Why has Feminism become the new dirty F-word?
Authors: Deepa Singh, Maitreyee Dey, Shuchi Singh Kalra
What is about the word feminism these days that makes perfectly feminist men and women want to dissociate themselves with it? When someone says “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist”, It rarely means that they are opposed to gender equality and dismantling of patriarchal domination. It just means they don’t want to associate themselves with the idiocy that goes in the name of feminism these days.
What actually is feminism? A broad definition would be – A movement aimed at bringing overall empowerment of women and equality in society. It nowhere reads ‘man-hating’, ‘rebellion’, ‘disgruntled with the world’ or implies any other such narrow interpretations. But like any other ideology it unavoidably lends itself open to interpretations. Thus leading to “your feminism” and “my feminism” and consequently rifts and faults within.
There are five waves or school of thoughts that have had pronounced impact upon the direction that the movement has undertaken. And it is palpable that with time the schools have evolved to include polemics, overtures and political contours. The question to be asked is – do these waves offer an umbrella for us all? We believe not.
There are some who have limited the idea of feminism to the freedom to smoke, drink, wear skimpy clothes, have free sex and fling about used sanitary pads to prove a point. On the other hand, there are many women making a mark in different fields who are leading by example. Scientists, politicians, sportspersons, actors, entrepreneurs, authors – there are women who have fought their way through the same system and lived up to their aspirations. These are the ones who truly embody strength and empowerment, and these are the ones we need to emulate.
On the other extreme is a group (unfortunately rather large) that believes that any talk of gender equality and women’s rights isn’t required at all. They look at feminism as a vicious agenda or a mental illness. This group is quick to attack any woman who comes across as bold and outspoken to them, even if she is just speaking her mind or merely reiterating her life experiences. Furthermore, the modus operandi of this brigade is to flag the hijacked extreme narrative of feminism and present it as the voice of every feminist, and continue their charade using false equivalence, thus causing further damage to the cause.
The grounded everyday feminism is somewhere lost in extremism, politicisation & overtures more than action in the right direction. We have met many a kindred spirits who would advocate empowering and educating the less fortunate womenfolk over bra-burning or a protest march or indulging in misandry any day. Infact, these are more like deviations from the original goal.
We proudly call ourselves feminists but are often stereotyped as someone from the man-hating bandwagons like ‘Bindi Brigade’. The feminist narrative has indeed been hijacked, distorted and taken to such radical extremes (what is commonly known as 5th wave feminism) that it repulses most regular people going about their work and asserting their rights and presence in a male-dominated society – the true feminists who are walking the talk are not resorting to meaningless symbolism just to grab eyeballs.
The sundry interpretations leading to “my feminism” and “your feminism”; are being misused to drive the propaganda that feminism stands up only for a particular group of people. These shallow sentiments unfortunately, are given more attention, thus diminishing the essence of what feminism truly stood for. If feminism is not inclusive – of men, women, communities, religions and LGBTQ – it is not feminism. Period.
8th March, International Women’s Day is a perfect opportunity for women to actually take a moment and retrospect as to what being a woman really means in today’s world.
When those women in nineteenth century rose up for equality, they weren’t exactly demanding ‘dicks’ but equal rights and legal protection. Yes, many people actually think feminism is all about equating men with women (blame 3rd wave for such bunkum ideas), whereas feminism was and SHOULD REMAIN a demand for “Equal Opportunities, legal rights & safety” for all who aren’t getting it. And since the most vulnerable group is still women & children people, love to go off track by making it a man vs woman war. Irony is men (yes not all, but many great ones) have always been a strength in this fight for equality. It’s a myth that has been propagated for obvious reasons that all men are patriarchal and all women feminists. It’s easier to weaken a side if the ideology is tarnished!
Now zooming back to 2017, the 3rd wave feminism has ravaged our minds and turned most people to feminism zombies. The core being stripped away, it’s now a war zone. The ‘Bindi Brigade’ has wrestled and made themselves equal shareholders of spreading and establishing patriarchy. Now along with the previous participants, they also want to decide how women should behave, think and live their lives. These people don’t want to give any dues to the real feminists (both women & men) in the past who actually managed to give us a society where they got the rights and freedom to get education and a right to express their views freely in the first place. They only want MORE for themselves, whereas they should have been working towards using and passing on their privilege to the large section of society waiting to be pulled up on an equal platform. They just want more rights to do whatever THEY want, and we’d have no issues with that only if they also understood ‘choice of dissent’ when confronted by others who have different views than them. Feminists see themselves as progressive, so to speak, but nobody gets to be condescending and patronizing towards other women, and tell them what to do with their lives.
Thought myopia comes naturally to all humans. So, the privileged ones who didn’t have to actually fight for education, safety, sanitation and job opportunities end up fighting for right to adultery, baring bra straps, painting with period blood and what not. We call these first world useless problems and nowhere close to representing the real issues that demand attention.
We see normal women sans victim and gender cards, who call out unfairness from both sides becoming the common enemy of these two groups who don’t really want a society where men and women are seen as partners and team players. Keeping the Men vs Women fight alive surely fuels their purpose of existence, but the bottom line is can we all see past this floating rubbish and keep our focus on the ones who’re still left behind?