SABRINA IQBAL SIRCAR
Hmm. Let me see now. I am a little tired actually trying to tell the world that Feminism is for equality. Oh well equality, they tell me; we have equality in jobs, education, political representation (well, almost!), and in all other aspects one can think of. Okay I retort, and sigh I pause.
Hello people! Being a feminist ain’t a discredit to one’s being. Every time I am a little vocal about women’s issues, I raise eyebrows around me, ‘Feminist!’ they smirk! Well yeah I have to be one; and all the pretty little faces who claim to be, what they call an equalist, trying to give a more ‘humanitarian’ dimension to oppression in society, well let me tell you girls, you are who you are, you can say what you say, wear what you wear, think what you think, and you vote to choose your government because the women before you fought for this life of yours! Strange eh’ that it never occurred to you.
A major misconception that a majority of societies and individuals seem to harbour is that feminism is for the women and it is the women who are the feminists. That is an entirely wrong idea. I get my feminism from my father. He told me that I could do everything and I have to do everything for myself. He had once defended my right to wear a short skirt when an acquaintance of ours had sort of admonished me for wearing an apparently ‘not so appropriate dress’. My father stood up for me. He told that person upfront, ‘she will wear what she chooses to wear and you should not have a problem with it.’ And there it was. My basic idea that I am no less than anyone else and it is I who will make my decisions, not anyone else. Every time one thinks that feminism is for women, we are saying that the men are not impacted by the idea. Feminism is for equality firstly, and secondly, not all women are feminists and not all men are patriarchs. We have the rotten apples in both baskets. I think that feminism is actually more relevant for the men. I say this because, it should bother the men more, when a section of them, violates the women, because it sheds negative light on them and they need to speak up against that. Also the very fact that all men do not disrespect and violate women is proof of the fact that violating is not a natural urge, and this would especially be highlighted in the cases when the unanticipated behaviour of the men is often attempted to be justified by the use of the clichéd phrase – ‘Men will be men’. There is no such thing as men will be men or women will be women. Saying that would mean that we are essentialising all men and women, implying that all of them will display a generic behaviour, because they belong to a particular sex, because they have a particular anatomy. This essentialising is clubbing the two sexes into the water-tight compartments of gender and orienting them in a stereotyped way, and when an individual does not fit into that stereotyped mould, we call them the odd one out. Also this would mean that all men like oppressing and all women are oppressed. Well that is not true. All men do not oppress and all women are not oppressed, but some themselves perpetuate oppression on the others, women as well as men.
I always fail to understand, why a shout-out for women’s rights is displeasing to people. Why does being a feminist and talking about women’s rights make you the ‘aggressive one’? A lot of people will respond to this saying, that, that is not true and I am exaggerating.
All right, let’s take a look at some facts here, every girl you meet will have some experience of sexual harassment – of being slapped in inappropriate places, groped in buses and alleys, rubbed against, and called sexually abusive names; every time a girl is raped, the first question is what was the girl wearing; every time a girl has to go out at night, or for an early morning jog, she will think twice, of what she should wear so that she does not attract undue attention as of course it is her social responsibility to not excite them (as it is propagated!). Thus, even in the public space she has to fight for her place to survive, to exist, and to sustain. And it is a post-feminist world they tell me.
And why is it that the way a woman dresses is something that society has to obsess about? A woman’s body is her private space and she has the right to express herself any which way she wants to. She is a rational human being and hence capable of deciding what is appropriate for her. And anyway, how many times have we created a hullaballoo about a guy in shorts? Post-feminist world yet again.
Next comes my favourite topic, yeah marriage. We have an advertisement on the Indian television, about a matrimonial website where the right of the woman to work is treated like a privilege after she gets married. Well, that needs to change now! But it is like a universally acceptable truth in India that the girl who lands a richer and better looking husband ‘wins’. Well yeah Duh! Once again. I mean where we are! People asking questions about a girl’s proper age to get married, asking her to not be temperamental as temperamental women don’t make ‘good wives’! Ok I am cracking up now! Instead of encouraging the young girls to study, when they are pressurised to get married at a certain age, what message are we sending out? They say that men get better with age, so a guy is still young at forty, while a girl of thirty is old. Well, we sure have our double standards.
