Until a few years ago, not all Internet users knew what words like feminism, misogyny, egalitarian, and sexism actually meant. But these days, if you haven’t already called yourself a feminist at least once on a social media networking platform, then you sure deserve an applause for keeping it together and not being affected by its usage.
Suggested read: To the men who do not get feminism, feminists are on your side
I simply logged onto Facebook and typed feminism in the search bar and saw that 98,667 people are talking about it at this time of the night! Another 86,614 are talking about feminism being evil. So, the term has been used quite judiciously over the Internet, and if you haven’t already used it once, we suggest you do so quickly.
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Pro-feminists are churning articles like they would churn milk by the gallon, and I won’t deny that it does make me happy to read each one of them. I love the intensity, the passion, and innovative thoughts these people are bringing out in their work. It’s a great way to create awareness for the less informed people. Speaking of the less informed… I often come across people of both genders who sometimes get offended by feminism, and they feel like it’s being overdone. But, that’s also because they mistake feminism for sexism. You see, when people read on the Internet, not everyone goes back to click on urls that provide dictionary meanings to some words. So, one is then left with half-baked knowledge of the term and the other half is their interpretation of what they’ve read.
Let’s break down the words with their meanings:
Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. (Source: Google)
Wikipedia defines feminism as “a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women that are equal to those of men. Feminists typically advocate or support the rights and equality of women.”
[Now, the important thing to also know over here is the meaning of the word misogyny, which means dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. I’ll tell you later why this is important too.]
Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License
Sexism: prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex. (Source: Google)
Here’s what Wikipedia says about sexism: “gender discrimination or sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender. Sexism can affect any gender but it is particularly documented as affecting women and girls. It includes the belief that one sex or gender is intrinsically superior to another.”
If you’ve passed elementary education or have access to Internet and are reading this, then I take it that you would have by now figured out the meaning of each word and have a slight indication of what I’m about to say.
Suggested read: Common arguments against feminism and how to respond to them
You see, I am a feminist too, that’s because I believe that both genders are equal and have to be treated that way. A million other people also think like me, thankfully. But what some other half a million people also think is that it is alright to claim that feminism is not equality, but it’s superior than everything else. That’s where people need intervention. Thus, the battle of the sexes begin. A cause that no one has benefited from. Arguments over arguments, hate, and ultimately, spreading the wrong message.
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Often, people ridicule genders; poking fun at a gender that is comparatively considered weak. Or simply mocking the one they consider to be stronger. On a daily basis, I see at least 5 memes on either Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp, which are downright ridiculous, because they are so sexist and are shared by either people who call themselves feminists (both men and women), or people who claim to be egalitarians (again, both men and women). You’ll have to Google the word meaning of the word egalitarian yourself!
See, here’s the thing; when people say that they are feminists, they automatically assume that it’s fine to take digs at men, in an attempt to glorify feminism. What most feminists forget is that feminism is fighting for equality and not superiority of any the female gender. So when I say I am a feminist, I have no right to demand ‘more equal rights’ simply because I’m a woman. That cannot be an excuse.
I’ll need to keep in mind that I have to empower myself and other women around, however, expecting to be treated equally and not differently because I’m a woman. And what equally would mean is – to be treated fairly and not with more opportunities than what I really deserve simply because I’m a woman.
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Sometimes at a workplace, women have different rules and are treated differently from men. The difference could be preferential treatment or simply mistreatment. If you are a feminist, you should ideally be voicing your opinion and stating that, this is not done. In an ideal feminist world, no woman gets treated differently. However, sometimes the society and the entrenched patriarchal norms show preferential treatment to one of the genders.
Speaking of workplaces makes me think about a few things that aren’t fair on a lot of grounds. For instance, the fact that women are allowed a maternity leave for longer durations than paternity leave for men. Does that imply that men have no role to play when a baby is born? Does it mean that the woman alone has to stay back and look after her newborn? Why does a man have to get back to work in two weeks’ time? Shouldn’t he be supporting his wife? (Although the paternity leave issue has been taken up in a progressive manner in many countries, it still isn’t at par with what new mothers enjoy.) Or perhaps, in cases of sexual assault. Recently, a Bollywood movie star (a male) was groped and scratched on his chest by a girl in public. Should the woman not be punished in this case? Consent applies to both men and women, right? Lastly, why aren’t stags allowed in some nightclubs without a woman? I could probably list a few more, but you catch the drift?
On the other hand, if being a feminist makes you think that men can be disregarded or mocked at for their inabilities to cope with what women can achieve, then you seriously have got it all wrong. That would constitute as being sexist. The minute you attack a particular gender for its weakness or vulnerability, you become a sexist. No excuses there!
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A typical example is the infamous yet common ‘husband & wife’ jokes that float around on WhatsApp. Most of them, actually, all of them, in a way, are derogatory to one gender, often making it sexist. While you are done reading the whole joke, you realize that one of the parties has been mocked or stereotyped, or in worse cases, they have been sexually objectified (gasps!). How does one react to such ‘forwards,’ when the thought behind it is rather backward? So, while you rant about feminism or for that matter, egalitarianism, you may want to keep a watchful eye on the content you share/receive or simply encourage by keeping mum.
Feminism is not just about unshaved armpits, awareness on menstruation, or bashing men for being men! Feminism is not always a state where men are evil and women are their victims. So, stop turning feminism into an anti-men mission or a task to simply glorify women. It’s neither.
A proud feminist will be able to distinguish and tell you that it is about treating women equal to men. So if I am a feminist, I cannot be a sexist. I have a responsibility to be mindful about my actions, to not allow any kind of leeway over and above (apart from what one truly deserves) to either myself or fellow women just because they are born as women! Being a feminist doesn’t give me the right to condemn the opposite sex; it only allows me to fight for my rightful rights and thereby empower me to achieve what I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
So, these few feminists need to stop making it their mission to bash men at every given chance, or to simply demand for privileges on the basis of their gender. Feminism is the right to education, to property, equal pay, protection against harassment, protection against domestic violence, the right to vote, and to challenge any other traditional gender roles.
The next time you say you’re a feminist, ensure that you aren’t abusing the term or bringing shame to all other pro-feminists by degrading the other gender or doing anything obnoxious to put all of us to shame! On that note, I’d like to say that I am a feminist and not a sexist.
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