Feminism

Feminism

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people , said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded defin...

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Book Review : The Creation of Patriarchy

                                                      


"The Creation of Patriarchy" by historian Gerda Lerner is a work of scholarship which took eight years of hard work to produce. In order to explain women's subordination, Gerda puts it in a historical context. 

Lerner's work shows insights into how women have been systematically subordinated over centuries of building the structures of patriarchy. These structures kept women in inferior positions, tied them to norms which they -apparently- willingly conformed to. 

It is not an easy book to read, specially for a romantic feminist like me. It took me longer than an average book does, for I had to put it away every few pages. Here is a book  which disturbs deeply. 

The book and its findings are based on the study of western civilizations, largely derived from Mesopotamian, and Hebrew sources and a study of Abrahmanic religions.

Man has been the default human now, for centuries. Patriarchal thinking and its norms are so deeply entrenched in our society that we take it for granted. This default is so much part of our cultural and mental landscape, we do not even notice it. Not unlike the furniture strewn around your home for months, in the same position. You notice  a particular piece only when you move it around into a new arrangement. 
                           
Historical scholarship has seen women as marginal to the making of civilization and as unessential to those pursuits defined as having historic significance. While no man has been excluded from historic records because he is man, yet all women have been.
                                                   

Though numerically, women are the majority, society is structured as if we are the minority and and have therefore been victimized by it. Women were essential to creating history, to creating society. They are and always have been agents and actors in history. Women have simply been kept from knowing their history and from interpreting it. They have been excluded from writing symbols, philosophies, science and law, and excluded from theory formation.
                                             
Gerda explores how, as laws evolved and religions grew, women's inferior position in society deteriorated. They were kept away from any learning or intellectual pursuits. She shows us how the lack of women's access to learning and religion was increasingly reduced, till their eventual cutting off from all sources of history making.

The book is divided into chapters, each of which investigates a different topic in great depth and with detailed and painstaking research, comes to its conclusions.

Starting with prehistoric details Gerda hypothesizes that gender is created out of the fact that women must mother the child. Prolonged and helpless infancy of the human child lead to the fact that most nubile women would devote most of their adulthood to pregnancy, child bearing and nursing. 

She finds that around the time when hunting and gathering or horticulture gave way to agriculture, kinship arrangements tended to shift from matrimony to patriliny and private property developed.

The vast body of research accessed and studied by Gerda Lerner includes the codes of law of Hammurabi, one of the first codes of law to be codified and written down. 

Women's subordination was institutionalized in the earliest law codes and enforced by the full power of the state. The archaic state was shaped and developed in the form of patriarchy, and it continues to be so today. 

A startling revelation of the book is that men learnt and perfected dominance by practicing it over women and exerting control over them. Later, these lessons  were transferred to the control of other men. The first slaves were women. 

While men could establish class or transcend it based on their relationship to the means of production, for women it was always  determined through their sexual ties to a man.

Veiling of women began when women came to be segregated into  the categories of respectable women and non respectable. Guess what established respectability? Sexual ties to one man was equated with respectability while the sexually available woman became branded as non respectable. The respectable woman had to be veiled, others could go unveiled. This was written into law and it was the duty of upright citizens to report women who flouted these norms. Women's class status came to be defined differently than that of men, from that period on to the present. 

The codification which began with the laws of Hammurabi, marked the beginning of the institutionalization of the patriarchal family as an aspect of state power. It reflected a class society in which women's status depended on the male family head's social status.

The most disturbing passages to me, were the removal of the goddesses from mainstream religion. All over the ancient world,   goddess worship was prevalent in one form or another. The goddesses would be worshipped for the sacredness of female sexuality and its mysterious life giving force, which included the power to heal. With the ascent of Abrahamanic religion, began the erasure of the goddess. Simultaneously, woman came to be painted as the harbinger of death and sin into the world. Women's sexuality came to be linked with sin. From progenitor of the universe, life giving force and healer, to harbinger of sin- patriarchy wrought the ultimate fall for womanhood!

The historical processes of the development of abstract thought and symbol making began to shape civilization. These developments coincided with the marginalization of women. Males alone became mediators between god and man while women were denied equal access to learning, and to priesthood. Women thus came to be denied the capacity for interpreting and altering religious belief systems. Women's subordination was complete.
                                                                          
                                                       

In a passage that I found stunningly evocative, Gerda outlines her call to action plan. She uses the image of a play to demonstrate this. She compares life to a stage where men and women are performers, both acting equally important roles, without either of whom the play can't go on. But the stage is conceived, painted, defined by men. They have written the play, decided on the props, fixed the lighting,  assigning themselves the most interesting parts and have given the supporting roles to women. 

