FEMINISM

Kakali Das

Meaning

There are a lot of confusions and misinterpretation of what ‘feminism’ is all about. Is feminism anti men? Is it against the institution of marriage? Is feminism about angry women roughly shouting slogans? Or is it an alien concept and doesn’t have any relevance in our country?

Feminism is an emancipating idea or a concept. It is asking for equality – between men and women, of rights and entitlements, in our gender roles inside the house and outside. Feminists are asking for equality of and for all men and women across all social divisions –divisions created by race, colour, faith, religion. So, in short, feminism craves for a just and equitable society which would encompass all and sundry.

The French existentialist, Simone de Beauvoir, in her book The Second Sex (1949) wrote, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” The implication of this very celebrated statement of hers is that both women and men are born equal, but it is the society which makes us unequal. We are born with different genitals, and that categorises us as male and female. But, it is a process of socialisation that we become men and women. Even so, why should biological differences lead to different social status? Biological differences shouldn’t make us have different access to resources; it shouldn’t be the basis of social differences. The whole process of socialisation involves the construction of masculinity, and femininity.

In short, feminism is about ‘all genders’ having equal rights and opportunities, and not the discrimination of one over the other.

Feminism Misunderstood

If we scroll through hashtags any day of the week, we are bound to encounter the one hashtag, robbing internet trolls of their sleep, a monster called feminism. And it is not just men’s rights activists who shudder at the feminism word, Indian women who are prominent in the public sphere, frequently shy away from identifying as feminists. In most Bollywood movies, women were glorified for adhering to patriarchal gender norms, and those who rebel against them are usually punished or mocked. Every time a film with outspokenly feminist themes is released, it’s met with a massive outpouring of hatred. This kind of response to feminism in India is not new. Scholars have found that from the 70s and 80s, feminists have been labelled as “man-hating,” “ambitious,” “ego-centric,” “individualistic,” “westernised” lot who are destroying Indian culture.

But if feminism was a western idea, would men in those countries be okay with it? Not quite, there too, it is seen as a ‘cancer’ striving to destroy the institution of the family and the social fabric at large, threatening Western masculinity and civilisation in the process. Anti-feminist rhetoric is closely associated with other extremist, but popular ideologies like White Supremacy, which advocate for the White man’s rights, spreading the idea that his position in society is in danger because of marginalised communities questioning oppressive practises. In fact, ironically, these groups have a perverse admiration for gender dynamics in the ‘East,’ because cultural traditions here accord women far lesser freedom and sexual autonomy.

So clearly, this hatred for feminism is common across cultures and contexts. But, where exactly does it come from? Scholars have pointed out that backlash to feminism stems above all from a sense of aggrieved entitlement, which is when dominant groups feel threatened by challenges to their privilege. Men begin to associate the loss of that privilege with a sense of victimisation, which prompts feelings of humiliation and emasculation, making them think that they are ‘in crisis.’ But it’s not just men. By questioning the gender hierarchies that are at the core of society and family currently, feminism poses a threat to every person who benefits from those structures. People find ways to demonise and ridicule feminists, to dismiss them as ‘extremist’ or ‘disruptive’ in order to prevent us from engaging with the arguments that feminists make.

When people say that they don’t believe in feminism, but in gender equality, the comment makes no sense given that they mean the exact same thing, that shows just how successfully the word feminism has been demonised. Of course, that is not to say that all feminists or feminism is perfect. Feminism needs to be criticised, as it often is, to make it better and more inclusive. But there is a huge difference between offering constructive criticism and dismissing feminism altogether. Feminism has been responsible for women acquiring the right to vote, and education, being able to earn a living, or at least striving to live freely without the fear of abuse or violence within and outside our homes. Women won’t have had much dignity in the first place if it weren’t for feminism.

Pseudo Feminists

But feminism is changing for the worse. There is a stigma around this word feminism. Why are people twisting this word, its action into something completely different? Personally, I would call myself a feminist, and I know that sometimes I get judged for being one; people think that I have some crazy idea that men are weak and should be punished, and that women are superior. But, this is far from being real. Some people are changing this idea, who I like to call ‘elite feminists’ or generally known as ‘pseudo feminists’, who believe that feminism is just about women, only the cisgender ones. In their minds, one has to fit into many boxes, and failing it will lead to discrimination against you. Feminism granted people the right to vote, the freedom to speak etc. But these elitists think highly differently of them. For an instance, these pseudo feminists would leave no stone unturned in putting these men out of jobs that they rightfully have. Their idea of feminism is merely limited to staying outdoors late while being at per with the men, in consuming whatever they wish too, dressing however they feel like, disrespecting and demeaning the opposite sex etc., and misusing the idea of ‘feminism’ against the men. “Feminism”, as a concept isn’t a selfish one, or considering a gender superior than the other; it’s about acknowledging one’s identity and being accepting towards each other, irrespective of religion, sex, caste and creed. These ‘elite pseudo feminists’ have been spreading the wrong message of feminism to the world and people have fallen prey to their demonic intentions.

To conclude, I believe that everyone, whoever believes in ‘equality’ must learn what ‘feminism’ is, in the truest sense, and be bona fidefeminists no matter what race, gender identity, sexuality or religion they belong to.

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