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I refuse to understand why

by Sudha Chandrasekaran
(Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, India)

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”

― Gloria Steinem

Saanvi, our protagonist was branded a feminist right from younger days...because, several times she refused to do things which other women did... Said Saanvi, ‘No, I refuse to understand why?’....A day dawned when she knew she was a feminist, no doubt...

When Saanvi was 13 years of age she asked Bharath, her male cousin brother as to why he could not help her with the cleaning of dishes; set the table for lunch; fold the clothes....Her aunts immediately laughed and joked ‘Feminist!’. “No, I declared, I refused to understand why cleaning, mopping, washing etc... are to be done only by women and not men”

When Saanvi turned 16, and wanted the beautifully flower- printed kurti that she happened to see displayed in front of a shop, her mother refused to buy her this dress... said no, the kurti is too short and the back neck is too deep revealing your entire back...” you cannot wear this dress when you go out .You will be feeling embarrassed......”

This is the teaser’s fault and not mine,” commented Saanvi. “Stop pulling this feminist card on me,” said Saanvi’s Mom...”No, I declared, I just think why I should restrict my freedom because of someone else’s thinking... Well, it is alright if I am abused, I don’t really care........”

When Saanvi entered her 18th year, she moved into a hostel for further studies. She told her college mates how she was excited to be out of her room and in the streets at 1 AM. She felt that safety was not an issue as the Government was taking all the necessary steps to protect its female citizens from anti-social elements. “Yeh, Saanvi... you are a feminist no doubt...,” shouted her friends in unison. “No, I declared, your treating me like a second class citizen is totally unacceptable and rather very unfair....

When Saanvi was 21 she protested to a male friend of hers when he offered to help her with her huge bag of vegetables, which she said that she could carry it herself.. “Wow, feminist!” said Sudhir.

“No, I declared, don’t treat me thus, I’m a perfectly able-bodied woman and will ask help if I feel the necessity..........”

When Saanvi was 26, she told her parents that she had separated from her fiancée because he had told her strictly that she should not socialize or go for drinks after her office hours as her home should be her priority...” Now this dear, we are really sick and tired of your feminist ideas... this is not applicable to the day-to-day life we live in.” “No, I declared, how can I even think of spending my life with a person who does not respect my feelings and does not treat me as an individual and has no power to think and reason out the situations....?”

One fine morning when Saanvi turned 27, it dawned on her that she was a feminist above all. Yes, she did not like the idea of fitting into roles that were stereotyped exclusively for men or women.....

“Well, women need not pay for an unknown man’s whims, fancies and faults; Dressing the way I want is purely personal and is nobody’s else’s business; All I demand is that my government remembers our existence and is not overly protective towards us. Because I think gentlemanliness is over exaggerated and basic respect is underestimated. All this is due to the fact that that the world does not consider women as equal and rational partners in a relationship.

Well, I realized that ‘feminist’ is not a bad word that I should keep away from. All that I ask is that men and women should be treated as equal partners in all aspects of life... Yes, I declared proudly, I am a feminist.”

“Well, I am totally for equality, but not a feminist," is what I used to say with great enthusiasm as a youngster. I was very hesitant to use the f-word for several years as I was scared that I would not be liked by many because of this. .. At times, when I declare that I am a feminist, people’s reaction is one of shock as they act as though I am about to soak my brassieres in kerosene; strike a match box and throw it into the middle of a road....

I was rather very certain that being a "good" feminist would mean that I needed to give up regular visits to the beauty parlour .... when really feminism is all about choices- be they about selecting male dominated courses in the college; or wearing revealing short dress; or not visiting the parlour at all... Stating openly that you are a feminist in your social circle does have mixed reactions, ranging from resignation to delightful surprise.....

During the past six months I have started to openly proclaim that I am a feminist because of my following a few women on Twitter who influenced and inspired me to a great extent. These were the women who at last made me come to terms with the fact that feminist isn't an immoral word. Adopting them as my Gurus, I have overcome the ugliest pieces of internalized bias I had locked within. This in turn has helped me to promote peace within me and be a better friend, woman and sister.

Feminism can definitely draw us closer to a society where gender inequality is totally absent; and also where each and everyone can best select roles they want rather than ones demanded by and pressurized by the society at large.

What we know as ‘being a feminist’ is not all about undermining the criteria of beauty. It is all about encouraging, empowering and edifying other women. Added to these it is also about being aware of the ways in which women of various identities, nationalities, physical capabilities and races are treated by society at large.

There is nothing about being right or wrong in calling oneself a feminist. But certainly there are ways of being one. These feminists are more considerate towards listening to the views of other women as it is only through listening that we continue to grow and in that process learn more as well. We find that the definition of Feminism today has deviated greatly from its original definition as it is all about women’s superiority and nothing about men. Several feminists do not acknowledge this whereas some do. Many women humiliate men, mock them, and call others sexist when someone else does it to them. These type of women honour other women who are into doing "manly things,” but when men do the same "manly things", they are called male chauvinists. This is nothing but mockery.

At the same time, women who say that they are not feminists are generally not treated well because feminists generally do not like someone challenging their ideas even if it is a valid one.

If someone posts that ‘I am not a feminist’ on social media, that person is sure to receive backlash from several people...

I am a firm believer in the equality of sexes and wish that the inappropriate inequality between men and women is totally done away with. I do not wish to brand myself as a modern day feminist to achieve this... Feminism is nothing but expression of women’s rights in the context of non-discrimination between the sexes...

To quote Vera Nazarian “A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is never less. Equality is a given. A woman is human.”


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