Marie Kondo is a tidying genius and has created her empire by ‘sparking joy’ in among many clients’ by advocating her KonMari method in books and a Netflix series. Even as many used KonMari to de-clutter their lives, Kondo drew a lot of flack for (supposedly) entrenching the idea of a woman in a domestic role.
But, everybody clearly doesn’t really see tidying as oppression and the importance of breaking gender roles exists insofar as local cultures agree on their priorities for feminism. Does women calling successful women out to homogenise and draw up a guidebook to feminism bode very well? I’d think not. While many Japanese translators defended Kondo’s words from her books with “some phrases just don’t translate well (to English),” it’s good to remember it’s not your hill to die on to make sure feminism walks down one path. Unless you’re Gloria Steinem in the 1960s.
Who takes the call on what’s right?
The problem with this movement is its sheer volume. While talking about the issues of the pay gap and maternity leave, it’s easy to ignore the elephants in the room—women’s education, dowry and sanitation. Worse still, we all can only champion some causes despite being aware of many more. There’s a reason the current feminist movement is criticised for being far from intersectional. The gap between woke feminism and the voices that don’t receive the platforms for entry into public consciousness is so vast, it’s like trying to win a battle without knowing what you defend. Twitterati is barely the surface of the real lull in conversation.
Groups like Dalit Women Fight and others taking forward the conversation of politics and caste identity in India barely receive the kind of coverage a Bollywood film about female sexual liberation does. That’s probably because of the inherent casteism in structures that generate the news. It’s difficult to broadcast news about oppression when your organisation or industry preys off it every day. These platforms are for one sort of feminism that can exist while brushing bigger, more uncomfortable issues under a carpet.
Recognise this. And if you can further your brand of feminism while giving another equal space, that’s good. Otherwise maybe don’t fall for the content of these platforms and step back your perspective on these issues.
What do you call out?
While you have a belief and your fellow feminists agree or champion your brand, you do not need to reciprocate and make yourself narrate a perspective that makes you uncomfortable.
Beyoncé samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s famous We Should All be Feminists in her 2013 single “Flawless” and while Adichie is flattered, she openly created the space between both narratives by saying “her (Beyoncé’s) type of feminism is not mine”. There is a necessity to allow for many narratives of feminism to exist. You can still agree with Beyoncé’s fierce “Flawless” stance and that it is predicated on the necessity of men in a woman’s life, a trope that needs to go from popular media.
How do we take on bigger issues?
With more and more awareness that the political and social realities of women are not close to the privileged ones men enjoy, it’s time to make way for nuance in the conversation on feminism and in feminist conversation.
As the movement opens up to more people, it’s important to stick to your own stories and let others advocate for themselves. While this makes the movement far more unwieldy and complex, it’s about making the umbrella wide enough so we protect everyone rather than making sure they reach your umbrella and show you support. With a burgeoning realisation that women’s issues are obviously not a big enough deal, and with #MeToo and Gamergate shedding light on so much previously unknown data, it’s time to make the movement so much bigger, so it can’t be treated as a second tier issue for much longer. In the meanwhile, just be your own kind of feminist and keep a check on your privilege while picking the fights of entire communities of stakeholders.
Suradha Iyer is a writing analyst at Qrius.