Women have begun the struggle to get "equal" roles, but are only now beginning to realize its not enough. Men control which women will get which roles. They punish and ostracise those who try to challenge the script or try to rewrite it. 

Simply adding women to the patriarchal framework won't do. Only by placing women's vision at its centre will be able to dismantle patriarchy. Its a paradigm shift waiting to happen.

Patriarchy as a system is historical. If we can show it has a beginning, it follows we can show it to have an end and thus begin the work of its dismantling. 
                                                          
 I found myself underlining and annotating para after para and as I read this book. This is a book to keep, to read, to go over its pages over and over again, to mull its contents over in your mind.
                                                   
(The question of how patriarchy evolved in the Indian context, with its overlap of culture with Hinduism, is something I'd love to explore. I'm curious to read any available material on the subject. Anyone reading this, if you have any leads please let me know.)

Book                     : The Creation of Patriarchy 
Author                  : Gerda Lerner
Publisher              : Oxford University Press
Number of Pages : 243


This book review appeared on the website of Feminism In India

Film Review : Two Cheers For Baar Baar Dekho

If you live in urban India and manage to avoid the media saturation of an upcoming Bollywood movie, you probably live under a rock. Said rock is my roof. I went to watch Baar Baar Dekho oblivious to the fact that  it has a reprise of the 90s hit number kaala chashma.

 I did hope for some semblance of sanity only because I discovered that the director is Nitya Mehra whose bio says she had been the assistant director of movies like Life of Pi and Don.

To be sure, this is no gritty drama. It has its share of cheesy comedy and cheesier romance at the outset, helped along by typical romantic numbers. And come on! Dharma Productions and fluff go together like bheegi saree me hot nari under barsaat ka pani! 

Between the pretty faces and the beaches and bikinis, you're thrown the mandatory band, baaja and shaadi- obviously! The leads characters are Diya and Jai played by Katrina Kaif and Siddhartha Malhotra, so there's plenty of gorgeousness to gawk at.

A movie about inter-personal relationships, which doesn't let your attention flag, has got to be a winner in my book. It portrays the angst of the woman who alone must do the emotional and caregiving labour to hold her family together, while her husband is busy chasing his career. His singular contribution to family building seems to be donation of sperm. No surprises there! 

While she moves countries and continents so he may pursue his dream career, he couldn't be bothered to make the time to be at the opening of her art exhibition - so real, so predictable! I only wish they hadn't chosen such stereotypical professions for the two protagonists- he's a mathematician and she's a painter. 

There are jarring bits. Hugely uncomfortable making is the sequence when a person with an apparent mental disability is mocked and used as a prop for producing some staged laughs: so unfunny! And when the female protagonist Diya asks her boyfriend/ husband Jai why he loves her, his answers made me cringe each time. Stuff along the lines of "you're my wife" or "you're the mother of my children".   
Way to define a partner in strictly selfish, self-centered terms! I inserted a reminder to self: this is Bollywood and they can deliver only so much with one movie, let's not get ahead of ourselves in the hopes department, please!

 It does dawn upon Jai that relationships have to be built with loving attention and care and that nurturing one's loved ones leads to a more fulfilling existence. The soft, gentle man who is a nurturer, is upheld as the ideal us and it gladdened every pore of my feminist heart! When Jai picks up his daughter and swirls her around while she looks adoringly at him, in a scene crafted to pull at your heartstrings, it manages to do just that.

The movie has a clutch of creditable performances, from the actors playing the smaller roles, like Sarika, who plays Jai's mom and the guy who plays the art gallery owner (whose name I couldn't locate)  Ram Kapoor as Diya's dad tends to ham just the tad bit. Rajit Kapoor as the pandit with the mysterious link to Jai's future seems wasted.

The biggest surprise of the movie: Katrina Kaif has finally learnt to emote in front of the camera-to an extent. Siddharth Malhotra manages to hold his own, though at times the lack of depth in his performance shows.

With all the modern tech available and presumably a big budget, the make-up for aging is surprisingly tacky. The portrayal of the future is meh; it shows absolutely no imagination at all. A little effort in that department would have gone a long way in making this a memorable movie. 

