Interview with Kamla Bhasin 2021

Ronan Lee

It was truly a privilege to have a deep conversation with feminist Kamla Bhasin. Before we even began to ask her questions, she urged the importance of Ubuntu, “I am because you are.” She said that this simple phrase can counter words of hate. She was able to tie all of us together in such a powerful way. 

Before we each asked our question,  she asked us how to spell our names, making sure she got it right. This small act helped her connect with us. During the interview she urged the concept of love, and how it must be something we bring into our lives. She said, “To root out the seeds of hate, we must sow the seeds of love.” Without love we enter into the patriarchy, which amplifies the inequalities we all face. Love is the solution, and bringing it will connect people together. It can be brought into politics, science, and the climate issues, all of which are major issues that the whole world plays into. We all have our roles to play.

At the end of our conversation, we connected the concepts of conservation and love. As the world changes around us, and social constructs rise and fall, we concluded that we must conserve love. With love we can build the new normal, and we can minimize our human made inequalities. The last thought she left us with was, “With love, on love, for love, we strive, we thrive, we survive.”

Ami Bharghavan

I found Kamla Bhasin to be inspiring, and a fresh voice that spoke to me. I rarely hear people willing to make bold statements that might be controversial to some, but Kamla Bhasin spoke from the heart. She referred to many current events to help us understand her points, and she made the conversation personal by making sure to call each one of us by name, even checking to make sure she had our spelling correct. She spoke with passion and humor, and helped me to see some aspects of gender inequality from a new perspective.

She began the conversation by referring to the word “Ubuntu”, “I am because you are.” She was talking about how everyone and everything is interconnected. Problems that we face in society are all interconnected with similar sources; racism, classism,and  gender inequality, all stem from patriarchy. Patriarchy stems from a control over property and who controls the resources. I found it fascinating that Kamla Bhasin found the source of many of society’s problems to be property. It was also fascinating that she connected more educated countries with higher degrees of gender inequality, because with greater wealth comes a greater need to control the wealth. “Richer people are more patriarchal.” She talked about how more indigenous people, with less property, have more freedom. Why talk about property and gender? Kamla said that you can’t fight gender inequality without fighting capitalism. 

Kamla Bhasin

When talking about the world’s response to COVID, she talked about wealthy and powerful countries like the US and the UK having some of the highest numbers of COVID cases, while smaller countries like Cuba, have sent out doctors and medicine to help other countries in the world. She talked about how some people have become trillionaires during COVID, on the misery of others, which is inhuman.

Kamla Bhasin had a unique way of looking at gender and personal choice that I found intriguing. She compared gender to a performance that we perform our whole lives. She sees gender as artificial. She also said that gender makes us half of what we could be, because traditional gender roles don’t allow us to fulfill every aspect of ourselves, in particular, those aspects that aren’t traditional. She said that gender is a “mental construct.” It doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s physical body. The process of “invisible acculturation” starts as soon as we’re born by the way that everyone interacts with us: our families, the church, and the wider community all reinforce their definitions of gender. Kamla Bhasin went on to talk about how everything in our society has become gendered, and even our choices aren’t actually our own, but are determined by other people. Patriarchal social norms and capitalist companies actually determine what we think are our personal choices in order to control us and make more money. 

What I liked about our conversation with Kamla Bhasin is that though she spoke about how pervasive the patriarchy is, there is hope to bring change. First of all, since we have created inequality, we also have the power to stop it. Everyone’s choice affects everyone else, so we can choose to put an end to inequality. She also spoke about some of the progress the world has made in the last sixty years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even though rape, domestic violence, racism, and workplace inequality still occurs, we know it is wrong and now take steps when those injustices happen. In the past, they would have been simply accepted. The change in consciousness is an improvement, but it is just a beginning and we have a long way to go. What is Kamla’s solution? Love.  She said that “I believe the solution to everything we are facing today is love”, and referred to science, business, politics, and education. She added that without love, “you get fascism, racism, patriarchy, lynching, putting a leg on someone.” What we need are “seeds of love.”