Being In Love with a feminist
“My body, my mind, my choice”, said Deepika Padukone (Indian actress, model and fashion icon) along with her horde of feminist advocates, in an advertisement which was termed both bold and ludicrous in the same breath. A message propagating equal rights for women instigated a barrage of debates on both women’s and men’s right. The social media was alight with internet trolls bombarding both the actress and the movement. The advertisement talked openly about women having/wanting the freedom to choose when it came to sensitive topics such as their personality, work, attire, marriage, sexual orientation and sexual intercourse. It articulates how women, are not bound to society or their male counterparts (partners, brothers, father, cousins) when it comes to their personal decision. In a country such as India that still holds strong that patriarchy is culture, this notion did not sit well. The “men” and a certain section of women who were raised to believe that both men and women have defined roles in a society were offended, and this led to the uproar. On equal grounds many woman stand the chance to show how they are better than their male counterparts on almost all aspects of life.
Feminism by definition means “the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. The key word here is “equality”. It’s not empowering one sex over the other; rather it is neutralizing the power imbalance. It is about elevating or empowering women, often unreasonably termed “the weaker sex”, who have been forced to battle an uphill battle since the dawn of the patriarchal culture. Not because they are the “weaker sex” but for the equality of sexes; implying that they are not treated differently for being a women. That is the world we should to aspire to live in, together, accepting each for who they are, each given a chance to dream, unrelated to their sex.
Over the years, my camaraderie with radical feminists has aided me in understanding and acknowledging the realities of both blatant "hostile sexism" and the concealed "benevolent sexism". Hostile sexism which is relatively easier to identify in society is a general dislike towards women, an emphasis on the differences between women and men and a devaluation of women. Benevolent Sexism which is harder to identify is men assuming the role of a protector, implying in essence that woman need to be protected. Personally I am not against men being chivalrous, but ask yourself if your kindliness and graciousness is restricted to the women folk alone, then you stand the chance to be frowned upon.
According to Caroline Bird (American author and feminist) “Sexism is judging people by their sex when sex doesn't matter. Sexism is intended to rhyme with racism”. A profound statement which helps us better understand sexism and its effects. Sexism is as manifested and prevalent as racism is and inhibits the growth of a progressive -free -thinking society. The biggest problem is not accepting that it is an issue, which needs to be adequately dealt with. Many still consider sexism as a norm or as a customary practice – epitomizing that women are the weaker sex, that women are meant to be homemakers, constraining women to the notion of being pretty, dignified, motherly and novel which leads to many problems such as gender pay gaps, preconceived social norms and being stereotyped as sex “objects” or even these “wonderful beings”. A condemnatory statement such as “You are a women/man, and hence you are supposed to be a certain way/ cant do certain things is as offensive and undignified as saying “ Oh you are an Indian/ Pakistani/Chinese/Black and hence you are supposed to be a certain way/ cant do certain things”. The fight for equality should not be condemned to, just as the fight against “hostile sexism”; it is also against putting women on a pedestal just because they are women.
So what about men? Aren’t men treated differently based on sex? Absolutely! Reiterating my earlier point - feminism is about equality, obliterating the discrimination based on sex. Men are forced to don the role of being the financial provider for the family; expected to be stable, practical, and career focused. Men are expected to take on many of the toughest and harshest jobs (mining, the army, firefighting, waste collection etc). Men are ostracized and projected to be crude, violent and impassive. Men are considered as poor caregivers and as a result tend to lose custodies of their children in most divorce cases. Many men are plagued by false rape accusations. In India the moment a woman files an FIR (first information report) against a man, the police can arrest the accused without any form of preliminary investigation. Cases of domestic violence against men are considered insignificant since men are expected to be stronger and competent of withstanding both emotional and physical violence.
The sole purpose of this paper is to impede discrimination of any kind and is not in any way an effort to devalue men or to present women with unprecedented privileges.
My girlfriend is a freelance writer, author, a marketing consultant, world traveler, yoga enthusiast, & in her own words a “full-time feminist”. She also happens to be a smart, attractive, charming, well-read, independent woman. I love her for who she is and I admire her for her success, ambitions and dreams and respect her for being better than me at a lot of things. Being in a relationship with a partner who has strong ideals and vision has presented me the chance to converse, debate and learn. I love her for inspiring me; I love her for being my critic and my catalyst for change. It’s liberating to see the person I love believe in endless possibilities and be the owner of a free and open mind. As I walk beside her, and as we build our dreams together, Life it seems beautiful.
And am I a feminist? Absolutely! To equality/ parity/ equal opportunities/ fairness
- Dedicated to my girl, for making me a better person.
Rageeth “Rags” Kollatt