India’s first ever “I Need Feminism” campaign at IGIT and AUD

Feminism in India Project is an initiative started by me last year to learn, educate and develop a feminist consciousness among the youth. It is a social media movement required to unravel the F-word and demystify all the negativity surrounding it. I have been working on this project since a year now and plan to take it forward by holding campaigns and events and providing sex education workshops in schools and universities.

One such campaign was held on 15th April 2014, i.e. last Tuesday when I with a group of close friends and volunteers organised a ‘I Need Feminism’ campaign at Indira Gandhi Institute of Technology and Ambedkar University Delhi.

Poster for INF campaign

‘I need Feminism’ campaign is a public awareness campaign aimed at asking people why and how feminism is important to them. The campaign is directly inspired from a similar campaign organised at the Oxford University and at the Cambridge University, which later became a rage at many campuses across the globe. The INF campaign is a collection of photographs of people using words to voice their opinions about feminism. Both young men and women hold placards, which through the written word raises their voice against gender discrimination and baseless societal and cultural stereotypes. A similar campaign was also organised by the Feminist society at LUMS, a university in Lahore, Pakistan and it was a remarkable success.

We need feminism because we need to bring so many issues to light. There are too many of us getting groped in public, stared at, catcalled, insulted, teased and abused. There are too many headlines about girls getting raped. Too many people are trying to fit both the male and female genders in a box. Too much of “girls can’t do this” and “boys should do this”.  We initiated the ‘I Need Feminism’ campaign to set a platform for both women and men to voice out their opinions and beliefs.

Our team reached IGIT at 10 AM and started preparing for the long eventful day. We began by asking people what they understand by the term ‘feminism’ to break the ice. Once the discussion got into gear people started warming up to the idea. After that it was one slogan after another, we were running from one group of excited students to another. We made it clear right at the beginning that these photographs will be published on our Facebook page and those who were shy held the posters right in front of their faces. We did not convince anyone forcefully to participate as quite a number of students turned down the offer. After collecting a good amount of 45-50 posters from IGIT, we then rushed to AUD where we got an even better response and quality conversations on related topics like gender, patriarchy and women’s rights. Some of the students were skeptic and some didn’t want to include the term ‘feminism’ in their slogans but almost everyone wanted to participate. We even crashed a Gender Studies class and after due permission from the professor requested all the students to participate. The friendly professor also wrote a slogan and got herself clicked. The campaign ended around 4 PM when we started counting our posters and realised that we have crossed our target of interviewing 100 people. The overwhelmed team then as a closing shot wrote our slogans.

It was our first ever offline campaign which is also India’s first ever ‘I Need Feminism’ campaign successfully organized and executed. We received an overwhelming response both at IGIT and AUD. We talked to 100+ people, got posters and photographs of their personal slogans clicked and documented. We plan to do more such events in future and hold INF campaigns at University of Delhi and JNU during the upcoming semester.

Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who’s confronted with it. We need equality. Kinda now.” -Joss Whedon

All the posters along with the photographs can be accessed on our Facebook page here. Below is a collection of some of my top favorites, although it was a little difficult to choose, as everyone who participated in the campaign wrote what they felt and experienced. Some of them even narrated true incidents of street/sexual harassment. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did and I wish to see you in the next round. Cheers!

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Update: Since its initiation, the campaign has been a huge success, a lot of people who could not directly take part in the this particular campaign due to time and space constraints, requested for an online one. And therefore, we have organised an online campaign on our Facebook page where one can send in their photos with their slogans and posters.  Another great news is that we have been featured on various online magazines who loved what we did and wanted to write about us. The voice of our campaign can be found at Life Beyond Numbers, Women’s Web and The Alternative. Hoping for more love and support. Peace.

Delhi says, welcome back!

It’s been almost a month now since I’m back home. I have been hogging on all those missed food items like crazy and my Punjabi family is just contributing to it with their extensive breakfasts and dinners. I re-visited all my favorite places in Delhi which I missed much. But life back home also means I have to reluctantly bring some changes in my lifestyle. Things that I could care about least are now top priority.

The first and most important change that I made as soon as I was back was to put some “extra” things in my bag. These “extra” things are my self-defense weapons whom I also fondly call “mere do anmol ratan” (okay, I’m just humoring myself). These are: one, a pepper spray which I have since December last year for obvious reasons. Second, a Swiss knife that I recently bought which is pretty handy. I occasionally also carry a scarf with me because I don’t drive (read: I can’t drive) and therefore travel a lot via public transport. I have the scarf because you see, exposing your neck, arms and shoulders can be too provocative for some and after all as we have recently learned “It’s our fault”, it is better to be safe than sorry (Fyi, heavy sarcasm involved here).

