I am a feminist. This assertion often brings upon looks of disdain and antipathy when stated without any further qualifications such as “but...”. I fail to comprehend why the first response to this word is generally aversion or dismissal, as if the issues being discussed deserve nothing more than a moment of thought. That, too, mockingly.
“Feminazi” has been my middle name. Only because I happen to be passionate about my belief. Simply because phenomena like patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism that are so often normalized make me infuriated.
My feminism is an essential part of my identity. Often, I find myself standing up to the common evils of patriarchy and bigotry. Most people around me are oblivious to the fact that these ills exist in our very society. So, when debates about these issues arise amongst peers and family, I tend to be the only person standing up against the discriminatory practices that are carried out against women. This often results in me being termed as a “feminazi”, “lesbian man hater” , and other terms which are based upon ignorance and unsound assumptions.
A possible explanation for so many people’s aversion towards feminism most of the times is their confliction with their own perception of feminism. People’s ideas about feminism often root from their exposure to only certain elements that do not represent the whole philosophy. Unfortunately, people don’t question these presumptuous definitions and this leads to the continuation of the warped idea of feminism. The elemental definition of feminism translates to the social, economical and political equality of the sexes. The theory of feminism believes that ills like sexism, patriarchy, rape culture, misogyny, slut shaming and objectification exist and they are severely detrimental to the place women hold in our society. It regards that, to enable freedom and opportunity, individuals must be seen as equal, regardless of their gender. However, many people who are against feminism believe that feminism is more about male-bashing, and the female members of this movement detest the opposite gender.
This is so because most often, people tend towards confusing feminists with misandrists. Misandrist is a person who abhors men, and perpetrates misandry. Misandry is the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men. There is a high probability of some feminists being miscreants of misandry. Regrettably, certain feminist balderdash crosses the line from attacking sexism and patriarchy to attacks on men, condemning their every act. In this process, individual men are sometimes considered culprits simply because they are members of the otherwise privileged gender. Similar allegations toward women would definitely be considered as effectively misogynistic. Hence, it’s important to take this criticism into consideration. At the same time, it’s crucial to remind the skeptics that a portion doesn’t equal the whole, even if it happens to be the most visible one. Sometimes feminist identity shouldn’t be abandoned because certain fringe elements in the movement have counterproductive beliefs. All that needs concern is, feminism as a movement, boiled down to its extreme essence stands for gender equality. That is, and has been, the meaning of the word since its inception. This philosophy believes that humans must have equal freedoms and opportunities regardless of their genders.
The entire “feminists hate men” baloney has been around since quite a while. It isn’t something that recently popped up. The first instances of women embracing feminism were in the 1700’s where women advocated for equal status. But it didn’t pick up steam till the late 1800’s. Now, what were the fanatical things these feminists were demanding? Nothing but rights to attend college, own property, marriage, parenting equality status and voting rights. These women were labeled as anti-men, anti-family and anti-God radical gourmands. And this labeling has found its way to the feminists of today, too, who want to transform social mindset beyond the political realm. Every time there has been a demand for a radical change in the social order, the reactionaries have asked them to be content with the current conditions.
The path of feminism is one that paves way for people, regardless of gender. But people ask questions like “What about men centric issues?” “What about men?”. They believe that feminists ignore the predicaments of men because they’re only centered or concerned about women’s issues. This is a mis-characterization of the movement. Feminism focuses on men, as well and women. Feminism has brought into light issues of men who are victims of rape, domestic violence. Feminism has educated men about gender norms and stereotypes. And how it’s normal to deviate from society’s prescribed roles for them. Feminism gives men the tools to address the issues having a repercussion on them. Feminism believes that men and women BOTH should have the absolution to explore life beyond the austere boundaries of traditional gender norms.
The idea that there are still people out there who believe that we don’t need feminism is both alarming and formidable. It is true that women have more political, social and economic rights than when the movement began, but we are far away from equality amongst all. We need feminism because as a society, we still have to deal with miseries like body shaming, slut shaming, strict gender roles, genital mutilation. This list might just go on.
Why is it that in a society where everyone is so vocal about various political and economical issues, people choose to refrain talking about these gender issues in question? Why is it that I find myself attacked for my “feminist” opinions which I supposed were egalitarian and progressive in essence? Are these ideals so preposterous that people roll their eyes every time I mention them?
Being a part of this movement is exhausting. It is tiring to explain my beliefs to every single person who doesn’t hold similar values. But disagreement is okay. What is more discouraging is the often made remark about how feminism must be replaced with “gender equality” or “humanism.” Egalitarian thought consists of feminist movement and is a necessary segment in the battle against bigotry. We must remember not to ignore the particular issues while making grand outcries of equality.
It’s okay to feel exhausted, though. it doesn’t mean I’m going to give up. Rather it serves us a stronger impetus to work harder. Knowing that there are millions of people like me around the world who are fighting, believing and standing up for the same cause gives me and million other women the courage to go on.
Sometimes we are so engaged in fighting against societal malevolence that we neglect how beautiful and enriching this movement is. How this ideology has helped a copious amount of people everywhere. How feminism has unified people from diverse backgrounds, nationalities, sexual orientations and many other categorizations. How feminism has taught us to raise questions about the right things. How feminism has managed to make us believe that there is hope. After all, rebellions are built on hope.
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