A few years ago, I went on what looked like a promising date. Midway through dinner, as I was slowly cutting up my fish into small bite sized pieces, my date very casually asked me in response to a conversation about the 2014 Delhi rape incident whether I was a feminist.
It was not the question that bothered me, but the tone in which it was asked. I swallowed while trying to figure out the best way to answer his question. “Yes, I am a feminist,” I replied cautiously. Even before I got the chance to further elaborate, he quickly launched into a whole tirade about how feminism was a Western concept, a product of education and lastly that all feminists were just man-eaters. Oops! I mean haters (he clearly was so threatened by the concept that he believed they are man-eaters).
Needless to say, there wasn’t a second date. It was mutually agreed upon.
Over the years, I have encountered many more people who have either accused me of being a feminist or have asked whether I am a feminist. Sometimes, after I have admitted to the ‘crime’ of being feminist, they attempt to punish me by throwing an endless barrage of accusations such as, I am lesbian, anti-family, pro-abortion or that I must have been cheated by someone from the male species. This might disappoint some people, but none of the above mentioned explanations even cut it close.
I am a feminist simply because I believe that men and women should have equal rights. I believe that just like how women should not be held to ridiculous standards of femininity, men should not be held to equally ridiculous standards of masculinity. Feminism is about believing that you should be accorded recognition and remuneration based on your strengths and achievements and that gender should not play a part in it. Feminism is me aspiring to one day be able to tell a child that she will not have to work twice as hard to receive the same salary as her male counterpart. Feminism is knowing that you have an equal shot at success.
A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men. – Gloria Steinem
To me, at the end of the day being a feminist is about fighting inequality. It is about fighting not just for my rights but for the rights of many other people who face persecution, marginalization and hatred in their everyday lives. The difference is that I am starting by fighting for equal rights for women. I am starting this long journey by fighting for an issue that directly affects me and I believe that many other women do so for the same reason as well. For many women around the world, fighting for their own rights is the first step to feeling brave enough to fight for the rights of other people too.
To be honest, I do not think that it takes a special kind of person to be a feminist. All you need to really be able to do is to whole heartedly believe that everyone deserves to have equal rights, regardless of race, language, religion or gender. If you do, you are a feminist too. At the end of the day, feminism is about empowering women not overpowering men.