We hear the regular chit-chat of the crowd before we start off with Feminist Rani, except these voices today are that of the students who have come to attend this session where we discuss Feminism in India, the challenges and approach. The panel consisted of Supreet Singh, Director of Safe City India and Sanvar Oberoi, Co-Founder of Bombay Hemp Company and the outspoken Trisha Shetty, founder of She Says, moderated the discussion.
We started with asking the most basic question to the audience about what feminism meant, and not to our surprise many girls put their hand up to answer. “Underlying principal of feminism is gender equality“, says one student. Sanvar adds to that “If you believe that all humans are equal, then by default you are feminist.”
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We are dealing with a time where feminism, as a term, has experienced backlash and the population refuses to define their opinions in the bracket of that term. Why is that so, asks Trisha, and Supreet informs us, “because not everyone understands it. The reason why the discourse around feminism is negative is because of lack of information.” Sanvar adds most often than not, people use the term without understanding the basic definition of it and that is what is wrong. He says, “Even if you don’t call yourself a feminist and you march with the principals that feminism teaches you, you are one of us, it’s as simple as that.”
Within feminism there are hierarchical challenges that become tough to bargain with. Trisha touches upon the fact that modern or urban feminists are asked to first help the rural women than the urban women. Supreet dismisses this notion of having a hierarchy in empowering women and tells us that problems persist in both sections of the society and dealing with both sides is necessary. She also tells us that people need to understand that this is fight for equality, “it’s as much a fight for men, as well as women.” While we are talking about women’s rights, sexual harassment of women, we also have to be open to fact that many men and young boys get sexually assaulted. It is of utmost importance to know that we often tend to forget the third gender in this battle, and it is necessary to include their rights as well.
Sanvar enlightens us about the problems that women face in the urban section, like the glass ceiling effect. Women may have passed that first hurdle of getting an education but they still have to win battles every day in all aspects, be it at home or at work.
You would expect a bunch of school kids to not stay awake for such serious discussions but they were a receptive bunch of young adults who applauded at every statement made by our panelists!
Going by the slogan of “represent who they truly are” Supreet and Sanvar encouraged the kids to voice an opinion even if it does not comply with the perceptions of their peers. Stand up to injustice, stand up for equal rights, don’t use words like “slut”, “whore”, “rape” callously in everyday conversations because these are the subconscious statements that are hindering the process of this fight we call feminism.
To talk to these kids who are hopefully the pioneers of this movement was a brilliant step. We all experience the difficulty of changing mindsets of people who are elder to us because they grew up with different ideas, but shaping the minds of the young who can help lead the baton of change is the need of the hour! We are looking to improve the future our our society, so why not educate those who will live in it.
All in all, the Class 101 on feminism was an inspiring dialogue that is bound to create new conversations amongst the students in their classrooms and their homes.