The F-worded Fight: What Do Feminists Ask For?

Posted: September 22, 2012

What do feminists fight against? Apart from victim-blaming, slut-shaming, gendered violence and other blatantly obvious stuff?

Some aspects of feminist critique may mystify many people. Like, why exactly are feminists against pink for girls, blue for boys (its NATURE!)?

What exactly do they fight against here? Teh menz? Teh wimminz who are straight? Teh natural ordrz?

If you’re like my mom, you’re a little confused. As a matter of fact, she was the inspiration for this post.

She told me “I know you’re going to be offended by what I have to say, but really, you’re not a man – nobody will cook and clean for you while you do your job”.

I admit, I was a little irritated – like, what was the point of saying that? She apparently meant well. The meaning was something like this “yeah, I know you want equal rights for everyone – but the world ain’t all that rosy. Men ARE in a position of social dominance – don’t think the world is equal yet”.

To which, my flabbergasted mind could only respond “I KNOW!”. Most feminists know that. Oopsie. Looks like my mamma didn’t get the hang of this whole feminism thing. She was scared I’d get angry because I had a royal fit when her sister told me once while my legs were dangling, “Stop doing that! It is still acceptable when boys do that, you’re a girl!”

Seems like she didn’t get the difference between these two things.

If you’re confused like my mum, this will be helpful for you. Disclaimer: when I use the term “feminist(s)”, please put [many] in front of that.

Ok.

Feminists do know that in patriarchal societies, men as a group are privileged. See? Even my mum knows this. If I was a man, my wife would automatically be expected to cook and clean for me while I go about doing my job (what? All men don’t want to do a job, you say? Blasphemy!)

Anyway, feminists know this. This is what we fight against. Patriarchy. [All] gender roles. Gendered expectations. Gender binary.

Also, you know what we hate? Obstacles. What are the obstacles we face while doing our bit to smash patriarchy? Sentences like these – “Stop doing that! It is still acceptable when boys do that, you’re a girl!”

Why? Because these sentences (and the attitudes which come with it) UPHOLD and PERPETUATE the essence of what we are against.

A century ago, most people would not accept the fact that the group of people termed “women” could have many individuals who would find fulfilment in jobs and would not find much satisfaction in raising children or marriage (in fact, many people have much difficulty now as well).  Likewise, is it so hard to imagine that the gender “men” has many individuals would live to stay at home and raise children? Who would love to cook and nurture a family? Is it? Why? Have you ever considered the fact that maybe so many men and women, girls and boys fit into this stereotype we have of both genders is more due to the fact that they are brought up to be this way rather than nature? That girls are brought up to love pink and boys blue? That girls and boys are taught their respective roles by the society, toys, films, books, comics, fairy-tales, actions, etc and are restricted from exploring their full potential due to the same? No? Then, why are so many people intent on creating this gendered environment? If it were really the work of nature, then why are so many people scared of bringing their children up in an androgynous environment where children would have a chance of honing their talents and finding what they are really interested in? Are they afraid “nature” will get screwed up?

It is easy. They KNOW it is not nature, that is simply an excuse, nature can’t be outwitted as easily as they would like us to be believe.

It is NOT nature. It is socialisation.

I have seen many posts and images disseminating the message that feminists hate masculine/feminine* qualities (depends on the website – some say masculine, some say feminine). Ok, here’s the thing – we DON’T hate masculine or feminine* qualities. We don’t. Really. We only hate this whole socialisation process we have right now which restricts us on the basis of our sex (which is associated with a gender) as to what we should wear, which movies/books/stories we should like, which colour(s) we should love, the way we should act, the emotions (or lack of the same) we should feel, etc etc etc.

Feminists are often very aware of how our choices might be affected by how WE were socialised as well. Like, I love a particular thing but how much of it is my own choice and how much of it is influenced by gendered socialisation? For example – I’m a woman and I absolutely LOVE (shades of) purple and I like pink as well. BUT I realise that my likes might have been affected by the expectations/environment in which I grew up in, by the media – the cartoons I watched, the stories I heard, etc. I also consciously make an effort to explore different colours and combinations of the same (and movies, and books and loads of other stuff). Why? Because I might miss out on a totally awesome (for me!) colour (and movies, and books and loads of other stuff)!!!

Yes, I realise, it may seem a little frightening to some. Like, you’ve spent most of your life liking/loving a particular thing/colour/etc and then you find out that if not for the conventional way of gendered socialisation, you may have liked different things??? Uhmmm…

Yes, you may not start luvinnn’ something you’re not so keen on (I still don’t like science or math much), BUT you may discover awesome stuff too!

Feminists also don’t like how people are judged on conventional norms and ideals of beauty which are socially constructed. Also, Hygiene =/= conventional norms of beauty (many people have these two confused). And we don’t hate people who are conventionally attractive.

Feminists believe in the full humanity of people while acknowledging that there are certain social structures in place which prevent us from reaching our full potential, from being fully humane, from being US.

I hope this post helped you gain a little more clarity on some aspects of feminist critique which often seem unusual to the uninitiated.

* qualities thought of as masculine/feminine [which change according to different cultures and time periods]

*Photo credit: simonella_virus (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

Brought up in a patriarchal society, but not a misogynist.

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Comments

6 Comments


  1. Body images, behavoiurs, choices absolutely everything you can think of has been stereotyped.! Gender sensitization is the need of the hour.! A very good post, short and sweet.!

