B’day Girl Sushmita Sen on #MeToo, Women Empowerment, & Feminism

Sushmita Sen turns 43!

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An actor, model, and the first Indian to be crowned Miss Universe in 1994, Sushmita Sen is a well known personality across the nation. Sen was a special guest at the Outlook Speak Out 2018 – an event that brought together women achievers who made a difference by pushing the envelope of excellence in their chosen field. The Quint was a digital partner for the second edition of Outlook Speak Out that focused on ‘women’s empowerment’.

Watch and read the excerpts from our conversation with Sushmita Sen.

Do you think that Indian film industry is in the middle of the #MeToo campaign, or #WhyIDidntReport coming together? Can you see something like that happening?

I was reading an interview of Tanushree Dutta this morning and she is right that it isn’t about the coming of a #MeToo campaign. By all means, it will come and it will go. It is far deeper. It’s a mindset. To change that, you’re looking at an entirely new generation being raised and being educated to believe in their rights and responsibilities. So, I don’t think a campaign will do it. We’re not ready for that yet.

Amitabh Bachchan stayed silent on this issue. Do you think you have to come out and give your support from within the industry. Isn’t that important as well?

I don’t like to speak about someone else because everybody has their own reasons for it. But as far as I am concerned, I think it’s time we stop treating everything as a problem of a sector, it is a basic human right. To live a dignified life and that concerns everyone. It isn’t just about film industry because you are talking about an actor, it isn’t about the person from the media industry because its only related to media. Women exist in all sectors today and thank god for that. Their safety and their integrity is very much everyone’s responsibility.

Is empowerment also a process of self-realisation?

Empowerment is a very big word and it’s used very lightly these days especially when it concerns women because you have events, campaigns or NGOs that are raking it up like it’s a social issue we should talk about because it’s a hot topic. But women who really need to be empowered need to feel it coming from outside their own conditioning it’s a big and deep-rooted process and empowering them isn’t just giving them equal opportunities or the socio-political structure of your country. It’s letting them know that they have the same rights and freedoms to express themselves however they choose, within the responsible boundaries of social norms and cultures or the society that you live in.

That is going to be quite a process. I keep saying this not because I want to break anyone’s bubble but it would be great if we start thinking collectively about how to make that happen.

What do you have to say to a woman who says I’m not a feminist?

She might not be clear about what she’s saying because feminism has had multiple interpretations over the years. There was a time when it wasn’t cool to say the word ‘feminist’.

But all these words and tags aside, do you believe in equal opportunities?

No gender biases – may the best person get the best job. Do you believe in equal wages for equal work? I can go on and on about it. I don’t believe in tags and names. I can’t speak for someone else but as a woman, when you’re considered the minority in all aspects of your life; they should definitely not talk about not being feminists at least. I am very proud to say that of late that I have met a lot of men who are feminists and it’s fantastic and that is progressive. That’s how the world should move forward.

(This article is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 7 October 2018. It is now being republished to mark Sushmita Sen’s birthday.)

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