What is feminism anyway? Learn from the icons!

28th May 2016
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When you open your newsfeed and see an article about some top-notch B-town actresses pleading NOT GUILTY to feminism, your first reflex is to face-palm. But after taking a long, deep breath, you will realise that they’re just reflecting the centuries of ignorance and misconception that we are all raised in.

The fact is that the true definition of feminism, that should ideally be doing the rounds, has been expansively modified, thanks to a globalised version of our good old game of Chinese Whisper. Somewhere along the way feminists have been slurred as ‘men-haters’ and even equated to being ‘lesbians’. How this one word has so many underlying connotations and incorrect synonyms is something we all need to really think about.

Feminism_YS

Image : Google Image

When our celebrities, some of whose photographs are regularly splattered across the many recycled lists of ‘India’s most powerful women’, refuse to take a stand and acknowledge themselves as feminists, what kind of an impression are they creating in the minds of the many women who look up to them.

So to clear it up, a feminist is NOT someone who hates men and who wishes for a female-dominated world force. A feminist does not necessarily have homosexual inclinations, though those who do are perfectly in their right to do so. Feminism does not mean that women are demanding social, cultural and financial respect at the cost of their male counterparts.

Feminism, quite simply, strives for EQUALITY with men.

That’s it. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Too often we subdue our natural urge to retort to blatantly sexist jokes, in the fear of being called ‘prudish’ or ‘uptight’. Books, movies and sitcoms have created a new era of ‘surface humour’, where such jokes are only to be taken at face value and not to be made into a ‘deeper issue’.

We’ve all done it. And, when we do talk back, we get called a ‘Femi-Nazi’–a female Hitler who apparently views all men like he viewed the Jews. With such negative tags, you don’t know where it comes from, but somehow it picks up and suddenly everyone’s using it.

But for how long? How long are you going to sit and fake laughter at that same-old ‘make me a sandwich’ and ‘women belong in the kitchen’ humour? How many times will you just ‘let it go’ because ‘it isn’t worth it’? The more you do let it go, the more it makes it okay for people to make such jokes about women and get away with it.

Guess what, you can call me a Femi-Nazi! And, I don’t care.

What I am going to do instead is educate and inspire you with examples of some proud, self-proclaimed feminists, who are doing their bit to bring about equality between men and women.

Emma Watson

We all knew Hermione was the strongest of the Harry Potter trio. Her loyalty and intelligence are pretty much what saved Harry and Ron’s neck at all times. But we digress.

Emma Watson, who played the character in the movie series of J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter, is the prime example of what a feminist truly is. Her #HeforShe campaign was launched in 2015, following her extremely moving speech at the United Nations about the need for gender equality and how feminism isn’t just a fight for women but one that men should also actively be a part of. Watson heads a feminist book club called ‘Our Shared Shelf’ and has undertaken various campaigns alongside #HeforShe to promote gender equality.

On defining feminism, she said: “Men think it’s a women’s word. But what it means is that you believe in equality, and if you stand for equality, then you’re a feminist. Sorry to tell you. You’re a feminist. You’re a feminist. That’s it.”

Malala Yousafzai

The youngest Nobel Prize Laureate, Malala’s tale serves as one of the most groundbreaking and inspiring examples for women everywhere. Where do we even begin her story? Being shot in the forehead by the Taliban for having started quite a revolution encouraging girls to go to school, surviving a near-death experience, recovering determined that no girl would have to face such agony ever and growing up to be an advocate for women empowerment and gender equality–she has struggled and achieved much more than any 18-year-old around the world today. Featured in Time Magazine’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” for three consecutive years, Malala’s recent bestseller ‘I am Malala’ is a book that every woman must read and re-read, to understand her struggle and be inspired by her determination.

Gloria Steinem

Feminist, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem serves as one of the greatest female role models for all generations of womankind. Co-founder of the ‘Women’s Media-Centre’, an organisation that aims to make women in the media more visible and powerful, Gloria works exhaustedly on teaching, writing, publishing and endorsing the idea of female empowerment and gender equality. Her bestsellers, high-ranking columns in top magazines and dozens of campaigns she lends her voice to, all speak about the same thing: equality for women.

On feminism, she says: “A feminist is anyone who recognises the equality and full humanity of women and men.”

Although we would love to feature a few more of our favourite feminist icons, like Ellen Page, Geena Davis, Caitlin Moran and Beyonce, we’ll leave you here on this note: Fight for recognition, fight for your fellow women and make no apologies.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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