If 2020 was a year of disasters, 2021 looks like it will be a year of the crazies. We’ve already seen a president order an attack to his own country, we’ve seen a media giant try to convert people into data-products for sale, and we’ve seen a woman judge of Bombay High Court make a joke out children’s bodily autonomy by claiming that groping a child’s breasts over her dress doesn’t amount to sexual assault. Yes, crazy.
And it’s still only January.
But to complete the crazy circle, was a recent news report about a so-called ‘activist’, Naaz Patel of Avesta Foundation, who took offence to the letter ‘M’ last December. Apparently, it made her think of a woman (if she’s lying on her back) with her legs apart. And since Myntra.com has the letter M as its logo, it became a natural target.
Yeah, it took me a while to see what she saw. Maybe I was slow… so I shared the image with other friends both women and men, and all of them failed to see it too, until I painfully explained it in detail. And now, they can never see the logo the same way again. Or the letter ‘M’ for that matter. An innocent letter of the English alphabet is forever ruined.
So it brings me to wonder… how desperate is a person if they find sexual connotations in even the most innocent of places? What will be Ms Patel’s next target? McDonald’s? Motorola? Marriott? M-Seal? Are we going to ban writing the zig-zag lines for kindergarten kids? While we’re at it, is Ms Patel going to ban the display of coconuts in the market because they look like a pile of boobs? Or the letter ‘B’ for the same reason? Or is she going to find the baingans (eggplant) offensive because they might remind her of the phallus? Or is she going to give up using a pen or a pencil for the same reason? I remember the comedian Daniel Fernandes making a joke about such unnecessary, self-promoting tactics in the name of feminism while describing a woman who took it too far by refusing to use a shift-gear due to its phallic shape. He rightly calling it ‘terrorism in feminism’, because it is, like any terrorist fundamentalism, a misinterpretation of feminism and then taking that misinterpretation too far.
As a feminist, I already know the struggles in making the world recognize women as equals, as humans, as professionals, and as capable scientists without being made fun of. We struggle to make men and women recognize how stereotyping and sexist jokes have an impact in increasing violence against women. And amid this struggle, when people like Ms Patel try to get visibility by ruffling up a non-issue under a flawed understanding of ‘feminism’, she is inadverdently making light of the serious efforts by feminist scholars around the world who have been working on real issues that affect women in the area of representation and symbolism.
Instead of taking offence at a symbol which (to Ms Patel) looks like a woman with her legs spread apart, let’s respect that position in which most women give birth. Or maybe let’s focus our energies (and media attention) and take offense when a woman’s legs are spread apart without her consent.
So, Ms Patel, there are better ways to get media attention. But making ridiculous interpretations will only make the general public question your disturbed mentality and create distrust in the sanity of genuine feminists.
P.S. Meanwhile, Twitterati had a field-day with the news! Here are a few screenshots: