A few months back, I had written a piece on feminism- "The sexist comments and misogyny an average girl experiences in the field of technology and engineering". While the response I received was largely positive, there were a few comments that caught my eye. Something along the lines of, "Maybe it's because you are looking at it from a feminist's point of view, you should have a wider perspective", "Male bashing won't help us get anywhere", "Countries like India need feminism, but not the 'Western' countries."
Though these comments frustrated me at the time, in hindsight, I realise they were rooted in misconceptions regarding feminism.
A feminist is a person who believes in the equality of all genders.
I know the definition sounds pretty basic, but it is important to put it there because there are quite a large number of people who argue that they are all for equality, but not feminism.
Like Game of Thrones fame Maisie Williams once said, "I feel like we should stop calling feminists ‘feminists’ and just start calling people who aren’t feminist ‘sexist’ – and then everyone else is just a human. You are either a normal person or a sexist.”
So telling me to widen my view from a feminist's perspective is quite ridiculous, to say the least. Because, if I am not a feminist, where does that leave me? In a sexist’s shoes. And please don't tell me sexism is the wider perspective we all should aim to achieve.
Now, I have heard the common excuse, 'It's just a person's opinion, they are free to choose the same way you choose to be a feminist'. No. Your right to choose does not include oppressing or dehumanising half the population.
Another common trend we observe is equating feminism to male bashing. Anytime a woman speaks about the problems she faced, she constantly has to assure people that she does not include all men in the category and that she does not hate men. On the other hand, a man can easily spit out sexist comments, and it's all forgotten with "It was just a joke!". When a woman speaks about the harassment or the discrimination she faced, please don't undermine her voice with the "Not all men" or "Why do feminists hate men?". For the record, no one includes all of the male population when they speak about the deep-rooted patriarchy, and feminists just look to dismantle this toxic power-system which is the norm of the world.
Recently, when Katie Bouman received compliments online for her contribution to the first Black Hole image, several people looked to undermine her work. By scanning through the Github repository and finding out she contributed only 2400 lines of the code as opposed to her male colleague Andrew Chael who added 85000 lines of code, several people declared that she simply came into the limelight by chance. Enraged by the sexist trolls online, Andrew Chael came to her defense and said this historic feat would have never been possible without the help of Ms. Bouman. The fact that it is 2019, and people still try to look past a woman's work to prove that she doesn't deserve the recognition and it's all her male colleagues' work, is a prime example of why we need Feminism and why it is not just limited to India.
Patriarchy is ingrained into the minds of people all around the world. There are times when we need to make a conscious effort to unlearn the misogyny, me and you alike. Feminism does not look to reverse this power structure, and make women rule over men. That’s misandry. Feminism is about destroying this very power dynamic, once and for all.
And no it doesn’t affect men in any bad way whatsoever. In fact, it helps men recover from the toxic masculine roles society has bestowed upon them. Patriarchy forces men into the roles of the primary caretaker of a family, the financer, the one who should be good at ‘masculine’ traits like chopping wood or changing a tyre. It ridicules men who dance, cook or take up a profession like nursing which are considered to be ‘feminine’ by traditional gender roles. Feminism is a way to get out of this oppressive system, the one that assigns various roles to you based on your sex at birth.
So then tell me again, why is feminism bad? Or why are feminists given the title of ‘Feminazis’ or ‘Man-haters’? It is hard; truly unlearning the misogyny which has been part of human culture for the last 2000 years or so. But we need to change. The crimes and atrocities against women are fast on the rise now. If we don’t act now, it might be too late.