Mira Rajput is a sum of her circumstances, her life situations and her decisions. As are you and me. She was born into privilege and she married into privilege. The reasons we are even talking about her is because she married Shahid Kapoor, one of Bollywood’s big stars. For her age, she has adapted to this big life change – from being a student at Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College to a star wife with a fair amount of scrutiny coming her way – with ease. That ease slipped when she addressed a gathering on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
She had a grasp on Feminism – which has equality between the genders and freedom of choice as its basic nub – when she said, “Empowerment means you have the right to choose. So it’s my choice if I want to be at home. And it’s someone else’s choice if they want to be a working mother. But both are equally valid and neither of them should be shamed.”
The trouble was when moments later, she went and shamed the women who leave their children behind and go out to work. “I love being at home, I love being a mother to my child, I wouldn’t want to spend one hour a day with my child and rush off to work, why did I have her? She is not a puppy; I want to be there for her as a mother.”
She then shamed probably all women who ask for their rights and are fobbed off as aggressive, demanding and even playing the ‘victim card’, “The new wave of feminism is aggressive and destructive. There is a term called ‘Feminazi’ which is now becoming the female equivalent of a male chauvinist.”
Now, the thing is, being guilt-tripped or slammed for being a woman is par for the course. A stay at home mother is rapped for having it too easy (really, do you have any idea what bringing up a baby or managing a home even entails?), a woman who goes out to work is criticised for focussing on career and not home, a woman who is single is constantly reminded about biological clock whose tick-tock can apparently give time bombs a run for their money and getting married ‘too early’ means you have zero interest in making something out of yourself. Mira, this unending cycle of criticism is just one of the reasons why we need Feminism. You can give credit to all the generations of women who struggled before us why we even celebrate a Women’s Day or have the right to stand on a stage and give voice to our thoughts or vote or work or can follow our dreams. They were dismissed as bra-burners back in the day. Now, we are tagged Feminazi. Terms may change but the need for this struggle has not. In the industry that your husband Shahid works in, the pay gap is humongous. Just like probably most other industries.
Women who make it as actors often leave once they reach a certain age or when they get married, and no, that is not mostly out of choice. There are some who continue to work but don’t exceptions always prove the rule? Again, this is true for most other industries.
And I will not even mention women who need to work to supplement their family’s income because Mira’s comment seems to be aimed at women who choose to have a career once they become mothers. No, they don’t treat their children as puppies although pet lovers can take umbrage to that. They walk a tightrope of fulfilling their responsibilities at work and at home, bringing up responsible adults who have role models to emulate right inside their home and ensuring that they contribute to the society too. Exactly what a homemaker does, whether it is a man or a woman. A truly empowered society will be one where your career choices or life choices are not limited to constructs of gender. And that ideal is a long, long way off. The struggle will continue regardless of what you think Mira, but it truly hurts when one of us, the women, says and thinks like this. And it gives ammo to those trying to show women their ‘real place’. For the real place of any woman is what, and where, she chooses to be.