Friday, November 14, 2008

Am I a Feminist?

Tag ed by cris

I once got into trouble for confessing that “Feminism is not my cup of tea”. Ever since, I nod emphatically in agreement when asked it I am a feminist.

Am I a feminist?

I guess all women are that, without quite realizing it. By nature, I don’t make a song and dance of it, and am quite indulgent to male chauvinism wherever and whenever I have to deal with it. I don’t get very vocal or hyterical but keep my cool and usually have my way without any friction. You can say that I'm one hell of a survivor in this patriarchal world!

But there were a few occasions when I chose to stiffly resist the entrenched gendered thinking. On this one occasion that i'm about to talk about in this post, it was in the domestic front, and the fury and intensity of my reaction to a typical situation were , at that moment, inexplicable even to me. Looking back I think what provoked the full activation of the feminist in me was my anxiety not to pass on the legacy of male chauvinism to the next generation. As a woman, that’s the least I could do for our sex.

On that particular day, my help had not turned up.

We had a huge compound with every tree under the sun in the front yard, and, if the fallen leaves were not removed twice a day, the yard would look like the Sleeping Beauty’s palace compound when Prince Charming came a hundred years later to wake her up with a kiss (would some one like to offer a feminist reading of that tale?).

I started cleaning the compound. My daughter, as was usual when the help didn’t turn up, came out, took a broom and started sweeping from the othe r end of the compound. I insisted she go back to her books as she had a test that day. The poor kid went away, looking very guilty and feeling very sorry for me. A few minutes later ,my seven year old son Mathew came to the verandah, and seeing me clean the compound started to help me. This was the first time I saw him at this work and was pleasantly surprised to see he was doing a good job of it. I allotted a portion of the yard to him and together we continued clearing the compound. Just then, his grandfather, a octogenarian came out into the veranda and was heading for his armchair when he noticed Mathew sweeping. I saw him stare incredulously and then go back into the house.

A minute later, his grandmother came, all upset and ordered Mathew to stop what he was doing.
“Go in Mathew, Don’t you have anything to study?”
“No.I’m helpimg amma”
“I’ll do it. Why should YOU do it”(don't miss the emphasis on 'you')
“Why shouldn’t he do it?”, that was me. Why was I reacting like that, I wondered. Why was i creating an unnecessary situation early in the morning?
“He’s a boy”. I coulldn’t believe my ears.
By then, Mathew had dropped the broom and had started back ”Mathew”, I called. “Finish what you are doing”
He came back and picked up the broom.
“Give the broom to me, Mon”. His grandmother was very diplomatic. ”I love doing this. Let me do it”
“There’s one more broom, amma”, I persisted. “Use that if you want to sweep”.
“We don’t need three people to do this”
“There’s enough compound for four people”.
She turned to Math and very gently told him to run inside and have the boost that’s kept ready on the dining table.
“Mathew can have his Boost after he finishes the portion allotted to him”
“But, but, he’s a boy, Molly. Boys shouldn’t be doing this”
“Where in the Bible has Jesus Christ stated thus?”, I asked quietly, unkindly. But I had to say it. I had to make a point. And Christ. I believe . is the greatest feminist ever.
She gave up, and went into the house, looking very worried about how she is going to convince her husband that there’s nothing wrong with a boy sweeping the compound.
My feminist blogs:; - except Deshamsam ?10%, the peoms have feminist themes, written during that phase in my life(and every woman's life) when resentment of the "man's world' turned me temporarily into a third rate poet.

Am tagging

Strange that i have three males on my list? Well, their views on "FEMINISM' will complete the picture :-)


  1. Thanks for doing the tag KT :-). The simple anecdote said it all!

  2. Aaaagh!!!!

    This will be my toughest post yet :)

  3. I may have become a feminist if I was bought up in a typical family. But my dad ensured that there was no stereotyping in the house. So I don't have that defensiveness which women who have endured male chauvinism have. I used to end up frustrating our mallu MCP's by being absolutely bewildered by their notions. Now I understand why they think a girl should sit quietly (adangi odhungi), do girly chores etc. Earlier I should to wonder why they say that! Off course I scoffed it off! But I don't know whether to call me a feminist or not.

