Feminism in India


On 22nd January, 2019 DU Beat conducted an interview with Japleen Pasricha, founder and director of Feminism in India, an online platform which creates relevant and indigenous content for the feminists, from the feminists.

Here are the excerpts:
Sakshi: What do you think Feminism as a concept for students of Delhi University should mean?
Japleen: Delhi University is one of the most prestigious universities and when you come to College you see a number of students from a diverse background, so I feel as a feminist entering a DU College one thing that one should be conscious of is their own social position and the social position of their classmates. Some of us are very privileged to be born and brought up in Delhi going to the university, I also went to Delhi University Arts Faculty for my undergrad and after that I moved over to JNU but we sometimes tend to remain in ghettos and we have our own clique circles and those clique circles are very much defined by social positions by our class, caste, looks, what we are wearing, abled or disabled, I thinks as a young student entering Delhi University, that is what I wish I knew or I was conscious of this at that time but this is what I would like to tell the kids now that to be conscious of those entering along with you but let’s say is not from Delhi or doesn’t speak English fluently. Be welcoming to other students, that is one way of practicing your feminism because I believe feminism is not a very narrow definition of women and women’s rights for me it is more of an umbrella term for social injustice and its important for me as a feminist to be non-judgemental of those who may not come from a same social position you do.

S: How do you think deep rooted misogyny in the society can be tackled by young girls and boys?
J: I would talk about boys first so, unfortunately there is a thing that other boys tend to listen boys more than they listen to girls or men tend to listen to men, who are the ‘good men’ as opposed to listening to women so I think young men today if they believe in feminism or call themselves feminist, their tasks is to talk to other men. I feel firstly, they should not for lead the movement they are allies and they should do their work of talking to other me n of educating other men and of calling out their peers and their friends so if I am a guy and we both are buddies and you say a sexist joke or you say- “Her booty is so hot!” my responsibility is to call you out and say “hey! That’s disrespectful” or “let’s not say that! That’s very sexist” so for men I think that is their responsibility to call out their own friends. And for young women sisterhood is extremely important and helping other women, especially again coming back to not just helping women who are like you but helping women who are also not like you, who may not have the same resources, come from an economically or socially backward background. So, it is very important for women to push each other up and form this sisterhood because I feel that’s one thing where women make mistakes and the system thrives on us fighting amongst each other in fact I think one we do this it will be more effective to build a movement which supports us.

S: As a woman who has come a long way smashing patriarchy, what do you think has changed in the industry especially for those who want to pursue writing?
J: I do see that today we more women writers and authors who are being published and being recognized and there is one particular movement that I have witnessed on the social media called #showyourwork and this is something that as women and not just women writers we are always told to be modest and if we are talking about our work proudly or anything that we do, it is looked down upon while when men do that it’s all okay. I think this pulling down of self-confidence and just basic self-esteem where we are always told to be shy not talk about our achievements loudly, we are always conditioned to do that and I feel, that is something that I see changing and also women need to believe in themselves and not be shy and talk about their work because it is high time that we put women on the same pedestal as men when we talk about our work hence this hashtag on social media is doing it well.

S: As a feminist, what is your take on the Pinjra Tod protest that took place in the North Campus as well as the South Campus and what do you think of the students response to such misogynistic and patriarchal rules?
J: So first of all, I think the Pinjra Tod protest id a brilliant movement. I think it started in 2015 and I know some of the people that spear headed it and I would say that they have done some ground breaking work and now coming back to the issue, which is discriminatory hostel timings for girls and boys, this again comes back to you knowhow women are seen as passive objects that need to be protected and kept safe, now there are two questions here that I want to ask against whom are women supposed to be kept safe? So exactly who is the danger here? Are we saying that men are the danger? I mean that’s what most of the administrations says because it’s unsafe out. Nobody really talks about talks about what is out there that is unsafe and if they are saying that men are what make women unsafe then what they are actually saying is that men are gone case, there is absolutely no reform that can happen, they are going to be like this, so we cant do anything there, we can’t bring any reform there, we can’t do any change there so it’ s better that you stay inside because if something happens we won’t be responsible. So, when the state, when the authorities, say things like it’s unsafe outside, they mean that men are these dangerous species that have an animal instinct and will just do anything and we can’t do anything about it, there is no hope and also, it’s a very lazy and a dangerous narrative, lazy because the state doesn’t want to actually work on social reform and they take a more lazy route, like let’s you know put women in a cage instead of doing some real work and dangerous because it’s just contributing to the toxic masculinity that we already have. So, we already live in an environment where young boys are that they need to be strong and macho and you know, “boys don’t cry” or “mard ko dard nahi hota” we already are being brought up in a toxic masculine culture and when we say things like women will be unsafe outside, because outside are men are the one’s who just cannot be reformed then, we are just contributing to the environment of toxicity. Second thing, is about women being the passive thing who are the holder of your honour your izzat and we have seen this in popular culture, in Bollywood films as well that they always say if a woman has been raped, uski izzat chali gyi hai or you know the izzat of the family, or the izzat od the brother, father and husband has been destroyed because we place women and women’s bodies as the bear holders of our honour, so that’s another reason why they need to be kept safe because not just for them also for you, so, as a father I need to keep my daughter safe because she holds my honour if like, anything happens to her which in most cases is dishonourable it is also my reputation which will be tarnished. So, here when we talk about sexual violence against women we are not looking it as an act of violence against them or as an act of power inequalities, an act where her agency and autonomy has been taken away from her, we look at it that she has been dishonoured. So, again this idea of a woman’s honour being in her vagina is a dangerous narrative.

S: Please tell us about how you started FII and any tips for the students who want to establish a website forum for a social change?
J: So, I started FII in 2013 when I was still a student at JNU I was doing my M.Phil and FII started as a facebook page first, and the later it became a website. For me the idea was that as a young student generally interested in learning more a women studies, gender studies, about the history of women’s movement, about Feminism, I found a lack of information, both in terms of information which is accessible. By accessible, I mean it is not behind a paywall and it is also in a language that everybody can read in and not just in Academic Journals and the information that I did find was mostly west and America centric information. So, this lack of information and this lack of accessible content that young people today consume is what led me to open FII, which is for Indian Feminists and run by Indian Feminists so, for us the focus is very much that we are desi and we are local and we are talking about issues that are valid here and that concern us instead of a very Global manner. So, that has always been the focus and that is the why I stated FII so that young people like you today can consume content which is feminist and also make feminist content mainstream because it is high time that you know, we count our sexist jokes, we count our sexist memes, we count our sexist content on the internet with Feminist jokes, Feminist memes, Feminist content. So, like that is the reason for starting FII. So , for the second part on how other people can do it, I think social media is a great powerful tool for young people to use to make a change and I would definitely say that as a young student who has maybe a startup idea and has lack of resources, which is very common, young people generally don’t have resources and I also was in the same position when I started the facebook page, it is good to use Social Media to test the waters, to test the idea, and also, to build a community because today its important especially if you are talking about a social issue or talking about a social change ,you need to have a community. So, it’s a good place to start on social media or within your own college. Most important thing is you should have a community of people who believe in what you are doing, agree with what you are doing so that when you fall back, and, you know being a social entrepreneur, ther are a lot of setback. Like, when we hear entrepreneurship journeys we always hear about successes and people don’t really talk about failures so I think it is also important to talk about them, and learn from them, and have a community to fall back on and have a community to also brainstorm because nothing is just one person’s work FII is not just me, FII is like, so much bigger and better than me and what helps me is my team and my community so that is something which is very important.

Feature Image Credits: Urvi Singh

Sakshi Arora
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