Does the movie pass the bechdel test? Probably not. Yet, even though it's far from perfect I sent up two cheers for this movie's attempts at a feminist tone. It looks to a world centred on loving, fulfilling relationships, where jobs and careers-including men's- take a backseat and nurturance is given primacy. All hail Nitya Mehra!  Hope to see more feminism friendly cinema from her in future!

A version of this film review appeared on the Feminism In India website here here                                                                   

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Open

Homeless 

less, a home 

without;

living outdoors, 

like you lost something. 

google tells me an Indian family goes on an average five generations thus:

homeless, minus a home

No roof to shelter you

Come rain, heat or hail,

and no refuge from animals or rodents,

no sanctuary from prowlers on two legs,

no protection from the ravages of time and disease.

To live exposed thus, without walls

without fences,

defenceless,

open- 

like your body is itself a wound, 

uncovered, uncouth 

declaring the ruptures in the fabric of humanity 

which passes you by

and sits googling you. 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Movie Review: Pink Is Colorless Trite Male Feminism

Pink  is a movie that tries, really hard, to "empower women". And like that empty vacuous phrase, it's nothing more than a shell. Right from the get go, with a name like that, it practically shouts at you: "look at me, I'm talking about WOMEN!" and so it goes. It harangues women, portrays them as weak, silly, and prone to putting themselves in dangerous situations. But seeing as they are all women, what can you expect them to do on their own, hai na?             Patriarchy:1, Women: 0

Enter: the knight in shining armor, the right honorable Mr Amitabh Bachchan. Because as we all know, women, however progressive they may be, need to fall back on men for help and support!

A major part of the movie is a courtroom drama centred around the prosecution of a woman, Meenal. She has hit a man in self defense, causing him head injuries. The man happens to have political connections. Result: he manages to turn the tables on her and get her arrested. She ends up having to spend a horrific time in a police lock up. The performances of the three lead women, specially Meenal played by Tapsee Pannu,  and Kirti Kulhari as Falak Ali, are pitch perfect. Most of the cast does an excellent job, too. 

Enter: Meenal's lawyer, Mr Sehgal, played by Amitabh Bachchan.  For reasons best known to him, he has been creepily watching the women closely. The film treats this as perfectly normal behavior. 

In a scene that made me gag, Mr Sehgal puts Meenal on the stand and asks her pointed, personal questions about her sex life. At this point I almost walked off, unable to take the violence of the language. Someone please tell the director Aniruddha Roy Choudhury that women are used to being insulted, having their character and sexual lives discussed threadbare and then having it used as stick to beat us with. You don't need to spell out the horrors of our lives to us! 

In a more shocking sequence, the culprits kidnap Meenal, and drive around, while apparently assaulting her. The men talk gleefully of raping her, and from all appearances they do. Yet, shockingly, in the rest of the movie, there's no mention of it. More than half the movie occurs in a courtroom. While the lawyers slug it out and police loiter about, the entire horrific incident is swept under the rug. Why is there no mention of it in the rest of the movie? Why aren't the perps brought to justice? 

Another aspect that bothered me was the role of Mamata Shankar. The entire sub-plot with her and her apparent romance (?) with Mr Sehgal was lost on me. What exactly was their relationship is not made clear. Other than to portray one more woman as weak, frail and dependent, and Mr Sehagal as savior, I couldn't fathom the reason for the introduction of the character.

The movie seems to try to reach out to the bollywood watching janata about concepts like consent, and we are supposed to be grateful for the smallest of mercies. "No means no" repeats Mr Sehgal in varying tones of voice, like the audience is hard of hearing. Or maybe a little dense. When talking to women you can never be sure! 

The biggest giveaway to how badly women need rescuing by big, strong, smart men is at the end close of the court case. As Sehgal walks away, victorious, the policewoman on duty looks up at him adoringly and salutes. In case you had any doubts, they made it clear who the hero is. FML, I murmured to myself.

Anti-women attitudes of our society are held up to scrutiny: is it immoral for a woman to drink? Does a woman who laughs and talks with a man, while having a drink and a conversation, send out signals that she's sexually available? To be fair, these conversations around consent are important to have, no doubt. It's the manner in which it is done that leaves you wanting to bash your own head in, rather than sit through this cruel joke.

