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Who is a feminist?

Who is a feminist? Are feminists groups of women fighting to change the world order, organizing a coup d’état to overthrow the “regime” of men? Are feminists women who organize rallies and scream slogans around the street? Or are feminists normal people, men and women, who believe that a human being has the right to be treated with dignity, who believe that acid attacks, whipping, torture, rape and genital mutilation is not something to be condoned, anywhere.

In short, is being a feminist, simply being a humanitarian? There seems to be no universal definition. A quick round-up of the news gives the impression that women all around are just normal human beings with interests as varied as men. The problem, however, is their identity because they are “the weaker sex.”

There are talks about an acid attack at Lahore’s Mayo hospital. An incensed husband threw acid on his wife and injured five other women in the process. Elsewhere, also in Pakistan, a gang of new-age highway robbers was busted and guess what, three women who made a living hitchhiking and looting innocent travelers.

In India, the media is busy discussing the alarming rate of young women who have taken up smoking, while other newspapers publish colorful pictures on the latest fashion designers, whose palettes are tailor-made for modern Indian women who are still rooted to their tradition.

In Bangladesh, women’s self help groups are in threat after the government has decided to take charge of Nobel Prize winner Mohammad Yunus’ Grameen bank. Needless to say, Afghan women are still bearing the brunt of oppression, dealing with war and trying to get into the Olympics.

The only common thread between all these news reports is the fact that they have women as their subject. They represent the rebel women, the ones who decide to take up smoking because they want to show they can light up their cigarettes just like men, or the ones who take up highway robbery, a very unsettling profession for someone who would, at some point, decide to start a family and have children.

These reports also lend a voice to women in trouble, women who might lose their financial support system because the government itself may not prove to be as cooperative, as in the case of Bangladesh, or women who suffer acid attacks because their jilted husbands cannot think of a more civilized way to address their personal problems.

Coming back to our question, who is a feminist? What do you think? In our first weekly edition of Womentalkonline, we have tried to include several themes, from the incrimination of the Russian band, Pussy Riot to how women fashion designers are trying to make more practical clothes for women. We hope you like our choice of themes and would be delighted to know your reactions!

Manasi Gopalakrishnan

Manasi is part of the editorial team of DW-Womentalkonline. Please write with your comments to


17.08.2012 | 15:16