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READ IT & WEEP

The F-Bomb

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By calling ourselves 'post-feminists', we are basically burying our heads in the sand and pretending like the fight is over.

I have always been one of those people who swears a lot. I don't advise it and neither does my mother. But the reality is that some of us get stuck with the gene that makes 'bad words' pop out of our mouths despite our best intentions and while I don't view this as a problem other people sometimes do. I was recently asked to speak at a friend's wedding and the only request my bride-friend had was, 'Vaz please don't use the F-Bomb - there will be kids there'. As you can imagine, things went very badly, and a whole generation of innocents had their precious little ears deflowered.

It is at times like this that I realise my swearing isn't fun for everyone, and so I made a mental note that in the future I would at least try and keep lid on it. I was doing really well with my resolution to not sound like a sailor when I started to notice I was getting grief for another F-bomb that I had been flinging about. Yes, there are two offensive words that begin with the letter F and the other one is (drum roll please) FEMINIST. Yes my friends, the word 'feminist' has recently got me in to more arguments than I can handle without dropping the original F-Bomb.

Typically all of these disputes are with my women friends who do not wish to be referred to as such. I'm a humanist. I'm an equalist. I'm post-feminist.

I can call them anything but a feminist.

And I understand why. When most people think of a 'feminist' they think of a bra-burning, man-hating, hairy-legged nag. I find this description of the brave people who fought and continue to fight for women's equality a little harsh and hugely inaccurate. It is also a shame that in 2013 we are still stuck with a perspective that was popular in the 1960s, when the first bras were burnt, a viewpoint that makes it seem that feminists are less than feminine thus scaring women away from a movement we still so urgently need to embrace.

By calling ourselves 'post-feminists', or whatever, we are basically burying our heads in the sand and pretending like the fight is over. I hate to go back to it but I do believe that the hideous events of December 16 prove that the fight is not just far from over but that in some circles it may have just begun. Like everyone else, I read with mounting frustration and horror all the stupid things that various politicians, police officers and other concerned members of our citizenry said in the days following the rape. And of all the idiotic things that were said and done what stood out to me were the suggestions they made for how women can stay safe in a man's world, because let's not kid ourselves, that's what this is.

One pompous ass suggested that women wear overcoats at all times - I am guessing he did this because nothing says 'don't mess with me' like 100 per cent wool in the summertime.

Yet another genius came up with the idea that perhaps women should stay home after dark. As a female comedian I took particular umbrage with the second proposal because there are certain jobs that have to be done at night and, as an entertainer, mine is one of them. My job description requires that I be available after dark. In fact it's virtually impossible to get work performing during daylight hours. And so when you decide that a woman outside her home after sundown is asking for trouble, you allow for an unequal society, one in which women continue to be punished and their activities curtailed for a crime they did not perpetrate. If our basic safety cannot be guaranteed, unless of course we are disguised in overcoats or hidden indoors, there is something wrong that needs to be set right.

And that is where feminists come in. Who do you suppose has been negotiating for stricter anti-rape laws? Who do you suppose asked that we hire more female police officers? Who do you suppose is fighting the horrendous 'two-finger test' ? I'll tell you - a whole bunch of brave men and women who believe that women deserve better than what they currently have. They believe that we should have the same freedoms and consideration as men. People like this are called feminists and it is hard to argue their relevance.
The other day a journalist asked me what it felt like to be a woman in the male-dominated world of comedy, and my response was 'name me one occupation that we women dominate?' because if there is one I want to know about it.

Look, when it comes to equality for women here is what we need to remind ourselves of - if you are reading this then you are an educated woman, this puts you way ahead of your sisters in most parts of the country. You probably grew up being told you were equal to men, and I am positive you had parents that didn't need to choose which one of their kids to send to school. And until every Indian woman gets to say as much we need to call ourselves feminists and help shine a light on the changes that must come. And after that, after every little girl is able to take education, safety, and above all, respect for granted, then you can go back to calling yourself whatever the hell you want.

Vaz is a New York-based comedian.

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