Welcome to my blog yet again. I hope you guys are doing great. I know that the break was too long this time, and I hope you are still interested in reading what I write. This space of online presence is very fragile, people easily lose interest if you stop creating content. But I believe that letting such things to govern our life is a threat to our mental space. We should do things that spark joy in our life. Yes, I am into Marie Kondo nowadays and I need her in my life. If you don’t know what I am talking about, google her. Now, let me just take a moment here to wish all you wonderful ladies reading this blog a very happy women’s day. Cheers to strong women, may we know them, may we raise them and may we be them.
Moving on to the blog, today’s topic is about feminism and how I am often not seen as one, just because I am a homemaker. Although Feminism as a cause is very close to my heart, this question has been looming high above my head since a long time. And today I will dive into the deep end of this topic through my blog. Also, men who are trying to go back because it’s a “women oriented topic”, let me remind you that there is nothing “women oriented” about feminism. It’s as much about you as it is about me. So, come along.
Can homemakers be feminists?
Although a part time blogger and freelance writer, I consider myself mostly a homemaker as I barely pay the bills. And being a homemaker has always brought me a lot of slack whenever the topic of feminism pops up. Now I will be honest here, I was ignorant about women’s rights in general and feminism in particular when I was younger . Becoming a feminist has been a journey for me as I believe is the case for all the feminists out there. Before going any further, let me clear the air that when I say “feminists”, I don’t mean women. By “feminists” I mean people who believe in the cause of a gender neutral society and which is also the dictionary meaning of a “feminist”.
The topic of feminism has been discussed and criticised over and over again to the point that sometimes it becomes irritating to even women. But it keeps popping up in our conversations and our social media posts time and again as it rightly should. Here I would like to quote female existentialist philosopher Simone De Beauvoir which she wrote in her book “the second sex” that “one is not born a woman but becomes one”.
This quote is very relevant towards understanding a woman as it points out to one very crucial issue in our society, where a girl becomes “the woman” who is expected to behave and carry herself in a certain manner and adhere to the patriarchal norms of the society which conditions her to think like it’s normal to be that woman.
The journey of becoming “the woman” for me is similar to any woman in our society. Learning to be uncomfortable about my own physical appearance. To be embarrassed about menstruating while it’s the most natural thing in the world. Adhering to the society’s rule of becoming the “wife”. To learn about my social standing in relation to either my father or my husband. To be expected to know that I can cook and clean and raise kids just because of my gender etc etc. All of the above is faced by women in our society irrespective of whether you are a homemaker or a working woman. Then why is it that most of the times, a working woman is the one who is championed as a feminist and eyebrows are raised when a homemaker claims to be one? Even women themselves are calling each other out on who can actually be a feminist. Oh but isn’t this the oldest trick in the book of patriarchy, to pit women against each other?
Going back to Simone De Beauvoir’s book, where she explains this rule in a very formidable way. She writes that patriarchy is a system where “men has posited itself as “the one” and in the process women becomes “the other”. But in order for the Other to not turn into the One, the Other has to submit to the One’s point of view.”
This is where a whole system of patriarchy is placed in order for women to adhere to this submission. This system has always led women to believe that there is only one seat at the table and all women must fight each other to position oneself at that seat, instead of coming together and demanding equal seats at the same table. This social conditioning of women has stopped them from empowering fellow women and hence leading them into considering other women as threats. But ladies, there is nothing more empowering than women helping each other and supporting each other. Isn’t it time we control our own narratives? Feminism is a part of this whole process where we thwart these mental conditioning and don’t lose focus of our main goal; a gender neutral society.
Simone De Beauvoir further adds “If I want to define myself, I first have to say that I am a woman; and all other assertions will arise from this basic truth, while a man never begins by posting himself as an individual of a certain sex: that he is a man is obvious”. This trait can be seen taking over our popular media too where many women, although breaking some glass ceilings introduces themselves as a strong independent “woman”. Our own Priyanka Chopra can be seen in many of her interviews doing likewise. I am sure we will never see a man starting an interview by telling the world that he is a man.
