On the plane ride over from Delhi (six am. Dear god, why did I think that was a good idea?) I was reading Gloria Steinem's Outrageous Acts And Everyday Rebellions. Primarily because my mother gave it to me, saying I would enjoy it, and also because I try to do my heavier reading on planes. (I don't read a lot of nonfiction, and I'm usually so lazy about my reading, I will pick up stuff I've read a million times before, rather than tackle something new). But this book was surprisingly light. Easy. And it made a lot of sense.
I went to this college for women. It was an excellent college--hardly any male professors, except one dashing young JNU type who was the object of much giggling and enthusiastic young things. We were taught from the beginning that the power to do anything lay with us, something which you could either embrace, like a lot of us did, or reject, rolling your eyes, going, "Feminists!" which a lot of us did too. Outside college, even after we graduated, we were the victims of many attacks, mainly by men we met, going, "Ohhhhh, you went to that college." and making a face. Once or twice, I tried to get them to explain and they'd say, "Oh, man, you guys are all so elitist." Others would say, "Haan, I know your type, Fabindia and Goldflake cigarettes." Feminism was never mentioned, but it was implied. It was a dirty word, something to be used with derision. Because, dahlinks, to be a feminist was never ever to be feminine. The two just didn't go together.
I never really truly thought of myself as a feminist. I mean, I've been guilty of using "being a chick" to get what I want sometimes. I like it when men are chivalrous. I let them carry my bags when they're heavy. I realise I am better at nurturing than men are, just like they're better at the fixing things stuff. But, I know if I was thrown in a world with no men, as I am frequently, I can manage perfectly fine on my own. Having a male flatmate means I get certain things done easier, but I've lived with women, and we managed. We were fine. When Mouse was in the hospital, I did my best to get her discharged, but they only really listened when I called a male friend and asked him to intervene. For him doors opened, paperwork got done rapidly and we were out of there. It was unfair, supremely, completely unfair, but it made my day that much easier if I bowed to the system.
The one way I am a feminist though, is when I write. I HATE the label "women writers". Like, what the fuck? Are there "men writers"? There are not. There are "writers" and "women writers". Like what I write is equal to say, a detailed history of cows in Croatia. A niche subject. Woman stuff. I know if you're a woman, you've heard a guy say, "Uhhh.. have you got your period or something?" when you lose your temper. Is this not annoying? Fuck annoying, is it not also the most condescending thing you've ever heard? Male actors are better paid, male writers get bigger advances and those of us unfortunate enough to be born with a uterus are put into a special category. If we write about sex, we're 'chick-lit', if we write about families, we're 'endearing and poignant new voices.' Blurb writer? I can tell you where to stuff that poignant.
I got all militant on your ass there for a bit, and that might surprise you, because this is not a subject I usually write about. Or talk about even. It's not that I don't care, it's that I don't care enough. Consider my advantages: I'm an only child, and therefore have been brought up as an equal. I'm from India's English speaking/educated elite, which means I meet a certain kind of person normally, brought up to be liberated, I do pretty much as I please, not hampered by my gender. And yet, there are subtle things I notice every now and then. Such as, if I'm on an assignment, and meeting someone not from my background, they'll address themselves to my male photographer. Such as, hearing of a woman who sleeps around with frequency, referred to as a slut. By women too, by the way. Such as hearing, "Oh man, how do women stay friends with each other, you guys bitch all the time". They're little things, usually brushed away by laughing or rolling my eyes, or saying, "You're SUCH an MCP" but they're betraying things. Do I think of them as true statements? I am out of sorts during my period. Sometimes, I don't like to make a move on someone because they'll think I'm a slut. Sometimes I judge promiscuous women. Sometimes, I use words like promiscuous. Sometimes, I am angry with my women friends for analysing and renaanlysing and interpreting insults and talking about each other. Sometimes, I do that too. But don't men do that too? Okay, so you don't have an excuse of your hormones acting up every month, but I know plenty of men who will periodically (periodically. heh.) throw hissy fits. I know men who delight in bitching. And I know men who sleep around too. (Only, the oldest irony in the book: men who sleep around are players, women who sleep around are sluts. We're the cow, with the free milk, and they're the buyers.)
This post isn't really meant to prove anything, just a sort of talking out loud to myself. I'd appreciate a weigh in, especially from my male readers. Why does the word feminist scare you guys so much? And why can't feminists be feminine?