Why I am a Feminist – Rita Banerji

“Why are you a Feminist?” is actually not a question. It is a defense that some women are now having to make to a majority of women world-wide. A majority which thinks that now that women have the vote (even if not in all countries yet) and can apply to most jobs (even if not all yet), Feminism’s time is out. All it is – is an oddball, angry outfit that makes all women look bad. Look bad to whom? To men, of course! If women want men to like them, many believe they must rid the world of Feminism. In an oddly circular way the reason they believe that is because that’s what men are telling them: Want us love you, get rid of Feminism.

So even as I will do my bit by explaining ‘why I am a feminist,’ I also need to state how strange I think it is that I (or for that matter anyone) even needs to explain. It’s not just having to explain—to women—that’s strange, but also the aversion I see in most women towards Feminism is puzzling to me!! It’s weird because it is like an African-American having to explain why they are civil rights activists to other colored people who happily use the rights the civil rights activists have fought for, but hate being identified with the anti-racism movement!!!

So here goes:

1) I am a feminist because I am an individual, who wants a gender-just society, and not just because I am a woman. Therefore, even if I was a man, I would still be a feminist, like many men are! It is not about my gender, but about my ideology as an individual. Just as the civil rights movement was supported by some white people who like the black civil rights activists wanted a racially just society.

2) I am a feminist because as a woman I want to live on and occupy this earth with the same freedom and nonchalance as men. I don’t know what planet the anti-feminist people live on, but more than 98% of the land and resources of the planet that I inhabit—called EARTH—by the U.N.’s 2012 estimate is owned and controlled by men! Women own less then 2%. For me, that is already a mind-blowing, unacceptable, and fundamental inequality. It’s the equivalent of slavery!

3) I am a feminist because women don’t have the most basic of human rights – the right to live safely, simply because they are female. By 2030, India will have systematically eliminated 20% of women from its population, annihilated both before and after birth — only because they are female. And China will have similarly eliminated 20% of its female population. Since these two countries together constitute 40% of the human population, the implication of this is global. This is a genocide – the systematic and deliberate destruction of a targeted human group—on a scale that’s historically unprecedented. Furthermore, there’s not one country in the world where women are not subjected to one or another form of violence, like rape, sex-trafficking, “domestic” violence, random femicides, lethal customs like FGM — because of their gender. Women live in fear of their safety and lives, inside and outside their homes, everywhere, all the time, in a way that men never have to. Yet, governments and international bodies don’t see this as a violation of the basic human rights of a group that constitutes one-half of the human race. They just relegate it to the ‘domestic’ bin, along with cooking, cleaning and laundry!!

4) I am a feminist because I understand that I am a part of the social momentum for a just and humane society. There are rights that I am fighting for today, like the fundamental right to life and safety for girls and women everywhere, which may not be realized in my lifetime. But this I must do for the generations of girls and women to come, just as today as a woman there are certain rights I have, only because the women (and some men) before me fought for those rights for my generation.

Sometime ago, a friend who has two daughters, one of who dreams of becoming an astronaut, was telling me about how she wants this and that for her daughters, like she would for her sons, and then shuddering, like she was shaking off some insects that had crawled on her, she said, “But I am not a feminist!”

And I replied, “That you certainly aren’t! To be a feminist you need to be fighting for girls and women to have equal rights and access to all things, to life, like boys and men. Then there is the “feminist user.” That is – people who directly or indirectly use rights that women and girls are already entitled to only because feminists have fought for these rights. “Feminist users” are important as well! For it is only when rights are used, that they are strengthened. You however fall into the category of a “shameless feminist user.” You curse the very people who fought for the rights that you use, and that you hope will help your daughters’ lives in the future!”

I think that ever man and woman, who wants all the girls and women in his/her family and community to lead a life of dignity with every right and freedom that every human being is entitled to, needs to support the feminist movement worldwide.

Comments

  1. Michael says

    Great post, I think that stating that the only reason women who are against feminism is because they want men to like them is a bit naive and is part of the problem.

    I know many lesbians who have a skewed picture of feminism as well….their motivation is not men

    Sexism is about not judging or assuming things based on gender or sexual preference yeah?

