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There is almost a stigma attached to identifying as a feminist, people often misunderstanding the simple premise of feminism – equality for all.
Feminism has a multitude of definitions and has seen various cultural and political influences. Feminism and feminist movements are also quickly gaining popularity in India. With every other woman branding herself a feminist, here are a few attitudes which I believe still need to shift:
When a man asserts himself, he is called a ‘Leader’. But when a woman does the same, she risks being called bossy.
Ban Bossy a campaign launched by Sheryl Sandberg in collaboration with Condoleezza Rice and Beyonce aims to eliminate the word ‘Bossy’ for describing young girls as it damages a girl’s self-confidence and hinders her ambition. These women believe that the change should start in school. Seeing men succeed is a common occurrence but seeing a woman excel instils fear and hostility towards her in both men and women.
It is time women altered the way we view powerful women and appreciate them for their strength.
The ‘Single Girl Child’ quota, for instance, is put in place to discourage female infanticide and help girls from rural and less privileged backgrounds to make their mark in modern India.
But several girls from cities, raised in educated, economically stable households leave their equally deserving male counterparts behind without guilt as they benefit from systems meant for someone else. What ever happened to the feminist mentality of “I can do this on my own, I can succeed and be as good as any man”? Instances of gender equality laws being misused are also on the rise in colleges and universities.
Feminism is not about making men pay. It is about equal rights, for women as well as for men.
Reshma Saujani, in her brilliant TED Talk, talks about her two failed attempts to run for public office and how it is absolutely OK to fail and be imperfect. Founder of a non-profit and now immensely successful, Reshma captivates the audience when she says that we should not teach our girls to be perfect. Rather, we should teach them to be brave and take risks. Girls in India are taught to take the familiar path, which leads to an expected result and adhere to societal norms. Most Indians who venture into unconventional career paths are men.
Even after movies like Queen challenging the society’s views on Indian women, how many women actually travel alone?
How many women are comfortable going to restaurants or movie theatres alone?
Why are we not taught to enjoy our own company?
How many Indian women are trained to live alone (and by alone, I don’t mean living as a paying guest or with roommates) once they leave their parents’ homes?
There is of course the factor of safety which holds back many women. But more often than not, a woman will not buy a single movie ticket at a Multiplex in a mall because people will look at her oddly and wonder, “what’s wrong with her? Why is she here alone?” Such questions are not raised when a man is alone.
The average Indian woman still lets the society define her for the most part. As much as feminism is about proclaiming equality, it is also about women learning to let go of dependency on others, be it for a living, an identity, or (to some extent) for entertainment.
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