My feminism

I got called a female chauvinist last evening (actually my writing was called a female equivalent of chauvinism – the assumption that chauvinism is male by default was curious). While I do not respond to all accusations/ name-calling towards me, this one gave the final nudge publish the post I’ve left lying in my drafts for so long.

What is my feminism?

A good friend once asked me why feminists fight so much among themselves. For one who has been following any kind of –ism, it’s natural to know that definitions are subjective and open to interpretations. Feminism is no different. For this reason, there is no consensus about what feminism should mean (if at all it should mean the same thing to all).

As someone who appreciates subjective opinion (and debate of objectionable opinions), I venture here to define what feminism means to me. Feminism is the pursuit of equality: equality of rights, fair treatment, reasonable expectations, unequivocal respect and due share of voice. My feminism is about pointing out the bias in the status quo and debate for positive change. It is about challenging patriarchy and seeking a more gender-neutral public (and private) space.

Why is it important?

I’ve been told several times that feminism is no more relevant – women can vote, pilot flights and marry the man of their choice –  therefore, we must all drop the feminist hullabaloo and go on with our business. Another argument from the feminism-is-no-more-needed brigade is that women are equal to men now and talking feminism creates a wrong impression that there is indeed inequality.

Let me explain this with anecdotal evidence. Someone I worked for, a man I had immense respect for as a professional, went to a conference once. He was totally underwhelmed at the discussions that happened there and was complaining about all the speakers and their incompetence. However, when he spoke about a lady, who happens to be the CMO of a major corporation, he said “I don’t know who she had to fu(k to become the CMO. She has nothing else going for her”. If that isn’t enough reason for you to believe there is still bias that needs to be challenged, I can go on with the anecdotes. Or would you rather I point you in the direction of some research?

Then why rant about religion, caste etc.?

Because they are all equally important. None of us are fools to think all women have the same difficulties or the same privileges. Dalit women, homos3xua! women, urban (/rural) women, Muslim women, obese women have all their own set of issues that need to be spoken about and dealt with. Perhaps, the reason why one feminist has an entirely different point of view about a certain issue from another is that there are very many layers that need to be taken care of.

While white, middle class feminists in the Europe are worried about how feminist is high heels, there are a group of them fighting to be able to compete at the Olympics. The reasons priorities change are various – but almost always comprise of religion, caste, culture, history, sexual orientation and the like.

Writing a feminist account arising from being a woman alone (if that is even possible) would be half-baked and useless.

Why do I do movie reviews?

If you haven’t already read the disclaimer on my blog, let me explain this to you. I do not treat myself as the sole authority on goodness/ badness of films, in fact the technicalities are sometimes irrelevant to me.

As the blog header points, the only thing that is of concern to me is the representation of women (femininity, female perspectives etc.). We’ve all read enough research to show that films go beyond entertainment and help shape the cultural and political leanings of the society. I believe I have a point of view that arises from education and experience, is legitimate and is meant to begin a healthy debate. I don’t give scores to films, I don’t rank them on any scale, I don’t even ask you not to watch a film. If at all, I only ask you to watch a few films I’ve found interesting – from my (by now sufficiently disclosed) ideological perspective.

So what makes me right?

My point of view – derived from observation, reading, and debate. While I always argue for equality and fair representation, never once have I argued that women are better than men at anything or must be held higher. That, is in fact, the opposite of what I endeavor to argue.

Now that you’ve heard me out about my feminism, if you still want to debate, bring it on, I say!

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9 thoughts on “My feminism

  1. Hmm. WHY-nu explain panra aLavukku you were pushed-ah? Sad.
    I have seen this with people branding you(not you) as a hypocrite, the moment you waver a bit from your ideology. Like in your case, somebody pointing to you saying that your ideology conflicting with your love(?) for Rajnikanth. I don’t understand why people have to do that.
    I really believe there’lll be a certain amount of hypocrisy when one follows a particular ideology. One, because there’ll be a certain wannabe-ness when you follow any ideology. You are always evolving vis-a-vis following the ideology(you believe in) to the T.
    Two, You needn’t follow the ideology totally to be believing in that.
    If you’ve read about Periyar, you’d waste no time in calling him a hypocrite. But if you’ve read him, you’d understand in his hypocrisy existed rationality.

    • Thanks Pavan. In my case, I am trying to figure out my ideology in full. What I’ve written here is the part that I’m very clear about. There are so many things that I am not so sure about.

