The Men of Lipstick Under My Burkha

download

 

After a painfully long journey to the movie screens, Lipstick Under My Burkha is creating a stir with its ‘woman-oriented’ portrayal of sexuality. An overwhelming opposition to CBFC’s Pahlaj Nihalani’s refusal to accept female sexuality helped bring the movie much more than its share of media attention. Some appreciate the well-rounded strong female leads, some say the film falls short of being feminist.

But this film has given us the ability to analyse the male characters completely from a female perspective. The men are one-dimensional, spineless, and only exist to further the plots and characters of the women. We analyse Woody Allen’s women, we criticise Karan Johar’s pseudo-progressive heroines. So why not take a look at Alankrita Shrivastava’s men?
Rahim Aslam, Shirin’s husband (Sushant Singh)
Rahim, Shirin’s abusive, cheating husband is himself a victim of patriarchy. He is supposed to be the bread-winner of the family. He is supposed to have a career. In spite of being a failure at that, he continues to take advantage of a social structure that lets him abuse his wife’s body and mind without even taking up the responsibility of contraception. He has children, but since it is his wife’s responsibility to carry them and look after them, the number of offsprings is a minor detail to him. He doesn’t see Shirin as a person. To him she is a slave, bound to him by holy matrimony. He is having an affair with another woman and treats her with a little more respect, only because she has no obligation to him and isn’t ‘his’ to bully and harass.
Dhruv, Rihanna’s boyfriend (Shashank Arora)
Dhruv’s musical talent and confident demeanour attract a lot of female attention, and he’s well aware of his sexuality. He impregnates a girl, swiftly moves on to another (Rihanna). He neither has to worry about pregnancy, nor about society denying him control of his sexuality. His self-assuredness at such a young age makes other youngsters believe he is ‘cool’, and many of his impressionable and vulnerable peers (much like Rihanna) will act according to what he thinks is agreeable behaviour. As long as women are attracted to him, he can go on without developing any other aspects of his personality.
Arshad, Leela’s boyfriend (Vikrant Massey)
Arshad has strong feelings for Leela. He also judges her for her sexual liberty. Arshad does feel possessive about Leela, but leaves all the hard work of gathering money and planning an escape to her. He dislikes her being close with the man she’s arranged to get married to, but will happily flirt with the foreigner woman walking into his photo studio. He is unsure whether he wants to fight for Leela, judge her, or run away with her. But he’s sure he will not take too much effort in whatever he chooses.
Manoj, Leela’s fiance (Vaibbhav Tatwawdi)
Manoj is the ‘good guy’: the polite, family-oriented and obedient man. He is getting married at the right age, to a woman chosen by his family. He feels lucky that he is with an attractive woman, though he knows nothing much about her personality. He believes whatever feistiness is left in her will soon get subdued after she ‘settles down’ with him. However, he is vastly less entitled than Shirin’s husband. Manoj would probably never take advantage of his wife’s body or yell at her.
He assumes she will not work after marriage, because he will be providing her all she needs. He doesn’t believe there are women who work, smoke or have sex before marriage. Even if they do exist, he’s been taught to judge them as being of questionable character.
Jaspal, Usha’s love interest (Jagat Singh Solanki)
 Jaspal works hard on his body, and loves himself. When he starts getting erotically charged phone calls, he assumes they’re coming from a nubile woman around his own age. He treats Usha, the old lady who comes to learn swimming, with respect. But he doesn’t imagine her as a sexual being. When he realises that he had been having phone sex with a woman way past her prime, it hurts his masculine ego. He is enraged that the ‘affair’ he willingly participated in did not adhere to his notion of beauty and sexuality. He thinks he deserves better quality female attention. So he does all he can with the power that society assigns him. He initiates the public shaming of Usha. He knows she would have no power or say in this; he has nothing to lose. He’s a ‘victim’.
Special mention: The mob that shames Usha
This mob, consisting of both men and women, is the self-assigned moral police, the saviour of ‘tradition and decency’. They turn against their Usha buaji, a woman they revered and worshipped until she was proven to have sexual urges. What enraged them further was that she read erotic books instead of spiritual ones. She broke away from their concept of what an old lady should be. It would be unfair to assign a gender to this mob. However, this mob is unfair, and a danger only to one gender.

Katrina, Ranbir, and the omnipresent phenomenon of mansplaining

This first appeared on: https://feminisminindia.com/2017/06/27/katrina-ranbir-mansplaining/

 

Actors Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor gave an interview to VJ Xerxes Wadia of MTV Insider as part of their promotional tour for their upcoming film Jagga Jasoos. And as Buzzfeed points out correctly, the interview is quite evident of Ranbir ‘mansplaining’ Katrina’s role and contribution to her.

Mansplaining is a modern term for when a man tries to explain something condescendingly or patronisingly, especially to a woman.

Their romantic history, individual acting skills and personalities aside, Ranbir Kapoor clearly shows that he thinks of himself as a superior to Katrina. He also denies her the space to let her speak about her own character even though she has spent far more years in the film industry than he has. In the video, when Kaif is trying to explain the relation and personalities of the two lead characters played by her and Kapoor, he unabashedly interrupts her. When she calls him out on his behaviour, he claims she’s not doing a good enough job of explaining it. He dismisses her by saying that he’s the producer, therefore he knows better.

Towards the end, Kapoor also somehow assumes higher moral ground by saying that he wants to “better” Katrina as an actress, a star and a human being by giving what he has to offer. He says that she did the same for him during one of their earlier films, Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani, thereby implying that he has progressed far more than she has since the 2009 filmVisibly annoyed but keeping her demeanour calm and professional, Katrina Kaif represents what many women undergo on a daily basis.

Women from many professional fields have, in recent times, spoken out about the mansplaining that they encounter. Veronika Hubeny, a theoretical physicist recently had her own theories mansplained to her during a panel discussion at the World Science Festival. American actress, writer, producer and director Lena Dunham had a man comment on one of her Instagram images that she wasn’t cupping her breasts the right way in order to enhance her cleavage.  Such experiences are not exclusive to celebrities, although such episodes concerning famous women are easier to observe due to photographic and video evidence. Buzzfeed had compiled a list of mansplaining experiences by ordinary women, which they called ‘Mansplaining Horror Stories’ in their signature hyperbolic editorial style.

‘Horror’ may not be the right term for such experiences, but instances where the professional woman’s credibility and value for her opinion are undermined could be perceived as something which affects the woman’s confidence and efficiency.  Speaking up about this has also backfired on women in some recent cases. Australian senator Katy Gallagher was targeted by US alt-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos and internet trolls for speaking against mansplaining.

Sweden, which is considered a fairly progressive nation in terms of women’s rights, set up a helpline where women could report mansplaining. As it happened, more men ended up calling than women: some to learn more about the phenomenon of mansplaining, and some to mansplain why this was a bad idea.

Dr Elizabeth Aura McClintock, in an article on Psychology Today, explains that while the term ‘mansplaining’ may be new, it has been occurring for centuries. She links this to power play, where the more dominant person is the one who interrupts more often. She says that having a label for such a common phenomenon of gender inequality is a good idea, since it helps to identify this behaviour and make it more visible.

Media and gender equality may not be the most compatible, but the observance and analysis of every little behaviour of celebrities and politicians has brought behaviours like mansplaining into public dialogue. Even though women may not be able to counter mansplaining every time it happens to them, recognising it is a first step in arresting it. Until that happens, we can only keep an eye out for it, and refute any Ranbir Kapoors that try to take over your personal narrative.

 

 

New Marathi Cinema Can Afford Modern Heroines, But Not Feminist Ones

This article first appeared on https://feminisminindia.com/2017/06/28/marathi-cinema-heroines-feminist-analysis/

 

Women’s empowerment seems to fashionable not just in Bollywood cinema. Marathi cinema is also picking up on this trend of the urban empowered, career-minded woman. The career-minded city girl who dresses as she pleases, eats and drinks what she wants, and makes her own romantic decisions has now replaced the pious and coy female love interests in mainstream as well as regional cinema. But can these films give these women equal treatment?

Let us take a look at the treatment of the heroines of two recent romantic comedies, Chi Va Chi Sau Ka and Muramba.


