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

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