FEMINISM n. Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
Oh wait. That was the dictionary definition.
Let’s get real for a minute here.
Feminism n. Strong, (therefore threatening), militant, bordering-on-violent, man-hating, bra-burning females.
Which one do you think runs through the average person’s head when they hear that word? And you think this concept is irrelevant in these times? Think again.
Without meaning to belittle the contributions of Lady Montagu and Juana Inez de la Cruz back in the 18th century and the pioneers of the suffragette movement in the 19th, I believe the need for feminism has truly come of age only as recently as the technological revolution itself. For it is truly now that our abilities, boundaries and concepts of gender negotiations are tested against the backdrop and needs of our times. It is now that women are expected to perform gender-neutral tasks without the specter of gender roles looming over them, but without actually having the infrastructure—the actual notion of gender equality—in place. So the rules of the race are Equal Opportunity, with the subtext whispering “Maybe she won’t make it.”
What has historically been lost is the reason for the feminist movement, i.e. the need for the same standing as the other gender, and what has remained with us are images of marching women burning their underclothes. Movements of resistance often choose to capture public attention by make a statement of shock value, simply because they are resistance movements for a reason. They are advocating a change in a pre-existing system of thought, attitude and action. They sometimes take on prevailing mores, sometimes laws, and often centuries of ingrained prejudices. If they sit genteelly at a table, exchanging polite notes, they are as likely to be noticed as a knitting ant. No woman in her right mind would actively do that to her breasts unless she had a serious point to make.
What personally irks me is the attitude of reasonably well-informed, supposedly educated human beings who balk at this other ‘F’ word. And view it with the same wariness they would a leper. Knowing full well that both are non-infectious and misrepresented.
And it isn’t just about mental representations of the word. There’s actual implementation too that we still seem to be having hiccups with. Us in the cities consider ourselves with-it and in-the-groove and supportive of the women in our lives. But how often do we hear people telling women they know to “work it out” with their abusive spouses, “compromise with” a restrictive family, and “tolerate” an inadequate life? How many of us are made to feel lucky that we have spouses that “let us” do whatever we want, go wherever we wish, and take independent decisions? So we fly the skies and sing paeans to the men who allow us that freedom. And thank our fathers for educating us. And our lucky stars for not being pressured into marriage.
Is a freedom still a freedom when you have to feel grateful for it? I’m sure it’s infinitely better than none at all. But I thought we’re way past the “all-or-none”ness of this new feminist age. Where gender is largely irrelevant unless there’s the process of reproduction involved. And sometimes not even that.
I hope I’m making myself clear here. Feminism is NOT about women. I know, respect and love men who are feminists. Men who aren’t embarrassed by the fact. And embrace it, rather than shun it. Feminism is as much about asking for paternity leave, daddy doing the diaper changes, and standing up for the man being abused by his wife as it is about the “fairer/weaker” gender, another classic anti-feminist representation. It’s about cherishing the woman you love and respecting the fact that she can be tired, unwilling or just plain lazy to do what her gender role expects of her. And that it’s okay to step in and take over, but only if she wants you to.
Have you ever wondered where this man-hating image of feminists stems from? From women who are sick of being sidekicks all their lives and therefore decide to do some kicking of their own. We can be an active or a passive sidekick. One who has experienced a gender bias firsthand or one who has been an observer. Our reaction to this experience can be as diverse as the human race itself, but as mentioned earlier, the most volatile reaction gets the attention. So the rest of us, who love men for the most part, are unseen and mostly unheard. Men can be wonderful partners in this movement to create awareness about the true meaning of feminism.
The one person I would trust with my life is a feminist. With a moustache. For me, he truly embodies the ideals of feminism. His respect for both genders and belief in offering the same opportunities and rights to both exceeds mere lip service. He lives the word. As an example to the rest of the world that cringes at the F word and insists on continuing to conjure up images of lingerie bonfires.
As for me, I continue to strongly recommend that teensy black push-up at Victoria’s Secret. A girl needs all the help she can get.