The world today is in dire need of more feminist icons- both men and women. It needs more people like you and me to come forth and identify ourselves as a feminist and conduct open dialogue about feminism. It is heartening to see more and more personalities openly declaring themselves as feminist. Emma Watson made a speech at the UN about feminism and was appointed as the UN Women Goodwill ambassador. Farhan Akhtar, prominent Bollywood personality was recently appointed the first male ambassador for UN Women. Celebrities like Lorde, and recently Taylor Swift declared themselves as feminists, and youtubers like Jack Howard and Laci Green have talked about feminism.
It is very good that more people are embracing and openly talking about feminism because without proper icons for it, the feminist movement was being misconstrued as a movement for radical extremists targeted against the male sex. Dear reader, please do note that this is not true; and in this article I will try and prove that to you.
Feminism, by definition, is the belief in the equality of men and women. It is striving for equal political, social and economic rights for both the sexes all around the world. They question gender based assumptions and stereotypes- why a girl child isn’t sent to school when a boy child is, why women are taught to aspire to marriage while men are not taught the same, why men are expected not to show emotion and to talk about women as if they were objects- and if they do not do so, it threatens their masculinity? Why young boys play with cars and chemistry sets while young girls are supposed to play with Barbie dolls, why women receive less pay than men, why men’s issues(like sexual assault on males) are trivialized while, in the same case, women’s issues are highlighted? In USA, it was feminists who fought to change the federal definition of rape to include male victims.
These are just some examples of what feminists fight for. I hope it is clear now that feminism is a movement for both men and women. I believe that as 21st century citizens of the world, everyone should believe in the notion of equality- and if you believe in equality, you are a feminist- clear and simple. Then why is there still a stigma attached to it?
I come back to what I started this discussion with to try and answer that question. The lack of opinion leaders speaking on feminism has led to poor understanding of the word itself. Some people who call themselves feminists are actually propagating man-hating and reverse patriarchy. There are quotes by well known “feminist icons” that I find shocking and appalling. I believe that these so called feminists are extremists, who misinterpret and twist an idea to fulfill personal and fanatic goals. There are extremists in every case of ideology and feminism is not an exception to that. However, what is sad in the case of feminism is that there is a lack of ‘liberals’ or ‘moderates’, which has led to the common perception that feminism as a whole is a radical and extremist ideology.
“This ongoing stigma of feminism parallels the stigma of abolitionism [of slavery] back in the nineteenth century when being an abolitionist was considered radical. In retrospect, the petitions of abolitionists were clearly not extremist. Abolitionists merely demanded the end of slavery and desired equality of all Americans, no matter skin color. Similarly, feminists simply call for equality between the sexes. And just as abolitionism did not equate to the hate of white Americans but merely signified the desire for black Americans’ rights, feminism too does not equate to the hate of men or the value of women over men but rather calls for the balance of power between and establishment of equal rights for the sexes…”
-Johanna Lee, Coming Out…As a Feminist, Harvard University Institute of Politics
The other reason I think the stigma against feminism persists is misogyny (i.e. hatred and prejudice against women) that still exists in most parts of the world, either openly or veiled.
Until a while ago, I used to refer to myself as an ‘anti-sexist’ or ‘equalist’ as I too was misinformed about the word feminism. However, as I began to learn more about feminism, I realized that both meant the same thing- ‘feminist’ and ‘equalist’. That’s when I became proudly feminist.
You might ask me that when both the words mean the same thing, does it matter that you use the word feminist? After all it’s what we believe in and do that matters and not the word right? Recently, I watched a video by a youtuber called Jack Howard where he said that identifying with the word ‘feminsm’ is important. Both men and women “shouldn’t be scared of identifying themselves with the ‘fem’ bit in the beginning… especially for men” is what he said. Men should be able to accept associating with a female connotation without thinking of it as a threat to their masculinity (just like how the term ‘man’kind which refers to both men and women shouldn’t threaten a woman’s femininity). If we are able to do that, “it shows things are progressing more, because we aren’t trying to separate each other” is what he said- and I couldn’t agree more.
I hope that this article has changed your perception about feminsm, and I hope that you will consider identifying yourself as a feminist from today.
- “I’m a Feminist ”-Jack Howard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJTDQPC_OAQ
- “Coming Out…As A Feminist”-Johanna Lee http://www.iop.harvard.edu/coming-out%E2%80%A6as-feminist
- Emma Watson speech at the UN (HeForShe Campaign 2014) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkjW9PZBRfk
- Website of the ‘HeforShe’ campaign- A Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality http://www.heforshe.org/
Images used are public domain images from pixabay.com
I would love to hear your opinions on this subject in the comment section below. Do you believe in feminism? Why or Why not? Thank you for taking your time to read this.