Friday, April 20, 2012

I Need Feminism Because..

This blog on tumblr is pretty awesome. And it got me thinking about something I've wanted to write for a long time, but been too lazy to - one thing that I really detest about sexism.

I think absolutely everything about sexism is wrong. I can't choose one aspect that is "wronger" than the others. I've been lucky - personally, I haven't faced much sexism. But lately, the one thing that is really affecting me personally and I am really starting to detest is the tendency of people to attribute a lot of things a woman does to her gender.

"She doesn't like sports? Of course, she's a girl!" "She doesn't like beer? Of course, girls don't." "She wants to get married and have kids? That's what girls want!" "You're fighting with a friend/boyfriend? You're a girl, must be PMS." "Of course you like cooking/shopping/cleaning/talking on the phone/trying on clothes/using make-up, you're a girl!"

I've seen this attitude a lot lately, in men and in women. Attributing everything to "being a girl" not only offends and stereotypes women as a whole, but also discounts me as a person with personal beliefs and thoughts and desires that do not stem from "being a girl". And the thing that makes me the most uncomfortable about this attitude is the obligation I feel to modify my own behaviour! If I want to go shopping, I try not to mention it to people I know will crack a you're-such-a-girl joke. I avoid using make-up even though I'd like to put some, just to break a stereotype. I try to minimise the time I take to get ready, because if I'm late, it's not just my fault, it's the fault of all women. And if I ever do skip dessert or try to cut calories, I excuse it as being full or not in the mood, because god forbid my efforts to lose weight prove to some jackass that all women want to be "thin and beautiful".

At the same time, I catch myself feeling "proud" of things that I like/do that break stereotypes. For example, I don't want to get married and have children. I feel the need to make sure everyone knows that, just so they know that there are women out there who want different things. I feel proud of not wanting children, because I feel I'm breaking a stereotype. I like beer, I don't want a boyfriend, I like one night stands, I'm not too fond of pink, I follow politics, I dislike cooking and on and on and on. These are not things that should inspire either pride or shame. Liking pink is not something a feminist should be ashamed of, just as not liking pink is not something a feminist should be proud of. By feeling proud of the ways I break stereotypes, I'm feeding the stereotypes and making women who are different feel worse.

A friend once told me that she wants to have lots of children and grandchildren. And she immediately apologised for being such a "bad feminist". She felt bad for wanting the "conventional" things. Another friend said the same thing when she told me she wants to get married and start a family early. That is not the point of feminism! Feminism says that women are free to choose what they want without being hampered by their gender. You can choose to have seven kids or no kids, to get married at 23 or 30 or never, to use lots of make-up or none at all, to wear only pink or no pink, to like sports or hate sports, to drink beer or drink Cosmopolitans. We should do what we want out of free choice, and without our personal choices reflecting on our gender as a whole.

So, for the Who Needs Feminism blog: I need feminism because I want to be proud of my choices because they're the right ones for me, not because they break a stupid sexist stereotype of women.


Vaishnavi Nair said...

Dude. I loved this piece. Excellent. Ever since that conversation with you, I wanted to write on similar lines, just cuz I was SO proud to discover I was a feminist too. It's just about doing what you want.

Now I am just going to link them to your post. Lovely.

Sumedha said...

Vaish, thanks for commenting! I'm glad you liked the post. That conversation of ours really got me thinking and stayed with me. :)

A visi-visi-tor said...

Hi. I love your blog.. Randomly came upon it. You seem like such a wonderful person. I love how you try to be authentic in your search. Best wishes to you!