“I believe in Equality but I am not a Feminist”.
I have heard this statement countless times from friends, family, and acquaintances. People feel extremely pleased while saying this without realising how incorrect their argument is! I have spent hours trying to explain to them why this statement is problematic. Recently, I came across this Instagram ‘influencer’ who was asked if she was a feminist. Her response? ‘ew, no’!
When did people start misunderstanding the term? Yes, feminism started with advocating for women’s rights. Because guess what? In case you were unaware, women have undergone years of oppression and discrimination. We were denied the basic right to vote! Over the years, the movement has fought for equality, above all else. The objective has always been to fight the patriarchy and create a seat at the table for women.
To put it in simpler terms, let’s take an example. Suppose there is a pit that is 100 feet deep. (Consider the pit to be patriarchy) One person (a woman) is at 5 ft while the other (a man) is at 70ft. Would you provide similar help to both people to come out of the pit? Would your efforts be identical? While one section of society underwent years of oppression, the other section enjoyed supremacy; so how can we make the same efforts to bring the two groups to the same level? How is that equality!?
Yes, we have been vocal about the issues faced by women, because we need to be! It irks us to know that women are still denied equal opportunities, whether at work, in society or even at home! A woman will be paid less than a man for the same profile simply because of her gender. A mother must be more inclined towards the care of her children and the responsibilities of the kitchen. A woman must choose her career keeping in mind whether she will be able to balance home and work and worry about details like whether her role would entail late night travelling. A woman who exhibits leadership skills is called a “bossy bi**h” while a man is praised for the same qualities. The list is simply never ending…
Considering the other side. As feminists, we understand how harmful toxic masculinity is for men. Patriarchy has affected them in a negative way as well. From dealing with the burden of being the breadwinner to not being allowed to express emotions in public, they too have been through their own share of injustices! But when we talk about men, we are not immediately asked to focus on women’s issues, so then why does the opposite happen!?
Even within our own communities, there exists a disparity due to caste, class, faith, and religion. For instance, if a privileged woman goes out to give a speech on “women empowerment” but comes home and mistreats her maid then where is the equality? However, over the years, feminism has broadened its horizon. We have started taking different issues under our umbrella but why are people still hesitant to embrace the term? We simply want to be on par with others. What is so wrong about that?
We need the extra ‘pull’ because of how history has treated us and how deep the roots of patriarchy still are! We simply cannot close our eyes to the oppressed and start assuming that everyone is equal and take it from there! In the end, the fight is to achieve equality.