Hemangi Gurjar, [2nd year BA LLB student at NMIMS Kirit P Mehta School of Law]
There have been waves of feminism, which were all about emphasizing on the belief that all genders deserve equality in all aspects of life. Not superiority, but equality. The concept is not novel but has been existing in scriptures and texts since time immemorial, but we chose to neglect it. While the waves have only become unrelenting over time, refusing to stagnate, the requirement to justify being a feminist and what it means has increased manifold. There is no dearth of obstacles in the fight towards equality, but the hardest one to overcome is the lack of awareness among people about what feminists actually stand for, closely followed by their unwillingness to clear their own misconceptions about the concept.
What feminism is not?
Everyone stresses on what feminism means but I will not define feminism, because I refuse to sum up more than a hundred years of battle into two lines and it may mean different things to different people, but to clarify the basics to anyone who questions it, feminism demands equality. Political, economic, and cultural equality for all genders. Today, any incident involving a wrongful act committed by a woman invites a question mark on every person who identifies as a feminist.
People need to understand that a feminist does not demand oppression of men, abuse of men, or humiliation of men, or of any other gender for that matter, but just equality. Feminism does not expect women to be put on a pedestal while men worship at their feet. The spirit of feminism is headstrong and only advocates that every person regardless of their sex, gender, where they come from, and what they do, deserves to be considered equal.
When does the issue arise?
The struggle to justify the stance of a feminist is nothing new, but it is the defensiveness of people against the entire movement, even in this era, that begs the question, “Why is it a trigger for so many men that women want equal rights and recognition?” It may stem from the notion that oftentimes, feminism is assumed to be concurrent to idealness of women, but the term is so far from that and this is where the issue originates. Feminism does not suggest that women are perfect or ideal but only that they should be considered equal. This notion that feminism advocates the perfection of women is what makes people question every feminist when a woman does something wrong. Endless trolls call out all feminists for not engaging when the wrongs of a woman come to light, but what they fail to understand is that PETA does not interfere in matters of domestic violence and WHO does not interfere in matters of human trafficking, for one simple reason, it is not their agenda. Just like it is not the agenda of feminists to defend women for doing a wrong on the basis of her being a woman. There are countless grave issues that require the attention of those who work for equality.
The patriarchal aspect of society expects everyone who stands for feminism to justify the actions of every woman, but what happens when every man in the country is forced to answer for the countless crimes committed by men? They will have to hold the weight of patriarchy on their shoulders, every minute. The abusive actions of one woman do not, at any cost, automatically change the power dynamics in a patriarchal society. The notion that anything that involves a woman has to attract feminism is completely false.
What is the solution?
The growing instances of men casually invalidating feminism via the blame game needs to be understood because only then will the misconceptions with regard to feminism be cleared. It needs to be understood that feminism does not establish women as flawless, ideal beings and when people are urged to be respectful towards women, simply for being women, it builds up resentment among men which leads to their clinging to every such incident of mishap on the part of women to falsify the ideal image of women. While the internet can be an amazing platform, it does expose the world to a plethora of harm, and the biggest harm of all is incomplete knowledge.
Social media has induced a herd mentality amongst its users and people simply want to agree with what they read in posts and memes because that is what the majority seems to believe in and that is also where most of their knowledge about feminism comes from. These same people advocate equality but detest feminism because of this resentment. What needs to be clarified is that feminism only stands for equality that women rightly deserve. Supporting equality, but not feminism makes no sense.