Feminism has easily become one of the most widely and also one of the most incorrectly used terms these days. More often than not used in a derogatory manner, the word has been distorted and directed towards an offensive direction. Thus to get to the central idea of our discussion today, we must first make an attempt to unbiasedly understand what feminism means and what it entails altogether, before going on to elaborate on its utility.
Feminism is an active ideology that calls for a social, political and economical equality between both sexes. It advocates an equal ground that allows women to fight for and exercise their basic fundamental rights as people. It questions the long standing tradition of suppressing women from pursuing higher education, mainstream professions or even considering a job after marriage.
From time immemorial, patriarchal society has been thriving on a binary that has always operated through the repression of women. It favoured man giving him the sole right to his woman, in a manner of ownership quite similar to that of chattel. Women had no property rights and neither any over their own circumstantial situation. They were passed on from the hands of their fathers to the hands of their husbands like bartered goods. If under any circumstance they were widowed, they could not inherit their husband’s land and thus had to wander around seeking for help which they never got.
Not until very recently, even the term husband did not necessarily refer to a married man. From meanings that varied from being household heads to owners of land and cattle, husband eventually widened into meaning the profession of husbandry. Then by definition a husband looks after his wife the way a man looks after cattle and sheep. If it wasn't derogatory enough, women were now equated with farm animals.
It is unknown how this male preference gained prominence, but if we look back in HIStory, we might find certain clues as to why this happened. In primitive times men and women worked together to make a livelihood. They worked in far more adverse conditions than the ones in which we are living in today. Physical strength was vital and it usually required more than one person to gather adequate food and other supplies to sustain their family. And thus, both male and female members of the society worked together.
That was a time of unplanned families, before contraception or birth control. So, biologically the women found themselves pregnant on multiple occasions when they were unable to work as much as the men. They started staying back, resting and preparing for childbirth during the latter half of their pregnancy due to back aches, nausea and the general inability to carry heavy load. This yearly setback gradually developed into the general idea that women were not as able or physically fit as men.
Safe to say, we have moved beyond such a primitive time when physical strength announced superiority. In today's time and age physical prowess is limited to fields where it is the only criteria for success. For instance, in certain sports, where it plays the single most defining role. But to lead day to day life, such tasks have greatly been replaced by technology and machines. Thus to say that women are a weaker sex based on their physical weakness (if it at all is true) is an invalid argument.
Feminism questions the role of patriarchy in suppressing the empowerment and thereby, the freedom of women down the ages. The several waves of feminism record the undying efforts of women over the years fighting for their basic human rights and empowerment. They battled tirelessly for years against the mindset of the time dealing with extreme criticism, aiming only to earn something that should have been their birthright. Women stood together to tear down the walls of gender discrimination to find a world devoid of inequality.
The tenets of women empowerment included women education. It is essential that men and women both undergo a thorough academic development. For any relationship to work out, an intellectual compatibility, apart from mutual love and respect is an absolute must. This is a driving component for the growth of a healthy relationship and can be achieved though only proper education.
Going back to the definition of feminism, it is absolutely mandatory to remember the following :
a. Feminism does not promote male bashing or misandry.
b. Not all feminists are women.
c. Feminism is not matriarchy.
d. Feminism calls for equality and not social superiority of women over men.
In recent times, several people have come forward claiming to be supporters of human and women’s rights, but have denied to call themselves a feminist. So let us ask ourselves, why feminism and why not humanism?
* Feminism, because when a human is a female she is denied equal pay or basic equal rights,
* Feminism, because when she is harassed, a woman is still asked why she wasn't with a male member of her family to protect her,
* Feminism, because families would still be willing to struggle and send their child to school if it is a boy,
* Feminism, because women are still rated on how they look. Intelligence is seen as a compensation for a lack of external beauty.
Thus to retain the word feminism is to retain the entire purpose of the movement.
It is truly horrifying to realise that we are still living in a world where female infanticide is rampant, rape survivors are questioned on their clothing, the shade of their lipstick and women altogether are viewed as sexual objects and asked to be in the safety of their homes by seven in the evening. If a world where rapists get bailed out of prison sentences on the basis of their extracurricular merit does not need feminism, then I clearly don't know what else does.