Every time that I tell a man that I am a feminist, he usually shudders and backs away a bit, or raises his eyebrows and says something like “Oh, you don’t seem like the type.” So this my way of clearing the fog that’s around feminism and what it means to me.
This is my humble attempt to show you that feminism is not scary, irrelevant or unnecessary.
So what does feminism mean?
Google defines feminism as the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
I find the Wikipedia definition more precise and wholesome.
Wikipedia defines feminism as a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes.
Let’s pause here because I would like to start at the beginning of our story and journey to the point that we find ourselves at right now. I invite you to humour me in my train of thought here, try to keep an open mind and join me on this path that many men and women before me have trodden and many after me will.
In the beginning, we were hunter-gatherers who fought for survival, and each individual had to contribute to society according to their physical strengths and abilities. The abilities of a woman included the gift of reproduction for the entire species which entailed having delicate physiology, and a brain architecture different to their male counterparts.
The males, on the other hand, were gifted with brute strength and speed to provide and protect their females. The men were the hunters, and the women were the gatherers, they worked in sync and understood each other though they didn’t have the gift of the language yet to express themselves.
From where I stand, the fact that we worked in sync even without communication was a good thing. Man and woman worked together for the survival of the human race. But what happened after survival was no longer an issue?
As with all things man-made, traditions and customs were born out of the need for stability and consistency. Human beings were designed to fight for survival, so when we found something that required less effort and in return provided security, we didn’t want to lose it. We secured it and made it a part of an enduring inventory of unwritten laws that future generations had to follow.
But one thing we always forgot as we became complacent, is that the things that worked before don’t always work in the future. Change is necessary and inevitable. Instead, we find solutions that work for us and exhaust them to the point of self-destruction.
We get so bogged down by the beliefs of our ancestors that we don’t even realise when old traditions hurt us more than they benefit us. I do respect traditions, but I don’t believe in following them blindly. I think they exist for a reason, to teach us valuable life lessons and remind us of how our ancestors allowed us to get here.
Disrupting Gender Inequality
Cue disruption, and what is disruption? It’s about getting rid of the complacency, interrupting the current flow of events, activities or processes to allow room for improvement. It’s about putting an end to the worn-out solutions that have worked for centuries but don’t work anymore.
Be it energy — it made sense to use fossil fuel as long as we had copious amounts of it and as long as the environment was able to expel the toxins it produced — or traditions such as women should be the one who takes on the responsibility of raising the family — it worked before when it was sufficient for the man to be the breadwinner alone, but it isn’t anymore.
I love to read about disruption in technology, banking and supply chain, but what I would love more is to read and talk about disruption in traditions or mindset that have favoured gender inequality for so long.
Up until 70 years ago
This is a phrase I’ve heard often in speeches or discussions regarding gender equality:
“There has never been a better time to be a woman.”
I couldn’t agree more with this statement. The era of conformity was ending in the late 1950s, where men and women adhered to strict societal roles. This lead to the sexual revolution, which would change the sexual dynamics between men and women forever in the 1960s. And this rippled down to the rest of the world. And where some countries resisted, some accepted the sexual liberation.
Some would even say that this freedom would eventually lead to the gender revolution that we are experiencing today. The 1960s were a dark period in the history of the human race, and as patriarchy was threatened, it was digging deeper roots into the society to survive.
In the 1950s, women were wives and mothers, nurses and secretaries, teachers and telephone operators, caregivers and nurturers. People didn’t expect women to study or have a passion outside of having their own family. They were supposed to have aspirations to be a housewife.
This changed slowly after the Second World War as more women starting joining the workforce but mostly as teachers, nurses, secretaries and flight attendants. This shift also prompted women to study more than they were expected to.
They later found resistance in the workforce — when their ideas weren’t taken into account because they were women, or received less compensation for doing the same jobs as their male counterparts or even had a baby. This was condoned by society and even other women who were raised into thinking they were meant to take care of the family and not have any ambition of their own.
Some would even argue that family is supposed to be the essential thing in a woman’s life because a man is incapable of providing the care required to raise children. And my question is, does it take two to create a child but only one to raise them well?
For the longest time, women in many countries were only reproductive beings who lived for the well-being of their offspring and never for themselves. This continues in some countries today, although it is getting better, albeit slowly.
History of Feminism
The history of feminism can be understood in three waves. The first wave involved the right to vote during the 19th and early 20th century. The ’60s and ’70s saw the second wave of feminism and was centred around equal legal and social rights.
It also gave birth to the third wave of feminism in the ’90s, from the failures of the second wave due to the inconsideration of race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender and nationality. The third wave of feminism is when feminism was reaching the rest of the world.
It was around this time that I think we (and by we, I mean women of the time) lost the meaning or significance of feminism. It became about “Women can do anything they want”, but not stopping there and taking it up a notch.
We got lost in the noise of defeat and became extremists. We started burning our bras and walking topless on the streets. But what does that mean really? Does it mean women should be able to do anything without having to deal with the consequences? I hope not. I know we were trying to prove a point but in the wrong way, using the wrong message.
I see no need to set this kind of precedent to all future generations. We should respect each other men and women alike; no one is better than the other. I love feminism but can we try not to obsess over the word MAN-kind, and have compassion towards the significance of the word.
