Ayyo, feminist!

I’ve been a lot of things in the last 25 years I’ve spent on the planet – a daughter, a sister, a friend, a dude, an enemy, and a fool among other things. The one thing that was most troublesome of them all is being a feminist.

Being a feminist is obviously not like being a woman – you can’t look down my neck and see that I am a feminist, right? I have to go out of my way and say it – talk about it, hang out with other feminists, read a book that’s called ‘feminist film theory’ or at least shout out on my blog header. The moment someone spots I am a *feminist*, the conversation travels through a whole new tangent. Some apologise, some cringe, some turn away and some others try to talk me out of it. The most common reactions to me being feminist had to be televised…err, written about.

Have I offended you?

The most common reaction to my being a feminist is apology. I’ve known people all my (feminist) life being sorry for my being feminist. Most people begin conversations saying, “I hope you don’t get offended by my saying this, but I think…” When any sentence begins this way, I want to sigh, bite my fist, drop a little tear and run dramatically into my room weeping my heart out like Saroja Devi in Anbe Vaa. NOT.

Do you really have a boyfriend?

This is an extension of people thinking that all feminists are women and most of them are single (or l3sbian), have *bob cut*, burn bras as a hobby, smoke incessantly, are extremely unsatisfied and abnormal. Some people have gone so far as to ask ‘what kind of a man is in love with a feminist?’ and asked *me* that question for good measure. Here, I shall let you in on a little secret. My boyfriend is imaginary – there is no real person I can call a boyfriend and I live happily in my imaginary (feminist) relationship! Peace?

Now you are overdoing it!

This is every sociologist’s nightmare. When I watch movies I observe hidden meanings that have been passed on over generations to indicate (and perpetuate) a particular idea. When Rajinikanth says “adhigama aasapadra aambalayum, adhigama kovapadra pombalayum…” you do realise that he is saying it is all right for men to get angry (which in turn leads to physical/ s3xual abuse)? No? I am overdoing it? Okay.

Come on. Take a joke.

“Chris Gayle *raped* the Delhi Daredevils bowlers” was taught to me one evening as funny usage. I’ve been led to believe that saying one person outperformed another is the same as raping the other person. When I refused to believe it, I am generally asked to come on and take a joke!

I am not much of a feminist

This is what I hear from the ladies. This is the female apology to mean that they are sorry they are not as much feminists as I am. They don’t mind men opening their car doors, carrying their heavy luggage, fixing their *technology* problems or making their travel plans as long as the men are willing to do dishes, change their children’s diapers and earn for the family.

My dream reaction

You know all said and done; I don’t think I have seen the worst yet. I am waiting for the day when a child will look at me and say, “Ayyo, feminist” (like Ayyo, bootham) only to run and hide in the dupatta of his/ her mother. That day will also come and bring along with it tranquillity and peace to my feminist mind!

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25 thoughts on “Ayyo, feminist!

  1. so you burn bras? jus kidding…anyway i can see a real heartfelt appraisal here of what it means to be a feminist in todays day and time i especially liked that Chris Gayle incident you mentioned and it struck me as how strange that i till now never noticed the allegory of using rape as a word for domination. kinda eye opening for me- not that i am male chauvinist or anything..but maybe i have never really given it as much thought till you pointed out it here, and i hope the futre gen atleast grows up more gender sensitive that you dont have to feel as bad as you fear in the last paragraph..keep writing more of such stuff- and keep broadening our minds…

  2. ‘some others try to talk me out of it’ – that’s a reference to people like me isn’t it :D

    On the Chris Gayle rape comment, unless the Delhi Daredevil bowlers were women, it is completely harmless. That is a particular type of humor that users hyperbole – http://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/figures-hyperbole.htm
    For example, when a guy says – ‘I can’t smoke anymore, my girlfriend would kill me if she found out’.
    He is using the hyperbole technique of humor. The use of the serious word ‘kill’ in a non-dangerous and casual scenario is where the humor comes from in that sentence.
    Now do you see the parallel with the Chris Gayle comment and why it is harmless. The words that denote serious acts of violence like ‘kill’ or ‘rape’ are used to denote casual scenarios where one person gives another person a tough time and this is interpreted by our brains as humor.
    If in this case had the players of Delhi Daredevils been women and Chris Gayle played a similar innings then the same person would not have said ‘Chris Gayle raped Delhi Daredevils’ because now the statement becomes ambiguous and the joke wouldn’t work. Our brain internally works out all this before constructing a joke and when it fails to do its job properly what we end up is a joke that doesn’t get any laughs.