Savitri (Mrinmayee Godbole), the female lead in Chi Va Chi Sau Ka is introduced with one of her strongest personality traits: her love for animals. She picks up a worm from the road and escorts it to safety on a leaf. Whenever she needs to use a rickshaw, she asks the drivers whether they are vegetarian or non-vegetarian, and will only ride with the ‘shakahari’ ones. Her puritanical casteist behaviour, which she feels entitled to enforce on every person she comes in contact with is the character’s biggest failure. Her potential suitor Satya (Lalit Prabhakar) is equally eccentric about protecting the environment. Savitri declares she wants to live with Satya before getting married, to see if they are compatible. In spite of opposition from both the sets of parents, Savitri refuses to budge. Throughout the film, she refuses to change her personality or habits in spite of growing a fondess for Satya, and actively voices her concerns and problems. This is a welcome change from the stereotypical heroines who become a mellowed down version of themselves and start dressing more traditionally once they fall in love. Even though Savitri has a seemingly strong bond of friendship with her female friends, this film sadly does not pass the Bechdel test. In spite of having very different and strong personalities, Savitri and Satya predictably decide to get married in the end. What causes a tiff between the two is the presence of non-vegetarian food that Satya throws for Savitri. Even though Satya gives up meat for her, she remains miffed that he hasn’t enforced her principles on others who may not have the inclination or privilege to be purely vegetarian. She agrees to be more eco-friendly, thus showing some willingness to compromise and accept others’ beliefs.
One of its most interesting characters is Satya’s grandmother, played by Jyoti Subhash. The widow finds love in her neighbour (played by Satish Alekar), and sneaks away on dates with him, since her son refuses to let her do as she pleases. As the head of a patriarchal family, he even feels the need to control and morally police his aged mother. The fact that even a much older woman’s sexuality and wishes are controlled by her son is a sad reflection of the lack of power women have over their own lives, irrespective of their ages. Satya’s support for her romantic endeavours is endearing to watch, as is her support for the live-in relationship of Satya and Savitri. Her character also stands out against the ageism of the film industry, and the notion that romance is reserved only for the young.
In Muramba, we also see a career-oriented Indu (Mithila Palkar) and her romantic turmoil with her long-term boyfriend Alok (Amey Wagh). The couple decide to break up, as we find out in the course of the movie, because of Alok’s lack of focus and fear of professional failure. Since the film is for most part, a conversation between Alok and his parents, Indu’s perspective is unclear. In Alok’s flashbacks, we see him being silently resentful towards her professional success. He becomes passive aggressive when she speaks to him of an opportunity to work in Kerala for a year, and acts defensive and passive aggressive whenever Indu tries to speak to him of his career. In the end, Alok apologises for his behaviour and asks her to get back together with him. Even though he does not address what he plans to do about his career, Indu readily agrees to get back with him without solving the problem that got them to break up in the first place. She however does voice her concerns about being able to manage her career and home after marriage, and not being able to enjoy the freedom she does as an unmarried girl. These, of course, are gender specific issues that a man in Alok’s position and privilege may never have to face. Indu tells him that sometimes he needs to be strong for her, and sometimes she will be strong, which seems like a healthy basis for a relationship.
Alok is unable to feel happiness for his partner’s success. After telling his parents about his break up and failing to receive the sympathy and comfort he seeks, he needlessly tells his parents about an incident where Indu had too much to drink and vomited by the road. His scheme in ‘shaming’ Indu only partially succeeds. He is able to see the world only through his own perspective. So when his father asks him about one of Indu’s good qualities, he says, ” She’s better than me at everything.” He is unable to view her as a separate individual and admire her qualities in isolation, and judges her competency compared to his incompetency. Towards the end, Alok’s father explains to him how Indu is the girl who truly understands him, and he needs her as a life partner. But Alok’s infantile behaviour and emotional manipulation unequivocally demonstrate why he’s the wrong life partner for Indu. Nevertheless, this film does not afford Indu some space, emotional growth and the ability to detect an abusive relationship.
A social trend that both these films have picked up on is parental approval and acceptance of youngsters’ romantic and life choices. In spite of Savitri and Satya’s parents being scandalised by the trial live-in situation, they never actively forbid or stand in the way of their strong-minded children. Savitri’s father nags her about keeping the relationship strictly non-physical, and Satya’s mother keeps an eye on them constantly, to which the pair literally and metaphorically shut the door on. In Muramba as well, Alok and Indu’s relationship is openly accepted by both their parents. Their refusal to accept the break up and give the couple some space is annoying, but progress in the older generations’ attitudes is clearly visible.
As women become more confident, outgoing and ambitious, it is refreshing to see relatable characters in these romances. Films from the woman’s perspective without familial or patriarchal pressures weighing her character down would be most welcome. However both the films lack the space for self-reflection and growth for the woman. In Chi Va Chi Sau Ka, Savitri is shown as a fiercely principled woman, who lacks the courage or willingness to accept different beliefs. By giving in to her unreasonable demand to be only surrounded by herbivores, she is treated as greater than equal by her partner. In Muramba, Indu, in spite of being a hard-working and career-minded woman, has to give in to an emotionally abusive relationship where her partner neither values her success nor her efforts to encourage him into facing his own professional fears. She has to settle for a relationship where she gives a lot and gets very little out of it. If such films are able to rid their women of a certain superiority complex (Chi Va Chi Sau Ka) or the romantic obligation to end up with the hero (Muramba), maybe the female leads will some day actually be feminists.

Machismo, Hand-shakes, and Angela Merkel

Since the US Republican Presidential debate in 2016, and more so since the entry of Donald Trump into mainstream politics, hands have played an important role in political discourse. “And he referred to my hands, ‘if they’re small something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem, I guarantee it,” Trump had said, in response to Senator Marco Rubio’s comment about him having rather small hands.

It has been more than a year since this adolescent-level display of machismo in a completely inappropriate setting. Yet, Trump’s hands, and jokes surrounding their size have remained a constant in political coverage as well as late night comedy shows.

This hand obsession followed Trump in his first foreign trip as the President of the United States. A video of Melania Trump swatting away his hand as they walked on the red carpet at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport went viral. Even as talks about the Trumps’ unhappy marriage were doing the rounds, Donald’s little hands got even more coverage.

Trump’s awkward style of shaking hands was in public focus long before he embarked on this international voyage. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s expression after a painfully long handshake with Trump, Canadian President Justin Trudeau’s resistance to Trump’s awkward hand-yanking, Trump ignoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s request for a handshake, and French President Emmanuel Macron and Trump’s tense handshake were all widely covered, and spoken about. Newly elected Macron, who is seen as a counter against the wave of nationalistic politicians rising across Europe, explained his handshake saying, “One must show that we won’t make little concessions, even symbolic ones.”

Trudeau and Macron, both considered forward-thinking modern leaders, were hailed as the heroes who emerged victorious in this show of powerful handshakes, a topic that barely made news in the pre-Trump era.

Whilst the show of masculine prowess was still being discussed around the world, it took a woman, Merkel, to stand up and state in clear terms that Europe could no longer rely on their former allies, and had to take their destiny in their own hands. Some said that her actions may be poised for the upcoming German elections, where her opponents are taking a thoroughly anti-Trump stance, thus pressuring her to become more vocal about Trump’s policies. The need for a stronger, more united Europe after the shock of Brexit may also have prompted her actions. (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-merkel-trump-idUSKBN18P0VV) Be that as it may, she was the first European leader to make a definitive statement about Europe’s opinions on Trump where others have only tiptoed.

Angela Merkel may have her own awkward handshake moments, where she appears to have dodged a handshake from our own Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a similar manner. But like the consummate professional that she is, never has she gotten into statements or discussions of meaningless one-upmanship. She may never have deemed that as necessary, being the leader of Europe’s strongest economy.

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Merkel at Trudering festival in Munich
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor and head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel toasts during the Trudering festival in Munich, Germany, May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo

On June 1, 2017, Trump made the decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal, which is a global agreement with 194 countries (including India), pledging to reduce carbon emissions and work towards a future with clean energy. While dismay at this decision was expressed by many of the developed nations bound by the agreement, Merkel was her usual composed but clear self, called the decision “extremely regrettable,” also saying, “I’m expressing myself in very restrained terms.”

Being a woman in a man’s world, perhaps she is not expected to participate in strenuous handshakes. But no one, not even Trump, doubts her great capability as one of the world’s most powerful leaders. Perhaps Merkel’s greatest strength is to speak clearly and consistently, nevertheless emphasizing on Germany’s willingness to co-operate with other nations. Then again, maybe her greatest strength is to act calmly and rationally, in spite of the constant show of machismo that surrounds her.

The government thinks women need sindoor more than they need sanitary napkins

This article first appeared on http://www.feminisminindia.com. The link can be found here: https://feminisminindia.com/2017/05/23/gst-sanitary-napkins-sindoor/


As India braces itself to the new Goods and Services Tax rates that is to be rolled out on July 1, the GST Council declared tax rates for 1211 items on May 18.

Among these were sanitary towels, napkins and tampons. The tax rate on these goods would be 12% (this is the second lowest tax slab, the others being 5%, 18% and 28%). (https://www.scribd.com/document/348819852/GST-rates#download)
Superficially, this is an improvement since until now, sanitary napkins, which are considered a luxury item in India, were taxed 14.5%.
For comparison, the government has declared sindoor, bangles and bindis, which have no essential value, as tax-exempt. Also for reference, just some of the other items included in the same category as female hygiene products are drawing books, frozen meat products and cellphones.

