"The Difference Between Being Privileged and Empowered, and More..."

Aliya Bashir
Posted February 16, 2016

Dear Lovely Leadership members,

I hope this post finds you well!

I have been travelling so I had limited access to internet.

Now, I am back home and trying to manage time to know you wonderful members more closley and make this group a dynamic platform for debate and discussion and sharing resourceful oppurtunities/

Today, I want to share this incredible piece of Nandita Das with you.

This is quite inspirational.

I look forward to hear your thoughts on this!!!


Nandita Das has been on our radar for almost two decades now. From a stellar debut inDeepa Mehta'sFirein 1996, she's grown to becomea respected actor, a critically acclaimed director and, most importantly, a brilliant representative for the women of the 21st century.

She has strong opinions on subjects of significance, and she's not afraid to voice them at any given time. Vagabomb spoke to the multi-faceted lady at Delhi Gymkhana Club's 1st Literature and Ideas festival. She started off by sharing a slice of her childhood memories and how it felt growing up as a feminist in a staunchly patriarchal society.

As a student, she was very actively involved in street theatre. "My first real association with the cause was through the medium of theatre. We would go to rural setups and perform street plays and in one of these, I played the role of a victim of dowry. For me these incidents were just news stories and things I read on page 5 of the newspaper but for the people who were watching, it was their life.And that's when I started realizing that I can't be in my bubble of equality. Yes, you keep thinking that this discrimination is a thing that's happening to them. It's only when you grow up that you realize how the patriarchy exists in every little thing around you, there's sexism in every little thing."

She's been called privileged every time she starts talking on the subject. But concurring with what we've said a number of times, she emphasized on how rampant sexism is at every level of society.

She added, "And I know so many women who do that really. When you're serving food, you'll end up taking the crisperrotior the smaller piece of the cake. It's something that we're so deeply conditioned about." Sounds familiar, doesn't it? If you think about it, maybe our mothers have done that too.

Nandita is a mother too, and is often asked the same cliched questions as every other working mom in our culture. She said, "Here I am talking about gender equality, but there are so many times that I've felt guilty as a mother, trying to juggle everything."

Nandita has a young son,Vihaan, and while raising him, she realizes just how deeply-rooted sexism is in every member of our society. She adds, "Including men in the conversation is absolutely essential and I feel that's where we're lacking the most in the women's movement presently.The conversation, teaching our boys, has to start at a very young age, but the problem is that the adults surrounding these kids - teachers, parents everyone - are so deeply conditioned by patriarchy. It's an uphill task, but we have to start somewhere."

The feminist movement is still seeking responsible representatives in the Indian society, and Nandita explains itsnegative imageaccurately.

In the panel discussion, Nandita agreed with the ridiculousness of imposing restrictions on girls in the form of deadlines and dress codes, instead of imposing behavioural restrictions on the men and teaching them the basics of civil conduct. Another myth she burst: that there is nothing like an empowered woman.

At the event, journalists tried to question Nandita on the ongoing JNU debate, but Nandita, as any responsible figure, refused to comment on a subject she wasn't completely aware about. As a person who's been involved in far too many controversies, we completely understood her need for discretion. She told us, "I've been unwell and am not completely updated on the state of events. So I will not comment on it.Some people will take your words and completely twist them and use them out of context.I feel there is no point of criticising just for the sake of criticising. But yes, constructive criticism should be allowed and encouraged."

This is why we'll always support Nandita when senseless protesters attack her views. Because views like these deserved to be heard, shared, and discussed. Here's hoping for more wisdom from this brilliant woman.



Thank you!

Aliya Bashir

Comments 6

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Tiffany Purn
Feb 16, 2016
Feb 16, 2016

Aliya - thanks for this posting - really thought provoking.   I think that, in reality, definitions such as empowerment and feminism must always be evoloving, always fluid.  But how do we know *how* they're evolving and how *we* and our thinking is evolving without taking the time to come together and to critically think about and discuss these things together?  It's so exciting whenever someone is carring the conversation into new territory, creating opportunities to reflect and question and to expand our ideas!

Aliya Bashir
Feb 20, 2016
Feb 20, 2016

Dear Tiffany,

Thank you so much for  sharing your thoughts.

I truly believe that empowerment is not just confined to a term or a phase. It is a universe itself. We can only gauge its impact when the things that are taking us back will actually pave us a way to shine and lead in whatever we do.

Empowerment holds different meaning for different people.

I am sure we would be able to decipher its meaning here as we carry forward our mission of leadership.

Thank you!

Sarah Murali
Feb 16, 2016
Feb 16, 2016

Aliya - what an interesting and important conversation you are bringing up here! "Empowerment" is a word that is so often used, but so rarely defined critically. When I read your post, I thought you might be interested in reading this post and sharing your thoughts! World Pulse member Marne is asking our community what empowerment looks like and what it means to you.


I do also love how Nandita Das mentions the importance of including men in conversations about sexism - and especially boys and young men. Parents have so much opportunity to help their children, boys and girls, think critically about these issues and be aware of the ways in which they experience both oppression and privilege.

Good conversation Aliya! Thank you for getting it started!

Aliya Bashir
Feb 20, 2016
Feb 20, 2016

Hi Sarah!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

I sincerely believe that the more we try to bring boys and men in the gender issues, the more things would become easy for us. We have to break the barriers an initiate discussions on the 'sensitive topics' and that would really help us to talk about the tabooed topics.

Thank you for sharing the link of Marne.

I will definitely share my thoughts.

Take care

Smeeta Hirani
Feb 16, 2016
Feb 16, 2016


LOVE Nandita Das. You rock!


Aliya Bashir
Feb 20, 2016
Feb 20, 2016

Smeeta, thank you for taking time to read this.

Look forward to hear your thoughts on what importance leadership holds in your life!

Keep writing!

Look forward!

Take care