The End — or the beginning of the end
We are currently experiencing the fourth wave of feminism since 2012, which means different things for many different women. Researcher Diana Diamond defines the fourth wave of feminism as a movement that combines politics, psychology and spirituality in an overarching vision of change.
Wikipedia defines the fourth wave as furthering the feminist agenda by calling for justice against assault and harassment, for equal pay and bodily autonomy. Movements powered through social media such as the #MeToo movement, gave many women the voice to let the world know the mistreatment they suffered without having to carry the burden of shame.
The fourth wave of feminism to me means changing the perception of women as reproductive beings and consumable objects to equal to men in the way we make our policies, we discuss ideas and raise the future generations. So yes, I am glad that I am alive in this century and not any other time when voicing my opinion like this would not have been tolerated by society.
I love the technological wonders we have at this day and age. But do I love gender pay gaps? No. Do I love the fact that women are expected to know everything about raising kids even though they have precisely the same knowledge and experience about it as the man that helped create them? No.
I am grateful for the physiological differences between us, though. I accept that our brain architectures are different because of the way we were designed to coexist in this world, which in turn, ensured we developed differently, and that is more than fine.
As a consequence of that, most women have a bigger prefrontal cortex (the part that rules the emotions and keeps us from going wild), and most men have a bigger amygdala (the instinctual core, the wild beast that is only tamed by the prefrontal cortex).
Using our differences, we should complement each other with our strengths, not bring each other down. Men should raise their women and women should raise their men as equals. There are still many evils we face, some consciously and some unconsciously. And we need to make every man and woman aware of these.
Evils that feminism face that we should be conscious of
- Patriarchy, an ancient social system which dictates that the males in the society have a say in all matters political, economic and social. If you are a man and stand for this ideology, you must understand that we might have benefited from this in the past. But it is antiquated now, and it was never meant to survive.
- Feminazism, a misconception forced into existence by misguided feminists who want to abolish not only male supremacy but also ensure female superiority. These are people who do not take into consideration that we need men too. Neither can survive without the other. People who are categorised under this group usually try to take advantage of the fact that women have suffered in the past and try to leverage this fact to their benefit. These tactics betray the fundamental ideas of equality.
- Anti-feminism, another misguided group of people who do not understand the difference between being same and being equal. They are either tricked into a wrong idea of feminism by extreme feminism or feminazism.
- Unconscious gender bias, this is a disease that most people and even feminists like me struggle to recognise, denormalise and defeat it. Here are some great articles on it by Forbes, Huffington Post, The One Brief and Catalyst.
I want to enjoy the differences between our genders and even our singular selves, without having to worry about being seen as equals or not. I want to disrupt the age-old idea that being equal means being same. My vision for this world is to coexist in harmony once again as we did before our domestication.
I want parents to take equal responsibility for their children. I want equal pay for men and women. I want men not to feel threatened by women in the workforce. I want men to try to be the nurturers too because I truly believe they can if they tried.
The obsolete notion that fathers and husbands have to be emotionless to protect and provide doesn’t hold anymore. Now women are attracted to men who are well-rounded individuals who are emotionally in touch with themselves as well as can protect and defend them. Only virility doesn’t do it anymore. Just as men nowadays are attracted to women who can drive and have a job and passion that they love. It works both ways.
To all the women who feel disenchanted because of all the limits your society places on you and even the limits you place on yourself, I don’t know who you are or what circumstances you face, but please do not succumb to the radical madness of feminazism which gives feminism a bad name.
Let’s make feminism work in our favour by raising it and spreading awareness in a healthy way. And as one of my favourite African authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, we should all be feminists.
The beauty of being a woman is that we can quite frankly do everything a man does and more. We can be wrestlers, businesswomen, politicians and we can bring new life into this world. But that doesn’t make us more than men. I want to stress this. We are equal, not similar, but EQUAL.
To all the men who feel like women are infringing on your territory, and feel that you might not have anything to bring to the table if women do become entirely independent. I assure you, we will always want you. Maybe not in the traditional ways that men are usually known to be needed.
We will want you to not only be the body that might keep us from physical danger, but also the heart that keeps us from our debilitating limits and boundaries we set for ourselves. We will need you to be our partners in crime, real partners in everything we do. And maybe then we will have a chance to cohabit in harmony once more truly.
To all the men who genuinely believe that we are equal and even embody this in their daily lives, how can you not stand with us as allies? We all, after all, want the same thing as you, to make your mindset a reality. And if you don’t support us, how do you expect other men to realise and follow suit. It’s not enough to live as an equal in your mind.
You have to show your support else it doesn’t count whether or not you think women are equal to men. I know feminism has had a bad name in the past, but hey don’t let that scare you. You don’t need to call yourself a feminist — only a woman who has the potential to experience this inequality can. But you can support us by spreading the proper awareness about feminism. We are counting on you.
Let’s work towards this vision, and disrupt patriarchy, unconscious gender bias and even disrupt feminism! And by disrupting feminism, I mean, let’s work towards getting rid of the need for feminism by achieving gender equality. Change is the only thing that remains constant, and we must adapt to this new era of equality together.