Why Do India’s Successful Women Shy Away from the Feminist Tag?

Gender

Why Do India’s Successful Women Shy Away from the Feminist Tag?

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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ast week, at the peak of India’s #MeToo movement, Union Minister Smriti Irani gave a fairly confusing statement to the media. “I’m not a feminist,” she said, “because considering yourself human is not a sign of feminism but a sign of humanity. Don’t bind anybody in nomenclatures. Nomenclatures are acceptable internationally. But in my country, don’t call me feminist just because I respect women.”

Four short sentences, so many contradictions. First, the separation of humanity and feminism. Second, the irony of a politician resisting “nomenclatures”. And finally, a successful woman politician’s refusal to accept feminism as a label. She’s not the only one though: Earlier this year when Kareena Kapoor was asked if she’s a feminist, she said, “I believe in equality. I am not a feminist, I am a woman” as if to say that in the Venn diagram of life, women who believe in equality and feminists are two separate circles with no overlap.

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