      //But if you’ve read him, you’d understand in his hypocrisy existed rationality.// Couldn’t have said it better. Thank you! :)

  2. ‘Feminism is the pursuit of equality’ is perhaps a very nice way of putting it. My understanding of what feminism means is similar to how you’ve defined it.

    (This is not a troll question) What are your views on chivalry? the expectation that men should be ‘extra nice’ to women in a particular way etc? I am asking you this because as per me, feminism and chivalry cannot co-exist. However I’ve seen in a lot of instances where women take refuge under feminism and ‘expected chivalry’ depending on what the situation warrants.

    • Thank you. :)

      Personally, I have issues with chivalry. I do not believe one must open the car door for me or pay my bills just because I am a woman. I believe being nice is fantastic. Holding the door open for anyone is great manners. But chivalry doesn’t turn me on. In fact, it does piss me off quite a bit.

      But look at it this way – if social norms (chivalry) says that a woman has to be dropped home after a party in the evening before the gentlemen go home, should a woman rebel and help herself home? I believe she should be ready make arrangements for her own means of transport. But a lot of women would be comfortable being dropped off. Does that mean they are willing to be subservient when situation warrants? I don’t know. What do you think?

  3. I have read most of your posts and debated about a lot of your views on this topic, with that background I can confidently say that chauvinism is one thing I can never accuse you of.

    If I were to be forced to accuse you of something then I would say that at times you sound a bit naggy. This happens when you pick a trivial issue or misinterpret a non-issue. But this is an accusation that can be leveled against anybody that is passionate about an ideal (including myself) , it is very easy to go overboard at times. However the important thing is that you have taken feedback with an open mind on such occasions, atleast from me. Especially considering the fact that you are one person with a known identify against thousands of readers with no identify and nothing to lose, it takes a lot of courage to accept that sometimes you might not have been entirely correct. So far you have been doing it admiringly well.

    I must also compliment you for making me question and reconsider some of my understanding in this area, I have been wrong on a few things and if not for your posts and the long arguments I might not have realized it. Am sure there are a lot more readers who also feel that way.

    This one is a solid and well thought-out post and I am really not able to find anything to argue against. So you have finally done it, a post on feminism that has left me in agreement!

  4. Having chanced upon your blog last evening, I find the contrasting opinions and actions of yours pretty damning. In your opinions about feminism I would like to point out a few features and argue against them.
    1. You have self styled yourself as tharkuri which means an Illiterate in a direct tamil to english meaning. I feel you have not gone on to extract more information. Tharkuri does not just mean an illiterate person in terms of lack of education. It also means a lack of common sense and an inability to comprehend.Definitions apart, being a feminist who is in the pursuit of equality, how do you expect people to comprehend your selfstyling ? As a damnation of yourself or that you are trying to be unique ? If so about 30 % of tamilians would be just as unique as you are.
    Your pursuit of equality has been destroyed by yourself.
    2. Your inspiring boss(hopefully ex) made some crazy rant about a successful woman. How exactly does it show that there is no equality ? To my plain eyes , I see an idiot trying to get a few brownie points by infuriating the woman. The reaction of the woman matters. If she responded by fighting back then she is a lost cause. If she held her head high and simply laughed it off, she has the power in her hands and the guy becomes a wuss.
    3. Why do you expect men to give you equality ? Your statement clearly tells that equality for you would be when it is acknowledged by a superior person i.e in this case a man. Even in the man dominated world, there are vast number of men sharing your opinion of wanting to be treated as an equal. So whats the need to categorize it only under the feminine part ?
    Every human being wants equality. But how many are ready to be cohesive, egoless and free of jealousy ?
    However, I appreciate your idealistic thoughts. Problem is everyone has them but keep them bottled up. Atleast education has taught you not to keep the thought to yourself.

    • Hi Sudhan, thanks for your comments. Appreciate your time.

      1. In my humble opinion arising from extracting as much information as I possibly could, (you are welcome to debate) Tharkuri doesn’t mean “lack of common sense and inability to comprehend” as much as it means someone who does not have worldly knowledge/ street smartness. It’s not about common sense as it is about survival skills. But yes, definitions apart, I’m expecting people to comprehend that as someone who considers herself an illiterate who seeks to learn at all times. I’m not trying to be cool or unique – far from it. And I do not believe being an illiterate is a damnation of myself – that’s coming from your perception of literacy/ common sense.

      2. Hahaha. That’s a strange argument you are making. You are saying that one must not protest being told that she is sleeping with people (as the only way) to become successful?
      //some crazy rant about a successful woman// You noticed there that nothing of that crazy rant about men involved sleeping with other men/ women to become successful? That men are capable of growth while women have to seduce?
      //How exactly does it show that there is no equality ?// That it implies women can be successful only if they sleep with male superiors.
      //I see an idiot trying to get a few brownie points by infuriating the woman// I see an idiot passing off all successful women as sluts! Well, obviously we have different perspectives there!

