This is a collective, and we talk about feminism here; unbridled by specific events, issues, public and political figures. But does mainstream media do the same thing? Feminism has become the new celebrity fad.
Have we ever discussed feminism in the pages of a broadsheet daily by itself? A standalone issue worthy of open, rational discussion, a topic to be shared, discussed, spoken about and spread?
Or is it ostensibly almost always tagged on to the news of a ‘feminist’ film, which goes on to rake in the millions and receives publicity for being ‘sensitive to gender issues’? Statements of pseudo-support (or pseudo-statements of support) abound when a film is ready to hit our screens. Suddenly, the press, social media and television are all filled with sound bites or inches of column space devoted to the ‘star’ in question and their (apparent) support for the feminist cause.
In a larger public sphere, where news on print still reaches many places where internet access is nonexistent, broadsheet news is still the best way to receive information. But unless it is tagged on to publicity, or a specific instance of crime, feminism and discussion related to it are conspicuous by their absence.
Take Jyoti Singh Pandey’s case. Reams and reams of newsprint were released after the incident about how safety for women is lacking in the capital, and really, the whole country. And so it is. However, it was only then that the feminist cause seemed to matter; and while it does sporadically pop up in news media, it is never on its own. Rani Mukerji has a new film with a female officer out? FEMINISM! WOW! Priyanka Chopra plays a renowned boxing champion in a flashy, big budget blockbuster? FEMINISM!
Feminism is discussing women’s rights as an issue. About how our wonderfully deeply ingrained patriarchal mindset needs a desperate, immediate rehaul.
Now we have chief ministerial candidates discussing women’s safety in the capital. Talking heads scream themselves hoarse about security, better bus services, late night travel safeguards and all that jazz.
If we propagated feminism into the mainstream, or put half as much effort into giving it a space in the public sensibility, we wouldn’t NEED to focus as much on obsessive security. Instead of talking “preventative measures” and preventing women from “going out after a certain time for their own safety”, we’d be focusing on changing attitudes among a larger demographic. If we had mainstream feminism, we wouldn’t still have people saying “why are girls roaming late at night“, “you don’t wear gold chain and go to a poor area” or insinuating in their many, colourful ways that women who have been attacked and sexually harassed were “asking for it” in any way whatsoever.
Issues of sexuality are often labelled a no-no because sex is “western culture”, a “corrupting influence on youth” and a “breaker of families“. While I disliked a few of the jokes (racist, homophobic and fat jokes) on the recent All India Bakchod roast, I [and most others] completely respect their right to have it, and laughed at a fair few bits of it myself. Indian politicians, however, took sincere offence (of the politically motivated variety) at how it impinged on our “wonderful Indian culture“. The same upholders of our Glorious Indian Culture tweeted this:
Very cultured indeed.
It seems that issues of queerness (not necessarily in a LGBT context, just as going against the status quo) are simply not discussed in the mainstream, for reasons of politics and power, and keeping them firmly in place. We can have fora where those of us who want genuine, open discussion of women’s rights and the state they are in, but until the issues there discussed are brought to a larger audience, they will continue to be in the shadows, relegated to occasional column space or ‘big news tag along‘. Publicity buzzwords may well bring it attention, but that attention will seldom stay.
It’s time we stopped trivialising, tabloidising and as a result, minimising the importance of feminist discussion in and of itself. Let’s talk about feminism, and not just because there’s a film out, or an incident happened. Instead of turning survivors into objects of news and only discussing their ordeals for as long as our news cycle prefers, let us speak about every survivor who did not find airtime or news inches. Every survivor who is living every day. Every survivor of every form of patriarchal relegation. Because we should. In all honesty, however, I wonder if this will happen, considering renegade religious fundamentalist organisations now have far more power than they have ever had.
What do you think of the current state of feminist discussion in the Indian mainstream, and what steps do you think can help it be discussed, by itself?
Featured Image Credit: TheFederalist.com