What is Feminism?
Feminism is all about gender equality. It is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. Feminism means a million things to a million people. Feminism is a range of political and social movements along with ideologies that aim to define, establish, and achieve the political, personal, social, and economic equality of the sexes. Feminism is not the idea of making one gender more powerful than another. It’s about establishing gender equality.
Feminism allows equal opportunities for all genders. More powers can prove to be harmful to both men and women. According to ancient beliefs, women are meant to stay at home for the household work while men are meant to go out and earn for the family. Can you imagine not being allowed to go to school just because you’re a girl? Or being forced to stay at home and look after the house just because you’re a woman? This is the reality that many girls around the world face, even in some developed countries. They are restricted simply because they are girls. Feminism is about allowing both boys and girls the freedom to do what they want and making sure that people are not held back by gender roles and expectations whether it be at home, at school, in the workplace, or in governance.
Why is Feminism Important?
Feminism is important to ensure that girls in every part of the world enjoy equal rights and get equal opportunities as men do. Feminism is important to bring those hidden gems out of the closed doors and let them explore the beautiful world. Whether it’s South Africa or the United States of America, girls are also human beings. The rights of the girls should be protected and they should be supported so that they are not oppressed further by the society. In some countries, gender inequality is highly prevalent, so much so that girls are kept inside their houses behind a veil. They are not allowed to unveil themselves in front of other men in the house. They aren’t allowed to go out. Women are forced to stay at home and are prohibited from going to school and markets. Feminism is our sword to fight against this societal evil. The concept of feminism was brought up to address the problem of gender inequality, to treat all the humans equally, irrespective of their gender. Hence, feminism is important to fight against patriarchy since it is the voice against patriarchy.
What Defines Sexism?
Living in a patriarchal society, sexism is what we can see as a widespread evil. Sexism in language is an offensive reminder of the way the culture sees women. What is sexism? Sexism is prejudice, discrimination, or stereotyping on the basis of sex or gender, typically against women. It may include the belief that one sex or gender is fundamentally superior to the other. Basically, sexism is the base upon which the patriarchy can rest comfortably. When we talk about patriarchal society, we cannot point out some particular counties or say that only underdeveloped and developing countries have this feature, it’s about every country, irrespective of its sex ratio or development index.
Sexism is not only about discrimination, but it also includes prejudice and stereotypes. That’s not correct. Sexism did not originate in the modern world, it has existed since ages, through religious stories and beliefs. Every old story has a male protagonist. Why? Didn’t they form a part of patriarchy? The way we have seen things happen in older times, we are continuing the same further. Even today, movies continue to perpetuate the same, ages-old opinion that at the end of the day, we only need a hero to save us.
Why We Shouldn’t Be Sexist?
Sexism is harmful. It produces feelings of worthlessness, changes in behavior, self-censorship, and deterioration in health. It affects girls and women disproportionately. Sexism lies at the root of gender equality. Sexism may not only affect women, but it can also affect men when they don’t conform to stereotyped gender roles. For the past thousands of years, since humans have started settling and forming communities, the organization of humans has been designed in such a way that men are supposed to work and women are supposed to stay at home. This concept continued till the modern ages and even today, this belief prevails in society. So, patriarchy is an outdated concept. It doesn’t make sense in the modern world, however it is still a norm.
An article by Allen Faulton on Medium reads, “We’ve evolved past the point where violence is the preferred method of problem-solving, so the whole “male protector” thing is mostly out. We’re in an economic system where your physical labor really doesn’t matter that much, in the sense that machines are used to do heavy work — what’s left isn’t really gender-dependent in most cases, so the whole “men are stronger” thing is mostly out. And we have laws against various kinds of spousal abuse, so the whole “might makes right” argument is also out.” This simply roots out the belief of men being physically strong and women being the weaker ones.
Today, women are as smart as men and there is no substance in the arguments claiming that only men can do certain tasks or only women can do certain tasks. What all patriarchy is doing is just creating a myth for us as well as for our future generations. The remaining reason behind it is just historical inertia.
When somebody feels superior over others, it can result in untoward consequences like violence and repression. You must be aware of the regular features in the news about a husband beating his wife or a father’s evil acts towards his daughter. Yes, it happens and you cannot ignore this reality. These are some of the effects of sexism. When a man thinks that being a male human gives him the power of being superior to all female humans, he and his sexist thoughts give rise to a modern-world evil, patriarchy.
