For many, many years now, feminism has had a negative connotation attached to it. First let me tell you what feminism actually means “Feminism is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes”, also commonly known as “gender equality”.
Then why is there a negative connotation? Two main reasons:
- The prefix “fem” in feminism
- Some people (men and women) who do not know what feminism means advocate that feminism means “demanding female
There are two kinds of people I commonly encounter:
- People who believe in gender equality but do not favor the term “Feminism” because of the negative connotation
- People who say: “Women are in a much better situation now. There is actually no need for the word “feminism” anymore.
I wish to give an explanation to these people. Whether you are a person who believes in gender equality or not, you would have either consciously/unconsciously used or definitely heard these phrases:
- PLAYING LIKE A GIRL /DON’T BE SCARED LIKE A GIRL/YOU’VE GOTTEN BEATEN BY A GIRL? – First and foremost, men get scared too. “Men must be macho” – men in our society are brought up hearing this. So, majority of the men hide all their emotions and pretend to stay strong. But you know what, men get scared too. Fear is an emotion and all humans have emotions. “Fear” is not just for women. Men and women might fear for different things but that doesn’t justify using this as a derogatory term.
- MEN ARE BRILLIANT, WOMEN ARE JUST BOSSY –When men are commanding, they are considered to be sound and intelligent but when women do the same, they are considered to be bossy and dominating. The society still has a problem with seeing women in positions commanding respect.
We are in a world where a woman is still told that:
- YOU’RE A WOMAN. IF YOU DON’T KNOW COOKING, IT WOULD BE VERY DIFFICULT AFTER MARRIAGE – This phrase is extremely common in the Indian society. First of all, I am not getting married so that some man can eat on a daily basis. I am not marrying so that I can do the dishes of a man. I am not marrying to be a care taker for a man. I am not sacrificing my dreams to make food and clean the house. Marriage is not a procedure to help men get food on a regular basis. If you are about to say “love and affection” – think this:
“Love + affection = Sacrificing career/dreams + 90% of the household chore”.
This doesn’t sound right to me. Love and affection need not be expressed by cooking and cleaning alone. There are various ways to express that you care.
- YOU’RE A WOMAN, YOU NEED TO HAVE PATIENCE AND YOU NEED TO ADJUST – A woman is told to adjust and tolerate with her husband no matter what because people truly believe that in a marriage “A man is giving life to a woman to fulfill her life’s purpose”. Let me be frank. Marriage is not a social service that a man is doing. No one needs to give life to someone else. Both men and women need someone to share their lives with. No one person is doing another any service.
- FEMINAZI – The word “feminazi” (word used for describing women who call themselves feminists and demand female superiority) is trending recently. I was shocked when I first heard about this word. A person who truly believes in “gender equality” cannot use this word. If you are a person who uses the word “feminazi” well, you are clearly one of the reasons why the word “feminism” needs to exist in the first place.
These kinds of phrases are extremely demeaning to women. In the phrase “PLAYING LIKE A GIRL” – the word “girl” is used a bad word here. You know what? Women can make derogatory remarks about men as well. But is that really how we need to play this game? Don’t these phrases sound ugly and shallow? True feminists or rather people who truly believe in gender equality cannot use words/phrases like these. We are still living in a society which tells these to women:
“Don’t go out late. It is not safe for you. Some man might try to take advantage of you”,
“Don’t wear short clothes. You are giving a misconception to men by wearing short clothes”
To every single person who has said or who will continue saying these phrases to women, have you ever said to a man:
“Women can come out late. Do not take advantage of them”,
“Women who wear short clothes are not asking for it”
“Boys will be boys” – Every single girl would have heard this at least once in her life. I have no words to express the anger arising in me every time I hear this statement. Using this one phrase, women are forced to tolerate and adjust with the atrocities committed against them.
Stop telling women: “Don’t get raped”
Start telling men: “Don’t rape”
SEXUAL ASSAULT IS NEVER, NEVER, NEVER THE GIRL’S FAULT.
STOP TELLING: Men can be playful and careless but women need to be careful.
I can never ever accept the statement “At the end of the day, a girl is a girl”. I am not ready to SACRIFICE something without a rational reason. The reason – “you are a girl” is a misogynistic statement and not a rational reason.
