Bollywood, Don’t Be Scared of Using the Word Feminism While Talking about Gender Equality
It's not every week that we see two prominent Bollywood actors denounce feminism while rooting for gender equality in the same breath. But this week is special. First, we had Shruti Haasan tell us that she's not a feminist, just a "strong, independent woman" raised by another strong, independent woman. Now, we have Tabu disowning the feminism label, while not disowning the movement.
Hindustan Times writes:
Tabu loves poet and women’s right activist Maya Angelou’s writings but insists this “doesn’t make me a feminist though.” “I don’t want to be called a feminist, but I don’t disown feminism. Our actions are more important than these labels,” she said.
First of all, what does this even mean? At this point, we know that, barring a few examples, actors are intelligent, aware, compassionate people. Every single one of the women who've had a problem with the word feminism - including Shruti, Tabu, Lisa Haydon, Parineeti Chopra, etc - don't actually want women to be treated like second-class citizens. They keep talking about gender equality, they try to sign films with strong, complex female characters, and they try to be good role models for young girls. All of which is great. All of which is feminism. So why not embrace the term?
Why are we so scared of the word feminism?
Feminists, largely, have a bad reputation. At worst, they're thought of as man-hating butch lesbians. At best, they're considered loud, opinionated party poopers. In reality, feminists are people - not just women - who want all genders to be treated equally and fairly. It is out of the question that these women don't know what other women go through across the world, or that they wouldn't want to fix it. It's just that they don't want the label. But why?
Feminism is a movement, it's an ideology. When did it become a bad label?
Simple answer: when men started hating on feminists. It's ironic that women are still refusing to identify as feminists because they've seen the derision on men's faces when they're introduced to one. And female actors, especially, cannot afford to lose their male fan base, since a lot of cinema is still sold with the promise that it'll make all male fantasies come true on screen.
In Hollywood, while the word feminism still has its haters, most female actors embrace it. In India, Bollywood is just discovering the word. Which makes it imperative for women to talk about it and dispel any misconceptions around it. For every Meryl Streep saying she's a humanist (women are the oppressed gender, not humans - this is a gender debate!), you have an Ellen Page and Emma Watson. The stats in Bollywood are not that encouraging.
Priyanka Chopra went from using the word empowerment to using the word feminism when she realized Hollywood will not be tolerant of her ignorance. But she still can't find the time to speak to her sister about it. Tabu has done films in which her characters are far more nuanced than those of the men, she's a Maya Angelou fan, and yet she's not a feminist. You can't have it both ways, Tabu. You can't keep pleasing anyone.
And, frankly, none of these women should be pleasing anyone who thinks feminism is a bad word.
The next time you try to distance yourself from the word, Bollywood, just remember that your impressionable, hysterical fans will use your quotes to attack women when they speak up against injustice. If you have any doubts, we'd be happy to share the contents of our comments and messages. You'll find that 'man-hating feminazi bitch' will be the mildest insult in there.