Kamla Bhasin, noted activist and author, passes away at 75
Kamla Bhasin, noted feminist activist and author, passed away on Saturday morning. The author and poet, 75, was battling cancer.
Kamla Bhasin (born 24 April 1946 – died September 25, 2021) was an Indian developmental feminist activist, poet, author and social scientist. Bhasin’s work, that began in 1970, focuses on gender, education, human development and the media. She lives in New Delhi, India.She is best known for her work with Sangat – A Feminist Network and for her poem Kyunki main ladki hoon, mujhe padhna hai. In 1995, she recited a refurbished, feminist version of the popular poem Azadi (Freedom) in a conference. She is also the South Asia coordinator of One Billion Rising.
She resigned from her job at the U.N. in 2002, to work with Sangat, of which she is a founder member and Adviser. She believes in a form of advocacy that combines feminist theory and community action. She has worked with underprivileged women from tribal and working communities, often using posters, plays and other non literary methods to get through to communities with low literacy rates. She has always maintained that in order to usher effective change, sloganeering must be accompanied by community mobilization.
Our men don’t need to change to support women, but to save themselves from being brutalised by centuries of exposure to patriarchy.
It is wrong to say that Feminism is an urban phenomena. All major women’s movements in the history of world were initiated by rural women.”
Use anger, but don’t allow anger to use you. I find a lot of feminists, because they are angry, alienate other women and that doesn’t help the cause. So, anger is to be used as a tool: we are using the tool, the tool is not using us.
“I know enough women who are totally patriarchal, who are totally anti-women: who do nasty things to other women, and I have known men who have worked for women’s rights their whole life. Feminism is not biological: feminism is an ideology”.
I think it is time for some introspection over what has changed in the last two years, laws have become better, there is greater public consciousness but we need to do much more in terms of addressing the question of why men are doing this and what can be done to stop them behaving like this.
“When I’m raped, people say that I’ve lost my honour. How did I lose my ‘honour? My honour is not in my vagina. It is a patriarchal idea that my rape will defile the honour of my community. I’d like to tell everyone, why did you place your community’s honour in a woman’s vagina? We never did that. It is the rapist who loses his honour, we don’t.”
I would say I am an eco-feminist, a socialist feminist – I see the links between rape of women and rape of mother nature. I see links between all other forms of oppression: class, caste and race. Feminism will keep changing because patriarchy is constantly changing, constantly renewing itself, coming in newer phases. The power of patriarchy has increased so many fold. If we had to fight only our traditional patriarchies, we might have succeeded.
Feminism is like water. It’s everywhere but it takes the shape of the container into which it is poured. My feminism is different from Lili’s (Lilinaz Evans) feminism because I live in India, because my patriarchy is different, my technology is different. But in order to succeed, feminism has to be a global movement, because patriarchy is global, capitalism is global, racism is global: so we need to be fighting them all together, on all fronts.
I believe that sexism is all pervading, it’s global. And if you’re born in a country that claims to have got independence, which says that men and women are equal, then at every step you find that that is not the case. For example, today, everything is gendered. Umbrellas are gendered, watches are gendered, handkerchiefs are gendered, every damn thing. And in India we have also a very gendered language. Everything small is feminine and everything large is masculine. So this whole thing is just going from bad to worse; we cannot fight gender inequality without fighting this economic system where god is profit.