A concept like feminism taking hold in a country like India is rather challenging because of age-old traditions that are still deeply rooted in patriarchy and which have, as a result, persistently resisted change. But winds are changing, and more women have been spearheading the feminist discourse through movements like #metoo and “I need feminism because…” that have motivated women across the country to unite and speak for their basic rights.
While feminist movements like these are a great way to knit womenfolk together, what has been greatly encouraging for this movement is the participation of men; men who have resisted the common, and incorrect, narrative of feminism as being women vs men, and have acknowledged that feminism is, in fact, a way of living. Let’s take a look at some of these men who, along with women, are breaking gender stereotypes and becoming more involved in the feminist discourse:
An actor par excellence, Farhan Akhtar initiated the social media campaign MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination) to be vocal and raise awareness against gender inequality and violence against women. Advocating for women’s rights, Akhtar went on to become the first man to be appointed as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia. He also collaborated with music composers Salim-Sulaiman on the song Chulien Aasmaan which is a musical take on the theme of women empowerment.
In a panel discussion with Vogue, he was quoted saying, “Gender violence and gender inequality is not just a woman's issue. It's also a man's issue. It's not just because we have mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. We're here because it's a human rights issue and we are all human beings.”
As an actor, Rahul Bose leaves an everlasting impression with his offbeat choice of films and roles that are a class apart. He is also one of the few actors in Bollywood who recognise and are vocal about the pay disparity in the desi Tinseltown. Having worked in women-centric movies like Chameli, Bose has always stood his ground as a true feminist. He recently directed and produced Poorna, a movie based on the life of a girl from Telangana who broke all barriers to become the youngest girl in history to climb Mt Everest. Through his NGO, The Foundation, he aims to provide help to and create awareness about marginalised sections in the country, especially women and children. Operating on the philosophy of ‘do more, give more,’ Bose says, “For me, it is about treating people equally, regardless of their gender. That is what I believe in practising.”
Dipesh Tank is a name that rings in the aftermath of the brutal Delhi gangrape of 2012. The episode left such a lasting impression on his mind that he took a pledge to ensure that every sex offender is caught so that there won’t have to be more Nirbhayas in the country. With his band of nine friends, Dipesh initiated a campaign called ‘War Against Railway Rowdies’ in 2013 with an aim to catch sexual offenders on the Mumbai local trains. Till date, Dipesh has been able to catch 150 harassers and handed them over to the Mumbai Police. Not wanting to be applauded for his efforts, he says all he wants is for more people to be involved in creating a safe public space for women. “I dream of a day when I can let go of a fight against eve-teasing because there will be enough people to fight against it,” he proclaims.
Marked by his exceptional acting skills, Adil Hussain comes across as a self-possessed man, a feature that makes him instantaneously likeable. It is with this quality, and a poised calm, that he openly responds to sexism in Bollywood ; when a fan on twitter pointed out the disappointing lack of women in the celebrity delegation that met the Prime Minister, he very casually remarked, “It’s a habit…you know…excluding womenfolk from the decision-making process. It will take time for menfolk to internalise equality.”
Actor and director, Satchit Puranik has never shied away from being vocal about his involvement in the feminist movement. He is very well known for his stint with the Mumbai feminist campaign, ‘Why Loiter?’ where he and a group of friends cross-dressed as women and roamed the streets of Mumbai at night. He broke the rigid notions of masculinity and outrightly supported the cause by donning a flowy skirt, provoking affronted reactions wherever he went. Satchit says, “It is about women in public spaces but it goes beyond that. I feel women's issues aren't just women's issues. They affect men as well as other minorities. We're carrying generations of violence on our shoulders; both the oppressed as well the ones who are oppressing.”
(Edited by Varsha Roysam)