Monday, February 4, 2013

The modern 'empowered' woman's disenchantment with the F word

"Are you a feminist?"
"Well no. Of course not. What makes you think so?"
"Not much. Except that you sounded like you are not the kind of woman who would take shit lying down."
"Oh, you're correct in your observation I must say (with that all-knowing look). But I'm not a feminist."
"Would you be ok with being paid less than your male colleague for the same amount of work?"
"Why? Of course not!"
"Would you be ok with doing all the household chores yourself without any help from your husband even though your working hours are more or less the same?"
"No. Never."  (with an incredulous expression on her face)
"So you think you have equal rights as that of a man, even if you don't have that extra y chromosome?"
"I do. Who on earth in her right senses wouldn't?"
"One who is not a feminist. So, you see, this makes you a feminist. Out and out."

I have had umpteen such conversations. So many that now my retorts and questions don't need to be consciously thought of. I fire them the moment I come across "I'm not a feminist but...."

It's ridiculous how less feminism is understood in India and it pains me to know that many urban, educated women don't like to have anything to do with feminism.

Feminism basically is the advocacy for equal rights- political, economical and social. It is a school of thought that says a woman is a human being first, and has every right to lead a normal human life that is granted to a man including the freedom to make her own decisions.

All’s well then. Or am I missing out something? Am I deliberately not bringing up anything that gives feminism the negative tinge it carries? Girls, if this ‘F’ word brings to your mind images of unattractive spinsters clad in kurtas and carrying jholas, that's only the bathwater that needs to be thrown out. Don't throw feminism out of your window because of those outdated associations.

Half a century back, women needed to resort to gimmicks like burning their lingerie to be noticed and listened to. And if the activists that were the most visible were the kinds who didn't think a feminine body was very essential to who they were, it cannot in any way mean that every feminist thinks that way or that if you love to flaunt your body, you can't be a feminist. Nothing can be further from the truth. A woman is as much a feminist in a mini-skirt and lipstick as she is in shirt-and-denims.

Similarly, feminism isn’t incompatible with romance and marriage. In fact, a happy marriage can exist only between two perfectly independent individuals- a symbiosis; not one in which one is 'God' no matter how ungodly his behaviour and one is the eternal 'daasi' no matter what she could have done with her life. As Dr. M. Scott Peck says in "The Road Less Travelled"- a classic in psychiatric literature, "When someone says that he/she can’t live without his/her love, it is a description of parasitism, not love. There is no choice, no freedom involved in your relationship. Two people love each other only when they are quite capable of living without each other but choose to live with each other." Now you decide. Is feminism anti-romance or does it actually provide the best setting for a healthy romance?

Also, feminism is not female chauvinism. In fact, it is a mark of deep rooted sexism that a call for equality sounds like female chauvinism. Feminists are not anti-men. We are just anti-MCPs (Male Chauvinist Pigs, in case you are new to feminist writings).

Apart from pedaling a school of thought that says women are human beings first, feminism also disdains all attempts to tell women what they are supposed to do or be like, be it through coercion or reverence.

Most importantly, feminists are very particular about the right of a woman to decide for herself. Motherhood and marriage are not really the ultimate goals of womanhood (as every religious scripture or Guru would have you believe) and you are, we say, as much a perfect woman in a boardroom as in a maternity ward. Again, one can be a doting mother or a loving wife as well as a feminist. There's no either-or. The only bone of contention is the right to decide for oneself. Don't listen to the elders and the scriptures that ask you to be the epitome of virtue by being selfless so as to reach the ideal of 'perfect womanhood.' You will be perfect when you have made the best possible use of all your abilities, be it as a homemaker, or a mother or a businesswoman or a teacher. That you will be fit to be worshiped only if you forget about yourself and bear your husband's kids and devote yourself to the family is an age old trap. Do you really want to be worshiped? For what pray? For pedaling patriarchy for one more generation? Do what you are good at and never accept love that comes without respect.
Respect that comes attached with preconceived notions of how you 'should' be is as bad. If you have to bear being called a bad-mannered woman or even a slut, to get the rights that are yours, I don't think it would be wise to shy away and stay quiet instead of blowing up the shit. For we have had enough. And it is time we didn't let this just go on.

What can you do? Start from your home. Your family. Your younger brother. Your boyfriend. Your father. Your husband. And educate the women. It won't help if the revolutionaries are concerned with being called revolutionaries. Start with your mother and your maid and your younger sister. And if you have the means, teach the less privileged women that you can reach out to, what feminism actually is.

And yeah, for now, start with the easiest part of the job.  Let’s spread the word around. It's not uncool to be a Feminist you know.

Meanwhile, there's one serious issue to ponder about. And that would very well explain whether we actually need feminism or not. Here it goes:


  1. Okay I read through both the posts & to tell you honestly I still didn't get the specificity or significance of the 'F' word.Sorry to offend you but really it's obscure what you meant in them.

  2. Firstly you are mistaken in supposing that your finding my article obscure would offend me. It didn't :)

    I'll just try to make it clearer. the F word is feminism and the article here as well as in Glad2bawoman are attempts to bust the most prevalent of myths associated with feminism. Feminism isn't anti-men; it ain't anti-romance or anti-makeup. Neither is it anti-marriage. And yeah, those who do not identify themselves as feminists are either ignorant of what feminism is (the definition is there in the article) or are sexists. Simple as that!


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