For a long time now, I have had “How wrong activists destroy noble movements” as a blog topic in my notes. I never got around to writing it because it is a topic ranging across movements and beliefs and I knew it would end up being too long, even for my standards. I guess the best way is to start with one movement and how that is derailed by the very people who call themselves “activists” or the ones it is supposed to benefit. The rest could maybe follow in another blog someday.
It is no secret that I am a proud feminist who stands for everything that the movement is truly about – equality of sexes. That in itself is the be all and end all of every social cause that came up in different waves of this movement and became a part of it. The ultimate understanding that gender should never be a factor that stands against someone in wanting to be treated equally with respect, dignity and fairness. I have written numerous blogs about how people demean this word and movement without even understanding what it truly is about.
However, the major issue that feminism as a movement faces is the way a lot of pseudo-activists, who call themselves feminists with no idea of what it really is, have tried to make feminism a platform for sexism. What they do is nothing but a role reversal of what male chauvinists (not just males, but females too) do. And in the process, they destroy this movement that has been the blood and sweat of so many sincere and genuine feminists over decades.
I was added to a popular feminist group from Kerala a while back and felt proud that it had quite a high number of members, men and women. After staying in the group for a month or two, I finally left the group because it was plain that under the garb of feminism, it was something else that they were trying to sell to their followers. What they have been consistently doing, like a lot of similar activists that I have come across on social media, is twisting the usage “Women supporting other women” to mean “Women supporting other women, no matter what they have done”. Of course, everyone has his/her own choices in life and judging others for that or trying to put them down is wrong. In fact, I have written a blog about how woman can be woman’s worst enemy sometimes when the ones whose souls are so deeply corrupted by patriarchal and misogynistic conditioning attack those who struggle to find an equal footing or stand up for what is right. But that should not mean that whatever a woman does, no matter how gravely wrong it is, you should still justify her or find lame reasons to support her actions, and then call that feminism!
The group I mentioned above became unbearable for me in selling that propaganda. And the last nail on the coffin came when I saw a post regarding a woman who was arrested for aiding her boyfriend to kill her husband, child and husband’s mother, only so that she could start a life with him. In the first place, I don’t know if such people are absolute fools to believe that they can get away with something like that and have a happily-ever-after – but that is irrelevant here. Of course, whenever such a news piece comes out in our country, there would be the torchbearers of “culture and tradition” that send out generalized statements about how women should always be controlled to prevent disasters like this, portraying every man as a “hero who sacrifices his life and luxury to feed his wife and children and still has a chance of being betrayed by his wife”, and shaming any woman who has walked out of a marriage or found a partner after splitting from her husband. While that is outrageous, it is equally outrageous that you try to buy ‘sympathy votes’ for this particular woman or any woman who has done something like this, only because she is a woman and you need to further your cause of showcasing all women as victims, conveniently using our shitty patriarchal system as an excuse for a crime as grave as this.
And that is exactly what this group did – putting up a long post about how women have always been chained in their relationships, how it has been made almost impossible for women to get out of an abusive or loveless relationship, how her own family and society shun her if she even thinks of getting a divorce etc. All valid points – but definitely not to be used to make this incident look like “She was pushed to take such an extreme step!” I feel deep sympathy for women who have for years together put up with a bad marriage because of our society. Honestly, in very rare cases, I have also felt sympathy for some helpless women who had to resort to physical assault and even murder of their husbands as a form of self-defence to save themselves, after having been physically tortured all through their marriage and been at the verge of being killed. Not that I condone violence or murder, but I could imagine how utterly desperate they would have been when faced with death at the hands of a brute and impulsively looked for some way to not die.
But to give such benefits of doubt to this woman, or any woman for that matter, who plans and executes a murder, or aides someone in doing that, to get out of a marriage – no matter how bad it is – that is obnoxious! To see that post about how it is only the society’s fault at the end of the day –that made me sick. Yes, we have a pathetic society and that is to blame for a lot of wrongs happening around. But that does not make everyone here a murderer who thinks it is okay to kill their spouse and anyone else who could be a liability, for another shot at love. It is ultimately the person you are inside. And to subtly justify such a woman’s actions to hold up the good name of your gender only makes you a very distant accomplice to her wrongs too.
