Vibha was a hard core feminist. She had strong views on gender inequality that prevails in any patriarchal social structure. To assert her identity not only had she not changed her surname after marriage but also she detested gender specific jokes and was quick to counter if something could be concluded as offensive to women in general.
One day, a male celebrity said something in public which was insensitive to suffering of women and Vibha was silently enraged. For her, this insensitivity showcased the feudal mindset which prevailed and how casually people took crime against women. Her friend Isha noticing this latent anger asked her:
“You are reacting to a casual remark by someone, do you think this serves the cause of women”
“Of course it does. Unless you tell some men what they cannot say about women they will continue to say it. Unless you make example out of public figures you will continue to see this problem getting abetted. Women cannot be treated insensitively like objects”.
“If that is the intent, ensuring non treatment of women like objects, you are at a very wrong place. In fact you remind me of the anecdote where an old women was searching for a dropped needle under streetlight. When a stranger asked her if that is where she had dropped it, she acknowledged losing it in the house. Since the house did not have electricity so she was searching it there. Vibha, this means, the solution to the problem that you mentioned is not in denouncing one person. It is in correcting how women are represented everywhere.”
“What do you mean by that”
“How you are treated always depends on how you are perceived. Now look at the fashion glossies that try and define women. The pictures therein are all photo-shopped to project a perfect image of bodies of women. Also in denial of actual variations present, the definition of beauty is presented with a certain set of physical attributes.
Do you realize what message does that communicate to women at large. One, it leads to body shaming wherein they never feel adequate about their own bodies because a very different image is being given to them about what is attractive and second it hurts their self esteem and they get driven to buy expensive clothes and cosmetics to fulfill this self value gap.
So instead of directing your ire against individuals wouldn’t you be better served if you directed it against a system of feminine representation; be it in magazines as above or movies which present item songs to objectify women or advertisements which use various feminine body parts to sell their goods.
“So should not one denounce people who are callous about women”.
“When you are talking against one person you are creating a negative narrative. This negative narrative soon spins out of control and descends into gender bashing. However if you want to effect big changes and really level the playing field for women, you will have to convince males also to be on your side. So instead of indulging in negative narrative around one person, a much better approach is to construct a positive and cosmopolitan narrative about women themselves.
You want women to be represented in media as actual people with complex emotions and varied motivations. This representation will make people change their mindset about how they view and treat women at large.
So Vibha if you are a true feminist you must realize that fight against one person is tokenism and in long run, counter-productive. You must fight against a system which encourages everyone, including women, to think of themselves, as an object of consumption.
Finally let me tell you that it is a long and hard fight for lot of industries benefit from this kind of feminine representation. So conserve your anger and then use it productively as I know you can”.