Some years ago, when I was an undergraduate student in India, a friend was a bit surprised when he learned that I identified myself as a feminist. “But you are NOT a hideous, stern and aggressive girl with extremely bad hair!” He exclaimed. I don’t know about the other adjectives but I certainly did not have bad hair!
On a serious note, the image of a feminist is somewhat like that or when taken to the extreme, it is that of a vicious man-hater. Many also think of a feminist as always female. But here’s what the Holy Book of Language, the Dictionary has to say:
Feminist – Noun: a person who supports feminism, Adjective: Of, relating to, or supporting feminism.
It never mentions that a feminist is specifically a woman. Last year, I happened to read a fantastic blog post on International Women’s Day: Because I Can’t Help It in which the author had given very good reasons why every woman is a feminist by default if she cares about equality for women. Because that is what it really is. The definition of feminism says that it is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. Here are a couple of questions:
Do you think women should have equal wages if they do exactly the same level of work as men?
Do you agree that women should be able to vote?
Do you think that women should not be sexually harassed?
Do you think women should have the same right to make decisions as a man?
If your answer to the above questions is yes, you are a feminist no matter what gender you belong to. A supporter of humanity is not differentiated against by gender and feminism can be said to be a subset of humanity so why should the label of ‘female’ be applied to it most of the time?
India is currently ranked as the fourth worst country for women and there is a long way to go for things to get better in the realm of women’s empowerment but it is not as if there are no pockets of hope at all. There are examples of parents having only daughters and no sons at all in the family line, who would have been criticized and spoken down to for that fact but who stood their ground and proudly raised their female offspring as they would have raised sons. There are bosses who treat and reward all employees equally regardless of gender. At least some parts of society now respect the right women have to choose life partners and do not brand ‘love marriages’ immoral like they frequently did in the past. There are families who do not look down upon fathers/sons/brothers/husbands helping out women in the family with household chores. There are people supporting women fighting abusive marriages, giving them strength to walk out. Who are all these people? They are feminists.
It takes people of both genders to stand in the way of women’s progress and it takes both males and females to even acknowledge and fight against injustice. So if you are from the later category, you are a feminist. The bad hair mentioned at the start of the post is a different story altogether.