“Beta tumhara poora haq hai yahan baithne ka, baitho” – this is what an older man said to a girl in the reserved seat for women in the men’s compartment of the metro. The tone of sarcasm was clearly resonating in my ears. This seemingly insignificant incidence points towards a larger problem in our society – that of rampant misinformation about the idea of feminism,
We are being exposed to a flawed understanding of feminism from all quarters. Take the Vogue Empower video that says “Teach boys not to make people cry rather than teaching them not to cry” for example. What purpose does it serve? What feminism will say is “Don’t teach anything to your child based on his or her sex. His sex should not determine his emotions or rather, anything.”
I don’t endorse the #Meninkitchen campaign too, because it upholds that men should ‘help’ women in the kitchen and learn to cook. Feminism is about equality – it states that cooking, or any kind of activity for that matter, cannot be defined by the gender of the person performing it. It is the historical and socio-cultural narrative of gender roles which makes cooking in the household a job reserved for women while men are more respected as a chef or a ‘khaansama‘.
The HeForShe movement is often condemned for ignoring the problems and inequalities faced by men and trying to involve men to solve and look into problems only for women. The very fact that inequalities being discussed only look upon female issues agrees upon a standard that men are never the victims, because being a victim is mostly a woman’s arena. It definitely ignores that men could be victims too.
Why calling it ‘fem‘inism and not things like ‘equal’-ism is more appropriate is because the harsh fact remains that though men and women both suffer from patriarchy, women were the ones who were more publicly victimised and marginalised. The fact that women are able to voice out in present times is because feminist movements helped them get those rights. Stereotypical gender roles made both women and men suffer, but historically what men mostly suffered was the pressure to rule, and women were ruled over.
What feminism needs to do is fight the very gendering of social processes – to remove gender as a judgement criteria. Yes, HeforShe is a great movement and tries to engage men for women’s rights, which are still not present in a lot of arenas of public sphere. But now it needs to embrace simultaneity, and also question what keeps some men from this conversation? What exactly are their reasons of discomfit for fighting for women? The answer maybe in the pressures they feel for being the more ‘responsible’ gender. HeForShe wants a conversation, but right now looks like a soliloquy.
The very distrust about feminism shows patriarchy’s overpowering nature. It is high-time a country like India with a dismal sex ratio understands that feminism is not something which goes against a particular gender, rather it is a movement which is against the gendering of everything – it wants a society that does not rest solely upon gender. A gender-less society is a utopia, but a society where both the genders are in flux and give and take from each other, and form a kind of cornucopia of wisdom, is what feminism wants – it wants a society where an individual wins over the society.