In an open letter on her Facebook page Sona Mohapatra accused Kangana Ranaut of doing a ‘disservice’ to feminism by washing ‘dirty linen in public’. Here is my open letter to her open letter.
Dear Sona Mohapatra,
Who made you the spokesperson of feminism? If you are not the spokesperson then what business do you have in questioning a woman’s decision about what she wants to say, where she wants to say, and at what time of her life she wants to say it? Whether before or after a movie or whether for PR of the movie or whatever. Only reason you can possibly have any locus standi in the feud between Hrithik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut, is if you are a stake holder. So are you a stake holder? In the capacity of what? Of being Hrithik’s friend? Is that why you are trying to defend him by dismissing Kangana’s feelings as PR strategy?
Or are you a stake holder because you think you somehow own ‘feminism?’ As if feminism is your personal project and you will decide which action is a service and which is a disservice. What makes you think you can decide for other feminists? I am a feminist and I think Kangana deserves applause, applause and more applause for whatever she is saying in whichever interview or press. Are you going to tell me you understand feminism better than me? Or any of us here? I find your very action of labeling a women’s life narrative as ‘washing dirty linen in public‘ as Himalayan disservice to feminism. What do you have to say about that?
There are two ways of knowing what feminism is:
(1) From our own life experiences, from popular culture and conversations around us.
(2) By actually going to a college and studying Women And Gender Studies.
I don’t know about you, you are a singer. But I did that study thing, I did my Masters in Gender Studies. The 8th paper in our course is titled Gender And Life Narrative. Attached herein are excerpts from the Introduction from the first chapter of our study material, which explains how through history, women have always been discouraged from writing their autobiography and presenting any self portraiture. Women have been told to not talk about their lives, their pain, their hurt, not to do drama, not to bring attention to themselves, basically remain invisible. If at all women are allowed to talk, they are allowed to talk about positive things, like about their achievements but not their pain. Sharing life narrative means talking about live realities, inner feelings and thoughts and this goes against the gender norms of chastity, silence, self effacement, sacrifice, endurance, that women are supposed to follow.
Do you know Dear Ms. Mohapatra, what were women told when they tried breaking these gender norms? They were told, “Do not wash dirty linen in public.” You see what you have done there? You made this exact regressive retort to Kangana Ranaut.
Women’s attempt to self expression and bring their private lives in public have been abhorred so much that Bengal’s first published autobiography writer, Rashsundari Debi packaged her desire to read and write with religious overtones, as she said she had a dream about reading Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s biography. Following that, she learnt to read and write and wrote her own biography, “Amar Jiban” (My Life).
Women’s life narrative, self expression and self representation have been one of the most important means of feminism. By talking about their lives women have been able to break the public and private divide that pushes them back to kitchens and keeps sotries of viollcen behind closed doors. Yet, Brave women like Kamala Das, Amrita Pritam, Maharanhi Gayatri Devi have written boldly about their lives laying the foundations of feminist consciousnesses in India, and trust me dear Mohapatra, not all of those writings would be considered very ‘clean linens‘ by hygienic readers such as you.
With time, the forms and medium of women’s self expression and self portraiture have changed. What our ancestors did via letters, memoris and books is now being done by social media, TV media, interviews, blogs. Kangana’s self expression, done for whatever intentions, are a major step in feminist politics, a bold attempt, particularly coming from a Bollywood actress.
Now, do you realize Sona Mohapatra, how stupid you sound when you accuse Kangana of doing disservice to feminism, and in the same letter you judge her for sharing too much of her life?