A lunch table conversation on how to take the concept of feminism in its true sense to all, led me to write this post. It is interesting to note that the word ‘Feminist’ is seen, heard or believed to imply women who are anti-men, misandrist, bra-burning husband beaters.
The word Feminism is probably one of the most used and abused words today.
So my friend, let me break this myth about feminism being anti-men for you.
The opposite of Machismo is Marianismo, and not Feminism.
Feminism is simply a way of life where you advocate for equal access to choices, actions, decisions and opportunities to all, irrespective of any gender or sexual orientation. Clearly, feminism doesn’t propagate anti-anything except that it is anti-oppression, anti-discrimination, anti-marginalisation, anti-exploitation based on sexual or gender orientation.
In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “A feminist is a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”.
Short History of the Feminist Movement
The first wave of feminism which began in the 1840s, focused on suffrage, advocating for women’s right to vote. The second wave began post World-War II, around the 1960’s, which aimed at the workplace, sexuality and reproductive rights of women. The third wave, which started from the 1990’s, talked about inclusiveness while challenging patriarchy.
It is interesting to know that there are a lot of people amongst us who genuinely believe in equal rights for all but do not want to be associated with the word Feminist. This is primarily because we internalise all the terrible things around us that are being shown using the feminist label.
Also, most of our views that we express or practise come from our deeply rooted direct or indirect experiences – for instance, if we haven’t faced discrimination personally, we doubt that it happens to others.
These biases are rampant in our understanding and it antagonises an ideology that seeks equal rights for all.
So how do you practise this ‘equal rights for all’ concept every day at your own level? Here are some guiding points:
One of the main issues of sexism is that women have been silenced for so long. The best way to support feminism is to listen to what a woman wants to say and not shutting her down. This behaviour of not letting women voice their opinion is commonly known as ‘Mansplaining’.
2. Be Aware of Your Privileges
Public and private spaces around have more men than women. Recognise that very few women are in workplaces; a majority of them are in our homes assigned to do ‘womanly’ work of making food, taking care of the children or the house.
To counter this, promote participation of women around you. Don’t pass generic statements of “how it is okay to have reserved seats in metros and buses for women” or “women do not leave their seats for elderly but men do” or “there is gender equality because we have reserved seats for women”.
Understand that to exhort women to claim public spaces, these are positive steps so that they are encouraged to venture out without the fear of being pushed, groped and molested.
3. Stop Judging Women
Yes, you heard that right. Every time you hear, see, have strong opinions about a woman, introspect if that opinion is an outshoot of sexism that is indoctrinated from everything around you. It is absolutely NOT okay to stereotype behaviour and actions.
For example – Don’t pass generic statements like women gossip, women are bitchy, women play the gender card, one is crying like a woman, dressing like a girl, et al.
4. Don’t Treat Feminism as a Dirty Word or Slang
Now that you know that feminism is all about equality, every time you hear someone saying shit like ‘Feminists are men-haters’, educate them. Tell them that feminism is all about equality. Period.
Further, read what feminism is all about from authentic sources. Google might not always be your best friend to help you understand how women have been historically oppressed and how the feminist movement has empowered women to claim spaces.
I conclude my blog with some terrific words by a friend and colleague: Feminism lagaen aur toxic masculinity rog hatayen (Apply feminism and get rid of toxic masculinity).
(Megha is a gender coordinator for Oxfam India. She is a professional social worker from TISS, a gender rights advocate, an insane travel enthusiast and an occasional writer/blogger. She has been working on issues related to gender and child protection for the last five years. She used to head a Government of Sikkim project, named SAATHI, to combat drug abuse issues amongst school age children in 100 Government schools of the state. Megha tweets at @kashyapmegha007.)