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There are two incidences which happened shortly after I came back. One was of street harassment and the other moral policing. I would like to describe these two in detail, I hope you will bear with me.

As mentioned above I usually carry my defense weapons in my bag whenever I go out, but this time as I was only walking in my own locality, I didn’t bother to take my bag and neither my weapons. But, you see, as soon as you step out of your Laksham Rekha, danger hovers over you like a fly hovers over a box of Haldiram’s sweets. So it was daytime, I was walking in my locality and there came this big white car (sorry, don’t know which one, it can be a City or an Accent, I’m really bad at this and I hardly care) with three young guys and drove past me. They were really young must be between 18-21. At least they looked younger than me. The driver slowed down the car and ogled at me through his side-view mirror. I ignored for the first time. I walked further peacefully. As I was on foot and they in a car, they drove past me twice and repeated the entire procedure again. I ignored them again.  But this didn’t deter their high spirit of scoring and they tried their luck for the third time. They drove past me again and stopped their car nearly a meter ahead of me. I lost my cool and showed the driver the “middle finger” through his side-view mirror. As expected his big inflated hot air balloon male ego deflated as if someone has pinched it with a pin. He stopped the car, got out and waited for me. By this time, even I was very furious and decided to take on the rage. The conversation went on something like this:

  • He: Why did you show me the “middle finger”?
  • I: Why the fuck were you ogling at me and driving your car past me after every two minutes?
  • He: I did not stare at you and I was waiting for my friend.
  • I: In that case, I did not abuse you. I was motioning to some stranger on the street.

Before he could conjure up any other accusations on me, I walked away and the entire drama ended there and then. Also, I guess because it was day time, there were people on the streets, the guys didn’t dare to take any action against their recently hurt ego. Now imagine the same incident at night. A woman walking down the street, three young guys in a car, dark, and fewer people around. They would have very easily pushed me into the car, silenced my wails and took me away. Further what would have happened, I will not dwell into as we all very well know. Next morning newspapers would have flashy headlines and my family would supposedly go into shame. I would be blamed for walking alone at night and ruining those young boys’ future.

The other incident which is on a more lighter note left me both angry as well as in laughter.  So I was in mall wearing a top which had a deep cut at the back. I was looking for some stuff in the woman’s section when this middle-age woman comes up to me from behind and touches me right at the open slit of my top (creepy).

  • Woman: Ye aapka top yaha se fata hua hai kya? (Is your top torn form here?)
  • I (with a stern face): Nahi, ye aisa hi hai. (No, it is like that.)
  • Woman (shocked and amused): Aisa hai? Par isme to peeche se dikh raha hai.. (Like that? But your back is visible.)
  • I (furious): Aapka bhi to pet dikha raha hai saree mein se (Even your tummy is visible from the saree.)

The woman is highly offended and is about to say something but her friend interrupts her, shushes her down and asks to get away. Fortunately for her, she is saved from my wrath because I sure had some more very interesting and offensive things to say. I look around, there are a few witnesses to the incident who are just staring back at me, in awe or in disgust, I couldn’t tell. With a cold face, I find my mom who is in some other section and narrate her the entire incident. She laughs it off and as compensation I get treated.

I don’t understand why people can’t mind their own business and how can one just come and touch a random stranger that too from behind. One can’t give the excuse that you belong to the same gender or that it was for your own well being. I mean, if somebody touches me from behind, the first thought that will come to my mind is that the person is eve teasing me and my instant reaction would be to turn around and slap the person black and blue in the face.

It is very interesting to know how the keepers of culture have taken their own eccentricities for granted and normalized it. So when it comes to a saree, a lehenga-choli and other such traditional Indian dresses, it is totally normal to expose your tummy, back, cleavage and what not. But if you’re wearing a “western”  top with a slit at the back, you automatically become “carrier” of western culture which is infiltrating our very pure and pious Indian culture. Now I think I should have also poked her tummy. It would have been more fun!

What did I learn from these incidents?

  1. Carry your self-defense weapons whenever and wherever you go. It doesn’t matter even if you are standing right outside your house.
  2. People who don’t mind their own business need a taste of their own medicine.
  3. When walking on the street, don’t look down, walk confident, shoulders out. Don’t give the impression that you are scared. Better, if possible, walk with a pissed off expression on your face especially when walking past a group of rogues.
  4. No matter what you do, what you wear, how you walk, talk, etc, people are going to say something because that’s their work. So don’t give a fuck about “log kya kahenge” and continue to stay amazing!

What to expect if you are dating a feminist woman

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So you thought dating a feminist woman would be a nightmare? It’s actually not and it can be very refreshing for men, especially when it takes quite a load off you. Feminist women are really easy, a lot easier than people think. They support equality between the sexes. Yes, it’s that simple. And no, feminists don’t hate men. They neither think men are evil nor that all men are rapists. Yes, you can fall in love and be a feminist. And most importantly, anyone can be a feminist – male, female or other. A feminist is a gender neutral noun.

