Nowadays, people don’t really want to call themselves a feminist because of social ostracism. Feminism is considered to be some sort of negative pursuit, which is all set to isolate men and destroy families. Feminists are yet to fully embrace their politics in all spaces, due to fear of conflict and alienation. So, here are some simple tips on how to be a ‘socially acceptable feminist‘:
1. Stop labelling yourself as a “feminist”
Instead, say you are human and pretend people do not notice your gendered physical appearance. Say you believe in ‘equality‘, carefully tip-toeing around the term ‘feminism‘. Mention how you don’t see gender, caste, class, position, sexuality, or social hierarchy as barriers, that it is on individuals to rise above limitations, using isolated success stories of women and people from marginalised social locations. Say you expect mutual respect, but don’t believe in labels like feminism.
2. Stop begining every sentence with “As a woman, I feel”
You must always remember to stop ‘bringing gender into everything‘. Don’t think of feminism or gender-based violence walking back home through a dark street with no (or no working) lamppost, late at night, constantly looking back on your shoulders. Don’t think of intersectional marginalisations when you have to drop out of the school because a male member of your family is encouraged to study. Don’t think of feminism when you have to reconsider your career options after marriage. Don’t think of feminism when people constantly question your choices or assertion of rights.
Don’t question when privileged feminists say transwomen are not *real* women. (You may be a feminist but don’t forget there is hierarchy of –isms and there are things greater than feminism like religion, culture, and ahem, patriarchy.)
3. Don’t be so angry all the time, especially at men
Now, you don’t want to be labeled as a man-hater (even though frankly speaking, most of the time you might really hate them), because anti-male is seen as hate, but anti-female which has been institutionalised, normalised and ingrained is just ‘culture‘.
Granted that there are many pressing aspects like unequal pay, discrimination, period poverty, rampant harassment etc., but your go to mantra must be – #YESALLWOMEN, and yet #NotAllMen. Stop being so angry all the time! Instead, do something about the problem. You can file a case against an abuser (provided you have the supporting evidence, and you have family and friends and financial resources to sustain and support you through the lengthy trial), direct your anger to the opposition who might smear your character, against the judiciary which might stall your case for years, the media which might name and shame you, but not at men.
Fight anger with reason. Think about other women who have survived through it all. Think about women in inaccessible places with no life outside four walls, about women who have it worse. (Can you feel your anger dissipating now?)
Also read: ‘Feminists Are Yet To Feel Comfortable In Family Spaces’: Aligning To Family Values While Being Feminist
4. Wear a bra
I mean, what’s up with the whole #FreeTheNipple movement? Aren’t you satisfied with all the male nipples that we see, uncensored everywhere? You know about all the drama with Emma Watson and her breasts. How could (dare) she be a feminist and then go on to be topless, at her own will? Flaunting your own body cannot be and is never your choice. If it is, you are not attuned with feminist values.
If you don’t have the “perfect” body to boast about, then, there is nothing to show, is there? Writing this reminds me of the line from Fleabag where the main protagonist says, “I sometimes worry that I wouldn’t be such a feminist if I had bigger tits.” You must recognise the depravity, the ugliness and the seeming lack in you which is compelling you to be this raging feminist. So cover it all up, hide away. Bury your body in clothes which don’t trace your outline. Internalise that it is the length of your clothes that determine your safety.
Of course it doesn’t mean that having big breasts cures you of any problem. I know not wearing a bra is not an option, so let’s just be on the safe side and wear a bra, please everyone. While you are at it, nothing hurts to give your chest a little lift, just a little something that peeks out in an outline (if you know what I mean).
You are a female after all and don’t breasts signify the greatest glory of being a woman? The jewels of motherhood! (Now the motherhood may have come at an expense of non-consensual or un-enjoyable sex but it is a fetus after all and you are a woman, so the motherly hormones will surely kick in. Just give it some time. Maybe you didn’t enjoy the intercourse but try this next phase which comes with responsibilities for a lifetime, surely sounds exciting and enduring.)
5. Shave your armpits
Women’s bodies are different from men’s, right? Some of our greatest glories are best kept as secrets (you don’t want the men to know and be jealous). Otherwise why would the shopkeepers pack them sanitary pads in black polythene? Why would the girl in the hair removal cream commercial keep gliding razor over already smooth skin? It is because these are the secrets which make us a “woman”. You can be all the feminist you want but you are still a female, expected to be a delicate, hairless being.
Instead, grow your black shiny silky hair. We need the length to hide more secrets, or more signs of any abuse or oppression. Makeup alone just doesn’t cover it all.
6. Ask yourself, ‘was the shove intentional’?
Someone shoved you from behind or worse ,groped you in a crowded place? Chances are it might have been harmless from that person’s side. It is difficult to say apart in a packed bus isn’t it? There is bound to be a little touch here and there.
Someone you knew touched you in a bad way? In your own home? Chances are they were just caring or looking after you. Ask yourself, are you ready to doubt your instincts? Are you ready to go with your gut which is the opposite of what the perpetrator and everyone is telling you?
Of course, sometimes (most of the times) you might not be emotionally capable to act upon it instantly. Go home, relax. Do the internet search. Ask another woman in your house if they have ever experienced it. Find out the number of women around you who have been groped and harassed. Think. Rethink. Doesn’t matter if it was intentional or not. The bus has passed. You are here. Just another face in the crowd.
When half of the population hasn’t really experienced any exclusion or discrimination, how do you expect them to empathise? But they are living with a danger that at any moment, a woman may accuse them of abuse. Really, they are the ones who are not safe. So how do you expect them to show solidarity with the movement that’s telling women they have the freedom to do whatever they want to do?
Also read: Feminism Of Little Things: How Everyday Sexism Contributes To Systemic Gender Oppression
Featured Image Source: Ritika Banerjee for Feminism In India
Why don’t feminist articles ever talk about the abuse, control, and dominance by mothers-in-law?
3. There is no such thing as unequal pay. If a boss can get away with paying a woman less than a man for the same amount of work as so often claimed, why doesn’t everyone just hire women and save money? Gender wage gap is a myth. Women work less hours, take more time off work, take easier courses in college, take up professions such as teaching and nursing and then compare their pay with men in law and engineering. Besides, most people work the same number of hours as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, but they don’t earn the same as them, for obvious reasons. It is not unequal pay.
4. There is an undeniable biological difference between men and women. A woman has breasts, so a woman showing her nipples means that she is showing her breasts.
5. I am a man and I shave my underarms and pubic hair. This has to do with personal preference. Many women wax and shave simply because they do not like body hair.
6. I absolutely agree that it happens intentionally, but not always. In a crowded bus it is impossible to avoid physical contact, with both men and women. Many times the touching is accidental.
In the past, only prostitutes used to reveal their bodies, but today girls’ revealing clothing is being promoted in the name of fashion, freedom and liberation. Miniskirts, skimpy tops and revealing dresses are not a choice. They are advertised in movies, music videos, magazines, billboards, advertisements, etc. to the point where girls feel it is normal to dress in revealing clothes. This is systematic brainwashing.
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