I've heard people say that this movie plays out like a thriller, it didn't to me. Only if you are skeptical of the women's motives or don't take their word for it, like most of society does. The last sequence of the depiction of the assault as it happened, the events that trigger off the whole drama, from where the movie begins boggles the mind. It's captured in slow-motion, slimy, sneaky smiles of the men intact, making it look like a sneak peak video- voyeurism of misogyny celebrated. 

Alas, asking the right questions does not a feminist movie make. Even though it passes the bechdel test  it's attempts at feminism fail. The depictions of women are cringe worthy. It has the token "north eastern" girl, etched in painful stereotype. It panders to men's fears regarding young, independent women. The discomfort with assertive women and their ownership of their sexuality is moot; it's portrayal left open ended, pandering to the male gaze, safe only under a paternal custody. While the public discourse around sexual assault has grown over the years and Bollywood still seems not geared for it. 

How would this movie have looked with a Nawazuddin or even an Irrfan Khan, in the role of the lawyer Sehgal, I wondered time and again. For reasons best known to the producers and director they chose not have a woman lawyer in a movie about women's emancipation at its core. This reinforces my view that this is about empty, soulless posturing.

The weight of Mr Bachchan's presence is a burden for this movie and causes it to fall quite flat on its face, under the weight of unmanageable aspirations. Surely there are better way to pass on a message, than have Mr Bachchan ham his way through an entire movie. 

Just prior  to the release of Pink, Mr Bachchan had written a letter to his granddaughters talking of "women's empowerment". Take all that paternalism  in the PR stunt, multiply it many times over and you have this movie. It's colourless and full of cliches. Its male director and lead actor in the excitement to do feminism, don the familiar savior complex. They aren't willing to put women centre stage or to listen to them. Instead, their condescension is apparent. 

All of which left me feeling let down. Here was an opportunity to create a sensitive, powerful film, showing strong women take charge of their lives, despite patriarchy. Instead we get a patronizing, preaching piece, putting women right back into their slots, delivered from a male point of view!



In conclusion: dear men, quit the half assed attempts at feminism, will you, because you're spectacularly failing at it!
                                                                                 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Women, we let the side down, again!

People are writing reams about how not enough Indian women are joining the workforce. It's been a constant lament in the national as well as international media. We the women have once again let our side down.

Like it wasn't enough to have them feel embarrassed that we keep getting raped and burn ourselves for dowry which our parents can never pay enough of. Nor have we stopped killings ourselves in our mothers' wombs- now this utter humiliation among the ranks of nations. What a shame! Not earning enough; that's a crime no self respecting capitalist society will forgive you, babe!

Of course we do back breaking labour in the fields and farms and oh! the kitchen- nope, can't mention that embarrassment here, come on! Kitchen doesn't count as a workplace. Only where you are paid for your labour, that alone counts as a workplace.

Of course, us women do all the work nobody else wants. But that's just the way the world is, we just aren't efficient enough or smart enough to do those other fucking paying jobs.

Besides, if everyone goes out of the house, who does the cooking and cleaning and looking after the babies? 

What is Patriarchy?

Patriarchy is a system of government in which the father or the oldest male is the head of the family and descent is traced through the male line. Lineage passes from father to son, females are excluded from all reckoning of bloodlines. 

In such a society men wield power and authority and women are excluded from it. Power is wielded through violence, or simply its threat. The social structures we see all around us are steeped in patriarchy. They are structures built over centuries, with painstaking, methodological building up of systems which keep women oppressed and men in positions of power. This didn't happen overnight.The systemic oppression and objectification of women by men is a key feature of patriarchy. 

How was patriarchy built?
  1. When early man moved from being hunter-gatherer took up agriculture, mankind moved away from shared labour towards segregation of labour. Simultaneously, women's child bearing ability coupled with long and helpless infancy of human babies kept women tied down. The productive years of a woman's life become devoted to child rearing.

    With settled agriculture and movement of social structure towards ownership of land and property, came an end to the free mingling of the sexes. In order that men could ascertain the passing down of their property to their own offspring, sexual promiscuity came to be curtailed and women's sexuality came to be controlled. Patriarchy thus came into being with the subordination of women, through control of their sexuality.

How does patriarchy work?

The oppression of women isn't just economic. It's reflected in language, kinship, religion and culture. Here are a few pointers:

1. Women are overworked and society doesn't acknowledge it. modern society, women often do double the work that men do- usually holding down paying jobs while taking almost full responsibility for the care of the home. 

