Friday, November 14, 2008

The Feminist Tag

"Are you one?" asks Kochuthresiamma of Pareltank.

I scratch my head,dunno what it means exactly, precisely, and set off on a search for the meaning of the word in the dictionary and Wikipedia.
First the dictionary :
1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests
In principle, I definitely agree that there should be political, economic and social equality of the sexes. As to organized activity on that count, I'm all in favor of it, though I don't feel any urge to join those ranks explicitly. (Yes, I know, Lazy Me!)

Now for the Wikilink:

Feminism is defined as the belief of the political, social, and economic equality of women. It is a discourse that involves various movements, theories, and philosophies which are concerned with the issue of gender difference, advocate equality for women, and campaign for women's rights and interests.[1][2][3][4][5] According to some, the history of feminism can be divided into three waves.[4][6] The first wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s and the third extends from the 1990s to the present.[7] Feminist theory emerged from these feminist movements.[8][9] It is manifest in a variety of disciplines such as feminist geography, feminist history and feminist literary criticism.

And so on, and so forth...

My head is spinning, and I don't want to try and tax my brain too much, having already addled it by reading about the underpinnings of the Wall Street crisis not too long before lunch.

The question was simple: "Am I a feminist?" The answer ought to be simple, but it isn't.

As a working mother, many years ago, did I take off early from work for doctor's appointments without a qualm? Was I a strict 9-to-5 employee who wouldn't lift a finger after 5 pm and would race to get to the car and drive to the daycare? Was I a hyper-competent professional despite that? Yes, absolutely. I did it knowing that the price I paid was one that I had already paid in terms of the '70 cents to the dollar' pay for women and the chance for rapid advancement. If feminism means that I can focus on my work with somebody else to do the heavy lifting when it comes to family, that would be nice, but I'm not completely sure that it would solve my anxieties regarding not knowing what is exactly going on with my kids.

Do I believe all household chores should be equally shared? As a household 'manager', I've found it more to my advantage to apportion jobs according to expertise and inclination. I handle the inside tasks (cooking, cleaning), while the outside (mowing, pruning, leaves, mulching) falls to the males. Yes, we do very rarely interchange our areas of work, just to keep a handle on how to do stuff should the need arise (my son and husband do their own laundry, know some basic cooking, how to mend using the sewing machine, etc.). My daughter will learn how to do all of these too, when she's old enough. These are life skills, not necessarily male or female chores, or maybe that's just the luxury of thought and attitude that I have had, living in the United States where it's not a cultural taboo for sons to help with the dishes or daughters to mow the lawn.

So, there you have it. I'm an opportunistic feminist. I defer to the MCPs when it suits me, kick them where it hurts when it doesn't. It's all about having my way with the least resistance and unpleasantness for all parties involved, which strikes me as a reasonable philosophy to live by, whether male or female.

And I pass on this tag to :

"Are you a feminist?"

Ruchira (I'm sure you could address this on A.B.)
Sujatha (Blogpourri)


kochuthresiamma p .j said...

'but I'm not completely sure that it would solve my anxieties regarding not knowing what is exactly going on with my kids'
that's what being a parent (not woman)is all about.
"opportunistic feminist"? - no. i dont think you r that.the last para says it all - a very healthy, sensible, smart philosophy for which 'opportunistic feminist' isnt the right label, i think.
enjoyed this post.

cris said...

Very humble and neatly said. Liked this post very much :-)

Usha said...

Thanks for thinking of me Sujatha. I like your take on this issue. Will take it up soon and keep you posted.

Sujatha said...

@KT & Cris:
I look forward to seeing your take on this tag.

Ruchira Paul said...

Oh, Sujatha! You should know better by now - not to tag me with anything, that is.

Of course, I am a feminist as far as decency, common sense and fairness go. My kids, a daughter and a son, were brought up with exactly the same message and encouragement to find their own ways regardless of their gender. And the fact that my husband is probably an even better feminist (without knowing it) than I am, the question hasn't roiled my marriage. But beyond that, I have not consciously tried to hew to a strict political philosophy of feminism. I guess that makes me the same as you.

Sujatha said...

Hey S! Thanks for tagging me (not!), but I promised myself before I came back to blogging recently that I would not tag anyone or do tags. Howzzat for a cop out!?

But to quickly respond here - am definitely a beneficiary of all the feminists and the feminist movements that have come before me. For that I'm grateful. I'm not a strident practitioner though. I do what I can do best (many of which are traditional female tasks) given time and talent considerations, and leave the rest to the better half. I don't walk around with a measure trying to divvy out 50% of everything. Right now children are a priority which means all the theories go out the window, anyway.

Sujatha said...


I think the Indian cultural background (or baggage, if you prefer) definitely has something to do with this. We are none of us the bra-burning type (not to mention that it might be mighty uncomfortable to get rid of those, but come to think of it, my grandmother didn't have to fuss with those;)
It's a biological boundary as well, 'Children first' till they are old enough to be independent, and even then the apronstrings or pallus remained tied to them over the miles separating their homes and our hearts.
(Sorry, will not expect blog responses to future tags, but please do feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments!)

Jenn Thorson said...

Hiya, Sujatha! I decided to tackle the tag today. It's an interesting topic, and I've enjoyed seeing the responses here. Of course, mine being a humor blog, it's also not the easiest thing to speak about in a light-hearted way! But one tries:

Sujatha said...


Thanks for trying this tag, and I hope you had fun doing it- it sure does seem like that from your post!

usha.vaidyanathan said...

Done ma'm.