A Letter to Mr Kanan Gill

Respected Mr Gill
I am an absolute fan of your work and have always regretted not being able to spend more time on your YouTube channel or attend one of your live shows in Delhi. I’ve been duly informed that there was much that I have missed out on.

I’ve always considered your commentary on Indian movies to be accurate to the point of painful hilarity and shame at the aesthetics that is forced upon the vast Indian population. Our entertainment industry, quite frankly, makes no sense.

Lately, our stand-up comedy and YouTube channels have provided some hope that, in fact, Indians do not lack an informed sense of entertainment. Yes, there have been a few pit falls. Recent attempts at a “roast” crashed and burned more than anything else. All India Bakchod has, however, given us hours of thought provoking entertainment and I was fortunate enough to once attend their show. I have attend two of Vir Das' concerts and have unabashedly danced to “Man Boob”.

What disappoints me, though, is that it’s the NRI YouTubers and stand-up comedians who are making the real splash. iiSuperwomanii, Jusreign and (how can anyone forget?) Russell Peters still have the best side-splitting commentary on Indian culture and reactions to Indian culture.

I’m going to take a moment out and pick up on what they do in their videos. Let’s take Russell Peters, since he is undoubtedly the most iconic. His Red, White and Brown tour has amongst the most memorable jokes about not just our incredible civilization but the multitude of cultures and ethnicities that are now a part of popular media. His jokes about them hit the stereotypes so hard on the heads that it actually splits them open. You laugh at his jokes the entire time and when you sit and go over them, you think to yourself “This couldn’t possibly be true!”, “I don’t sound like that!”, “Are Jamaicans really always cool?”, “Damn, I wanna be Jamaican”.
When Superwoman or Russell Peters talk about Indian parents, the depiction is absurd. There is no way on earth Indian parents could be like that.
When Jusreign does a video about how other cultures react to Sikhs, it’s absolutely ridiculous.

AIB did something similar during the show I attended. They opened up ‘50 Shades of Grey’ by EL James and randomly read paragraphs from the book. It was a simple act with astounding results. The book was absolutely idiotic. You know what the point was? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. I’m going to spell it out for you anyways; I think “Feminazis” like using in-your-face tactics. They’re making a caricature of what they’re depicting. They are not making a mockery. What they’re doing is far more subtle and much more ingenious. They’re working with common perception and highlighting the insanity of it. The point they’re trying to make is that these schemas we have of things aren’t based in reality and the instances that they are true for are meant to be made aware of the stupidity that they engage in.

A lot of people would say that Russell Peters is racist and offensive but have you bothered listening to what he says between jokes? He makes references to the power and absurdity of the media that we subscribe to, to how facile our political and cultural understandings are. He isn’t trying to perpetuate stereotypes, he’s trying tell you what an idiot you are for believing those stereotypes. For the longest time, I believed that maybe, just maybe, you did that too. I thought you also could highlight the absurdity of the context we live in, in this country. Then you released that video.

“I am not sexist but I’m also not feminist. I AM HAPPY”
“What side are you on?” “I AM FUCKING OUTSIDE!”
I promised myself I wouldn’t throw a tomato at you (my Editor loves you), so I’m going to do the next best thing. I’m going to tell you why what you did was so wrong and reckless.

Are you a student of literature? Maybe the humanities? No? Well, I am. It would do you some good to look at the history of the occupation that has now granted you fame and wealth. You could start with Shakespeare. You’ll learn something very important, and I will elaborate on why you should probably learn something from somebody who’s dead-er than your sense of responsibility.

You need to learn to read between the lines. You need to learn what your audience is hearing. Oh, and believe me, they’re listening. When you take that microphone or upload a video, you have an audience that has chosen to listen to you. You now have control of what they think and perceive. They remember what you say better than their significant other’s favourite colour.

I don’t mind you saying "I’m not feminist” or “I’m happy”. What I do have a problem with, is the implications of what you’re saying. And what you’re saying only perpetuates standing stereotypes of feminists being annoying, rabble rousing, pretentious, unhappy individuals who fight for feminine superiority. Following that up with your entire rant about “debating”. Yes, school debates were like that. Maybe you should step into a parliament session one day, or read the newspaper or even listen to what Indian mothers have to say to their daughters every time they decide to wear shorts. That is debate. That is discourse. Your limited notion of “debate” isn’t even your fault. It’s what you’ve been forced to understand a debate to be. Similarly, we’ve been forced to understand that women are unsafe in our country and we should just accept it as something that is inherent. We’ve been made to accept that female student accommodations should have a curfew of 8pm. We’ve been made to accept that even men can’t roam around the city late at night, lest they get mugged or assaulted. We’ve been made to accept the fact that we should be worried every time a cop approaches us. We’ve been made to accept that having an opinion is an annoying trait. We’ve been made to accept the fact that a “meritocracy” is only hard work and not the comforts we receive because of our background. We’ve been made to accept the fact that men can’t stay at home and take care of their children or even apply for an extended paternity leave. We’ve been to accept the fact that archaic institutions like Delhi University and IIT are our only shot at happiness. We’ve been made to accept the fact that everything the media reports to us is everything that happens in the world. We’ve been to accept the fact that the only way we can be happy anymore is to be, as you said, “fucking outside”.

You know what, maybe, we feminists are unhappy. Maybe you’d like to find out why we’re unhappy. If you knew, if you bothered finding out why we don’t choose to sit on the fence, maybe then you wouldn’t make a mockery of what we fight for. We aren’t the ones that have candle light vigils and feel good about ourselves for showing sympathy to a rape victim and then forget about it. No. We never forget. You know why we don’t forget? Because that would mean allowing for everything that lead to schools being attacked, women being raped, and good people being murdered in cold blood, to continue. It means that I become a hypocrite. It means that I choose to become ignorant to things in this world that make a select few privileged at the expense of the rest.

So, you know what, I’ll accept your statement. Yes, being a feminist, being informed, probably does mean you won’t be completely happy.

Go ahead. Be happy. You have every right to be. You, however, do not have the right to be reckless. A person who is ignorant of their influence and is reckless, is far more dangerous than a person who uses their influence for their own personal gain.

When you get up on that stage and voice an opinion, people are listening. They believe what you have to say. What you said was neither a caricature nor an accurate depiction of feminism. It was an absolute mockery and disrespect for a history that is far too complex for your mind to evidently comprehend. Sadly, it is a perception of a movement that spans decades if not centuries. You haven’t made a difference and made people happy. All you’ve managed to do is perpetuate ignorance of a group of people who are misunderstood from the beginning.

In the end, I hope you’re happy Mr Gill.
May we never have the misfortune of meeting or else I’ll punch you in the face.

Yours Sincerely
Indraneil Chaudhury

If you haven’t seen the video yet, watch it here:

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