What is love? A question which has been asked repeatedly, be it in movies, literature, art, conversations with your best friend or thoughts in your mind. There have also been answers. Some say it’s friendship, some say it’s sacrifice, some say it’s attraction. However, what is the answer for a movement? What is love for feminism? Is it control? Is it power? Is it resistance? Is it transgressive? What is it?
Yesterday, I was in a room with two feminists, Kamla Bhasin and Sonali Khan, who have been integral to the feminist movement in India. Of all the things they spoke about, two threads of the conversation which particularly stayed with me as a young feminist were about laughter and love. Kamla Ji spoke about how within the feminist movement, very often, love has been understood as a bad thing. She joyfully proclaimed, “Mohabbat se badiya is duniya mein koi cheez nahi.” (There is nothing better than love in this world).
Kamla Ji added that feminist and development activists have not used the word love enough. While the discourse that love is power has been dominant, the discourse about the power of love has not been emphasised on much. As the conversation progressed in the direction of how the notion of love has been redefined, Kamla ji pointed out that the opposite of violence is not non-violence, rather love and love is nothing but acceptance, empathy, democratic, decentralised and also not just something that is only between two people.
As a young feminist, I have always pondered over the question of how is it that we can reach out to people with an aim to change patriarchal mindsets? What is the language you use when language itself is a manifestation of unequal power structures? Do you then look for an alternative or delve into an exercise of reclaiming and redefining words? This is where the conversation between Kamla ji and Sonali came as a potential answer for me. The notion of love, at some level, with multiple meanings is a notion, a concept, an idea that at some point or the other has been accessed by all. If we can tap on this idea and engage in a dialogue where we simply redefine and reclaim certain interpretations, we can go a long way.
The second thread of the conversation between Sonali and Kamla ji which stayed with me was about laughter. Being a part of any struggle is exhausting. There is a lot that can weigh you down. How do you then sustain the fight? How do you re-energise yourself? Kamla ji and Sonali firmly believe laughter hold the key. Not only does it refresh you, it is also an act of subversion. In a social structure, where subordination is the norm for your gender, to laugh out loud, to celebrate, to be a survivor in the face of a fight is resistance. Like Sonali said during the conversation, we are marathon runners, we have a long way to go and so, we have to find ways to keep us going. And if it’s something as easy as laughing, then why not!
In a world, where disillusionment awaits, these conversations truly inspire! Do watch the video and share your thoughts with us.