Monday, 23 May, 2022
HomeOpinionIndian uncles are a strange thing called Sexist Feminists

Indian uncles are a strange thing called Sexist Feminists

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Indian uncles are feminist when it comes to daughters, sexist when it comes to wives.

Until a few years ago, I used to awkwardly say “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in women’s rights”. I was just too scared to use the word. I thought it was, well, an intimidating word.

But I always knew that the world was divided into two kinds of people: feminist and jerks. And then last weekend at a friend’s birthday party, I stumbled upon the third kind: ‘Sexist Feminist’.

Alcohol was flowing freely at the party, cancer sticks were being passed around, and my friend was sharing her drink in the corner with her boyfriend. All this, as her dad mingled among the guests. Seeing him there, I hesitated to pour myself a drink. But he leaned in and said, “Please don’t feel uncomfortable because I’m here, baba. Help yourself and have a ball.” Impressed at how liberal this 60-something was, I did what Gautam Gambir and Arjun Kapoor had always told me to do: Make it large.

Uncle leaned in again, “Look, I’m a very open-minded person. I have always told my daughter, ‘Do whatever you want, and live your life on your terms’. I told her not to give a shit about society. Study. Get married to anyone you please, and whenever you’re ready.”

Also read: Suhel Seth- The man who ‘collected beautiful people’ and almost got away with everything

My admiration for the man grew. First, he goaded me into having a large Scotch, and then, feminism max. And then, aunty walked in with the ice tray and dropped a few ice cubes into uncle’s drink.

“Aunty, can I make you a drink?” I asked. Uncle immediately replied on her behalf, “No. Aunty doesn’t drink”. Aunty smiled and disappeared into the kitchen. She did reappear at regular intervals with the ice-box every time uncle made a drink and later to serve us delicious chicken ghee roast.

A strange phenomenon was unfolding in front of me. Uncle, who was a staunch feminist with his daughter, was sexist with his wife: The Sexist Feminist.

One look around at our family photos, and we can all spot these Sexist feminists. And they come in every type. Feminist with girlfriend, sexist with sister and vice-versa. The reason for this is that Indian families are as sexist as a game of chess. The queen appears like she is the most powerful and important pawn on the board. All the moves to quell every possible threat rest with her. Yet, her only purpose of existence is to protect the king – the most useless pawn on the board. The queen’s prowess doesn’t matter if the king ceases to exist. Indian men are like the kings. Mostly useless, but vastly powerful.

Also read: Why Indian feminists are saying yes to #MeToo & no to sex offenders list

So, are Sexist Feminist better than just plain garden-variety sexist? Of course. These Indian uncles are important. They are the bridge between yesterday’s sexism and tomorrow’s feminism. They are the Bryan Adams of feminism. Mature enough to know Boyzone sucks but not crazy enough to embrace Metallica.

Guys like my friend’s dad love the idea of feminism but love the perks of sexism a little more. They are trying to rid themselves of the guilt of denying their wives the freedom by letting their daughters go out and live life to the fullest. But even as they compensate for their guilt, they are still asserting their role as the granter of freedom to their daughters – like ja jeele apne zindagi, Simran (from the film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge). Freedom is granted ‘with my permission’, or in sanskari terms ‘with my ashirwaad’.

Also read: Children become sexist as early as six years old

Today, I am surprised how aunties like my friend’s moms aren’t spoken about as much as the others who are credited with fighting for women’s rights. It’s one of those rare fights in history where the oppressed has contributed more than the ones who have broken the norms. Women like my friend’s mom contributed not by breaking the system but by following it and slowly changing it in favour of their daughters. They helped turn the sexist into Sexist Feminist. They cannot just be tagged as women the movement helped liberate.

Coming back to the time when I had trouble with identifying myself as a feminist. Somewhere deep within, there was also the fear of getting tied down to an ‘ism’ or ‘ist’ – there is a tonne of hard work that comes along with it. Being an environmentalist means I have to buy a Reva instead of a Fortuner. Being a philanthropist is hard work, especially when you are the cause that you are supporting. But being a feminist is the easiest of them all. It just involves being, well, rational. And it doesn’t demand any life-altering sacrifice.

The author is a sketch comedy writer. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter (@devaiahPB), and Instagram (@devaiah.bopanna).

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  1. What if that aunty doesn’t really likes to drink ? It can be her personal choice right. Don’t jump to conclusion just to fit in your narrative.
    Also generalising that “Most men are useless” is totally absurd. Neo-feminism at best! In traditional indian family setting, men have been slogging full day to earn money whereas women working hard in taking care of home and family.

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