Recently I read a blog here about South Asian men having a problem in calling themselves feminists and this post is a further analysis of this phenomenon. But before we even get into men having a problem calling themselves feminists, there are enough women who have the exact same problem. Or even if they call themselves that, it is without the understanding of the ideology!
So there are two dynamics at play here before being a practitioner of an ideology:
1. Knowing the ideology
2. Knowing your privilege.
Let’s deal with knowing the ideology first. Let’s pick capitalism – an economic ideology which addresses the control of means of production. Today there are a lot of people criticizing capitalists and it is not uncommon to see posts or articles against people who own the means of production, since they are exploitative, or considered so. Now if one turns the tables around and asks the owner of the means of production, the owner will have another sob story of being a victim of workers’ lack of commitment / punctuality, not having enough skilled workers, too much taxation and difficulty in surviving as an entrepreneur. So who is the victim here? Would any of these people playing different roles – as the owner of means of production or an employee, identify themselves as capitalists? May be they might take a stand if they understood the ideology and if it could give allowances for nuances.
Similarly, with feminism. There is no doubt at all, that it is thanks to the propagators of this ideology that several women are educated today and have ‘choices’. But somewhere in popular culture, feminism has lost itself in random ranting and outbursts at people who perhaps believe in equality, but are unable to understand the ‘victim’ mentality that comes with being ‘oppressed’.
The other day, in conversation with a male friend, I said, “We are brought up differently from men”, when he asked “Why can’t women take more responsibility for themselves?” “What do you mean?” He asked. “Well, for one, I was never allowed to go out freely from my childhood, and was made aware of the big bad world, very soon. Whereas most boys I have seen, are usually carefree, and don’t have as many restrictions growing up.”
His response was, “Oh my father, never allowed me to go alone, even when I was in Engineering. But I am taking responsibility for myself, earning money and running the house. That’s no excuse. After a month of being married, I realized that I have to take care of two of us financially because my wife was of the opinion that she will take it easy for sometime. But I wasn’t ready for that, and I had to suck it up. I don’t still have the option of taking it easy. Sometimes it is like carrying a burden around and this has nothing to do with her as a person, but the fact is, we need money to live!”
Now this statement from him, is as FEMINIST as it can get, because he is talking about patriarchy subjugating him to ‘perform’. And this, is what popular feminism fails to recognize as a huge flaw in its conduct. A human being needs to be independent emotionally, intellectually and financially – only then is a person truly functioning as a contributing member of the society. Soon, there will be popular feminists screaming, “Oh, but housework is a very important job!”
Sorry to say, but you are falling into the trap of what has been taught to you for years, “That a woman’s place is in the house!” Does cooking need skill? Yes, it does, basic skill, unless of course you are a professional cook, where then it becomes really specific and skilled. But home-cooking, is the job of EVERYONE living in the house, as is keeping the house clean or washing clothes and so on. There is no need for a specific person to be dedicated to this 24 / 7.
And when you have kids? Well, yes a child needs the mother more often till around a year and also the mother’s body needs at least 6 months to recuperate, depending on the intensity of delivery. But this should be a short interim, because now there is one more mouth to feed along with education expenses, medicines and paying the baby-care industry. So you staying at home after a year or two, doesn’t make sense for anyone, not even for the baby, because now the baby needs to interact and perhaps will also speak faster, when sent to care facilities.
Now a days a lot of people have to employ speech therapists for babies to speak, sending them to care facilities and interacting with more people might help them. This will also help you get over, “Oh my poor baby!” because that’s the cause for all parenting interference and mistakes. It is important for you to realize that, that baby is a thinking human being that you have brought into the planet. You need to let go, and allow it to bloom by providing the necessary environment. That’s really the job of a parent, isn’t it?
So let’s look at feminism – its goal is gender neutrality in society; which is not judging people on the basis of their gender. But at the same time, when I want to employ women who are married / have kids, it’s a nightmare! They always have excuses for not working – They usually have a span of 2-3 hours when I can ‘get the work’ done! Or they will delay it and postpone it so much that the work never gets done! No business can sustain itself with such irresponsible and unprofessional employees – then yes, YOU ARE TELLING ME THAT YOUR PLACE IS AT HOME!
Stop making excuses like, “I have my in-laws, so I can’t..” or “My kids come back from school at this time so I can’t” Or “My husband wants..” WTF? Teach your family members to do their own chores and let them know that you ARE NOT available for them 24/7. That’s not your job. And if this is what you are doing, then really, you are actually doing disservice to the entire race of human beings and making it difficult for feminism to attain its goals. Men and women need to do house hold chores, if they don’t already do it, it’s your job to put your foot down and treat yourself better.
Most of us are in a much better place than women in the previous centuries. And if you are reading this blog, then you are privileged and you aren’t recognizing that. You continuing to ‘be the victim’ will only keep you there. Is the world outside not safe for women? Yes, it isn’t! Are there more family pressures on women? Yes, there are! Is there a problem with equal pay? Yes, there is! But you getting educated and staying at home is not going to solve any of these, but you going out and putting your foot down,will – whether that is with your family, colleagues, victimizers or whoever.
And lastly, stop Thinking of yourself as the victim. Nobody is out to get you or subjugate you, other than you yourself with those thoughts. And you stop playing the ‘Woman’ card first – be a doctor, writer, director, teacher or whoever you are in the professional world.
But always remember that any human being is not their profession or the roles that they play at home – and this applies to EVERYONE, including you. You are not only a woman, but a human being. You recognize that first, then whether you call yourself a feminist or not won’t matter, because by then you will be living in a gender neutral world! But till then follow the spirit of feminism and we shall get there.