Last year this time, the theatre society of the college I teach in got disqualified at a Sahitya Kala academy event, because their play had the words BRA PANTY. I am the teacher convener of the society. Infuriated, I came back home and made a post about it. The post immediately got more than 800 likes and 200 shares. You can read it here:
The next day I was inundated with calls from newspapers, HT, TOI. I gave an interview to HT after which the Head of my institution advised us not to give any more interviews. However my HT interview and my FB post was picked up by atleast 20 newspapers and online portals (you can do a name search and you will see the articles). In the following week RED FM, Radio Mirchi, NDTV called me, pestered my students to give interviews but we refused. The kind of media attention this incident was getting was very surprising to us. Then I realised what was happening. I was protesting the abnormalising of women’s day to day garments, the perverse titillation that a simple word like BRA brought about in the minds of the judges. I realised the news agencies were doing the very same thing, using the very same words in their headlines for click baiting and TRP and titillation. OH the IRONY! my protest was being USED for the very reasons I was protesting.
Now let us fast forward to 9-11th Nov 2017, the worker’s Mahapadhav, that convened recently in New Delhi’s Parliament street. Workers from all parts of the country congregated in the heart of Delhi to protest the exploitative labour practices of the Government. 300000 workers had come from various parts of the country to protest the anti-worker policies of the government over the three day strike. The third day of the strike was of scheme workers. Since scheme workers are mostly women, Parliament street was a sea of women workers. However, it was heartbreaking to see a complete media blackout of the event. Their hopeful faces looked for solidarity from those who have the power to amplify their voices; but, sadly, not one was to be found. NO Media except for NewsClick.in absolutely NONE was on Parliament street on those three days. A few of us went and talked to the women out there, to lend them a sympathetic ear, and wrote down their stories, took their pictures. They asked us if we were from some big TV or newspaper, we shook our heads sadly and promised them that we will carry their stories as far as we can. I came back home and posted pictures on my FB wall, sent those stories to some portals, but it got very little traction. We repeatedly tried to amplify their voices but the middle class was just not interested, the same middle class which liked my BRA PANTY post 800 times and shared the newspaper articles thousands of times were just not interested in the struggles of the working class. This indifference was both shocking and heartbreaking. ONE journalist just ONE Angshuman Choudhury contacted me for a story and I wrote an article about the plight of the women workers. You can read it here
http://eleventhcolumn.com/…/voices-new-delhis-grand-worker…/ . I posted the article on my FB page and it got about 50 likes and 30 shares. The hypocrisy of media, middle class people was always known but the indifference self proclaimed middle class elite feminists showed towards this event, towards working class women and their struggles was so disheartening. The event did not become part of their ‘feminism.’
The worker’s protest had large numbers of women in attendance. They were scheme workers, Aanganwadi workers, ASHA workers. Just a few weeks back, after a law student had brought out a #himtoo list of sexual predators in academia based on anonymous victim accounts, a storm had broken out on social media. Some feminists felt this was the way to go, others were issuing a word of caution on the methodology and appealing for “due process” to be followed. The fight became nasty, and there was name calling and heated arguments on social media debating who the true feminist were really, the “Savarna” feminists or the “subaltern” feminists, the “older” feminists or the “younger” feminists. Hours and hours of pedantic upper class elite feminist debate, went on like a rudderless boat. I was a part of that wasteful exercise too. I found my answer.
THESE ARE THE TRUE FEMINISTS. Here are a few faces, people I would revere as feminists
These are Aanganwadi workers from Sambhalpur, Odhisha. Many among them are widows of farmers who have committed suicide. They have lost everything, yet they came, they fought. These working class women are the real heroes, the true Feminists. These women who fight daily battles against patriarchy, unequal wages, exploitation. Feminism is a lived experience for them. They came to Parliament street with babies tied to their waist, forgoing their daily wages, going on empty stomach to assert their rights. These are the true feminists, the 99 percent, the working class women. What resilience! what power emanating from them! And if we can’t show them solidarity, if we don’t listen to their stories, if we don’t go stand with them shoulder to shoulder, if we can’t amplify their voices, if we can’t include them in our feminist discourse, if we just hover around issues that affect us, then our Feminism be DAMNED!!!
And the heading of my write-up was clickbait, because I know, most of you won’t read it otherwise!