Why we need feminists

Published: Dec 25, 2013, 07:01 IST | Ranjona Banerji |

Men are under siege. Some very frightening creatures called women are attacking them

Men are under siege. Some very frightening creatures called women are attacking them. I know how the men feel. I read a book by a Nobel Prize winning female writer once where females lounged about the beaches like gigantic fat fish-like mammals spreading their malevolent control everywhere. I almost went off females for life, I can tell you that. Self-loathing — now that’s a good female reaction to life but don’t let that worry you as I retouch my lipstick to improve my self-image.

‘Asked for it’: A woman out at night? She asked for it. What was she wearing? She asked for it. Why didn’t she call her rapists ‘brother’? She asked for it

So did feminism come back into fashion at the end of 2012 when a young woman was gang-raped in Delhi or didn’t it?

Mention the word feminist and some men break out in a terrified sweat. They immediately see an enormous Venus Fly Trap ready to chomp them to bits or a massive man-killing Black Widow Spider larger than anything created by the combined imaginations of JRR Tolkien and JK Rowling. I must make it clear here that JK Rowling is female though I don’t really know why I said that. Well, I know where these men are coming from: The 1970s.

In those days, feminists were feminists. They said bizarre things like a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Any study of world literature will tell you that it is not a woman’s place to make elliptical statements which make you think. Women are best at the straightforward. Like: “Try to make sure you bathe in orange blossom scented milk on your wedding day to give your new husband the baby soft skin he so deserves I mean desires.”

Also, as men in the 1970s found baffling: feminists have hairy legs. It can look ugly I agree. But I have personally never really understood why men were so angry about the “bra-burning by feminists” story which I thought would make men happy though it sure did upset them. Burning a bra and refusing to wax or shave your legs are apparent sure signs that the civilisation as we know it is coming to an end. And the fish-whale women are on their way to control you... Yeah, I’m shuddering too.

The 1970s, though, was a long time ago. But some men, they remember. And so when patriarchy is discussed in today’s context, they’re not quite sure how to respond. Women have achieved so much, haven’t they? They run big corporations, they have increased their share in the work place, they are seen in public so often, they drink, they smoke, they eat out. Wow! I mean Wow! Women everywhere.

And look here. These women are not hairy-legged spider whales. Some are proud of being sex objects. Some use their sex appeal to get ahead. Some laugh at corny jokes. Some claim to like cars. Some can outdrink and outsmoke and outswear you. Some are your boss. Some happily wear balcony bras while they give you orders in office. Man, who needs those damn difficult hairy-legged feminists any more!

I’ll tell you. We do. Because what that nightmarish night in Delhi taught us is that so much has not changed. A woman out at night? She asked for it. What was she wearing? She asked for it. Why didn’t she call her rapists “brother”? She asked for it. Why didn’t she know her place and keep within her limits? She asked for it. How do you expect me to sit back and take it if my dinner isn’t hot? She asked for it. Why do I have to have one more daughter? Yeah, yeah. That thing. Too.

It adds up. But there is a major difference between the 1970s and today. Any sensible person knows that this is not man versus woman which can be substituted to read Rapist versus whale. This is all of us. Humans. Together. The number of men who understand this is heartening and overwhelming.

We women thank you. We don’t even want to be called “wimmin” any more or change “history” to “herstory”.

As for the rest of you men, what do you think about the colour of my lipstick? Suits me? I would love to know what you think. Really. 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona

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