I am a homemaker by choice. It hasn’t been forced upon me by anyone. Being a homemaker is not anti-feminist. The important part is to have a society where a man should also feel free to become a homemaker if he wishes to. And a woman should feel free to chase any kind of ambition she aims for. The decision of who should be a homemaker and who should be working or whether both the partners should be working, must be based on any couple’s mutual life choices and should not come by default to any particular gender. Just like how cooking and cleaning should cease to be the “women’s territory”. But similarly if a woman loves cooking, we can’t force her out of the kitchen to appropriate feminism right??
When I got married, I was embarrassed about my choice to be a homemaker which I thought was weird. I felt insecure and vulnerable. My fellow women friends too looked down upon me. I felt like I was doing an injustice to my fellow women by not championing the cause of “feminism” as put down by the popular culture. It took time for me to realise that this reverse conditioning of shaming other women for not adhering to “feminism” is an irony on the idea for which feminism stands , the freedom of choice.
The confidence of being the person I am today is because of my own journey of unbecoming “the woman”. Becoming “the woman” takes years of conditioning and unbecoming that woman to be a feminist takes a lot of conscious approach. And it has nothing to do with your job or how much money you make but has everything to do with how devoted you are to the cause of feminism and what you are doing to change the society at the grassroots level. Glass ceilings are not shattered only by women whom you see on television, they are shattered everyday by women like me and you. My mother-in-law is breaking glass ceilings by not passing on her shackles as a woman to me. Supporting me in every decision I make and creating a space where both of us learn from each other. She is a homemaker. My mother is the matriarch of the family and has always lived on her free will. She came from a small town and made a life in a city like Guwahati, giving equal opportunities to both me and my brother and she is the reason my brother knows I am his equal as a human being and his superior as an elder sister. Because we have grown up seeing the strong force that our mother is, never taking any slack from anyone, not even our father. My mother is a homemaker.But of course I also strongly believe that education and financial independence are as intrinsic to the cause of feminism as is the freedom of choice. Because only an educated woman can make an informed choice.
In recent times, I bumped upon a television series called “big little lies” which is the story of four women who comes from different professional, social and moral standing but are united in identifying an issue pertinent to all women “sexual abuse and domestic violence”. I strongly recommend that to all my women readers today (what are bloggers for if they can’t recommend good stuff right!!).
To all those men reading my blog, you might not realise it sometimes but you too are shackled by patriarchy, more often than not. The pressure of the society on a man is unimaginable. Not being able to express your emotions for the fear of being called weak, not being able to become a stay-at-home father because you don’t want to be called a loser who strives on his wife’s income. The undue pressure of landing a job to be able to sustain a family and meanwhile losing out on your dreams. To not being able to learn things considered “feminine”, even though that is where your heart is. Not being able to be a homemaker to look after your ailing parents while your wife works. Patriarchy as you can see is unhealthy for all genders. Even homophobia is a deep rooted issue of patriarchy.
So I will leave the verdict of my question today in your hands. Healthy dialogue is the foundation stone of learning new things. Arrogance is the air that fuels ignorance in our life. You introspect and tell me if a woman can really be a feminist and a homemaker at the same time? I consider myself a feminist as I believe in a gender neutral society but that’s again my opinion and opinions can always vary which is good as it paves the way for a healthy dialogue. Also, I love hearing from my readers.
All the interpretations of the above quotes by Simone De Beauvoir are my own as you can have completely different interpretations of the same things. But that is the beauty of books right. I also suggest all my readers to get their hands on her book which gives you a real insight into feminism. This topic of feminism will keep on being debated and discussed for a long time now as it should be. Issues that need attention shouldn’t die down because some people are bored of it. My blog today is only my own perspective of what I have been able to understand of the subject. I am sure I have lots to know and my opinions might change with further enlightenment. But for today, I repeat that women can be anything she wants, provided she made that choice under her free will. The goal is to carve the society to sustain that freedom of choice. A society where a woman “develops” as an individual and not “become” the woman. Virginia Woolf in her book “A room of one’s own” argues for the need to find a space where development of woman takes place without external conditioning and where women can be anything she wants.
“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques–literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.”
Women’s day is a celebration of the sacrifices made by women for women to have a voice and freedom of choice. Now that we have a voice, let’s not allow it to die down. I will leave you at that and hope you all have a fabulous March with beautiful colours of Holi bringing joy in your life and I also hope that you have read all my previous blogs. And if you haven’t, please go and check them out. Thank you for reading my blog. Until next time.