As a child, Meena was my alter ego. From time to time, I'd relapse into my obsession with her. If the scratches on my Meena DVD and extensive comic book collection are anything to go by, this cartoon is etched into my brain.
The recent ongoing conversations around patriarchy and misogyny made me realise how relevant Meena still is. I have to give her credit for teaching me things I probably wouldn't have learned at school, especially feminist causes. Let's look at three episodes and explore why this cartoon character is a feminist icon.
Count Your Chicken
One of the most iconic episodes of the cartoon is about one of the basic rights of every single human being: education. Meena wants to go to school, just like her brother Raju, but her parents see no point in an educated daughter. Because girls belong in the kitchen, right? Wrong, Meena rightfully thinks. With her brilliant mind, she defies patriarchal norms by sending her pet parrot Mithu to school, who imitates the lessons and relays them back to her. Her plan ultimately achieves more than her goal. She not only learns how to count, but also uses her new skill to catch a thief running off with one of their chickens. Her impressed parents learn a lesson, too -- every girl should go to school, they must.
Dividing the Mango
In this episode, gender roles and inequality are questioned. Raju gets the bigger share of a ripe mango for breakfast, and a fuller plate at dinner. Why? Male privilege, of course. But, Meena does more household chores than him, so doesn't she deserve her fair share? Raju claims her work is too easy, leading Meena to propose a challenge. The siblings swap their workload the next day, but Raju regrets it very soon. He toils away the whole day, botching even the simplest of tasks. On the other hand, Meena enjoys a pretty relaxing day, other than struggling to tame their cow, Lali. By the end of the day, Raju is more empathetic towards Meena. The family, as a whole, comes to value the importance of gender equality.
It's Got to Be a Boy
This episode addresses the problematic preference of male children in society. Meena's uncle is expecting a grandchild, but he's absolutely certain that it will be a grandson. His justification is that sons carry the name of the family, and can be anything they want. However, he is soon proven wrong when he discovers that the manager of his bank is a woman. He receives another blow when he learns that his newborn grandchild is a daughter. Meena introduces him to several self-sufficient women in the village, and shows off her mechanical skills when his tractor breaks down. At last, her uncle changes his sexist mindset, because he now knows that women are more than capable of doing everything men can.
Meena doesn't stop here. She raises awareness about child marriage, dowry, women entrepreneurship and female healthcare in other episodes. Perhaps it's time to binge on Meena again, and rekindle her spirit within us until we dismantle the patriarchy.
Adhora Ahmed tries to make her two cats befriend each other, but in vain. Tell her to give up at firstname.lastname@example.org