HT Brunch Cover Story: 11 women define feminism differently
Moving out of the boxes
By Vinati Kastia, 47, Lawyer
“Everybody should be a feminist. Feminism is not an ideology – it’s a way of life. It is sometimes defined in the context of gender equality and a demand for equal rights. Theoretically the law guarantees this equality. So why is gender equality still up for debate?
The real problem lies in the mindsets of men and women who tend to fall in line with stereotypical roles and traits assigned to genders by tradition or habit. For instance, it’s still common to hear parents tell their sons not to ‘cry like a girl’. At the other extreme, when based on a misplaced understanding of ‘feminism,’ girls are encouraged to not be ‘girly.’ This is the wrong approach since we are strengthening gender stereotypes from an early age. No girl should have to give up her dream of being a princess or her love for dolls to be a ‘feminist’. Just like no boy should be discouraged to play with kitchen sets or join dance classes. Once we learn to let go of our preconceived notions of gender roles, we will be able to respect the choices our children make. Every child, boy or girl, has to be raised a feminist and without any notion of gender bias.
The other problem is that not enough men are engaged in this discussion. Women supporting women is not the complete answer to gender issues. We need more feminist men drawn into this conversation and we need them to be louder and more visible. We need the men who have accepted more unconventional roles and have helped shatter the glass ceiling to come out there and spread the word. The necessary radical change will occur only with a combined effort by men and women to break traditional gender stereotypes and be feminists.”
Author bio: Vinati Kastia is a senior corporate attorney at a leading Indian law firm, a mother of two and a cool mentor to aspiring women lawyers. She is also a Kamalnayan Bajaj Aspen fellow.
Breaking down the biases
By Anahita N. Dhondy, 29, Chef
Feminism means equality. I’ve seen this in my own home where everything is equal in terms of rules and approach to life, and no one is favoured on the basis of gender.
I’ve followed the same rule in my profession, as I believe you are applauded for your hard work and not because you are a man or a woman. It’s about sensitivity and sensitising people around me that there really is no difference between men and women either at home or at the workplace. It’s about equality in all aspects. The workload. The benefits. The rewards. Today, for instance, men get paternity leave, a fabulous way to show gender un-bias. Most important, it needs to come from men who support women.
The glass ceiling has been shattered by women all over the world. I aspire to reach the top of my profession. Many times I’ve said there is no need to say ‘female doctor’ or ‘female journalist,’ just ‘doctor’ and ‘journalist,’ regardless of gender. The same goes for chefs. We put in the same, sometimes even more, hard work to prove that we can rise to the top. Balancing work and home is difficult, but if you are passionate, you’ll get there. And there will be no difference between you and any man.
Feminism is no longer just dissent or outrage. It’s a way of life that’s being accepted in certain parts of society and we need to do more in our own spheres to make it spread wider.
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
Author bio: Anahita N Dhondy is an award-winning chef, a French pastry expert
Being your own change-maker
By Anjana Somany, 67, Crafts activist
“In my view, acceptance of one’s core personality is important. If women are biologically less privileged with physical strength, nature must have had a greater design for her, endowing her with other, better strengths. Believe that!
Command respect by not being afraid to stand up for yourself. In other words, when a woman is demure, she is perceived as ‘good’ but categorised as ‘a poor thing’. When she speaks up, she breaks her stereotype, yet surprisingly gains respect!
For example, if you want equality in education, study. Join women’s empowerment groups steadfast on their focus.
If you are shortchanged, accept that you allowed it; celebrate what you do have. Bring your children up without gender biases. Perceptions and biases against women can be changed by with a personal action plan. In a nutshell, follow Gandhiji: Be the change you wish to be.”
Author bio: Anjana Somany is a researcher, crafts activist and Director of Craft Stories Under The Mango Tree. But the role she relishes the most is being a doting grandmother of four!
Being equal partners
By Aanam Chashmawala, 28, Social media influencer
“I think society at large is becoming more welcoming of women and men who do what once was ‘not common’ or ‘not appreciated.’ For example, I have an amazing husband who quit his advertising career of 20 years (after winning several awards including a Cannes!) to join my company and support my ambition and dreams.
When we got married, we used to joke about my husband joining my work. Sometimes he helped me with a few backend issues when I was busy with shoots and content creation.
Twenty years into his career, he said he wanted to do something different, and after we discussed it inside and out, he joined me. Now he takes care of operations and also helps with creative. How many men would do this for their spouse? Normally this would be ‘weird,’ but I think we’re officially in a space today where this is welcome.”
Author bio: Aanam Chashmawala is a social media influencer with a following of 208k on Instagram alone. Her beauty and fashion stories are followed by young girls all over India and abroad.
By Navkirat Sodhi, 40, poet, performer, artist
“Feminism is a strong thought. This is what it means: I am the meeting point of a thousand rivers that flow from mountains of grace. Each new world starts in me. I am woman. I’m awakening. I am woman.”
I am here
I emerge from the barren
Like dew forgotten by day
Consumed, he is oblivious
To what occurs in the dark
When I gather each drop
There are drops with dark tales
Those that pretend
The day is the only
Sign of their virtue
I gather, believing
I’m a hero
Asudden it dawns
I wasn’t made
I’m not here
I am here
That dew who
The barren green
For all that was
I carry with me
I carry in me
All that will be
Author bio: Navkirat Sodhi is a poet, performer and artist whose bold voice is being acknowledged as a refreshing perspective on a variety of subjects.
