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I Am a Feminist MAG
I am a 15-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, but because feminism is about my rights. The fact that my sister can’t go out of her dorm room after 7 p.m. 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 earns 15 crore for a film, while the highest paid actor makes 60 crore for the same work is why I need feminism. The fact that boys in my class say 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 in order to make them respect women? The fact that we have to justify feminism is why I need feminism.
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 political opinion because you have to. It is solely about rights and uplifting those in the world who are at a disadvantage. Here’s what I hear anti-feminists arguing and how I respond:
1. A teenager shouldn’t have such strong opinions about political issues.
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. Yet, when I hear about rape cases and acid attacks on girls, am I not supposed to question why girls are always targeted? Why girls are treated as objects? At my age, I can’t fully understand the scope of my country’s problems or the complexity of its economy, but I can decide (and have strong opinions about) what feels right or wrong.
Don’t stop me from deciding for myself what’s sexist and what’s not. This is about more than an opinion or a social cliché; it’s about my life. If I don’t raise my voice about what’s wrong starting now, the world will have one voice less, decreasing the already meagre number of people who want women to be treated equal to men. The fact that I have an opinion about women getting raped and want 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 actress’s 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 led me to broaden my confined mind, ask questions about socially accepted unfair conventions, and turn my friends into feminists, then what is wrong with that? My school isn’t teaching me about something as salient as equal rights, so it makes sense that I would 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 how you think too.
3. The Constitution already states that women have equal rights.
Our Indian Constitution states that all men and women, regardless of religion, caste, 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 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. 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 the same as a man’s, but the social construct is still restricting women. The Constitution paints an ideal situation that we hope one day will be reality, but it isn’t reality yet.
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 working 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 may have had to work twice as hard as any man to get her position and be taken seriously. Ask her. The fact that your mom works shows empowerment; it doesn’t necessarily show 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 may feel scared of those two boys sitting on bikes staring at her. Maybe she read about a rape case just that day in the newspaper. All she wants is to reach home safely.
Men are scared to be generalized. They don’t want to be seen as sexual predators when they are actually nice people. Women’s conditions are exactly the same. Just as men don’t want to be generalized as rapists, women don’t want to be generalized as weak. So 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. Don’t 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 shouldn’t be the only reason why you participate in equality debates. If there is so much sexual harassment and exploitation and rape, 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 feminists. You won’t get a boyfriend or a husband.
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 so frail that he doesn’t want to date or marry a girl who has a voice – a feminist (gasp) – then I can live without him, thank you very much.