  4. Now that was a very good post. There's sexism everywhere, in the house, out of the house.

    Feminism isn't something just for women, men should be feminists too, if you ask me. No I'm not saying that they should help in women's emancipation or something, but they should help themselves, because patrairchy doesnt just opress women, it opresses men too by laying out set rules. Women suffered more. That's all.

    Patriarchy affected everyone's life right from growing up. blue for boys, pink for girls, cars for boys, dolls for girls. If a boy got hurt while climbing a tree, his parents ask him to be tough and not to cry, but if a girl gets hurt, she's asked not to climb a tree again and made to cry more. No wonder women are more emotional than men, because men were never allowed to be in touch with their emotions.

    Oops, wrote too much for a comment I guess :S

  5. Nice Post KochuT. Good to get the boys do the tag too.. Co-incidence we ended up having the same title for this tag!

  6. hey ammai,
    good post again.. and here i feel i can actually contribut a bit as compared to ur others :)

    "But, but, he’s a boy, Molly. Boys shouldn’t be doing this"

    to be honest, mathew's granda could be excused in his views about guys not doing menial chores... admit it, he grew up at "that" time :P

    i know things are changing now.. women getting a lot more equal treatment than before... but not on par.

    here i get this free newspaper everyday, and theres this readers section in it, and most of it is by commuters and their "adventures" while travellin into city centre...

    the topic of men not giving up their seat for elderly/pregnant women always comes up... and always its the women complaining that men should be the ones giving up their seats. i do agree to an extent... BUT... women ask to be treated the same as men... yet they're a bit hesitant to give up little comforts like that arent they??

    sexism is one thing... but when u get past that barrier you have to stick with it and not have half and half :)

  7. One of your nieces!!!!4:36 AM, November 15, 2008

    Well, how about it, if a hard-working practical woodcutter found Sleeping Beauty and offered her some kattan kappi or whisky or whatever he was carrying in his flask/kuppi and revived her? :-D

  8. @ silverne
    you are singularly lucky to have grown up without listening to "enthokey paranjaalum, nee oru pennaley".
    "But I don't know whether to call me a feminist or not."
    i think you should first define to yourself what the term means and what it does not mean.
    @ freya
    yes, one doesnt have to be a woman to be a feminist.anyone who believed that no one is born a woman but made one,(not biologically :-)) is a feminist.
    @ seema
    werent u tagged by cris?
    @ prasanth
    is this really prasanth from ireland? god! u've grown up boy. how discerning for a kid like u! do continue sending in ur comments.
    @ one of my nieces
    there is only one person in this big big world who can come up with that!

  9. @prasanth re:bus seats for pregnant women

    I remember being about 8 months pregnant and trying to bend down to fill air in my car tires (that's not unusual for the average 'liberated' female, in the US.) An elderly man who had stopped to fill up his car's tank walked over, took the air nozzle from me and proceeded to do it for me. I was taken aback, but relieved. So, if you ever had the capacity to be pregnant, you would know what this kind of 'outdated chivalry' can mean in simple human terms.

  10. i'm 18... the kid ran out the door... or so i think :) haha

  11. @Prasanth:

    "...yet they're a bit hesitant to give up little comforts like that aren't they??"

    Little comforts? You call sitting down and resting your feet from carrying a big belly a little comfort? You are the typical Indian male who will probably make a pregnant woman come to work the next day after giving birth arguing that men don't get three month off like her so why should she!! You need you head examined!

  12. @sujatha ... yes i understand that.. i was just saying my side of the story(and contributing to the argument)... and i do think there are decent men around :) (i consider myself 1..*boasting :D:D*).. just you may not see them around as much...

    a simple example on chivalry is.. that most people here open doors for others/hold doors open when they pass through for the nxt person in india and variations of that... i came to india for holidays and i quite missed it... i found myself doing it a lot though :P

  13. This was a beautiful post. I have seen this attitude too. If all mothers remember how powerfully they can influence the new generation, we can make so much difference!

