As a young feminist , I am well aware of the backlash feminism faces. Whether it is on social media or during a conversation in our drawing rooms, there are a bunch of stereotypes that shadow our actions. There is almost a constant need that arises to re-iterate that feminism is not exclusive of men rather is equally important for them too. Some people ask , if it’s about equality why not call it equalism or humanism? The question often makes me wonder , that what is it about the ‘fem’ that makes everyone so uncomfortable when the constant use of terms such as brotherhood, fraternity and mankind to represent the whole of humanity doesn’t.
There is a certain sense of acceptance till the time you use terms such as ‘women empowerment’ or ‘gender equality’, but there is a certain sense of discomfort whenever the term used is ‘feminism’. Why is it that an ideology and a movement which is advocating for the very same things perceived as something extreme? Is it because it dares to question our privilege, it dares to challenge power that oppresses and discriminates?
I have had my own journey with feminism. Initially, even I would often say that while I probably believe in the same things that feminism advocates, I do not want to term myself one. In retrospect, I realise that the reluctance to term myself a feminist stemmed from a fear of not knowing enough about the ideology and the movement and also a way to escape all the stereotypes that come attached with being a feminist. However, as my engagement with feminism deepened and progressed, I realised how important it was for me to claim the title of a feminist. Even in that claim, lies the potential of challenging oppressive power structures which make us fear an ideology and movement that holds a transformative vision for all our lives.
In another blog post that I wrote some time back, I remember writing how important it is for us to assert what feminism is in a time when almost all our efforts get exhausted in trying to justify what feminism is not. And so , I am going to do exactly that in the next few words.
Feminism is for me and feminism is for you. Feminism is for that boy who has to live up to masculine standards in order to be a ‘man’. Feminism is for that girl who wants to just sit in a park without having to worry about what to wear , how to sit, whom to sit with , what time to leave etc. Feminism is for a dalit , for an adivasi , for a person with disability or a person from a minority religion. Feminism is for everyone who does not want to live a life in boxes or rather just a life less human. Feminism makes you question. It makes you think. And it enables you to understand the world and your own life through a new fresh lens.
We just need a moment of introspection and we will all have innumerable reasons for why we need feminism. All we need to do , is take that one step and engage with it , claim that identity. I have just started working with a human rights , feminist organisation. Coming from an academic background , I realise that I often end up speaking or engaging in a language which sounds alien and intimidating. So while I am asking everyone who does not associate with feminism to introspect and engage with the question of why feminism , I also realise as someone who has been privileged to engage with feminism academically , that we all need to constantly strive towards making feminism more accessible and representative of diverse voices. Even voices that disagree and dissent , because the beauty of feminism lies in its democracy , a chaos which makes you question the order.