Why Liberals Should Wear Our Hearts On Our Sleeves / by Tara Kaushal

July 2015: #selfiewithdaughter & #lovewins: despite the criticisms, these two campaigns are social media wins.

These past few days, I’ve been reading a number of updates, tweets and comments, and having a number of conversations about both, #selfiewithdaughter, and #celebratepride and #lovewins. There are those going yay-yay, there are those going nay-nay. But, you know what, I’m a yay-yay.

One could argue that the selfie culture is only skin deep, and that there is a lot of more meaningful work left to be done on the governance and policy level—“how can you have a #selfiewithdaughter campaign but at the same time not criminalise marital rape in India, saying that it’s a ‘personal issue’ that is sensitive and so the government doesn’t want to take a stand?” asks Ishita. Shruti Seth asked the PM to “try reform”, and got trolled for it by blind Modi bhakts.

And one could say that love has only won in America, take a chill-pill Indians, we’re still in the dark ages, far from decriminalising gay sex, let alone celebrating gay marriage.

These criticisms are all true and, as someone deeply involved with gender and equal rights issues, I am well aware of all the work left to be done on both these fronts.

But I am also aware of how skin-deep the world is at the moment, where all that glitters is seen as gold. We see the negatives of this every day—from men and women who base standards of beauty on airbrushed images to the damage caused to Australian treasurer Joe Hockey’s reputation by headlines and tweets that proclaimed ‘Treasurer for sale’ (he isn’t corrupt, the stories were about a fundraising activity and he’s since won a defamation case against Fairfax Media).

It’s also interesting to explore the definition of ‘liberal’. Many of us liberals have been content with living and letting live, ‘your rights end where my feelings begin’, a social laissez faire. Increasingly (and ironically) though, it has become important to fight for the right to be oneself (and to let others be themselves), to be left in peace unless you’re hurting something other than ‘culture’. Militant upholders of mainstream culture and religion—those that propagate ideas against daughters and gay people—are pretty proud and loud, in case you haven’t noticed. Too blatant and outspoken about your liberal ideas? You’re a ‘sickular’ bitch who must be jailed.

In this environment, then, it is important to declare ones support for ones ideas, if marching on the streets is not for you. So when we take and propagate #selfiewithdaughter and make our profile pictures rainbow-coloured, we’re aligning ourselves with our beliefs, even if the expression is skin-deep, frothy and feel-good. We’re counting ourselves (and being counted as) people who believe in women’s and gay rights, even if (especially since) they aren’t yet constitutionally and socially guaranteed, even if it is armchair activism. We’re declaring that we want a certain type of world, even if we’re not actively going and seeking it. We’re coming out of the closet with our counter-culture beliefs, even if, in the former case, it propagated by the same government that is simultaneously regressive.

I’ve never been one to follow the ‘if you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all’ adage. In this case, though, may I recommend that, if you are indeed a believer in women’s and gay rights (human rights, really), please keep the hole poking of these feel-good campaigns to yourself. There are enough regressives out there doing just that, for motives more sinister than yours.

An edited version of this article appeared on iDiva in July 2015.