What is a feminist?
Let me first be very clear: feminism is not about celebrating womanhood or getting special privileges for women. Feminism is about equality of rights for all sexes and acceptance of diversity. You don’t get born a feminist, not even if you are born with a vagina. Feminism is a socio-political, cultural and ideological standpoint that is critical of the patriarchal heteronormative structure of the society. You read and learn to become a self-aware feminist. It is not a gender or sexual orientation that it would be already inside you. Feminism is not a hammer that you use on the patriarchal structure. It is essentially awareness and it is about what you do with that awareness.
‘Womanhood’, on the other hand, is a patriarchal tool of oppression. The idea of the ideal woman who is sacrificial and super submissive is a hoax. You can understand the problem of this definition when you look closely. It defines a kind of woman who would sacrifice her desires to take care of her husband, children and family. Well, that’s very good and all, but what about the woman who wants to have a career instead of a marriage? What about the women who don’t want to become mothers? What about the women who love other women? According to the idea of womanhood, only one type of woman is to be respected and called ‘real woman’. Feminism doesn’t do these discriminations.
Related reading: What makes her a woman?
It’s not Woman’s Day, it’s Working Woman’s Day
Recently there was an ad campaign by a prominent jeweller to ‘uncelebrate Woman’s Day’. First of all, there is nothing called ‘Woman’s Day’; it is ‘International Working Woman’s Day’. Again it’s not a celebration of so-called ‘womanhood’ as the ad campaign would like people to believe. International Working Woman’s Day is about equality. About voicing the pain and politics of being born with a particular kind of body. It is not about celebrating some vague, heteronormative patriarchal idea of sacrificing and submissive ‘Womanhood’.
Again, feminism is not a ‘man vs. woman’ battle. Men are stereotyped just as much as women are. It is the gender normative! It is not a competition to become the man or be superior to men. When feminists are asking for equality, they are not looking for superiority, but just the right to be considered as a human being.
When feminists are asking for equality, they are not looking for superiority, but just the right to be considered as a human being.
Then again, equality seems like oppression to people who are accustomed to privileges.
Letting other women make their own choices
If you claim to be a feminist, you have to know the definition and differences. Putting on makeup, doing household work or choosing to be a homemaker doesn’t take away your right to be a feminist. But criticising other women for their choices does make you an anti-feminist.
Misandry has nothing to do with being a feminist. You can hate men for all the privileges they have always enjoyed and taken for granted, you can hate men for a given superiority and advantages over women in social, religious and other normative structure. As long as you hate the idea of men, it is acceptable, but if you are looking for revenge and oppression over men then you are definitely not a feminist: you are a misandrist.
Men are as trapped as women are in this hegemony. They are also stuck in gender roles and there are also societal expectations from them. Like paying the bill, dropping you home, earning for the family, saving you from rapists and cockroaches: these are all expected from the ‘real man’. So you can hate the category, not the individuals. Feminism is about equality of sexes, all sexes.
Can I iron his shirt then?
So, is it wrong for me to iron my husband’s/boyfriend’s shirt if I am a feminist?
Well, news flash! You are not much of a feminist if you are asking this. Feminism is not a ticket to absolve you from your duties to your loved ones.
You can cook for your family and still be a feminist. Just don’t accept in your mind that cooking is woman’s job or women should be good at cooking. You can decide to leave your job to raise your children and still be a feminist. Just don’t ever believe that bringing up children while sacrificing her career is a woman’s duty. You can remain single and date a new guy every week and still be a feminist. But once you call another woman slut, you are no longer a feminist. You can put on tons of makeup or none at all: it doesn’t change whether you are a feminist or not.
But you are definitely not a feminist if you criticise other women for making their choice. So be aware, be vigilant.
And the answer to the question above is ‘it’s your choice’.