This is simply one example of how even for extreme crimes, justifications are wrongly offered by misusing the word ‘feminism’. This is also only one example of how many women exhibit hypocrisy in using the feminist keyword of equality when they need it, but conveniently forget it at other times. I have seen it happen time and again, in different scenarios, sometimes in absolutely annoying ways. A woman I knew who had equal opportunities in education and career, told us quite shamelessly the reason she turned down a marriage proposal. Apparently, she spoke to the guy a couple of times and when they met, she told him that if they got married, she would want their honeymoon at a foreign destination as it was a huge dream of hers. The guy replied that they could do it as long as she was ready to bear half the expenses. Even if he didn’t really owe her an explanation, he also told her that he was already paying EMI on a home loan for a new apartment and so the entire cost of a foreign honeymoon was going to be difficult for him. I still remember the contempt I felt for this woman when she said “Of course I said no to the proposal! What kind of guy asks the bride to bear half the expenses of the honeymoon?!”
In addition to these, there is a more toxic kind of pseudo-feminists – the ones who believe feminism is nothing but an aggressive Man Vs Woman competition that they need to win, and resort to generalizing all men as enemies, never have a calm, sensible discussion about anything if it is a man on the other side as if being aggressive and even abusive is the only way to prove their point, always accusing men of being the culprits even in situations where women have clearly been wrong, and forgetting that it is about equality and not superiority of either gender. I have never understood why they think feminism is about hating the opposite gender. Sure, the “Not all men” retorts that we see are more or less like the “All lives matter” retorts that downplay the real issue that needs to be focused on. It definitely has to do with those (again, males and females) who think of feminism as a ‘plague’. But I can’t help wondering if it isn’t these pseudo-feminists who are providing the male chauvinists more fodder for their anti-feminism campaign with their own counter-campaign that is sexist and toxic – something that a true feminist will never support. And that is not victim-shaming; that is just calling a spade a spade!
And then of course, there are ones who think the tagline “Fight against Patriarchy” is not effective, but need to bring in some political mileage by saying instead “Fight against Brahminical Patriarchy”.
“Patriarchy (noun) – a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it”
Isn’t this exactly what we are fighting against in the fight for equality as feminists? It is an issue of global impact that we are talking about here, not just about India – across religions, across societal classes, rich and poor – everywhere, how women have predominantly been asked to stay down and stay beneath men for centuries. And while there are so many articles explaining how “Brahminical patriarchy” has nothing against a particular community or anything political, it is funny that the usage was coined when there is an all-encompassing word already for the issue – “Patriarchy”. Sly inclusion of political propaganda into an already meaningful and powerful feminist tagline – not really the purest of intentions that the pioneers of feminism stood for, sorry. (Already wrote another blog on how the noble fight against casteism is being ruined by hate-mongering activists. So, let’s leave it at that.)
People ask why it isn’t called “Humanism” instead of “Feminism” if it is about gender equality, without understanding that the weaker section who had to be empowered to rise and believe that they weren’t inferior happened to be females, and sadly, that even in this era, it is still a long way to go in achieving that. Even people who stand up for equality give disclaimers like “Not that I am a feminist” as if it is a shame, without realizing that if you are a sensible person who believes that everyone has equal rights, equal opportunities and equal freedom, irrespective of gender, you are a feminist – because in a beautiful way, it is as simple as that. I just hope that the beauty and power of this noble movement do not get diminished, only because there is a growing section of women who think of this as a “fad” to spread the negativity and injustice within themselves by misusing the title ‘feminist’. Because if they succeed in it, then it is a loss for all women and all of mankind in someday achieving an “equal world”. I hope there are enough and more true feminists left in the world to negate this section of pseudo-activists and take the legacy and the battle forward with dignity.