Clearly, being a female when I say I’m not a feminist, I might be raising many eyebrows and inevitably be inviting criticism, but it certainly is a harsh reality and a blatant truth we should all keep abreast with. And to agree or not is totally a personal call and acceptable either way.
Being a feminist is not same as being a feminine and I refuse to be a feminist just because I am feminine. I also am, most certainly, not a feminist because my country has an ingrained patriarchal society where in some parts child brides are still a reality and street harassment and rapes are commonplace.
The three kinds of feminists that exist in the society
I know of three kinds of feminists around the globe:
One, the “extreme” feminist kind who are man-haters and think men to be evil and would rather enslave men than be equal. These are the loud and outspoken hardcore misogynist-hating feminists who think they are superior to men.
Two, the “equivocal” feminist kind who not only want the perks that men enjoy, but also the privileges that women are entitled to. These nonchalant feminists are the ones with beliefs which are pretty much wish-wash.
Three, the “rational” feminist kind who want equal rights for both men and women alike and actually mean it. This kind of feminists are the ones inexistent and fighting for the true cause, but have small reach, receives disproportionate attention and usually go unheard.
So feminists are basically a large diverse group of people (mostly women) with a huge difference of opinions and beliefs. And though, sometimes, I have found myself to be inclined to belong to the third kind of feminists, but with a deeper critique, I rightly choose to opt out.
Feminism and Patriarchy
India has been a sexist nation for time immemorial with patriarchy deeply ingrained in its culture. In spite of having the right to equality to be a vested right in our very Constitution, the existence of gender-based prejudice and discrimination that women have been facing at home and workplace alike since ages are absolutely resentful. But having said that, I seriously have no issues with the patriarchal nature of the society we live in. I don’t see anything wrong with men being leaders and constituting the major part of the workforce. Yet, I most certainly have a strong objection when aspiring, intelligent and worthy women are denied and deprived of an equal opportunity at it despite having similar expertise and skill set.
The fault in being a feminist – the dichotomy
You see, the idea of feminism has become very vague over the years, and irrespective of whatever noble intentions it was born with, it fails to carry the same meaning. Today, it has become associated with brittle ideologues, feeding more of stereotyping than working for the cause and does deserve criticism. And more than anything I detest being stereotyped. I am an individual and I hate to conform to any norms just for the sake of it.
Feminism has been frequently used by a bunch of loud and vocal extremist feminists for gratifying personal agendas, warping the very essence for which feminism once stood for. As it now stands, feminism, today, has lost its vigour and has begun to rub people the wrong way, if yet not considered a dirty word. Of late, feminism has become more of promotion propaganda for career-driven women. I mean, yes, I have my ambitions and I want to be provided with a choice to want to work, but not just for the sake of achieving empowerment. I want to feel equally empowered being a stay-at-home mom. I want to be entitled to all the worlds I identify with as a human being and not for being a woman. I want a culture which shuns gender-stereotyping and fosters individuality with a choice of roles.
I want a job for my hard-earned education and merit and not because I have a vagina and a pair of breasts. I refuse to be objectified because of my gender because I am more than just vagina and breasts put together. I am every bit human just as men are. But then again, I also believe in gender roles for both genders, and rational equality; not just some irrational equality where I would go compete with men who can roam in the streets at odd hours of the night or can remove clothes in the public. But, yes, I do want the world to be safe for women, and for that, I don’t necessarily have to be a feminist.
I don’t need feminism to teach me about equality. My basic education has given me enough understanding and know-how to know my rights as a human, and as a woman. And the very people who need to be enlightened are either the ones who do not care about their rights altogether (the lower class) or those who are too stubborn in their loyalty to patriarchal values to accept the change (the upper class). And, the sad reality is, while the former makes up the majority of the female population who have no say, the latter is just a bunch of elites who are in control.
