Chetan Bhagat, best-selling author of the recently released ‘One Indian Girl’ describes the book as one that “explains feminism in a light simple manner”.
The novel is written in the voice of a female protagonist who is strong, independent, rich, opinionated and not a virgin – clearly a recipe for a badass feminist, right?
However, even before ‘One Indian Girl’ went up on the shelves, one could argue that Chetan Bhagat’s knowledge of feminism was negligible. Interviewing about 100 women for his latest book doesn’t appear to have helped.
Check out four of his statements that prove he still needs a crash course on feminism:
1. “You want to tell little girls they don’t need men?!”
Whoa… He seems really worried that girls will one day say they no longer need men. A worried-looking Chetan made this statement in an interview to The Wire, where he discusses ‘One Indian Girl’ (and, sadly, more). He went on:
“Men need women and women need men, yes they do! Where is this feminism? What is this feminism?”
(We’re confused. We thought he just told The Wire that his book explained feminism in a “light, simple manner”. Never mind.)
But there’s something seriously wrong with such an argument:
Most women in India, and even the world over, are generally either taught or forced to be dependent their fathers and brothers, or husbands.
And that is why, Mr Bhagat, we need to tell women that they can do perfectly fine without men, and their protection. Morever, the world isn’t just made up of “men” and “women”. There’s a whole bunch of people – the LGBTQ community – who identify themselves in different ways. Little girls who feel more like they are boys, or maybe don’t identify with any gender at all; girls and women who want women as their partners or maybe no partner at all.
So sure, go ahead and write your stuff, but maybe refrain from calling it an explanation of feminism?
FYI, the feminists who said they don’t need men called themselves radical lesbians.
2. The humanism = feminism argument
In ‘One Indian Girl’, Radhika meets a man who thinks feminism is man vs woman and that we should all follow humanism. Here’s how the exchange goes:
[Radhika] “You haven’t heard the word ‘feminist’?”
“Of course I have. I sort of know what it is. Equal rights for women, right? Is that the definition?”
“Feminism is a movement which seeks to define, establish and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal and social rights for women. A feminist is someone who believes in this movement.”
“Wow”, he said.
And then he
says mansplains feminism as:
“I think all human beings should have equal rights. It’s not men versus women, it’s human versus human. Feminist is a wrong term. It should be humanist. The right question is ‘Are you a humanist’? Well, everyone should be.”
While any “strong” feminist, which Bhagat’s Radhika claims to be, would refute him, Radhika agrees with him. Are you facepalming yet?
Here’s where the logic is flawed: Subsuming feminism (or any other movement) within the idea of ‘humanism’ is not just flawed, but disingenuous. Feminism is about dismantling a system which gives one set of people (men and to an extent patriarchal women, and even children) certain privileges while depriving one group of women of their rights and dreams.
Feminism is required for the same reason that teachers in school asked us to speak in turns – to discern voice from the noise.
If you want to call it humanism, then humanism should also be defined as giving up privilege so that others can enjoy their rights.
3. Feminists don't like "girly" things or flirting
if feminism means no girlieness left in this world, then isn't that kind of sad? r feminists ok w flirting for eg?— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) January 22, 2010
*takes a deep breath* Okay, this is going to be hard.
No, it isn’t sad, actually, if girls choose not be “girly”.
At the very core of feminism, Chetan Bhagat, is choice. Don’t confuse sex, gender and stereotype.
“Girly-ness” is a social mould which women must fit into: girls are physically weaker, gossipy, obsessed with their looks; they must be obedient, listen to their elders and so on. Many women and girls are ridiculed and discriminated against because they stray from this mould – they may choose to be outspoken, have short hair, laugh loudly and freely, not give a damn if their bra strap is showing.
Feminists attempt to break these moulds – which do not recognize LGBTQ people – which society uses to punish those who stray from it. It does not take away choice. Meaning, that it is as OKAY for a woman to dress down as it is to dress up. It is OKAY for her to ask for help and also okay for her to not be dainty and do things on her own. And yes, we’re okay with flirting Mr Bhagat. Non-consensual “flirting” would be harassment. FYI.
4. “These are elitist bullies, these feminists.”
In an interview to Nandini Nair of Open Magazine, it appears Chetan Bhagat was unable to disguise his lack of understanding (and support) of all things feminist. Here’s what he said:
“These are elitist bullies, these feminists. They bully men. They bully women. And they say, ‘Until you are with us 100%, don’t talk about feminism’. That is not caring for a cause.”
No, Mr Bhagat, NO. The mistake you’re making here is the same one manslpainers around the world make – they understand feminism and feminists as a singular, uniform movement. In a (rare) nuanced burst in the same interview, Bhagat had demonstrated how feminism changes with context:
“In a village, feminism is ‘humaari beti ko school mein daal do (Enrol my daughter in school)’. In a small city like Indore, feminism is ‘Sunday ko mujhe lunch nahin banaana hai. Mujhe baahar jaana hai (I don’t want to cook lunch on Sunday, let’s go out),” he had said.
In calling feminists “elitist bullies” who want “100%” agreement, he contradicts himself by considering them one homogeneous breed of people and hence proving, he has no idea what it’s like to be one.
(Edited by Anisha Sheth)