Many of the currently available brands of sanitary napkin are made out of plastic, which is non bio-degradable. Burning such products creates harmful toxins in the air. Sanitary waste, therefore should be considered as medical waste, since it also includes blood. One way to dispose them is incineration. As part of the Swachh Bharat campaign, two such incinerators were installed in two hostels in New Delhi. However, the movement failed to spread across the nation. (http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Chargesheet/why-we-need-a-proper-menstrual-waste-disposal-system/)
Feminism in India, along with Eco Femme, Uger Pads, SHE Cup, Boondh, Shomota and Saathi launched #ThePadEffect campaign to address this issue. This movement sought to create awareness about the harmful effects of sanitary waste on the environment, and also provided information about the various eco-friendly alternatives that are available in the market. (https://feminisminindia.com/2017/05/16/infographic-what-thepadeffect/the-pad-effect-infographic/). This campaign will be culminated on May 28, which is celebrated internationally as Menstrual Hygiene Day.

Rohtak Rape Brings Into Focus India’s Troubled Relationship With Reproductive Rights

Note: This article first appeared on Feminism in India. The link can be found here: https://feminisminindia.com/2017/05/19/reproductive-rights-india/

 

The pregnancy of a ten-year-old girl from Rohtak, Haryana who was repeatedly raped by her stepfather has once again brought into public domain the topic of abortions in India. The question of termination of the girl’s pregnancy was in the hands of a panel of doctors.

According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971), a woman who is under 20 weeks pregnant has the right to terminate her pregnancy. However, Dr. Manisha Gupte, co-founder of the NGO Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (MASUM), says that there is a difference between the MTP and an abortion.

“Abortion means that a woman can go to any clinic and get her pregnancy terminated. But India’s MTP act requires the woman to get the permission of a doctor to abort the foetus. It is dependent on the doctor’s individual opinion, which is a very subjective matter,” she said, in an interview with the writer of this story. Even though medical practitioners are referred to in such cases, there have been examples where courts have denied women the permission to abort the foetus.

 

There has been a rise in cases of women asking for the right to lawfully terminate their pregnancy. The law takes into consideration reasons such as rape, threat to the physical or mental health of the woman, or failure of contraceptive. In 2015, a Gujarat High Court judge rejected the plea of a 24-year-old rape survivor to terminate her pregnancy, stating that it would endanger her life.

INDIA’S MTP ACT REQUIRES THE WOMAN TO GET THE PERMISSION OF A DOCTOR TO ABORT THE FOETUS.

One of the reasons behind the 20-week limit was to curtail abortions based on gender-biased sex selection. According to the census, in 1981 and 1991, there were 933 and 927 females per 1000 males respectively. More than 20 years after the MTP act was passed, the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques act was implemented. The aim was to stop sex-selective termination of pregnancy (As per the 2011 census, the sex ratio remains skewed towards males at 933:1000).

“The lack of knowledge about abortion rights is widespread. There’s also a huge social stigma attached to the act of abortion, and also to women’s sexuality in general. Women are often judged and mistreated at abortion clinics. This is why several of them opt for unsafe methods. In many cases, it is the family controls the woman’s reproductive rights,” says Dr. Gupte.

In India, 10 women die every day due to unsafe abortions according to experts, a report in January 2017 said. US President Donald Trump’s ‘Global Gag Rule’, banning federal funding for organisations that provide information on terminating pregnancy, is expected to reduce fund flows into India by at least Rs 68 crore. This action would affect rural women the most, a report by The Economic Times stated.

In 2003, the MTP act was amended to allow terminations of pregnancy only in clinics or institutions established, maintained or approved by the government. In spite of this, around 66% of India’s abortions are carried out through illegal methods, according to a study published the World Health Organisation and the Guttmacher Institute in 2012.

This writer also spoke to Dr. Suchitra Dalvie, Co-ordinator for the Asia Safe Abortion Partnership and former director of the Family Planning Association of India. “Women’s abortion is a challenging issue to deal with, because it’s an intersection of all the other issues that we refuse to confront. It involves women’s sexuality, contraception, socio-cultural conditions, and the patriarchal control over women and their bodies. The priority is always the woman’s health and well-being; the child comes later. Post 20 weeks of pregnancy, the abortion may or may not be dangerous, depending upon the situation and health of the woman. But Caesarean deliveries are much riskier,” she says.

