A new comic panel wants to reclaim feminism from being a convenient accessory or trend and explain why it is necessary in today’s times
Pia and Malathi
One evening, illustrator and graphic designer Pia Alize Hazarika got into an argument with a drunk 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.
Since the two are based in different cities, they sit together and decide on the next topic. They work online — sending each other voice notes and articles to read, sharing links for research and throwing ideas at each other, and editing copy together. “We nerd out over the research section. We are being very careful about what we are projecting. She is doing it from an academic standpoint and I'm doing it from the view of a comic artist, so it's a good balance.”
The first phase, which just ended, has them talk about the current state and history of feminism, intersectionality and making feminism inclusive, and how it is not just a convenient accessory but requires hard work and effort. Phase two, which has already begun, talks about feminazi or militant feminists (it's what they call the 'brodude edition').
The response they've received so far has given them enough incentive to continue. “Custom Cuts has been resonating with many feminists, who've felt like their journeys were portrayed. People who don't identify as feminists have sent us gratifying messages for creating a layered, clearer platform for them. Our target audience is anyone who wants to understand feminism beyond the buzzword it has become today. It is not yet a revolutionary call, but has played the role of a witness and gentle educator so far,” says Jogi.
It has also helped them both rediscover their ideas of feminism and dive deep into the movement. “The more research we do, the more we're asked to confront who we can and cannot speak for, the privilege we operate with, and how we shape our feminisms going forward. We're treating this as a continuous learning project for ourselves, so it helps revise our own positions on many feminist issues as well,” adds Jogi.
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