Moments in a movement

Oct 14, 2018, 07:25 IST | Paromita Vohra

Suddenly, last week, a range of organisations and individuals wanted me to come do conversations, talks and workshops on consent, sexual interaction, and general gender gyaan - the things I've worked on for much of my life which they suddenly found '

Moments in a movement
Illustration/Ravi Jadhav

"I'm beginning to feel like a sexy sadhvi," I laughed to an acquaintance the other day. Suddenly, last week, a range of organisations and individuals wanted me to come do conversations, talks and workshops on consent, sexual interaction, and general gender gyaan - the things I've worked on for much of my life which they suddenly found 'so important'.

It reminded me of what a feminist activist in the middle-American town of Duluth, Minnesota told me about their domestic violence initiative years ago, "The only time the system or even the world actually deals with domestic violence, is when it becomes a murder case, when it results in the death of a woman. Before that we keep treating it like a minor personal issue."

This is echoed in the news items about "XYZ lends their support to the #MeToo movement" by opting out of some production or the other, by sacking some wrongdoer. But here's the thing. #LoSHA, #MeTooIndia, #MeToo are moments, among many moments of a feminist movememnt across time and contexts. 1996, was a moment when Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist from the Bronx, started #MeToo, as was last year, when #MeToo became a rallying, roaring cry in Hollywood. In 1979, the Mathura rape case set off a series of feminist campaigns against rape, leading to changes in law and culture. The landmark feminist campaigns - and feminist crisis of self-reflection - following the gang-rape of Bhanwari Devi by high-caste men in 1992, the 2012 protests following the Delhi gang-rape of Jyoti Singh, Tehelka, Pachauri, Farooqui, Vishakha judgement - these are all moments in this movement, as are the protests of Pinjra Tod, a nation-wide campaign to break the locks, curfews, and humiliating controls in girls hostels, as was the 'Dalit Women Speak Out' conference in 2017. And so forth.

But, it is also about connecting the dots inside ourselves. Those who have made their millions via misogynist extravaganzas might distance themselves from a Sajid Khan today. But can they distance themselves from their own complicity in the privacy of their hearts - men and women in power alike? There will have to be a connection made between the elevation of men to pedestals of power and adoration, and their routine disregard and humiliation of women, queer folk, employees. Between shallow feminism in average female vigilante and girl power videos and the ridiculous frat-house style work environments of the Phantom Films, TVFs and AIBs.

And between being a privileged woman talking about her oppression, while ignoring or unthinkingly participating in the oppression of other women - as statements from Kashmiri women and Dalit women's collectives have recently explicated. You have to question it all - that's why it's so hard.

People ask, why offensive sexual encounters, abusive relationships and workplace harassment are being conflated. It's because they are connected - to the granular everyday suffocation and violence that is patriarchy. When you connect the dots, it forms a wave that propels change. Things move. That's called movement, or "a movement." If you block this process by hoarding power, that makes for bad blood. Then the only way forward becomes blood-letting.

The idea of revolution is sexy, urgent, intoxicating. But a movement is not a thrilling one-night stand - it is a life-long love relationship of reflection and connection, self-awareness and solidarity with everyone. Yaniki, you have to do it every day.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning, Mumbai-based film-maker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com

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