It was just another Saturday night and I was out with my friends eating delicious food and absorbing the jollification. Moments later we all started talking about how we had changed and how our mind processed information that was being thrown at us by the internet. Just when words like patriarchy, liberal and tolerant started popping up, I announced that I am a feminist. All hell broke loose as most of my friends were taken aback by surprise. For them, I didn’t say ‘Feminist’; I said ‘Male Hater’. Making them understand the real meaning of this word drove me up the wall and that’s when I realized how misunderstood this concept is!
Feminism is not a ‘New’ concept
It was not before 1848 that feminism came into being. The first women’s conference held at Seneca Falls, America, brought out a revolutionary approach to eradicate slavery, social purity and temperance movements. The feminists then advocated for voting rights and property rights for women in the US and UK. People accepted this change readily and we saw this when more and more women embraced their newfound freedom. Thus, began the first-ever movement that promised economic independence and equal rights for women.
We are the hunters, not the hunted.
Come forward and find out for yourself.
~Bibi Dalair Kaur
(In the 17th century, Bibi Dalair Kaur, a Sikh woman, formed an all-woman army to fight Mughal forces.)
Even in India, although here patriarchy is deeply entrenched in the society, women objected to conformity. The broke the chains that confined them within the four walls and bore the societal pressure. During the mid 19th century, the women’s quest for religious, political and social rights started shaping up because of the social and religious reform movements of that time. Struggling for their place in the sun, the women, till date, are ready to challenge the status quo. Amidst a society that still reeks of patriarchy, misogyny, male privilege and moralizing, it is not an easy task for the women to paddle their own canoe. However, the gradual transformation of the real idea of feminism is setting the alarm bells ringing.
Feminism doesn’t imply ‘kill men for a utopian world’. As defined by the Oxford dictionary, Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of equality of sexes. But now the concept seems to have been reduced to a theoretical framework for approaching gender issues. The entire set up has become flawed and has its own limitations, which, if continued to be swept under the rug, will not result in a beneficial outcome. Here a few reasons why ‘Feminism’ has become a misunderstood word in India.
- The Idea of Anti-Men
Feminism aims to promote the equality of gender for everyone and it begins with uplifting that gender that has been more oppressed socially. There are two kinds of people- one who believe in the idea of feminism and the ones who advocate for feminism just for the sake of it. The latter don’t quite know what feminism is! Supporting feminism doesn’t mean that the supporters are against men but, instead, it means that the fight is against society and its archival thinking.
- Misconceived Notions
Completely misplaced notions further complicate the concept of feminism for the laymen. Women have started proclaiming that ‘no bra’, ‘unshaved legs’, ‘short hair’, infidelity’ and ‘breaking the barriers’ are a part of the feminist movement. What they don’t understand is that we are in a fight against the norms that forbid us from working in blue-chip companies, norms that forbid us to rule an organization even if we are capable of doing so, norms that force us to be homemakers and not to contribute to the household economy. The fight is not about the choices we make, but to make ourselves independent. Declaring that fasting on Karva Chauth is against the rules of feminism doesn’t make you a feminist.
- Feminism Double Standards
Devalued with bigotry and contrasting principles, contemporary feminism is losing its essence in leaps and bounds. We often come across posts on the social media that embolden women not to be docile or a dotard. Although we are often influenced by such posts, we seldom decide to change our image and become bold or intractable. Watching the interviews of self-made women, we become pepped up to have a stronger voice and opinionated views. But where does this voice vanish when an elderly man offers a young girl a seat in the metro? Where does the strong opinion fade when we expect the men to man-up every time they have an emotional breakdown? Why do the women have the freedom to inflict the men with verbal, physical and emotional assault while the men are tagged as paedophiles or rapists at the slightest hints? Aren’t these called double standards? Isn’t it ironical that pledge to break the stereotypes but end up mocking the women who are not career-oriented? Another saddening development is that most women are exploiting the concept of feminism for their own benefit. Accusing men of crimes they haven’t committed just because the women know they will be believed by the majority is wrong and unethical in every way.
- Men Cannot Be Feminists
Why? Men, too, can have opinions. After all, they are as human as we are and have a brain too. If biocentrism doesn’t expect its supporters to be trees or animals, even feminism doesn’t forbid men to support the notion. You do not need to be a woman to support feminism- you can be of any gender to advocate for women’s rights.
- Feminism Means Leaving Your Family
If I say I am a feminist, it doesn’t mean that I have to leave my husband and form rigid opinions against marriage. It doesn’t mean that I am against the idea of bearing children and becoming a mother. It is important to understand the difference. Feminism is not against the women who want to become mothers; it is against the practice of limiting the value of women as mothers only and not allowing them to fit into any other role.
Not supporting something is different but supporting something without completely understanding its purpose is wide of the mark. We are still a voice in the wilderness. To make things happen, to see the status of women rising, to get equal rights as those of men, we need to step up the correct ladder. Strides backed by misconceptions will lead us nowhere. In this quest to gain equality, let us first become aware of what feminism is and then decide for ourselves.