When it comes to dating a feminist woman, it is actually quite contrary to the popular belief that feminist women can be a head ache. Some men are intimidated but here are some reasons why you should be glad about it.

  1. Picking up the tab. We all know that you are a gentleman, but she might not want you to pay for her or pay every time whenever you go out on dates. She would like to pay sometimes for herself or for both of you. Respect that and you may earn brownie points 😉
  2. Lightening the load. Let her carry her heavy bags herself. You may want to ask once for sheer chivalry but if she refuses, don’t push it. She is a strong woman who can carry her stuff herself.
  3. Giving out your hand. Many men offer their hand for support if while walking there is a rocky terrain or steps or a bad road or anything even a slightly unkempt. I know you are just being chivalrous. But she might not appreciate this. After all, she is not feather light that she will fall down a couple of steps. She can walk alright.
  4. Chuck those petty gentleman habits. Opening the door of the car for her, pulling the chair for her, offering your help any time or every time. If she likes you, she likes you. You don’t require these courtesies to impress her.
  5. Ordering the meals. You would not want to do this at any cost. This is a big no. This kind of behaviour also comes off as being inconsiderate or rude or worse, she may think you are trying to curb her freedom. After you have decided yours, ask what would she like to have and refrain from giving suggestions, unless asked for.
  6. Don’t fight her battles. She is in a mess, let her clear it up herself. Feminist women have grown out of fantasy myths such as ‘knight in shining armour’ or the ‘damsel in distress’. She is needs no prince charming to save her. She can handle that mess.
  7. Don’t try to own her. Another grave mistake you would not want to do my friend. Questioning constantly about her whereabouts would only land you in trouble. She will think you are typical MCP (male chauvinist pig) who is trying to possess her.
  8. Say no to sexist jokes. No, sexist jokes are not funny and they are certainly not acceptable. And, no she is not being overtly sensitive. And no, it cannot be taken lightly. Sorry, but that’s how it is.
  9. No crying, no drama. See, this one works in your favour. 🙂 You are saved from all the crocodile tears and silly, useless giggling. She is not going to cry at the drop of a hat and neither is she going to use her tears to get her way around you. She is more likely to bail than wail.
  10. You will have a lot to talk about. She is not just a feminist, but also a well-read woman. So you are going to have a lot to talk about. Really a lot. And those topics can range from human rights to capitalism v/s socialism, from environment to sports, etc. She tends to read, write, travel, photograph, play and hold interesting jobs.
  11. Encourage her career. There is nothing else she would like other than this. You support her all the way in her career and she might have something in store for you. Surprise surprise! Never tell her that she doesn’t need to work as you have well-paying job. Grave mistake on your side, which might even cost you your relationship.
  12. Ready in a jiffy. This one again works for you as she won’t put much thought into her outfit or apply a few kilo of make-up or take hours getting out of the shower. She is a pretty confident woman who is not brainwashed by media and the glamorous fashion industry. She is not going to stand hours in front of the mirror deciding what to wear. She might utilise that time in doing totally something else. 😉
  13. No waiting for calls. No, she is not the kind who will wait for you to call her first or ask her out because that’s how it has always been. If she likes you, she will ask you out and if she wants to talk to you, she will call you. You are saved from taking the first initiatives every time. As I said before, she is confident and knows what she is doing.
  14. Saved from V-day. This one made you sigh in relief, didn’t it? Yes, she is above all those illusions of cupid and Valentine’s day. Forget about making it special or buying gifts, you don’t even have to acknowledge it as a special day. It is just another date and just another day in your life. Showing your love need not be on V-day, it can be today, tomorrow, any day or every day.
  15. No wrong ideas of romance. Did I tell that she is not brainwashed? Yes, she has no perfect filmi ideas of romance. Desi movies and Hollywood Rom-coms did not mess with her brain. I’m sure you are glad about this.
  16. Acknowledge the awkward. Don’t try to be smooth if you’re not smooth.  It’s okay to say “I feel shy about asking you out, but I like you.
  17. Listen to the other person. Listen more than you talk. Pay attention to the actual interaction that is taking place and not the one in your head.
  18. Don’t be the tough guy always. We know you care for her, but you don’t have to be the tough guy or the mummy always. You can also sometimes let go of your guard and tell her that you are feeling low and want to be pampered. Trust me, she will love it that you are sharing not just your happiness but also your low points and weakness with her. You can also cry in front of her. She is not going to make fun of you or think what a loser you are.

To be updated as and when more points strike my mind and life. Feel free to contribute. 🙂

Disclaimer: These are author’s personal views and by no means is the author suggesting that every person stick to these points or fall under this category.