Tuesday 5 March 2013

Fresh and Tasty Home-made Feminism. Any one?

A storm in my tea cup sized brain began after I read this spam doing rounds in the intellectual departments that make up a sizeable slice of the apple pie called Facebook. It read thus –

A real woman always keeps her house clean and organized and her laundry basket empty. She’s always well-dressed, hair done. She never swears, behaves gracefully on all occasions. She has more than enough patience to take care of her family, always has a smile on her lips and a kind word for everyone. Share this, if you have just realized, that you may be a man.

I don't know what the men thought about it (my post is not about them), but the women surely seemed amused. Some quickly pressed 'share', others laughed-out-loud and a few responded saying, 'Hey, I'm a man'. And what did the ‘real women’ kind being spoken about in the poster think of it? Chances are, they laughed the loudest laugh, drowning in the din the fact that they 'fit the bill' mentioned above, just because a popular brand of ‘Feminism’ says it is the done-thing in-thing to not do these things if you want to be called an educated and evolved woman ‘feminist’ living in the 21st century.

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This F-word is considered exclusive property by those who know Luce Irigaray’s nationality or those who can correctly pronounce Simone de Beauvoir’s middle name. I don't know either. What I do know, having studied Feminist Literature enough to spell it right, is that defining, propagating and expecting a “correct” version of Feminism for and from another woman is defeating the whole idea of the women’s rights movements gone by – those which sought a voice for the sameness in difference and yet voted for the difference in sameness too. Further, judging a woman as ‘a-feminist’ or even anti-feminist for the conventional or normative choices that she makes is assumptive and uninformed at best, and judgemental at its worst. This is not a Ph. D. paper here with cross references to international thoughts and writings on womanhood. Neither is this an attempt to debunk the hard work of my predecessors who burnt their bras and rallied aloud on the streets asking for equality of being – fruits of which I am enjoying to this day, thanks to their voices. This is just my 7 paragraphs to resist being branded as Anti-Feminist by those who consider themselves the custodians of my sociology, psychology, physiology and a handful of other '-ologies'. And surprisingly, it's not men playing that restrictive role here!

Every woman’s idea of herself is for her to realize, and define. It’s her basic birth right. Her actions and reactions, deeds and misdeeds, adventures and misadventures are hers. Just as the eyes that see, ears that hear and brain that thinks are hers. But we know it’s a big bad world, and far from a utopic idyll where we as women can do what we want, think what we want and reject what we wish. Free will is not so free for most women to use and dreaming of freedom to be your true self at all times is asking for a one-way ticket to a personal chateau on the moon’s brightest side. Too many buttons mute free will and free thinking. We see that all the time! However, what is important is to ascertain the difference between those who are unfortunate and forced into leading another’s life (and who genuinely need support) and others who are making conscious choices of living their lives a certain way, even if it’s called the coy cow’s way by the more enlightened.  

A lot of us are choosing paths that the more forward-looking-working-professional-earning-millions-knows-feminism-by-heart consider regressive, pathetic and worst of all, coerced – with none being true. Feminine eye brows (and Chetan Bhagat’s too) are the quickest to go up if you decide to be a stay-at-home mother. Or don’t keep a maidservant or a cook and do it all on your own. Even pack a lunch box for your man to carry to work! Or maybe like doing laundry your way sometimes and dusting the house yourself once a week. They find it hard to gather how playing the role of a wife or mother in today's times can be anything but forced. Then, they go a step further and judge. They judge you for following the ‘age-old norm’, for being ‘typical’ and ‘submissive’ and ‘voiceless’ and probably bringing women-kind a bad name. They decide for you that you enter the kitchen because you have been lead into a trap man created centuries back. They feel sorry for you when they see a spot-less centre table, ironed clothes neatly piled and applications for maternity leaves. All this before they try to reason you into believing that what you think is exercising your choices is nothing but eye-wash and thick white-wash over others’ ulterior motives of using you. In short, they work their lungs out to make you believe that you are lost and caged - quotable quotes and cross-references included!

What would it take to make them see that every round chapatti or a round bindi is not university education gone waste. Accepting your husband’s surname does not make you less of a woman, just like keeping it unchanged does not make you more of a feminist either. What you call sacrificing your career for family matters can also mean substituting career missed with something better, since family matters. We don’t stop thinking, deciding and being happy just because we are doing all of that and more for another person? Bending backwards is not always bad for the backbone, it's sometimes very satisfying for the being. And every woman has her own idea of Feminism, which may or may not find mention in books, but which certainly evolves and grows with each passing stage in her life.

Keeping my house ‘clean and organised’ makes me feel good, for it’s my love-nest after all. I ‘don’t swear and have a kind word for everyone’ because that’s just good manners. I comb my hair, who doesn’t? Doing and looking every bit of that spam poster does not make you less of a feminist, just like it cannot make you more of a woman.  A feminist is a woman in touch with her inner self of thoughts and outer self of actions, with no contradictions between the two worlds. A feminist is any woman who  believes in the power of the feminine - be it of curing, careering, caring or even cooking.

And that reminds me! Tonight, I thought of cooking my own recipe of Feminism, for my family and myself. It’s going to be served how everyone enjoys it, not because I am bound to do it but because I want to do it that way. I am a woman. And I am also a feminist – a cooking, cleaning, washing, serving, feeding, choosing, teaching and thinking one. Because to me the cliches of life you reject might make you a fashionable feminist socially networking but it is what you think you should do and which you do that make you a ‘real woman’.

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