Smriti Irani : Being a feminist when convenient

She has been the talk of the town right since 2014. The queen of Modi’s cabinet, our ‘dear’ Smriti Irani has had a life that hasn’t been a simpler roller coaster ride than it was for her torturously popular character of Tulsi Virani. If becoming the HRD minister and being called “choti behen” by Narendra Modi was the highest point of her life, then being shifted from the prestigious ministry of HRD to the lesser important Ministry of Textile was no less than the death of Mihir Virani.
Smriti, today, is in a gruelling position, and Barkha Dutt has successfully made it even more difficult for her. Her open letter to her ‘dear’ old foe has compelled the Indian citizens to introspect on whether this top ‘inspiring’ woman from politics today has actually done anything that should inspire the startup women entrepreneurs to give a befitting reply to new men of old-school who raise a question on competency of women solely because they are women. It forces one to think a level beyond Irani’s inspiring interviews to evaluate whether she raised her voice against sexist comments that she or other women were subjected to. It makes one assess the performance of Smriti Irani, not as a minister or as an administrator, but as a woman who should have stood for other women.
Till date, the mentality of Indian men still rests in the cradle. Till date, the breadwinner is called the ‘man’ of the house, and till date, the husband’s ego does not allow even the inspiring businesswomen to earn a penny more than him. That, dear reader, is misogyny —- absolute hatred for womankind. Lewd remarks on her previous stint as a television actor, her alleged proximity to the bigshots of BJP, and being called ‘nachnewali‘ by Sanjay Nirupam was just a teaser of the sexism Irani had to face ahead. Some comments passed by our politicians are so disgusting that I do not even consider them worthy of a mention on this platform. Yes, dislike for one woman is not dislike for womankind. Believing otherwise would mean not criticizing any woman at all, which would be detrimental to India. But is this the way to criticize a woman, or even a man, for that matter?
The greatest misconception in India (after the misconception that cutting nails on Tuesday brings bad luck), is that misogyny is practiced only by men. Selective feminism, something that Barkha Dutt accused Smriti of, in her open letter, is practically practiced by 95% of the Indian women. If the average Indian woman has to fight misogyny alone, without any support from Indian women achievers, or even ordinary women for that matter, then these women, too, are passive misogynists. Feminism is NOT a matter of convenience. If you shout out to the world only if you are the victim, but choose to remain mum if you are having fun at the cost of someone else, you are NOT a feminist. You are only a self-obsessed sexist.
But are we here to debate on whether Smriti Irani was capable of handling Ministry of HRD? No. The only purpose of this article is to make you think for yourself whether you are being of any use to womankind. It is for you to ponder whether you are a feminist. At a time when a recent survey reveals that 81% women have been victims of sexist jokes at work, it is high time that you stop ignoring such instances and stand up for your rights. Tweeting horrendous comments on the physical appearance of any individual is in no way related to raising eyebrows on his/her competency. Feminism against sexism can win only and only if both women and men fight for women.
As a man writing for a Feminist magazine, I can just say that united WE stand, divided YOU fall. It is imperative for each one of us to stand together through anyone’s thick and thin to take feminism closer to reality. You don’t need to do something big to be counted among the inspiring women of India. Small steps traversed on the sands of time have big impressions. Probably reading about someone standing up for someone else amongst all the odds all alone will be my favourite among Indian women inspirational stories. Keep calm and “Ekla cholo re”.

Tushar Priyadarshi

An engineering student who aspires to become an educationist, Tushar is a perfect blend of the arts and the sciences. He is not very good at numbers, but certainly very good with alphabets. His love for writing got him to write for the Hindustan Times. He is a Bollywood buff who dares to be different at all times.

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