Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Confessions, fear & need for approval

I have a dislike for religious extremism and patriarchy. Rather, if it wasn’t for the rampant patriarchy in religion, and a firm belief at age 11 that Allah was indeed a man and hence the inequality between men and women, I might still have been a religious person, albeit a moderate one. For this very reason I had to hear countless lectures from friends, family, even acquaintances that I will end up being a lonely feminist.  ‘Lonely’ because men do not like women who question too much, especially if questions are somehow targeting their perception and understanding of freedom. And if men don’t like me, it means they will not woo me, and I will die an unhappy, cranky spinster like Ms Shaheen at my school.

This brings us to this extreme disdain society as a whole has against remaining single, especially in case of women. It has so many negative connotations attached. A single woman is a woe, a burden on society, and only now have I been able to rationalize this for myself a little. I figure that women in this patriarchal society only have importance as baby machines, and if they are not producing babies, they are a burden on the resources, on the family and on a society. And related to this same idea of single women being a burden, problem, temptation, etcetera etcetera are many other negative ideas, stereotypes and biases.

One idea that always annoys me, is how people keep arguing that a strong single woman who abides by rules is actually doing so because she ‘needs some’? It sounds to me the height of sexism and I have never been able to rationalize it, no matter how hard I tried. On the other hand, the same traits in a man are considered a virtue. He is a man of principle, is the usual description of men who abide by rules, not that they are stuck up and need to get laid.

The other thing that bothers me is looking at some women whimpering around angry men. I observed this around me that often women try to compromise on anything and everything – with fault or without – at home, at work, in public places. Rather if women do not do so, they are looked at as domineering and controlling. However, again it seems that what is considered a good thing for a man, namely being controlling and domineering, it turns into a vise when a woman is domineering and controlling. It stupefies me to witness this imbalance and cruelty.

And last but not the least, the most cumbersome I find are the women who despite understanding (I could be totally wrong here though) misogyny and sexism, continue to tolerate sexist jokes, sexual innuendos and outright objectification of women. By the way, during my teenage years I have laughed at sexist jokes, I thought it would be hypocritical of me not to admit that. It took me a while to realize that the more I laughed, the more guys got leeway, to the point where I myself became a direct object of ridicule for them. However, my excuse was I was hardly exposed to feminism at that time. I did not have unlimited access to the internet and the school library had more ‘Sweet Valley’ books and ‘Disney programs’. Meanwhile, the society insisted on feminism being an evil idea which corrupts girls and reduces them to lonely crackpots or lesbians (And I have nothing against lesbians, rather I am pro LGBT rights - thought a disclaimer was necessary here).

May be I should reconsider my assessment of other girls in that matter, although, in case of women with unlimited access to internet in this age of information, I find it difficult to forgive them. Most of us suffer from the fear of being rejected and are always striving to find approval for things we do or say, though the extent to which a person would go for this varies. I am willing to consider the idea that some girls do not want to be labeled as uptight feminists who are of course unpopular among most men, and hence laugh more than necessary on sexist jokes. What I cannot forgive them for, is joining the ranks of the men who are indulging in sexist behavior and pointing fingers at feminists for being too uptight. This behavior gives the already bloated male ego a boost. Some people do not want to be rejected by the society; some don’t want to be rejected by their family, friends or acquaintances. Staying quiet is fine, but the fear of rejection should not be an excuse to join the ranks of the aggressors.

1 comment:

  1. It's a man's world and it has been so for at least five hundred millenia. I'm all for a world where every rule in place is based on gender equality, but we have to undo half a million years of patriarchal mindset. It's going to take time. A lot of time.