Join the Feminists!

Its up ! The 35th Carnival of Feminists ! Visit and Enjoy !

I often meet people whom I would call feminist i.e. respect for women and their choices, treating women as people with independent minds, equal pay, questioning traditional norms of how women are supposed to be etc. But many such people shy away from calling themselves feminist because they think the term is somehow equivalent to hating men, or bra-burning. Well, some news. Its not. Bra-burning for instance was a symbolic act performed by some women in a particular context. That doesn’t mean it represents all things feminist, or is equal to feminism.

To give you an example, Gandhi undertook the salt march as a symbolic protest against the repression of the British (political and economic). Now, you wouldn’t say that our independence movement = demand for salt, would you? Similarly, all feminism is not just a protest against men. Men can be feminists too, as many are. Feminism ofcourse means protesting against traditional structures which have served to keep women from achieving their full potential. In India, this is particularly fraught with tension, because even those of us who had working mothers, have seen them work themselves to the bone in an effort to keep the ‘superhome’. While women have moved out of the home, the burden of home hasn’t fallen off them to the same extent. Going forward, what this means is that men who enjoyed some advantages, because of these traditional structures, may have to give up some of those. Men may even need to wash some dishes when the bai doesn’t turn up, and once in a while, even take off if the kid is sick….doesn’t sound so scary, does it?

In our parents’ generation, wives routinely followed husbands around the country, as companies believed in frequent transfer policies. Today, it may mean challenging that – in personal terms, it may mean not marrying someone whose job requires frequent changes, it may mean choosing to stay apart for some years, it may mean in some cases, finding a new job for yourself, but the last option is no longer a given. Does this mean we are out to sabotage men’s careers? Obviously not. We want to build our own though, and if that means some times men may also need to *gasp* adjust, fair enough! It may also mean that companies will slowly rethink their policies on transfers, if male employees complain that their families cannot be shunted around so easily. (And this is already happening – atleast in the private sector, transfers are now much less frequent and mutually negotiated, not imposed by the company)

The first step then is to acknowledge, that if you believe in the right of every person to be treated with fairness, and given opportunities to prove themselves, then why, you are a feminist ! It is not some exclusive club of men-haters who go around wielding clubs looking for some unwary men. Ready to join in?

(This post was inspired by Amrita’s suggestion on writing on feminism in the Indian context; If any readers would like to take this up, please do and drop me a note too. It would be lovely to make a compilation, and I would be glad to take up the task. I am also going to be tagging a couple of people on this!)

Update : I tag 4 people on this – Desigirl, Itchy, Art and ofcourse Amrita, who started it!

More Update: Amrita has a take on women who tried to live feminist lives without ever knowing the term, based on her personal experiences. Art adds her very practical two-bits on it. The latest update, from Desigirl, who links being a feminist with early childhood experiences. Start them young! Dee talks about feminism for rural Indian women, though I think she is too optimistic about the urban context. Sakshi has a good read on how she identified herself as a feminist. Kokonad points out the insidious ways in which women are belittled, starting from the textbooks we read as children. Sujatha has a beautiful post on her grand-aunt who made a life for herself against odds, and she also has a great list of what women are NOT! Itchy has a good post on feminism with huge doses of confidence, which I just love, though I disagree on some of her assumptions as to men/women being good at certain things. Usha has a no-holds barred, say it as it is post, on how free women really are. I like in particular this line of hers, “The actual power balance comes into play only in situation of conflict of interest”, where she talks about perceived vs actual freedom. Kishore writes on demistifying Feminism, a word that many fail to comprehend as being about basic respect. Lavanya has a very personal account of facing trouble on account of gender, a heartfelt account, yet brave and optimistic. Go read!

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20 Comments

  1. Excellent! You put me to shame… I’ll hotfoot it. 🙂

  2. good one, girl.

    Ams – check it out, you’re famous!

  3. good to have u back in full swing. u ave been missed. even thouh i hav not linked this blog i come thru your old one. blame it on my laziness of going to template.
    And i like the perspective u gave to feminism.. indeed independence movement was not demand for salt!! a symbolic demand for independence

  4. i forgot u were a twin till i read itchy’s post on rearing twins. how wierd, eh?! how’s she anyway?

  5. […] thoughts inspired by Apu’s post; we’re trying to build a multi-blogger take on Indian feminism – what does it mean, what are […]

  6. It’s kinda difficult being a man who cares about woman’s liberalism. You come up across eldery relatives who can’t understand why your wife has some amount of independence, you come across friends who have retrogade ideas about what a marriage means and the balance of power in a marriage, and so on.
    The only thing that keeps the same feeling on is the thought that your mom was also a working lady, and your wife is not your slave, but an independent lively person who has not come into this marriage to be told how she must spend her life.

  7. I firmly believe that after feminism the next ‘ism’ is humanism.

  8. Ashish – I truly understand your pain! My husband for e.g. doesn’t probably know the first thing about feminism as a theory, but he is a total feminist in practice – and others do find it weird when he does household chores for e.g., not as a favor to me, but simply as something that needs to be done. Unless everyone moves , both men and women, in their thinking, we won’t achieve our goals. And this means making it easier for men to take on traditional female roles too.

    Dee, I feel both have to go together – if we work only for women, ignoring the trials men go through, or how patriarchy affects everyone – then, we will probably only succeed in creating guilt or anger.

  9. will take this up shortly

  10. Here you go: http://desigirlposts.blogspot.com/2007/04/feminism-in-desi-setting.html

    ps: I tried!

  11. […] we all write about what feminism means to us? Apu’s response was this great post about what it means to be a feminist. Then, she tagged me on it and I wrote about theory and practice in […]

  12. Good stuff, Apu. 🙂

    Amrita darling totally rocks. 😉

  13. very interesting ! I liked that.

  14. Sakshi, Sanjay, Thank you. I ll eventually put up a separate page containing all the links, and any more I come across.

  15. Mutual respect between man and woman is the definition of feminism according to me.But to obtain it women seem to work harder.This I feel is not fair.A son in law gets all the attention and respect from the moment he enters matrimony but a DIL has to literally woo and placate her in laws to be considered part of the family.She never has it easy.So I think I shud redefine feminism as the commanding of respect by women from all sections of society and appreciation for just being ‘herself’

  16. apu, thanks for dropping by and the comment and the link here. I will now go to all the other posts from here.
    There was a nice post on this by kishore here:
    http://dayswork.wordpress.com/

  17. Padmaji, thats a good point too – feminism starts in the family after all!

    Usha, you’re welcome. I much enjoyed your post. Will check Kishore’s.

  18. Thanks for adding to the list apu. 🙂

  19. […] Ams’ and Apu’s view […]


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