Sexism can damage relationships. Imagine a woman doing all the household work daily. Her husband stays at home only on weekends. He cannot give her a helping hand even on Sundays. He doesn’t even realize that his wife doesn’t get even a single day leave from work. This is just because he has built up a mindset that his job is to work and earn for the family and his wife is supposed to do the household work all the time. Sexism is stupidity creating power dynamics and assigning roles to people accordingly. It can ruin your happy married life.
If I think that you are inferior to me, it will be difficult for me to trust you. If you know this mindset of mine, most probably, you will also not be able to trust me because it’s a matter of self-respect for you. So, sexism can bring up trust issues. Not only domestic life, but sexism also hurts our economy. Women are kept away from the workplace and are forced to stay in the kitchen without realizing the fact that if both the partners work, the earning will almost get doubled and the status of living can rise significantly. Pushing your family into the hands of poverty just because you don’t want a woman to work is pathetic.
Sexism is present in our assumptions. If you can control your assumptions, you can get over sexism.
How Women Misuse The Word Feminism?
While women who bring up false allegations to exact some sort of revenge or other monetary benefits can be called pseudo feminists, there is another more popular section that comes under the definition of pseudo-feminists. This is the section of men that pretends to be progressive in the public sphere but treats the women in their personal lives without any respect.
In a society where we are working to provide equal rights and protection to women, some women are misusing feminism. Many cases have been discovered where women file false reports of sexual harassment and dowry and the suspect is declared as a criminal without proper investigation and research. This is absolutely wrong. The legislatures make laws for the protection of women so that they don’t feel unsafe and they are granted equal rights. On the other side, women are misusing these laws just to cover their own sins or for giving punishment to innocents.
A Pseudo-Feminist is a person who claims to be a feminist but ignores the main point of feminism. Feminism is not about women empowerment, it’s about equality of all sexes and developing a world which is free of prejudice, judgment or hatred between the sexes. People misuse the word feminism. They want a world ruled by women and say that they are feminists, but actually, they are pseudo-feminists. They combine feminism with women empowerment. The majority of people who post stuff about feminism on social media don’t know what feminism is. They just want to create stuff out of anything and show it to the public. They think that making women rule over men is feminism. It is not. Feminism is about equality of sexes, not one gaining power over the other.
When the government is making laws for the protection of women, it’s their duty to use these laws only for their protection, not for taking revenge from anyone just by putting the blame of dowry or sexual harassment. These practices don’t do good to anyone, they just criminalize the laws. Yes, you read it right; criminalizing the law means overuse or misuse of criminal laws to address societal problems. Let’s understand this with an example. There was a case where a girl filed a false case of sexual harassment against a boy who was her enemy for the past two years. But he never did any such activity. Without any deep investigation and research, the boy was declared as a criminal and punished. This is how women misuse feminism.
Besides this, we must never forget that there are women who fight for justice for years, but achieve it after they die. Keeping every aspect in mind, there is a need to be aware that misusing these laws is wrong because the actual ones keep waiting and some use them as a game.
Myths and Facts about Feminism
Over time, feminism has been misinterpreted in numerous ways and the word feminism has converted from a change maker to a violent word. There are some myths and misunderstandings due to which the polluted layer covers this noble word. So, let us burst some myths by stating facts and clarify why feminism is not a word to be scared of…
- Myth 1: Feminism is only for women
This point can also be stated as ‘men cannot be feminists’. But that’s not true. Anybody, irrespective of gender, sex, religion, or nationality, can believe in the equality of sexes. Even men can be feminists. Some people might even claim that all feminists are lesbians in a derogatory way however, it is a movement open for people from all sexual orientations and genders and does not believe in using any of these identities as a slur. Feminism is a kind of ideology and someone’s mindset does not have anything to do with his/her gender. In fact, there are organizations working towards feminism which were started by men and are still operated by them. If you still don’t believe, you can look at the crowd at social and political movements that aim to establish equality; you will find a large number of male supporters present there.