    As you deal with the ups and downs of carrying the Feminist tag, perhaps you might find the below information useful.

    You see, I am an atheist. I became one after a lot of careful research, deep thought and playing the devil’s advocate a million times. Sometimes when the topic of discussion does go there and someone decides to argue with me over it then I follow a few ground rules. I respond to a logical question with a logical answer. An emotional or rhetorical question with a ‘to everybody his own’ answer. If my logical question is returned by an emotional response then it is a sign that the other party has lost and I end the argument with a bit of a pep-talk to relax the other person. I will tell you why I do this. We evolved from very simple and ‘dumb’ creatures and got progressively more intelligent. Because of this process our brain has multiple layers. The bottom most layers are the ones carried over from some of our oldest ancestors and they handle very basic functions like breathing, heart beat etc. The seat of logic is the top most layer, called the neo-cortex and this is the most recently evolved region. Our emotional center is older than our logical area and so is situated below it and therefore by default has the ability to take precedence over the logical area.

    When we are not experiencing any strong emotions like fear or euphoria then our logical center has complete control over our actions. At this state we are very calm and reasonable people, we think, we plan, we react to counter-arguments logically and we react to a superior argument by conceding and embracing the better argument.
    However if we are experiencing strong emotions like fear or euphoria then immediately our reactions change because now the emotional center kicks in and tries to (and succeeds mostly) override the logical center. This is why there is a saying – ‘Never Make Decisions When You Are Angry , Never Make Promises When You Are Happy’. Because when the fear or joyful feeling subsides and our logical center analyzes our actions then we start regretting our stupidity. Psychology 101.

    Now that we know this lets see why someone would give a emotional response to a logical question, it is because our question evoked either fear/euphoria in them. And it is most likely fear – fear of defeat, fear or embarrassment or fear of harm. The first two can be avoided if we are nice to the other person and keep the discussion ‘threat-less’ with some self-deprecating humor. However the last one – fear of harm is something that is outside our control and happens when a person has associated their stance or ideology as a part of their identity. So they perceive every attack on their stance and ideology as an attack on to themselves and this kicks off the fear emotion. This is where the ‘them vs us’ replaces ‘validity of theory A vs validity of theory B’. Unfortunately with people like these we can never have a useful argument unless they realize this and separate the two. There is nothing wrong with people like these, they would be very nice and lovely people but this sub-conscious linking of their ideology and identify is the problem. This is further compounded by what happens after a while when they return to their emotion-less logical state. They realize that they have been rude to the other person or that they reacted as they normally wouldn’t and try to find a reason for why they behaved that way. At this point if they use projection bias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection) then they would construct a very uncomplimentary picture of us in their heads and this would forever prevent them from taking anything we say seriously in the future as well.

    So when others react emotionally in an argument it says a lot. And knowing this is very helpful because if I react emotionally to a logical argument then I go back and try to find out the source for that emotional trigger and squash it. This allows me to maintain my sanity and always adopt a better argument when presented, no matter how vehemently I had denied it in the past.

    Another very long comment I know but I hope this is of some use :)

      • Yup, hadn’t seen any of the other movies you reviewed so didn’t have anything to say. All of the movies I have seen recently have been superhero movies, which you don’t seem to take much interest in :(

      • Nope. I don’t really take much interest in superhero films. Even if I did and went on a feminist tangent about the films, you will jump in and scratch my face out anyway! :P

      • Haha, not always, only when I don’t agree with what you say and have a solid reason for that. Otherwise I am just another happy reader of your interesting blog :)
        (For some reason there is no ‘reply option under your last comment, so putting it here.’)

