Feminist. This word has been contorted and twisted in so many ways. It has a negative connotation now.
I was having a conversation with a therapist the other day and told her about how I identify myself as a feminist with an apologetic shrug. She said to me, “You don’t have to be apologetic about it. Why do you think it’s bad?”
Why do I think it’s bad?
What is feminism? I have to question myself at times. Is it defending womankind unabashedly? Is it a tool to ensure that women have an upper hand because they are the “fairer sex”? Is it about drawing attention to inhuman injustice faced by women in a man’s world? Or is it about equality?
What is equality?
Can men and women ever be the same? What does it mean to be an equal?
I’m not sure. I don’t have an answer to any of these questions. Words are not enough to make people see that something is very wrong here at a visceral level that needs to change. Unless they experience the blaring bitterness of misogyny (which I did and always do) first hand, no one is going to want to take constructive action or even open their minds to have a fair dialogue about it.
I share articles, have open discussions and debates, educate and sometimes tackle a room full of sexist men and women on issues that are seemingly unimportant in their eyes. Why do I waste my energy? I should mind my own business but it is my business. We are a mesh of human consciousness. Every decision we make has an impact on everyone else.
A dear friend once told, “You are not like other women. You aren’t all woman. You can see what it is to be a man and meet us halfway.”
I had to. If I keep waging wars about sexism without understanding what it is to be a man in a man’s world, I will never be objective about it. It’s not about women getting everything that a man has. It is about respecting each gender’s choices and availing them of fair opportunities. A woman shouldn’t have to fight her right to higher education and be relegated to making sandwiches for the family. Unless of course, she wants to! And someone’s manhood shouldn’t be questioned if he has a passion for cooking and doesn’t necessarily enjoy sports.
When I do a search for the word “chivalry” on Google, these are the suggested search phrases. Chivalry is dead.
I’m actually glad that it is. When you think about a man being chivalrous in the traditional sense, you instantly think about someone opening the door for you, carrying all your shopping bags, footing your restaurant bills, lending you a hand when crossing a particularly wide pothole etc. As a woman, I love it when they do all of that. It feels great to be pampered. But then, I always pause and a wave of inexplicable guilt tides over me.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy being pampered or being taken care of but I feel like these gestures have to be returned in some way because I’m a woman who doesn’t take favors just because she is a woman! I don’t.
It would be so easy for me to whine, cry, bat eyelashes and request men to do my bidding. I’ve exercised these from time to time. But as a feminist, I particularly can’t. This resistance to accepting a helping hand doesn’t always pan out well because the impression is that you never need assistance of any kind. It’s an occupational hazard I’ve learnt to live with.
I keep chanting to myself, “You are the change you wish to see in the world.”
I’m particularly averse to men having any kind of monetary investments in me in the form of extravagant gifts. I’d love it if they did (who doesn’t like gifts?) but then I’m fighting the popular belief that you can buy a woman’s affection with gifts. You can’t.
When people see a woman – whether she is a professionally successful woman herself or not - with a successful man they instantly think that she’s in it for the money or the status. It’s not just the men who say that, mind you. Women are equally guilty of this type of stereotypical thinking. So, no gifts for Prachi; another occupational hazard.
I’ve always enjoyed being “one of the boys”. It’s great to be one of the only girls in a big group of boys. I’ve learnt so much about a man’s perspective only because I lived through their problems and laughed or cried along with them. It was easier to find a place with the opposite gender. However as I grew up, it became all the more important for me to cultivate strong female relationships.
“Women are difficult to be with,” I’ve often said that being a woman myself. We overthink, overreact, get passive aggressive and so on. We are so emotional. But that’s the beauty of it all. Strong female relationships blanket you with warmth of camaraderie and understanding that is hard to find. We need to stand by each other more actively.
My woman friends often turn to me when they are facing personal battles of sexism. I love providing with creative solutions to personal situations. But they don’t always want to hear me telling them that they shouldn’t make sandwiches for their counterparts. We compromise too much. I ask them not to. Always spelling out the uncomfortable truth - another occupational hazard.
It’s not easy. This life I’ve chosen. Idealism isn’t easy to implement in every aspect of your life. However, it’s part of a bigger picture. If I’m asking for equality as an individual, I’m going to make sure I’ve earned that right to be equal.
As a feminist, I’m not going to ask you to give me a job because I’m a woman. I will ask you to give me job because I’m good. Bloody damn good. I’m going to ask you to make your own sandwich not because I don’t like making sandwiches but because if I have an important meeting to attend, I’m going to give that a priority over making a sandwich and we don’t want anyone to be hungry now, do we?
(Check HERE for Delicious Sandwich Recipes.)
Being an equal, being a counterpart, being a partner is a tough ask, when we truly dig deep. As women, there are a lot of hidden biases and minute cultural practices that are deeply imbibed in our nature that will be hard to change. We can step up. You don’t have to be a hard ass single woman with short hair (that will only perpetuate the stereotype) to achieve that. All we have to do is balance the scales.
Give and Take… NOT Give and Give or Take and Take. That’s when there’ll be an impetus to change.
You and I, who are reading and writing blog posts for or against Feminism aren't the real victims who would benefit from the change. We've already progressed light years ahead of women who don't have access to primary education, women who are married off before hitting puberty, women who are sold off as sex slaves, women who face physical violence everyday and are stuck in bad marriages, women who are burnt alive because they didn't give enough dowry... we are fighting this war for women who haven't had the courage to step up. Because they were told they can't. It's for them.
This battle of the sexes is so that fathers treat their daughters better. So when they become mothers they raise their sons to be better. So that husbands treat their wives better and people can have successful partnerships. So that if and when they have children, they grow up in a balanced world.
Feminism is not a battle cry of audacious women who are seeking attention and privileges. Feminism to me is a movement to create harmony.
Join me, in this life as a feminist. Yes, you can continue waxing or be a man or be a man who also waxes.