Rachana Dubey (BOMBAY TIMES; March 12, 2017)

There's more to Sonam Kapoor than her gorgeous looks and style statements. She's a woman with strong opinions, and she makes it a point to stand by them and express them when the need arises. As a star participant in our on-going campaign, #NoConditionsApply, the actress voices her views on what it's like to be a woman in today's day and age. Over to her...

I've always had an opinion. And why should anyone expect any less of me? Just because I look and dress a certain way? It was to belie these ridiculous notions that I thought it was necessary to do Neerja and Raanjhanaa to have an opportunity to speak my mind on things that matter and to be taken seriously as an actor. There shouldn't be a mould for all women to fit in, in order to be seen as worthy of respect and intellect.

To the media's credit, female reporters in particular, try to be supportive. A few days ago, I was discussing a relevant topic with a journalist. I made a comment on a public issue, which she told me hadn't 'trended' at all, even though it was well articulated. My friend told me, 'You know 10 people have called me praising it, but it's not trending.' In the meanwhile, what were people more interested in? My side boob! For God's sake! Is that how it works? Is it all about good copy and what sells? At the risk of sounding jaded, it often feels like no one is interested in an intelligent opinion. Faux pas, malfunctions, affairs sell well. It's as they say... women should be seen, not heard. And that to me is one of the biggest problems with not just our industry today, but also society at large.

It's sad that in show business, the women who are perceived to be cerebral are largely those doing art house cinema. But trust me, there are a lot of brilliant women in different arenas of our industry. And if you give them a chance, they will blow your mind! It's really not that hard to digest. Intelligence and beauty could exist together and exist independently too. And not just in showbiz. In any office, if you dress well and apply some make-up and move around, you will have people commenting. Female journalists who write about movies are not taken as seriously as their political counterparts. And that baffles me! Cinema is art that has far-reaching effects.You make as much impact as someone covering politics. Both are religions in our country, so why should one be treated with more respect than the other?

As a woman, the choice to dress the way you want and think the way you think, is yours and yours alone. You can be beautiful and that doesn't take away from your intelligence. If you don't want to apply make-up and dress pretty, it doesn't make you any less beautiful. It's the whole idea of judgement that's wrong. You should be allowed to be who you want to be.

People write about a woman's contours. It's a mentality. It's what is projected. No matter how thick-skinned we get, this will always be a sore issue for us. I would never endorse the idea of being overweight or underweight. I endorse the idea of being healthy. And if you're fit, you could be any size and yet run a marathon. You have to be comfortable with your body and the way it looks. It's okay to celebrate yourself. Don't let anyone judge you for your size and contour.

Let's talk about women who are intelligent, powerful and great dressers. Diane Keaton, Frida Kahlo, Maharani Gayatri Devi, Maharani of Cooch Behar, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn... Every iconic woman has her own distinct style statement. These women prove that you can be beautiful and stylish and unapologetically opinionated. The way a woman dresses is her way of expressing her artistry. If you're well put together, it means you care for yourself. If you don't love yourself, how can you love any other?

The fact that we're still fighting for something as basic as this is honestly appalling to me! In showbiz, in corporations, in media, the inequality is rampant. There are way too many preconceived notions about women. If you're pregnant, you can't work. If you're a mother, you can't do long hours or you can't do certain kind of duties. Are people so threatened by women's capabilities and strengths as to latch onto such ridiculous ideas? What is this if not a crab mentality? And what's worse is that even women look at women through these prejudicial glasses. Hillary Clinton is a case in point. Just because she is a woman, everything from her haircut to the brand of her suits and her lipstick shades are discussed. Would we ever dare to talk like that about a male presidential candidate? Sexism is everywhere and we have to fight it in our own ways.My problem is not with the media, it's with the hypocrisy of society.

I have an opinion. I don't belong to a camp. I dress a certain way. I believe I should be paid what I deserve, regardless of the gender. And that, to some people, is a problem. People are threatened by that. They are threatened by the fact that I have a mind, an opinion and a voice. And so, I have chosen to work with directors who are confident about their craft and above these petty presumptions.

Salman Khan, as a powerful male co-star, was supportive of me. He gave me the space to voice my opinion when we were promoting our film together. He didn't ever sideline me. The fact that it's a rarity is sad and scary. As a woman, I've found that you can't demand respect. It's the prerogative of the people you encounter to either give it to you or not. And what's most disturbing in this already twisted setting is that of the people that I've encountered, it's usually women who are more sexist than their male counterparts!

I am stubborn and headstrong and I've made a conscious decision very long ago that I would not be my dad's shadow. Not much grows under a banyan tree. If you are lucky enough like me to have a parent who can give you the time and space to grow, who doesn't mollycoddle you and who can respect your ability to make your own decisions, you will have all you ever need to strive for what you want most. The fact that my brother looks like my dad does not always work to his advantage. Undue expectations and to a certain extent, stereotypes are levelled at him, and that's not an easy position to be in. I too have seen my fair share of comparisons, not just with my family, but with other actresses as well.People always made it a point to tell me that I was born with a silver spoon. I corrected them: it's golden. And I am proud of it.

- If a woman possesses the right aptitude for a certain job, don't deny it to her.
- Women's capabilities are not a function of their gender and should not be judged on that basis.
- Equal opportunity should not be a debate, it should be a fact of life!