The inevitable contortions in expression,the look of disapproval or even disappointment – you have probably faced all this when you reveal to people that you are a feminist.
The feminist struggle is nowhere near the end and people still question the need for the movement. Is the same true for every other movement for social justice?
In India, the word communist was never a taboo. Despite its embarrassing failures almost everywhere, Communism is still a positive word and reminds people of the charismatic leaders like Che Guevara, Gorbachev, Lenin, the power of the words like revolution and proletarians. Apart from academicians and American presidents who have criticized Communism, the word never was a taboo among the general populace. In India, where communists never had central power, most university students call themselves communist- in fact communism is viewed as a sign of intelligence. Whereas feminism draws all kinds of reactions from people- from old women behaving like they just heard a cuss word to young men who deem it another of those fads that ‘their women’ won’t indulge in.
Feminism simply aims to end the influence of patriarchy and transform the world into one where men and women have equal access to opportunities and have the freedom of choice. It sounds like a very noble cause to me. Feminism has achieved innumerable feats in different societies around the world. There are feminists working in all parts of the world, employing the version of feminism needed in that particular society. For example, a year before America came ‘dangerously’ close to having a female president, women in Saudi Arabia voted for the first time in the country’s history.
So why do people have to so cautious about the word or even admitting to the fact that they are feminists? Every movement has the extremists and the moderates and every combination which falls in between. Communists are quick to defend their extremist groups saying they do not represent communists; nor do people really think they do. Though feminism and communism fight against oppression, there is an imperceptible, but inherent difference between the two- The proletarians consist of men, but in the case of feminism, theoretically, all the men are on the other side. Revolution to overthrow the massive feudal powers is exactly what working class needs, but the need for a revolution inside their own homes is something that they cannot yet digest or comprehend.
The reason feminists aren’t as popular as human rights activists or animal rights activists or communists is because they are a threat to a social order that has existed from before gods were invented, from the time man settled down to farm or maybe even before that. Nobody knows. Also, there has been a methodical backlash movement to vilify feminists – the bra burning feminists are one such example. Bra burning feminists never really burnt bras- they wanted to, but they didn’t. Now, talking about man-hating feminists- there are no man- hating feminists. Even if there are a few of them, they are wrong about it because many of us have great men in our lives. Finally, addressing the myth that all feminists are lesbians- there have been a few feminists who advocated lesbianism. However, all feminists are not lesbians and being lesbian is not a crime (It is in India, though)
If you have any more doubts about the legitimacy of this movement, look up the meaning of feminism in the dictionary and if you get interested, there are great books out there on feminism.