Feminism – A Simple Explanation – Kanan

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I have noticed that it’s a fashionable thing to be a feminist these days. I mean this literally; in the media, the “modern” feminist girl is not portrayed by the sari-wearing woman who cooks, but rather, by a woman wearing shorts, with red lips and tattoos. She has a bold, extroverted personality that she expresses in English and an expression on her face showing that she doesn’t care about anyone’s opinions.

I have a huge problem with this “image”, because this is not the avatar of feminism. A feminist doesn’t have a specific look. She simply has a certain belief that should be the norm in society.

The term “feminism” is not yet an understood one in India. Though it should be a universally accepted ideology, also known as a “norm”, it definitely receives a lot of criticism, primarily because it is misunderstood. Many still don’t know what it means and nevertheless argue against it.

What reactions have you heard to the word “feminism”? How do you react when someone says that she or he is a “feminist?”

One of the first thoughts that come to the mind of a majority of Indian is this: A feminist is an angry woman, too opinionated, not at all sanskari, doesn’t know her place. Similar to the avatar that I mentioned earlier.

Have you heard of a particular talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning Nigerian author? Her TED talk “We Should All Be Feminists” is a brilliant explanation of what it means to be a feminist.

She says:

“I looked the word up in the dictionary, it said: Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

That’s it. That’s what a feminist is. Nowhere does it say that a feminist is someone who hates men, who wants men to be inferior, who needs to drink and smoke to prove her independence.

Feminism is simply this: A woman should have the freedom to choose and not be judged or harmed because of her decisions. She should not face any type of harassment because of her choice; she should not fear for her safety, nor should she be treated differently from any man.

Furthermore, a woman judging other women is anti-feminist. A woman judging another women  clothes, sex life, and decisions in life is entirely against the feminist philosophy. Women should instead support each other, stand by each other, rather than, as Adichie says in her TED talk, compete with each other for the “attention of man”.

Lastly, men can be feminists too. It does not make them feminine, it simply means that they are in favor of women and men being treated equally, socially, politically, and economically, and ensuring that women are made to feel safe in society.

It is all about choice and freedom. It is not about lipstick and pant suits. If a woman wants to be a housewife, that is her choice. If a woman wants to wear a burqa because she believes in her religion, that’s fine. The problem is when she is forced to stay at home and when she is forced to wear a burqa. Often, these women are not seen as “forward” or “modern” or considered anti-feminist. If this is what a woman chooses, then judging her decision is also anti-feminist.

We should be properly educating people who do not have a correct understanding of what it means to be a feminist, because it is not a word to be afraid of. It is not an ideology that is “against Indian culture”, nor is it something that the West has sent to India in the form of neon lights and smoke. It is a word that has been a part of Indian mythology and has been convoluted over the years.

I can go on about the relation between “Indian cultures” and feminism, but it is often argued that because feminism is not the norm in many parts of India, it is important to “liberate” and “empower” the women who have been oppressed by the way that society currently works. Yet this is an extremely difficult topic to untangle, so I will not go into detail here.

To end, I’d like to mention that yes, unfortunately, there are those who understand what feminism is and yet do not agree with it. Those people are infuriating, not meant for the 21st century. I think that we need to be louder than them, drown out their unjust voices with our call for gender equality.

Please don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts below!

Image courtesy : http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-feminism-and-womanism/

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