One evening, illustrator and graphic designer Pia Alize Hazarika got into an argument with a woman. “She called me a bad feminist. It was because I didn’t align my views with hers. It sat a bit weirdly with me,” recalls Hazarika, founder of Delhi’s Pig Studio.
Instead of ranting about it online, she decided to channel her rage creatively, doing what she does best: draw a comic. “It would
show where I stand and what my beliefs are, and serve as a tool to show people that there’s a spectrum under which their views can fall; not everything is black and white,” she says.
In January this year, she created two comics featuring herself as a simple, pink-hued, pony-tailed, Beyoncé-loving character. The first panel had her questioning ‘what is a good feminist’ and if she had missed a universal memo with rules she had to adhere to. In the second one, she blithely mentions that if ‘you think women are human beings who deserve to lead full, human lives — you’re a feminist’.
“I did the first two and decided to run them by my friend Malathi [Malathi Jogi, a Mumbai-based design student who writes and makes comics] because I trust her opinion and our approach to things is usually in sync. She came up with suggestions and I asked her to write it with me,” says Hazarika.
Together the two started Custom Cuts, a comic series they released on Tumblr. The purpose, says Jogi, is to reclaim feminism from the clutches of ignorant, faux-progressive, marketing-led discourse. “Every page we create is built to resist the boxes people like to put feminism (and feminists) into. We try hard to showcase the evolution of feminism, where the movement stands today, the grey areas, and how it can mean different things to different people,” she says.
With ‘Custom Cuts’ we want to try to understand and explain the in-between spaces that emerge from widely differing contexts, and the custom-made feminism that lies between the labels of “good” and “bad” feminism,” they say. “While we’re at it, we’d also like to answer some of the questions we often get, including – “why are you so angry?”, “So, you’re a feminazi?”, “Is it feminist to be ‘girly’?” and “how can a feminist like pink?””
“We’ve noticed that over the course of centuries, feminism has evolved vastly – resulting in the emergence of many feminisms, including rigid stereotypes of how the ideal feminist should be,” said Jogi. “It’s often “Feminazi” or bust, with labels handed out freely by spectators. A universal, ‘one-size-fits-all’ feminism is no longer relevant, yet, a large section of people (online and off) seem to be persistent about holding feminists to standards that expect them to be a certain way or not exist at all.”
The inclusivity of the feminist movement lies in its intersectionality – the ability to acknowledge the different oppressions that occur at the intersection of gender with other marginalised categories like class, caste, religion, sexuality, and ability. Hazarika and Jogi say that they definitely plan to explore intersectionality further in their future pieces, both with respect to their personal identities and in a broader aspect.
Though feminism is a simple concept of equity, it is one of the ideology that is misunderstood the most. Though there are tons of literature that explains it’s nuances, simple illustrations like that in Custom cuts will help enormously in taking its message to the dummies.