2. The assumption that the home is the domain of the woman alone and that nurturance comes naturally to her. Men, on the other hand, indulge in activities in the external sphere, 

This leads to the situation where "men's work" or masculine pursuits are valued more than the feminine one, and all labour in the domestic domain is pooh-poohed.  Women often accept their 'natural' roles as care givers as a fact. However, a new born is as much a revelation and a mystery to a new mother as it is to a new father. The "maternal instinct" is a myth.   

3. Women's inferior status came to be seen as natural and normal. The subordination of women is ensured by violence or the threat of it. But the subjugation has been naturalized, by means of norms and laws, and vetted by religion. This subordination has been going on for so long that its taken unquestioningly at face value, even by the women themselves. Stockholm syndrome, anyone?

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

O Father, Dear Father!

So Bollywood biggie Amitabh Bachchan has decided his granddaughters, one of whom is probably four years old now, must get married and has proclaimed it to the wide world - in a letter in which he advocates the virtues of choice and independence! Of course, he's only telling them to choose whom to marry. We all know that in the Indian context that's a huge deal. Because of course good Indian girls only marry the guy their parents pick for them. Nice touch, Mr Bachchan!

In the letter released to the public, the repeated refrain of their pitiable womanhood is a jarring note - that it may be a difficult, difficult world to be a woman. Don't we know it, sir? But the allusion to length of skirts and its linking to the measure of character is a smart pick from an internet meme- we'll give that you Mr Bachchan! If only you'd picked up some feminism too! Too much to ask? :(

What is most infuriating in this platitudinous epistle is his allusion to legacies, specifically those of the girls' patriarchs. In one stroke his words erase the names, the lives and the her-stories of the women of the family. It's no secret that women put in the hard physical and emotional labour in child care, while men don't lift a finger. Yet, it's the men's name that counts while women's work as well as names are erased.

Such paternalism from Indian men isn't unexpected. Many such sickening instances were on display soon after the recently concluded Rio Olympics. The medals and stellar performances of India's women athletes were usually credited to their male coaches. Worse still, their victories were held up as sterling examples of why we should not kill our girls. One such example on social media, from popular sporting icon Virender Sehwag 


                                                                 
                                                             

Yes, we have a huge fucking problem, we kill girls in the womb. We kill 2000 -yes, you read that right -WE KILL TWO THOUSAND GIRLS EVERYDAY as per the minister of women and child development herself. But how is holding up examples of high achievers going to end female foeticide? These are outliers, women who fought the system and won against huge odds. Does every little girl have to now mould herself into an Olympic champion so she can earn the right to live? Girls don't need a fucking reason to be allowed to live!




 A similar poem by ad guru and writer Prasoon Joshi was also widely circulated recently.
In the moving piece he shames men for having doubted their daughters and not celebrated their births. Now that those daughters are bringing us laurels and will continue to do so in future, we should be ashamed, Joshi tells us. The stirring poetry is juxtaposed with snippets of the Olympians. Yet again. Repeatedly, these men remind us: you are worthy if you win. The corollary seems to be: otherwise you're fit to be killed. Not so different from the cosmetic giant asking you to notch up your own worth using its products, is it?
Not to forget the cringe inducing paternalistic tones of the Prime Minister's tweet.                                        

One basic fact seems to escape these men- women are people too. Regardless of body shape and size and gender, they have a right to life, and to dignity. Irrespective of what they do for you, for your honor. Respectability is a concept whose time is up, it's time to discard it.

A desire to have one's children children further our legacy is a human desire. In Indian society those children can only belong to one gender- male. Lineage is passed on from father through to son. Understandably, daughters' share in ancestral property is denied. Even though the law allows it, parents balk at the thought of passing down dada- pardadaon ki zameen to girls. The family name doesn't pass on through the girl, her surname changes upon marriage.
These deep seated beliefs are what we are fighting against.

One swallow does not a summer make, and the lone Sakshi and P.V. Sindhi-god bless their souls- will not bring about a change in the hearts and minds of Indian parents. Nor will cash incentives, such as those promised by Haryana government. Haryana, while being one of the most prosperous states in the country has the dubious distinction of having the worst sex ratio in the country. According to the national census 2011, Haryana has ONLY 879 WOMEN PER 1000 MEN.

This is the state where the chief minister blames women for rising rapes because they dress provocatively. The man makes disparaging, regressive remarks towards women, inviting them roam around naked . All because women asked to be free. The horribly skewed sex ratio doesn't sound so strange now, does it?

