Art & Culture

Why Are We Afraid To Label Ourselves As Feminists?

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“I am not a feminist but…”

“I believe in equality but I am not a feminist”

You see, there is always a ‘but’. The aim of this article is not to bash the ideology of those who do not believe in feminism but to understand why some of us refrain from using the dreaded F word. So recently, I put a poll on my Instagram handle. The question was very basic: ‘Are you a feminist?’ Yes or No. I am no social media influencer but I simply wanted to see the reaction of the people I know. The results were as follows: 15 women said Yes and 3 No, 3 Men said Yes and 2 No whereas the rest of my followers chose to ignore the question. Now some of them who said No or chose not to answer the question aren’t really people whom I thought would be against Feminism or who would chose to not call themselves Feminists. Then what was the problem? The fact that their response wasn’t a Yes surprised me.

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And that made me wonder maybe it’s got to do with the miscommunication of the meaning of the word than the word Feminist itself. I spoke to people about it and got some responses. A stereotyped image of a crazed lesbian who hates men or a literature student who wears a big bindi and carries a jhola is something that comes to the minds of many. Feminists are women who hate men or want to dominate men are again some of the notions. Then there was one who thought that Feminism was the opposite of Patriarchy (a system of society where men hold more power than women). *Pause please* Also, majority of people thought that feminism is for women only because of the word ‘feminine’ in it. I just had to say one thing to all of them, “Please, google the meaning of Feminism.” It clearly states, ‘The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of sexes.’ So, misinterpretation of the meaning of the word Feminism is one of the reasons why people do not want to declare themselves as a feminist. And hence, we need to understand that Feminism if for all!

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But, then there is another set of people who know the aim and stance of Feminism and yet choose to not identify themselves as Feminists. Now, why does that happen? The answer is the fear of social exclusion and shaming. Imagine going out for dinner with friends and each time you put forward an opinion, you hear:

‘Yaar ye senti hojati hai harr baat parr’,

‘Yaar iske saamne kuch matt bol, ye feminist type ki hai’.

‘Tu bhi yeh feminism wali kya baatein kar raha hai, gay kahi ka.’

Then there is that scary comment:

 “Yeh feminist wagera bakwas karna band kar do, koi ladka nahi milega!”

­So why would one want to wear the F label if it means not being taken seriously or being made fun of? Not worth it, right?

It is way easier to say you are not a feminist and still support gender equality rather than use a word that stirs up so much of controversy. Keeping silent about Feminism means being neutral, ensuring one’s safety in a social circle.

If a man dares to call himself a Feminist in front of his guys… Oh well! What a loser, right?

Another point that should be considered is the influence of celebrities and personalities. If influential people like Meryl Streep, Katy Perry or Kareena Kapoor openly declare that they are not feminists, it does validate the ideology of people who think that Feminism is not a very righteous movement.

Then there are some who have taken upon themselves to defame Feminism in every way possible. One shall find comments like:

‘Feminism is Cancer’

‘Men get raped too, ab feminism kaha gaya tumhara’

How does a crime committed by a woman get connected to a movement that is trying to fight for women’s rights? Why is this purposeful nitpicking done? To shame an entire movement on a wrong thing done by a woman? I am still trying to find out an answer to these questions but I did arrive on one of the reasons. It is the Fear of the unknown. The unknown being the future time and space where women and men will be truly be equals. Imagine that world. We do not even realize that this fear exists within us, deep rooted somewhere. This fear is actually a result of years of our patriarchal upbringing. This fear makes us react to feminism in a negative way. And you shall find that such reactions come with their own logical and defensive reasoning which you might or might not agree with.

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If she is a feminist, she knows her rights, she knows she has a right to speak and can take a decision. Basically, she has an opinion and she might not easily give in. Am I (friend who is a boy, father, male cousin, elder sister, mother, mother in law, etc.) ready to believe that she has an opinion? Am I ready to agree to a woman’s opinion? Am I ready to accept that a woman knows better? Am I ready to give a woman the right to decide things for herself and do things without taking permission? Are we ready to share the ‘throne’? The throne of privilege. The throne that gives more power and privilege to some!

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Malvika Madhan

Serving outrage and humour, swag anusaar.

About the Author

Malvika Madhan

Serving outrage and humour, swag anusaar.

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