welcome addition to the change-makers in this country who are breaking stereotypes of women and creating a dent in the stranglehold of patriarchy in the public sphere is without question and undeniable. That we should make you out to be the pinnacle of the feminist cause, no matter what you do, I don't agree with. This is my opinion and everyone is entitled to theirs. Mine is accompanied by an essay though. So I am doing the hard grind in a sense and in the middle of a crazy work and travel schedule to boot!
That you have been a welcome addition to the change-makers in this country who are breaking stereotypes of women and creating a dent in the stranglehold of patriarchy in the public sphere is without question and undeniable
If you choose to write back a well-thought-out response like you have in the past on various issues, I'd more than welcome it. Conversations change the world. Have, since the ages. Public, intellectual debate is the bedrock of an evolving and progressive society, after all.
That apart, dearest India, can we talk and learn from such occasions and not make it out to be a personal attack?
Those media people flashing headlines of my support to 'Hritik', please note, you are being reductive and miles away from my intentions.
Reductive: tending to present a subject or problem in a simplified, crude form.
(This post was shared by Sona Mohapatra on her Facebook page and has been lightly edited for clarity.)