I studied Picasso in school and once spent a whole day at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. I was a fan. But that was before I became a feminist. When I went to see a Picasso exhibition at Tate Modern with my mum a few years ago, my internal monologue went a bit like this: “Object, object, object, boobs, object, object, woman-object, boobs, object, object, object, boobs.”
The above is an excerpt from this list of ’10 things feminism ruined for me’ by Emer O’Toole and its so true, once you wear your feminist glasses, you would struggle to appreciate the most simpler pleasures of life. This made me sit down and prepare my own list of things that feminism has ruined for me.
I cannot appreciate art because I can’t stop lamenting the invisibility of women in art. Most famous artists in the world are men. Women of every civilization in every age have been denied the opportunity to express themselves through art, they never could pick up the paint & brush because their hands were full of household chores. Same goes for literature, poetry, philosophy, music, films, sports, handicrafts and so on.
God, Religion, Spirituality
God doesn’t exist. Religion is a farce. But spirituality? Many rationalists would perhaps appreciate spirituality, meditation, soul cleansing etc but I cannot. Because if you do the math, you’d see most of these life-changing practices are preached by male Gurus.
Culture and traditions
I cannot appreciate the traditions and culture of my country because I can’t ignore the millions of women marginalized due to these. I cannot celebrate traditional festivals with my family because they smack of marginalization of women. Raksha Bandhan and Bhai dooj have been the greatest casualties and I judge women who fast on Karvachauth.
I cannot even enjoy traveling. As a traveller I love Rajasthan, its royal grandeur, rich heritage, the magnanimous forts and the tales of heroism of the royal fighters. But when the feminist in me travels to Rajasthan, all I can see are tales of oppressions of thousands of Rajput women written on in every brick on every wall of those forts. All I can hear are the desperate cries of the countless royal women burnt to death along with her husband’s pyres, Sati Pratha being an integral part of royal aristocracy in Rajasthan. The tales of heroism only speaks of deep machismo, preference for male child to run the royal families, the killing of millions of girl child. Rajasthan is a deeply offensive land to women’s rights and freedom.
I cannot enjoy watching Dr. House without feeling guilty of cheating on my feminist values. Dr. House is an offensive mad genious who saves lives more than anybody else in Princeton Plainsboro Hospital. He is as offensive to women as he is to men. He calls everybody around an idiot, hurts people by blurting out bitter truth in their faces. Most of the time it is fun to watch. But when he makes an offensive remark about Dr. Cuddy’s low neck dress or cleavage the feminist in me cringes. Dr. House inspires me in many ways but the feminist in me cringes because I cannot find a female equivalent of him in the entire list of books and films and TV shows that I’ve known around the world.
Everybody loves a mad genius. Throughout literature and films, we’ve had many such eccentric, rude, arrogant, selfish, annoyingly honest geniuses whom you can’t help but love and respect. You love them because at the end of the day they do things you cannot achieve, with their crazy life, they give you life’s important lessons, and through layers of follies, you discover they too have a heart, perhaps broken. But how many of them are women?
Pretty Woman, that beautiful film which makes me cry every time I watch it. I cannot feel good about loving that film so much because I can’t stop thinking about the clichés it reinforces, the idea of a damsel in distress and a knight in shining armour.
Fight Club that awesome book and film, I cannot enjoy it without having the nagging feminist question, “Why there were no women in the Club? Was the first rule of fight club that you won’t allow a woman in the club?”
Che Guevara and his Motor Cycle Diaries
Simply because I can’t stop being jealous of his male privileges. I mean if a woman in India tried doing what he did, travel around the country in a motorcycle, she’d be raped and killed before anything else. Remember what happened to Thelma and Louise. Secretly, I want to wear a Che Guevara T-shirt, put his posters on every wall and live my life by his quotes but instead I keep searching for a woman rebel who can match him.
For most part, feminism has made me fight a continuous war with myself. As a feminist I want to be inspired by female leaders and role models, follow their path, be like them, carry their quotes on bumper stickers, wear T-shirts with their names or faces but instead in most fields, I have a male to look up. Some of my favourite authors, Tagore, Sarat Chadra, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, favourite singers/bands, film stars, film makers, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch, Satyajit Ray, Aamir Khan, Tom Hanks, favourite films and books male centric, my favourite change makers and rebels in history, my favourite scientist Einstein, favourite rationalist Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawkins, favourite economist Amartya Sen…the list goes on.
Thankfully, two of my favourite comedians are Ellen DeGeneres and Tina Fey, and one of my favourite journalists is Barkha Dutt. (Barkha, also happens to be one of the rare species of iconic Indian women who were never married, not a declared celibate and are respected by society for the work they have done in any field)
It is not like there is no exception to the above, there are plenty of women in all of the fields I mentioned above who can be extremely inspiring and worth following but if I leave my feminist glasses they are not my favourites. And that is a great internal as well as external struggle.