By Aarcha PB
In the first week of March 2020, Twitter had an interesting hashtag trending, #BoycottThappad, following the release of Anubhav Sinha’s feminist film Thappad. The Tapsee Pannu starrer had been released on 28 February 2020. It was about a young woman who sought divorce following a shameful incident. She had been slapped by her husband, in front of hundreds of people at a party held at their own house. The film argues that her action was justified, considering the humiliation that she had faced. Even though this reason was highlighted, there were numerous other incidents, though subtle, which mounted up to the divorce. The movie received mixed responses from the audience. Film critic Sumit Kadel tweeted that the movie endorsed divorce culture. But the director had aimed to create an image of a woman who stood up for herself, and the divorce was only a part of it. The highlight was that she had reacted to her humiliation rather than bearing it mutely. But she became the misrepresented feminist who abandoned her husband. This is not surprising because even today, feminism is largely misunderstood, and it happens not only in India but all over the world. It is a global issue.
Contrary to popular misbelief, feminism is not “man-hating” nor is it insensitive to men’s rights and feelings. According to the Oxford dictionary, “feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” As soon as a woman identifies herself as a feminist, she is looked down upon by the major portion of the society. She is believed to have renounced male company for the rest of her life. She despises men. But most of us know that this is not what feminism implies. Should not every human being be a feminist? Feminism is not about women rising above or against men. It is a movement which vouches for equal rights for men and women. In other words, it is a fight against discrimination and degradation of women.
It is disheartening to note that even today, there are young girls and women who understand feminism as a tool to overpower men. It is not a battle of the sexes; rather, it is a way to stop this battle. Even though feminism is a very glamourous term these days and companies endorse it to sell their products, it is not necessary that only metropolitan, independent women can be feminists. A normal housewife in a village is equally a feminist if she stands up for herself and her rights. For example, many of us would remember the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan advertisements that were common a few years ago. The daughter-in-law in the commercial who demanded her in-laws to build a toilet, is a feminist, despite belonging to a remote village. Feminism is not about the high profile that one may or may not have. It is about one’s will to stand up for themselves.
In our society, a woman with her own opinions is branded a “Feminazi”. The term was originally popularized by politically Conservative American radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. And according to The Guardian, Feminazi is the go-to term for trolls out to silence women. The disrespect may not be apparent but all of us must have seen women being trolled in similar fashion on international, national, and regional television. A few years ago, Parvathy Thiruvoth, a popular South Indian actress, was shamed on media for raising allegations against a celebrated male actor’s movie and for questioning the misogynistic comments that he had made in the movie. She faced death and rape threats. She is not the only celebrity who has faced the wrath of the public for voicing her objections against the derogatory representation of women in cinema. Tapsee Pannu, a famous Bollywood actress has been termed as “the most dangerous actress” in the industry for her powerful characters. The attack is not directed to celebrities alone.
A few of my friends have faced numerous negative experiences for recognizing themselves as feminists. It might appear unbelievable, but it is the sad reality. A lot of boys in my hometown consider feminism as a wrong influence propagated by a bunch of arrogant females. It is not surprising that a number of people argue that feminists are women trying to be men. This statement might appear funny, but it is quite prevalent. Feminists are associated with a particular image – short hair, boyish clothes (not always) and a head held high. The attributers of this image completely rule out the possibility of a long-haired, traditionally dressed feminist. Appearances are the least important when it comes to supporting a movement. Neither is it necessary that only women can be feminists. Men can very well be feminists. It would not make them any less of a man, unlike what anti-feminists speculate. The fathers who support the education of their daughters as much as they support the education of their sons are undoubtedly feminists.
Feminism arose because the society was unequal to women and we need it because there is still no clarity regarding this. Gender discrimination is a part and parcel of our upbringing. Men are entitled to be superior. Misogyny is latent in almost every walk of life, even today. Even though it is radical to expect that men and women will one day be treated equally on all levels, it is plausible to hope that the misunderstandings related to feminism will eventually disappear. Rather than being ignorant about it, it is necessary to react to unsolicited comments against this movement and try to wipe away the false notions associated with it. Feminists are not a threat to the society. They, in turn, deserve respect and appreciation for what they have accomplished so far.
Aarcha P B is a final year undergraduate student pursuing her BA English (Hons.) at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. She is deeply interested in the issues surrounding gender, culture, and equality. She also loves to write poetry during her free time. She lives in Kerala, India.
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