I really am growing old. I’ve spent half an evening wondering whether something I saw on the internet is worth ranting about. Once upon a time, I’d have written five froth-around-the-mouth rants in this time, and not until the morning after would it have struck me that just maybe I should have thought about whether this thing that’s bothered me is worth a rant or five.
The thing in question is this list on Buzzfeed: “46 People Told Us Why They Want, Need And Deserve A More Feminist India.” Honestly, the reason I’ve dithered about writing about this is that it’s Buzzfeed. Is it really worth typing out a rant on something you saw on Buzzfeed? Surely there are better things to do with my time?
Look, I totally agree that there is a haloed place for cute hedgehogs, kittens and inane quizzes. If you’ve zoomed in on “Awww” as your most mature response to the world at large, then don’t venture beyond fluff. On the other hand, if you’re going to talk about feminism, it seems like a good idea to know what the word means, for starters. Once you’ve wrapped your head around the definition, how about applying a modicum of logic to the post that you’re concocting?
Buzzfeed asked people in India why the country needs feminism.
Because of course India’s the only place that needs a feminist, nay pop-feminist, intervention. Buzzfeed’s homeland of America, for example, is a *shining* example of how patriarchy and prejudice have been crushed to smithereens.
But anyway, the point is that Buzzfeed wants to know about feminism in India. Who is best placed to provide a succinct and comprehensive understanding of the nation? A group of city slickers who reek of privilege and exclamation marks. The only diversity in Buzzfeed’s list lies in the spelling and grammatical errors.
There are certain places where being simplistic can be forgiven as long as the intentions are good and the execution isn’t godawful. In Mills & Boons, for instance, and Bollywood films. However, if you’re going to talk about something as misunderstood and misrepresented as feminism, that too in a country as complex, complicated and muddled in patriarchy as India, then the last thing you want to be is simplistic. Plus, you’ve got 46 people, many of whom have written personal essays on those placards, so really, there’s no excuse. That’s a lot of people and a LOT of words.
For the sake of my blood pressure levels, I can’t go through all of them. However, again for the sake of my blood pressure levels, let’s go through a few just so that I can get this out of my system.
While I’m glad that this young lady has wrapped her head around the idea that fairness is not necessarily a virtue, did it not strike either Buzzfeed or her that discrimination on the basis of skin tone is a different -ism? Arguably, feminism would have issues with the fact that this woman’s first association with femininity is loveliness, i.e. conventions of beauty and the tendency to privilege a woman’s physical appearance over everything else.
Actually, a daughter is A PERSON. She is neither an asset nor a liability. People are not valuations that belong in balance sheets. A daughter does not belong in a ledger. Neither, for that matter, does a son. Here’s an idea: STOP THINKING OF PEOPLE AS THINGS THAT CALCULATE NET WORTH. Because when you do, you’re objectifying people. And rumour has it, feminism doesn’t approve of such behaviour.
Look, I’m glad this guy wants to be a feminist. Really, I am. But for the love of god, he’s put khap panchayats — a system of socio-political administration — with item numbers and “pursuing a woman against her will” in the same sentence. Khap panchayats are incredibly powerful and regressive village councils that have played a critical role in maintaining caste-based prejudice in large parts of India. Item numbers are random song sequences that are inserted into films to titillate men in the audience. I’ve no idea what “pursuing a woman against her will” entails, but whatever it is, I’m going to say it has little in common with either khaps or item numbers.
Yet another dude, yet another random cliché.. First of all, women are not half the population. They’re much less. On top of that, what is this assumption that all Indian women live in fear? This is the sort of idiotic generalisation that I expect from some ill-informed, cloistered person in the middle of the American/ European nowhere. More to the point, if indeed all of us Indian women are cowering in terror, then what the country needs is better law and order and more police for starters. Even if the police are patriarchal bastards, if they do their job, then there’s no reason for women to be afraid. On the other hand, if the police become feminists but don’t do their jobs, I doubt anyone will feel safe.
And then there are gems like this:
I don’t even. Seriously? “Rickshawalis”? Or the one that said, “Because it’s 2014.” Thanks for letting us know. We were totes confused and wondering, “What year is it?” Is there a prophecy I missed that promised The Advent Of Feminism in India in 2014?
What is all this, a nonsense rhyme?
One young mother says on her placard, “India needs feminism because I’m part of the half that brings life to this world; and I’m proud of it!!!” Be still my beating heart. A semi colon! And three exclamation marks. But let us set aside the battering my English has taken while going through the list — someone actually wrote “shudn’t” — what is the connection between her personal sense of self-respect and why India needs feminism?
There’s another placard that declares women make the best bosses and that, apparently, is why India needs feminism. Let us ignore the fact that it was men thinking men make the best bosses that led to unequal pay and a host of issues that we’re still trying to counter, not just in India but all over the bleddy world. That uterus-curdling list has one woman saying “even Indian have the right to choose if, when and whom to marry.” Even Indian women. I hope all you Indian ladies became puddles of gratitude after reading that. Another gem: the woman who feels “messing with women is what keeps a family and a nation from growing”. Precisely what she means by “messing” is anyone’s guess.
It’s amazing — 46 placards and not one in a language other than English. Not one from someone who isn’t all glossy and hip. Buzzfeed’s crazy, break-the-mould moment was allowing a placard in which a woman said Indian needed feminism because “I shouldn’t be judged for giving up my career for motherhood: the most important job of all.” Howzzat for, like, mad diversity? (Not good, in case my sarcasm isn’t showing.)
The worst thing about rubbish lists like this isn’t just the spelling — “shudn’t”? WTF? — or the abysmal grammar, but that now these 46 people (and perhaps a vast number of readers) think that these half-baked notions of feminism are valid and awesome and cool. When in fact they are idiotic, ill-informed and little more than click bait. The only thing this blasted list has achieved is bursting a few blood vessels in people like me. Joy.
It’s lazy to think pop feminism doesn’t need to be well thought out, that it must be simplistic and that it won’t do anything more than skim the surface of complexity. Because frankly, if you can’t think of ways to use popular platforms like Buzzfeed to talk about feminism, prejudice and other socially-relevant ideas, then it’s a bloody shame. However, when you do it as badly as this Buzzfeed list, then you’re doing no one and nothing a favour. Sure India’s (read: Mumbai’s) youth sound like fools to anyone sensible who read that list, but Buzzfeed doesn’t come across as much smarter or wiser. #MFEO
(And you thought I was too old for hashtags.)