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The meaning of the word ‘gay’ has undergone sea-change since the time the poet Wordsworth wrote, “A poet could not but be gay/ In such a jocund company” on seeing a host of golden daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze while lonely as a cloud he wandered. Indeed many other words of yore have undergone similar transformation. So when I found many of my fellow bloggers taking pains to deny being a feminist and prefacing their words with, ‘I am not a feminist, but…..” I was curious and wondered if unbeknownst to me, the same fate had befallen the word ‘feminist’ as well.

Feminism, the online dictionary tells me, is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Hmmm, that just means a feminist is someone who believes in the movement organized around this belief (feminism). To put it more clearly, “a feminist by definition is someone who believes in the equality of the sexes, someone who subscribes to the different but equal status…’ as said by Careless Chronicles in one of her comments.

It is true that I have not yet tagged myself with this or that name for my own beliefs which run along similar lines, namely that we are all humans and in spite of biological differences, we all deserve the same opportunities in life. I am especially for women NOT being treated as if they were put in this world for the express purpose of serving men, which to tell you the truth, is a lesson that women have to learn first. To complement men, yes, but NEVER to serve men. By the token of the beliefs I hold, I can very well be called a feminist, which one of my readers once did anyways, but in a very un-complimentary and mocking way.

It surprised me greatly to find fellow bloggers who held similar beliefs disassociating themselves from the word ‘feminist’ as if it were the very plague. It seemed pretty curious an affair to me, to say the least. Since I definitely like to keep abreast of new developments and mine being the  direct approach always, without much ado I asked one of them the reason.

Feminists, I was told, are synonymous with men-haters. (Errr…. so what happened to misandrists and misandry?? Confined to ignominy and banished and replaced with feminists and feminism respectively?? When, where and how??)  as also the bra-burning kind and lesbians to boot. Since they, my fellow bloggers obviously weren’t men-haters and none of the others as well I presume, they perforce chose not to be known as feminists. Yep. Right for sure.  No one likes to be known by epithets that do not describe them.

One interesting thing I have noticed is that, any talk on rights of women sooner or later veers to the bra-burning incidents of the 60s which I have since come to know is the result of someone’s overworked imagination, nothing but a myth perpetrated over the years (click here to read what snopes.com has to say). A cousin of mine took diabolical pleasure in informing me that women in 60s made a spectacle of themselves by ripping off their bras and burning them at squares, while the jeering crowd of onlookers enjoyed an eyeful of their bare chests thus paraded (which brings up other questions which I will speak of another day) in the name of women’s liberation, as if he had time-traveled back to the place when it happened. How typical of humans to make up scenarios from ill-informed sources when not so surprisingly perhaps, nothing of the sort EVER happened. So much for bra-burning.

Now we come to the accusation of feminists being lesbians. Errr…. so what?? Aren’t lesbians humans?? What if a friend turns out to be one, or your sister or daughter?? Do we disown them, distance ourselves?? And if some fools (men and women) around us assume or even accuse as being lesbians every one of those who espouse the cause of women, should we pay any heed to their blabbering??

The third one beats them all. If you are a feminist you are supposed to be men-hater. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. I wonder when it will ever stop??! Look at the skillful and subtle subverting of the topic of equality of the sexes to mean that such a demand by women translates to hatred of men. Oh really?!! Says who?? Someone obviously has said it and they have also succeeded in making women feel apologetic about their using the term feminist.

I love the men in my life. I have three of my own and n number of extended family some of them I admit, are a real pain in you-know-where, with their supercilious attitude. Apart from them, I have many male friends as well, of all shades and hues when it comes to understanding feminism or accepting women as equals. I would disagree with any of these men in my life any day if they spoke against gender equality. If/when I do that or insist on being treated as an equal among them, does it mean I hate them??! What nonsense.

Let us just suppose a woman does just that, insist on being treated as an equal and enjoy the same privileges as men. WHO is more wont to hate that happening, man or woman?? I would make a bet that it is the man whose heart would fill with hatred for having to abdicate that coveted superior-to-women post. And yet, we, the gullible women, are led to believe and be convinced that being a feminist and asking for our rights equates to hatred of men.

I am no bra-burner, lesbian or men-hater. I have not tagged myself with names till now. But as long as the word feminist means what it does in the present, I am willing to say I am a feminist, in spite of the wrong meanings ascribed to it by God knows who! I know I am here where I am because a lot of people before me did things that went against the grain during their times which I may or may not have the opportunity or even the courage to do during my own time. Each of them paved way for the future that is mine, in tiny ways. I certainly won’t disown them.

And come to think of it, if at all it is true that those women of oh-so-long ago burned their bras, aren’t they infinitely better than the hooligans, the scum, who burn buses, destroy public and private property and hold civilian life to ransom in one name or another as members of political parties??!! After all those women burned only their own undies not those of the public.