Feministaa had popular comedian and writer, Radhika Vaz all candid and yet revolutionary as she talked about ‘being a feminist in India today’. She says it is the weirdest time to be one, as of late the word feminist has been receiving quite a few negative connotations.
“Lots of actual feminists, like who believe in equal rights and gender equality, don’t want to say that they are feminists.”
She finds it sad in a way, highlighting how being a woman if you refrain from identifying with your issues, it’s equally sexist.
Over the years, Radhika has been receiving negative reactions just for calling herself a feminist outright. Yet she doesn’t shy away from declaring it to all women, “What a man can do, we can do better”.
“I’m gonna get louder, I’m gonna get more obnoxious, I’m gonna get worse and worse and worse until I feel it is 50/50.” Right now it is not even 95/5.”
Radhika laughs as she says how age does give her confidence, not shying away about being in her 40s. And she does highlight with a grin, how the prettier you are the worse it is to age!
“Most confidence comes to me from other women and other fighters of the cause. All the women you guys (Feministaa) interview, I mean I watch so many of those. They give me confidence. I am not doing this on my own.”
Radhika bluntly claims how her source of confidence is definitely all women who come up to her and acknowledge how her work actually helped them. The fact that she is not wasting her time but contributing in a good way keeps her tuned to her passion.
“The content of my shows is typically pointing out the obvious bias.”
Accepting how her shows are not well received by a certain section of society, she points out how there has always been a general trend that housework is a female thing. A part of the problem is us (women), we think we can take it on and that’s the actual conditioning. Feminism is everybody’s responsibility.
“The only people who seem to have a negative reaction to me, are people who know I am speaking the truth and have a problem with that truth.”
The issue is not that they are not outright conditioned; they just refuse to acknowledge the problem.
She points out one instance when a guy tried to ban her show in Bombay via a petition. And most times, how men actually came up to her post her shows and said “That was very interesting”, with more sarcasm then praise.
“Why do you have to bring feminism into everything.”
For a long time, Radhika accepted that and allowed it to affect her. She claims how she didn’t identify with her issues and hid behind the expression that she personally had not experienced in a deep way. Brought up by ‘feminists parents,’ she didn’t have a typical Indian girl child upbringing. Hence she didn’t really have anything she would be angry about. But this was exactly her becoming when she realized, how she was not an island, whatever happened to other people could also happen to her.
“I wanted to get married so badly. Because I just thought that was what I had to do as a woman. Otherwise, how would people respect me?” She could’ve just married anyone.
Talking about ‘sexism bleeding into our lives’, she holds, “Why shouldn’t I rebel against it? Why shouldn’t I speak up and say we don’t need to do any of these things.” After all, it could put somebody else’s mind at ease.
“I never felt like I wanted to be a mum.”
Radhika holds that there is a big distinction that is needed to be made between motherhood and parenting. Motherhood is glorified and romanticized in India. The real thing is being a parent.
“Whether you are a man or a woman, you can start to say, do I want to be a parent? Do I want to be one of those people who brings the next generation of workers into the world?”
The focus should be parenthood. A lot of parents attach ego into parenting, that’s not good. Their job is to raise kids in a certain way, educate them with ideas that are modern, forward thinking, and community-based. It is a sacred responsibility and requires great effort which not everybody is cut out for it. Her own purpose she felt was rather impacting young peoples minds in some way, it allows them to parent her back instead.
“It is always about, I do, and you do. But the moment you travel around, and you live with all those different types of people, you realize everyone’s going to do their own thing whether you like it or not. You just become a little bit tolerant.”
Radhika fondly talks about her childhood of the ‘Air Force lifestyle being grounded’ and the way it had a positive impact on her. She grew up with no concept of a divide, be it region or religion.
“I never looked at it like it could be a real career for me. But I think part of it was just role models, I didn’t have female comedian role models growing up.”
She says how she never really had a fore-vision that she would be a professional comedian when she grew up, although she did love being on-stage.
However, it was advertising wherein she made a career out of, and had a good time making good money and meeting interesting people. She enjoyed how she could express herself in so many different ways.
“Until I actually sat down and wrote that film, one hour of material, I didn’t think it was a real thing.”
She realized comedy was her true calling when she was 37-38 years old, after the feeling she got post her very first show. She received remarkable encouragement from her mentors and fans. But the real encouragement came from pain. She says it is acknowledging the painful side of things, the writing, the failing, the criticism that takes one a long way.
“You look like a guy”
With hair cropped short and a lean figure, Radhika claims how she has had always been at the receiving end of comments about her body and shape. But eventually, she realized how one’s looks never really matter over how one feels.
“Strong is the new everything,” is her fitness mantra.
She says how everyone has a different thing that makes them mentally feel better, and that automatically impacts how one feels physically.
Radhika quotes feminist writer, Naomi Wolfe, “We women have been convinced that we are cheap imitations of supermodels in the magazine, but really it’s the other way round.”