Pia Alize Hararika and Malathi Jogi created Custom Cuts when they got tired of one too many pieces of unsolicited advice about “doing feminism right”. The Delhi-based illustrator and Bombay-based design student/writer decided to channel some of their “strong feminist feelings” into something creative.
Thus was born the minimalist, pink-hued, quietly raging, Beyonce-quoting comic panel, entitled Custom Cuts, where they carve out the custom-made feminisms they choose to inhabit under the larger umbrella of the feminist movement.
“We’ve noticed that over the course of centuries, feminism has evolved vastly – resulting in the emergence of many feminisms, including rigid stereotypes of how the ideal feminist should be. It’s often “Feminazi” or bust, with labels handed out freely by spectators.
“A universal, ‘one-size-fits-all’ feminism is no longer relevant, yet, a large section of people (online and off) seem to be persistent about holding feminists to standards that expect them to be a certain way or not exist at all,” says Malathi.
Feminism has evolved and expanded over the years to include multiple definitions and multiple identity struggles within it. It is a testament to the inclusivity of the movement that it has resisted being boxed into a neat category of “truths”. It is this plurality that Pia and Malathi seek to explore in their quest to reaffirm their choice to occupy the feminist identity that they best identify with.
“With ‘Custom Cuts’ we want to try to understand and explain the in-between spaces that emerge from widely differing contexts, and the custom-made feminism that lies between the labels of “good” and “bad” feminism,” they say. “While we’re at it, we’d also like to answer some of the questions we often get, including – “why are you so angry?”, “So, you’re a feminazi?”, “Is it feminist to be ‘girly’?” and “how can a feminist like pink?””
The inclusivity of the feminist movement lies in its intersectionality – the ability to acknowledge the different oppressions that occur at the intersection of gender with other marginalized categories like class, caste, religion, sexuality, and ability. Pia & Malathi say that they definitely plan to explore intersectionality further in their future pieces, both with respect to their personal identities and in a broader aspect.
“We operate from a relatively privileged position and are constantly trying to learn from and amplify the voices of people feminism has historically excluded. Inevitably, we are most accurate about our personal narratives, but as artists, we hope to include and represent as many people in our work as we can – from widely differing personal and societal contexts.”
The project is doing a lot for the artists themselves, in terms of introspecting on their feminisms and creating a safe space to express them. More art, we say!
Malathi says, “I think it’s interesting to see where pop culture, relatively transparent, inclusive discourse online, and an increasingly individual-centric examination of feminism has brought us. To me, it primarily means unlearning and challenging many of the lessons my very conservative middle class family raised me with, and to Pia (someone who identifies as queer and was raised in a Muslim household), it means being able to find/create a safe space where she is able to voice her concerns & get answers to questions she had when she was younger, as well as answer a few herself.”