Nearly six months ago, Delhi Poetry Slam uploaded a three-minute long piece by Shivani Gupta on their YouTube channel. The title? ‘All Men are Not Monsters‘.
I will admit, before clicking on the link, the eternal optimist in me wished that Shivani would just talk and wax eloquent about the brilliant band ‘Of Monsters and Men‘ and spare me the inevitable cringe-fest that her poem was bound to be. But the universe was conspiring against me, I think, and I was subjected to witness the aforementioned cringe-fest that was the slam poem on women who, in the name of feminism, are just man-hating bitches with no real intention of achieving equality.
The video starts off somewhat positively, with Shivani admitting that feminism is “the revolution that the world has been waiting for“. But then starts the downfall when Shivani confesses to being ‘extremely confused’ by feminism.
Here I have compiled some of the more memorable parts of Shivani’s slam poem, and I talk about why exactly her flippant take on a matter so serious is so problematic.
- “A woman wanting to show off some skin is no sin, but a man wanting to appreciate that is objectification.”
A man appreciating a woman’s beauty and physical comeliness and vice-versa is not the problem; indeed, we as humans are programmed to cherish that which is beautiful and attractive (you only have to take a look at poetry from the Romantic age to know exactly what I am talking about). The problem arises, however, when a person is reduced completely to their physical appearance alone. When a woman is seen as a pair of breasts and thighs and nothing more, that is objectification. When you completely disregard a woman’s achievements, likes, dislikes and strengths in favour of her butt size and the ability to sway them in a way that is pleasurable for men, that is objectification. Maybe, reading about Laura Mulvey’s male gaze will help? Appreciating beauty is not wrong, as long as you do it in a healthy, positive manner that does not disregard one’s self-hood.
- “When you’re in the midst of being so pro-woman you look to me like an anti-men campaign.”
The myth that feminism=misandry has been one that has persisted ever since Charles Fourier, a French philosopher coined the term in the 1890s’. However, it is an undisputed fact that feminism is massively beneficial to both the sexes. Feminism affects both women and men and benefits men who are not hyper-masculine, cis, straight, white and able-bodied- in other words, men who are affected by the patriarchy just as much as women are, if not more.
Also read: How Patriarchy Hurts Men Too
- “How easily we write off men when we ourselves use words like bitch and slut and whore…’
Misogynistic slurs are awful and unnecessary, regardless of who uses it on whom. It doesn’t make it okay for a woman to use it on another woman. To quote Tina Fey from the iconic 2004 movie Mean Girls: “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores, it only makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” Unlearning internalized misogyny can be hard, but it starts with removing certain words from your vocabulary.
- “We still call a man who cries a ‘pussy’ and flip out when someone calls us bossy”
To equate the display of emotions and feelings with weakness and femininity is exactly why we need feminism. Emotions aren’t weak, crying is about as natural as laughing, and if you call a man a slang word for female genitalia for having tear glands and using said tear glands, then it is probably time you took a step back and evaluated your entire life. The feminizing and demonizing of emotions and sentiments is primarily a patriarchal creation, designed to target men who are vulnerable to emotional outbursts. Also, I have never understood the association of cowardliness with the female genitalia. A pussy aka vagina isn’t weak, it is the toughest genitalia out there. As Betty White eloquently puts it,
“Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.”
And I don’t know about you, dear reader, but personally I perceive the word ‘bossy’ as a compliment. I’ve had the word ‘bossy’ describe me when I’m firm, unapologetic and decisive. It’s a word that, in my experience, men use when they are feeling particularly intimidated or threatened by independent, successful women. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s campaign, #BanBossy is a response to how men are perceived as ‘bold’ and ‘authoritative’ for displaying leadership qualities, while women are shunned and shamed as ‘bossy’ for the same.
- “It’s time to move forward and not dwell on which gender is the best.”
Two things- a) Feminism is not about superiority of one sex over the other. Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. That’s it. Feminism does not preach women treading on the toes of men to rule the world, and vice versa. The question of which gender is the best is literally not even a question that arises in the discourse of feminism.
b) Shivani makes this sound like gender is a binary instead of a spectrum, thus largely ignoring other gender identities like transgender, agender, polygender, gender fluid, non-binary among others. The erasure of gender identities in so blase a manner is truly alarming.
- “I am just a girl who is confused every single time someone asks me, ‘Are you a feminist’?”
The lovely lady has spoken for nearly three minutes without pausing for breath on how all men are not the same and how feminists are evil, only to admit at the very end of the video that the concept of feminism confuses her. She goes on to say how feminism and equality are no longer the same concept, before ending the poem by advising feminists to get a new name, for starters. I will just leave this tweet here as my response.
Guess Shakespeare wasn’t thinking right when he said, “What’s in a name?”