The "F" Word
By Jaded16 on February 07, 2010
This week my students forced me to give them a 30 minute long lecture on why being called a Feminist isn't necessarily a bad thing – mainly because they were embarrassed to call themselves Feminist – even when they were. This class has inspired this rant/ blog post. I've wrote this on my blog a couple of weeks ago. But, this week when my students insisted that my ranting skills need a bigger audience - I thought of posting it up here.
Yes. You did read the right post title. Let your eyes rest and take it all in. And no, this isn't the delightful four - letter word we 21st century neophytes seem to be throwing after every noun for no specific purpose. As much as the pseudo - intellectuals will want to call this a 'cultural phenomenon', I chose to call it the 'idiot phenomenon' or 'my vocabulary is so small that I have to use this word every 14 f***ing words phenomenon'. The 'F' word I'm talking about is a different one though it makes people's faces contort visibly. Most equate this 'F' (Feminism) word with 'bad, 'filthy' and 'lesbian' (of course).
Whenever I have mentioned this word, this is how it generally goes down - “Hello. I’m Jaded16 and a Radical Feminist. How are you?”. The person I am talking to vanishes into thin air (not quite). For the tiniest moment after such an introduction, they seem to me like their heads are made of bubbles which are making a faint “pop”, “pop”, “pop” sound. To their credit, most of them recover and rush away with random mumblings of, “I’m busy, I’ll catch you later okay?” or hold up their phone and say, “I better get back to this super-important thing” or just walk away pretending that I don’t exist. Many times I’ve heard them saying as they walk away, “She looked so normal”, “Those are still around? I thought they were extinct”, “A Radical Feminist in India? The world as we know has officially come to an end!” or its many entertaining variants.
The reason I talked of the other “F” word first is because there’s a deep connection between the two. I think if you were one of my students you’d understand what I’m talking about right away and start looking for the exits. If you are still sticking around, then I applaud you and then pity you because you really don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into. You see, though I teach French, my students say I teach “Les règles du Jeu ” which mean “Rules of Life” or “Rules of the Game” if you see it literally. I still don’t know how, I’ve gone from grammar principles to - why most girls younger than me to act like Barbie when around boys to - the current issue in national politics in my country to - why boys delight in trash-talking to - the best remedy to cure their pet’s stomachache (I volunteer at an animal shelter). All of this in the course of a ninety minute class and I should add, I finished all the items on my Lesson Plan. What I find really interesting is that my students have a similar expression on their face when I’ve brought up gender issues (yet again) as I do while watching ‘The Way We Were’ for the umpteenth time; an expression of intense pain.
Coming back to the origins of the two “F’s” – my students and I are not allowed to use profanity while in class; mainly because I feel we know (or should know) enough words to communicate what we want instead of using the same words. So instead of “I had a sh*tty day” we will come up with “I had an awful day” etc. Not that I’m against freedom of expression or I have anything against using profane language. I like it that for two classes a week, we hold our tongues and not use the “F” word (the first one). But when I talk of the other “F” too, my students behave as if I’ve enacted several chapters from a Stephen King novel or publicly admitted my secret crush on Mr. Darcy.
My students – these girls and boys both agree to most of what I have to say. They believe in gender equality, most of them are pro-choice, most insist that they’ve never visited this website (by the way, if you have time, check this website out. I’ve never laughed harder at anything else) . Okay maybe I’ve embellished a little. But the point is – they follow the basic ideals of feminism. The funny thing is : they don’t want to be called feminist or even associated with feminism in any way. That’s generally my reaction when they start talking about which celebrity is “fuglier”, I believe that’s the word. They seem to think that if they are feminist, overnight they will start hating men. I don’t understand how is that possible in any scenario save the one where the FeminismFairy comes to you in your sleep and gifts you the power to hate men. Or the other scene where we “crazy” feminists put other girls in a room, deprive them of make-up and combs for two days and ask them to chant “men are scum”. I’m not asking everyone to start quoting Shulamith Firestone or Mary Daly or even like Cynthia Heimel. Is it too much to ask to be truthful to oneself? I bet if tomorrow Miley Cyrus or ThatWeirdLookingGuy from High School Musical makes a song or two about women’s liberation, feminism will be the new “it” (whatever that means). I am hoping their song makes a difference because Pink's Song 'Stupid Girls' didn't change squat. (I’m talking from a strictly mainstream, nincompoop-y audience perspective).
People need to accept and understand that Feminism is not just about burning bras and quoting Simone De Beauvoir. They also need to understand that if you tell me a joke that goes, “Q. What’s the funniest and the longest joke on the planet? A. Women’s Rights”, you’ll suddenly find yourself missing an eye or a tooth. No, I’m joking. I don’t believe in violence though I’d give you my Medusa look and that has long-lasting side effects. Seriously, when I get “the blank stares” from my students, the one where they are pretending they’d rather be doormats for the rest of their lives, I can only think of one line from Gilmore Girls - “I'm gonna grab Barbie's neck and squeeze until her expandable hair falls out and she's dead, dead, dead.” Only I think that’s illegal. Dammit!