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  • UPDATED! The Many Faces of an Indian Feminist

    EVER SINCE WE started Ultra Violet, we’ve had like-minded folks visiting us, identifying themselves as feminists, supporting the cause, sharing, questioning, and playing devil’s advocate. Which is when it occurred to me that there are so many of you out there who have a point of view but not necessarily the space to air it, who may, like the 11 of us contributing to this blog, say you’re a feminist but who in the world will hear it? Rant and they label you crazy, explain and you’re blue in the face, speak and you can see the shutters slam. But us, we’ll listen. Stand up and say it. UV wants to know your story.

    So I shot out an initial e-mail, wondering what an Indian feminist looks like, and here are the results:

    16 people of Indian origin, from 4 continents and 10 cities [Update: We’re now at 22 people and 12 cities], actively wanting the world to know about their belief in feminism and what it means to them. ‘Regular’ men and women, with families and day jobs. Hover your cursor over their pictures to know more about them and read their views below. So many had so much more to say, but we had to pare it down to keep the post from running into several pages.

    Want to join in? You can be part of this too. Send in your picture (preferably a mug shot) with your name, age, occupation and location, along with a 2-liner about your take on feminism, to: ultraviolet.editor@gmail.com

    C’mon people, swell the ranks. It’s about time the world realized we don’t have horns.

    Standing up & saying it:

    In an ideal world, Feminism wouldn’t exist. And all feminists should work towards that ideal state when a woman won’t have to depend on legal intervention or resort to bra-burning to get her proportionate share of this world.
    ~Abhishek Vanamali, 31, Marketing & IT Professional, Mumbai

    I’ve been a feminist for a long time — since before I knew what the word meant. My parents had a huge role to play in my understanding of gender roles because they refused to subscribe to or support more conventional notions. Having grown up in a family where people were free to define themselves as people, not as male and female, I always find it odd when people do the latter. Being married to a feminist also brings a different perspective to the systemic ideas of gender structures!

    ~Aditya Sengupta, 29, IT Professional, Bangalore

    I’m a feminist because equality is a universal aspiration and I believe in doing my share to bring it about.

    ~Amrita Rajan, 27, Writer, New York


    Along the way, many a times, we had heart-burns but we did not burn those sexy bras! We simply stood our ground, tolerated when we could, ranted when we could not, loved foolishly and hated when spurned. For those of us who found the going too tough, we walked out, hearts bleeding but the spirit intact, all ready to start afresh.
    ~Batull Tavawala, 44, Corporate Social Responsibility Professional, Mumbai

    Some people around think I should call myself a “humanist” or at least, not a feminist “because you love men and talk about the repercussions of a patriarchal society on men’s lives too.” Yes, I love men. And I care deeply about the different ways in which conditioning has been robbing men and women of various freedoms.
    ~Chandni Parekh, 25, Psychologist and Sexuality Educator, Mumbai

    I am a feminist because I like making my own choices and because it showed me we are not “born” anything, we “become” and are “made” everything. Feminism helped me cut past the noise of propaganda. Also, I love the devil horns and hairy legs they gave me at the Feminist licensing center.
    ~Gitika Talwar, 26, Graduate Student, Baltimore

    As someone who stands in the intersection of several languages, cultures, and faiths, I have come to realize that personality differences matter more than biological sex, and that gender roles are simply another way by which people limit and make excuses for themselves.

    ~Heina Dadabhoy, 20, Student, California

    I’m a woman. I am a human being. I want the rights, responsibilities, respect and consideration that are due a human being in all spheres of life. Until I get that, I’ll be calling myself a feminist.

    ~Iona Sharma, 21, student lawyer, Oxford, UK.

    For me feminism is about discarding the boxes that we like putting people in. It’s for youth organizations, women, street children, school children, governments, men who don’t know what they feel about it, transgender communities and housewives, contradictory to popular belief. It’s about creating equity, internalizing equality and the understanding that individuals are powerful enough to deserve recognition just for who they are.
    ~Ishita Chaudhry, 23, Managing Trustee, New Delhi

    I believe ‘feminist’ means anyone who believes that women are systematically oppressed and seek to end that oppression – so that makes me a feminist too. I believe patriarchy as an institution was born with the birth of class society and can be ended only with the end of class society; equally, the struggle for the end of class society is impossible without the struggle against gendered oppression.

    ~Kavita Krishnan, 35, Political & Gender Activist, Delhi

    I dream of a day when we need not talk about feminism. Yes, I dream of a day when every human being is equal. Let’s continue to prove ourselves by our actions that we are as strong as the men!

    ~Latha Vanamali, 54, Teacher & Instructional Designer, Mumbai

    I have been a wholehearted feminist since infancy because my heart always goes out to the underdog, the wronged person, the oppressed minority or simply those who do not realize the power they possess. The present generation of young women possess a very sanguine outlook of life, and I would stand up side by side with them on numerous issues that need to be tackled right now… there is still a mountain of injustice and wrong-doing that is destroying womankind all over the world, every single moment.

