Way to go Emma! Says a proud 'behenji'
Emma Watson exposed her breasts for a Vanity Fair shoot and stirred a hornet’s nest. But back home, ‘covering up your skin’ can make you the source of derision. Beware! Choosing a kurta over a skimpy dress, or wearing a mangalsutra and sporting sindoor can earn you the sobriquet of ‘behenji’.
In case the term doesn’t ring a bell, well here what it means in the urban lexicon; behenjis are creatures who are spotted in all things traditional and opt for Hindi as their lingua franca. Often undermined and underestimated because of their appearance, they are considered lesser mortals than their so called bold peers.
I am a proud behenji
With salwar suits as my chosen outfits and Hindi as my medium of conversation I proudly fit into the so called behenji genre. A natural outcome of the same is bombardment of questions like; So, you write in English? Oh, your English is good, Woa! You have some progressive thoughts, and so on. No doubt, I am judged every day. My potential is measured on the basis of my appearance and my preferred language. And I am certainly not okay with it.
Feminism is about choice
Feminism is all about freedom of choice. So just as Watson has the choice to show her skin, I have the liberty to cover it up. But in the world of urban snobs, where your intellect is judged on the metrics of English proficiency and outfits become the scale of your caliber, girls like me are pushed to the wall to go forth and defend ourselves.
Just as the UN goodwill ambassador has the choice to be sexualized I have the choice of not being so. The global sisterhood calls for accepting the way we are, empathizing with each other’s situations and respecting diverse opinions. It is certainly not about judging each other. It is about living by our rules and walking the path of our decisions. The path can be conventional and the path can be outright bold. But the choice to walk the path should be mine and not enforced.
Note to Emma from a proud behenji
Does Emma’s bold photo shoot make her anti-feminist? No. Does it make her the champion of women’s rights? No either. Rather It is the liberty and free will to decide and choose that makes her poster girl of feminism. And here’s raising a toast to that freedom.
(Kakoli Sengupta is an ex-journalist, a research scholar, and a content writer, with over 10 years of experience in the media industry.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author.