You’re a feminist!” is considered an insult by many women. The one who calls out casual sexism is labelled a ‘Femi-nazi’. We are in fourth wave of feminism and people around the world are talking about intersectional feminism, but the mention of it seems to conjure up only the image of male bashing, bra-burning women (mostly lesbians) in most. From soaps to stand-up comedy, feminists are the butt of all jokes. In a sad turn of events, more women are isolating themselves from the movement.
“As a feminist, you scare men already. Now you’ll never be married,” said a male friend of mine when I got the feminist symbol tattooed on my back. That was four years ago. “I am anti-feminists — you are a lot that’s never happy. I am a meninist and I want to save men from you,” said another. Much like the ‘all lives matter’ debate, there are those out there saying we should all be humanists, not feminists.
The hashtag — #womenagainstfeminism — was trending on social media a while ago. It had women holding posters that listed out when they don’t need feminism; privilege checks are not a thing, apparently.
Its converted feminists like me that share, again and again, ‘Feminism means equality’ posters on Facebook. These get celebrated, liked and shared by more of the choir. The others, I assume, grimace at these and move on…scroll on. Given this background, I was speechless when I realised that ‘A Bad Girl’ poster, created by a group of design students was being shared rapidly on my Facebook newsfeed, that is usually filled with cat videos. The ‘Humanists’ were all sharing it. And that’s when I discovered the world of social media comics.
Rachita Taneja’s ‘Sanitary Panels’, a series started in 2014, wittily uses stick figures to address social issues, stressing on feminism. ‘The Royal Existentialists’, a weekly webcomic series created by Aarthi Parthasarathy and Chaitanya Krishnan tell stories of today’s world using Indian art and imagery. ‘Inedible India comics’ “steal paintings to make a point”. ‘Why Loiter?’ and ‘Blank Noise’ are fighting sexual violence and street harassment by collecting narratives. Pages like ‘Pinjra Tod’ and ‘Spoilt Modern Indian Woman’ are redefining gender and gendered spaces. Patriarchy, honor killings, menstruation and ‘ovary-acting’ are tackled head on by the creators using the most engaging medium — humour.
What makes one laugh is share-worthy by social media standards; and being subversive while being satirical and subtle, I trust, is the secret behind their popularity. Feminists, meninists and humanists — all equally seem to enjoy and share the comics. Others are coming forward to share their stories and more seem to relate and take strength from the storytellers. Trolling and trashing aside, these pages are initiating discussions on topics that I thought impossible a while ago.
“The comics are not only about feminism, I loved the Net Neutrality comic by ‘Sanitary Panels’,” said a friend recently. “These are not feminist, they are real,” said another. Feminist or not, everyday problems of women are being told and discussed. And I believe it’s a good thing to keep these conversations going.
What makes you chuckle and makes you share is the start of a quiet revolution. I have faith in tiny newsfeed revolutions and you should too. What runs the world? Social Media. Who runneth social media? Comic strips. What can comic strips do? Change the world.
(The writer is a Chennai-based activist, in-your-face feminist and a media glutton)