I am a fifteen-year-old girl living in India, and I am a feminist.
I feel the need to be a feminist, not because it’s the new “in” thing today, but because feminism is about my rights. The fact that my sister can’t get out of her dorm room after seven, while her male friends can, is why I need feminism. The fact that my teacher asks me to wear a longer skirt to school is why I need feminism. The fact that the highest paid actress gets paid fifteen crore for a film, while the highest paid actor gets paid sixty crore for the same amount of work on a film is why I need feminism. The fact that boys in my class say that they don’t care about feminism because it isn’t about them, is why I need feminism. Why do we have to remind boys that they have mothers and sisters to make them respect women? The fact that we have to justify feminism is why I need feminism.
But, I have, and I bet you too, read tons of articles about why feminism is important. And if you are a feminist and a girl, I bet you can come up with many more examples than I gave you. But instead of giving reasons of why we need feminism, I thought it would be better to defy reasons of why we don’t.
If you are an anti-feminist, I suggest you read further. Your opinion is yours, sure, but your opinion is also affecting half of the world. Speaking as a girl, feminism is not about having a strong headlong political opinion because you have to. It is solely about rights, inflicting upon the world only the uplifment of those at a disadvantage.
So, here’s what I say to your (anti-feminist’s) argument:
1. A teenager shouldn’t have such a strong opinion about a political issue.
With every political issue, there are two very strong opposite debates. As we become adults, we start following a particular party, or a particular leader and we form this idea in our mind that we clutch till death do us part. But when we are teenagers, we are not supposed to care about such things. We are supposed to form a simple opinion, change it if someone convinces us otherwise, and then put permanent glue to it the minute we turn eighteen. I heard my aunt whispering to my mom once that it’s not healthy for a teenage girl (referring to me) to feel so strongly about a political issue at such a tender age. So, what you’re saying is that, when I hear about rape cases and acid attacks on girls, I am not supposed to question the fact that why is it that girls are always targeted? Why is it that girls are treated as objects? Why is it that girls are made to play with Barbie’s and boys with racecars? At this age, I cant understand what would be better for the country and its economy, but I can decide what would be better for me, and what is right or wrong.
Don’t stop me from deciding what’s sexist and what’s not; because this isn’t about an opinion or a social cliché, it’s about my life. If I don’t raise a voice about what’s wrong with women’s conditions starting right now, the world will have one voice less, decreasing the number of already meagre people who want women to be treated equally as men. The fact that I have an opinion about women getting raped and wanting to be in charge of my own body is not extreme. Wanting equal rights is a political, social and economic issue, and it affects every girl from the moment she is born. Feminism is important. Girls need it. The world needs it.
2. You’re just saying this because you heard it in a movie or saw it on an actresses’ Instagram.
Yeah, maybe I am. Maybe I was anti-feminist until I came across Emma Watson’s Instagram account. Or maybe I saw Thelma and Louise, and turned into a feminist. Maybe, I attended Ashley Judd’s talk and decided that feminism is something I wanted to feel strongly about (which is actually what happened with me). I don’t see what’s wrong with that. If a movie, or an Instagram account, or a quote, or a book lead me to broaden my confined mind, ask questions about socially accepted unfair conventions, turn my friends into feminists, then what is wrong with that? I know some movies are superficial and unrealistic but if they carry a real message and change me as a person for the better, what is wrong with that? My school isn’t teaching me about something as salient as equal rights, so it makes sense that I grab every opportunity to hear about feminism and learn more. And so should you. Go read the story of Ashley Judd, or J.K Rowling or Malala Yousafzai. Maybe, they will change your stand.
3. The constitution already states that woman have equal rights.
Our Indian constitution states that all men and women regardless of religion, caste, gender or community must be treated fairly and equally at all times. However, it is not like the constitution is the gospel truth that everybody follows, and never, no matter what, breaks. The constitution also says that government officials are not to indulge in corruption, but we know that they do. The constitution is merely a rulebook. Yes, it provides us equal rights, but it doesn’t bind everyone to act on it. Women have equal rights in the sense that they are allowed to vote. They are allowed to practice all professions. Their testimony in court is worth a man’s, but the social construct is still restricting women. The constitution paints an ideal situation that we hope one day will be the reality, but it still isn’t the reality.
4. My mom works.
Really? I eat potatoes. What does that or the fact that your mom works have to do with anything? Your mom works, is not the point. The point is that she might still be treated unfairly in her place of work. If she is the CEO of a big company, she must have worked double as hard as hard as any man would have to work to get into her position and be taken seriously. Ask her. The fact that your mom works shows women empowerment, it doesn’t show women equality.
5. Not all men.
True. Not all men are sexist, or rapists, or violent. But enough are. When a girl walks down an empty road at night, or day even, she will be scared of those two boys sitting on bikes staring at her. She read a rape case too today, in the newspaper. Actually, there were many, she just couldn’t get over the horrors of the first one to read more. All she wants is to reach safely home.
It’s possible the men weren’t staring at her. Maybe they were just looking at the bag pack on her shoulders and wondering where she got the Harry Potter merchandise. But let’s face it, chances are they were not. It is easier to believe that not every guy is like that, but when you do so, you are living in denial. There is a reason why there are fewer rape cases of men than there are of women’s. Women are at a disadvantaged position right now.
The way I see it, men are scared to be generalized, because they don’t want to be seen as sexual predators who look for victims with gun in their hands when they are actually nice people. Don’t you see it? Women’s condition is exactly the same. The way men don’t want to get generalized for being rapists; women don’t want to get generalized for being weak. Then why aren’t we fighting for this together?
6. I am a guy. It doesn’t affect me. Why should I care about it?
Well, because we don’t want humanity to die. Sexism affects men. Men are told to control their emotions, to act “macho”, to play cricket, to not cry. And you (if you are an anti-feminist and a guy) are so absorbed in this social spiral, that you forget that you’re human. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not like sports. It’s okay to not work out or have abs. Besides, the fact that it affects you too shouldn’t be the only reason why you participate in equality debates. If there is so much sexual harassment, and exploitation, and rape cases, don’t you think that as a human with a heart, belonging to this world, you should raise your voice? It does affect you. But it doesn’t have to affect you for you to care about it.
7. And lastly, boys don’t like this. You won’t get a boyfriend or a husband like this.
Boo freakin hoo. The fact that there are boys out there, who won’t like me for raising my voice for my rights, proves why we need feminism. I wasn’t born to live up to what others want and expect. And if a boy is frail enough to not date or marry a girl with a voice, a feminist (gasp), then I can live without him, thank you very much.