It rankles when people compare me to Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey the moment they see me.
I revisited Chimamanda Aditchi Ngozie’s TED Talk after ages today, and I felt the need to write on the barely touched-upon topic of brown girl feminism. She spoke of the danger of a single story.
I live in an urbanized society where I live in some first-world manifestation of conscious capitalism. We talk about circular economies, we are grateful, and feminism is our privilege as a collective.
We listen to podcasts, new age music and subscribe to a brand of feminism Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, and Tina Fey endorse. We Tsk tsk appropriately when glamorous yet anorexic or bulimic emaciated Angelina Jolies and Nicole Kidmans show up on the red carpet in their Louboutins or Blahniks.
Yet, it rankles when people compare me to Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey the moment they see me. Secretly, I want to have that cherubic charm Meg Ryan and Drew Barrymore have. I don’t want to be associated with the practicality of a Mindy Kaling or Poehler – I’d rather have the sensuality of a Beyonce, a Penelope Cruz, a Chimamanda, or a Lupita Nyong’o.
What’s really wrong with me?
Should I talk about the male gaze and the fact that women’s rights in India are supposed to be dissociated from the word feminism?
I don’t think it’s the male gaze. I think it’s the lack of self-obsession that feminism promotes. That self-obsession that makes a diva a diva. It’s self-deprecating humour! Years of being discounted as a gender possibly.
It is a complex conversation this feminism thing. There’s a whole bunch of other ‘things’ that come into picture.
Capitalism. Male gaze. Culture. Cultural appropriation. Racism. War. Male privilege.
My brother once told me, “I’ll block you if you ever use the words feminism!”, and block me he did, not just online, but from his life, and his family; not for using the words, but for being a feminist.
My childhood friend, a victim and a survivor of patriarchy in India, said, “I am not a feminist!” She was scared that her chances of dating a man would go down if looked at herself as a feminist.
Someone on social media complained that men fat shame, I agreed, but someone refuted by saying women do it more than men. I agreed and suggested it might be because of the male gaze. The conversation reached a dead end.
The whole intersectionality of being brown, colonized, and being a woman really hit home when the queen passed away. I possibly laughed a lot harder at #IrishTwitter than I should have. Brahmastra reviews seemed to be trending on the same day, reinforcing that the whiteness of Bollywood gorges prime time even in its failures. That anything brown and feminist smokes, drinks and wears bikinis, or is a doctor or a businesswoman, or is an Indian version of the all-American soccer mom – making curd rice and graphs with unnatural ease – is a snapshot of the privileged brown women who haven’t had the privilege of a feminist education or perspective.
A brown feminist is the same as any other feminist – apologizing for her privilege before she gets a seat on the table. Centuries of the male voices, conversations, women in the kitchen, cooking reproducing, becoming engineers/career women or perfect wives and mothers.
Still wondering how to reach that point of enjoying pointless light-hearted banter with their mothers and aunts that the sons and brothers seem to enjoy so much.
So yes, for the time being, I don’t want to be Mindy Kaling – maybe in a few months, when the festive season ends, and the media stops pushing stereotypes down my throat.
Maybe then, definitely not now.
Gauri lives in Goa and is an amateur writer who strings words together to express herself. She loves bringing stories to life. Fantasy is her favourite genre, because what is life without a few dragons? She worked in the corporate sector for 15 years before choosing to pursue her personal goals and dreams. Living sustainably, and cruelty-free is her mantra.