The words Feminist and Feminism have been thrown about a lot lately and frankly it seems like you might be evil if you declare yourself as one. Don’t feel relieved if you don’t think of yourself as a feminist. If you have the courage to accept it, it makes you a door mat or still worse, insensitive to the needs of the women in your life and around you!
In between the girl who refused to accept the offer of a sanitary napkin from a woman who wanted to help her handle / hide her stains , an actresses who declared that she did not want to be career feminist because she wanted to cook for her husband and kids and those that say that they support equality of women, those who clarify that they don’t hate men etc., but don’t consider themselves as feminists, I just wanted to understand what it means to be a feminist.
Per the dictionary at merriam-webster.com, the simple definition of feminism is
the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests
Per dictionary.com, feminism is:
I especially like the last definition as it clearly states that feminists can be male or female. And none of these definitions indicate that feminists hate men or that they don’t want to be married or that they don’t cook or take care of their homes or don’t do anything that is traditionally considered the job of a woman in a patriarchal society. It also implies the vice versa i.e. a housewife, the help or the fruit seller cannot be a feminist. In fact a feminist could love the idea of men in general and maybe even dislike some of their own gender!! Feminists can be single, married, divorced or LGBT. A feminist can be a young 5-year-old who stands up for his/her mother’s or sister’s rights or as old as 80!!
So, keeping all this in mind one is either a feminist or is not one. There are no quasi or pseudo feminist statuses. By this I am referring to the groups of people who proudly declare something on the following lines:
Example 1: “I treat my son and daughter the same way, but my son has never entered the kitchen! So I need someone to take care of him as he works away from home and all this hotel food is spoiling his health!!” To these people I ask, “Ever heard of a cook?”
Example 2: “My daughter in law is a working professional but I have made it clear that she should cook breakfast and lunch for the family, put out the clothes and clean the house before she leaves for work. I have also strictly advised her to return by 6.00PM to take care of a 3 course dinner”!! Again I ask, “Ever heard of a maid or a cook?”
It is very unfortunate that I have heard horror stories identical to the examples mentioned above from people I have known.
The most essential part of being a feminist is that men and women should be confident enough to speak about all issues related to women and not consider any topic pertaining to women as taboo or use this to undermine each other in any way. Let me give you an example:
We usually order our groceries and other general items such as soaps and other cosmetics that a family of five 6 may need in a month from a local mom and pop type of grocery store. And this also includes sanitary napkins. The other day, the usual delivery boy was out on leave and the owner of the store sent his son to deliver the goods. Now this kid was a teenager of about 14 or 15. When he got home with the stuff, he meticulously categorized them and set them out for verification against the order. Everything was perfect with the exception of the sanitary napkins!! **smirk**
Apparently he had delivered a “Stayfree” in an orange color pack when we had actually ordered another category of these monthly saviors which comes in a green pack. (I could be wrong about the colors, I just don’t seem to remember stuff like that these days). Oh Boy! The mother of all blunders!! 🙂
Just when I thought he would turn into the shade of a beetroot, considering he was being questioned by two women, one old enough to be his mother and another his older sister, he calmly thought about what he had heard and actually went on to say how we seemed to be confused about the different varieties of sanitary napkins that “Stayfree” offered. He even threw in words like wings and overnight protection etc., and the different color packets they belonged to. He also went on to talk about other brands of sanitary pads and said maybe we were confusing “Stayfree” with “Whisper”. And throughout this conversation he displayed great maturity and showed absolutely no awkwardness. In fact, by the end of our dialogue I was very impressed with this kid. I have never seen any kid his age display such maturity when it comes to topics like these. And this, according to me was a feminist in the making. Now, if only I could be assured that he’d be steered in the right direction through his growing years so that he could be a sensitive man, a good son a great husband , a doting father and ultimately a good citizen.
What can be done to ensure that men and women don’t discriminate each other’s abilities? How do we end the argument about who is better or stronger? As easy as it is for me to say that we must cultivate the feminist streak in our children, I know that this would be the most difficult task to perform in this world, especially in a country which has been culturally skewed in favor of patriarchy since the beginning of time . If a greater section of the society could lead by example, we would be attending to other more serious issues that rock this world than having to worry about going to court to battle brides being burnt to death, honor killing, dowry issues and harassment, sexual harassment or waste time, money and resources while our nation’s leaders come up with newer patriarchal rules and practices.
So let’s start within our homes and teach our sons to pick up their clothes, clean the spinach, make a cup of tea for themselves (if not for others) and chop the vegetables. Let us encourage them to help our daughters perform so called “womanly” chores, so that in 20 years there would be nothing of that sort. At the same time let us teach our daughters to clean cars or change a flat tire (we could start with changing tubelights) play cricket and ride a bike. They should be able to climb trees to pick those mangoes if that is what their heart desires. If attitudes change there will be a domino effect leading to other positive changes. Ultimately everything would even out and the battle of the sexes may actually abate.
And the mother of all battles; One day the sun will dawn on an India where all men will have no qualms to do the laundry or the dishes or changing dirty diapers! Wishful thinking indeed!!