“What qualities do you not want in your partner?” I asked some guy somewhere sometime back.
He said, “I don’t want someone who is stubborn and is one of those feminist types… ummm.”
“Feminist types?! What do you mean? So, are you against feminism?”
“No noo… I am not against feminism. But, I think the feminist types are too loud and opinionated. They always want to have the last say. I don’t think I would get along with someone like that.”
I don’t remember much about that date, but this part of the conversation did stay with me.
The word “feminism” has undoubtedly acquired a negative connotation to it. There are several different reasons, but that’s not the point. The point is that feminism is supposed to be uplifting. If you meet a feminist, you are supposed to feel cared for and not intimidated.
Why am I talking about feminism?
Last week, a 22-year-old Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini died after being detained by the “morality police” for not wearing her hijab correctly. Allegedly, she was beaten up and tortured in custody. The news about her death spread like wildfire.
When I read about it, I was shocked. I was stunned that women still have to defend themselves over their dressing choices. I saw pictures of the protests and videos of women burning their headscarves and cutting their hair to express anger. I was deeply moved. I can’t explain how much this movement matter for our society in today’s times.
But why am I writing this? That is because I have been thinking about it lately. Does having a solid opinion make me a feminist and drive people away?!
I was born in the 90s in India. A girl child was not desirable in the place where I was born. (yay, even after 50 yrs of independence) So, my extended fam wasn’t quite happy when they heard about me. They are happy with me now, but those were the times. My mom fought for me. She really did.
She left that small town where she knew everyone and moved to another state. She moved so I could have a secure life, so I am not stuck with people with a backward mentality. That’s very brave of her. Even today, she raises her voice on a variety of social topics. I have seen her empowering village women to stand for their rights and form a community. She is a feminist by all means. I don’t think she has ever needed a tag. But, what she is doing at the micro level is what we genuinely need to empower women.
Feminism has come a long way. The women who fought the early battles have gotten us to this juncture.
A man is allowed to get the best education, and go on dates, and cheat, and have an opinion, and get the best salaries, and negotiate, and drive his own car, and wear whatever they want, and speak however they want to, and not get married, and (also) start a world war. That’s universal.
But, are women worldwide allowed to wear whatever they want? Don’t we have societies pressuring women to settle down and get married after a certain age? How many women leaders do we have today? Is that a significant number? Would they ever even think about declaring war on another country? Are women really paid equally – in every country? So when a woman cheats, she’s a bitch, and when a man does the same, he just wasn’t thinking straight, eh?
Honestly, we have consumed way too much literature about male leaders in our society. Some brought peace, and some caused destruction. But, we allowed both to exist. Because of that, when I say leader, one quickly associates male traits with them. Women have historically played a supportive role, the side character, the loving, caring, kind-hearted gender. But, there is so much more to that.
Just for a second, imagine reading this in your history book –
Come back, come back. That’s not what happened, obviously. Hitler did not have female staff. His inner circle involved strong men who did nothing but fuel his plan of world destruction. He could have benefitted from having some (a few) (one or more) women in his party. Our history would be so very different.
The truth is that gender inequality still exists.
We can’t break down inequality until we break down the beliefs that tie us to that inequality. Until we break down all forms of sexism, benevolent and otherwise; all forms of misogyny, internalized and otherwise; until we stop calling men “strong” and women “helpless”; men “protective” and women “nurturing”.
Until then, we still need feminism.