“Gosh…you sound like a feminist!”

I hear the word ‘feminist’ and I blanch. I can’ help it – it’s just a reflex reaction. I cannot imagine a higher insult than being referred to as a feminist. In fact, my whole life, one thing I’ve tried to avoid like plague is that very tag. Every word I speak, every opinion I present have all been carefully analyzed to sieve off their feministic hues.

For to be a feminist is to be anti-men (Erm… is that a word? Don’t think so). Feminism has always, and probably will always, be synonymous with the assumption that you are man-hating liberal. Even amongst quite reasonable groups, feminism is still seen as “too radical, too uncomfortable, or simply unnecessary.” Hell… I, being a female, find feminists too extreme in their opinions. Having been educated in a co-ed school since kindergarten and a co-ed college thereafter, there has never been a dearth of male friends. Such wonderful people too. So to challenge or tussle with their every move and word, often said in jest – not my cuppa tea.

It was only recently, during a conversation with a friend (a male friend, might I add) that I realised that I‘d been approaching this island from the wrong direction my entire life. Feminism, I was told, has never been about being anti-men. It has never been, or it should never have been about establishing the superiority of women over men. A feminist, in simplistic terms, is someone who advocates equal rights for women. You’d be interested to know that the opposite of a feminist is not a chauvinist. Rather, a man who believes that men should have the same rights as women is called a `hominist’. (This is not a new word. George Bernard Shaw coined it in 1903 in his preface to `Ma and Superman’, I’m told)

To put it very simply, I believe in equality of men and women. I realize that men and women are physically and emotionally poles apart, they have different capabilities. I also realize that alkalis are as important as acids in chemistry. The reason feminists often divert from their path of ‘equality of men and women’ to ‘equality over men’ is because women, let’s face the facts here, do face problems which are more severe, persistent and critical in nature. It is one thing to be free to work after your marriage and choosing not to – totally different scene if you are forbidden to work at all. Being okay with girls drinking doesn’t imply that you’ll find me at the Joys Palace after 6.00.

It pisses me off when I see posts in Facebook that contains a picture of a girl who is drenched with captions like “How would you feel if this was your sister?” It disappoints me to see friends of mine share it. It cripples me that not one of them had the courage to abuse the photographer who went into such pains to take a photo of the girl without her consent.  Does that make me a feminist?

And just so you know, one doesn’t need to personally go through something traumatic to be angry about moral policing and sexism. Recognition and disdain of injustice or abuse do not necessarily stem from one’s significant experience.  For me, they came from looking around and noticing, comparing, and realizing.

So now, for me, feminism is all about having a choice. And having no one hover around you, making sure that you choose the “right” one.