Women’s Day after #MeToo

When it comes to empowerment, it’s a long haul, five women in diverse vocations say. A man pitches in, too. Today is Women’s Day

Since March 8 last year, how have things changed? Metrolife asked prominent women how they saw the progress of the women’s movement. Here is what they said:

‘Women need a better support system’   

Kavitha Lankesh, film director

The more women raise their voice against injustice, the more they are silenced. From few opportunities to slipping into oblivion, women in the #MeToo movement have faced setbacks.

Kavitha Lankesh
Kavitha Lankesh

The way a woman is trolled after raising an issue is daunting. There should be a better support system for women. As a female director in the film industry, I don’t have the same camaraderie with producers as the males. Often they bargain about money when investing in a film and come with preconceived notions.

Favourite fictional woman character:

“My film ‘Avva’ based on the book ‘Mussanjeya Katha Prasanga’ by my father P Lankesh. Rangavva is a powerful character: a single mother who goes against the tide.”

Favourite woman:

“My mother Indira Lankesh and my sister Gauri Lankesh will always top that list. My mother is independent and raised us to be that way. My sister fought for the things she believed in: liberal thinking and rights of the minorities.”

Rohini Godbole
Rohini Godbole

‘Not enough women in higher research’

Rohini Godbole, Padma Shri awardee (2019), Honorary professor with Centre for High Energy Physics, Indian Institute of Science.

In India, the participation of women in science is at different levels. The number of women in science education (learning and disseminating) is reasonable and respectable. Girls studying science is not considered an anomaly and the best physics and math teachers in schools and colleges are women. But the participation of women in perceived higher centres is not commensurate. We need to analyse the reasons; some obvious and some not so obvious.”

Favourite fictional woman character:

“Mrs March in ‘Little Women’ is a favourite character. The original thinking was how she holds the family together is commendable. She was a conventional woman and the inner strength she displays while taking decisions considered revolutionary for her time is inspiring.”    

Favourite woman:

“Anandibai Joshi, India’s first lady doctor. She was married as a teenager. Her husband was keen on her education. She got a scholarship, went to the US and came back. There was nothing spectacular about her background, she belonged to an ordinary middle-class family, but her story is really inspiring. She epitomises a large number of women who have it in themselves to become big. Many are not ignited from within.”

‘Country develops when women are empowered’ 

Arunachalam Muruganantham, famous as Padman for designing cheap sanitary pads.

The country will develop only when its women are empowered. When one provides proper modes of menstrual hygiene to women, their workforce increases, and that in turn leads to women’s empowerment. Lack of awareness, and poor availability and affordability of pads are challenges. This is not the case in India but all around the world.

Favourite woman: My daughter, Preeti Shri. I get encouraged and motivated every day with her by my side.

 

‘Women have learnt to stand up for themselves’

Shinie Antony, author

“Women have learnt with great pain that women have to stand up for women. Earlier we had made an enemy of men, we didn’t see that the co-conspirators were probably of our own gender. No warfare is without its nuance. As a writer, when portraying female characters, one of the challenges is to represent the hostility that women feel from the world. This goes beyond gender but also includes gender.”

Favourite fictional woman character:

“Rudrakshi (Roo) from my book ‘The Girl Who Couldn’t Love’ was my interpretation of the modern ageless women. Roo represents the women who look bland from the outside but whose brains are ticking constantly. They are passionately and intensely living their lives in their own way. She has no remorse and is a survivor; which is what we all are.”

Favourite woman:

“Writers like Shashi Deshpande and Shobhaa De and Bachi Karkaria think sharp, and speak with a voice that is feminist and contemporary, and relevant and representative of women today.

‘Facing hypocriTes and trolls not easy’

Sandhya Menon, freelance journalist and #MeToo campaigner.

Social media has allowed women from marginalised communities to talk about their experiences. We can’t make much progress if childcare isn’t taken care of, especially for women from economically deprived spaces. The #MeToo campaign was challenging, and it was hard for me to reconcile that some women could be using the movement to their advantage. For me to turn around and be a bit more careful was difficult. To be at the receiving end of hypocrisy, partisanship and trolls has not been easy.

Favourite fictional woman character:

I love the character Pippi Long Stockings, as she does what she wants, takes full responsibility for herself, has solutions to everything even if they aren’t ideal, and is physically strong. She speaks her mind every single time and doesn’t sweat the small stuff.”

Favourite woman:

“American aviation pioneer and author Amelia Earhart and social reformer Savitribai Phule are my favourites. Both were young, clear, determined and had integrity. Their will to do was really strong. When I think of these two characters, it fills me up.”

 

‘Internet has created empowering tools’

Alicia D’Souza, illustrator

As an illustrator, though the industry is dominated by men I didn’t face any major roadblocks. It could also be because my style of work tends to lean towards women. I would probably have received criticism if my themes revolved around men. The only limitation I faced was at the manufacturing end, when I would have to interact with back-alley printers not used to women.

The Internet has created a shift in what one is able to say and how we are able to say it. Many tools make one feel empowered but the society in general has a long way to go.

Favourite fictional woman character:

“My favourite character is the cartoon character Louise in ‘Bob’s Burger’. I like how she is brash, loud, feisty and smart and does funny things. She is like my alter-ego and brings out the child in me.”

Favourite woman:

“The storytelling of cartoonist Roz Chast is simple, funny and extremely inspiring. I absolutely love her works. I hope to be able tell a story like she does and come out with books. Another amazing person is actress Tracee Ellis Ross, who is cute, fun and unapologetic, which makes her very real.”  

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Women’s Day after #MeToo

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