Some folks out there have this stereotypical notion of a feminist as some man-hating species.
In their heads, we have the demeanor of a Goddess Kali, the butch haircut of an Anushka Sharma from PK, and our WMD (weapon of male destruction) is a burning bra.
Let’s educate ourselves on some feminism 101. It serves everyone.
“To be feminist in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.” – Bell Hooks
Misogyny in our very vocabulary
There are no dearth of pejoratives that are offensive to women. The most shocking of those is “cunt” which is a slang term for female genitalia. All women possess such genitalia (transgenders as some exceptions.)
You can even call someone a dick playfully, but it would not have the same scathing insult of a cunt. Heck, there are men whose possess the legal name of a Dick.
(*Cough* Dick Cheney!)
Isn’t it strange how our vocabulary allows us to speak up on the one hand and silences us in another?
If you called me a feminazi a decade ago, you could probably silence me.
Call me one today and I will emerge even stronger.
That feminism can be maligned with the Nazi movement of mass genocide is not only appalling, but downright ignorant.
The roots for feminism were already set due to my women leadership opportunities in Douglass College, but my tipping point to become an outspoken feminist was the 2012 Delhi gangrape.
I still wonder if Nirbhaya’s life has been lost in vain because very little has improved from governance and mentality perspective. Two years later, the Delhi streets and transportation systems (including routes taken by Uber rapist and Nirbhaya bus) are still unsafe, as confirmed from a safety audit by Jagori, a women empowerment organization.
But as feminists, we have hope.
I Don’t Support Feminism Because…..
It’s ok if you don’t support feminism (as long as you don’t engage in misogyny) but I worry when someone throws venomous remarks like feminazi and suggests reasons why the movement is irrelevant.
Below are 3 of the most common retorts to feminism:-
1) Can’t they just support human rights?
A basic history course could enlighten you on the past and present struggles of my gender — female foeticides, infanticides, rape as a weapon of war, (ongoing) sex slavery, suffrage movement etc.
Presently, Sweden has the world’s highest cases of reported rape, India has yet to make marital rape a criminal offense, Saudi Arabia doesn’t even let women drive, US is still working on legalizing abortions and separating religion from contraception pills etc.
In 2013, a Norwegian woman was sent to jail in Dubai just for reporting her rape, and in 2014, an Indian Court made it clear that women cannot wrongly accuse men of rape on the grounds that they didn’t marry them after consensual pre-marital sex. Both fall under the purview of feminism. How can we support the rights of one gender by denying them in another? We can only flourish if we co-exist.
Feminism emerged as a movement to empower women and it is true that we champion for rights of all of humanity. But to suggest that we are only humanists is to say that our turbulent history was non-existent.
Why not lump the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the Satyagraha movement in India with human rights too? You can’t, because those tipping points of history served specific interests. It’s the same case with the movements for gays and transgenders. They are humans too but with distinct grievances.
Women have been systematically denied rights and opportunities and though we have made progress, we still have a long way ahead of us. For this reason, we have our own movement.
2) I have never experienced inequality so it doesn’t exist.
The recent #CrimingWhileWhite trend highlighted the privileges that the white populace enjoyed while their black counterparts suffered.
On a similar note, the #YesAllWomen shed light on the experiences of sexual harassment and assault faced by women around the world. Many men were supportive towards this movement and were surprised to know all the various ways women feel unsafe.
Just because you have never experienced inequality due to your privileges does not mean that the inequality doesn’t exist for the marginalized groups of the world.
3) Women are just feminists on paper to get extra attention and feel special.
Mentality is a very powerful medium of change. If a patriarchal mindset can convince you that men are superior to women and should not show their sensitivity, then a feminist mindset can tackle that negative notion by eliminating all forms of sexism and oppression.
A Satyamev Jayate episode wisely demonstrated this error in “soch” (mentality) when Aamir Khan interacted with men from various backgrounds who were all taught by their forefathers that men are more important than woman, in all spheres of their life.
Please watch that segment here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKVwjOjuj_k
Those men realized the fault in their upbringing and made amends by respecting women. One man took more responsibility in domestic duties, another deeply regretted that his sister lost out on a education because of him, and the last one was no longer aggressive towards his wife.
Yes, we have made great progress but the current headlines of misogyny will tell you that we still have a long way to go.
Let’s take a quick recap of the some of major headlines from my country in 2014.
