Posted by Samra Fuad

Let’s talk about the F-word.

No, I didn’t mean that one. Cool it. I meant Feminism. Or Feminist. Yeah, I know that it seems scarier than the other one, right? It is to most! Not a lot of people would own up to being a feminist today. They would, of course, more than agree to being all for gender equality; who in their right minds wouldn’t? But a feminist? Not really. As one of my teachers paraphrased: there’s a joke where somebody asks a doctor, “Are you a cardiologist?” and he says “Oh no, cardiologist is too strong a label; I’d rather say I treat hearts.” Yes, that’s exactly what you sound like when you say you believe in gender equality, but that you’re not a feminist!

The Oxford English Dictionary (since it seems to be the go-to reference for everybody) defines feminism as “the belief that women are equal to men” – that’s all it is; all genders are equal and deserve equal rights. There is no hidden agenda for women to take over the world and make men their slaves! Why, then, are people so reluctant or downright afraid to use the term feminist? Social conditioning, obviously.

The first line of defence against a woman who disagrees even slightly with a public opinion is always sexual assault.

We all grew up seeing a feminist on screen – an upper class woman with short or loose hair, a sleeveless blouse, bright lipstick, and the inevitable sunglasses. She spoke (often terrible) English, made her poor husband do all the work, while she went out shopping with her Pomeranian puppy. We all enjoyed laughing at her and clapped along when her obnoxious male lead put her down publicly. What was the problem the public had with her? She dared to have an opinion and her own social life!

Are things that much different today? Women are judged for working or not working, putting herself before her family or not doing that – you can’t do anything right! We see those women who dares to speak up, who have an opinion about anything remotely sensitive, being threatened with rape or death. The first line of defence against a woman who disagrees even slightly with a public opinion is always sexual assault.

So, the people who deny being a feminist, but support gender equality, what do they call themselves? I’ve heard the word ‘humanist’ being used a lot. I’m sorry but the word ‘humanism’ doesn’t have anything to do with the gender discourse. Humanism came into fashion during the Renaissance in the 15th century. It’s a belief that supports the idea that humans should depend more on reason and logic than a blind faith and the divine. Nothing to do with the gender discussion.

Also Read: Why Call It Feminism, As Opposed To Humanism Or Egalitarianism?

The hesitation towards feminism comes from a long history of patriarchal ideology both intentionally and unintentionally pushed down on people all over the world, only in different forms. It’s there in the slightest of casual comments like “boys don’t cry,” or “you hit like a girl”. It’s there when your father worries about getting his daughter married off and his son a job. It’s there when men and women who work the same jobs are paid vastly different. Until we are made aware of and educated about this sly oppression even in the smallest of scenarios, patriarchy thrives. Education about sexism and gender equality should start from a small age for all children; both at home and in school. Unless and until people are given their fundamental rights, regardless of gender, caste, or class, what semblance of peace or unity do we hope to achieve? However idealistic it may seem.

It does feel good to see both men and women, boys and girls, slowly but surely owning the ‘feminist’ label. When you claim an insult, it takes the power out of it. The word ‘feminichi’ has been hurled around lately , trying to insult women who take a stand publicly. There’s even a pretty dynamic market online for bags and accessories with colourfully embroidered ‘feminichi’ labels! So, I guess the joke’s on them!

Until we are made aware of and educated about the sly oppression that exists even in the smallest of scenarios, patriarchy thrives.

I owe a lot of my understanding of feminism to my teachers in college. Thank you so much for a number of illuminating lectures- a lot of content for this article comes from those classes! I owe a whole other part to the amazing women who raised me, the men who set examples and of course, to the beautiful friends who inspire me everyday!

So, just to clear things up:

  1. Feminists don’t plan on taking over the world. (That’s vegans.)
  2. Feminists may be of any gender.
  3. Feminism is about respecting each individual’s choice – whether she’s wearing a short skirt or a hijab.
  4. Feminists don’t hate men. Well, at least not all men – only the ones who try to push their dominant patriarchy.
  5. Feminists may or may not choose to get married. Stop waiting around for them to get divorced.
  6. Feminists may or may not choose to raise children.
  7. Feminists may or may not drive a vehicle. They may even choose to sit next to their husbands who drive.
  8. Feminists may choose to work or stay home and be a homemaker.
  9. Feminists may have short hair or long hair or no hair.
  10. Feminists may or may not wear makeup.
  11. Feminists may love reading, baking, spending too much time binge watching series, being a huge MARVEL fan and a football nerd and..okay, that’s just me.

Also Read: 4 Things That Do NOT Make You A Bad Feminist


Samra Fuad is a student of English literature and believes in inclusion and equality of all human beings real and fictional. You can follow her on Instagram.

Featured Image Credit: Amelia Greenhall | Ada Institute

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