I met someone who read the post on Patriarchy, and asked me, “So you are a feminist?”. I looked at him and smiled and said, ‘yes’. He was not expecting the answer and his attitude suddenly changed, and I showed no inclination to continue the conversation. Later, the Thinkaholic in me felt that my reaction was not right, because he did not understand feminism, and the meaning for him is probably what it is for most of the world. As per my understanding, feminism is the most misunderstood word in the world.
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As per the dictionary, feminism means, “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. For many, the word has negative implications, and it refers to women who hate men and question all customs and traditions. I would love to enlighten all these people and tell them that the meaning of the word is equality; equality for men and women, equality for all.
If the meaning is so simple then why do people need to advocate for feminism? The reason is we live in a world where the rules have been created by men and for men. Though the world is changing but still in the majority of places, men rule the workplace, the home and in many cases the lives of women around them. Had these things not happened and the society worked in a way where everyone was equal, the term would not have been coined.
Girls need to see what they wear because boys will be boys. Girls cannot be out of the house after dark, but men can paint the town red and party hard. A woman needs to be virgin to get married but who questions the boys. If a wife separates the husband from his parents, it is a crime, but when the same man marries her and tells her to leave her parents, it is custom. It is the duty of the mother to discipline a child, but the father’s love when he spoils them. A mother feels guilty if she is working and cannot give time to the child, but it is the done thing if the father does the same; after all, he is the breadwinner.
I have questioned the very educated ladies and gentlemen who are socially conditioned to be this way and will think I am just blowing things out of proportion. Let me ask you another thing which I have always asked in my house but have not got an answer. Our drivers who are men usually get one day off in a week and when they go for a break they are paid their salary. In the same house, the maidservant does not get any off and in some houses, it might be once a month. She is not eligible for the salary when she goes home. The driver gets one month pay when it is Diwali but the lady is given Rs. 1000. Why? Because she will not need to buy sweets and crackers as she is staying with you. And even if it is your part-timer, she might get an additional box of sweets with that Rs.1000. Why? Is this not discrimination of the sexes. The man here in question has fixed working hours but the poor lade works as per our timings.
All these ideologies in our lives have created the need to talk about feminism. Feminism is not about being anti-men but yes, it is wanting the society to give equal rights to women. Many women take advantage of the fact, and I would like to tell them too, please ensure you do not take advantage of the fact you are a woman. If you expect a young man to stand up in the metro, you please do the same for an elderly gentleman. Do not expect men to hold doors for you. There are things men do better than women, so let them do it. Why do we want to show them we are superior? Respect men and do not hate them.
Coming back to the meaning of feminism. As I said earlier also it is about giving equal opportunities to both men and women and never should one be discriminated because of their sex. We have to stop judging women if they make a choice. If Sonam Kapoor added her husband’s name she does not become anti-feminist and if I did not change my name, I am a feminist. It is a choice we both made. Support her husband who showed they both were equal in their relationship. Let women decide what they want to wear and teach the boys to respect the choice the girls make. It is all about quality and allowing everyone to live his or her life without pressure.
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Education might not be the answer to the problem as we are conditioned in this way. Even though I support equality but many times I also do not question the believes and customs beyond a point. At the end of the day, if it is within limits, I prefer peace in my life. There are many things that do not even bother us in our daily lives, but when we think about them, they promote inequality. We live in a constant fear of being judged and this is why we all do not raise any concerns. I know I am contradicting myself, but on the other hand, education might empower the women and thus, it might be a stepping stone in a large part of the society which I might not be very well versed with. In many parts of the country, the lack of education leads to suppression and lets the man be the stronger force.
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Though it is important we all support feminism, but the only way is to ensure we achieve what we want to ensure that it begins at home and the next generation is taught the right way right from the beginning. Feminism undoubtedly will challenge many things which are deeply embedded in our lives and no drastic measure can solve these issues. The change will come slowly and we need to persistently try in a subtle way. Teach the children they are equal, and I feel the foundation for the right thinking will be set.