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Let’s Talk About Actual Feminism: What It Is And What It Isn’t

Painting by Scott Bergey

Painting by Scott Bergey

The world changes so fast and, while the world is said to be moving forward, it doesn’t seem to move on that much. Everything seems to have changed, but nothing really seems to have changed that much. We’re still fighting the same old wars, for the same reasons, about the same things, and seem to be getting nowhere. Even if one war is won, there is another one just around the corner. If one issue is somewhat resolved, another ten issues related to it seem to accumulate. We’re all getting desensitized to everything we should be acutely aware of.

Take, for example, the women’s revolution in the form of feminism that is aiming for better standards of living for women, equal respect between women and men, which is finally in a position to be a worthy challenger, or maybe a cure, to the tumor that is patriarchy.

Women and men are still being told to alter and adjust to the existing standards, instead of breaking away from them.

Misinterpretations of Feminism

Most men and some women despise this concept not because they’re against it because of what it is, but because they don’t have a clear idea of what it actually is. They naively believe what has been misinterpreted and misdirected by some people to distort what it actually stands for.

From my experience, most men who despise this concept equate it to misandry. This is their own way of holding onto the patriarchal notion of “natural” roles and they accuse “feminism” of being illogical or dangerous to society, because it challenges the established order of how a society has to function smoothly and that cannot happen if people break away from their traditional roles. They mainly bash feminism with misogyny.

Women who misunderstand feminism use it as tool for misandry. It is about advancing women’s position in society and providing better conditions for them; not dragging men down from their dominant position, but helping women to climb the steps to reach that position. These misguided women tend to blame ALL men indiscriminately because they somehow interpret feminism as a newsflash of the injustices that have been done to them for hundreds and hundreds of years, and that overwhelms and drives them towards hating the whole institution of men i.e. misandry.

People who misinterpret (again, usually men) feminism, bash it by stating that “If feminism stands for equality, women shouldn’t be accorded any privileges. Everyone should compete on equal merit.” Okay. That’s a rational argument. But just one question, what if women aren’t given or don’t have the proper access to education, health, or opportunities to achieve this “merit” these people want to compete on, BECAUSE they’re women? Because in many countries, in many households, in many conservative religions, things are like that. Feminism is a fight to get women the ways to achieve this merit.

This view of being granted privileges is also criticized by some women who argue that they can work without any special privileges because they’re capable enough and that they should be given equal pay and opportunities in education and different job areas. These are usually educated, career-oriented women. Feminism isn’t here just to provide these women who have had the advantages of being educated and have never been mistreated or ignored by their families.

Feminism is for ALL women EVERYWHERE.

It’s not specific for any particular community in a particular country. Feminism is not only for the educated women in the urban areas who actually know what it is and what it can achieve.

It is a fight, a revolution, for ALL the women that draw breaths on this earth, irrespective of their religion, colour, creed, or in my country’s case, caste, but for all the ones who ever existed and died dreaming and crying their way out of their miserable lives for hundreds of years, praying and hoping in the darkness for things to change. It’s also for all the women who haven’t been born yet, whom we have a chance to give a future where they don’t look in the mirror and ask themselves, “Why was I born like this? Why me? Why why why why?” or “I wish I was a boy/man.”

We need feminism because no woman should ever be afraid, ashamed, terrified, angry, or discontent about being born a woman. No woman should ever listen to sexist things like, “You can’t do this or that, or you can’t go here or there, you can’t go now/then BECAUSE you’re a woman.”

We need feminism because no girl should be forced to stay inside and make food for her family; we need feminism because women shouldn’t be blamed for rape because they’re subjected to sexual objectification. We need feminism because no woman should be told to do something BECAUSE she’s a woman.

Just out of curiosity, how can women start being equal if they’re light years away from equality and education, while they’re still struggling to break free from their “weak, dependent and submissive” stereotype, which is bestowed and nourished by the patriarchy as “the natural order” and by people who misinterpret and slander feminism with each smearing comment, each snicker, each joke, and each comparison with Nazism? Huh?

Another misconception:

Comments like: “If a man did something like this, what would the feminists (feminazis) say? They’d never protest against this then.” or “Here comes the butthurt feminists or feminazis.”

You know, ‘feminazis’ would probably defend the women, regardless of whether she’s a culprit or not. Feminists, on the other hand, would just ask for an equal and fair trial and won’t consider gender while assigning the sentence for a crime. They won’t ask for clemency because she’s a woman; they’d ask for mere fair trials where gender isn’t a determinant in considering whether the culprit deserves accorded justice or not. That’s the difference for you.

Another problem is when most people mistake stereotypes with sexism. Sexism is basically when you refuse to take part in something or put restrictions on someone because of someone’s gender. It’s when you use stereotypes as a weapon for discrimination against a certain gender. Gender is a social construct and can very well be done away with, but your sex is biological. There’s a difference and most people don’t know that.

We need to fight and dissolve patriarchy into the depths of hell, because there shouldn’t be boys who are bullied for being feminine, because men shouldn’t be teased or shouldn’t have to lock themselves in rooms because they’re crying, because men shouldn’t have to hold their tongues if they get raped because nobody would believe them or, worse, would laugh it off. We need to fight it because no man should ever be forced to do anything BECAUSE he is a man.

We need to destroy it not because of fear instilled by uneducated and misguided people about women scurrying off in every direction looking to defeat men and take everything they own to become dominant, but because there is a fear amongst both the sexes: fear of being misunderstood, fear of being replaced, fear of being ridiculed, fear of being raped, fear of being killed.

There is nothing much you can do other than change your mindset about this and change as many mindsets as you can. Everybody’s thinking matters. We can defeat this, if only we all stick together. Always remember: Together we stand, divided we fall. And we are falling apart, instead of standing together against patriarchy and for feminism.

Stand up, please.

Oshin Ahlawat is a young poet and writer based in New Delhi, India. “I believe people who write are like tornados and cyclones. We wreck a lot of lives; for better or worse. It all depends on the people who read our work. They decide where the damage is going to be; the heart or the mind and whether it’s going to be for the good or for worse. I wish to give them the choice to decide that. I’m just going to focus on doing what I want”, she says. 

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