    Apart from that minor, minor pet peeve, that was a really insightful article and I really want to thank you again for posting

    • says

      Valid point Michael. I suppose there are many other reasons why women don’t like to be called or associated with the Feminist movement. I know there are lots of women who feel that people will assume that they are gay! But as you point out, there are gay women who don’t associate with the feminist movement. Again I don’t understand why — gay, straight or any and all women are not supportive of the feminist movement. It is an absolute puzzle to me, because I can understand why men would have an issue in general. They don’t want to lose power. For the reason that the white majority in S. Africa or the U.S. were angry with the anti-racism movements. But why would women opposed a movement that fights for women’s rights? It’s irrational!

  2. R.G.Prasad says

    The day the world does not require us to state our sex, in the myriad of forms we fill thru life, but for gender specific issues; Feminism would have no place.

    Well, until then Burn your Bras, pull your hairs, we would be more than happy to beat your chests for you.

  3. GareBear says

    If you are for equal rights for everyone, then you are an egalitarian. You do not get to redefine terms simply because you want to.

    Feminism is about advancing women. It is not about equal rights. You do not get to make that claim. It is dishonest to do so.

    • says

      Feminism is about gender equality. This is the sense in which the word is typically used. You do not get to redefine terms simply because you want to. It is dishonest to do so.

  4. Harold Maple says

    “Want us love you, get rid of Feminism.”

    Sounds about right. We would get rid of people who spew outrageous claims like 98% of the world is owned by men. Governments, corporations, and the Queen of England – not men.

    We would get rid of female supremacists who argue, “like the fundamental right to life and safety for girls and women everywhere”, while completely ignoring that is is men who are the victims of more violence, and men who live shorter lives and much less support for their health. Ignoring the countless men who are trafficked for slave labour, and the extremely skewed views on domestic violence in the U.S. fostered by Feminist lobbyists, are yet more examples of how bad Feminism is at true equality.

    You would not be a Feminist if you were a man, Nasreen, as it is obvious to all that you fight ONLY for your gender.

    • malo says

      Yes, men suffer violence as well…….. at the hands of other men! Men commit far, far more violence than women do, so maybe if women had more influence, there would be less violence.

      “We would get rid of people who spew outrageous claims like 98% of the world is owned by men. Governments, corporations, and the Queen of England – not men.”

      Wow. You suck at common sense. The queen does not own England. And the OVERWHELMING majority of goverment and industry is owned by men, not to mention simple land ownership.

  5. Michael Steane says

    “I want a gender-just society.”

    So do I. I want a woman who wilfully accuses a man of rape when he is innocent to do a prison sentence commensurate with the one he would have done if he had been convicted.

    I want a woman who lies about being on the pill to be held to the same charge as a man who deceitfully removes a condom during sex.

    I want a man who chooses not to become a father to have the same opportunity as a woman who has the right to 1. an abortion, 2. an adoption and 3. anonymously giving up the baby.

    I want violent women to receive the same sentences as a man committing the same crime.

    I want an end to “positive discrimination against men.”

    • mynameischeese says

      ” I want a woman who wilfully accuses a man of rape when he is innocent to do a prison sentence commensurate with the one he would have done if he had been convicted.”

      That’s kind of weird. If Person A wrongfully accuses Person B of a crime (let’s say murder), Person A doesn’t serve the sentence Person B would have gotten for murder if they had been convicted. Rather, Person A serves a sentence for committing fraud. This is the case with any kind of crime, so why do you want a different set of rules for fraudulent rape accusations? Why are you especially concerned with fraudulent rape charges, so concerned that you specified fraudulent rape charges, and that you want to invent new legal rules so that it’s treated as a special kind of crime?

      That shows a really weird, skewed lack of priorities on your part, especially when you take into account that the amount of fraudulent rape accusations is at *the same level* as fraudulent accusations in general.

      And it shows an especially weird, skewed lack of priorities when you consider that genuine rape accusations far outnumber the cases of fraudulent claims.

      And it gets worse when you take into account the low prosecution rate for actual instances of rape.

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