"When was it that you went to a beauty parlour last?"
"Ummm.... I don't exactly remember."
"Last haircut? Last time that you painted your nails?"
"October? Or November, I think. I don't do stuff too feminine."
"And who defines what's feminine and what's not?"
That's a question I often ask myself. How do we define the characteristics and qualities that a woman must possess? Why is being feminine or for that matter, being a feminist looked down upon? Why have I avoided broching a discussion on why one shouldn't be called a feminist? What are the qualities attributed to a feminine feminist? Does being feminine always mean fluttering eyelashes, painted nails and pedicured feet? Does being a feminist always mean raising a slogan? Why have I avoided being called "too feminine" or "too feminist"? Can you be feminine and a feminist at the same time? Why is there a stereotype to everything?
The societal and cultural influences have shaped the frameworks of our perception of what's feminine and what's not and we react very strongly if anyone dares to go beyond that framework. I, for one, was encouraged to be a tomboy because anything "too girlish" was a waste of time. That was my parents' idea of breaking the conventions, going beyond what was considered to be a set pattern of how a girl should look like and behave. That was their idea of being a feminist. However, I do consider my mother a true feminist because she brought up a daughter and two sons in a manner that there was no gender discrimination on work allotted to us on a day-to-day basis. And trust me, she really went against the family conventions on this one flawlessly without raising her voice.
Breaking the barriers and societal frameworks from this basic a level was her idea of being a "feminist". My idea of "feminism" was more warped up and very confused. I was wary of being called a feminist in the first place. I almost believed that there's no world where equality could exist. I still believe that men and women come from two different planets, so there should be no comparison. I was judging rest of the world through a myopic point of view, which is what I have grown up with. But I certainly believe that the other half of the world deserves certain repsect, freedom of education, right to work, equal rights at the workplace and a sense of security in society by and large. And if that belief of mine labels me as a feminist, so be it.
I now have a daughter who was born ladylike, who is a total contrast to what I was brought up as. Don't be surprised if you find pancakes and lip balms and hair brushes in her barbie bag. No words of wisdom, no threats, no logic works here. She is born with her sensibility of being feminine in her own way. Who are we to judge her while she goes on to build her own notions and understandings of what she wants to grow up into? I will have to give her the right and the freedom to be what she wants to be. Without being judgemental.
I don't know if I want to turn her into a so called "feminist" or not. But I would surely want my son to be a feminist. My mother often says that the day we stop worrying about bringing up our daughters like sons and concentrate instead on bringing up our sons as daughters, the society will change. You will not have to fight for a balance within and outside of your family. That, unfortunately, is still a far-fetched dream.
Meanwhile I don't mind being labeled a feminist who is feminine in her own ways, who loves being a woman, who is happy to run a house and do her bit in contributing towards the government exchequer, who will have the courage to speak out for the lesser privileged ones and who will also have the strength to question the system if it infringes on her basic rights to live peacefully. That's my view on the "F" word. What is yours?