It was interesting to have an Indian film industry icon, Kareena Kapoor Khan, pop up on my news feed, but the reason she popped up surprised me.
Kareena Kapoor Khan started trending on my news feed two days ago, after she was seen "eating with friends". The exact dialogue that Facebook used was the following: "Kareena Kapoor Khan is having a ball of a time nowadars. Yesterday, Bebo partied with her best friends Amrita Arora, Malaika Arora and Natasha Poonwala. Recommended: 'Saif says I have been eating too much,' reveals expecting mom Kareena!"
What comes highly unacknowledged with Kareena Kapoor Khan and this particular headline is that in an age where India is repeatedly under fire for gendercide, sexist behavior, and archaic cultural resolutions regarding women's rights, Kareena at a minimal level is trying to alter India's perception.
Her efforts aren't making astronomical waves but she should have been trending instead for her attempts to lend a voice and promote gender equality with her speech at the Global Citizen India launch event in Mumbai. She shouldn't have been trending for having lunch with friends. In Kareena's speech, she shot down the question of her unborn child's gender identity. "We are still in a nation, where we are asked, 'Oh! You are getting married, are you still going to work?' 'Oh! You're pregnant, are you still going to work?' These questions upset me," she said.
While her speech can be found below, in a nutshell, she says that her child's gender shouldn't make an impact on her child's capability. Kareena ends her speech by saying that a "girl child" is not a taboo, and "a woman is probably the only soul that has the right to carry a soul in her, and that is something that is truly a joy". It's a surprisingly enlightening and short speech, and what she should have been trending for, along with India's online outrage. There have been enough commenters saying she should "get off her high horse".
Her speech and the subsequent commentary exhibit India's problem with classism. The rich aren't allowed to speak out, and yet when they do, it's from level of authority and privilege. A similar backlash was met by film icon Amitabh Bachchan's online letter to his granddaughters in which he encouraged them to embrace their identity, legacy, and future. India squandered in outrage over Amitabh's well-timed letter with his film promotion. While the rich and famous of Bollywood are the smallest subsect of India's massive population, they drive advertisements and product sales, and they are the ones with the biggest influence. If they don't say anything, who will? India's laundry detergent commercial, titled #sharetheload, has been the only other influential and resonant media campaign that has stirred any emotion in the pot of sexism.
Facebook's oversight of Kareena's civic work isn't helping India (and in larger extent South Asia) change a perception of gender equality. While Facebook can't spot every social good attempt by every influencer, they can try. Deepika Padukone, another Bollywood star, has trended on Facebook for being spotted wearing a dress, but the feed didn't include her otherwise viral campaign to combat the stigma of mental health and wellbeing. Kalki Koechlin, another critically acclaimed Bollywood actress, made headlines for her French background rather than her feminism activism movement or three time Best Supporting Actress nominations. Plenty of other icons and stars have trended on Facebook for immaterial "headline grabbers" around their lifestyle choices. But Facebook can influence an entire generation if it included sentences like "Kareena spoke on the behalf of gender equality earlier this week at the Global Citizen India launch, with Coldplay and JayZ" or "Deepika stuns in a dress after commenting on her battle with depression and her journey of personal health and wellbeing".
Kareena Kapoor Khan's video is a glimpse of a small group of people trying to change the world's mindset around women and female authority in both the home and workplace. But it doesn't surface on social media platforms with the right frequency or coverage to make a difference. If anyone can dedicate the resources to fight this, then it's worth a shot to try, and Facebook can certainly try.
Of course, this video ends with the camera following Kareena Kapoor's pregnant body off the stage, but that is another topic of political correctness to be discussed later.
Her entire response can be seen here.