To be a feminist or not

The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it. ~Roseanne Barr

Feminism is a word which is more often misunderstood, overrated and usually associated with a particular kind of people or a particular behavior. I don’t know who Roaseanne Barr is (wikipedia says that she is an actress and I accept it), but I strongly believe in what she says.

Who likes to fight for themselves, especially when we think we are weak and inefficient? “Who will hear me if I raise a voice?” is most often the excuse we give for not standing up for our own rights. That is exactly the reason we need people to fight for us. And from time to time we get willing scapegoats. We have people fighting for the rights of others. We had them before, we have them now and we will have them in future as well. Because there will always be some who can do with that kind of help. Now we have Anna Hazare who fought on behalf of the whole nation. He stopped and the whole nation stopped too. See the impact these kinds of scapegoats have? In past, it was the women, because of which feminists were born. They fought for women’s rights to be treated at par with men. They fought for respect for women. Even now, we can see that there are many sexist men who think they are doing a favor by marrying or even talking well to a woman.

Why, even our mythological stories set wonderful examples of walking all over women and getting away with it. On one hand, a husband puts his wife through fire to check her fidelity (even though she left him later)and on the other hand we have a wife willingly blindfold herself to give company to her blind husband. I mean, what kind of madness is this? Do we want our children to learn this? Why are weaker women in our purana and movies regarded great whereas strong-willed outspoken women made vamp? Who gets to decide this whole concept of how women should be and how they live their lives? And why?

If I am labeled a feminist for thinking all this, I’m fine. That’s the norm right? You talk about supporting women and their rights or raise your voice against sexism, you’ll be labeled feminist. I have nothing against it. But I personally don’t think I am a feminist. I am a person who believes in equality in opportunities, respect and treatment for everybody. You’ll hear me talking even if a man, child or aged person is being ill-treated. But unfortunately in our society, women are the most neglected lot; hence they need many voices in the form of feminists. You’ll know why.

We all know we have a culture where we love our parents and stay with them forever. They have given birth to us, brought us up, fed and sheltered us. So it is our duty that we take care of them in their old age. Most people do that. Pay attention that I am not saying all. There are exceptions too, but mostly people willfully take good care of their aging parents. So, not much problem there.

Ours is a culture where we love our kids and mostly don’t hurt them psychologically. They grow up fine, play with their friends and get going in their lives. We tend to have a conscience that they are kids and therefore we cut them some slack. Yes, we try to keep them under our control sometimes, even when they are 35, but we will not try to take away their basic rights. If we do, they can always leave home, right? So, not much problem there either.

Now we come to men, as in grown up boy-kids. They play all the time when they are growing up and they still play when they are grown up. They might work, or not, but they sure are entitled to do whatever they want. Because, hey, he is a boy, he’ll get on with his life today or tomorrow. And even if he doesn’t, it is ok, because he will once he gets married. Yes, parents worry about wayward boys, but it is mostly until marriage, after which they think that the wife will somehow magically transform the boy’s life into a fairytale. Whoever made those kinds of movies, have a lot to pay up there, I’m sure.

Finally women who have many synonyms in Indian context. I’m not sure something this elaborate exists in other cultures too. Women are called by different names at different times, to make use of them in different ways, as suitable to a certain situation.
Kshamaya dharitri – The forgiving earth, one who has a lot of patience to forgive any kind of heinous crime. Sahana murthy – idol of bearing any kind of pain. And so on, giving her grand names to subdue her to misuse her most wonderful characters. But the one name that is mostly not used is Durga/Kali – Goddess Durga/Kali who slays rakshasas and other miscreants.

Is it our or any culture to rape or molest or harass not only women, but anyone for that matter? Then why do people do that? Why don’t we raise a voice against a thing as serious as that, but don’t mind taking to streets because someone drew a picture of Ganesha on their underwear? No, no, no, you’re totally getting me wrong. Yes I agree, it is not a good thing to wear underwear with some God’s picture on it, be it Ganesha or Jesus or Allah. BTW Ganesha is my favorite God and I’m sure he won’t take offense. But that is not the point here. Isn’t it a bigger point to give respect to people who live and breathe with us? Wouldn’t it be a better and happier life if we all had a little common sense and treated each other well?

I agree we have come a long way from being a completely patriarchical society to a society where women are working with men, shoulder to shoulder, on many fronts. Most middle class houses now have both earning partners and even at workplace we see women progressing up the ladder. But in those same houses, what happens after she comes back from home? Mostly, it is still her job to do household chores, cook and feed kids. How is this fair even in the slightest? “You have been let to work outside as your wish. If you find it difficult to manage both, you can quit.” How often does a working woman get to hear this after a heated discussion about managing home? All this happens because he thinks she will not walk out on him and more often she will not. I agree that a mother is a primary provider for a baby, but that doesn’t mean she will take care of it 24/7. And no, I am not advocating ‘walking-out’ as a solution either. But in extreme cases, it might just be.

We have become doctors and engineers and some of us still drop out of schools so that their brothers get minimum education. We have climbed the Everest and some of us still don’t get to climb the stairs of an office/University because they have to get married and have babies. We have both extremes surprisingly co-existing here. Getting married and having kids is not wrong. But to be able to make the choice is what we need. And it is “we” who must decide which “we” we want to be. We will be if we get through this “work in progress” mode.

I will raise my voice, for women and for others who I think have received unjust treatment. That is my right and I will exercise it. And no, I don’t want the tag of feminist. A humanist or Universalist may be? On second thoughts, no thanks, that doesn’t fit quite well either. However, I have tremendous respect for those who would like to call themselves feminists and actually believe in women’s rights. I’m glad we have them.

If you think this is too much of a long winded post, blame Pixie, whose post made me think about the topic. Which then resulted in me waking up at this unearthly hour and type out my mind. :)

3 thoughts on “To be a feminist or not

  1. Loved this post. I had read it earlier, but did not get around to commenting :)

    ‘I am a person who believes in equality in opportunities, respect and treatment for everybody’ – That is exactly what I believe in, and that is what I believe Feminism is all about. So I am a proud feminst, because women’s equality is connected to human equality. And norms that bind women, bind men too, the difference is just the manner of bondage..

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