We Should All Be Feminists

“Feminism is about the liberation of everyone … from the oppression of patriarchy.”

Last week, we had a special lunch outing of sorts from office, to network and work more seamlessly with another department and all that. While some of that understanding took place and delicious food was had, it’s not why I felt an irritation bordering on anger.

Among all the things we talked about (it’s worth mentioning how diverse we are- four of us at this lunch were South Asian, three East Asian, one half Australian, and four European), something about cooking also came up. It so happened that out of the only two South Asian men at our table, one of them said something like, “Of course he has to enjoy cooking because you don’t”. The topic was Heiko’s cooking, because I had taken something he had made to work the previous day.

I love how that is the default option- I must have some problem, that is why, my poor husband has to deal with the cooking. This was meant to be funny, as sexist jokes often are, and so some of us even laughed and I recognized it for what it was- after years of listening to “jokes” like this, and thought it was best to brush it off and move on.

After lunch, we walked back to the office together and said our byes and civilities to the other team. As my team and I took the elevator, we reflected on the lunch- how we thought it generally went. V, my team leader pointed out the cooking comment and called it rude.

Maybe it’s a culture thing, but may be not, because it’s not like all men in the west are feminists (look at the American president, for example). Anyway, G (a half Malay- half Australian colleague) and I tried to explain how this is fairly common where we come from. Men have their traditional manly roles to play and women have theirs, and more often than not, that’s what the standards of “good” men and women consist of.

But the thing that hurt me most in all this, was A’s comment about how I have a well-trained housewife in Heiko. It may have been a little funny the first time, but to say something that is so derogatory, coming from a woman who is well-educated, well-read and fiercely feminist – that was beyond disappointing.

It’s not the comment itself so much as the mentality behind it. Yes, there is enough sexism to go around in the world, and that should make women stick together and stand up for each other. But it isn’t feminism to put down every man. Especially not the ones fighting those archaic traditional roles.  These are men defying the values of patriarchy every single day by being an equal part to keeping the house clean, putting food on the table, literally, and raising a child not just in a financial capacity, but with time and physical energy. I am so proud to know men who do this- in my eyes, it doesn’t make them any less manly, it does the opposite. And that should be the stand of every feminist woman. More men like this only means that feminism and equality is winning!

I am not saying they need a special award for doing things unconventionally. We don’t even have to celebrate it, but let’s not make jokes or demean it as less masculine, because it isn’t.

I can speak for my husband. Yes, he cooks and cleans and makes the household wholesome, because neither of us think it’s the job of one person, regardless of gender, not because he thinks I am incapable or that he has no other choice. I am proud and grateful, but more grateful because I know this is not as common as I would like, and it is certainly not a norm.

So on this Women’s Day, here’s a shout out to all those men I know and don’t know , defying patriarchy with small, powerful steps. Thank you! Not for helping us do the things we are supposed to do, but for thinking that it is as much your responsibility as it is ours.
Only in terms of representation, you are the Bernie Sanders to our Hillary Clintons in the movement to equality, even if the reality is an absolute monstrosity. (I need to watch less CNN.)

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