As a woman, I want to hangout late in the evening, I want to wear the dress that I feel comfortable. I do not want to be barred just because I am a woman. Everyone justifies these restrictions saying: “These precautions are good for women because WOMEN HAVE A LOT TO LOSE”. Holding on to these thoughts only encourages the patriarchal society to remain the way it is. I think the thought process should change
FROM: Women must be careful, because they have a lot to lose
TO: Men must distinguish between moral/immoral behavior and not take advantage of women.
If the word feminism bothers you just because of the word “fem”, well, all of the above phrases/statements/thoughts bother me more. The phrases that I mentioned are a very minor subset of all the derogatory phrases used against women.
If you are a person who thinks: “Women are in a much better situation now. They really shouldn’t be using the word feminism”, let me ask you this. Have you forgotten that we are still living in a world where female infanticide is common, early pregnancy is common and that many women are grown up just to breed? Women are still considered sex objects.
A woman’s rights on her body: Abortion, has become an interesting heated conversation these days. People who are in no way related to the woman’s pregnancy are making decisions about her pregnancy. Pregnancy concerns the body of a female and so, it is just her choice. But we are living in a world where the Government is making this decision and there are people who strongly advocate that “Abortion should not be encouraged”. I am not taking any side on abortion but my whole point is: “Only the two people involved in the pregnancy should take a call on this issue and it is no one else’s business”
We are still living in a world where menstruating women are considered “unclean” and are made to stay in a separate place during their periods. Men and women isolate menstruating women. Periods are an uncomfortable phase for a woman. Even if you cannot make it any better, why are you making it worse? I clearly do not see a point in isolating a woman just because she’s menstruating. Again, it should be the girl’s choice to be alone or not. You can justify this restriction by quoting religious reasons. But the question is – “does the girl want to follow this?” and not “do you want your girl to follow this?”
With so many important things going on, all that the society is scared about at the end of the day is: “These days even GIRLS are drinking and smoking like boys. It is not good for their health.” (In a sarcastic note: How can a society, which cares so much about the health of a woman, does not care even a tiny bit about the health of a man? I thought alcohol and cigars were harmful to humans, in general. This distinction made by alcohol and cigars is quite interesting.)
Women are fighting for things that men get easily. I do not mean to say that men get what they want very easily. Each person’s life is filled with obstacles. But, for women, even her daily activities are not easily doable as it is for men. Women are criticized for the same things men get praised for. In the struggle to attain equal status in this patriarchal society where the man’s wish had forever been given a higher priority, don’t you think, on some level, that the usage of the word “feminism” is justified? The word powerfully conveys the fact that women are fighting for their rights.
I totally agree to the point that there are women who do not understand the meaning of feminism and promote unacceptable things. Clearly, they are the ones who do not know the meaning of the word. It is those people, and not the word itself, that should be held accountable. Women demanding female superiority are not feminists. They are only ruining the noble war. We should not let them ruin the sanctity of the word.
The power of the word “feminism” cannot be achieved by the term “gender equality” because the strength of the word is due to the same prefix “Fem” which is supposedly causing the controversy. I proudly say this: “the progress that women are making in the name of “feminism” scares anti-feminists, or rather, misogynists, because their privileges are declining”. I am proud to admit that
I AM A FEMINIST. I WILL ALWAYS BE A FEMINIST
Post script: A note on volunteering:
Volunteering for a good cause gives complete satisfaction unattainable by any other activity or job. How happy would it be to know that someone is getting food or education because of you? But unfortunately, not many people are able to volunteer because often they have many doubts in their mind and eventually lose motivation to do so. Are you one among them? Are you scared that you might not have time in your busy schedule? Are you scared that your help might not bring about a huge change? Are you trying to do virtual volunteering but are lost on how to do it? Well there is a lot that you can do and bring about a huge change if you are ready to spare even one hour every week or even one month. I am listing below some organizations that have volunteering opportunities.
- Children’s education – http://www.evidyaloka.org/
- Women’s rights – http://sayfty.com/about-us/volunteer/
3. Sex trafficking – http://apneaap.org/get-involved/volunteer/
4. Casteism – https://dalitfoundation.net/support-us/
If you need help getting in touch with any of these organizations for volunteering or if you are not satisfied with any of the above and are looking for something different, please reach out to me and I can direct you to the right source.
Email id: firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/saisruthi_sathy