And yes the ‘tall, fair, beautiful, and convent educated bride cliché. Once again the visual media has greatly helped here. With fairness creams, weight loss products, and English speaking DVD courses, we are all ready to produce, ‘the ready to use bride’. The one that fits the matrimonial advertisement perfectly! And yes, what is the cherry on the cake is the fact that largely the girls in this part of the world are brought up and socialised to be ‘the good wife’, as if that is the sole purpose and aim in their lives. The one oft-quoted sentence, ‘marriage is the biggest day in a girl’s life’; well really? Time to change worldviews friends!
And lastly yeah, the best way to abuse a boy is to call him a ‘girl’. So we are teaching our kids, and the younger generations that, to be a girl is to be something inferior, something not as good as being a man, and that is where it starts, the gendered socialisation. We tell our young boys, ‘Boys don’t cry’ or better yet ‘Don’t cry like a girl’. Implying that girls cry, because girls are weak, girls cry, because girls are not men, but because they are weaker than men. This kind of socialisation is often not deliberate but unconscious, as such we don’t bring up our boys to be boys, but how not to be girls, because girls aren’t good enough!
We feminists aren’t man haters. We are just pro-women without being anti-men. Though it may come as a surprise to many but yes it is more of the women who perpetuate patriarchy in society. It is the women who uphold the misogynist attitudes largely, at least in this part of the world. There is absolutely no concept and no understanding of sisterhood in this part of the world, and the little presence that sisterhood manifests is but negligible.
A large part of the women also help sustain the misogynist standards of society. There is now a surgery in the West, which is called a ‘pinkectomy’ meaning the amputation of the little finger of the feet to fit better into Jimmy Choo heels. Then there is of course body-shaming, it almost like a rule that a girl has to have the ‘right figure’ and a girl who does not, makes a joke out of herself. There is this comedian on the Indian television who hears frequent abuses from guests on her show because she is apparently ‘fat’. Yeah ok she is, so? Who or what gives the people the right to abuse a woman on national television? The women who do not fit into these ideas of beauty are socially ostracised on social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram, with people making comments which tell them that they don’t have the right body to done a bathing suit. I would like to ask who made these people the authority on beauty. Why does the society tend to forget that the world is mine as much as yours and the other way round. Why can’t women do what they want? They wear a bathing suit it is a problem, they wear a hijab, it is a problem, they wear denims it is a problem, they wear a saree, the blouse is a problem, and the sad part is women listen to these diktats. Why in the world would one amputate one’s own toes? I will tell you why, to fit into the conventional idea of beauty. Enough is enough girls.
Make your own rules of beauty! Don’t follow the crowd. Don’t let the world tell you if you are pretty or not and how to look pretty. Feel confident in your skin and that will make you pretty.
Next, stop for a moment and think about all those acid attack victims who lost their faces because they refused to marry someone they did not like. Again think, how many acid attacks on men have you heard of for the same reason?
To put it very simply, if you are a rational and a liberal you cannot help but be a feminist. And once again being a feminist does not shed negative light on you and for that section which thinks it does, they need to re-orient their worldviews. We need to change our mindsets and we need to continue writing and talking about women and their rights, until people really begin to believe in the equality of the sexes. If you are any other ‘ist’ it is to your credit, be it a Marxist, a Communist, but every time you say you are feminist! Boom!! Really!!! Pat comes the reply with an expression of raised eyebrows. Well yeah, every damn time.
Every time a girl is teased, every time a girl is raped, every time you are asked to be quiet because you are a girl, every time you have to fight for your basic rights, every time you are stared at, every time you are called a slut, every time you are told you won’t make a good wife, every time a boy calls another a girl, and every time you are expected to behave in a particular way because you are a girl, you realise, why you, why I and why the world needs feminism.