Not being same as men!
By Aditi Chauhan, 27, Footballer
“F- Fighting spirit
M- Mothering & caring
S- Strong willed
Feminism means equality of sexes in every field. It does not mean ‘sameness’ of men and women because women are different from men. We have our own strengths and weaknesses and men have theirs.”
Author bio: Currently the goalkeeper for the Indian National Football team, Aditi Chauhan is also the first Indian woman to play English League football.
Respect. Respect. Respect
By Ina Puri, 61, Art curator
“My earliest lesson in feminism was when was when my mother decided to strike out on her own, and if this meant walking out with no resources and her two small children in tow, so be it. Those were the late 1960s. It was tough, but we learnt to fight for ourselves and our rights at every step. I was only a little girl, but I felt so proud of what we had achieved.
When motherhood happened, I rejoiced but did not waste time before teaching my son the importance of being a feminist. To always respect women. Who says cultural prestige allows men to take up certain roles and women others? Women are equals and deserve every opportunity. I feel delighted when I see talented artists like Bhuri Bai and Durga Bai being given primary spaces at the Tribal Museum, Bhopal. One cannot celebrate feminism enough.
My first gift to Samaira, my granddaughter, when she was born, was a copy of my favourite read, Dear Ijeawele, A Feminine Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. I impatiently wait to watch her read and take her first steps as a feminist!
Author bio: Ina Puri is a well-respected art curator and documentarian, who hunts and mentors young artists
By Tina Tahiliani Parikh, 53, Fashion entrepreneur
“Feminism at its core is about the equality of men and women. Luckily for me, my family has been incredibly progressive for generations. My mother was one of the first women engineers in Maharashtra, who chose to marry in her late 20s when she felt she was ready.
I have always had access to exactly the same opportunities as my brother, Tarun. I have personally striven hard to excel at my work and support women at my workplace. I have fought court and income tax cases and have negotiated family settlements. Through my own example, I want my daughter and every single woman in my office to be financially independent and believe in her own pure and limitless potential.”
Author bio: Tina Tahiliani Parekh is the executive director of Ensemble and handled business in the 90s while her brother, Tarun Tahiliani took up designing
The right to be a human being
By Leena Kejriwal, 51, Photographer
“For me, feminism is ‘equalism’. It’s a protest against the norms of patriarchy that subjugate a gender. It’s my right to be myself and not try to fit into any misconstrued cube designed by someone else’s norms. There is enough space for each individual to live, bloom and grow. There is enough sunshine for all.
I use my creative language to protest deep-rooted patriarchal norms. The Missing Project is about girls lost due to objectification, subjugation and slavery in the dark holes of trafficking. Most girls are lost primarily because of the patriarchal structure of Indian society, where every woman’s thoughts, wishes and desires are systematically curbed. Patriarchy also plays a huge role in girls being trafficked by their own in rural India, and the shaming by the same patriarchal structure prevents victims from coming back.
Caitlin Moran says, “Feminism is too important to be discussed only by academics.” Now, more than ever, the world needs more voices against this baseless inequality, which leads to the heinous crimes of sexual abuse and trafficking.”
Author bio: Leena Kejriwal is a photographer and an installation artist, whose works are aimed at creating social change
Being an equalist
By Nishtha Dudeja, 24, Miss Deaf Asia
“The concept of feminism is being misused these days. Feminists believe that women deserve respect like all other human beings.
Pseudo-feminists believe women deserve more respect than other genders, or that people of other genders deserve no respect. In the name of feminism, many men are facing harassment by women at work and at home.So I am not a feminist. I am an EQUALIST.I support whoever is right, woman, man or transgender.”
Author bio: Nishtha Dudeja was crowned Miss Deaf Asia 2018 and is also an int’l lawn tennis player and has won medals in judo as well.
Placing yourself first
By Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, 40, Filmmaker
The black dots that mark a milestone.
The cheeks that smile and frown in various timelines.
The wrinkles around a hundred sleepless nights.
The under-eye that is a shadow of your thoughts.
There are many more to arrive and many more to accept.
How old are you is just a number.
The brain is an experience of the years gone by.
Of memories and bygone that only stories tell.
Time will keep moving and life will have to catch up.
The journey will continue making zig zag lines.
But change the lines.
Demand from yourself.
For the law of life says
There is woman behind a man.
For darling, you have every right.
To be behind your own self.
For faith and explorations.
For cleansing and isolations.
Keeping with the pace of your own self.
You don’t need any validation.
The curious you.
Has a landscape of faith.
A woman is human.
Losing her self in her self.
She remains to stay.
Woman is man.
Man is woman.
It’s just how I see
How you see.
In the mirror of self.
To the mind.
I love you every day.
Happy women’s day
Today and every day.
Aurthor bio: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari is a writer and an award-winning director of the Bollywood hit, Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017). Her new short film Ghar ki Murgi celebrates unsung homemakers.
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From HT Brunch, March 22, 2020
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