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Being a Feminist... not the Stereotype

International Women's Day just went by and one of the most common things heard by yours truly was “Why do you guys have an International Women's Day? We don't have an International Men's Day. That must mean that the rest of the days in the year are all The Men's Days.” Followed by an egotistic gesture of whatever guys these days think makes them look good. Well, gentlemen, for your information, there IS an International Men's Day and it's on November 19. It's been around since 1999 and it has a Wikipedia page.

The girls probably wouldn't even have commemorated Women's Day; for those of us who don't feel oppressed or inferior to our male counterparts, it isn't extremely significant. Sad perhaps, but true nonetheless. The teachers on our floor however grouped together and wore purple saris - a small gesture which propelled the rest of us to write IWD <3 in purple on our arms and hands. *cue accusation*

“Are you guys feminists or something?”

It's said almost like an insult. If a typical teenaged guy (emphasis on the typical) is asked, “What do you think a feminist is?” he'll answer, “You know, those girls who take part in strikes and stuff and talk about equal rights all the time.” Which is true to an extent, but not a lot of people (note that I said people and not guys) understand what equal rights they're talking about. And that's different for different people.

There are girls that go out there and make the statement, “I AM a feminist.” They know what a feminist is, and they support that cause fully. Women are different from men; we weren't created to be the same thing. They believe that women should be allowed the same rights, power and opportunities as men and also that they should be treated the same way. Mainly they want people to stop treating them as if they are inferior to men. We should be allowed to ride bikes, climb mountains, work in the same positions as a similarly qualified male and be paid the same. BUT, we should not be cursed at; we should be treated with courtesy and your behaviour should be professional. It doesn't mean you should treat us like your sweaty basketball/football buddies. That isn't what feminism stands for, don't take it too literally.

A lot of girls will react fiercely if you accuse them of being feminists. It's not because they aren't loyal to their people, it's simply because they don't want to be labelled as a man-hater. Some of us actually do care about guys. When we talk about equality and equal opportunities, we mean it in a way that would benefit both genders. Feminism should benefit both genders. Just an example: men might have certain built-in disadvantages when it comes to babies and kids (mothers are supposed to have a natural instinct that is lacking in fathers) but I think that men should be given a fair chance, either in custody trials in court, or for simpler daily matters like needing to talk something out. Guys shouldn't be put down in domestic matters any more than girls in the workplace. Most guys aren't dominating, superiority-complex possessing jerks. They have feelings that get hurt, some of them admit it, and some of them don't. Girls are as much at fault as they are. And they want the same thing we do: to be treated like a human being.

It's okay to like chivalry. It's okay to lament when the guy in front of you closes the door in your face and you wonder whether the guy has ever held doors open for ladies. However, it isn't fair when a guy says, we're equal, open your own door or hold your own shopping bags or get your own jacket. It isn't fair to the girl or to feminism really. Because loving chivalry is not part of feminism. It simply depends on the girl herself. Some girls like their doors opened for them. Other girls (such as the writer) feel patronised (unless it's a kid 'cause that is adorable). Whether you like these small gestures or not depends entirely on what kind of a person you are. If chivalry makes you feel like someone cares, it's not a crime and it's not a betrayal to true feminism.

Royalty and Superiority complex
As the fairer sex, we are noticeably prettier and sweeter and more mature than our male counterparts. It might incite jealousy from the opposite sex, but we're sorry, it's just a God-given blessing. In history and literature, queens have had a very important, imperious, 'off with their heads' kind of a role. Yes, we may have a superiority complex, but we're not looking for world domination. We're quite happy to look on as you try to do so and laugh silently at your antics. Boys are such amusing creatures.

Comedy aside, we may act superior, but again, that is not part of being a feminist. That has come about due to the realisation that females in general are awesome. Females that are ladies (as described by Sarwat) of course. Plastics not included.

By Sifana Sohail
Dedicated to Sewima and Pwodhi

Surviving Student Violence

The problem: The roads of Dhaka are suffering from severe traffic jams and no other vehicle is more culpable for this than the private cars. Moreover, a private car at full capacity can only transport four people and most of them actually carry one or two people every day. Innovative solutions are being mulled over, like giving lifts to complete strangers for optimum utilisation of the private car's seating capacity but it is unlikely the private car owners will ever subscribe to such solutions.

The short term solution: One unfortunate incident infuriates a group of students and afterwards they do what they are always good at - taking 50 or more vehicles out of the road in a matter of moments. It might not be a complete solution but it's probably a good start.

In case you have not still realised, the above solution was not even meant to ease traffic jams on our roads. It happened due to our tendency to take out our frustrations on whatever is in front of us without caring for others who will suffer for our actions. It has become part and parcel of our student life and if you enrol in a public university you will encounter these situations routinely. Here are a few tips to survive such situations:

Try to use public transport. You bought a new car and want to show it off to friends? Unfortunately universities are not really ideal places for private cars and you should let public transport face the wrath of the students if the need arises. You might leave your car in Shahbagh in the morning and discover it has been reduced to scraps of metal by noon if there is a sudden outbreak of violence.

Run. You should know how to run faster than Usain Bolt. That's because Usain Bolt runs for gold medals while you have to run to save your life - something much more important than gold medals.

Use bullet proof clothing. Running fast wouldn't really help you if two political groups have turned the campus into a battlefield. Arms and ammunitions come into play and being in the middle of the crossfire is a possibility you can't rule out. Keep bullet proof clothing and helmets inside your bag all the time. By the way, don't put on bullet proof clothing when there are a couple of students vandalising vehicles with bamboo sticks - you might be mistaken for a policeman and given treatment accordingly.

Use a gas mask. One of the ways the police try to control mob violence is by using tear gas. The last thing you should be doing in the middle of trouble is crying, so a gas mask can be very handy.

Don't protest. This is not the ideal time to voice your opinion about vandalism and should you choose to do that you will surely be at the receiving end of whatever the angry students have at their disposal.

Don't complain. So you think you should complain about unruly students to higher authorities? Your complaint will be taken into account but action will be only taken after three to four months have passed and by that time any action will be futile. And you will end up wasting your time on a day when you should be heading home as soon as possible.

By Nayeem Islam


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