Is Tanmay Bhat right about feminism? Did Lisa Haydon really misinterpret feminism? Or has Feminism gone from a movement for women’s equality to a misandrist and self-serving cult?
In March 2015, Shyama Krishna Kumar in an a column for the The New Indian Express argued, “Every day, women on the Internet and in the real world are called out for being feminists — labelled as bra-burning, man-hating liberals; when the opposite is true. Feminism is not an attack on men, but an embracing of the fact that all humans are equal, whether they are men, women, transgender or otherwise.” She was advocating the introduction of feminist teaching in Indian schools.
Recently in an interview with the The Times of India published on 22 May 2016, actress Lisa Haydon rejected the label of feminism. She said, “I don’t like the word feminist. I don’t think women trying to be men is feminism. I also don’t believe in being outspoken for the sake of it, or just to prove a point. Feminism is just an overused term and people make too much noise about it for no reason. Women have been given these bodies to produce children, and the spirit and tenderness to take care of people around us. It’s fine to be an outspoken and working woman. I don’t want to be a man. One day I look forward to making dinner for my husband and children. I don’t want to be a career feminist.”
Her personal choice to not be a feminist was highly criticised on the social media. Even several left-leaning newspaper and blogs condemned her statements. Writing for the DNA India, Nirmalaya Dutta proclaimed that, “Dear Lisa Haydon, if you believe in gender equality then you are a feminist“. On Miss Malini, a celebrity gossip blog, Priyam Saha wrote, “Lisa Haydon’s take on feminism is everything that’s wrong with the world“. Urmi Bhattacheryya writing for The Quint said, “Sorry Lisa Haydon, but you know nothing about feminism.”
Around the same time, Tanmay Bhat, a Youtube comedian turned TV star, made a rant about feminism on SnapChat. In it he ptoclaimed, “If you believe men and women should have equal rights, that makes you a feminist. That’s it. There’s nothing else.” For his opinion, he got lots of pats on the head. On the Firstpost, Swetha Ramakrishnan wrote, “Lisa Haydon should take tips from Tanmay Bhat on how not to misinterpret feminism“.
I could find only a few bloggers siding with Lisa Haydon. On The Frustrated India, there is Kalpojyoti Kashyap with his article “Why Lisa Haydon makes more sense than all feminists combined?” A journalist for The Times of India, Piyali Prakash wrote in a column, “Why Tanmay Bhat got feminism wrong“. She argued that she uses various perks offered to women like metro coaches reserved specially for women, thus she is “conveniently sexist”.
So, she asked Tanmay Bhat not to brand her as a feminist without her consent. The article brought outraged women to the comments calling her idiot and stupid.
Despite for all their arguments, increasingly a lot of people worldwide are avoiding the label of feminism. In 2014, the hashtag #WomenAgainstFeminist went viral in US. It was started by women who said that they believe in true egalitarianism, and also supported men’s issues. Some of them believed that feminism censors dissenting views. More recently in January 2016, it was reported that according to a survey in UK, only 7% of the people surveyed called themselves feminists, but 86% of the men and 74% of the women supported gender equality. The survey was done by The Fawcett Society, a feminist charity, which choose to published report under the title of “We are a nation of ‘hidden feminists’“, thus forcing the label of feminism on the very people who do not want it.
Frequently, when faced with criticism of modern feminism, many feminists pull the dictionary argument. In the case of Lisa Haydon, Quartz India wrote, “Perhaps it would help if these celebrities look up the meaning of the word “feminism” before denouncing it.” I am bemused that a movement with millions of proponents and a three hundred year history is reduced to a narrow definition of a single sentence.
Over the years, the feminist movement which can be traced to the Suffragette have taken many forms. However in recent years, it has been taking a extreme form. The symptoms of this mutation can be seen among feminists who advocate putting all men in concentration camps and focus on fatuous and first-world issues like gender roles of video game characters and manspreading instead of real issues which still affects several women worldwide. No wonder more and more people now avoid the label of feminist.