Vaishnavi Sundar

Last month, a scheduled screening of Vaishnavi Sundar’s film, But What Was She Wearing? was abruptly cancelled. Vaishnavi was told, a week before the screening, that the event was cancelled because of her “transphobic” views. This was in reference, she discovered, to some tweets she had posted about gender identity politics online, including questioning whether males who identify as transgender should be allowed to complete against and with women in sport, be transferred to female prisons, or use women’s change rooms. Vaishnavi had spent three years on the film, interviewing women in India about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. She published an article about the ordeal in Spiked earlier this month, titled, “I was cancelled for my tweets on transgenderism.”

In it, she writes:

I grew up in Avadi in the south of India. I have spent most of my life working with marginalised women. But I was simply not the right flavour of woke for the postmodern, queer-theory espousing desis of Manhattan.

I have since confronted the editors of the publications that blacklisted me. It appears that Indian trans-rights activists googled my name and wrote to every outlet I had ever been published in, telling them about my ‘TERFy’ tweets.

By being outcast, I was essentially being told that the feminism I live by — the feminism of Mary Wollstonecraft, Emmeline Pankhurst and Andrea Dworkin — was exclusionary because it rejected males in female safe spaces. My intersectionality wasn’t expansive enough to accommodate men. My feminism did not embrace the ‘choice’ of carrying water for patriarchy. Advocating for women’s safety was ‘anti-trans’, the meaning of which I am still struggling to understand. I am not ‘anti’ anything except the endless derivative forms of misogyny.”

Vaishnavi Sundar is an independent filmmaker, feminist, writer, and women’s rights activist from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. She is the founder of Women Making Films and Lime Soda Films, and is currently conducting research for a new film about the effect of microfinance on women.

I spoke with her over the phone this week.

To watch But what was she wearing, visit: https://gumroad.com/vaishax

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.