Lets Talk

Introducing Feminism for Men

Sabrina Iqbal Sircar

Hmm. Let me see now. I am a little tired actually trying to tell the world that feminism is for equality. Oh well equality! We have equality in jobs, education, political representation (well, almost!), and in all other aspects one can think of. Okay I retort, and sigh, I pause. 
Hello people! Being a feminist is not a discredit to one's being. Every time I am a little vocal about women's issues, I raise eyebrows around me. Feminist! they smirk! Well yeah, I have to be one; and all the pretty little faces who claim to be, what they call an equalist, trying to give a more 'humanitarian' dimension to oppression in society, well let me tell you girls, you are who you are, you can say what you say, wear what you wear , think what you think, and you vote to choose your government because the women before you fought for this life of yours! Strange that it never occurred to you! 
A major misconception that a majority of societies and individuals seem to harbour is that feminism is for the women and it is the women who are the feminists. That is an entirely wrong idea. I get my feminism from my father. He told me that I could do everything and I have to do everything for myself. He had once defended my right to wear a short skirt when an acquaintance of ours had sort of admonished me for wearing an apparently 'not so appropriate dress'. My father stood up for me. He told that person upfront, 'She will wear what she chooses to wear and you should not have a problem with it.' And there it was. My basic idea that I am no less than anyone else and it is I who will make my decisions, not anyone else. Every time one thinks that feminism is for women, we are saying that the men are not impacted by the idea. Feminism is for equality firstly, and secondly, not all women are feminists and not all men are patriarchs. We have the rotten apples in both baskets. 
I think that feminism is actually more relevant for men. I say this because it should bother the menfolk more when a section of them violates women, because it sheds a negative light on them and they need to speak up against that. Also, the fact that all men do not disrespect and violate women is proof of the fact that violating is not a natural urge, and this would highlight men's unanticipated behaviour which is often attempted to be justified by the clichéd phrase - 'Men will be men'. There is no such thing as men will be men or women will be women. Saying that would mean that we are essentialising all men and women, implying that all of them will display a generic behaviour, because they belong to a particular sex, because they have a particular anatomy. This essentialising is clubbing the two sexes into the water-tight compartments of gender and orienting them in a stereotyped way, and when an individual does not fit into that stereotyped mould, we call them the odd one out. 
Also, this would mean that all men like oppressing and all women are oppressed. All men do not oppress and all women are not oppressed, but some themselves perpetuate oppression on the others, women as well as men. 
I always fail to understand, why a shout-out for women's rights is displeasing to people. Why does being a feminist and talking about women's rights make you the 'aggressive one'? A lot of people will respond to this by saying that that is not true and I am exaggerating. All right, let's take a look at some facts here, every girl you meet will have some experience of sexual harassment - of being slapped in inappropriate places, groped in buses and alleys, rubbed against and by being called sexually abusive names. Every time a girl is raped, the first question is what was the girl was wearing. Every time a girl has to go out at night, or for an early morning jog, she will think twice of what she should wear so that she does not attract undue attention as of course, it is her social responsibility to not excite them (as it is propagated!). Thus, even in the public space she has to fight for her place to survive, to exist, and to sustain. And it is a post feminist world, they tell me! 
A woman's body is her private space and she has the right to express herself any which way she wants to. She is a rational; hence, capable of deciding what is appropriate for her. How many times have we created a hullaballoo about a guy in shorts? Post feminist world yet again. 
Next comes my favourite topic, yeah marriage. We have an advertisement on television about a matrimonial website where the right of woman to work is treated like a privilege after she gets married. Well, that needs to change now! But it is like a universally acceptable truth in India that the girl who lands a richer and better looking husband 'wins'. I mean where are we? People asking questions about a girl's proper age to get married, asking her to not be temperamental as temperamental women don't make 'good wives'! Instead of encouraging young girls to study; they are pressurised to get married at a certain age, what message are we sending out? They say that men get better with age, so a guy is still young at 40, while a girl of 3- is old. Well, we sure have our double standards. 
And yes the 'tall, fair, beautiful, and convent educated bride cliché. The visual media has greatly helped here. With fairness creams, weight loss products, and English speaking DVD courses, we are all ready to produce, 'the ready to use bride'. The one that fits the matrimonial advertisement perfectly! And lastly yeah, the best way to abuse a boy is to call him a 'girl', 'boys don't cry' or better yet 'don't cry like a girl'. Implying that girls cry, because girls are weak, girls cry, because girls are not men, but because they are weaker than men. As such we don't bring up our boys to be boys, but how not to be girls, because girls aren't good enough!  
We feminists aren't man haters. We are just pro-women without being anti-men. Though it may come as a surprise to many but yes it is more of the women who perpetuate patriarchy in society. It is the women who uphold the misogynist attitudes largely, at least in this part of the world. 
There is now a surgery in the West, which is called a 'pinkectomy' meaning the amputation of the little finger of the feet to fit better into Jimmy Choo heels. Then there is of course body-shaming, almost like a rule that a girl has to have the 'right figure' and a girl who does not, makes a joke out of herself. There is this comedian on Indian television who hears frequent abuses from guests on her show because she is apparently 'fat'. Yeah ok she is, so? Who or what gives the people the right to abuse a woman on national television? I would like to ask who made these people the authority on beauty? Why does the society tend to forget that the world is as much mine as it is yours and not the other way round. Why can't women do what they want? Why in the world would one amputate one's own toes? I will tell you why: to fit into the conventional idea of beauty.  
Enough is enough girls. Make your own rules of beauty! Don't follow the crowd. Feel confident in your skin and that will make you pretty.