      3. //Why do you expect men to give you equality ?// What makes you think this? Even in that paragraph, I talk clearly about ‘bias’ that is against equality.
      //Your statement clearly tells that equality for you would be when it is acknowledged by a superior person i.e in this case a man.// Erm. Okay. That is not how I saw it. But if you are looking at it that way, there may be that implication. But that is far from what I am saying. I’ve known women who’ve said “if you wear skimpy clothes and go partying in the night, what do you expect but to be raped” – bringing that up in this blog post would have added so much drama and deviated from the topic. So, I chose an anecdote that involved a professional superior. That in no way means I am seeking his reassurance.
      //Even in the man dominated world, there are vast number of men sharing your opinion of wanting to be treated as an equal. // Of course. I agree.
      //So whats the need to categorize it only under the feminine part ?// That the inequality arises from being a woman. Same as all other inequality – the ones that are based on religion, caste, race, colour of skin etc. It is important for me to lay bare the bias and the inequality arising from the mere fact that one is a woman. There may be all other causes that are equally important. But this is the one I choose. I believe I have that choice.

      //Every human being wants equality. But how many are ready to be cohesive, egoless and free of jealousy ?// Can you please elaborate on how cohesiveness, ego and jealousy are important in the context of equality?

      • Thank you for your response. The answer i am about to give might be conflicting but i hope you being the idealist will take it in the best way.

        Since the earliest ages when there were men and women, women have had the most important job. We men have simply assisted by providing food and shelter and so forth. The reason men took up providing of shelter and food is because a woman bearing a child requires lots more nutrients and energy and cannot afford to use it up to build shelters or gather food. The women were then given the time to raise the child, give it all the love in the world and nurture it. And we humans having the ability to question and reason have progressed from that time. We built equipment to reduce the effort we put in our jobs. However all this effort focuses on the main task i.e. the child bearing and raising. If you could look at the world, you would note that every effort of ours is directly or indirectly pointed towards the one most important job of raising a child.
        So when the world progressed and the need to occupy the mind and also to question kept being insatiated, new jobs arose. The population grew and we became grouped together.We each reduced focussed on one job so that we could trade and keep the whole group alive.So on and on this has progressed. However the humans as a whole have had the need to question. So at some point the woman questioned the need for her to simply stay and raise the child while the man went out. She wanted to go out. Her attachment towards her child weakened as she wanted to move away from it to search for answers. And when she interfered with the man, the man already developing ego because of the work he is doing felt angered that the woman would forget her main duty and interfere with theirs.
        This caused him to subdue the woman and send her back to her child. Obviously this cases the woman to also to have ego. And from that it has kept on developing to now.
        The woman has the best job. She has the greatest power in her hands. She is the chisel who decides how to carve out her children. But she feels undervalued when in reality she is given everything she would need in order to raise the child. This feminism and need for equality and rights is all just fog. The woman has forgotten her most important job and instead focuses on ways to become manly. Women fail to understand that they are the Creators. Not all women mind you. The so called questioning woman. The feminist who strives for rights. all for what ? to become as manly as we are ? what exactly is manliness ? we like all other animals still go for our animal instincts. We try to covet women we try to mate and beget children and then we work to help the woman raise the child.
        Do men ask to get pregnant ? Then why do women have to ask to do a man’s job which is merely an assisting job while forgoing the Grandest work of all ? Women get education, they get food they get shelter they have time to themselves to think and ponder on all the possible philosophies in the world. In addition we men are sharing our responsibilities with women. Would women be happy forgoing the begetting of children ? To answer that, we will know in a few decades when cloning and artificial progeny becomes a reality. However in this i also blame the man for being overly egoistic to the point that he came to a conclusion that women are inferior. And that is just stupid of us. But that stupidity was allowed to grow by women because women wanted to compete with us in our jobs. And thereby showing us that our jobs matter much more.
        And this is what i mean by the cohesive egoless and free of jealousy society.Pursuit of knowledge is merely for our children.Directly or indirectly, we are animals. Our main aim is to mate and beget. Because we have to sustain our existence which is among all our pursuits the most important.

  5. Feminism was required 30 years back when there was discrimination against women. Now there is equality around the world and no need of feminists. God given inequality of women will remain like better beauty and weaker muscle strength, but now socially everyone accepts equality of opportunities for women.

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