Thursday, February 22, 2007
An Anything But Static Icon
I heard Gloria Steinem talk on “Secret Censors, Public Solutions” yesterday. The grand old lady of the feminist revolution, she has been around since the 1970s, but the significance of this did not register with me until she spoke of how astonished she was the day (two years ago) she turned seventy. Steinem does not look seventy two or behave seventy two, and photographs (recent or from way back), even though in them she is beautiful, don’t do her justice.
There was, perhaps, nothing in the substance of her talk I did not already know/had not already read: women, and men, are censored in a far more insidious fashion than we realize; it is not just the well-recognized censors like government diktats, court judgments and religious fiats, but more often, we who secretly censor ourselves, our speech, our words, because of the way we internalize gender constructs.
It was Steinem herself who made the difference. She spoke, carrying with lightness, grace, and humor an awareness of her role and responsibility as a universally familiar icon of feminism -- revered and assailed in equal parts. She spoke out our deeply held first truths with authority and conviction. She did not shy away from inspiring us. She was not postmodern. Ah, those days of early feminist consciousness… Ah, hostel life stacked with books and bad coffee…
Delhi’s old hands at the battle, battle-axes, bottle-gourds, and the newly embattled had turned up at the musty IIC auditorium in full force and regalia. They had also brought their cell phones, which rang incessantly, each tune different in tenor and timbre and texture from the next. The cell phones rang till I got seriously alarmed about the state of our future – a future holding movie, play and music evenings filled with extraneous chimes, buzzes, peals and tinkles. Or wait a minute. That’s our present.