- Anita Sarkeesian was forced to cancel a talk at Utah State University after they received a terror threat stating that someone would commit “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if Sarkeesian gave her lecture. Anita is a feminist media critic who spoke out against the overwhelming violence depicted towards women in video games.
(a tiny example– In Grand Theft Auto V, players can punch prostitutes and run them over with cars.)
- Anonymous users of infamous reddit forum 4chan leaked stolen nude pictures of scores of famed women on September 1st. Three weeks later, anonymous 4chan users threatened to do it again. Their new target would be Emma Watson, because of her outspoken stand on feminism.
- Isla Vista gunman Eliot Rodger left a chilling Youtube video detailing his motives to kill because he wanted to punish women for rejecting him and left misogynistic messages in pick-up artist forums. He set out to murder all the women of a sorority but instead, killed as many people nearby before killing himself.
Here’s the news that didn’t make as much of a dent — Rape, acid attacks, trafficking of women and children across the world are far more common and it is their periodic occurrence that makes us less concerned about them than say, a shooting (just as terrible.)
Good News in the World of Social Media
Misogyny is still very much prevalent but rather than it being something we only witness in the real world, it has emerged just as viciously in social media as well. But I’m happy to present to you some great news in the virtual world of tackling misogyny.
- Fighting rape threats
Alanah Pearce is an Australian journalist who reviews video games. She contacted the mothers of the young boys who tried to silence her by threatening to rape her. Brilliant!
- Pickup Artist Julien Blanc banned in multiple countries
Australia was the first to ban him and petitions cropped up to bar him from teaching seminars in the Japan, Canada, the U.K. and Brazil, among others. His popular coaching advice to dating women constitutes violence and harassment. His Twitter account included statements like, “Dear girls, could you please save me the effort and roofie your own drink?
The backlash to Blanc gained momentum when Jenn Li, a Chinese-American woman living in Washington, D.C., came across the video of his lecture about Japanese women, which she found “horrifying.” Writing in the Independent, she described why she was inspired to start the hashtag #TakeDownJulienBlanc. “By perpetuating the idea that Asian women are a ‘free for all’ for predatory men, he is encouraging other pathetic men to abuse them.” (Source – Washington Post)
See the impact one woman can have on the world! 🙂
- Removal of Eliot Rodger as Hero page on Facebook
A Facebook page called Rodger an “American hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle against feminazi ideology”, and asked users to “pay tribute to him”.
Many activists reported the page to Facebook on the grounds of hate speech, harassment and violence, but Facebook did nothing more than provide an automated reply. Ultimately, FB took it down.
p.s. I, too, reported the disgusting page and when I noted the misogyny in Rodger’s actions on an online thread, I was called a man-hater by several men. They claimed that the boy was just reeling through a mental illness!
- Empowering Trends
And of course, how can we forget the powerful #YesAllWomen and #HeforShe trends. While the former highlighted issues of inequality, the other united men and women on fighting it together 🙂
The aforementioned examples show ways that we can show solidarity in the fight against misogyny online and empower each other in reality.
Men and women who are not afraid to identify as feminists and who act on their word by supporting equality in any shape or form – I applaud you.
One celebrity today may claim to be a feminist whilst her husband continues to rap on misogynistic lyrics bordering on sexual violence — Beyonce and Jay-Z track “Drunk in Love”.
In ’97 I bite, I’m Ike, Turner, turn up
Baby no I don’t play, now eat the cake, Anna Mae
Said, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”
Jay Z’s rap verse references the violent relationship between Ike and Tina Turner (real name Anna Mae). Ike was a musician who famously beat his superstar wife and was abusive to her throughout their relationship.
Another celebrity may say she isn’t and that is ok. (Kaley Cuoco, though, frankly her role in Big Bang Theory as the less intelligent and busty blonde is all kinds of sexist.)
Just because one man or woman shouts “Yes” and another proclaims “No, not for me” doesn’t mean the feminist movement suddenly rests on the shoulder of one and loses its steam from another.
The feminist movement has never been stronger.
Just as the case of Trayvor Martin got folks in the US to wake up about post-colonial racism, the 2012 Delhi gangrape set off the same steaming anger about women’s safety in India.
These events were the tipping points.
It may take more such events for us to bring change in an ethical and effective way.
Till then, I will keep being a feminist.
“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes.” ~ ‘ They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.”
―Clare Boothe Luce
“Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.”