Why I Prefer “Gender Equality” To “Feminism”, And Why All Men Should Be Equalists

Posted on May 20, 2014 in Gender-Based Violence, Society, Specials, Taboos, Women Empowerment

By Archeeta Pujari:

As soon as the word escaped my lips, horrified silence fell across the group. Mothers covered their children’s’ ears with alarm while others averted their eyes in disapproval. Unemployed, lazy, dishonest, secret murderer of hamsters, anything would have been preferable, but not this, anything but this, how could you even suggest such a thing!

You’re a feminist?

Feminism in India

Feminists, the globally recognized brand of bra-burning, husband-eschewing hate-mongers at the root of the global conspiracy to emasculate men, reducing them to nothing but cash/sperm machines, aggressively campaigning for their own rights at the expense of all others, with their sights set at nothing short of world domination with men as their petty slaves.

As news of soaring divorce rates and debilitating alimony settlements hits the headlines, it is becoming less and less fashionable to identify as a feminist. The centuries of campaigning and advocacy that defined the feminist movement have been forgotten, replaced by notions of greedy, man-hating women, and resulting in the formation of a number of unnecessary ‘men’s-rights’ movements.

Many people who are diametrically opposed to the feminist movement believe that it symbolises a ‘war between the sexes,’ and that feminists are looking to usurp the roles traditionally held by men and establish their supremacy. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Feminism is not about the dominance of one sex over the other, or a zero-sum game. It is about equality in terms of rights, freedoms, opportunities, respect and dignity for all people, irrespective of gender. It is about the elimination of constrictive gender stereotypes and established gender roles, to allow people to chose a way of life that suits them, without suffering from discrimination, bias or contempt.

Some of the loathing for feminism undoubtedly comes from the term itself – feminism. By explicitly naming one gender, it immediately diminishes the rights of other genders in lieu of the favoured one. After-all, we don’t call those opposed to racial discrimination racists, or the campaign to eradicate the caste system caste-ism. But feminism is not about promoting the rights of females, it is about establishing equity across the spectrum of genders. I believe that ‘feminism’ is the incorrect term to use when describing these ideologies. Feminism is about gender equality, and it should be called thus.

But surely, gender-equality, or whatever you call it, is for the benefit of women, not men? It is for improving the lives of men too. Here’s how:

  • Men are often burdened with unforgiving gender stereotypes just as much as women. You’re not a man if you can’t provide for your family, right? If a man shows emotions, he is a ‘pussy’. If he doesn’t like to play or watch sports, he’s a sissy. If he would rather stay home with his children, he’s not a man. Qualified men in traditionally ‘feminine‘ professions such as nursing, teaching, child-care are looked down upon. Men are aggressive, cheating, insensitive, unwashed, smelly, primitive sex-fiends with no control over their impulses. Feminine traits in men, whether sensitivity, creativity, shortness, or shyness are looked down upon. Trans-women are marginalized from society, forced to beg for a living, to pay for their crime of desiring to be womanly. As long as feminine qualities as perceived as negative, derogatory or subordinate, men all over the world will continue to be held to unrealistic standards of manliness, which has a profound effect on physical and mental well-being of men everywhere.
  • Traditional gender roles mean that not only are women seen as domestic caregivers, but men are seen as financial providers, or ‘ATM machines’. Men are often criticized for seeking superficial qualities in women like physical appearance, homeliness, docility, rather than emotional connection, but I have met far too many educated women whose sole ambition, far from having a high-flying career and being independent and self-sufficient, is to marry rich, ‘be a gold-digger’, bag men with large pay-cheques to fund their lifestyles without having to toil in the competitive job-market of today’s times. Gender equality gives men and women equal education, equal opportunities, and thus, equal ability to contribute financially as desired.
  • Following on from my previous point, both partners should have the right to discuss how best to split the responsibility of financial provision. Just as women should be free to go out and be the primary breadwinner of the family, men who prefer to stay at home should have the opportunity to do so without facing derision and ridicule from the society. Similarly, men should be able to depend on their partners financially while switching jobs, or taking career breaks, rather than being forced to remain in unpleasant or boring jobs for fear of not fulfilling their duties as men.
  • Men are often seen as sexual predators, taking advantage of vulnerable women for their own gratification. Undoubtedly, there have been cases of women using this stereotype to falsely accuse men of sexual assault and harassment. Moreover, victims of male rape are rarely taken seriously, as the idea of male consent is still widely disregarded. Gender equality dispels the perception of women as passive, weak, vulnerable and helpless, and thus removes the status of men as predators or implicitly untrustworthy individuals.

What I am trying to say is that gender-equality is for everyone. Treating one section of society as helpless, weak, incompetent and undesirable inevitably has negative consequences on every other part of society by placing unrealistic expectations on them. Gender-equality is not a whim of bored housewives, or whiny, dissatisfied women, but a continuous and burning requirement that everyone should be fighting for relentlessly, rather than shunning or distancing themselves, for until gender-equality is achieved, we are all losers, men and women alike.