While sipping my green tea on a sunny Thursday morning and updating myself on all the latest happenings from around the world, I find one word being overused in almost every media publication: Feminism. Since today is Woman’s Day, I thought I’d give my two cents on this overused word.

I have been a strong flag-bearer of feminism in India and being a completely self-made woman, I relate to this word more than most people. I have worked for over 12 years in the film and glamour industry, trying to break the glass ceiling rich men create. Not because I have anything against men, or for that matter even want to compete with men, but just because I want to be treated as an equal. Unlike many actresses, I have always wanted to carve my own path, and not “follow” what the “gurus” of the industry told me to do. I was always open to suggestions from industry veterans but never wanted to be dictated on my career choices, even if it meant running the risk of faltering.

As I sit by the window sill, I can see in my building compound two girls, aged five or six, made to sit and watch boys of the same age play cricket. The girls were forced to be cheerleaders. They were clearly more interested in playing cricket but were told by the boys that they couldn’t as they were “girls”.  These were the single most disappointing moments of 2019 for me. Not because the girls were not getting a chance to play, but because boys who were only five or six already had gender stereotypes drilled into them. The core foundation of our society, the way a future generation was being brought up, is rotten.

Of faux feminists and vigilantes

This made me think: Do we really believe in feminism? Or is it just a word used to sound righteous? I believe the lack of REAL interest from celebrities and public figures is the main reason the feminism is still just a word in India. Why can’t celebrities boldly endorse feminism like they endorse condom brands or alcohol and tobacco brands? Most celebrities often turn a blind eye when it comes to feminist issues at the grassroots level; whether it is the forceful marriage of newly adult girls or someone fighting an industry biggie's biased or sleazy behaviour. Have we as society sold ourselves towards success and wealth so much that we can’t even stand up for what’s right when the opposition is someone “bigger”, “richer” or more “powerful” than us? 

I write this piece to not just empower the general woman audiences of India to stand up for what’s right but also for the celebrities, male or female, to stand up for what’s right. It is time they stop hiding behind social media posts on feminism for their self-promotion. Treating women as equal to men can't be a mere “CSR activity”. One should believe in it. 

Also read: Koena Mitra, Shakti Kapoor, Sonu Sood lash out at Cobrapost sting

One of the main reasons the #MeToo movement is fizzling out in India (Bollywood included) is a personal agenda. Faux feminists and vigilantes — including some so-called Left-liberal journalists or the Lutyens brigade — have taken over. Many top level executives, writers, and creative people were outed in the mad MeToo rush, with women and men baying for their blood (and jobs), never mind the consequences to them or their families. Those that refused to support this hyena brigade were called unsympathetic, non-supportive and non-feminists.

In Hollywood, the MeToo movement was spearheaded last year by some top, prominent stars and celebrities including Beyonce, Emma Watson, Amber Heard, Alyssa Milano, Lady Gaga Reese Witherspoon Jennifer Lawrence, Salma Hayek, Lupita Nyong’o, Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. In Bollywood, most top actresses chose to remain silent or use skip the question or even asked their publicists to tell the media not to ask. Months after Hollywood was struck by the #MeToo movement with allegations against Harvey Weinstein flying, actresses showed up on the red carpet at the Golden Globe awards wearing black and everything from the acceptance speeches to the lapel pins reflected the mood. That is women’s solidarity.

Speaking when you mustn’t, mum when you must

Some actresses and women have outed directors and producers for their own personal agendas. A well-known director was known to be dating a media person for two years but was outed by her as part of the #MeToo movement. A few famous filmmakers apparently got embroiled in the #MeToo movement because of their partner’s vested interests (as an excuse to throw them out of their production companies). The real players of Bollywood still remain at large, having paid their way out of many escapades which could have landed them in the #MeToo mire. An actress known for speaking her mind as a self-proclaimed feminist didn’t utter a single word of support to the #MeToo movement – she belonged to the film fraternity and needed good roles to stay in the business.

Another actress flew in with allegations against a fiery senior actor about some incident which happened years ago (though the videos are there to show the truth and for all to see). He was thrown out of films. She has flown back to the US and settled in her cozy job. Did she stay back to see what happened to the actor? No. She got her two bits of fame, some brands to endorse, events to earn money from and returned to the US happily.

Along with the disease of FOMO (fear of missing out), most public figures have a bigger disease: FOSO (fear of speaking out). Most women tolerate male chauvinists’ just so that they can make it big. My question is, what’s the use of the 5,000 square feet house on Pali Hill or the one crore rupee German sedan when deep down you know that you are encouraging certain male savages to trample over innocent and hardworking women. For the male public figures, would you behave the same way and turn a blind eye if it was your mother, sister or wife on the receiving end? Why are these public figures so heroic and vocal only when a near or dear one is affected?

Bollywood’s heroine in shining armour

However, I would like to state that not all women are just talk.  I admire and look up to Kangana Ranaut. I love her audacity to call a spade a spade even if it’s at the cost of a gun being pointed at her head. She for me is the human definition of feminism. She not only dreams big but also achieves those big dreams on her terms, i.e. equal terms. She isn’t shy to call out the biggest producers and actors for their wrongful and unfair treatment.

What further proves my point about Kangana is her choice of films. Unlike most actresses, she doesn’t do movies for just money. She does movies which she believes in. She does movies that have subtle but strong messages for the woman of India. For instance, in the movie Queen, she shows that a woman doesn’t need a man to keep her happy. A woman is more than capable of taking care of herself mentally, physically and financially. 

Another example is her most recent movie Manikarnika, in which Kangana plays the role of an aggressive and smart warrior. These types of roles are usually only given to male actors in male-dominated movies. For example, a Hrithik Roshan in Jodha Akbar or an Aamir Khan in Mangal Pandey. Kangana’s fearlessness is what we need from today’s leading faces. And let’s not forget that Manikarnika was about one of the bravest woman warriors in Indian history — the Rani of Jhansi. She was a true feminist and is our national pride. A fact our feminist friends should have used as an example while discussing feminism but conveniently forgot. 

How many women (actresses, directors, and producers) from Bollywood have praised Kangana’s efforts (as an actress and director) or the movie Manikarnika, or identified themselves with the Rani of Jhansi? Or was it as the gossip vine goes, a top filmmaker forbade his friends from doing so? 

For future’s sake, stop being a caged lion

For me, the success of feminism is not when a woman succeeds in getting her rights by calling out men, but when a woman gets those rights WITHOUT having to ask for them.

I’m often asked by many of my colleagues that can we really become a country that’s equal for male and females? I reply to them in the famous words of Barack Obama: “YES WE CAN.”

Over the last few sips of my green tea, I would like to tell my fellow industry colleagues and other public figures, “Stop being a caged lion in this male-driven circus.” 

We need to get out and endorse each other and unite more than ever before to bring down people who are destroying the lives of women all over the country. Even if you spend half the energy, focus and determination that you spend promoting brands into bringing down these male chauvinists, our daughters will live a much happier, respectful and secure life.

(Actor. Outspoken.)

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions, and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of MyNation