Sanjukta Basu is one of the writers, against social discrimination. She is a photographer, story teller and of course a feminist. All her work, be it photography is self-explanatory i.e. about women. She presently works for ‘Gender in Public spaces’ where she clicks photographs of local women in any public space, throughout India that speaks about a women’s presence in that particular area. As told to Sandra Branger…
WT: What according to you is feminism?How differently do you identify yourself as a feminist?
SB: Feminism is standing up for what is right. There is no course given for this, it’s all about knowing and protecting women and their rights. And when you call yourself a feminist you should believe in it and do what exactly you believe. Let’s say hypothetically, you call yourself a feminist but laugh at other women who are not beautiful according to you or make fun of other women based on whatever you feel is not appealing or right; then you would be a shame to feminism. It is all about embracing who you are and what others are. You will rather make a difference in your life and life of others through whatever you do, that is feminism.
I do not believe in women being superior to men. I don’t really think women are specially created to do ten things at a time; I fight for women to have equal rights.
WT: What made you, who you are today?
SB: I was always independent since childhood and always a rebel. So, there is no change that came into me, there were things in life that strengthened me. The strength came in through attempts in my relationships with men.
I was constantly recognized as a strong woman, and ironically, this recognition gave me multiple disappointments via relationships. I was misunderstood due to my duality in nature as I was assumed to be strong all the time. I am emotional at times too, but no one seemed to recognize that part of me.In fact, this issue is faced by a lot of women who are expected to be either dependent or independent. The mixed emotions within us are never really understood. Ever since I stood up for self, I was a typical feminist so I concluded that most men will come in only two sets of ideas. Either this or that, they don’t understand the complexity. And of course the willingness to help other women initiated within me when reality struck me; I don’t stand for ‘them’, I stand for ‘us’.
WT: What is your Fear in this journey of life?
SB: I did not fear anything in life because I think when I fear losing something that becomes a hindrance in my motive. I never wanted to be in the corporate job. The work I do now, which I like, demanded me to quit my Job. I was working as a Real estate lawyer at JLL. Leaving that job was not a mistake but yes, I had the fear of being broke while doing what I love, not that I won’t enjoy the luxury but because that would stop me being independent and hinder what I do. Also, I fear losing my health that would again, cause trouble in my work that I do.
WT: You are one among the many successful writers, how did you start your journey?
SB: I started by writing blogs. Blogging is something I encourage everyone to do, this one of the way we get connected to each and one of the many ways we get ideas of not just things happening around us, but what a person goes through, what a woman goes through. Initially, I started blogging about myself, my experience, relationships and growing up stuff which again gave me the courage to accept who I am despite my challenges; the most beautiful part was the feedbacks I receive. I got to know that many women had had similar experiences but were afraid to face certain situations, and it feels great to know that my blogs have inspired them.
WT: How would you answer the myths of this movement?
SB: The word feminism comes with a stereotype, that should be a female and would never like men, would be a lesbian and may be ugly. But feminism is about equal rights and not superior rights. We need to break the myths and educate people about what feminism is, and not just speak about women empowerment in the air, A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Many people take advantage of this, well we cannot do anything about that, there are examples of similar situations like Muslims being bad mouthed for terrorism all the time. We just cannot do anything. I would just suggest people know enough before judging, taking a stand without knowledge shows stupidity. Lastly, READ!
WT: What advice would you give to the upcoming feminists?
SB: Know your subject well, It is not always about aggression. Identify the roots then try solving the problems. One does not need to get a degree to become a feminist; it is recognized through our actions.
WT: What do you think of anti-feminists?
SB: They have a sad life (laughs), they are privileged and confused. They have not gone through what it means to be women. They very well have forgotten that they can talk about anti- feminism because the former feminists had someday stood up for them and their rights to be born and be independent.
WT: Keeping all aspects in mind, what do you think obstructs the ultimate success of women?
SB: Traditionally we have seen women have a certain identity, of a mother, sister, wife, and daughter but we have never been identified individually.
Things have of course changed; most girls are being educated and given jobs under government policies but women are still missing in the skilled labor sector, corporate society, and even politics.
Of course, we now move out of the house but we are expected to come back and do the same domestic work. We have not challenged the gender role that compels us to remain a mother and a wife. We have not de constructed the gender stereotypes; we have as if given additional responsibility besides playing the specific roles. We have somewhere failed to swap the positions of men and women.I think we need to stop glorifying the role that says a woman has the power to multitasking and if she fails she is the loser.
In the process to teach women of their capabilities, we have forgotten to educate men.
WT: What did your character teach you?
SB: My character as a feminist taught me to hold on to MY truth. Never run away from the reality of Life and not to blame others for your mistake. We need to cherish every moment of life and not to be devastated because of our experience. This is your experience, preserve it. Whatever happens, it needed to happen.
WT: As a responsible citizen, What one must do, if not become an activist?
SB: Bring the change in your house first. I remember I was frowned upon when I corrected one of my uncles, sending a sexist joke over WhatsApp. I feel when womankind is laughed upon on silly things which are not even true; this is where we can bring a small change.
WT: How do trolls and criticisms affect you?
SB: Criticisms, yes, I do welcome them as they help me grow, but trolls never. They are to demoralize you, I take it as a challenge and become all the more confident. In fact trolling edifies me about a particular mindset people still have and how they fail to recognize facts.
WT: What are your upcoming projects?
SB: My project is a part of my trip(presently) in Kolkata. I would like to see the night life and take portraits of women providing escort services. Also, taking portraits of women depicting messages through their body art (Tattoos).
My upcoming project would have to deal with, again, the portrait of village women that show their experience and intelligence, apart from their exotic beauty and poverty.
WT: How has TEDx helped you to pursue your dreams?
SB: I am blessed to be a part of the group. I started by joining the scholarship on my initial days of blogging. Through this platform, I gained confidence, opportunities to meet amazing people their thoughts and ideas that were new to me and at the same time enlightened me and many more inexplicable experience. This had somewhere made me who I am today. I owe this platform my life and I feel blessed.