On 10th May, we celebrated Mother’s Day around the world. There was an outpour of affection on social media with everyone uploading pictures, writing compliments, and acknowledging the sacrifices made by some of these incredible women. One such person on my Instagram feed followed the tradition and uploaded a whole set of his mother’s pictures, reminiscing his memories growing up, sacrifices she made for them, and how she balanced her career while always being there for her family.
While this spam had not even expired its 24 hours on his profile, it was followed with a rant. This was a rant against feminism, a century-long movement that demands equality irrespective of one’s gender.
The transition from hailing a woman’s contributions and achievements to a rant on feminism was an irony that was lost on him. His criticism of the movement stemmed from another update that came into light.
A Delhi Police investigation into the horrible ‘Bois locker room’ incident reported that a separate case was mixed with the main issue. It was a Snapchat conversation, and the police found out that a girl made a fake account to ‘test the boy’s character’.
The boy, as per the investigation, blocked the account and shared the screenshots with the girl and his friends. The incident, however, triggered a new set of allegations, not just against ”women who take unfair advantage of equality,’ but some even questioning the entire movement of feminism. None of them, however, addressed the more substantial concern: Why did the girl feel the need to test the boy’s character?
Frankly, this was not the first time I came across such a rant. It is a popular discourse on social media that rises up every time cases of sexual assault or gender-based discrimination receive public attention. There is a general lack of awareness of feminism as a movement and its contributions to the larger fight for equality.
One common paradoxical statement born out of this incomplete understanding is, “I believe in equality, but I’m not a feminist.” There is an attempt to stigmatize the idea of calling oneself a feminist. What is it that makes people think they are advocates of equality but cannot be feminists?
A few weeks back, I had an argument over this issue with a friend who labelled me as one of the ‘feminist types’. It was not until a week later that both of us realized that he meant it as a derogatory label, and I took it as a compliment. The movement has been demonized in India by a rigid patriarchal system.
It has alienated men and a lot of women away from the idea of equality. There is an attempt to shame a person if they call themselves a feminist. But my question is this: Why would you shy away from the label if you believe in the ideals of the movement?
Feminism is not perfect, and no feminist claims it as such. There have been three waves of feminism, each focusing on a set of issues relevant to its time. We are in a new age of technology, with access to a virtual world.
There is a new set of concerns we are facing as humans, and the movement is adjusting itself to these occurrences every day. In India, social problems like casteism pose a double-bind hurdle to the movement. Does this mean it’s bound to fail? Can one case derail the entire movement? If you haven’t guessed it, the answer is no.
When one fixates on a rare occurrence and ignores the everyday sexism around them, it points out to the success of patriarchal conditioning. Feminism might be imperfect, but misogyny is systematically imbibed in us. Many women who shy away from feminism are a product of this patriarchal conditioning. Their tendencies to compensate and attempts to be impartial are mere contributions to perpetuate patriarchy.
There is a need to have increased awareness about the movement. It is practically invisible from the academic discourse in schools and colleges. There are attempts to reduce the accomplishments of this movement as a ‘right’ or ‘left’ issue on the political spectrum. But if you claim to believe in the ideals of equality, it is clear that it is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ issue.
If you are someone who is keen to know more about the movement, one suggestion is to read about its history, pioneers, and its impact on our society. It is not an easy process to unlearn everything that we have been taught growing up. All of us are a part of that struggle, and we are still learning and adapting. So, it is impossible to separate oneself away from the movement if you believe in its goal.