By Mannat Tipnis:

Very often Feminists, both men and women, are seen defending the supposed misconceptions surrounding Feminism. These range from feminists being bra burners, men haters and the nemesis of the familial structure. Feminism is based on the recognition of the fact that women occupy a relatively weaker position in a socially unjust society. The movement isn’t a polite request for rights and has never projected itself to be just this. It targets the inner, frightening truth, the fact that it is a politically destabilizing force, and if allowed to prosper, would change the basis of social order.

bra-protest feminism

I contend that the myths about Feminism aren’t myths at all, that each accusation is based on a grain of truth and must be accepted as legitimate contentions. In this article, I will try to tackle a few.

Feminists are “Bra Burners” – Technically, there were no bras burnt. During the Miss America Pageant in 1968, the bra was used as a symbol of the many ways women are oppressed. Women were invited to throw the bra away, again, no bra was burnt. But that’s beside the point. A bra isn’t something every woman likes to wear, it can be uncomfortable, to say the last. No sales woman would ever recommend a bra based on the level of comfort it provides, but rather if it shaped your breasts in a certain way, which change as fashions change. Some recent studies prove that women who didn’t wear a bra had stronger chest muscles, and stronger backbones. Feminists aren’t opposed to the idea of wearing a bra, but rather against bra being the normative standard to judge and construct women according to a standard of beauty dictated by society. They are against the questions that are asked if I choose to be comfortable on a hot sunny day, and the apparent scarring effect it can have on people if they see through my shirt. They are against the lack of choice this leaves me with regarding when and where I deem it fit to wear a piece of under cloth.

Feminists are men haters – No. Feminists don’t hate men. There is a certain man I hate; the pity is that most men in the society are that certain ‘’actually existing man’’, produced in a patriarchal structure. We don’t hate individual men and our fight is not for individual women. We don’t blame this man, but the existing social order produces a man that deems it fit to regard me as less deserving and legitimate to suppose and define what my goals in life must be. Women encounter this on a daily basis, it may seem far away for some, but isn’t for a majority. So, when a man grabs my hand on a bus, comments on my clothes, doesn’t give me a job or supposes my job comes with underlined benefits for him, this anger can turn into rage. Rage is a natural human emotion, years of suppression generate this emotion. Communities and revolutions are brought together around this emotion. Women are a community too, the movement complex, encompassing issues of class, caste, race and gender. When women recognize this, and see that it is legitimized, very often their anger turns into rage. I love certain men, those men are not that patriarchal man, but it’s a pity that those men are an exception.

Feminist’s are family haters – The material ramifications that emerge because of the structure of family today are not only unjust and unconstitutional, but also oppressive. Stepping out into the public sphere comes with the added responsibility of being solely responsible for the functioning of our homes. Thus, even an Indra Nooyi is responsible for the actions of the woman who comes to clean her house and cook her food. This limits a majority of women to“suitable” jobs that make this possible, thus occupying a position in the economic sphere that is not conducive to maximizing their creative potential. On the other hand, staying at home leads to dependence on the working member of the family (husband or father in most cases) for even the slightest bit of money ranging from daily expenses or the money you’d like to spend to even buy your toiletries. This may not seem very odd, till you see the other gender having to do the same. Women are constantly surrounded by moral codes that tell them to be the guardians of the “izzat” of the family, in other words “what happens at home, should remain at home”, again leading to a lack of agency in marriage. The conventional patriarchal family offers comfort, to be within boundaries and feel safe, to never cross the “Lakshman rekha” for the fear of what lies outside, most times what lies inside is the problem. Patriarchy dogmatises the myriad of ways in which two people can be there for one another. Feminists do hate, and would like to destroy the patriarchal family, not because they believe love or familial ties are inherently wrong, but they’d like to reconstruct family based on the principles of justice and equality, not a dogmatic structure that is rarely a source of comfort.

People are scared to be free, is an ad hoc conclusion I reached a long time ago (ad hoc, because I hope it changes). Feminism aims to change old markers so irrevocably that they don’t exist any-more, if then a woman does not wear a bra, hates a man who tries to take advantage of her and chooses to be a lone traveller, this is only because there are other brilliant horizons that she recognises. This is a scary thought for many, but must never be deemed illegitimate.