    • sir i agree with what you have written..a similar chris gayle joke was being discussed about on one of the confessions pages i follow..i tried convincing people not to make a big deal about it..but the hard core feminists refuse to listen to my perspective..not that i have anything against feminists but they do hate me now i guess..they might even block me..i wish i had read your argument before wasting my time..thanks for all the wisdom:-)

      • @Urjita

        I am glad you found my comment useful. Though normally I would have done the same thing as you, given the current scenario where many cases of brutal rapes are fresh in people’s minds, I can understand their anger against such a joke.

        I must say I like your attitude, you spoke your mind rather than agreeing with the group and when others disagreed you tried to research more on the topic (I believe that is how you found this comment). Remember, it is possible to fight for the same cause (safety for women) while still having disagreements on specific issues. Good luck :)

  3. Dang, but my name is also Kumar and coincidentally my views too match the one next. But this does not deserve a long comment, because the moment a view away from this piece is expressed, the feminists of the world will again sneer and doubt the intentions.
    The ‘raped’ bit is, I strongly suspect, to play to the gallery and catch the attention of the big blogosphere.
    No harm in that, and it does not deny that male chauvinists do outnumber the feminists. Pity.
    The writer’s profile says it all. Mindfucked, she describes herself. Now going by the Gayle logic, we are already told how insensitive we have become to serious topics like raped. So Miss, are you one the unique feminists or one in the crowd trying to be different? Relax, that was a rhetoric question.

  4. Hey Ranjani…nice one!! cudn’t agree with u more… how many times I’ve been asked to ‘Take a joke’…and mainly the ‘overdoing’ part!!!

  5. You are awesome! :) Enjoyed every bit of it. I constantly keep arguing with young female friends why they are not feminists. Like you noted, they preface any comment on gender discussions with “I am not a feminist, but ..”, and I immediately ask them – why are you not a feminist? .. Anyways, enjoyed the piece very much.

  6. Jokes are OK but the Chris Gayle one is insensitive. ‘Rape’ is ‘technically’ penetrative sex without mutual consent… therefore, possible for either gender to ‘commit’… AND involves violence/violation, hence an assertion of power/dominance, even contempt for the victim.Engagement in sport is always with mutual consent, even when one side is weaker in skills and likely to be dominated or even dismissed contemptuously. I don’t see a joke here at all.
    On the other hand a pun on “Physiotherapist” (“Physio the Rapist”) is fine.

    As for ‘feminism’ there is no need for any one to be apologetic about their perceptions. No ‘ism’ is merely language… it needs implementation to become a real’ism’.

    • I totally agree with you that rape is indeed possible for either gender. But when we see that there are *much* fewer rapes of men (if any) than women, I found it safe to assume it is insensitive towards women more than men. That said, you definitely have a point. On that note, even the Kumars do have a point there.

  7. A great post! insightful and articulate! :)
    I belong to the ” I am not much of a feminist ” category.. I didn’t quiet get what your stand on such ppl is.. Maybe that warrants another blog post?! Would love to read that one! Who knows, maybe you’ll talk me into being a feminist! ;)

    • Thanks! Appreciate the *feedback* :)

      I’ve been meaning to write that ‘why I think I am feminist’ post for ages. Never made the time. I must. But that also isn’t anything that would talk you into being feminist. If you don’t see why you must be, fair enough. I don’t think people must call themselves anything if they don’t wish to!

  8. Nice one :)

    When you realize how much conditioned not just the males (the whole world)….naturally you will become a feminist… a good example is Chris gayle raping…

    See, even with the Delhi girl rape incident… I was shocked when one of my friend said ” Machi, vayasu pasanga etho tension la pannitanga…etha poi oru periya vishayama news la poduranga”

    And when I posted in support of Delhi girl…one of my friend said…dei overa pannathinga da…. (he is meaning that….I know you guys want to rape random girls….then why put a status in support of the girl) ….OMG….

    Blood boils….remembering these pathetic creatures….

    I should be angry on them…. but if you look deeper…the society has somehow….brought them up like that.,…….

    I started researching about rape occurences, rapist psychology etc…

    I found that there are more rapes in US than India…..and interestingly the culture does not actually influence the rape statistics…

    I mean women are more empowered in the western society…but still rape happens…

    I am wondering…how this place could be made fair …for the women…for my mother, sister and daughter….and to every other women….

    Would like to talk more….to you through email or sthg…

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