By Sufia Banu:
Congratulations friend, for choosing to read this article. I promise this is not going to be a male-accusatory rant (Feminism isn’t about man-hating, it never was).
“Feminism has become an unpopular word,” said Emma Watson, UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, in the recent #HeForShe Special Event of the United Nations. I couldn’t have agreed with her more. And I ended up asking myself for about the two thousandth time — ‘Why has Feminism fallen out of favour?’
Understanding Feminism is very easy, and being a feminist is even easier, all you have to do is say (and stand by it) that, ‘I believe in gender equality.’ Feminism, by definition, is the idea that aims at establishing and defending equal rights for women in all aspects (political, economical, cultural and social). It is as uncomplicated as that.
Let alone men, several women today refuse to identify themselves as feminists. The expression ‘Feminism’ is seen by these women — in Miss Waston’s words — “too strong, too aggressive, isolating and anti-men, unattractive even.” This is largely because of how some institutions, advertently or inadvertently, have falsified the actual idea and spread rumours about feminists being bitchy, anti-men, pushy and even aggressive, lesbian women. All these are attempts to downplay the ‘Women’ question. It is about time to clear the mist, don’t you think?
Debunking the misguided notions about feminism:
1. Feminism is all about hating men
This is probably the root cause behind men and women giving up on feminism, or refusing to even consider it. Author and social activist Bell Hooks says in her book, Feminism Is for Everybody, “Masses of people think that Feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think Feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of Feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about Feminism from patriarchal mass media.” Do you see now? Feminism advocates equality and fairness for everyone, so the odd idea of hating-men, attempting to snub or eradicate them is pretty absurd.
2. Feminism is all about women, it does not facilitate men
To tell the truth, it does. Feminism does not only liberate women, but men too, from the false ideas of what constitutes male success i.e. machoism, emotionlessness, not a tad bit of vulnerability, born with leadership skills et al. What if you are lanky and pale? What if you want to cry at the funeral of a close one? What if you are good at following rather than leading? Do you become less of a man or less human when lacking these qualities? There is nothing wrong with being a follower, there is nothing wrong with showing tenderness and sensitivity, because these are basic human attributes. Why must men be denied becoming a fuller human being by embracing their natural inclinations?
3. FeminismÂ doesn’tÂ require men
How can we bring change or even think of fashioning the world into a better place, if half of the population does not feel welcome to participate in a cause that effects everybody? We need everyone in this collective struggle against pointless gender disparity.
4. I don’t need feminism because…
It is almost heartbreaking to see men & women posting photographs in social networking sites, claiming they don’t need Feminism because they don’t blame the entire race of men for something committed by a few. But to tell you the truth, Feminism is not a blame game, it is not a negative- fault-finding mechanism devised by elite women to become powerful, and rule over the universe. To quote Miss Watson again, “(Feminism) is the belief that men and women should have equal right and opportunity, it is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” And since not one country in the world can say that they have achieved gender equality, we need Feminism.
5.Â Aren’tÂ all feminists ‘lesbians’ or ‘lesbian men-haters’?
Being labelled as a ‘lesbian’ for standing up for your rights is a really cheap trick to choke voices demanding equality. Since, in our society, the terms ‘lesbian’ or ‘homo’ is used as slang and most people have a phobia of being branded as one, those opposing gender-equality use it as a device to instil fear of being ostracised by the society. Lesbians can be feminists, and feminists may not be lesbians. And for the record, being a lesbian doesn’t imply being a man-hater.
6. Feminists are loud and aggressive
More often than not, when it comes to women, assertiveness is misinterpreted as aggressiveness, and doggedness as being overtly loud. A sheer bias has been rooted in our world with such a permanency, that assertive girls are called ‘bossy’, and a boy showing the same characteristic is branded as a future leader, even our saviour. Do you know why many feminists are loud and aggressive? Because we are frustrated. Frustrated at having to deal with the same problems over and over again, at home, at workplace, at educational institutions, at friends’ reunion, at our in-laws place, since our childhood, throughout our adulthood, and even in old age. And most of all, we are frustrated at the deep rooted inhibition ourselves.
Feminists, while some of you may be loud and proud, know that others can be quiet and firm but no less of a feminist. I had never been very demonstrative, and thought that I could never speak up for myself. Apparently, the idea was a sham. Be assertive, if not loud, be confident and take heed of what IBM’s first female CEO, Virginia Rometty once said, “…you have to be confident. Even though you are self-critical inside about what it is you may know or may not know. And that, to me, leads to taking risks”.
Did you know that you might be a feminist by default?Â
Feminism does not downplay the abuses men are subjected to as a result of the ‘misuse’ of laws made to protect women (dowry laws et al), in fact feminism promotes and champions the cause of these male-victims.
Because feminism is all about ‘equality’. It really is. And if you believe in equality between genders (men, women & others), you are a feminist. I have friends who are careful to mention that they are not feminist but they constantly promote gender equality. I tell them — mate, you are an equalitarian, that makes you a feminist by default!
If you don’t limit your daughter from education, when you don’t expect any less from your daughter because she might give birth to a child later, you are a feminist.
If you think that your wife has equal guardianship right over your children, you are a feminist.
If you think that your sister deserves equal property rights, you are a feminist.
If you think your women-colleagues deserve equal pay because they are putting in equal amount of time and effort, you are a feminist.
We need more men like you in this world.
Among my acquaintances, I have observed some being afraid of feminists, while others simply lose their temper by the mere mention of the term. Partly, it is due to the distorted concept that feminism liberates women ‘at the expense’ of men. It arises from the wrong notion that men are natural controllers while women, as a result, are naturally controlled. The struggle here is for freedom. Freedom from the mislead inclination that makes us believe that giving orders makes life easier, and that taking them, makes life easier, too. But life should not be lead by doing things that are easy and safe.
I am talking about this because we need help to make the world fair-and-square. Together, you and I can make an equal world where ‘women would run half of our countries and companies & men would run half of our homes’. Our generation, the next generation, and all the generations after, are rooting on us.