- Myth 2: Feminism is about hating men
Feminism calls for equality of all, whether they are men, women or transgender, not for the superiority of one sex over the other. People misinterpret feminism as an ideology to make women more powerful than men. Again, that’s not true. The fact is that feminism aims to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. This myth arises due to misunderstanding when people don’t study something properly and just start commenting upon it. Feminism is about the fact that there should be an equal number of men and women in the workplace, not about that only women should be present at the workplace. The belief that men and women can be good political leaders and not that women can be better leaders or vice versa. We need to understand this properly. Before posting stuff on social media, first read about what you are posting and then judge whether it’s correct or not.
- Myth 3: Feminism is against femininity
According to Wikipedia, Femininity is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Feminism is not against high heels and short dresses. Dressing is a choice, not an obligation. Feminists are usually branded as bra burners, but that’s not true. Being feminine and being feminist are two different things. No color is associated with feminism. So, the thought that those who wear pink are lesser feminists is worthless. Women can be feminine and feminist at the same time. The myth-busting fact is that you can choose what to wear and how to act, it does not relate to what your mindset about equality is.
- Myth 4: Feminists are all the same
There’s no point in saying that only middle-class people are feminists or only the youth group can be feminists or only women can be feminists, men cannot be. Feminism is an ideology. Remember, ideas don’t depend on what country you belong to, how old are you, or whether you are a boy or a girl. If a man is a participant in a social movement against sexism and a woman is also a participant of the same movement, there’s no difference in them, they both are the same. They both are humans supporting the same social cause. We shouldn’t classify feminists on the basis of their gender, age, nationality, or religion.
- Myth 5: Feminism as a concept has come from the West
It is believed that the concept of feminism has originated from the West. But, the history of India has witnessed some great women like Savitribai Phule who fought for equal rights for the women. Feminism had already originated in many countries, however the terminology ‘feminism’ first emerged in the West. People have been fighting for equal rights of women for decades in every part of the world. Feminist movements began as a result of injustice done to the citizens based on gender and class. People started demanding equality and such movements gave birth to feminism on a large scale.
- Myth 6: Feminists are against the institution of marriage
Feminists are not against marriage. Actually, most of the feminists are married. Feminists believe that family is the strength. All the men and women in the family should live in harmony and everyone should be treated equally. It is said that feminists are against marriage because, in many households, a woman is not granted many rights after her marriage. Feminists oppose the restrictions placed on a woman after marriage, not the institution of marriage. A woman should be treated equally as other humans in the family because a family is made up of blood relations, not gender relations. Sexist people need to understand that women should also be allowed to go to work, rather than sitting locked up in the house.
- Myth 7: Men and women are equal. So, why feminism?
People say that today, women have voting rights, property rights, and employment opportunities, so aren’t they equal to men? Then, why feminism? This is because women have suffered historical oppression and to undo these deep seated faulty values we need to meticulously weed it out from every nook and cranny of our society. There are still many inequalities in society’s perception of the roles of men and women. We want to build a world in which no person should curtail their hopes and dreams because of their gender. Equal voting rights and jobs have been great achievements of feminism. However, we still have so much to achieve. Still, there are wage gaps in the workplace. Till today, women are declined to work in many parts of the world. Women still feel unsafe in the workplace and while traveling. The employment opportunities are equal but wages are not equal, even when work hours are equal. So, we need feminism.
- Myth 8: Feminism is against religion
Some religions do have patriarchal perspectives and impose age-old discriminative practices against women; it does not mean that one needs to give up their concept of ‘God’ and religion. But, feminism is not against religion. If you believe in religion, you can be a feminist at the same time. Feminism is about bringing equal opportunities in the present. However, many religious stories depict patriarchy and sexism, but we cannot help it. Feminism is not anti-religion. We know that we want women to be seen as equal to men, not vulnerable figures in society. Religion has its own place of value and feminism has its own. We can’t mix them up and question religion on the basis of our feminist ideology.
- Myth 9: Feminists do not support stay-at-home moms
Feminism is not against those women who are housewives, who stay at home to do household work and take care of family and children according to their own choice. If a woman does this as per her choice, nobody can go against it. It’s her choice whether she wants to stay at home or go out for work. Feminism does not question ‘why a woman is working in the kitchen?’ feminism questions ‘if a woman can work in the kitchen, then why a man cannot?’ Feminism is not against staying at home; feminism is against being forced to stay at home. Remember, feminism is about equality of sexes, not the empowerment of one over the other.
Can Men be Feminists?
