Closet feminism. I call it closet feminism because it is hidden in the pages of fat books. It is alive only in dissertation projects and theses. It is creatively expressed in poems and song lyrics. From strongly-worded articles to outspoken advertisements, feminism seems to have taken to every medium to express itself. But how much of it goes beyond the pen and paper? How much of it goes beyond the mere thought of change? How much of it has made a difference?
Or is it just closet feminism?
Recently, I heard an advertisement on the radio in which a girl questions the society and asks why she needs to conform to society’s traditional views on what to wear, how to dress, where to go and who to go with. She claims that it is her life and her choice.
You and me are not very different from her. We think the same way. But do we act the same way? I don’t see it happening. They remain as mere values we hold as feminists but fail to practice ourselves.
We would like to walk around in short shorts and mini skirts but seldom do we leave home like that. Either our parents stop us from it or our grandparents. Safety isn’t the only reason. You listen to quite a few words like “tradition”, “culture”, “inviting unnecessary attention”, “what will others say” and “vulgarity” before you take a step out. Then you are back in to change and wear what is acceptable to everyone and perhaps, uncomfortable to you.
At that moment, the “my choice” desire is easily trampled upon and you are unable to defend your choice successfully.
So where are we going wrong with our theories? Are we lacking the courage to emphasise our rights? Or are we aware of the dangers of lust and perversion that lurk in our neighbourhood and therefore, take precautions? To me, in most cases, it is the latter.
Whether it is leaving home safely or an otherwise early curfew, there is a sense of insecurity that surrounds us. A million “what ifs” cloud your mind and you end up doing what is safe rather than taking a risk.
Does that mean that feminism is simply a concept on paper? That women will continue to live lives according to others because there are dirty minds wanting to ruin women’s lives? Does freedom get compromised in the name of safety? Undoubtedly. It is but difficult to change society if the psyche of many individuals remains the way it has. And might I add that this isn’t a problem of a particular strata of society. Harassment and abuse are a common sight across cities and town. Rich or poor, you are still a victim of it.
Little will change even though the thought wave seems to have gone forward. Precaution will override free will.
How do we change it? Frankly, I don’t have an answer. Perhaps, the answer lies in a good upbringing like the Vogue ad shows, “Bachpan se hum sikhaate aaye hain ki ladke rote nahin. Behtar hota agar hum unhe sikhaayein ki ladke rulaate nahin.” (Since childhood we teach our sons that boys don’t cry. It would be better if we taught them that men don’t make others cry.)
But is that all? Maybe if each woman began by changing traditional gender roles at home it could make a difference. Learning to say “no” and being more assertive is a possible way.
Again, all of this is easier said than done. From media portrayals to traditional societal roles, bad upbringings to unsuccessful role models, the dirty mind has had many a way to evolve into ways it has today. It requires more than just awareness and education for the change to happen.
One more book, one more song, one more advertisement, one more movie may not make the change you need because it is appealing to the converted. Does it reach out to those individuals who need to read it? Not yet. But it needs to.
That one book, song, advertisement or movie needs to be powerful, simple and impactful enough to inspire change. Otherwise they will be added to collections of libraries and gather dust.
You and I will remain closet feminists and espouse closet feminism if we don’t get out of the closet and ensure the message reaches those who need to hear it.
Note: The article does not borrow or refer to the theory of Closet Feminism that has developed. The title has been given as it best explains the content of the article. It does not refer to the theory in itself. Also, we understand that feminism is a larger and deeper subject. Only one aspect was focused upon and the main notion of feminism of equality was considered.