Have you ever seen those Facebook pages titled ‘men against feminism’, ‘feminism sucks’ and so on? I’m pretty sure you must have. Infuriating isn’t it? To see something that you so strongly believe in, which you feel everyone should follow and which personally affects you, to be demeaned and made fun of like this on a social platform.
Your first instinct is to comment on the posts going “shut up, we need feminism, why don’t you understand?’.
Well maybe they’re right to not understand why we need feminism. Maybe because they don’t understand what feminism is? Maybe because a lot of us don’t understand what feminism is at all? So when is it okay to call yourself a feminist?
In our daily surrounding, feminism doesn’t exist in its original form anymore. Feminism in the plain, simplest form of English means ‘equality of sexes’. Now, this notion of equality is not to be confused with the notion of supremacy. To show that you’re at par with somebody does not mean that you have to pull him or her behind. Yes if you get ahead in the race, that’s good. Someone has to. But, if you pull and drag them behind just so that it ‘seems’ like you’re ahead, that’s just plain idiocy.
Now, equality in feminism should ideally mean equality of opportunities, social equality, legal equality.
What it shouldn’t mean is entitlement based on whether you were born with a penis or a vagina down there.
Feminism started out as a political movement to ensure women have equal rights and social justice. This covered various issues such as right to abortion, right to vote, social justice, workplace inequality etc.
But today’s modern feminism should and in some places is moving towards including men in its liberation movement.
One famous advocate for the above theory is American author Bell Hooks.
She appreciates and encourages a shift towards a multidimensional gathering of both genders to fight for the raising up of women. This shifts the original focus of feminism away from victimization, and towards understanding, appreciation, and tolerance for all genders and sexes so that all are in control of their own destinies, uncontrolled by patriarchal, capitalist tyrants.
Yes, age-old patriarchal tyrants too control men. How so you may wonder?
We as a society have assigned certain personality traits that a ‘manly man’ should have. Crying, being emotional or vulnerable about a situation either makes you less of a man, or even better, a woman somehow. We as a society have convinced ourselves that every man and woman should have certain distinguishable traits that they should not dare abandon.
Lets take a classic example as seen below:
Yes, agreed that women are more prone to domestic violence in many countries and the reason for the movement against this was never to demean men. Its to make women realise that this treatment isn’t right. Many of such victims come from families where the faced male supremacy, got denied further or any education and embed in their system that serving a married life is what a woman is made for. This is again not to say that a woman HAS to be work to show that she is free. What it means is, she has to have the free choice and opportunity to make the decision whether she wants to get married or work or both, enforcing any one of these against her wishes is what feminism stands against (in its ideal form).
But what about the men who face domestic violence? Is it acceptable to say that it doesn’t affect them or bother them? It does. That’s again what feminism and feminists (in their ideal form) should believe in, that both men and women deserve a life of free choice, free will, and mutual respect.
Another classis example: After marriage, why should the idea of ‘house-husband’ be shamed? Why is it so unacceptable for society to see a woman who might work for a living and the husband who takes care of the house? And this isn’t about women equality, supressing a gender and their right to work. This is about both the genders having the free choice and ultimately free and equal opportunity and surrounding to make this particular decision with respect.
Another classic example: A woman posts an advertisement on a matrimonial site that she wants to get married to a particular type of guy (handsome, good earning etc.). Now, if she willingly wants to do this, then you cannot argue that this is not feminism and she doesn’t have equality. Surprise surprise to a few feminists, a lot of women and men, both, just want to choose marriage over working. It is inequality IF her family forced her to quit her job or education and get married.
Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador once said:
“…The more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.
…Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too.”
She further goes on to explain:
“Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s.”
“We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.”
“If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”
Sounds beautiful doesn’t it? A theory that preaches the idea of men and women being defined by who they are and not their genders. You like short haircuts and baggy clothes. And you’re a girl? Normal! You like cooking a lot and cry over sensitive matters? And you’re a guy? Normal! You pay on the first date and you’re a girl? Normal! You like doing ballet more than cricket and you’re a guy? Again, normal!
So when is it okay to call yourself a feminist? Here’s a small (non-exhaustive) checklist:
1) You believe in equality of both the genders and denounce the notion of fixed gender norms.
2) You treat every individual’s personal life choice with respect to the person they are and not the gender they’re born with. Because hey, we can’t decide how we’re born or as what, but we can shape our own personalities through what we’re exposed to or choose to be exposed to.
3) You don’t feel entitled to anything based on your gender till the time equal opportunities and freedom are presented to you via society, family, legal systems for you to attain that end goal fair and square.
Now, when should you really think a 1000 times before calling yourself a feminist? Here’s a small (but not exhaustive) checklist for that too:
1) You yourselves make harmless sexist jokes about guys but refuse to take any from them when it comes on you.
2) Its okay if you hit or slap a guy, but you believe he can’t even scream at you because you’re a feminist and he’s abusing your women rights. (I mean technically none of us should hit or scream at another for the sake of being decent human beings).
3) You call out a guy for being wrong to demand a wife who is less qualified than him but on the other hand, you don’t want a guy who is less qualified than you. I mean come one, if you went on to do a PhD while he worked after his postgraduate, like uh seriously I can’t even, that doesn’t make anyone of you less suitable. (Why does qualification even matter, if you’re both compatible and good people? Can’t really take the degree to bed.)
And so on..
Sometimes, you can’t really blame men and women for disowning feminism. Because many of us forget what feminism should mean.
We shouldn’t live in a world 50 years from now where our future generation now have to fight for men’s rights. Empowerment of one gender can never be attained through the suppression of another. That’s not what we’re fighting for.
We all want to be equals. Son or daughter, wife or husband, sister or brother, guy or girl. Our genders shouldn’t be deciding what we do or how much we get paid. And that is the very essence of feminism.
So to agree with what Emma Watson said, guys this is your battle too. And girls, we can’t win this battle by practicing what we’re opposing. Feminism is equality of the sexes. And no one sex can’t win this battle alone.