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The “Bare Minimum” Feminists: Are They Enough? Barely

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This piece talks about the growing expectation to gain a “good guy” tag by men, by virtue of fulfilling the least they are required to do. It delves into the nuances of feminism, and how these men miss out on what the movement has been voicing out.

Women do household work in almost all the societies because they are expected to, that’s what has been normalised in our society. Obviously, now the situation is slightly better, with us reaching the fourth wave of feminism, people becoming more aware, more women stepping out, taking roles in workspaces, and better spaces to come out and talk about these issues. But on the ground level, women are still harassed in these same workspaces, threatened if they speak out and out, and are discriminated against on several platforms. Yet, if a man makes a cup of tea or does the cooking, popular culture celebrates him with such pomp and show. And this is just for one day; I’m not talking about househusbands here, just the members of “I’ll do the dishes once in a blue moon” men club. It’s good that sometimes, such men break conventions, but do we really need to celebrate them for doing the bare minimum? It should not be exceptional for them to do this, rather a basic responsibility which they should fulfil given that they have been exempted from it for so long.Again, these days I have personally interacted with so many male friends who think that by just respecting their mother, sister, or girlfriend, they deserve brownie points, and the badge of being a feminist. What they do not realise is that these are basic things which are expected from us as humans, and while it’s good that we adhere to these ideals, we cannot just get desperate to seek a “good guy” tag. Let the women do talking for their own issues, and we men can then be understanding allies to these feminists.

Often, in metropolitan cities, we get fooled by the illusion of tokenistic feminism, and hail the “bare minimum” feminists as thegold standard of change-makers and influencers. It is good that Shah Rukh Khan decided to put Deepika Padukone’s name in the credits before him for one of his movies, but it is just a symbolic move. In fact, any actor irrespective of gender should be featured in the cast credits according to their screen time or role in the film. Actresses do not need any sympathetic mentions. Better representation and equal pay for equal roles, the film producers should focus more on that.It makes me cringe from the deepest corner of my heart when I see slam artists or actresses being invited as guest speakers and influencers at feminist conclaves (although, the most that I have cringed is when Kirori Mal College had an event by Women’s Development Cell where all guest speakers were men!). Why stick with poster ladies always? Yes, clearly these influencers have positive influence but all I am saying is that we should honour other women too who are doing on-ground work and bettering the lives of Indian women. The glamourisation needs to stop. Along with an Aranya Johar and a Twinkle Khanna, it would be good to bring forward a Pramila Nesaragi (Lawyer and Women Rights Activist), Laxmi Agarwal (Founder of Chanv foundation, an NGO helping acid attack survivors), Shaheen Mistri (CEO of Teach For India) and the women protesting against the government’s recent controversial legal measures in Delhi, Assam, and all over. We don’t even know most of their names or significant work, but the least we can do is recognise them rather than just sharing an Instagram video of an actress or even an actor (read: Ayushmann Khurrana) spreading a manufactured message of feminism ahead of their film’s release.

Therefore, this Women’s Day, let us stop being content with the bare minimum and think and act more instead. Tokenistic measures would help us sleep in the night but deep down, we do know that the perfect reality is far from the imperfect truth that dominates our society right now. Let’s not celebrate only the “bare minimum” feminists (and let us not be one either).

Shaurya Singh Thapa

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