Let me share with you a very common experience. Somebody is giving a big speech: “In our country, we have suffered for centuries, women have been discriminated against in all our societies…,” this person is speaking passionately, emotionally, about discrimination against women and then she suddenly says, “But… I am not a feminist!”
The speaker could be a woman prime minister, a professional, or an artist – all strong women, who, very possibly, have fought all their lives for equality and have succeeded in men’s world. Yet she denies any relationship with feminism. The audience waits for her to explain why she is unhappy with feminism but no such explanation follows.
This categorical way in which some women say, “I am not a feminist” does not simply mean that they are not feminists; the implication is, that it is not good to be one and that those who are feminists, are somehow misled and irrelevant.
When we hear such statements, we cannot help but wonder why some people, even some women, feel the need to condemn something that they do not know or do not want to understand. We can only conclude that they haven’t given feminism any thought at all or that they have imbibed the considerable false propaganda against feminists and feminism. The patriarchal media for example, has been responsible for the widespread misinterpretation of feminists as “bra-burners,” “man-hating,” “family-destroying” women. Other forces and groups that see the emancipation and liberation of women as a threat reinforce this propaganda in many ways. The result is that feminists, for example in our South Asian countries, are attacked and dismissed as “middle class,” “bourgeois,” “rootless” women. Divorced. Unhappy. Lesbians.
The fact, however is, that feminists in South Asia or in most countries of the world, have never burnt a single bra, even symbolically. Large numbers of us are married to men, have children, and run our homes as well or as badly, as other non-feminists do.