Saturday, August 06, 2011

An Old Draft on Feminism

. . . that had been lying in an unused email folder. It was written nearly two years ago


To put it cheesily, feminism isn't a separate compartment in my mind, but a solvent that colours my view of life. I wanted to figure out the ways in which feminism makes my life better, but it's difficult to isolate its influence from all other influences. This is an imperfect attempt. (When I say feminism here, I don't mean the efforts of feminists before me. Obviously I owe them a lot - women in India mostly have equal rights in law, and I can work outside of the home and own property and things like that. What I am trying to pin down is how my subscription to the feminist view of equality of the sexes and refusing to stereotype people based on their gender affects my life.)

  1. I am not apologetic about my choices. I do not think it is MY responsibility alone, as a wife, to ensure that my home is clean, that the kitchen is well-stocked, that my husband gets hot healthy meals. I do not often beat myself up for getting lost in a book when there's laundry waiting to be done or the kitchen is messy. I do not force myself to cook when my father-in-law is visiting and I am tired: we merely order in. Or the husband cooks, and I set the table without trying to pretend I am helping in the kitchen. (I have noticed myself getting less apologetic over time, as my feminism evolved and my conviction that I am not answerable to anyone grew.) I cook or do laundry when I want to, as does my husband. I nag him for leaving used socks all over the house, but I appreciate him when he cleans up after me. We are both adults and responsible for ourselves, and when either of us does some mundane chore for the other, it is a loving gesture, not the living out of a role.
  2. It makes me angry, not scared or guilty or self-conscious, when a strange man - or an acquaintance - ogles me. I know it is their perversion, not my "fault" of wearing a tight top, that makes them behave this way. I am free to ignore them or to stare back in turn. It makes me angry that I should be facing this, but they can't affect me enough to make me stay home or shed tears over my helplessness.
  3. I can recognize sexism more clearly.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, I have a happier marriage - and probably healthier relationships overall. We don't depend on each other because of a certain traditional role the other fulfills. If I am away, my husband would miss my conversation, not my cooking. My husband doesn't feel pressurised to be the 'provider'. If he wants to take a few months break from work, he can count on me to support him - and I can do the same. Parents on either side do not expect me to cook and him to pay the bills, and that probably helps them look past the 'role' of a son or daughter-in-law and grow to know and love us for the persons we are.


starry eyed said...

Nice, I like :) Esp the last one makes so much sense!

Arundhati said...

I like it too!
"If I am away, my husband would miss my conversation, not my cooking." :)

mad hatter said...

you mentioned property rights. some years ago, someone mentioned to me how women are not 'allowed' to buy property without the consent/signature of husband/father. wow, i was in a fury for weeks to come. i found out later that this isnt true, so i guess our business is to first get the facts from the authority, not from heresay. a lot of heresay and kind advice will be tinged with ideas of social mores and what is the 'done thing', no?

similarly, when i was much younger, someone else said within my earshot how the law does not 'permit' women to retain their surnames after marriage. how passport etc. requires women to have their new surname. while i had a sense that this was not true, young that i was, i did feel worried and upset about what i heard from someone i was supposed to be able to trust.

which brings me to this other thing about marital status. or maybe i shouldnt even start.

i know i too shouldnt 'allow' any of this to rile me, but sadly it does, the thinks people can think! (and send out into the world). guess what i mean is that these things can serve to beat women down into mental servility, a feeling that you always come second, social law or constitutional (if i didnt go about finding out abt the property thing, i might still have believed what i'd heard). and then it's an uphill task back to believing that you're not. so much so that you stop bending for even what you think is reasonable, refusing to put yourself second ever after a lifetime of seeing women around you habitually do so! garbed beautifully in the name of daughterly/sisterly/wifely/motherly love and duty! (another wonderful thing we hear) aargh.

mad hatter said...

i mean, an advertisement for internet security software goes on the lines of "you wouldnt want your daughter's pictures to be misused by someone online, would you". that's my peeve, that my social identity as a woman is only within relations or protection/control! and gets used to sell products and fears of all kinds, so we have generation after generation tacitly imbibing ideas of who protects whom and who's the vulnerable one.

this father/husband talk in the world is going to kill me one day. see what it did to your comment space :)

Dr. Ally Critter said...

Absolutely my points Unmana!
I also feel that my feminism enables me to retain my identity without having to resort to a name change or wearing jewelry symbolizing my marital state.
Oh and feminism helps me see men as human like myself not sub-human beings who are not in control of their urges.

Unmana said...

@lankr1ta: Is it any surprise that I agree with you? :)

R's Mom said...

I loved them..and like starry...the last point is really making a lot of sense :)

Sumedha said...

I like this post! :) I've always associated my feminism more with stereotypes and gender-specific expectations, rather than with blatant "men are better than women" sexism and suppression of women. Not that I am undermining either of those - it's just that I've had more experience with stereotyping and expectations of what women should do and be, rather than the more blatant, obvious kind of sexism.

~G said...

I might copy paste Point 1 from here when every time this friend of the Boy chats/speaks to me asks me if that day's meal has been cooked 'by me' or has been ordered in. It is not that the inquisitiveness that bothers me, it is his mocking tone and judgmental attitude that does.

Unmana said...

G: I would enlist the Boy's help: ask him to talk to his friend. Or I'd stop talking to him altogether. If someone doesn't respect me, I don't want to spend my time on them.

~G said...

The Boy is willing to. But I feel like I should fight my own battles. As in, when he calls on the Boy's phone and we are having lunch/dinner he doesn't ask him whether the meal is home-cooked or ordered. He then asks to speak to me and among other things asks this. Disgusting enough that he associates cooking with the woman of the family because mostly he calls on weekends and that is when the Boy and I cook together. On other days, my hired cook does. Anyway, I think I am going to tell him to stop being nosy and mind his own business.