Women’s Day just went by on March 8 and there was, as always, lots of buzz on women’s issues and initiatives on social media. However, the tokenism around assigning a single day for women, who continue having to fight for basic rights and access every day, is often glossed over on this day of ‘celebration’.
In an interview with Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor, former journalist and present host of political satire show Why So Serious?, Akash Bannerjee, asked him about many women related issues. Tharoor’s answers on women’s issues are a breath of fresh air from the regressive views voiced by many politicians.
In the video, Akash asks Tharoor to present his thoughts on issues related to women and gender “as succinctly as possible” and “as poignantly as possible”.
“What does Shashi Tharoor think about the following,” Akash begins, and presents the politician with statements and words such as ‘feminism’, ‘gender quality’, ‘night curfew’, ‘33% reservation (for women)’ and so on.
Beginning with Women’s Day, Tharoor says, “Every day is women’s day.”
On reservation, he says, “It’s the right thing to do. Until we have demonstrated the capacity to give at least a third of the candidacies in our politics to women without being ordered to do so by a law, we have no choice but to pass such a law.”
He also opines that birth control should be something that “every woman is empowered to use”, and also advocates for women’s reproductive rights.
Tharoor also has an interesting take on gender equality. He says, “Goes without saying! Men are perhaps lucky that all women are demanding is equality. In so many respects, they are superior to us. They have all the intellectual attainments we have, they have all the talents we have. And they also have the ability to produce and nurture babies, which we don’t. Why do they only want equality?”
He also states that “every single modern person ought to be a feminist irrespective of gender.”
Watch the full video here:
Tharoor’s answers in this segment are quite refreshing, except perhaps when he is asked to respond to the statement, “this is a man’s job”. He says, “Ain’t no such thing. Except maybe cleaning sewers.” This is somewhat problematic, considering that manual scavenging has been outlawed for many years in India, yet it is common practice for contractors and authorities to send down human beings to clean manholes and septic tanks. Manual scavenging, regardless of the gender of the person, poses serious health hazards, many even fatal.
Another clipping of the same interview was posted by Akash the next day, where he quizzes Tharoor about his Hindi vocabulary.
“Dr Shashi Tharoor’s English has been in much discussion… But time now to flip the switch, time now to see how much Hindi does the man know,” begins Akash.
It is of course, not necessary for every Indian who speaks English (and other languages) to know Hindi at all. However, this is something that much of the north media seems to forget. Regardless, Tharoor gets a good number of the 20 Hindi words right in this segment as well. He even throws in a friendly jibe at Akash in the beginning, saying, “Then I will give Malayalam (words) to you (to guess) in return.”
Tharoor also uses the opportunity to throw some serious shade at the BJP. While defining ‘jumla’ for instance, he says, “Jumla is what Mr Amit Shah and Mr Narendra Modi did to the nation in a series of speeches, almost four years ago.”
Defining “acche din” later, he laughs and answers, “It is this elusive concept… the Greek equivalent is ‘chimera’. It is something which people talk about but no one has ever seen. It floats in the elusive distance and as you approach it, it recedes further and further away. It is copyright by a certain man with a beard and a certain man with a pot belly and not much hair, and they will keep offering it for you to follow them like the Pied Piper of New Delhi.”
Tharoor’s witty replies had Akash reasonably impressed too. Watch the full video here: