The term ‘feminism‘ itself has a negative connotation for a vast majority of people. In the book ‘Bad Feminist,’ Roxane Gay describes that there are right and wrong ways to be a feminist, known as essential feminism.
We know when one doesn’t live up to the expectations of peer groups, society, and the world, they are deemed to be an unfit addition to the group. As long as feminists remain ‘likable’ to the general population, the movement is allowed to exist and thrive.
So, what does it mean to be a good feminist? Fret not; mastering a few elements – like staying perfect all the time while setting highly unrealistic standards for yourself as a feminist, having conversations about patriarchy and gender inequality while being funny about it, and not offending anybody at the same time – are all it takes to be a good feminist!
Here’s a guide to help you become the excellent feminist that society expects you to be:
1) Not everything is about gender!
Unhappy about the wage gap? Can’t walk alone in the streets late at night? Constantly fear men and inappropriate behaviour when you take public transport? It’s okay. You are a woman. Ideally, to be a good feminist, you would restrict yourself from having fun when you think the streets (that are otherwise safe for cishet men) are dangerous.
2) Why do you have to be angry about everything?
Good feminists can’t afford to be angry all the time. You might be expected to “take a chill pill” when people are busy making sexist remarks. Don’t get mad at them. Maybe you can think of ways to solve the problem without bringing up the issue. There are countless ways to be a good feminist, but standing up for yourself or calling out sexism is definitely not among them.
Also read: The ‘Good-Natured’ Misogynists Who ‘Only Want What Is Best For Our Girls’
3) Cover yourself up
What could the poor men do when you dress like that? They have no choice but to practice activities like stalking and staring. To protect ourselves from them while staying a good feminist, we must look inside ourselves, reflect on our dress choices, examine our reactions to dangerous men, and question our hatred. After all, we must deconstruct a toxic system; while also escaping the labels’ man-hater and ‘extreme feminist.’
Think about the family of the man if you file a complaint! It was not their intention. You can probably talk about it on the internet, try to stay composed, take out your anger on your friends, and think about people who have it worse than you.
If it is your decision to dress “provocatively,” then you are responsible for your own assault (but also make sure to not question men who wear shorts or enjoy the morning breeze with no shirt on). Mind you, women who cover their bodies are arrogant, shy, and unsexy, and women who wear short sleeves, shorts, and bikinis are indecent and craving attention. So it is on you to find a piece of clothing that does not upset the male population.
4) Don’t be too loud!
Good feminists aren’t too loud about their opinions. It might make you more appealing to men and the patriarchal system. Are you really political if you’re loud, funny, wise, and angry? Your identity as a feminist does not mean you get to talk about it or express your anger towards gender equality. It is often customary for men to speak on our behalf, to overshadow our experiences, but if that does happen, as a good feminist, you might be expected to revert to your own truth and question your sanity.
5) All the hair on your head!
An important mantra to keep in mind to become a good feminist is to grow all the hair on your head and none on your body. Hair on the skin is natural and normal; it protects your skin and keeps you warm or cools down your body. You must be willing to sacrifice your autonomy and control of your body to satisfy the society.
It is necessary to look “aesthetically pleasing” and match unreasonable beauty standards instead of giving in to your desires and interests. You live more for the men than yourself; there’s no shortcut to becoming a good feminist.
Hair on your legs? Hair on your armpits? Hair on your face? You know the next step is to remove all of them. How could you fight for equality when you have hair on your body?
6) Reflect on this thought: Is resistance against inequality really necessary?
Our world is male-governed, run by male-centric rules, and creates systems that oppress women and marginalised genders and deny them fundamental rights. So what? Reflect if this resistance against inequality is essential. Maybe you could marry a man; he’d protect you, feed you, and run the house. Looking for potential partners outside your country is also an exciting option. You don’t have to prove your feminism all the time, do you?
What if you aren’t paid well in your job? What if you face discrimination and harassment in the streets of your hometown? You might have to mind how you walk, dress, behave, and talk. What if you can’t stand up for yourself when someone makes sexist remarks? You don’t have to fight for it all the time. Remember our recipe to be a good feminist? Perfection, obedience, and submissiveness.
It’s up to us to choose what kind of feminists we want to be. We have a guide to mould good feminists right here. Bad feminism is messy, loud, confusing, powerful, scary, funny, political, and imperfect. Bad feminism wouldn’t suit the likes of our society, would it?
Also read: Gender Roles: Patriarchy’s Manufactured Ideals Of The ‘Good’ And ‘Bad’ Woman
Featured Illustration: Ritika Banerjee for Feminism In India