Whenever I announce to someone that I am a feminist, the reaction I’d receive would usually sound like, “Oh, but isn’t that promoting the concept of women being superior over men?” As always, my immediate response would be to correct the person by stating that it’s actually a far cry from a condemning superiority complex. Feminism is the idea of promoting equality among the sexes.
Initially, it was the feminist icon Gloria Steinem and her demonstrations of feminism that immortalized ‘the f word:’ Feminism. However, even as the Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee (America’s highest civilian honor) made contributions that provided significant changes for decades, misconceptions about feminism are still on the rise.
One of the largest misconceptions about feminists is that they have this outright hatred towards men. There is a sharp distinction between fighting for the equality of genders and holding a grudge against all male species. As for the latter, there is actually another term for that, and it’s called misandry (you’re welcome). If you think about it, this particular misconception is quite funny because feminism is not limited to just women. Yes, you read that right: men can be feminists, too!
There are actually some women who are not so into the whole idea of feminism themselves. I recently discovered an online compilation of women holding signs, beginning their sentences with “I do not need feminism because…” followed by reasons that I found too unbearable to fathom. These women are basically declaring that feminism is not at all necessary. It bothers me because these reasons inculcate that women already possess equal rights as men. If you’ve ever planned to participate with that alliance, shame on you; because for the longest time, an abundance of women have been exploited.
There have been several women who’ve done their part to fight for the rights of other women, and being against feminism is the equivalent of spitting on what they’ve sacrificed in order to offer women the privileges they have today. If it weren’t for feminism, domestic violence would still be legal in the US (which is still legal in many countries, mind you), women of all social classes wouldn’t be able to work outside of the household (only the lower class were exempted), and women wouldn’t be allowed to have their own properties nor vote for their president. The fact of the matter is there are still several instances wherein feminism is highly discouraged.
As much as I would like to be laissez-faire about it, I’m not. Somewhere in the world, a woman is still being harassed or maltreated simply because her appearance suggests that she does not have a set of androgens.
There is not a single country that is able to claim outright success in achieving equality, most especially gender equality. Emma Watson pointed this out in her elaborative speech for the UN campaign HeForShe, one of the movements that are dedicated to feminism, as she saw patriarchy at work in certain countries herself. I recall watching CNN catching some footage of women driving. You might be thinking, so what? Well, dear reader, here’s the thing: those same women came from countries that had not allowed them to be left behind the steering wheel until just then. They had begun a feminist revolution pertaining to how they’ve been denied driver’s licenses whereas men were freely granted them. Doesn’t it affect you that we live amongst societies that urge women to protest for their rights?
Another recurring issue is how women are required to be completely covered in some countries because of how they might tempt men. These women, once out of their country, would actually be shocked that other women don’t cloak themselves because apparently, these women have been convinced that those who do otherwise don’t have respect for themselves and are “asking for it.” That’s another thing: no one is ever asking for it. Women are asked to cover their cleavage and lengthen their shorts or skirts more than anything else. Why? Most people would argue because they are subject to becoming the prey. By now, it should be common sense for women to not be ashamed of their bodies, but sadly, that is not the norm.
The worldwide acceptance of the perception that men are allowed to be sexual beings more than women has led to the fact that societies, to this very day, still tolerate discrimination towards women. Some even go as far as charging against the victims of rape themselves (search for “Qatif girl” and see for yourself). And some are forced to even marry their rapists.
The most downright annoying notion would probably be that feminists are either lesbian or are required to leave their male partners to fully commit to being labeled feminists. Not to mention how they are thought to be most likely against the concept of marriage. Preferences of sexual orientation or civil status depend on what an individual finds ideal, and the feminist would know that they are allowed to love whomever and celebrate however they want.
Another misconception about feminists is that feminists do not support being feminine, nor do they support associated acts: Bras, make-up, you name it. Feminism encourages women to exercise their right to choose. In the same light, feminism also encourages all genders to find comfort with the idea of self-expression.
Equality for all
There are several women I would love to commend, Beyoncé definitely being one of them, but it was really Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who shed enlightenment on my take on feminism. At some point, I’d wished that the term feminism would be transposed into humanism instead. However, Chimamanda enlightened me that it is important to recognize feminism as it is. If the switching of labels were to occur, the issues about women being underestimated for several years would later become invisible. When that happens, issues of specific subjugation of women may not be recognized, causing an inclination towards the idea that the issues need not be addressed any longer.
Feminism is not just for women. As I have mentioned from the very beginning of the article, the objectives of feminism is to foster equality. Although most people would assume that it is a movement that considers only equality for men and women, they would be wrong. It’s not just about two diminishing groups, but an orbit of every race, class, sexual orientation, and gender. You might be thinking, what does this girl know about political discord? All I can say is that, for centuries, women have struggled to claim their rights. I can’t act blindly towards situations of discrimination, and so I feel like it’s my responsibility to acknowledge them. I don’t expect to find a utopian world anytime soon, but why not pursue change? Why not pursue something that what would benefit all inhabitants of this planet?