I Am Not a Feminist

BY SUV PRADHAN
May 21, 2011

Men are more ambitious while women tend to focus more on love and relationships. Do you agree?

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There are a few people I know, who not only talk but also practise their values in their lives. I have a few friends who aren't afraid to play basketball with boys and who do not shy away from confronting men who harass them in public places. But I cannot do so. Although I may give many excuses like how clumsy I am, or that the boys easily outnumbered me, the bottom line is that I'm scared, scared of the consequences of standing up against them. This is one of the reasons why I consider myself to be a non-feminist in spite of being a woman and believing in gender equality.

A few months ago, I posted a status on Facebook that went, “I don’t want to be defined by my prettiness, but sometimes I don’t mind it either.” Clearly, this shows my desire towards looking good. I usually don’t mind looking shabby on a casual day out, but during a party, I make sure that I look good. This means that looking pretty is important to me. It is becoming more difficult to be indifferent towards the comments I receive about my looks. No matter how hard I try, I find myself influenced by what people say because everyone is increasingly concerned about appearances.

I think that I fall under the category of women who love dressing up to impress, please and probably even make others envious. I don’t have my own view about my dressing style and I can’t even stand for my own style. For example, every time I go out with my family, I either succumb to my mother’s wishes or take support from my brother about how I ought to dress up. My dad teases me saying that I am still not old enough to dress up as I please, in spite of my age. If it is difficult for me to stand up for my own choices within my family, you might be able to imagine how much strength I would require to stir up my society and bring about change.

I remember once one of my uncles said that men and women are equal in all aspects apart from their physical strength. At that time, this got me very angry because I believed that men and women should be equal even with respect to physical strength. I blamed traditional views of a patriarchal society that made sure that women never made it to the top. I derived my hypothesis by trying to discern the historical context that has made men and women so different physically. During the Stone Age, women were restricted to taking care of homes and rearing children while men went out to hunt. This, then, led to women’s body to adapt to work that requires less physical strength. And that’s why, I concluded, women weren't as strong as men.

But now as I reflect on this issue, I realise that men and women are quite different from one another. Women, apart from being physically "weaker", are also more emotional. Men, on the other hand, are far less expressive with their emotions. It seems that men are more ambitious while women tend to focus more on love and relationships. So how can men and women be the same?

To say that men and women are different in some ways, however, does not mean that what they do has to be mutually exclusive. While I might believe in the distribution of domestic chores as well as sharing of financial responsibilities between husband and wife, I have never taken the initiative to mend broken things or buy small daily items or even pay bills which my brother does. I would rather continue to feel lazy and stay at home in my designated work area of the kitchen. My brother hasn’t learnt how to cook dinner and nobody at home forces him to do so. Unlike with me.

My mother comes home from office and goes straight to kitchen because nobody besides her, my grandmother and I cook at home. So how can I be a feminist? Not only do I shy away from stepping into the "manly" duties my brother fulfills, I also continue to participate silently in the discrimination I face at home on a daily basis. I cannot blame my laziness all the time and neither can I blame the ways of my home. I know that I can change if I want to, but the problem is that I don’t feel the need. So how can I be called a feminist?

I don’t believe in celebrating Women's Day, simply because this day reminds me of our weakness and our need of a day to celebrate our womanhood.

Until recently I was confused whether to call myself a feminist or not but now I know where I stand. I say that I don’t believe in celebrating Women's Day, simply because this day reminds me of our weakness and our need of a day to celebrate our womanhood. The real problem lies in the fact that I cannot do anything alone. All the so called women's rights activists participate on this day in some rally, shouting slogans. They organise different programmes that reflect upon the need to uplift women's status in society and hence the importance of Women's Day. And then they go back home, enter their kitchens and prepare meals for their husbands and children as silent and obedient wives and mothers.

At least I have finally come clean by saying that I am not a feminist, not yet. But believe me I’m trying, trying really hard to become one. I have finally come to the conclusion that instead of searching for similarities between men and women, I’ll move on by accepting and being proud of the differences. Yes, I’m not a feminist yet, but consider this – are you?

 

This article was first published in V.E.N.T! in April 2011.