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Our fight for feminism has to be about equality – equal rights and equal responsibilities. Here is what I will (and will not) fight for.
I was in a theatre a few months back when a documentary caught my eye, and has been disturbing me ever since. It was supposedly an attempt to make one understand the plight of women. So, it depicted how women toil in the kitchen and serve the husband who is already waiting at the dinner table, yet secretly, they dream of sitting at the table while the husband toils in the kitchen and serves her the food.
And I thought, wouldn’t it have passed a more correct message if it showed that the man entered the kitchen too, worked alongside his wife, and they both shared a happy meal together?
It struck me then, THIS is what’s wrong with the popular concept of feminism. THIS is what people think the women of today want… to give up all work, sit down as royals, and give men a taste of what it feels like to be a woman. The ad must have been seen by a hundred others apart from me and it feels sad to think that all of them may have back with a twisted concept of feminism ingrained in their minds.
I’m sure the intention of the ad was to further the cause of women empowerment. But sadly, this isn’t the kind of empowerment women want ( or should want). Feminism has ALWAYS been about equality, not about turning the tables on men and sitting back and enjoying watching them struggle and saying, “See this is what we go through”.
This event set me thinking. Did all the women in the theatre inwardly cringe at the ad as I had done? Or had it been just me? With these thoughts in mind, I took to analysing how much we actually understand feminism. As I discussed more with people around me, I realised that while many of us tend to remember the ‘women’s rights’ aspect of feminism, the core principle of ‘equality’ is often forgotten!
For example, on the one hand women shout out slogans for equality and feminism and on the other hand they don’t want to let go of all the ‘benefits’ or ‘considerations’ they receive as a woman in today’s society, leaving the men fuming and calling us hypocrites. I thus also realised, that most of the women in the audience that day in the theatre, would have thought that the ad was justified… that the wife deserved the right to sit back and enjoy the meal being served, while the husband who was now in her place drew no sympathy!
Thus my conclusion: Change begins at home, and if we want the men to understand feminism better, we women must take the onus of living the philosophy of feminism in our everyday lives! Here is a small list of things you should NOT DO, some pointers if you may, of the things I have observed women do, in fact unknowingly several times, that is not aligned with the concept of Feminism:
Many times I have seen women break queues and move ahead using the excuse of being delicate creatures who can’t bear standing in the hot sun.
I understand women sometimes have issues (a pregnancy, for instance) that entitle them for some slack. But why otherwise? Don’t use this age old concept of ‘ladies first’ to weasel your way out of a situation while men struggle it out honestly.
This is especially for working women. If you want men to not treat you as ‘(mere) women’ at the workplace, carry the same thought outside as well.
Earning as much a man, but expecting him to pay each time you go out is completely unfair. With the demand for equal pay, comes the responsibility of equal expense.
I have been appalled several times that women take offence when their husbands ask them to work and help with the financial situation (especially if they are willing to share household responsibilities). Many well educated women, even in this day and age, consider the post-marriage period of their lives as an ‘option’ to stay at home if they so wish. In fact, what’s even more blasphemous is women themselves consider a man who ‘cannot earn enough to support her’ as ‘inadequate’.
This is so sad. When in today’s world, we expect men to take care of the home & children as an equal partner, then what is wrong of a man to expect his wife to help him financially?
Well if we can’t share the burden at work, how can we expect to be treated equally? Yes, I agree that women have safety needs different from men in our society. But today many jobs provide an ample amount of flexibility that women can enjoy so that their work isn’t affected.
So instead of saying a no, how about asking them for possible options? For example, can I do the night shift from home? Or – can I be assigned a shift such that I can go back home early morning when there’s daylight? Or – can someone trustworthy from the team drop me back?
Yes, we women are weaker in physical strength when compared to men, and we always need to be cautious. But don’t use it as an excuse all the time. The men in your team work equally hard, probably have wives and families they need to get back to or spend weekends with. Share their burden whenever possible.
Men at my work place don’t hold doors for me. My chair is not held while I make myself comfortable. Nor am I accustomed to hear “after you”.
One may argue,’these are manners’. Yes, but from which era? An era which deemed women were ‘ladies’ to be ‘taken care of’, who were to be ‘guarded and protected’ by the chivalrous men!
No, I don’t say that men who do it are wrong. If a man thinks he wants to do it for me, that’s sweet. But let’s not dismiss men who do not do it as “ungentlemanly” (Yes, I have seen this happening). As I mentioned above, if you scream for equality in all spheres then don’t demand ‘courtesies’ as your birth right as a woman.
This, in my opinion, is the worst of them all. Women, even today, even while demanding a change in the definition of ‘being a woman’, refuse to change their definition of ‘being a man’.
If a lady’s husband works at home while she’s out working, the poor guy is mocked. If a man goes to a parlour, that defies our view of the right things a man should do. Men who cook lunch-dabbas in the morning for themselves and the wives are sniggered at… by women!
If a woman can ask for the right to live by her choice, why isn’t the same to be granted to a man?!
Ramchandra Guha had written an article a few days back of 11 courageous women who had sent Gandhi a letter way back in 1939. In the letter, these women explained to him as to why he was wrong in making the statement that “The modern girl dresses..to attract attention”. I read that article and realised how many men & women, generation after generation have been fighting for our cause – fighting to get us the rights, privileges, honour we have always seen only men enjoy. And today, we are so close to achieving that.
But what I fear is that in the process of making sure we get our rights, are we committing the same injustices that our gender has been facing all along? Are we women too becoming insensitive to the opposite gender… a quality we have always associated with a patriarchal society? Are we women forgetting that the true meaning of Feminism lies in equality? Feminism isn’t about taking a patriarchal society and turning it inside out into a matriarchal one! It’s about creating a beautiful world of equality for all lives, whether of men or women!
We women have a huge task ahead of us – of convincing the society of the need for Feminism for its own betterment. But while we gear up to shove the boulder, let’s not ignore the pebbles. And as we fight and struggle with the society, let’s step back for a moment, stop ourselves and analyse if WE women are TRULY following the SPIRIT OF EQUALITY in our daily lives? To usher in a new era, let us first rid ourselves of the stereotypes in our own minds. Small changes at our end can change the outlook of people around us, can make them respect us for what we ask and not mock us for what we get!
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Image source: By Fred Bchx from Tournai, Belgique (IMG_2240) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A Software Engineer by profession and a writer by passion, I love sharing my thoughts
Hi Sharanya, this is a very interesting post. Many of your points are valid and lucidly put forward. I do agree with Tanvi here, that “chivalry and feminism can coexist”. There are no exactly equalling equations in all circumstances and situations in the male-female dynamic, but rather there are complimentary ones, that can be easily achieved. I personally know that its possible and workable to have fairness in a relationship, where role players and the roles are unequal in different respects. That’s what collaboration and team work is about. Respect and fairness can be equally shared between and among the sexes so that everyone is enabled to compensate for their weaknesses and be rewarded for their strengths and thus find balance- so each benefits and the whole is thus sustainable.
I totally agree Sonia 🙂 The male-female relationship must be complimentary and dynamic rather than based on pre-set equations. And that is exactly why I feel we women must get the notion out of our heads that certain things are “too manly” for us or “too womanly” for men. The collaboration must give room for each partner to contribute based on their capabilities & interests, rather than gender specific stereotypes. Thank you for sharing your views with me!
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