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Feminism: How Much Is Too Much?

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Feminism is evil.

Feminism destroys families.

Feminism is anti-men.

Feminism teaches women to see men as perverts, bullies and misogynists.

Anyone who has had anything to do with feminism has heard these sentences being repeated again and again in different ways.

A cursory search on the Internet for the memes on feminism throws up some very interesting information:  When an 18-year-old said that she was starting a feminism club in school, the first and the most common response was: “Oh, I did not know you were a lesbian.” Then there are those funny comments like: “I don’t need feminism because my boyfriend treats me right.” “Or I don’t need feminism because I can deal with my own insecurities.” Well, surely, feminism is not a cop or a therapist that it is going to keep an eye on your errant boyfriend or help you deal with your nightmares.

In a world where the worst thing one could tell a boy or a man is NOT to behave like a girl or a woman, you would surely think that we need feminism.  But this morning, I came across the picture of this woman carrying a placard, which said: “I don’t need feminism because I don’t want my gender politicised.” And I was like: Hello! Sister, your gender had already been politicized. Across the world, centuries ago. – The Surrogacy Bill in India, the pro-life vs pro-choice argument, the recent burqa vs burkini debate, random politicians and custodians of faith telling us how many children we should or should not have, and yes, the time immemorial debate about how the honour of our families, communities, societies and even countries lies in our vaginas.

How many times have we not confronted with this bogey of feminism and what feminists do and why they should be stopped? We are told how feminists are these mean, abrasive, angry people, who are out to put an end to the world order, as we know it. How feminists disregard their families, ignore their children, neglect their chores around the house? And every time I hear that line, I am left thinking, “Well that is what the description of an workaholic husband looks like”. What has feminism got to do with it?

Well, if the definitions of these naysayers were true, feminists would be placed somewhere between Jack the Ripper and Satan himself.  Well, a notch above Jack the Ripper; but certainly a little below Satan.

Thankfully for us feminists, we know that we are not these angry, abrasive people who have suffered bad love lives and are, therefore, out to take it out on the world and destroy every chance of happiness that someone else has.

So, then who are we?

According to Wikipedia, Feminism IS advocacy of women’s rights on the “ground of the equality of the sexes”. In other words, a world where people irrespective of their gender are treated as equals. Simply put, Feminism is the right of a woman to live as a human being.

And it is a right that a woman DOES NOT have.  A right that has been taken away from her long, long ago.  Whereas, for a man this right is a given. Something he can take for granted.

The idea of civilisation should be that every human being – man or woman (we are not talking about the third gender here, that is another story), should live their life in the pursuit of happiness, and realizing their full human potential. However, the structures we have built for this world do not give woman that freedom. For the last 3000 years of human civilization, men have had the opportunity to live out their lives to the fullest potential. That is why history is replete with examples of  a Socrates or a Jesus Christ or X number of other ‘great men’. But where are the ‘great women’ in history? Why is it that we don’t have even one ‘great woman’ for every thousand great men?

Feminism is simply a struggle to change that equation.

Simone De Beauvoir once said: “All oppressions create a state of war.” And this relentless oppression of one half of humanity has created the longest running state of war in the history of the species. And in the last 100 years, this hitherto hidden war is being fought in the open.
And like they say, in war- everything is fair
And it is here that the terms: pseudo feminism, man bashing and yes Feminazi have come into our everyday language.

Equality is the bedrock on which feminism rests. It is the cornerstone of our fight. The unshakable belief that ALL human beings are equal.  And that argument automatically excludes the men bashers or those who go out into the world saying, “ All men are dogs or All men are potential rapists”. Male bashing is NOT a necessary prerequisite to being a feminist. On the other hand, calling out on sexism passing off as humour, abuse passing off as mere ‘misunderstanding’ or questioning a few centuries of tradition which ‘puts women in her place’ –in society, in the family, in the home and in the bedroom, and questioning men who practice this tradition is NOT male bashing.

This brings us to another term that the opponents of feminism simply love to throw around- Feminazi . The first time I was called a Feminazi, I was confused. Is the person actually calling me a Nazi for being a Feminist?  I began looking around for answers and turned to the internet. The internet told me that a Feminazi is another name for a Radical Feminist.And, the term ‘radical’ as the dictionary described it, simply meant – something characterized by departure from tradition; something that was innovative or progressive.

The key words here were “departure from tradition.”  And, by tradition it meant a thought system where women were considered inferior beings, whose place was within the four walls, who did not have a role in any decision-making process, even if they were decisions which affected their own lives. And if you wanted to depart from such a tradition than what was wrong with that? And seriously,  If someone wanted to call me a radical feminist they could have done so. Why Feminazi? The term Nazi had a bad association.

And then, in a flash, it fell into place. The idea was not to define a certain ‘kind’ of feminism, but to DEMONISE Feminism itself.  To shame it. To discredit it. To humiliate it. Therefore, making a word like Feminazi is a part of the popular culture is part of the plot to discredit anyone who speaks about WOMEN’S RIGHTS and trivialise the battle for equality.  Basically, it just  meant – being a girl is bad, being a feminist is worse.

So, to come back to the original premise of this piece: What is the right kind of feminism and what is the ‘not so right kind’ of feminism? How much feminism is too much feminism? When does it stop being feminism and become pseudo feminism? When should we say No to Feminism?
The one word answer is NEVER.

Because, unlike what the detractors of feminism would like to portray it: The fight is not between feminism and pseudo feminism.
The fight is between equality and oppression,  The fight is between rights and denial of rights,  The fight is between patriarchy and feminism.
It is not between men and women. It is between patriarchal men and patriarchal women AGAINST Feminist men and Feminist women. It is between fairness and unfairness.
It is a fight for what is due and what should be a given for one half of 7 billion people.
It is a fight for the rights that have been denied.
It is a fight for justice!

Asma has done her Masters in Journalism and worked with several newspapers in Bangalore and Chennai. She is an activist, a full-time mother, and a sometime media consultant with several organizations.

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