    ~Mushtaque Ali Khan Babi, 59, Metallurgist & Plasma Technologist, Pune

    I believe that being a feminist does not mean the emasculation of mankind, that our differences make us complementary and life exciting. At the risk of sounding old fashioned, the fact that some women see men as mere sperm vessels grates with me: where are the emotional bonds?
    ~ Leena Beejadhur, 34, Human Capital Consultant, London

    The strength of feminism lies in the fact that feminism would exist even if you didn’t have to articulate it in those very words. I do believe that when a girl/woman is told, “you should because you’re a girl/woman” as a legitimate reason for her to make compromises or resort to certain actions, that is where feminism originates in lives of women, that is how I came to be a feminist.
    ~Pooja Palicha, 22, Student, Mumbai & Delhi

    I would say that being a feminist simply entails that I, as a man, have to be responsible for my own crap and not seek a woman to dump it on.
    ~Ranjan Rajgopaul, 37, Multimedia Expert, Pune

    I think it is the confidence of knowing and believing that you are no lesser than anybody.

    ~Revathi Panicker, 24, Student, Brisbane

    I view feminism as a particular world view that allows all the variables (race, class, gender, ethnicity, class, culture, etc.) that make up a person’s identity to be understood within a dialectical framework, each identity variable feeding off of each other and feeding into each other, rather than as autonomous and mutually exclusive components.

    ~Roksana Badruddoja, Assistant Professor, Fresno

    Feminism must start at home. If every married man can say, with conviction, that his wife is his equal in every respect, the world will be a better place.
    ~Sailesh Rachabathuni, 34, Software Engineer, Santa Clara

    I am a feminist — I believe women are equal to men and deserve access to all the opportunities, choices and fun that is available out there!
    ~Sameera Khan, 39, Researcher, Journalist, Mom, Mumbai

    I think I have been a feminist since the age of 5, ever since I could understand things. My father would be away for months for work and my mom would take care of everything. In the years that followed, I met women who were independent, intelligent, level-headed and great conversationalists and I had no reason to believe in the superiority of men. Feminism is the middle path, the path where one accepts that both the genders are equal. I completely subscribe to it.
    ~Sheece Baghdadi, 30, Tech Writer, Pune

    It bothers me, even if only on the level of form, that one manifestation gets to be the norm and others are considered plain aberrations of it. This goes for women, gay people, minorities, animals…I know it sounds ethereal, but why can’t we all just ‘be’? Why do we have to be slotted and compartmentalized? If I am a feminist, then what feminism represents to me is a goal in time when the word won’t be necessary anymore.
    ~Sonal Gopujkar, 29, Pilot, Mumbai

    I believe feminism as an ideology has a different meaning in today’s era. It is no longer “me against you”, no longer “naari atyaachar band karo”, but more of a sitting down together at the table and explaining where things have gone wrong and how we need to rectify them, and whenever I see my friends doing that, I feel like supporting them.

    ~Varun Alagati, 25, Post Graduate Student, Mumbai

    ***If you are a feminist and wish to stand up and say it, do send us your picture and details at ultraviolet.editor@gmail.com ***

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    9 Responses

    1. I wish there would be more Ranjan Rajgopauls in our world! An understanding man is a rare species…..

      I second what Sonal Gopujkar has to say….we would all be so much happier if we could only just “be”…no titles…nothing.

    2. As a white, raised female, and as an oppressor, it is my responsibility to address the fear in women’s studies and feminism. Trustee Manager

    3. Great idea! I’m not one for sending in photos, so I’ll just say my bit here:

      I am a feminist because I believe in individual liberty, and because I see it denied everyday to women on the basis of their gender. My battle is against this denial of justice, against society’s acceptance of it as a normal thing.

    4. What Suchi said – I don’t have a picture I can send, but this is what I have to say:

      If you believe all human life is a struggle for perfection, and that all movements/revolutions are attempts to edge us closer to a more equitable, perfect state of being, feminism is the most important, critical, wide-ranging of all movements. There is no other prejudice, no bigotry that is as critical to be removed as is sexism. None that is as universal, as entrenched, as historical, as sanctioned by socio-cultural norms, as hard to raise consciousness about, as difficult to fight against. All inequalities get exacerbated because of sexism – be they based on economic factors (e.g. poor women vs. rich women), or race, or caste, or religion, or geography, or beauty standards, or physical/mental disability, or education levels, etc. etc. There is no comparable parallel in history to 52% of ALL humanity being subjected to a different standard, a harder set of rules, than the other 48%. Therefore, I cannot help but be a feminist.

      – ‘Chevalier’, 27

    5. I am a humanist, if you can call it that… I choose to love all equally and do not wish to be bracketed or appropriated by any group. It also helps to have no leanings if I wish to fight from an ideologically independent base with a complately new set of arguments. But, that’s just me…

    6. Chevalier….I’m enthralled by your response…the women are constantly battling odds for the simplest of jobs and forever multi-tasking…. Yet women are sporty and laugh at all the sexist jokes too! SO PROUD TO BE A WOMAN!

    7. Thank you all, for adding your perspectives.

    8. […] Indian feminists. It’s smart, passionate, and information-packed. Dilnavaz Bamboat showcases what an Indian feminist looks like, Annie Zaidi takes a closer look at pink, unmana thinks the State should stay out of marriage, and […]

    9. […] “Along the way, many a times, we had heart-burns but we did not burn those sexy bras!” By da wolfe I was going to write a killer takedown of the coalition – and of Stephen Harper this weekend… but right now I want to post about feminism all day. I want to post my favorite feminist/pro-woman country songs and about the feminism101 site I’ve gotten links to. But what I just found was a “possibly related” link that’s definately related. These are the first posted comments by people who call themselves feminists from a post on Ultra Violet called The Many Faces of an Indian Feminist: […]

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