This question first popped into my mind when one of my male friends asked it out aloud, many years back, “Nee feminist aano”, meaning “Are you a feminist” as if its a bad word. I denied, as I thought I don’t really know what feminism is, better not to be someone whom I dont know. Later I googled, what feminism really means. As per google, feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. Later on during my college days, I was never much interested in feminism even though I felt what the feminists are advocating is right. I wasn’t denied anything at home owing to my gender, in fact I was given more preference as I was a girl. So I was really lucky in that manner. But as time passed on, I really understood what the fuss is all about.
I am going to tell my views on feminism on the basis of two experiences I had, one at home and the other at work. These are not some incidents that just happened one fine day, these are what I experienced over time, with subtelety and it took quite a long time to realize the depth of the issue, how minutely patriarchy is ingrained inside each one of us (both men and women, women especially). This is something which is being seasoned again and again, everyday by both women and men. Even I was supporting patriarchy in many ways, I later realized. It has become that chair in your drawing room, which you never notice but still take up so much space.
Lets start with the work experience. I am a person who started working in a MNC after marriage. Thankfully, my husband and myself work in the same company, different projects. I made many friends, many were happy for us, some were jealous, some were indifferent – all these never mattered as long as the attitude remained civil. Some just assumed I got the job on my husband’s referral, some were finding it difficult to believe that I got into a project without any recommendation from my husband. As I corrected them (I’m sure they don’t believe it), I felt the victory over three interviews for getting into that project just faded a bit in front of the husband factor. Nevertheless, I moved on. The interesting factor being, all these assumptions were made and communicated by women only.
All these were silly issues, still the bigger one came when some indirectly told me it doesn’t matter what performance band or hike you get, your husband is earning. Like this job is some sort of a hobby or time pass for me. Why in the world would I not mind getting rewarded for the work I do ? Instead of thinking how much we are earning into our family, why can’t I be just any other employee inside office? I was really stumped, seeing that even in this 21st century, people have such petty thoughts. Things got even worse after I joined back after maternity leave. The fact that a woman has many important roles to play in her life – of a mother, a wife, a daughter-in-law is known to everybody. Some might even be lecturing their wives/daughters on all these. But when a female colleague has to go a bit early as her infant is sick, all these people wrinkle their noses. In such context, they compare how other mothers are leaving their child in day cares and how come she doesn’t do that! Is she too stingy? Is she making an excuse to leave early?For all such losers, I just have one finger to show and one sentence to tell – just bother about the work she is doing!
Next, the slightest hints of chauvinism at our homes. I am from an upper middle class family, married into another similar family. My in-laws are really supportive when it comes to me working, leaving behind my baby and skipping many household chores and I’m lucky that they are having such forward thinking. In fact, my father-in-law gives me driving lessons and always encourages to learn more, work hard, earn more and save plenty. I strongly believe they get this forward thinking from their education, their career (both my in-laws are retired teachers from Government service), their experiences and the books they read. Still it stinged a little bit when my mother-in-law told me she used to like the boys in her class more than the girls. It stinged a little bit more when when my father-in-law told to be extra cautious while driving nearby vehicles driven by women as they are mostly careless drivers. And it stings the most when all of them including my own parents treats and appreciates my husband like a war-hero when he looks after our baby for one hour, and I’m not even sympathized after taking too much strain in taking care of a naughty toddler. Of course I am happy that I have a husband who helps me, a family that supports me; but these slight nuances stirs the feminist inside me. These are nothing to be worried about, but just look at the normalcy of such feelings. The patriarchy is so smoothly blended into us.
Life has to move on, that too happily. So we just close our eyes to such small matters and concentrate on the positives of life. Well at least we have a job! At least we have a supportive family. Atleast my husband is not a person who wants a post graduate homemaker. So I am enjoying all the good things in life. Or am I overlooking these because I know this can’t be changed?
And Yes! I AM a feminist.