IHM put me in quite a spot by tagging me on something like this. I have oscillated between calling myself an all-out feminist to being the occasional borderline misogynist. So you can see why it was difficult for me to even begin this post. Then, if I had to write this, I would have to THINK my way out of the mess in my head! Thinking hurts the head. IHM... at this point I feel positively misogynistic! ;-)
In my teens & twenties I had this simple logic: Girls are so beautiful, so demure. I like everything about them. They're great to be with. Much more fun than playing with the boys. So I was a self-proclaimed feminist.
Even today, check out my reasons for wanting to sit through a Bollywood item number:
Priyanka Chopra, Lara Dutta, Neha Dhupia, Tanushree Dutta, Riya Sen, Bipasha Basu, Celina Jaitley, Katrina Kaif, Yana Gupta...
If I was either Akbar or Samudragupta, these women would've been the Navratans (Nine Gems) of my court! Or would they be adorning my harem? Am I confusing art with biology?
But you get the point, don't you? I love women. Everything about them. I'd give them their rights! Hell I'd give them mine! Dashratha even gave his son's rights to one! Now there's a feminist if there ever was one!
I'd actually like 18 Gems. I have a list beyond the one I've given above. That way I could have them in my court & in my harem!
But jokes aside, I've always been a big champion of equal rights. My feminism is probably a branch of that tree.
I've been raised by a single Mother. With a fiercely independent younger sister. And a housefull of aunts & female cousins. Maybe that has something to do with my understanding of their myriad moods, with my general affinity for women and my desire to see them treated well.
I've been victim to some bullying during my first few years in Bombay. Until I finally learnt how to fight. But even in these initial years, my distaste for street brawls didn't stop me from taking a stand when it came to women. I will relate an incident here:
My first job entailed being clean shaven & dressed in a tie. Barely 22, I hardly looked intimidating. I was travelling on a crowded BEST bus to work, seated thankfully, when I heard a commotion up in front.
There was this huge man yelling at a woman, "What did I do? Did I touch you?".
The woman was apparently protesting his standing too close in the crowded bus. She was too far away to hear & probably intimated. She (softly & bravely) probably said something like, "Please stand a little further away".
The said huge man got bolder, "DID I TOUCH YOU? WHAT DID I DO, HAAN? DID I PUT MY FINGER IN YOUR BUM?"
The poor woman mumbled something in protest...
Huge man: "Shut up. I've seen enough like you. You get them for 50 bucks on the streets."
At this point something stirred inside 22 year old, boy-faced, clean shaven, tie-clad, 5'7" me. The same me that preferred to walk away from brawls, suddenly stood up & roared (I have a voice that is 6'3"), "SHUDDAP!!!"
Huge man whirled around: "Who said that?"
I roar back, "I DID!"
Huge man: "How's it any of your business?"
I: "THAT'S NO WAY TO TALK TO A LADY!!!"
Huge man tried to move towards me, but he was far & the bus was crowded. He mumbled something about it not being any of my business, but I roared back: "THAT'S NO WAY TO TALK TO A LADY!!!"
By this time, the bus had come to life. A few more women stood up and started berating Huge man. One gent got up & offered his seat to the poor lady who bore the brunt of Huge man's attack. Huge man backed off seeing that he was hopelessly outnumbered by now. (And THAT is also why I keep saying that it takes just one voice to start a revolution! THAT is also why I am on the blogosphere!)
When I got off at my stop, some old ladies got off with me. They smiled at me, patted me on the head/shoulder & said, "God Bless you my son."
That moment I am still proud of, over 11 years later.
Like I said I'm a feminist.
I am however not blind anymore (as the teenaged me used to be) to the faults of women & women feminists. (Nor is my so-called feminist record that clean anymore as frequenters to the Mutiny will happily vouch for; but this is not a confessional...). Women are not perfect creatures. No one is. They have their faults and reams have been written on them by William Shakespeare & Jerry Pinto alike!
The problem that some feminists face is a lack of objectivity. They tend to make feminism a little like what the current (as opposed to back then) Dalit rights movement in India has degenerated into. Loud, Partisan & represented by crass Mayawatis instead of classy women. When a Shobha De is celebrated by feminists, I cringe. Just as I cringe when Chetan Bhagat is celebrated as an author!
There is a strong need to pick the right role models, the right causes, and go about them in a classy manner, a manner befitting women.
This last phrase is no doubt going to cause irritation to the average feminist.
And therein lies the problem.
In trying to break the mold, they shatter everything that is feminine or is likable about women. They didn't fight to be recognized for what they were. They tried to become like those who they thought were their oppressors!
Women are nice because they are gentle, soft-spoken, feminine, kind, they smell good, etc. etc. Hope for a better world lies in some of those very traits. What good comes from discarding all of that??? What good comes from being a coarse, loud, manly, uncouth, smelly woman? THAT is not feminism to me. That is taking feminism too far... too far from what it set out to achieve!
Every ~ism runs the risk of having factions that tend towards the extreme. We've all seen that happen in history & in our times as well. Communism... Capitalism...
This is a danger feminism must guard against.
Not doing so will elicit such responses from their own ilk. The said blogger is an extremely talented writer (among other things) and it would be a shame to not have her on the side of moderate feminism.
Edit: A blend, a fine balance, the middle path are what enhance everything. Even feminism.
To me feminism could also mean treating women as equals. No special privileges. Same tough talk as the men get. Same rough language...?
It could also mean being the man of the house, taking care of our women, providing for them, treating them like delicate pieces of china, pulling out chairs for them, old world chivalry. Chaperoning too...?
Or it could mean striking a balance between these two. Taking the best of both worlds and giving it to women worldwide!
So that women can have their cake & eat it too! NOW that would be Feminism!
Except that only a handful of really secure men would want to give it willingly. And the rest would call them minority appeasers! Such a shame...
Over to the feminists now. Tell us what you'd prefer.
And oh yes... I tag Annie, Sanjukta, Yaamyn, Ketan & Utopianthots. Any other interested takers?