Sona Mahendra

Becoming a feminist

Sona Mahendra
Sona Mahendra

By Sona Mahendra

While texting a very good friend of mine with whom I was catching up, I confided in her something that I had started to discover about myself and so I had randomly added these words at the end of the message: “Also, I think I might be a feminist”, to which she replied, “…you only realised that now?”

After hearing the word ‘Feminist’ more often than usual in the last couple of months, from the shocking stories of the Delhi bus gang rape in India to the deplorable rape of 17-year-old Anene Booysen in South Africa, as well as the worldwide One Billion Rising Campaign, and reading into the history of Feminism more thoroughly than the precursory IEB history lesson, I have now started to consciously identify myself as feminist in the making.

In all honesty, I don’t understand how a young adult, especially a woman, in a still sexist and prejudiced society in the 21st century, could be anything but drawn to a movement that not only champions gender equality, but actively addresses all issues that directly affect us as women while attempting to ensure positive change takes place with regards to women’s rights worldwide. As an “average” 18-year-old girl, the more I read about the plight of millions of women (especially in my age category) who face gender based discrimination and violence on a daily basis, I feel appalled and feel that my life as a privileged member of society was a result of sheer luck.

From reading about nuanced sexism in the workplace to outright shameless sexual harassment on the streets, rape, honour killings, domestic violence, child marriage, deprivation of education and every other situation hindering a woman to live her life to the fullest, I find it very difficult to ignore feminism.

I was particularly shocked (and a little annoyed) to realise that there seemed opposition to the feminist movement not only from misogynists, but from women who were sincerely ignorant and oblivious as to why feminism is much needed in today’s world.

One such comment which prompted me to write this article was posted on itself, dated November 22, 2012 by a lady who described herself as a ‘very successful, thirty something, happily married business exec’. See the comment from Carine here.

After re-gaining my power of speech I realised that she did make one valid point. Women ARE definitely different from their male counterparts but regardless, should be considered equal.

But, surely after mentioning the many dangers that women face (in the previous paragraphs), how can one still be comfortable saying that we don’t need to ‘stand-up and be heard’? How do you attempt to explain the basis for all the mentioned crimes against women, without looking at the deep –rooted patriarchy and sexism that still is very prevalent in society?

The thing is you can’t.

By now, to the reader, I must have clearly and successfully fulfilled the stereotype of feminists as angry beings (and because I hate stereotypes, I find myself getting only angrier at thought of this) but I don’t logically understand opposition to feminism, especially from females. How can you disregard feminism as unimportant and unnecessary, something that you have so much to be thankful for:

  • Access to contraceptive measures
  • Access to abortion
  • Right to work
  • Right to education
  • Right to vote

The unity of women is vital for the success of feminism and we should look deep within ourselves to identify with this movement and read more avidly on the state of affairs regarding women. It should be a priority to educate ourselves and to keep reminding ourselves as to why feminism is important. I genuinely believe that feminism is needed now more than ever especially since we have seemed to have sunk into this complacent state after our basic human rights were fulfilled.

Ignoring feminism is too high a price to pay to accommodate our blissful lives that might have been less harmed by prejudiced practices. I believe that as an educated and privileged member of society, we have a responsibility towards other women who face the daily dilemma of discrimination. If we don’t stand up for ourselves and each other and speak up on issues that affect us, well, no one else will.

Oh, and a response to the silly ‘gender jokes’ and how feminists need to ‘lighten up’: it’s not about being too uptight to laugh at them or having a very poor sense of humour. The fact is, they aren’t particularly funny, especially since most of them are based almost entirely on stereotypes.

And like I said earlier, I hate stereotypes.


2 thoughts on “Becoming a feminist”

  1. Hi Sona! Welcome 🙂

    Your post reminds me of this: “Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions.. for safety on the streets… for child care, for social welfare… for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law. If someone says ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist,’ I ask ‘Why? What’s your problem?” – Dale Splendor, 1985


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