Five things feminism has done for me
(in response to Aishwarya's tag)
I've been trying, but how do I pin-point what feminism has done for me? Besides, there are kinds and kinds of feminists - which of them do I thank, for what? Perhaps, a better way of doing this would be to point out what life would have been like, if it were not for the feminists of the last century.
1] I would not have had the right to vote.
Like I have said (in this post, remembering the struggle for universal suffrage) equality is a long journey on a rough road. Today, I can vote because it is taken for granted that women have a stake in the politics of a nation. It was not always so. To be denied the vote is to be denied citizenship, to be denied the constitution, to be rendered powerless and voiceless in a democracy. I am grateful I was not denied all this.
2] I would not have realised that I have a choice - about everything.
Through childhood, my brother and I were treated the same. I never thought about feminism; it was never discussed and it was certainly not upheld as a virtue or a necessary part of our education.
My earliest recollection of feminism is a family member laughing about the 'bra-burning type'. I did not ask questions, but this little floating wisp of info stayed in my mind - that somewhere, somebody was burning her bra... why? Later, I began to wonder - What does it mean to wear, or not, a bra? What does it mean culturally, socially, intellectually?
I have yet to meet any woman who burnt a bra, even as a token gesture (they're too expensive). But feminism has shown us that we can, should we choose to. And if we choose to, feminists can explain what exactly we will be rejecting - not a piece of cloth with clasps, but an idea - about what a female body is supposed to accomplish.
(Recommended reading - Germaine Greer's The Madwoman's Underclothes)
Take something as simple as the right to be neither Miss or Mrs, to insist upon Ms - I would not have known that I had the choice, if it had not been for the feminists who have exercised that choice before me.
Similarly, it is feminist movements who have argued for abortion rights, contraceptive rights, etc. I feel much, much safer living in a country where I have these rights, legally. I would, for instance, not like to be in Nicaragua, right now.
3] I would not have known who I am, with whom I belong.
The first time I heard the word 'feminist' was when it was hurled at me like an accusation. Which prompted me to go look it up in the library and begin to read up about it. And then I knew - this was where I belonged. Amongst women who are not content to be the gentler sex, the second sex, the weaker sex, the anything-but-equal sex.
Feminism, to me, is an intellectual cave of refuge. Now, I wear the label like a badge of honour. In fact, I admit that I am impatient with women who are not feminists, and unforgiving towards men who are not.
4] I may never have gone to college.
College may not have given me much by way of (academic) knowledge, but it was fun, gave me a couple of lifelong (one hopes) friends, gave me ideas, and the space to find out what my talents were and how I was going to use them. Which led to still-higher education, which led to a job, which led to independence.
5] I would not have learnt to question religion, social norms, economic systems, political systems and my own beliefs.
Questioning is the first step towards freedom. It would have been easy to conform. But as I grew up, read books, argued, confronted this business of being a woman - our place in the world, the rules that bind us, the sacrifices demanded of us - I began asking questions. One question led to ten anothers. One theory led to ten others. When I began asking questions about one thing, I learnt to question everything else. I'm still asking.
I'm tagging -