Feminism is the radical notion that women are people said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded definitio...

Monday, 24 February 2014

Why I Am A Feminist

The memory is crystal clear, like watching a movie in a loop, in my head. I must have been nine, visiting my grandparents in a remote village in Uttar Pradesh. The distance couldn't be further from my other home in Shillong, not just a huge physical distance, but a leap almost into a different civilization, like a time zone removed.

 It was a foggy winter evening and the festival of the new crop was being celebrated. Plates and dishes were laid out on a freshly swabbed floor and the gorgeous smell of delicacies wafted in the crisp, cool night air.

Dinner was announced and as my cousins rushed in to take their seats on the mats on the floor I was stopped in my tracks by an aunt telling me that I'd have to wait my turn once the boys and men were done eating. She couldn't help but laugh out loud at my stupidity of assuming that I was one of the boys.

Having been brought up with my two brothers, without being made aware of any major differences between us, the shock of this discovery couldn't have been ruder. I wasn't yet ten, and you can gauge the humiliation to my little self from the fact that I recall it in such detail even today. Which brings me to this word.

  1. 1.
    the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
    synonyms:the women's movement, the feminist movement, women's liberation, female emancipation, women's rights

Why was I not equal to the boys ? Why could I not eat with the men? Admittedly, the hurt was more to my ego than any real damage. Having been born into privilege and continuing to live a life pretty much cocooned from a real struggle for existence, I am acutely aware of how blessed I am, how small my problems are.

For instance, in general, my day to day interactions with men are limited, and what little I do interact with them is dictated by the overwhelming sense of my own privilege.

Yet, these advantages end the minute I step out of home, or my workplace, into the public domain. I am up for all kinds of harassment  and it is my outlook, how well prepared I am. The other place where all niceties are abandoned and it's pretty much a free-for-all, is the virtual world.

With all the muck that gets thrown around at people, specially vocal assertive women, on social media, I should be thankful I haven't had much of it come my way.  Then again, I am no celebrity so not much attention comes my way, good or bad.

Yet, of late, I have been harangued by feminism-bashers. I've been asked to enumerate what contributions, if any, feminists have made. I've also been told that the very fact of their existence is irrelevant. All of this has prompted me to write this.

The critics of feminists are many. I think it should be heartening for us feminists that the very fact that we are being discussed so much means that we are perceived as a threat of some form.

Being criticised by the old order is nothing new, we've learnt to take it in our stride. What bothers and rankles a bit is the attack from seemingly liberal people, upholders of progressive values. Yet, as soon as we come to the part about feminism, their minds seem to shut down, close.

No doubt that feminism and its proponents come across as "loud", "crass", "aggressive", "bitchy"- all traits for which women have been condemned all through time. So we are basically being told that all feminists should be quiet,  well behaved girls. We should toe the line, follow the rules, in general, be "good girls". Well, like someone said, good girls never made history.  

Another criticism is the tag of "man-hater" attached to feminists, probably with the hope that by repeating a lie often enough, it can be made to stick.

Let me enlighten you, dear feminism-haters. Patriarchy is the system that heterosexual men put in place over the centuries, solely to be able to ensure their property was passed on to their own children. It should be a self-evident truth that while a woman is certain the child she is carrying is her's- it's inside her body a full nine months, after all- while a man may only speculate or arrive at an educated guess at best. He can never be certain.

Feminism seeks to achieve for women equal rights as men, equal work for equal pay, ensure men's equal share in housework and in general the right to basic human dignity. The right to be seen as human, as an equal to man.

The recent law against rape, which has redefined rape is suddenly "draconian" and even before a year is over since it came into force, filing of "false rape" cases has substantially gone up, we are told. Well, there is a commotion in the ranks of men- and well founded, it is. For a start, read up on some basics about the law.

For, if holding opinions which "differentiate me from a doormat" is going to bother you, I'm sorry, but the status quo is changing, the slow shift has begun taking shape. Girls, once they get to school, are already outdoing boys.

Granted that there are a few areas that women are yet to catch up in. For example, in democratic participation.
Women don't get enrolled in voters' lists, not even proportionate to the declining sex ratio as per recent  census data. But we are a little less than half of the population, and our time is about to come. As more women are getting educated, there is likely to be an increase in their participation in exercising their franchise.This can only mean that women's voices will get more of the politicians' ear than we've seen until now.

I leave you with this  lovely video in which Joss Whedon gives a delightful explanation why we cannot discard the word "feminist", not just yet.

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