  14. Prashanth Feminism is about justice and equality, not about being like men :)'Equal' is not 'Same'. So when women talk about being equal it means they shouldn't be considered lesser just because maybe they can lift lighter weights.

  15. May your tribe of Mom's increase.

    Here's something a "friend" of mine from bombay told me 2 years ago. "I have given birth to two boys and am very proud of it"

    Another 30 something who is this so called liberated modern, can-do anything woman says "It is easier to raise boys" and she also says, "i need a man only for sex"

    How would you react to the above ?

    My personal take is this - I am a human being. Treat me like one. There is no other way.

  16. @ anrosh
    "How would you react to the above ?" what can on say other than may they have some nirvanic experience which will remove the film from their eyes.
    women, who have internalised that social .cultural and historical construct called 'woman', are the worst perprators of gender discrimination - i am always wary of their passionate resistance to the concept of gender equality in conversation. very sad!
    yes. i am a human being.period. nothing more need to be said

  17. @ indain homemaker
    the trouble is, all mothers wont. see anrosh's comment.

  18. Hello KPJ :)

    As far as I know modern women are fiercely independent, demand equal rights, opportunities and pay.

    However, the incident you have mentioned looks like a squabble between mother- in- law and daughter- in- law. This always happens when you live with in -laws.

    The best thing to do to avoid such friction is to live separately.

    Best wishes :)

  19. @ joseph pulikotil
    no sir. it's not a squabble - and i think this notion of in law squabbles are outdated. today all concerned are sensible and allow each other their space which has made in law relationships very smooth.
    actually you are trivialising the whole issue by explaining it away as an in law squabble. it was a conflict between gendered mindset(centuries old patriarchal legacy) and the concept of gender equality - to use that cliche-a confrotation between tradition and modernity.

  20. Hi KPJ :)

    My conclusion is based on the following points:

    1)Your father is an octogenarian and has seen the ups and downs of life. You have a long way to go and on the threshold of many more trials and tribulations; joy and happiness.

    2)You love your son. You want to instill discipline, teach him to do things on his own and prepare him to become a responsible citizen. Your father in law dotes on him and loves him also

    3)He is worried that his grandson will get dust and dirt on himself by sweeping the yard, he may get infection or get hurt. Old people worry about things like this about their loved ones.

    4)I guessed that there is friction between you and your father in law because he did not speak to you directly. Neither did you talk to him directly to find out what was the reason he didn’t want your son to sweep the yard. Instead, you assumed that it was gender bias and aired it on your post accusing him of patriarchal mind set.

    5)I believe he would have said the same if it was his grand-daughter who was sweeping the yard. He will not make a distinction between boy and girl. All his grandchildren are dear and precious to him in spite of sex.

    Hence I inferred that the incident is a case bickering between you and your in- laws.

    I don’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes to deduce this. It is very elementary :) :) :)

    If you still want me to admit that it is a case of gender bias, I am absolutely delighted to accept your decision.

    Have a nice day :)

  21. @Joseph Pulikotil You missed the point I think, the child was told not to clean the yard because he is a boy, it was fine if the mother, sister or grand mother cleaned the yard. It is common in India to consider some jobs too lowly for men, but not for women.

    I think it is important to teach your children to respect their mothers,and all women. KPJ did that. We worship women but assign them jobs which men won't do?
    I am sure her in laws will respect her wish to instill good values in her child. Why should it cause friction? Do you mean they are so unreasonable that they will make it an ego issue?

  22. @Joseph Pulikotil -- I'm KPJ's niece -- After reading your second set of comments, I could not resist writing this: "You are RIGHT about one thing and that is ..... YOU ARE NO SHERLOCK HOLMES AND NOWHERE CLOSE TO BEING ONE!!!!!"

  23. aw shucks!u want me to jump into the fray..? like silverine said i grew up in an environment that fostered the individual in me...and i brought up my only child-my daughter-to be both aggressive n passive(acc to the situation),both assertive n cooperative,both sensitive n competitive.but if refusing to accept timidly what the patriarchal society dishes out makes me a feminist,then I AM!!!


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