  2. Dolly Mohanti Ghosh -

    The above article has an interesting point of view. But, Feminism, genders, socialisation… Nothing makes sense to me. Based on experience I have divided my world into two classes of people. Those who will take responsibility for themselves and of others around them. And those who will not. I have seen how a woman is allowed her freedom and rights when she is taking on responsibilities that others could have shared.

  3. Pingback: Best Of Women’s Web – Editor’s Pick For Sept 2012 | Women's Web: Online Community For Indian Women

  4. Even in a progressive country like Canada we still feel the gender differences. It’s not easy. As a woman I feel sometimes as if I am expected to be a woman and a man too at the same time – work, study, clean, cook, do taxes… I am performing both male and female tasks because on one hand we have traditional values kick in, on the other hand the world expects us to be independent.

    Jessica (blogger)
    http://www.fantasystockings.com

  5. (from teh menz)

    thank you for posting my photo- it’s always good to see my stuff put to good use! my friend Kalpna and i had a lot of fun taking the photo.

    as a man, i am confused as to what women (and society) expect from me. do you want me to buy dinner or do you not? do you want me to hold the door for you or should i go through first? am i supposed to be the bring-home-the-bacon person, or am i not? am i supposed to be dominant, or not? do you want me to always be strong, or am i supposed to sometimes be sensitive?

    i feel like societal expectations are a mixed bag; what we say is not what we do. we all come from different backgrounds and there is no truly objective/ empirical way of measuring fairness and balance. i don’t really care what the expectations are; we all choose how we want to live our lives and how we want to conduct ourselves. we are all people and we should try being human.

    to be honest, at least in the areas i frequent, i don’t see this power imbalance. even in the company where i work, i see women in dominant/ prominent positions, my gym has many strong/ healthy/ proud women, and my sis is the matriarch of her family. i think that both sides (feminists and chauvinists) take it too far sometimes. and generally, the few rotten apples ruin the bunch.

    ~Simon (a 32-yr-old healthy, educated somewhat normal male)

    • Hi. I can understand where this comes from

      “as a man, i am confused as to what women (and society) expect from me. do you want me to buy dinner or do you not? do you want me to hold the door for you or should i go through first? am i supposed to be the bring-home-the-bacon person, or am i not? am i supposed to be dominant, or not? do you want me to always be strong, or am i supposed to sometimes be sensitive?”

      women feel this way too.. with gender-roles slowly weakening (and making space for an individual to grow) many people are confused. This is not a bad thing. Do what you want, I’d say. Want to open the door? Do it (but “I must act all chivalrous because she happens to be of a particular gender” is a bit problematic – it is ok if you want to do it out of respect or affection you feel for a person – I do it from my brother and mother). As for the bacon thing, shouldn’t the couple figure it out within themselves? Same for dominant-submissive – of course in a relationship there is a huge chance for someone to be dominant over the other and it may be you (again, don’t forget the effect socialisation may have had on this), which is fine as long s your partner is ok with it and it is a healthy relationship. Being dominant just because society tells you to is bad, though. May frustrate you too if you have to follow these gender roles when you’re different as a person and just want to be yourself. You’re “supposed” to be whatever you are as an individual (as long as you don’t harm yourself or others).

      “i feel like societal expectations are a mixed bag; what we say is not what we do. we all come from different backgrounds and there is no truly objective/ empirical way of measuring fairness and balance. i don’t really care what the expectations are; we all choose how we want to live our lives and how we want to conduct ourselves.we are all people and we should try being human.”
      Yes, our way of seeing and experiencing this world is greatly affected by our social position(s) and socialisation. Just like how a white person may believe white privilege doesn’t exist. The only “objective” way I’ve found till now is – can you achieve your fullest potential? do you suffer from structural disadvantages? Is help given to level the playing field? (and questions like that – the answers determine if the society a person is living in is fair and balanced). I totally agree with the last two lines.

      “to be honest, at least in the areas i frequent, i don’t see this power imbalance. even in the company where i work, i see women in dominant/ prominent positions, my gym has many strong/ healthy/ proud women, and my sis is the matriarch of her family. i think that both sides (feminists and chauvinists) take it too far sometimes. and generally, the few rotten apples ruin the bunch.”

      Anecdotal evidence does not disprove structural disadvantage/privilege.
      As for your last line, I can only laugh. I mean, does a man who has self-identified as “educated” not know the difference between feminists and chauvinists (I presume you’re talking about male chauvinists?). This is something I see often. People often put male chauvinists on one side and feminists on the other. Not so. Feminist is the neutral position with male and female chauvinists on either side (misogynists and misandrists).
      Feminist – “a person who advocates equal rights for women” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/feminist)

      Chauvinist –
      “smug irrational belief in the superiority of one’s own race, party, sex, etc” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/chauvinist?s=t)

      So, how in the world can a person equate the two? If a self-identified feminist does exhibit chauvinism, then the “feminist” is a chauvinist and not a feminist. Self-identified feminists can be anti-feminists. And rape apologetics. Read up and you’ll know.

      The hold right-wing propaganda seems to have on people, jeez. Also, this is used by random people to accuse feminists of “misandry” (I was recently accused of the same when I pointed out to a man flaws in reasoning and unfamiliarity with feminism and feminist theory on Twitter. Lulz).

      I really liked the picture BTW. Keep it up 

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