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Are we feminists as long as it suits us, or are we truly inclusive feminists? Here are some questions that might help you think further.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
~ Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
When I Google Feminism, the definition that I get tells me, it is ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.’
Though it looks simple enough at the first glance, please do not be deceived.
When we say that we are feminists are we truly advocating the equality for ALL?
People, who aren’t privileged like us, who don’t look like us, whose history is more complicated or different than ours, whose background aren’t as comfortable as ours?
I feel feminism is an ongoing learning process. In order to be truly inclusive, what we need most is an open mind.
Yes, we aren’t all born under the same circumstances, our social conditioning, cultural differences, our methods of upbringing and the external environment, everything has an impact on our thought processes. However, what is important to understand is that in order to be a truly Inclusive Feminist, we need to keep an Open Mind! We need to understand other’s points of view, most importantly, we need to accept that there is a huge, wide world that exists outside our own comfortable bubble of existence and in order to understand that, we definitely need empathy and compassion.
As a child, I studied in an all-girls Convent School. Our school taught us that girls who wore revealing clothes were attracting attention and should be shamed. We were shown videos of unborn children crying out from their mothers womb to teach us how sinful abortion was, and how it is equivalent to murder. My mother didn’t let me wear anything but salwar kurtas since the time I hit puberty because when girls wear jeans men are attracted and then it is our fault if they assault us!
I took a lot of years to unlearn those lessons.
I have had relationships where men didn’t understand the concept of consent and I felt it was my duty to not anger them, I felt I needed to be apologetic because they were men and their egos required boosting.
It took me years to learn that this was not right, that I have an equal say in relationships, and that if a man had a huge ego then I can kick him out of my life without any remorse!
I needed to learn these and many more such lessons in order to live a better life.
However, while I was learning about things that hurt me, I felt I also needed to learn about what hurt other women. Women who might have a DIFFERENT set of problems but just because I have never suffered from those, that didn’t make them any LESS VALID!
So while we suffer from certain ill-effects of patriarchy, someone else might be a victim in some other way! Do we bother looking beyond our own fences?
If you are an inclusive feminist you’d think about those who are outside those fences too.
What about Dalit women or Kashmiri women?
What about women who are mentally or physically challenged?
What about people belonging to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex community?
What about Black women?
What about women in deeply religious or oppressive regimes like Saudi Arabia or North Korea?
What about women who are being body shamed?
(Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list but just a few examples to show how feminism includes all of this and so much more!)
You might say that you don’t have ideas about people from all these categories. well, neither do I! And that’s why we need to EDUCATE ourselves.
We need to read up on diverse subjects, we need to understand the unique situations of people all across our country and all over the world in order to truly empathize with them. Most importantly, sometimes we might need to come out of our comfort zones in order to truly support someone who doesn’t enjoy all the privileges that we do.
So, the next time you think of yourself as a feminist, do ask yourself, ”Does my feminism include ALL?” and if it doesn’t, buckle up, and learn about people you don’t know. Of course, it is impossible to know about the plight of every person in this big, wide world but in order to understand, you need to be ready to listen to their sides of the story as well. Also, I believe we need to be prepared to gulp down our egos and question our existing thought processes, so that we can better understand diverse voices.
Only through an open mind and learning, can we truly grow as individuals and also as feminists.
Image source: By Ekta Parishad (Ekta Parishad) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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