Are You a Feminist?

IHM linked to an interesting TED video on her blog and asked a very important question, “Are you a feminist?”. There’s no doubt that I am. Unlike what some (the ignorant?) might think, that does not imply that I’m a man hater or even a “militant feminist” but I am indeed a feminist in the most positive sense of the word. Of that there is no doubt. But there are these moments that make me wonder.

My first reaction when we decided to make the move to India? It wasn’t about career opportunities, being close to family, or seeing my friends again. My first uncensored thought was, “I can hire a maid and never do the dishes again.” The first thoughts that popped into my mind centered around housework, child care (in inescapable reality in the next couple of years), restrictions on what I can wear, airing out my mangalsutram (something I only wear to the temple here), and sobbing over giving away my favourite corporate attire. Given all the advantages I have – a husband who shares all house work (as opposed to “helping”), parents-in-law who are more supportive than my own parents, all the advantages of education, a solid start to a career – all I can think of is how running a home is going to be easier once I return.

I understand that there are many women in the US who would not want to hire domestic help not just because it’s expensive but also because it goes against their principles. But I subscribe to my mother’s view that having a driver/maid/cook is mutually beneficial for both parties as long as hours and pay are fair. So it’s not that I am outraged at my own laziness or my lack of principles. I’m upset that all I can think of is the luxury of not cutting vegetables, cleaning, or doing the dishes.

What kind of feminist am I? Or am I making too big a deal out of this?

5 Replies to “Are You a Feminist?”

  1. Do try to avoid the terms “man-hating” or “militant feminist” when describing feminism. Those are terms often used to discredit it, and you shouldn’t have to make excuses for your beliefs anyhow. Very few feminists actually hate men, we know, but so many others are under that misconception.

    I don’t have much to say about domestic help.. in the US, it’s not as common and certainly not as much fair (?) on both sides. I’d also have to be much more wealthy than I am now. My spouse is in the process of getting a well-paying job after grad school, and I am ashamed to say I am very attracted to the idea of not working if he ever got THAT good of a job. I very often daydream about my daily schedule, a few hours for house-y things in the morning, then the rest of the day devoted to making things or taking classes. This feels incredibly non-feminist, but feminism is not about such specific details. Sometimes though, it is hard not to imagine that your choices add up to a more negative or positive force. If we didn’t believe that, we’d all throw our trash on the ground and punch people in the faces more. Just be true to yourself and good to others.

    1. Feminist is still a dirty word in India and people (men and women) usually interpret it the worst possible way. I can better word the sentence though. Let me do that.

      I think in terms of freedom of choice Indian women lag behind the West by a generation. It’s still a matter of pride for a woman in India to have a job. Many families still use the terms “allowed to work” and “supportive of her career”. And in most traditional families having a job does not exempt a woman from household drudgery. This is perhaps the reason why having domestic help is such a big deal for us.

      I completely understand what you’re saying, though. Feminism is not about having to do everything a man can while wearing high heels. It’s about women having the same rights as men. Indian women are still very far away from that.

  2. Oy vey. It’s still a dirty word here, too, but perhaps not to the extent it is in India. I always hesitate to say it, but I trudge onward.

    My husband definitely does housework, but not to the extent that I do. And I’m the one with the full-time, 8-5 job. No matter how many conversations we have, he does not see the disparity.

    1. At one level it makes me think things are not so different anywhere in the world another level it disturbs me that even the emancipated (in our eyes) Western woman still needs to have these conversations

      We’re a long long way from not needing the word feminist…

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