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

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Making A Feminist Choice

Now that "women's empowerment" is all the rage and we seem to have acquired a booming voice, our choice  is suddenly everywhere. Since having our voices silenced has been the default state for women, it seems all the more novel.

Come to think of it, is this hurrah really for us, for women, or are we being used as stepping stones for big corporations to get ahead while they pushe us further back into misogynist territory? Like a magician performing a sleight of hand, here's the elaborate illusion that we are the winners- but does it hold up to scrutiny?

As we go about our life struggles, we are constantly forced to make choices. Each choice comes with it's own consequences, some positive and some not so much.
Not all choices are easy, but every choice is made after weighing all the factors. We try to do the best we can, under the circumstances, based on what we know at the time.

These choices may vary, and even for the same woman, change depending on the circumstances. 
Consider a woman who works outside the home, but has to quit after child birth because child care is not affordable. Surely, no woman wants to end up paying the mommy penalty out of choice? Many a choice must be made depending on various factors - many of which may be beyond our control.

It's no secret that sexism flourishes in the marketplace, limiting our choices, while making the opposite appear true. What choices, pray?

The much touted "choice feminism" is nothing but a self indulgent narcissistic idea that every act of choice made by a woman, is an inherently feminist act. Simply the act of choosing empowers us-that is, of course, utter horseshit.

For example, the choice to whiten your vagina- is that feminist act too? If your whiter vagina raises your self esteem or helps give you pleasure, please go right ahead and do it- but please don't claim it as an inherently feminist act, simply by virtue of having made a choice. 

Another facet of our lives where choice constantly rears its head, is that of the daily rituals surrounding our appearance. Femininity is a performance, and the best performers are richly rewarded for their efforts. Attire and grooming are big components of performing femininity.

 The little dab of kohl that I apply to my eyes each morning and the touch of lipstick which never lasts through the day- I do it because I like the appearance, it makes me feel pretty. What's pretty? My notions of beauty are those which I've grown up with. Many of these inherited notions I've outgrown, and of course I've acquired some of my own as I've aged. 

But also, I've learnt the idea that to be professional is to be well groomed. The line between grooming and femininity are blurry indeed. Isn't having a "well-groomed, professional" look also a performance of femininity?  

All the women's magazines will tell you that you need separate sets of clothes for work. Where does fashion end and professionalism begin? By telling us what is in and what's not- staging an ever burgeoning line of all kinds of wear, fashion only serves to hem us in. 

Who's to say that I can't wear the same saree to work and go shopping in it and enter the kitchen in the same, to cook? I'm sure our grandmothers did it and the multitudes of women toiling away in the fields do to this day. As much as the fashion purports to provide us with choices, in reality it limits us, it ties us down. 

Not only are we sexist, we are also an ageist society. The elderly and greying are judged as being less active, less able to perform efficiently. Much as I'd like to let my hair go grey, I'm not yet ready for the judgement that I'm sure will follow at my workplace. So I dye my hair, and look the better for it, too. 

Let me confess, going grey is not going to be an easy decision. Thick, glossy, colored hair is not only youthful-read energetic- it also looks pretty. Hand on my heart, I'm not ready to face my dowdy self-not yet. In my own eyes I look more feminine, and it coincides better with the constant barrage of media images of what it means to be pretty.  

So I wear some make up, I follow a dress code, and I color my hair. I follow these dictats, for what it means to be a well groomed professional. Because the choice I make, is to keep working my job, while not sticking out like a sore thumb at my work place. Those choices are not feminist acts by any stretch. 

 Does feminism take a backseat to living an even-keeled life? You bet. Is my every act a well thought out act of feminism? No, far from it. Does it make me a less passionate feminist? I certainly don't think so. Every feminist must pick her battles and I've chosen mine.

Let's face it, the world continues to be a sexist place and it's a constant struggle to balance out the demands to be feminist. To contribute with each act to the bending of gender norms is too heavy a burden to carry. Carry it only till your shoulders allow you. Remember the words of Audre Lorde : Self care is self preservation. You come first. 

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