Recently, I was challenged (on this blog & in other spaces) on where I stand in the 'battle' of gender equality. I was asked to pick sides - Was I a feminist or not? Last evening, grumbling & irritable at myself for not knowing how to answer this, I attempted an angry post part-blistering, part-petulant.
It was horrid.
Then this morning, a rather charming blogger tagged me as part of IHM's 'My Sins Against Gender Stereotypes' thingamajig. I was to list out 10 things that I've done in my life which go against prevalent notions of gender roles. So here goes:
1. Am an absolute lover of gadgets & love unraveling the puzzles of technology.
2. Am enthused by physics.
3. Have done 'highway driving'.
4. I ask to be paid as much as my male colleagues.
5. I work the same shifts as male colleagues (periods or no periods).
6. I expect men to share housework duties.
7. I sometimes travel in autos after 10:30 pm, drunk. In New Delhi.
8. I have earned significantly more than the man I lusted after.
9. I refuse to marry just because I'm getting older.
10. I plan to take care of my parents as they grow older.
Where this list places me is irrelevant.
We're all stuck between shifting notions of gender roles, these days. The men are confused (does she want me to open doors for her, does she not?), the women are confused (do I support the banning of burqas or not?) I've never had a man block my upwardly mobile, professional aspirations but I've never worked in an office where sexual harassment did not creep in, in some form or the other.
Am I a feminist or not? Yes, I am. If being one supports an idea of freedom of choice, no matter the gender.
I feel equally outraged at the French ban on burqas as the Iranian laws that force women to wear them. I feel that those who commit heinous 'honour killings' are as trapped by skewed gender notions as the ones who were killed.
I find human trafficking abhorrent, yet don't agree with a blanket ban on prostitution.
I don't believe that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman.
I also believe that men are wonderful creatures, crucial to the cause of gender equality.
To me feminism is not about which side of the fence you're on. Because there is no fence. Never was.
To me, being a feminist, means bringing the feminine experience out of the closet. It is to talk, listen and to understand what a woman's world looks & feels like.
So don't be afraid of the word 'feminist'. Chances are, many of you rational thinking people already are one. You really don't have to roll your eyes every time a woman talks or writes about her unique experience as a female living in an unequal world. If you're a guy, don't exclude yourself from those spaces (I for one would love to have you participate). If you're a woman, don't be afraid to jump right in. This is not a scary, angry place that can exist without men. Far from it. It is a world more complete than the one we know now, where everything is finally in its rightful place, as it should be, serene, peaceful and empowering of oneself & the other.
Shucks, it might not be a battle after all.