According to data released in response to an RTI filed by activist Chetan Kothari, the number of MTPs carried out in Mumbai was 33,526, a 4% decline from the 34,790 cases in 2015-16. The biggest decline was in the 15-19 age group, showing a positive trend in teen pregnancies. However, experts are sceptical about calling it a healthy sign yet.

Stop enforcing feminism on Bollywood

It’s disappointing when Shah Rukh Khan shirks away from topic of a slightly better shelf-life, or even equal pay for Bollywood actresses. Not because of his many roles as a stalker, emotional blackmailer, misogynist have paved the way for his enlightened view on ageism. But because he is considered one of the more intelligent actors around. According to him, women work ‘5 times harder and gets paid ten times less,’ and the market forces determine the value of an actor.

And he’s not wrong.

This is the reason why Dangal wouldn’t have done well if Aamir Khan hadn’t played the tough patriarch. It’s the reason why Mary Kom, which is also about a successful female boxer didn’t do well. It’s also the reason why Sultan did do well. Then again, bhai ka picture always does well.

We do have the occasional Mardani, Queen, or Jai Gangajal. But they will never come close to the sycophantic 100-crore club, which remains dominated by the likes of Khan. Of the top 10 most commercially successful Hindi films, only one is without a Khan (Bajirao Mastani). And of the highest grossing 15 Indian films, only Bahubali and Rajnikant’s Kabali are Khan-less.

In a sense, SRK is right. Commercial cinema is entrenched in financial super-success. Seemingly, the people in the best position to change that are the Khans.

Aamir, with Dangal being his last release, is the one creating the most positive change. A film about two young girls who are sportwomen, and not romantic accessories, is something none of the Khans have done before. He may have played an authoritarian with little regard for his daughters’ wishes, but any father-daughter story from Haryana that doesn’t involve infanticide, forced marriage or honour killing is commendable.

SRK may publicly accept the sexism and ageism, but that’s all he’s willing to do. He may even go the extra mile to patronise feminists by saying women are better than men. But his films rarely demonstrate a basic respect for women. He might have done a Chak De! India, but that does not dissolve him of his criminal offences like Chennai Express and Happy New Year.

Speaking of criminals, Salman may have films with fiesty-looking women, until they fall in love with him and forget all previous personality traits. They dissolve into the quintessential Bollywood wife: attractive impregnable slaves. Salman, on the other hand, has risen even more ever since he stopped trying to put an effort into his roles.

As the actresses cast against them get younger and younger, they are in such a cemented position that they will never get rejected by the heroine. That responsibility falls solely upon Ranbir Kapoor. Age is not the only deterrant to women starring against the Khan. They will have no qualms starring against ‘pure’ newcomers. On the other hand, the industry will subtly (and overtly) slut-shame Sunny Leone. She can be an item number, but never the love interest of any of Bollywood’s most expensive men.

Bollywood’s leading women have predominantly shied away, or gone back and forth on being feminists. And it’s completely fair that they don’t call themselves the f-word. It’s because they aren’t feminists.

The only women who have openly addressed the wage-gap are Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kangna Ranaut. Yet, one is known for her whimsical behaviour, or her apparently horrifying choice of name for her own son. The other one is known for her terrible taste in men.

There have been moments of some female empowerment. Cleavage gapers have been shamed, a cricketer boyfriend of an actress spoke up against calling her a ‘distraction’, and there are some women without the ideal Bollywood-heroine body type defending their right to exist whilst not looking like a Barbie doll.

However, none of the actresses are ready to be openly feminist. They dance in heels while men wear flats. They wear skimpy clothes and dance in freezing temperatures with a fully clothed man. They are constantly nitpicked on for their natural facial features and bodies. And if they dare change something, they will be shamed for that. They work as much as the men do. Their financial success is short-lived: many of them will be out of work by the time they’ve reached their industry shelf-life – for everyone loves a movie about a man and a youngthinbeautifulperfect woman. In spite of this, if they still don’t firmly believe that they deserve equal pay, then they’re really not feminists.

So we should really stop asking every famous vagina-owner about feminism. Especially when they come from an industry created to satisfy the patriarchy through elaborate song-and-dance rituals. If we want an unbridled feminist moment from Bollywood, all we can do is wait for the occasional Queen. Or even a Sunny Leone interview.