Some words are crystal clear. “Rape,” “violence,” and “abuse” are some words that have it “easy” as compared to their counterparts. They are definite. They are an entity within themselves. They convey without hesitation and haunt without restriction. Then come the words that, by a meager glance, would seem absolute, but dwell deep within and suddenly you are caught, off guard, in a an ocean of contempt, hatred, and power, but at its basic a word misplaced.
Feminism, like most new, badly “translated” words is under fire. It pops up every now and then on our Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr feeds and every time it does it leaves a sour aftertaste, often evoking a raging disgust. Unlike “assault,” “murder,” or “rape,” this word (feminism), which at its very essence is merely an 8-letter word, is regrettably misunderstood today’s world. So here is my attempt to explain feminism — not to convince you or deviously manipulate you, but simply to make you aware that you can choose to be associated with this word, or not.
Feminism is a movement. It is a spiritual, physical, virtual movement. A movement or cause that promises equality and respect at all fronts for both women and men. Why do we need feminism? We need feminism because every time in the United States when one individual gets paid 77cents and the other makes a dollar for the same work, just because of the category society put them in, a large portion of equality to snatched right out from under our feet. We need feminism for every time a woman who is sexually assaulted is asked to “keep it quiet” or is blamed for the assault while her perpetrator is able to roam the streets free.
Contrary to popular belief, feminism does not aim to take power or jobs away from men. We (for I am a proud feminist) are here to enable equal opportunity for women and to share this power with men. Many times people, especially men (read any feminist article, website or blog and you’ll see this heinous trend), love to berate the fact that feminists “hate” men. Why? Because feminists merely want women to be able to be credible engineers and scientists and not just a token? Because feminists know that women are as good as men at math? Because women, like men, should have the right to choose a career over marriage? Because a woman’s clothing shouldn’t determine her character?
Why should loving yourself be equivalent to hating someone else? Why is it that when women stand up for themselves, for their bodies, and for their choices, they are shamed and bullied for it? How come when men do the same they are applauded for it? Feminism wasn’t born out of a figment or illusionary context, it was a seed that was sowed and matured after years of harassment, sexism, and discrimination towards women. After years of women being treated as inferior to and by men.
To enable equal opportunity, individuals need to be seen as equal, irrespective of gender. And as simple as that concept may sound, we still somehow struggle with it in the 21st century. Everywhere we look, women are the “lesser” beings. Hollywood, Bollywood, engineering, cooking, athletes, you name it. It’s abundantly clear, when The Huffington Post or The Guardian choose to make a symbol of a woman who succeeds in engineering or computer science, that we clearly have not made much progress. Why is it that when a woman does well, it’s still newsworthy?
Feminism isn’t petty. It has various forms, definitions and branches, if you will, as does every movement — some of which I don’t necessarily agree with, and some which I actively defy. In a world where so many opinions and experiences exist, perspectives will differ and they must. And while this may often lead to misunderstanding, conflict and even hate, it ultimately helps pave the way for better solutions.
Most, if not all, schools of feminism aim to empower women. They aim to give women a choice — a choice to live her life however she wills it, to have sex (gasp!) if she wants, to not have babies (even bigger gasp!) if that’s her choice, and to wear what she wants. But most of all feminism aims to recognize women as individuals first and then as “women,” and not just as baby-making machines.
Women are not an entity. They are no one’s right and they owe “society” nothing. They are a whole being, not a link or an association, and that is what feminism preaches. Equality. That’s it. Not so complicated now, is it?