being a feminist now.
Reactions Ive heard to feminism -
Oh that…. aren’t they the ones who have this “issue” with everything?
They don’t believe in bras right?
hey come on. Look at us now – I have a very satisfying career…. That was in the 60s and stuff.. you don’t need that radical stuff now.. I mean….
That last especially, sort of stops you in your tracks. Eh? Feminism is passé now? You look around you and you find quite a few people – women – looking at you scornfully. This needs careful thinking: women think feminism is redundant. They seem to think now that we’re in the new millennium and the Age of Tech, feminism should be shriveled and killed off like a vestigial organ.
Why? Women are still getting beaten up if the rasam doesn’t measure up. If they give birth to a girl child. Women are suckered by several industries - healthcare, cosmetics, food, you name it. Women in suits in corporate board rooms “make it” only if they walk away from their female-ness and try to act aggressively male. (Even then they are belittled, have fewer opportunities and are subject to harassment.)
I peer at the murky scene around me. sheer cussedness if nothing else makes me say to hell with the majority, im playing this my way! so I started learning about feminism. What I see, I like. I learn more daily and am becoming a feminist gradually. Contrary to popular perception, it was a very gradual slow process: it didn’t just naturally “come” to me because I am a woman! There are so many complex forces around us, and this is so personal… I started by speaking to this teacher of mine. This man never once called it feminism. He was just tremendously socially aware. My guess is, where he was concerned, feminism seemed to naturally flow from that awareness.
Then came slowly reading feminist literature and feeling very worried. Gosh… am I doing all these things? Am I helping to perpetrate this culture? You look at the men and women around you – your friends, teachers, family… and you start asking questions. and from there, you start framing your personal politics.
There are still so many things I do not know about feminism. That I do not understand…. Can I disagree with established feminists? Can I look at them critically and disagree, or does that imply that im in someway subscribing to patriarchy? What if I don’t agree with the third wave feminists? just because I subscribe to the second waves politics, does that mean that im talking a concept that’s dated and irrelevant and unimportant?
I like art yes, but im not fashionably arty. Feminist expression is stronger in arty forms. id love to read a greer or toril moi, but I probably wont be able to sit through the vagina monologues. Does that mean im not a “hardcore” feminist?
I like what germaine greer says – that being a feminist means that before you think of race, religion, country, skin colour or creed, you first identify yourself as a woman. that one bond you share with another woman is beyond the other divisions. But… Ive meet patriarchal women and feminist men. Do I have to declare my loyalties to the women anyway because of sex, or do I stand by the men because of their politics? I also wonder how that definition can be interpreted for male feminists : it seems to shut them out and address only the women. I don’t subscribe to that. the male feminists Ive met are really evolved beings. I refuse to discount their importance!
I find some answers to this dilemma and others in parts of hindu philosophy. My feminism is tied up with metaphysics as expressed in my religion. That sometimes becomes a barrier when im talking to another woman (or man) of a different religion. do I ditch the feminism or the religion? fine. Ill ditch what ive thought out for myself and just go by what other people have said. What if I don’t subscribe to abortion? Does that mean im again opposing feminism?
I also get these doubts at times… what are we fighting for when the women around me are so contented with being male playthings, and would emphatically hate any change in their worlds. Or for that matter when men blindly accept patriarchal philosophy and would rather live with a stereotype that’s choking them rather than reject it?
And finally…. Why am I expected to know all the answers? I am still only learning. I need to work my way through sooo many issues. I don’t want to state what I think as of today as some kind of complete component not subject to any change, ready to address all the issues of the world (how absurd that would be!) - But if I don’t strenuously assert and constantly defend my stance on everything and anything I risk being contemptuously dismissed by patriarchy!
If you thought learning feminism was a walk in park.... Think again! :- )