Why I Might Lose My Feminist Club Membership


Why I Might Lose My Feminist Club Membership

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza

When Alyssa Milano initiated the #MeToo campaign on social media, a chain of events was unleashed. The initiative that struck a chord with millions of women all around the world, went on to become singularly significant milestone in the long and exhausting journey toward a more gender-equal future. Somehow along the way, it took a small detour toward somewhere to the street on the corner of Broadstroking & I Hate Men.   

Suddenly, men were the enemy. There were these vile, putrid creatures who have been plotting since millennia just how to bring women down. Everything became an example of misogyny. Your boyfriend is late? What a misogynist! He offered to pay? How bloody typical! A sea of matrimonial misadventures, terrible Tinder tales, and career catastrophes began to be painted as feminist issues, when they might simply have been personal issues.  

I recently felt compelled to comment on a friend’s laments on social media about a date not living up to her expectation. What could have been expressed in a sentence, had manifested into a 1,000-word essay on patriarchy and harassment since the Victorian era. I got the following reply, “It’s because of women like you who support men that there are women who are still suffering.”

I was a bit taken aback. Why couldn’t I support men? I have the good fortune of being surrounded by wonderful, progressive, chilled-out men. Should I feel embarrassed about not having a legitimate #MeToo story to share? If I don’t have a story to share about male entitlement, does this disqualify me from being a feminist?

Harassment is not the sole reality of women’s lives, and we have to be careful of the dangers of being constantly framed as victims

Sometimes, I am really tempted to reveal my own stories about my interaction with men. Should I talk about the time I used to go for German classes and two of my classmates, both males, used to take turns to parallel park my car because I never mastered the art (go on, make that joke about women and driving)? They eventually got fed up and forced me to learn. Or the day I was harassed at the college bus-stop (no, this isn’t the #MeToo story I want to tell) and the boys standing around were insulted for me and reported the guy to the principal (male), who suspended the guy? Or maybe the story about how I had to complete a lot of work one day, so two of my male colleagues came in to work on a Saturday to help me finish?

I have plenty of these stories where the men in my life have empowered me. But none of them fit into the narrow scope of what feminism has become today. In fact, judging by the reactions I received, my membership might soon be revoked.

I think not having a #MeToo story to tell is a great story by itself. It is a story of hope. It is validation of the fact that we can rely on at least a few good men and some of them are on our side. For every #MeToo story, there are stories about husbands staying up all night with sick babies, marriages that rise above religion and were enabled by a few good men, in-laws pitching in with baby-sitting and bosses who go out of their way to push your career. But like the Wakandan people from Black Panther, we hug these stories tightly to ourselves because we are afraid that revealing these stories might somehow derail the feminist movement.

While the discussion on sexual harassment continues down its important path, I wish some celebrity would endorse a campaign about financial independence or women’s health. Harassment is not the sole reality of women’s lives, and we have to be careful of the dangers of being constantly framed as victims. I wish we’d also talk about routine things like how many women still don’t have an investment plan for retirement or how many of us haven’t gone in for a health check-up in the past two years. I wonder how many of us would jump in with an impassioned #MeToo. I suspect those campaigns would fizzle out in a day even though being financially independent and ensuring good health are two of the surest paths to empower women.

If we only acknowledge the bad things that men have done to us, we do men and ourselves a disservice. For every step forward we take as women, there have been a group of men – fathers, brothers, husbands, friends, colleagues and mentors – who have, directly or indirectly, provided the wind beneath our wings. Just like we’ve been the wind beneath theirs. We don’t need a “thank you men” campaign, but let’s not insist on painting everyone with the same brush.

Go out and say it. You’ll not be thought less for it.