From the obviously conservative to the apparently liberal, we have one patriarch too many.
You know what can be inspirational without being preachy? Watch this advertisement featuring another athlete, Geeta Phogat's story. She's a gold medallist at the 2010 commonwealth games. The video talks nan apparently patriarchal tone and turns every cliche on its head. Brutally. Watch!


                                                                            Geeta Phogat's story


Thursday, 1 September 2016

Making A Feminist Choice

Now that "women's empowerment" is all the rage and we seem to have acquired a booming voice, our choice  is suddenly everywhere. Since having our voices silenced has been the default state for women, it seems all the more novel.

Come to think of it, is this hurrah really for us, for women, or are we being used as stepping stones for big corporations to get ahead while they pushe us further back into misogynist territory? Like a magician performing a sleight of hand, here's the elaborate illusion that we are the winners- but does it hold up to scrutiny?

As we go about our life struggles, we are constantly forced to make choices. Each choice comes with it's own consequences, some positive and some not so much.
Not all choices are easy, but every choice is made after weighing all the factors. We try to do the best we can, under the circumstances, based on what we know at the time.

These choices may vary, and even for the same woman, change depending on the circumstances. 
Consider a woman who works outside the home, but has to quit after child birth because child care is not affordable. Surely, no woman wants to end up paying the mommy penalty out of choice? Many a choice must be made depending on various factors - many of which may be beyond our control.

It's no secret that sexism flourishes in the marketplace, limiting our choices, while making the opposite appear true. What choices, pray?

The much touted "choice feminism" is nothing but a self indulgent narcissistic idea that every act of choice made by a woman, is an inherently feminist act. Simply the act of choosing empowers us-that is, of course, utter horseshit.

For example, the choice to whiten your vagina- is that feminist act too? If your whiter vagina raises your self esteem or helps give you pleasure, please go right ahead and do it- but please don't claim it as an inherently feminist act, simply by virtue of having made a choice. 

Another facet of our lives where choice constantly rears its head, is that of the daily rituals surrounding our appearance. Femininity is a performance, and the best performers are richly rewarded for their efforts. Attire and grooming are big components of performing femininity.

 The little dab of kohl that I apply to my eyes each morning and the touch of lipstick which never lasts through the day- I do it because I like the appearance, it makes me feel pretty. What's pretty? My notions of beauty are those which I've grown up with. Many of these inherited notions I've outgrown, and of course I've acquired some of my own as I've aged. 

But also, I've learnt the idea that to be professional is to be well groomed. The line between grooming and femininity are blurry indeed. Isn't having a "well-groomed, professional" look also a performance of femininity?  

All the women's magazines will tell you that you need separate sets of clothes for work. Where does fashion end and professionalism begin? By telling us what is in and what's not- staging an ever burgeoning line of all kinds of wear, fashion only serves to hem us in. 

Who's to say that I can't wear the same saree to work and go shopping in it and enter the kitchen in the same, to cook? I'm sure our grandmothers did it and the multitudes of women toiling away in the fields do to this day. As much as the fashion purports to provide us with choices, in reality it limits us, it ties us down. 

Not only are we sexist, we are also an ageist society. The elderly and greying are judged as being less active, less able to perform efficiently. Much as I'd like to let my hair go grey, I'm not yet ready for the judgement that I'm sure will follow at my workplace. So I dye my hair, and look the better for it, too. 

Let me confess, going grey is not going to be an easy decision. Thick, glossy, colored hair is not only youthful-read energetic- it also looks pretty. Hand on my heart, I'm not ready to face my dowdy self-not yet. In my own eyes I look more feminine, and it coincides better with the constant barrage of media images of what it means to be pretty.  

So I wear some make up, I follow a dress code, and I color my hair. I follow these dictats, for what it means to be a well groomed professional. Because the choice I make, is to keep working my job, while not sticking out like a sore thumb at my work place. Those choices are not feminist acts by any stretch. 

 Does feminism take a backseat to living an even-keeled life? You bet. Is my every act a well thought out act of feminism? No, far from it. Does it make me a less passionate feminist? I certainly don't think so. Every feminist must pick her battles and I've chosen mine.

Let's face it, the world continues to be a sexist place and it's a constant struggle to balance out the demands to be feminist. To contribute with each act to the bending of gender norms is too heavy a burden to carry. Carry it only till your shoulders allow you. Remember the words of Audre Lorde : Self care is self preservation. You come first.