The irony of modern-day feminism
The very women who proudly call themselves feminists want to enjoy all the perks of a man without letting go of the privileges that come with being a woman. Women take so many favours in their day to day lives just in the name of being a woman. Whereas on one hand, we are asking to put an end to the taboo and stigma attached with menses in females, on the other hand, we also deny to refrain from taking the two-day special leave that is sanctioned to female employees every month; so much for feminism.
While women want to be treated equally, they still wish to have seats reserved for them in public transports and also wish the man sitting in the area reserved for women to get up and oblige. And sometimes, even pass snide remarks so that he eventually is forced to vacate. How ironical! These are the same women who shout out themselves as feminists and would refuse to vacate the seat even for a more deserving elderly male.
Women talk about feminism and still need alimony after a divorce. Have we thought about giving alimony to the males instead? Wouldn’t this qualify for women empowerment? How many working women would go on to marry men without jobs and leave it up to them to work or not (the concept of stay-at-home dads is still a new concept)? Not even the most career-oriented women would do that. Every girl dreams to marry a man who has a good job, draws a handsome pay-cheque and is financially well-off.
Finding true equality
Females are not perfect creatures and neither are males. Just like women, men too face issues at home, at work, and in the law. We need to have the eyes to the atrocities that men and women have alike as humans. And rather than painting women as the perpetual victim and obsessing over one gender we need an empowered society which treats humans equally for their struggles and to be something more important and significant to be addressed together as a society and not just as men or women.
Young boys equally fall prey to rapes and assaults, but a man getting sexually assaulted is difficult to comprehend and such cases are easily belittled and dismissed because men are infamously known to enjoy sex, right? Don’t such plights need to be equally heard and addressed?
We need to realize that just as not all females are bra-burning misogynists, similarly not all men are power-hungry patriarchs. I know of at least three men who are everything but female oppressors.
My father, a very authoritarian kind of male and the head of the family, was not the sole breadwinner. My mother had an equal role to play and had a say in every decision that has ever been made.
My brother, a free-spirited male, has been growing up among four older sisters, and has learned every possible household chore his sisters can do apart from running errands outside of the home. He even abides by the same rules we as females have to follow.
My husband, a kind, generous soul has never violated my rights. He despite being the sole earner in the family has allowed me the freedom of choice to be a stay-at-home mom while he willingly helps with almost all household chores and the baby even after his working hours.
Men like these are also part the same patriarchal society who we very conveniently use to put our blames on. They also need to deal with issues such as the pressure to be the breadwinner, unfair treatment in custody battles, the pressure of portraying themselves to be strong and tough to avoid being shamed, to name a few. Women fail to see the sacrifice that goes when these men, as part of the norms and values of our patriarchy adhering society are expected to protect and provide for women. Why for reasons like these even men are taken for granted just as women are for different other reasons?
Is feminism about women’s issues or is it about equality of the sexes? Isn’t it hypocritical to incessantly tout that feminism is for equality of both genders and then ignore men’s issues just because historically women have been oppressed more? Feminism does deserve criticism after all, not just for embracing precisely the gender roles they assert to eschew but also for lack of empathy, proclaiming loyalty to equality and monopolizing gender discourse while diminishing their issues and making them even nonexistent.
Isn’t it about time we stopped portraying ourselves victimized and began to empathize?
And, I don’t think feminism is the word we need to continue using. If equality is what we are after, then equality is the word we should use.
The proud declaration
Feminism can’t perpetually be used as an umbrella of “not everyone is happy” and “life is not fair” anymore. We have to accept and celebrate the biological differences that we as genders have and refashion the cultural conditioning that exists today. It’s time our liberty taught us to not be selfish, self-centred and that the feminism we know of today morphed into a more coveted equality and egalitarianism.
And for that very reason, I feel pride in calling myself a self-proclaimed rational gender egalitarian with strong beliefs for equality of both genders. I resent the idea of having to alter my identity or change titles to make me agreeable to hateful or ignorant people. And though, unfortunately enough, no such society exists, I would still like to think otherwise and hope to see a change in times ahead.