By Parboni Bose:
I am a feminist. No, I don’t want to kill all you men reading this; I don’t even judge you women for wanting to marry and have kids. Oh no, I totally don’t go around with underarm hair long enough to be able to plait. No! You completely miss the point, I don’t go to every random protest rally. Oh! Don’t worry, I am not going to hit you for opening doors for me or paying bills in restaurants. And no, I am not a lesbian. Does this answer your questions?
Well I am sure at least some of you will snort and think what kind of a feminist she is; and for the rest of you, I know you are letting out sighs of relief, thank god, things are not that bad yet, she has scope to be normal, to get married and live happily as she should be.
So to disappoint you all, I am a staunch feminist and proudly so, because I believe in what feminism really is – Equality. Over the years of being a feminist, I have realized one thing – every person has a different set of myths about feminism, myths that go from challenging the gender identity of feminists to challenging their sanity. So, I took out time for social service, I am going to explore and debunk some of the most common myths associated to feminism.
1. All feminists hate men – What do you think we do? Go out with guns on street to shoot every man on this earth? Nope, we have men in our lives and otherwise, and we love them a lot! Let me correct this myth a little, there are some extremist feminists, who are probably disillusioned by man kind and who do not like men much, but most of us are not like that. And all of us are going to hate men who try telling us that we are women who should be kept in cages of their home, with restricted movement because of their gender. So if you are this kind, yes, we do hate you.
2. Feminist is not feminine – Depends how you define feminine. If you think that being frail, shy, scared is feminine; well, I can’t pity you more! Feminist believe in gender equality, they fight against the oppression that we have sufferedÂ over centuries, and to fight this, they don’t really need to cross dress or challenge their own gender identity. A feminine identity is strong enough, we don’t really need to get into another identity to fight for equality.
3. Feminism is this, feminism is thatÂ – Well you know what? Feminism is about letting a woman be! So a home maker who chooses to be at home and a woman who shuns marriage and childbirth and is more focused on her career are equally feminists. Feminism doesn’t have rules, it is a not a game we are playing.
4. You are a MAN! How are you a feminist?Â – For some stupid reason, feminism is always seen in contrast to “masculinity”. So if you are a “macho” man, feminism is the last thing you should be talking about. Wrong! Feminism cries out for gender equality. If you are a guy who can hear this cry, and have enough strength to stand up for the rights of the other gender, stand up and be a feminist. It’s not about how this fight doesn’t concern you specifically, it’s about making the world a better place, a saner place.
5. Feminists cannot have a good relationship with a man – Why? Because we like to eat them alive for being a man? Sometimes I do not even know how these myths come around! We can have perfectly nice relationships with a man, as long as he is a not a chauvinist! So yes, we are going to ask for equal rights to pay in a restaurant, or we would like you to stop treating us like fragile objects that cannot take care of themselves, but this has nothing to do with any romantic gestures. So we don’t really bleed you to death when you open gates for us, and you take us out on dates. The key here is not doing all of this out of a certain “masculine” duty, but out of natural love. In turn, we have perfect rights to take you out on dates too and open doors for you too. It is about equality, and let’s try balancing that out.
6. Feminists are lesbians, bra burning and with intense desire to go around with long arm pit hair – Like really? You want to think that all we feminists actually want to do this? What people miss out on often is just a plain simple thing – We don’t want to be scrutinized and judged. So, some women who are disillusioned by men think that a woman’s company is better, and others, well it’s just their sexual orientation. Bra burning never happened. During the feminist movement in 60’s, bras were burnt along with a hundred other household things, which was to give out a much, much deeper message than “we want to burn bras”. The gesture was to demand freedom from being captured into certain stereotypes and roles. Bet you didn’t think about that huh? And well talking about long arm pit hair, it’s not the least concern you know. What we want is to be not stared at for going around the way we want to, simple. We don’t want to be judged, and want to do whatever we wish. So stop cringing, feminism is lot more deep than that.
7.Women are equal now, no need for feminism – So you see that mini skirt wearing woman, going around confidently, getting high education, working on her own terms, and you make this judgment? What about the thousands who are forced to cover themselves up when they don’t want to, who are married off at 15 against their wish to study, who are raped in their marriage continually, and who are denied even the basic rights? Or let’s talk about the mini skirt girl, has she been freed from salivating sneering men, or aunties who tell her to not be a “slut”, or parents who think she has had enough fun in her life and she should settle down, or a boyfriend/husband who doesn’t see her role beyond being a sexual object? No! This is not equality. And this is why we fight, and we will fight for a long, long time. Until we can finally breathe, and make choices, this fight is not won. And hence we need feminism.
This is just the top layer of the deep layered cake of myths that surround feminism. Feminism is feared because we don’t understand it. Feminism is opposed because it is about a change, and that is unwanted. Feminism is curbed, because it will change the power equation in the world, and one gender will stop getting all the benefits. We, as women don’t want to be carried on heads, and treated like princesses. We, as a unified voice, want to be treated like equal human beings. We want you to understand our individuality and give space to it. We want to be able to rise and not be censored or questioned for every action. So I am a feminist because I believe in equality, and if you do too, you are already a feminist.