Of Threesomes & Body Image: Odd Conversations With Male Feminists
Me: *reading Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own at the crowded IGI airport, earphones firmly in place though no music plays*
Male Feminist #4: *approaches and taps me on my shoulder*
Me: *takes earphones out to inquire politely what the gentleman wants because gender socialisation*
Male Feminist #4: I love this book! Even if she had produced nothing else, this book would have earned Woolf a permanent place in the pantheon of feminist writers.
Me: I really like it too but –
Male Feminist #4: I mean of course she didn’t actually do much to support the grassroots movement, choosing to sit out of suffragette rallies and all that, but that should in no way take away from the impact her literature has had and continues to, on women everywhere.
Me: Um, an awareness of her privilege must surely –
Male Feminist #4: You really should have begun with To the Lighthouse, you know. And then Mrs Dalloway and Orlando, followed by her non-fiction. And I would recommend capping it off with The Waves though of course it is her hardest work to really get.
Me: Surely that question is a little intrusive to ask someone you have just met five minutes ago at a random party?
Male Feminist #7: C’mon, you have a degree in English lit. You must know better. All these notions of privacy are nothing more than regressive coyness that brahminical patriarchy imposes as a means to restrain women’s sexuality.
Me: So when you ask me my sexual preferences and whether I am open to a threesome with you and your girlfriend who, by the way, I don’t see anywhere, you are not making an inappropriate and unwelcome proposition – but fighting the good fight?
Male Feminist #7: Exactly.
On Bhai and Allen
Male Feminist #11: I will never understand these bhai-tards. How can they stomach his toxic machismo bullshit? This dude beat up his ex-girlfriend, for god’s sake, and still continues to make hideously misogynistic remarks.
Me: Oh god, tell me about it. It seems like nothing he does is unforgivable.
Male Feminist #11: Sometimes, I feel like there really is no hope for this country.
Me: Yeah, it does feel like a losing battle.
Male Feminist #11: *sigh* Anyway, I’ll be off. I have a 20-page essay to write about Annie Hall. Allen’s early stuff is truly incomparable, man. I’ll see you later at the march?
On Lipstick Under My Burkha
Male Feminist #19: I don’t know, yaar, I feel like Lipstick Under my Burkha didn’t really live up to expectations. I mean, the Lord knows we need good feminist cinema in these times which is why it especially irks me that the film was such a let-down. They couldn’t have found a better way to represent the men? All of them turn out to be some kind of villain figures, either curbing the women’s independence or dashing their dreams or just being terribly self-absorbed. That takes away from the realism, in my opinion. And it only reinforces the pop culture myth that feminists hate men. We can’t afford to do that. The movement needs allies.
On Body Positivity
Male Feminist #26: Hiiiii, long time no see. We have put on a little bit of weight, I see.
Me: You know what the holidays are like. All that Diwali mithai…
Male Feminist #26: Oh, I understand completely. And it doesn’t matter, anyway. Body-positivity and all that. In fact, I am sorry I even brought it up. Your body isn’t something other men comment on with impunity or hold to unrealistic standards of beauty.
Me: Thank you, but I would like to lose the extra kilos since my doctor has advised it to keep the PCOD in check.
Male Feminist #26: That isn’t very feminist of you and your doctor.
Me: No, trust me, I understand very well how harmful the pervasive message of only-thin-is-beautiful is, but I understand my body’s unique needs and functions and it is a considered decision that I plan to take –
Male Feminist #26: It’s okay, dude. Patriarchal brainwashing takes time to undo. I am here for you, ok?