A viral video of the young Bollywood actress condemning the mechanical and short-lived prattle surrounding International Women’s Day each year has sparked debate about having an outcome-based approach to the issue of gender bias rather than celebrating women just for a single day.
Kriti Sanon may have been spotted in many a Bollywood and Tollywood film in the past, but it was the 26-year-old's recent video with her brand 'Ms.Taken' on Women’s Day that has got her the most attention. The video, which has now gone viral, has kicked up quite a storm on social media. The muted video tribute was nothing short of taking the bull by the horns and kicking it to the side. She uses placards to call Women’s Day a mere play on words that have barely scratched the surface of themes like gender equality and women’s rights.
“What has changed since last year? Everyone tweets, writes something, and moves on. Do we really need a day to recognise being a woman? What about the rest of the 364 days and the roles that women fulfil in daily life,” she says in a chat with YourStory.
In the video, Kriti pronounces all the talk on gender equality as “blah.” So, is she making a statement or just trying to be different?
The netizens certainly sat up and took notice: the video started trending, with 47 million impressions and seven million views. While it angered some, many recognised the point she raised about Women's Day going beyond the clichés, working on outcomes and addressing changes in attitude.
The genesis of Women’s Day lay in ideals slightly different from the ones associated with today's version. It was born in Europe during World War I when women protested against their governments for not bringing their husbands back home, and also against the atrocities committed during wartime on women and children. The Russians began the movement in February 1914, which was followed by the rest of Europe on March 8 the same year. But the day was officially recognised only in 1975 by the United Nations.
Says Kriti sardonically,
“There are not many people who know its origin or what we are fighting for.”
She explains that the biggest barrier has been women's mindset, because of which they perceive themselves to be inferior to men. Kriti says that this may be due to personal experiences and because of one's upbringing.
Kriti stresses the need to equip women with tools to discover avenues of their own individual expression, with access to information that can allow them to question things and find solutions.
She goes on to say that all citizens have equal rights that should not be distorted towards favouring any particular segment, and that there should be no discrimination against either gender.
Values over angst
Kriti believes that values instilled in her by her parents defined her life. She was not made to feel inferior in any way.
She was raised in a middle-class family by fiercely independent parents. Her mother had a Ph.D in Physics and was a professor. She balanced family life “without having to want a Women’s Day”.
Kriti points out that celebrating Women’s Day alone cannot take on the biases that are omnipresent, and the customs that get forced on men and women without explanation.
Customs apart, there are larger social issues that make Women’s Day feel like a “glass ceiling that remains rock solid”. Safety, for instance.
“I am from Delhi and I still do not feel safe to drive at night. My parents are constantly worried. This fear exists all the time and there are not many outcomes that have led to women feeling secure at the workplace and at home,” explains Kriti.
Compared to most cities Kriti feels that Mumbai is safer for women, adding that education would help change the way men and women interact with each other. “There was molestation in Bengaluru recently and women still feel unsafe,” she says.
How does she handle fame and Bollywood?
The film world has a long-standing history of sexism. It begins with pay scales rapidly trickling down to the roles that women are typecast into, and then the masses who objectify female actors and don't take them seriously. “I have been lucky not to have had any instances of bias. The younger men in the profession understand these issues,” Kriti says.
But change really happens when actions result in outcomes in society.
Her advice to women:
- Respect yourself.
- Stand up for yourself.
- Stand up against bias.
- All men are not enemies.
- Break the mental barrier of inferiority.
- Parenting should not be biased towards boys.
Kriti points out the sad fact that misogyny is so prevalent in our society because some women themselves partake in it. “It has to do with the upbringing and the social settings that they grow up in,” she sighs.
She finishes her conversation with YourStory with the remark that feminism is about equal rights for all, and does not entail going after men. Her video has raised a valuable question: what is it that we celebrate every year in the name of Women's Day when there is so much more to be done?
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