Men can be feminists. Why not? Ideology does not come with sex. The need for gender equality can be felt by both men and women, even the transgender. This is a stigma around feminism that only women are feminists. This is a very prevalent myth. Anybody who feels the need for gender equality can be a feminist. Is there any logic behind only women can be feminists? If we move on this belief, we can interpret that only tigers will raise voice against the killing of tigers and only bees will raise voice for bees. Why? When we can raise our voices for the protection of tigers, why can’t the whole human species raise voice for gender equality?
In fact, there are organizations that work for feminism and are founded and run by men. Let’s take a real-life example of this. There is an organization based in Mumbai named The Gender Lab founded by Mr. Akshat Singhal along with Ms. Ayushi Banerji. The fellowship of The Gender Lab aims to build leadership, employability, and entrepreneurship skills among girls (20 to 25 years) through a multi-layered ‘service-learning’ model. The Gender Lab has won numerous international awards and recognition for their work towards building leadership skills in adolescent girls, the latest being the Asia Foundation’s Lotus Leadership Award 2020. Mr. Akshat is a feminist and is working towards the goal of establishing gender equality.
Yes, men can be feminists. When men can be sexist according to their choice, then they can be feminists as per their own choice. When some of them can support patriarchy, others can support equality.
Gender Equality and Why is it Important?
Gender equality is one of the hottest issues whenever we talk about socio-political problems. The United Nations has also recognized gender equality as a human right. The need for gender equality arose in the past centuries when women were denied the same rights as men. Women were not given voting rights. In some countries, a man’s vote was counted as twice the vote of that of a woman.. There were times when women were not allowed to be a part of the governing bodies of their respective countries, women were kept locked in houses, and in some places, women were not allowed to work. A human (a girl in particular) doesn’t face discrimination from her teenage or adulthood, gender discrimination starts from the point where the fetus originates in the womb. People start deciding that if it’s a baby boy, what he’ll become in the future and they don’t even keep a future thought for a baby girl. at present, when we can see the literacy rates rising and people getting more aware of everything, we can still see families believing in a male child preference. Not only the poor or the illiterate ones, but even the well-off families are also practicing this belief. They believe that a son will grow up to be a bread-earner for the family, whereas a girl will be a burden because they’ll feed her and teach her, and then she’ll get married and the fruit of their labor will be borne by some other family.
Gender equality is the concept of giving equal rights to both men and women in every field whether it’s social, economic, political, or personal, everyone should have the freedom of choice.
Iceland ranks first for gender equality, not for the first time, but for the ninth time in a row. This gives us a hope that gender equality is not something impossible to achieve, we can establish it by using collective action and solidarity of women human rights defenders, political will, and tools such as legislation, gender budgeting, and quotas. Keeping aside all the societal taboos and stigmas, Iceland has proved that gender equality is a human right and a country needs to work towards it. It also proves that women are not weaker than men. Women can hold power and are good decision-makers like men. Women can be successful in every field, what’s lacking is just an opportunity. Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. UN says, “Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large. Implementing new legal frameworks regarding female equality in the workplace and the eradication of harmful practices targeted at women is crucial to ending the gender-based discrimination prevalent in many countries around the world.
The need for gender equality arises when we look at the following statistics by the United Nations:
- Globally, 750 million women and girls were married before the age of 18.
- In 18 countries, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working.
- In 39 countries, daughters and sons do not have equal inheritance rights.
- 49 countries lack laws protecting women from domestic violence.
- Globally, women are just 13 percent of agricultural landholders.
And this list can go on for days and months, but the situation remains the same. Some statistics are improving over time, but we need to work harder towards this goal.
Hence, feminism is a way to achieve gender equality. Feminism is our weapon to fight against the social evil of discrimination. Feminism is the backbone of the movement towards gender equality. But, the ones who are misusing it are doing evil deeds against humanity. Feminism should not be misused.
As stated above, women file false cases of sexual violence against men. The judiciary should not trust them blindly. A proper series of investigations and research must be carried out to clarify the matter and the man should also be given an equal chance to prove that he is innocent. Don’t misuse feminism. The government is making laws for the protection of women. If women themselves will misuse them, how will the conditions improve? They should keep this in mind that whenever they do this, their deed affects the one who is actually harassed.
Respect feminism and stop pointing out feminists as social enemies.