What better day than March 8 to pen down my thoughts on feminism and gender equality?
Every day I see people asking, “Why do we need to discuss women’s issues or women’s rights?” Individuals, both men and women, raise their eyebrows in doubt when they hear the word ‘feminism’. The word itself has been so abused over the past years that those fighting for gender equality have started to steer themselves away from it. But that is not what will be further discussed here. I don’t want people to raise their swords over something I say by twisting it to suit their motives.
What I want to achieve through this piece is for people to go back to where feminism started and use that lens to see why feminism and gender equality are needed today. Well, now coming to the most basic yet most important part of this piece, what do I think of feminism? I claim to be a feminist, and why shouldn’t I – being a woman I want to stand up for the rights of other women like me. But by saying this I simply mean that women or girls should get the same opportunities that their male counterparts get, and have the same right to choose their path that their male counterparts have. And this is what exactly feminism means to me. There should be no reason for me to go through the whole process of breaking barriers and changing mindsets just to choose a career, while my male counterpart goes through the process of decision making without facing any societal norms. Nothing should be harder for someone to pursue or achieve just because of their gender. This summarizes my whole point of view for gender equality. and I find it absurd that the world fails to understand a concept as basic as giving men and women equal rights.
While we are talking about gender equality, I would also like to point out how gender equality is not limited to women getting their rights, but also includes men oppressed under the burden of masculinity, who should also be able to enjoy the fruits of equality.
It is high time that as a society, we try to break the shackles of gender stereotyping and let others live their life as they desire. Gender stereotyping begins from childhood, from choosing what games to play, what colours to wear. It is our social conditioning that makes us follow these norms. While those who do decide to move away from these norms or alter the social customs, continuously face disapproval from society. The enormous challenge and the incessant criticism discourage people from breaking through these customs. As a society, it is necessary for us to remember that whatever path one decides to follow should not affect others – especially those who are bystanders in their life.
As a professional working for sustainable development, including my work on gender empowerment and gender sensitization in rural and urban spaces, I have seen numerous cases of gender discrimination: girls treated differently from their brothers for not just major decisions like education, health, and opportunities of work, but even in small things like how to spend their leisure time, making friends, using technology (phones), etc.
This March 8, I urge all of us to go back to the basics of feminism and work towards men and women getting equal opportunities and an equal right to choose. Woman and men need to uplift each other for the society to grow, and we need to remember that putting someone down is not going to help us rise. This is just a motto to live your life by. So, here’s to having a world with more feminists working towards gender equality (equitable rights for both men and women).