There is a very mixed response from the masses about feminism in India, giving rise to numerous myths and misconceptions about it on a large-scale, hence a feminism 101 and debunking the myths is required. Of course, it is always healthy to have opinions in support and in counter for any idea to develop and not just remain stagnant. BUT, both the sides of the coin need to have a certain base for its arguments; a strong, factually authentic base to support them and not just mere misconceptions that are associated with it. Sadly, what is happening with feminism is that people who are against it believe feminism to be something it is not and thus are unjustified in their stand. Consequently, feminists have been constantly trying to clear the air around this word, trying to make it known for what it really is and then only welcoming all kinds of opinions for or against it. This article is an effort in the same direction and aims to put things as simply and clearly as possible.
1. Feminism is for the “fem”ales, by the “fem”ales and of the “fem”ales.
Feminism is essentially an ideology that strives for gender equality; breaking out of the socially constructed gender stereotypes and norms. Broadly, the “fem” in feminism has been attributed to giving rise to this misconception and that is why it is considered such a big taboo. Now, first, I don’t really get the point of this patriarchal urge to curb or control everything that is in any way related to femininity. (In introspection: Words like mankind, freshman, and guys should also make you feel uneasy for the same reason as the word feminism does. *cue internalised patriarchy*).
Feminism, since its existence, has never considered gender as the correct basis for any kind of discrimination or ill-treatment against anybody and women, i.e. the females (hence, the “fem” in feminism), have been denied their rights, dehumanized and discriminated against, since a hundred thousand years because of the patriarchal structure of the society. This movement started for their rights, as a fight against their oppression in various forms and the fact that even today rape victims are blamed for going out at night yada yada is a sign that the battle hasn’t been won yet. So, NO! The “fem” in feminism won’t be done away with and yes, it was initially started by women but now is joined by people from all genders.
Not to forget, this war against patriarchy should be (or rather, is) everyone’s fight because it affects cis men, cis women and people of other genders because of its hyper heteronormativity. It defines and innately assigns rigid roles to both men and women (that are, not to mention, highly regressive) and well, this institution completely overlooks anything beyond male and female by declaring it as the norm. I don’t think there is anyone who likes to live in this kind of culture and that automatically makes all of us feminists. HAH!
Fun fact: By avoiding to be recognized as a feminist (because, Oh! The f word) and calling yourself a humanist or supporting egalitarianism instead, you are completely missing the point and well, these are different, unique and separate theories and can’t be used as replacements of each other. Google it, maybe?
2. Feminism advocates misandry.
This can somewhat be understood as an extension of the first misconception in a patriarchal set-up. Favouring women = against men
Like mentioned earlier, it doesn’t favor any gender but instead aims to remove any discrimination on the basis of gender. Feminists don’t hate men or aren’t people who would shoot any man in sight. But they loath patriarchy; a social system that creates and upholds gender inequality which affects both the sexes (Oh! Eureka moment.) All the fury and hatred is against this system and no one is accusing solely the men for the same.
The very trending “#notallmen” campaigns by various MRAs are thus absolutely pointless. It is like taking offence for something you aren’t even accused for, in the first place!
Another counter for this misconception: A lot of men are feminists, too. No wonder, they love being a part of something that hates who they are. Sounds fun, eh?
3. Feminism encourages women to rebel unnecessarily and incessantly. (In the form of bra burning, overriding the rules, being less ‘feminine’ etc.)
Feminism faces a lot of slack for encouraging women to drink, wear short (or no) clothes, having casual sex and in short, doing everything that a cis man won’t have to think twice before doing. The fact that certain people feel the need to tell women that they “should” or “shouldn’t” do a particular thing because they are, well, women, is the whole point. An individual, irrespective of the gender, should be and is entitled to a personal choice of doing or not doing a certain thing. If a married woman doesn’t feel the need to don the ‘symbols’ of her marriage, it is her choice. If a girl goes out at night, alone or with somebody else, it is her choice. No one has the right to judge her for anything she does. THIS is what feminism encourages women for and will always keep doing so.
As far as the bra burning myth is concerned, for the starters, bras are extremely expensive and no woman would want to do that to herself. The contemporary persistence of this myth shows how uninformed we are about the liberation movements of women and of course, history textbooks would never bother making a mention of them either. The Women’s Liberation Movement (late 1960s and early 1970s) that emerged in America was a landmark movement for the social, political and economic rights of American women who were called out on streets to protest against the existing injustices done to them at that time. The demonstration in 1968 that gave rise to this misconception was the protest of the Miss America contest. Bras, which signified the patriarchal pressures of trapping women in suffocating ideas of beauty, were one of the constricting items that women were encouraged to bring out on the streets during this protest and were tossed in the ‘freedom trashcans’ as a symbolic critique of the notions of beauty. But, none of them were burnt because it was illegal to start a fire on the boardwalk.* Isn’t it amusing how this still sticks with the feminist movement as just another excuse for bashing it for something there isn’t even a solid proof of?
Much hate for bra-burning feminazis? Voila, nothing like that exists or ever existed!
4. Feminism demands for a matriarchal society.
Reiterating, feminism advocates gender equality which translates into equal rights, opportunities, choices and freedom to all, irrespective of their gender. Creating a matriarchal society would be like creating a counter ideology for patriarchy; shifting from misogyny to misandry. It is never about who gets more rights or say, it is always about everyone getting equal rights and say. Feminism aims at creating a society where we can all co-exist peacefully, respecting each other’s gender. Period.
In conclusion, women have undergone a historic exploitation in every sense of the word and have been essentially repressed (and/or controlled) for a large part of history due to which there is an intrinsic(almost!) gender gap prevalent in the society. This has to be kept in mind at all times while addressing this issue, not to generate any kind of sympathy but to understand the general psyche of a people so horrendously oppressed for such a long time in history(and in some ways, even till today). Such lack of agency over one’s life is something that is deep-rooted in a woman’s life since her birth and at the core of it; feminism calls for reclaiming this agency for a woman over her life in every sphere.
The fact that there are still people who think feminism is a “female supremacist hate movement” and that there is a need for something like meninism in response to this movement, is the reason that there is a desperate need for people to understand feminism for what it is and not hate it for what it is not.
1. Lee, Jennifer. “Feminism Has a Bra-Burning Myth Problem“. Time, 12 June 2014. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
2. Lewis, Jone. “Bra Burning Feminists of the Sixties – NOT“. Womenshistory.about.com. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
Featured Image Credit: Gender-Focus.com