Feminism has become an unpopular word and some women are choosing not to identify themselves as feminists at all. Why is the word so uncomfortable? If women themselves do not support the cause of gender equality, then will anyone else?
Feminism is sometimes corrupted in its interpretation to being equated to an anti-men agenda. It is understood as a concept where women wish to be superior to men, where women wish to be above men, where women wish to hate men, where women wish to eat men for breakfast, where women can only attain equality at the expense of men’s equality.
Feminism is about giving women the ability to walk the streets as men do, without fear of violence or murder.
Feminism isn’t that. Feminism is about gender parity. Feminism is about you, your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, your cousin, your grandparents, your colleagues, your domestic help, your friend, your boss, your teacher. Feminism is about humankind. Feminism is about the right of both sexes to equal opportunity. Feminism is about learning to respect both sexes equally.
Feminism is not only about gender pay equity or gender discrimination for opportunities, feminism is about ensuring women’s safety. Feminism is about giving women the ability to walk the streets as men do, without fear of violence or murder, and without carrying pepper spray in fear of their life. Feminism is about giving girls the courage to travel solo.
Feminism is about empowering women to speak up for a raise in salary just as confidently as men do. Feminism is about encouraging women to be both mothers and professionals. Feminism is about not having to fear being asked to sexually compromise to attain a job or a promotion.
Feminism is about allowing women to choose their own reproductive rights.
Feminism is about educating people that women are more than just their bodies. Feminism is about teaching girls that size zero does not define them, just as a six pack does not define men. Feminism is about letting women choose outfits just as men are free to choose what they wear. Feminism is about allowing women to choose their own reproductive rights. Feminism is about allowing women to choose an abortion or choose a baby. Feminism is about changing cultural norms that widows can re-marry just as widowers can re-marry. Feminism is about teaching women that there is no shame in menstruation.
Feminism is about getting women to sit at the table, not just in the room. Feminism is about telling women that they can be feminine and feminist at the same time. Feminism is about letting women choose their sexual orientation, just as much as fighting for men to choose their sexual orientation. Feminism is about ensuring paid maternity leave, just as much as fighting for paid paternity leave.
Feminism is about all women, whichever class, race, sexual orientation or gender they may identify as. Feminism is about allowing women to express their emotions without being labelled as emotional, vulnerable and attention-seeking just as feminism is about encouraging men to express their emotions without being labelled as feminine.
Feminism is about ensuring medical research pays as much attention to women’s health as men’s health.
Feminism is about letting women choose to be scientists, artists, lawyers, doctors, historians, teachers, politicians or social workers. Feminism is about fighting gender stereotypes for women just as it is about fighting for releasing men from being imprisoned by their gender stereotypes. Feminism is about educating people that women are not simply cooks, laundry-women, janitors or domestic helps in their own home. Feminism is about fighting for men to participate in household work.
Feminism is about ensuring medical research pays as much attention to women’s health as men’s health. Feminism is about allowing women to keep their identities and their maiden names even after their marriage. Feminism is about giving girls the same education as men. Feminism is about allowing girls to marry whoever they choose. Feminism is about ending child-marriage, not just for women, but for men, alike. Feminism is about fighting prejudice and providing the same privilege men have to women just as it is about providing the same privilege women receive to men. Feminism is about allowing women to drive.
Feminism is about making half the population of the world feel like half the population of the world, not just in terms of numbers but in terms of value. Feminism is about fighting for mental health of women just as it is about fighting for mental health of men. Feminism is about encouraging women in sports. Feminism is about ending domestic abuse. Feminism is about teaching men that women are humans and must not be slapped, beaten, scratched, burnt or raped in a relationship. Feminism is about reaching the state of ending female infanticide where parents want to have daughters just as much as they want to have sons.
Feminism wants to make the world a better place for everyone. Feminism is about the idea behind the movement and not just the word itself.
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Ranjani Jagannath is currently pursuing her Masters in Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and focuses her research on psychological impact of violence and discrimination against women. Battling through her own mental health struggles, she also launched whatwakesmeup.org to help people find meaning to wake up. Music, driving and Po (her little cavapoo) make up her top three favourite things.