There are very few things in this world that make me take offence as quickly as when a woman defensively declares herself to NOT be a feminist. Far too many women for my comfort seem to distance themselves from even uttering the word ‘feminist.’ They usually curl up their noses in disgust before muttering that they are not feminists. As if just saying the word will taint their image. And this is precisely what I came across when I stumbled upon Twinkle Khanna’s blog post boldly titled “Why I am Not A Feminist.”
I strongly suggest you read it before reading any further as I am going to make the effort to bust all the myths, gross inaccuracies and clearly badly researched claims made in this blog post.
The first glaring myth that you will come across is the idea that feminism is nothing more than ‘bra burning.’ Our illustrious blogger humourously states that she would need all the push up bras that she can get from Victoria’s Secret to combat gravity at her age. Let us look into the history of so-called ‘bra-burning feminism.’ The historical event that led to this myth is the protests against the Miss America pageant in 1968 where feminists and social activists gathered to protest against sexist norms of what should be considered “female beauty”. Objects that symbolised the oppressive standards of female beauty like fake eyelashes, girdles, popular women’s magazines were burned in a trash can as a symbolic purging from being brainwashed into subscribing to such sexist ideas of beauty. Ironically enough, bras were NOT burned. So how did this myth become so popular? It became popular in order to trivialise this protest. It was propogated to make feminists look silly and to be seen as nothing but attention grabbers. All that rich symbolism was lost in the face of a literal interpretation of the protest. It became trivialised into ‘feminists burn bras. Feminists are crazy.’ So no, feminism isn’t only bra burning. Feminism is so much more. The fact that Bollywood and the entertainment industry in general is filled with scantily clad ‘item numbers’ is proof that this protest way back in 1968 still has a great significance even today. We are still bound by sexist over-sexualised norms of female beauty even in the 21st century.
The next thing that caught my attention was our blogger’s description of her friend as this friend was defending feminism.
As I mentioned earlier, feminists have been reduced to crazy people likened here to a rabid dog. What do we do to dogs with rabies? We make sure they infect nobody else and do away with them if necessary. Feminism has now become a disease whose spread needs to be stopped at all costs. A fight for rights has been dubbed a disease. This robs the men and women who choose to fight for equality of agency. A disease is not something we would choose to contract, thereby making it seem that feminism is not a cause that people can voluntarily choose but are infected with without their consent.
There is also a mention of using feminism as a marketing tool to sell BDSM products inspired by 50 Shades of Grey. If any sane human being has read 50 Shades of Grey, they’d immediately realize that there is nothing feminist about the book. In fact, it is the complete opposite. It is basically about an obsessed, overly possessive, jealous, rich boy who does not hesitate to use his money, influence and physical power against a woman who seems to have a self-esteem problem and a limited vocabulary. And feminism fights and tries to change basically all of these things – domineering men, and women who have internalised the idea that men are the masters. Christian Grey is as in need of feminism as Anastasia Steele. He is twisted into a pretzel trying to be a macho man when all he really needs is a proper heart-to-heart and a good cry. Which is basically what feminism advocates. That men do not have to be macho and strong all the time. That they can cry and express feelings without being emasculated. This is as much the cause of feminism as is the upliftment of women. Feminism is aimed at equality of the genders, not a squashing of the male gender.
Now, please note that I used the phrase ‘male gender’ in the previous paragraph instead of just the word ‘men.’ This is because there is a vital difference between gender and sex. Gender is a social construct whilst sex is a biological construct. Your sex is what you are born with. If you want me to be precise, sex is if you are born with an XX chromosome or an XY chromosome. It is not in your hands. Your gender is a reflection of social conditioning. You do have a choice when it comes to gender. You may be born with an XY chromosome but may identify more with being a woman and vice versa. So when our blogger says that women are better than men and starts rattling facts about how baby girls are tougher than baby boys at birth and how women are less prone to heart attacks than men, it is beside the point. Feminism is not about the equality of the sexes. It is about the equality of the genders. In this way, feminism touches all genders – male, female and transgender. That all the social benefits that are given to the male gender should be extended to the female gender and the transgender as well – equal pay for equal work, equality of opportunity, equal access to resources and the like. If we were to follow the line of argument of our blogger, then transgenders would have no space in her arguments at all because all the facts that she uses to prove a woman’s superiority over a man are biological, yet all the inequalities that exist are socially created. Transgenders fall neither here nor there in our blogger’s black and white narrative of men and women. Does this mean that they do not suffer from social injustices? I think not. A transgender woman who identifies with being a man may have a lesser chance of getting a heart attack but that doesn’t stop them from being subjected to discrimination.
As I have repeated ad nauseam in the previous paragraphs, feminism is about equality of the genders. Our blogger goes on to state she truly believes that women are better than men because men can’t be created without a female X chromosome. Again a biological reason. Let me be crude here – feminism isn’t about whether a vagina is better than a penis, it is about how all genders are equal. And gender has nothing to do with a vagina or a penis, so the argument that women are better than men because of a chromosome is ridiculous.
In the end, the blogger mentions that women still don’t get the same opportunities as men and for once, she is absolutely right. We don’t. And that is why feminism exists – to bridge that gap in opportunity between the genders (transgender included). So if the blogger sees the bridging of this gap as a cause worth fighting for then I am sorry to break it to her, but she is a feminist. Without even knowing it.