Equality and All That: A Conversation

We’re in the basement, sitting in a triangle around a sheesha. That’s me, my brother, and one of his best friends. Let’s call them Bro and Boy. We’re engrossed in a conversation about fitness, when this happens.

Boy asks me suddenly, ‘Wait, are you a feminist?’ 

I stare at him, there was definitely a negative tone there; in my mind I’m thinking ‘you don’t like feminists, eh?’. 

Bro goes, ‘Boy, what do you think? C’mon.’ 

Boy defensively says, ‘Hey, I don’t know her that well yet.’

‘Yes, I’m a feminist,’ I interrupt their drama.

Boy made a face and asked, ‘Why are you a feminist?’

I eyed him and wondered if a simple response was appropriate or an honest one, I decided to go with the honest one, ‘I’m feminist because I’m a Muslim girl.’

‘Well if you’re going to bring religion into it..’ Boy protested.

Bro interrupts, ‘Aside from religion, why’re you a feminist?’

I smile..and I’m about to proclaim a stereotype right here: most desi guys I know don’t know what feminism is and tend to think it’s man-hating. This is prevalent in non-desi people as well, but in my personal experience, much more common among desis’, even the girls. (Yes, I know not all desi guys/girls think this way.) And I ask, ‘What do you mean when you say feminist?’

Boy thinks for a moment, ‘Well there’s feminists who are all about equality and then there’s feminists that think they’re above guys and guys are nothing.’

In my head, I’m thinking ‘oh like how guys treated women for centuries, you mean? Don’t like how that feels, huh?’, but out loud I say, ‘I don’t think girls are above guys and to treat guys that way is wrong, and I don’t think guys are above girls, and to treat girls like that is wrong.’

Boy was nodding along until I said guys shouldn’t treat girls like that, he stopped and stared. I smiled and said, ‘That’s what equality is.’

Bro has heard all this and more from me. So he makes no comment. I’ve ranted calmly, angrily, tearfully, and bossily at him and around him on the subject. I’m a feminist. I was feminist before I knew what feminism was. 

Maybe because I was the eldest in my family, maybe because when I was younger, my parents never made a difference between me and brother, those differences appear now sometimes..because puberty and desi culture. I grew up with barbies and hot wheels. I’ve hated pink since I was a little kid..even though our family friends were always buying me pink stuff.

I’m thankful to my parents for that, actually. They never forced pink on me once they learned I didn’t like the colour. And even prior, pink was not a dominating colour in my life. Nor was blue a dominating colour in my brother’s.

But I could lovelovelove pink and still be a feminist. I could hate cars and still be a feminist. Keep that in mind. Feminism isn’t about rejecting things traditionally associated with girls, in this context. It’s about recognizing that perhaps that girl likes pink so much because everyone keeps pushing pink on her..and when you’re young and impressionable..well. In the context of young kids of any gender, I think feminism means not projecting preferences and behaviours on your child.

I didn’t realize video games were considered a guy thing until grade 11 because I played them too. Not as much as my brother..but that was because I was too busy tinkering with my computer in my free time. And I still play them now. Current favourites are Banished and SCII.

In fact, I’m not entirely sure why gaming is considered a masculine thing, although yes, many games are aimed at the male demographic, which is a pity I think.

When I took my first computer science class in grade 10, one of my friends was surprised and admitted to me, ‘I think computer science is a guy thing, I don’t know why you would want to take it.’ I was surprised. 

Yes, I was only 1 of 2 girls in my comp sci class, but I’ve found myself in that situation my whole life, so I guess I don’t really make much of it. I didn’t see comp sci as masculine at all. It appealed to me on so many different levels. It was elegant, logical, full of intense potential, and the language of a world we’re surrounded by. It was a thrill.

Yes, I’m sensitive to some things that are just jokes, yaar. I hate kitchen/cleaning/cooking jokes, I think they’re demeaning. And yet those jokes are made at my expense and I tolerate them from people I don’t know well. This is definitely something people expect from feminists. I don’t like those jokes because they enforce a certain stereotype: that girls belong in the house doing housework. I reject this stereotype and I reject jokes made upon those assumptions.

There’s this perception that if a girl is feminist, she’s not a GIRL anymore. I think a lot of the things we associate with girls and guys is more social conditioning than actual gender differences, but it’s hard to separate them because social conditioning starts literally from the moment you enter this world. It’s in the way they hold a girl vs a boy, what kind of baby sounds they make at them, it’s in everything.

I’m a feminist and I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being a boy. I’ve been told many times that I’m a girl and I should act like one, yes. I’ve been told I should hang out with girls not boys because ‘girls look nicer when they hang out with other girls.’ (talk about underlying meaning.) But I’m a girl and yes, I fit a myriad of cultural standards of How A Girl Should Be. And I don’t hate that.

I don’t spend every moment fighting every little bit of social conditioning I’ve had, that’s not what feminism means to me, I don’t even know if that’s possible. But I do fight against broad gender inequalities that appear in my behaviour, feminism does mean that to me.

Feminism is not evil or man-hating or stupid. It has been instrumental. It has brought progress that every single person I know has been touched by and more often than not, appreciated and welcomed.

So..equality and all that. Y’know?