Monday, December 29, 2008


How many of you women out there have been at the receiving end of that classic pigeonhole defining statement "OH. You're a FEMINIST"
(preceded by curious cocking of head to one side, followed by understanding nod with almost sympathetic look - usually from a man you've only just met a while ago)

I did, a few days back from a rather nice boy I'd just met once before. We were all in the midst of a conversation about what bachelorhood pleasures women thought were acceptable for their husbands to still enjoy (watching porn being an example) and somehow we veered into a topic that made him do the pigeonhole thing with me. I got the classic "Are you a feminist" question and my response was the usual 'whatever' shrug that I reserve for snap judgments.

Thing is, indifferent expression notwithstanding, the question apparently does get to me, cause in my last post I made a rather open threat to slap anyone who called me a feminist again. And P (1 of the 2 regular readers on this blog) asked me why. What was wrong with being a feminist, after all?

I have to admit, that sort of took me by surprise. I've simply become SO used to the negative connotation that goes with the word, esp with the body language described above (which smacks of "I've figured you out. You're one of them.") that despite what Wikipedia has to say about the term, my association with the word was no better than that of an ignorant layman.

So I'm going to have to finally admit that me (and most women I like) are feminists after all. (And, yes, I can ALSO say it without having to hide behind a group of like minded women).

Because I would be as ashamed of a man who needed taking care of, just as I would of a woman.

Because I believe we all need to know how to cook (men and women alike) because it's such a basic survival requirement. Conversely, I don't find it 'incredible' that a man cooks despite being a man.

Because I believe neither of us is better at something than the other regardless of predefined roles (women aren't necessarily better at parenting, men at earning money).

Because I believe men have as much a right to take time off work and get a break for a few years as women do.

Because I don't believe in burning bras even to make a point. (They're too darned expensive)

Because I believe men are entitled to whatever stereotypical activity gets their adrenaline pumping (sports/ porn) before AND after marriage. Just as women are entitled to theirs (shopping/ not keeping a perfect house) before AND after so long as it stays within the limits that their mutual consent has set.

Because I believe that the GRAND proposal (an elaborate plan + a ring that costs 2 months worth of pay) and the whole "you need to send me chocolates/ flowers/ fluffy bears coz I'm a woman and you're a man and that's just how it is" and also the "You should know what I'm thinking even without my saying it" should ALL be taken off the list of mandatories that men are expected to provide.

That does make me a feminist, I guess. So label/ stereotype me all you like. I promise not to bite. Or even bark. Regardless of how YOU meant it, I'll choose to hear it for what it is. A good thing.


Penguin said...

You know - I've never been able to classify myself as a feminist or not. I DO like being pampered and being taken care of, but that doesn't go to say that I don't do it as well. I like the whole proposal thing because it's an element of surprise, but hey, I could do it to the guy as well.

That said, I DO admit that men and women are not created equal physically, and if a man offered to help me fix a wardrobe, I wouldn't take it as a slur on my capabilities and would probably graciously (?) accept the offer. But at the same time, if someone told me I shouldn't be working and instead taking care of my family, I'd gladly take offence to that.

So, I really don't know if that makes me a feminist or not?

Anonymous said...

"Because I don't believe in burning bras even to make a point. (They're too darned expensive)"

Haha, love this!

I believe that its just choice. Women should be able to make similar choices men do without an atmosphere of hostility or prejudice. That equality is the bare minimum. At the same time, I acknowledge that both sexes are predisposed to being better than certain things so I guess we disagree there (not gender stereotypes like earning money or cooking!). Its just that this predisposition shouldnt be accepted as the absolute truth no?

unpredictable said...

Penguin: When I said needs caring for, sorry I didn't clarify, but what I meant was need someone to pick up after - not for emotional support or providing lou :)
As for proposals, yeah exactly. Surprises shouldn't be the obligation or prerogative of either sex.

I do know that when we take offense to offers like that, it's usually coz we're predisposed in our minds to assuming it's a sign of weakness, not coz the offer itself isn't well meant :) That's a consequence of conditioning, not much to do with feminism :)

Coffee: I really liked how you put that - predisposition <> absolute truth! Exactly my point with the proposals from men and cooking from women ... let's talk more later :D

Captain Molecule said...

"Because I believe men are entitled to whatever stereotypical activity gets their adrenaline pumping (sports/ porn) before AND after marriage. Just as women are entitled to theirs (shopping/ not keeping a perfect house) before AND after so long as it stays within the limits that their mutual consent has set."

Be real. Men and women are only entitled to do the activities that the boundaries of the relationship in question permit. The unfortunate part is that these boundaries are subject not only to the interpretation of either participant in the relationship, but also the part of society that matters to them.

Great post nevertheless.

unpredictable said...

CaptainM: Thanks for dropping by. You are very right about society being a big determinant, that said, there are only so many things in your life that society is privy to. If my husband were to choose to watch porn, or if I were to choose to relegate the cooking to him, although socially questionable, the activity is still within the confines of the 4 walls of our home and hence not subject to public scrutiny.

There are others which are, like me not wearing the sindoor etc, and those become easier to do my own way when I'm not living in my own country. Tougher when I'm back home, but as my previous post mentions, worth the effort of shunning anyway.

LUCKY said...

1. I am now confused.. i always thought ( putting very crudely)
male dominance - chauvinism
female dominance - feminism (not amazon! ok? :P)
men = women - equality

your post hints that women = men equals feminism. hmm.. then what is the name for school of thought of women are better than men??

my knowledge is very rudimentary. Please enlighten me.

2. So in this entire scheme of things where does chivalry fit in? or that is something thats anachronistic ?

unpredictable said...


Feminism = a belief that women aren't behind (as they were assumed/ relegated to be in the dark ages, prevalent in many parts of the world even now)

Chivalry = honorable/ polite behavior that can be extended by women and men alike. Not confined to men alone. It's just that the connotation comes from the times when it was deemed as the act of a well behaved man. Check norman lewis. :)

Male dominance = dominance.
Female dominance = dominance.
Both are lop sided. It's just that one has been more prevalent across the ages, and hence trying to bring women to the same status always needed more of a monumental effort giving the term 'feminism' its exaggerated negative connotations.

LUCKY said...

Thank you. While i was clear on chivalry, i wasn't on feminism. On your (and my) definition of chivalry, how I wish others (men and esp. women) see it the same way.

honestly, in society i agree with you that its one sided by and large, but within four walls who knows what equation holds :)

GoldenSoul said...

I've always considered myself a Womanist (as Alice Walker would describe it) or an Equalist. Very few actually understand the concept of being a feminist... people equate a feminist with a butch (usually lesbian)rah-rah screamin, hairy armpit, man-killing..ogre of a woman ... (haha, ok, I'm exaggerating) The way I see it, feminism is all for freedom of expression- the freedom of women- for her to do what she pleases -be it pursuing an education for however long she chooses to or be it getting married and having 10 babies. Hey, if that's what makes you happy (and you can afford it w/0 being a being a burden on society)...right on sista! =D

Quirky Quill said...

I liked this post :) I've been called a leader of the nari mukti morcha when i thought of defending some unfair remarks against a person who happened to be a girl. That label has stuck and I think I'm okay with it.
Loved the bras are too expensive to burn theory :) Practicality rules.

chandni said...

I am so glad to read this post!

I am a feminist and proud to be one!

unpredictable said...

QQ: I can well imagine what you've heard all your life. It's a natural correlation: Scary --> Feminist and vice versa. Sad but true :)

Chandni: :) Indeed! and so am i!