Fighting like a girl



You Are Not A “Male” Feminist. You Are A Feminist.

“Men who want to be feminists need not be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space they have in society and make it feminist”.

-Kelley Temple

For some reason, this year began with a number of my male friends accusing my writing of being “alienating” and “scary”. I was told (by a man), that I’ve got feminism all wrong, and apparently, male bashing is a hobby of mine. I found myself holding back on my immediate expletive-laced response, instead convincing them that feminism is for everyone. That I don’t hate men. That of course, not all men are misogynists.

It did get me thinking about this post. I realized that yes, my writing is confrontational. It is angry. It is hostile. I also realized that I really don’t care.

I don’t care that men feel alienated. I don’t care that they think I hate men. I don’t care that they don’t feel included. I don’t care if it was “just a joke”. I don’t care that it was “just a compliment”. And I definitely don’t care that “not all men” are “that bad”.

I was told that I need to “be nicer”-so that feminist men– men who respect women (“I would never hit a woman!”), who believe in equality, can be given a real space within feminism. Obviously, my tone needs to be more amiable, so that men can be convinced that feminism isn’t just “reverse sexism”, and can be sure that they have “nothing to be scared of” (I am seriously not making this up).

So I just want to tell the men reading this (if any), that if you find an article on the internet scary/ intimidating- you wouldn’t survive a second as a woman in India-where your mere existence puts you in a state of danger. Where someone can walk into your home and molest you. Where you take it for granted that you will be leched at, or worse, every time you step out of your house. Where you always have one hand in your pocket holding on to your pepper spray on your way home from work. Where you can get raped and murdered on the way back from a movie. Where you can be killed, just for being female, even before you are born.

Yes I am livid, because you and I inhabit two very different worlds- one where I am asked why I am “so easy” and advised to “play hard to get”, while you are slapped on the back for being such a “stud”. I live in a world where my friends come back from a walk at 7 pm, telling me how they were stopped by a policeman and asked why they were walking outside at “such an hour”. I live in a world where I am called a bitch for voicing an opinion and you are lauded for your outspokenness.

It is therefore not my job to make space for you, and it is not my job to make you feel welcome. You are not a male feminist, you are a feminist, plain and simple, and it is your job to empathise ( and never start a sentence with “not all men….”), and understand that you lead a highly privileged existence as a straight, cis gendered upper caste man-and you do play a part in the systems of oppression you are challenging. This is what feminism needs from men.

So it’s great that you are “not like other men”. It’s great that you respect women and believe in equality- but that shouldn’t be something special. It should be the norm- so no; you don’t get a cookie for being a decent human being.

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Not So Funny, Mrs. Funnybones

I’ve been suffering from a serious case of writer’s block for the last few weeks- every time I sat down to write a new post I’d give up after a few minutes because I didn’t feel like I had anything specific to say- nothing had agitated me enough, nothing  had made me angry enough.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long. I’d almost zoned out while scrolling down my Facebook homepage last night when a post caught my eye- someone on my list had “liked” an article- “Why I Am Not a Feminist” by Twinkle Khanna aka Mrs. Funnybones

Now I have read and enjoyed a few of her pieces, especially the one on myths about menstruation, but I had a sneaking suspicion I wouldn’t particularly like this one- I still tried to keep an open mind, took a deep breath and clicked on the link.

Very predictably it began with how Mrs. Khanna isn’t a bra burning feminist, because at her age she needs all the Victoria’s Secret uplifting support she can get- sigh. Firstly, feminists actually never did burn their bras, and secondly, I consider myself a pretty outspoken feminist- and anyone who knows me at all can tell you that if my house were on fire, I’d risk my life only to save my dog and my lingerie.

On a more serious note though, her simplistic explanation for not being a feminist made me want to pull my hair out. Apparently pre term boys have a much lower survival rate and baby girls are much more likely to survive- all scientifically true, I’m sure, she just forgot to mention the minor fact that female foeticide in India has reached genocide proportions (UNICEF’s words, not mine). So yes, maybe pre term baby girls have a higher chance of survival, but the fact is that most of them don’t even live to see the light of day.

She goes on to talk about how it has been scientifically proven that girls are more intelligent than boys. Also true, I’m sure. Every year newspaper headlines tell us that “Girls beat boys in the board exams”-but is Mrs. Funnybones seriously implying we don’t need feminism because girls score 98% and boys score 96? Way to erase all the complex hurdles women face all their lives that hinder their professional growth, Mrs. Funnybones. Girls are more intelligent than boys, yes, but I’d really love for her to explain why the number of female students steadily decreases from the Bachelor’s to the Doctoral level, why only 3% of over 400 universities in India have female Vice Chancellors, and why women form only about 11% of the Indian Parliament.

Finally she says that women have healthier hearts and we outlive men by at least ten years- this made me laugh. I do not doubt the validity of this statement- we women could go through life without any heart related complications and outlive men by ten, maybe twenty years- this rosy picture however gets complicated by the fact that one woman is killed over dowry every hour  in this country, and close to 900 women are raped, harassed and killed by men daily.

It’s so very easy for us who have the privileges of caste, class and wealth to dismiss a movement and an ideology like feminism, but if there’s anything I’ve learnt in the last few months, it’s that privilege tends to blind- so take those blinkers off and take a look around, Mrs. Funnybones. There’s a world beyond the bubble that you’re living in and it’s one where feminism is as relevant as ever.


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