Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Feminifesto Seminar Club: Session 2

The Inconvenient Truth
Reported by Malavika Mani

Another year has begun, feminists continue to struggle for their cause, and conversations about matters close to our heart (in this case, intersectional feminism) continue with the same fervor and gusto. In our second meeting, our small group discussed this poem that was recited by popstar, Halsey, at an award show honouring young, influential women. The poem performed with the same gusto and angst, manages to capture the essence of bigotry, the indignation, and the acceptance of inconvenience – the inconvenience caused by the mere act of being or choosing to be a woman.

All four of us agreed that the poem brought forward points that we could not deny and were in strong agreement with all aspects of the poem. Despite all the jargon in this article – for Kirthi, the fluid representation of intersectionality without any jargon is what stood out. She acknowledged the inconvenient imposition of a single standard for all women from different walks of life that was made salient through the poem. All women are surmised to be pleasing to the eye, be the right kind of loud, sporadically intelligent, and are regarded as complete only when they have achieved motherhood. Kirthi felt that this poem had captured this inconvenient truth beautifully and still left room for more discussions.

The penultimate line of the poem resonated with Raakhee, who felt that women are, without the blink of an eye, expected to take responsibility for not only their actions, but everyone surrounding them. To Raakhee, this felt like a burden and served as an impetus for women to constantly defend themselves and their choices. She suggested that the additional responsibility that is often not a choice could have served as an antecedent to the beginning of a stereotype where women are branded as “nags”. She questioned why this inconvenience must be “bestowed” upon women alone and why must they be the only kind to be reduced to such a dreadful state.

The looming hypocrisy, bigotry, or double standards practiced, took precedence for Vaishnavi. From the inevitable ageing to politics, practicing double standards was ubiquitous – and this for her formed the structure of the poem. Men can be dubbed as a “silver fox”, but an ageing woman is a sore for the eye. Vaishnavi questioned the rationale behind this and found the irrationality an inconvenient truth. She also drew parallels between the recent comments by Rahida Tlaib and Donald Trump – where one’s use of profanity and vulgarity in a statement bore minimal criticism in comparison to another’s angst that caused an uproar. I doubt it would be difficult to decipher who said what and who faced more criticism. Let’s laud a xenophobe and misogynist with the coveted oval office, whilst criticizing the statement by a woman who raised the same concerns as us all – that he ought to be impeached. Vaishnavi urged that if double standards are the norm, being an inconvenience should be embraced.

Kirthi brought forward the battle for power, where men dehumanize women and further their practice of toxic masculinity. She questioned the humanity of men, who often resembled monsters by their determination to hold on to this elusive power. The male ego was a looming narrative for her in the poem that foraged into inconvenience prior to turning the woman into an inconvenience. Malavika agreed with all the arguments and mentioned how nuanced all their actions were – thus, making the task of finding solutions an arduous inconvenience to women. She felt that not much had changed since Maya Angelou’s 1978 poem, “Still I Rise”. The struggle, conversation, and narrative had not changed, and that for her was unsettling.
Women across the globe struggle to keep up with societal norms. We all know this and some of us do our bit to bring about a change - and regardless of our choices, we are easily branded as an inconvenience. The hypocrisy creeps in, movements are called bigoted, and our voice is just a mere inconvenience – so why must we seek validation from others who have already made up their mind. Do we want to be an inconvenience? No! No one wants to be an inconvenience – however, women will always be an inconvenience regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, or age. The choice of being a woman is an inconvenience. So, amidst all this nuanced double standard that spreads because of convenience to one party alone, why should a woman not be an inconvenience? If everyone else around womenhave no qualms about being an inconvenience, one might as well embrace inconvenience and rise above as an inconvenient woman. To quote Halsey, “You are not put on this earth to make everybody else’s life easier, so please be inconvenient.” – so to paraphrase,be an inconvenience to all the inconvenient people around you.