How are you sitting, cross your legs! Woah, I can’t believe you’ve slept with so many people! Oh, I’m guessing it’s that time of the month! Remember to smile, but don’t show your teeth! You need to know how to do basic cooking, otherwise how will you manage the household once you get married? Go change that outfit right now, we don’t want people seeing your cleavage! Damn, you’re pretty strong for a girl!
If you’ve had even one of these things said to you, congratulations! You’re another victim of some super patriarchal, sexist behaviour! And yet, people wonder why feminism is even a thing???
So today, on International Woman’s Day, I decided to write about feminism, just covering the basics, since that would help everyone, the empowering individuals, the misogynistic men, the feminists, the unaware and the ones who want to educate themselves some more on the topic that is feminism.
Feminism and sexism are generally two sides of the same coin. Sexism refers to a belief in traditional gender role stereotypes and in the inherent quality that exists between men and women. Feminism, in definition, is a social and political movement that seeks to change the way people see male and female rights and campaign for equality. Even though it is a term that is discussed plenty of times during dining table conversations, classroom debates and social media arguments, many a times, it is one of the most misused and misunderstood words of all time. What exactly does feminism mean? Is it a movement to make women more superior than men? Is it something that puts down other sexualities? Is it a form of egalitarianism?
No! But, let’s clear all that up right away!
While feminism does strive to include everyone, including men and non-binary people, it also attempts to help people of marginalized sexualities. Marginalized sexualities are those that face subjugation, social exclusion and are treated as insignificant. And women are marginalized in may ways, so feminism is a way of bringing that to light and doing something about it. The feminist movement started in order to help women attain equality and fight for their rights, and it reflects the fact that women have historically been disempowered, oppressed and silenced. But, feminism is definitely not trying to raise women and gender minorities up above men. It’s trying to bring them up to the same level!
Now, if someone is a feminist, that doesn’t mean they don’t believe that men face stereotypes. One of the most debated issues of today is that feminism is trying to battle toxic masculinity — the standard by which men must be strong, tough and basically just emotionless. But, it is imperative that we realize that feminism isn’t just a women’s movement, it is concerned with the liberation of both men and women. However, it is essential that we also accept that women have been the prime victims of years of patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Feminism is an attempt to get rid of this notion of dominance and subordination, to bring both genders on the same par.
But why it is increasingly important that we talk about women’s rights, gender roles and overall the oppression that women have had to endure over the years?
While many things have changed like women finally getting the right to vote, having greater access to education and even having a more equitable pay with men, there are so many hurdles and issues that are being overseen. Many believe that the fact that “women have the right to vote” basically means that the gender inequality war has been won.
Ha! If only.
According to the U.N, about 99.3% of women and girls in Egypt have been subjected to sexual harassment. Over 130 million girls, on a global scale, have undergone genital mutilation. In 10 countries, women are legally bound to obey their husbands and only 76 countries have legislation that directly targets domestic violence. Woman hold only 28% of managerial positions in the world (as of 2019). 70% of speaking roles in Hollywood films are men (although actresses are 5 times more likely to be asked to get naked than their male counterparts). And if not about what’s happening around the world, let’s talk about what’s happening around us. Women still don’t have enough access to sporting facilities. The number of people a woman sleeps with is still apparently a big defining factor of their image and status in society. Showing too much skin still means that a woman’s asking for it. When a woman has too many opinions, it’s offensive. Woman are still sexualized, objectified and disrespected openly and unabashedly.
Look around you. So much of female subordination has been normalized that it’s tricky to see exactly what’s wrong and what’s right. When guests come over, are the men lounging in the living room, and the women in the kitchen, getting the food ready for supper? When arranged marriages are being decided, is the prospective bride told to look down, laugh quietly and not speak too much? Do people still ask who the man of the house is? Are single, divorced mothers still looked down upon? Around you, are women being put down, disrespected or not given the same treatment as their counterparts? If so, sexism, gender stereotyping and female oppression is still very rampant!
Even with so much left to conquer, even with the fact that it may take 100 years (according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020) to achieve gender parity, there is some notable stuff to look back on that feminism has helped achieve. On education, statistic reports find that girls and boys participate equally in primary education in most regions of the world. Feminism has brought women out of the household and into the workplace. Rape culture is being talked about more often, more seriously. Feminism helped fight legal discrimination in the highest courts. More light was shed on birth control and abortion. Women feel more confident to vocalize their thoughts and fears. Rural areas and small towns are being educated more on gender equality and women’s rights. Girls are being taught to stand on their feet instead of being married off. Even though much of the battle and struggle is still left, feminism and the fight against sexism and gender stereotypes has helped improve the lives of so many women around the world.
And not only that, but feminism has helped normalize the fact that it is okay for all kinds of people to show emotion and cry, it helped the FBI change the definition of rape to include men, it changed the pressurizing belief that only men have to be bread-earners for the family. Feminism, in the correct sense, has helped uplift society, equality and women’s rights.
How can YOU help?
– READ! Educate yourself on this topic. Don’t start ranting about a topic you don’t fully understand. Watch movies, speeches and audios. Read up on the history of feminism, inequality and what formed the foundation of such a massive movement.
– SPEAK UP! Talk about sexism, feminism and issues faced by women to your friends and family. Use social media to voice your opinions and thoughts. Use opportunities to speak up about such an important topic. Stand up for other women. Support one another. Call out inequality!
– SUPPORT NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS WORKING FOR WOMEN! Many women have fought to give us what we today enjoy as basic rights. However, in many parts of the world, women are still being abused, traded, mutilated and deprived of so many things. Honor killings, child brides, and acid attacks are still a sad reality for so many woman worldwide and these women need our support! Recent women’s marches across the globe clearly showed what we are capable of. Also, being part of an organized support can give you a proper platform not only for showing your support but also connecting with like-minded individuals.
Happy International Woman’s Day to all the beautiful, strong and impeccable woman out there. Let every day be an opportunity to celebrate one another!
I personally love listening to Emma Watson and Priyanka Chopra talk about such issues. They have a profound, powerful voice and explicitly state what they believe in. I’ve begun this journey on becoming a feminist and they are some of my biggest inspirations. I’d recommend reading books by Roxan Gay, hearing UN speeches on feminism and checking out Goodreads’ list of Feminist Books to understand such a pivotal issue that has taken the world by storm.
I myself am still learning all about gender inequality, feminism, and sexism. I’ve been spending quite some time researching, reading and understanding these topics to educate myself on a better level so if I have made a mistake in saying something in this post, feel free to leave some constructive feedback below!
Lastly, I’d just like to say two things:
- Anyone can be a feminist! Any person who believes in gender equality is a feminist. Men, women, transgender, anyone.
- Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives this strength.
Lots of love,