What Does It Mean to be a Feminist?
“I am a meninist.”
A friend introduced me to someone as a feminist. He turned around and said to me –
“Oh, are you one of those Feminazi types?”
A semen-filled balloon was thrown at an LSR student. When she wrote about it, amidst receiving support from various people, some people trolled her and called her an “attention-seeker”.
Students of LSR and others organised a protest on March 1, 2018 against violence carried out against women under the name of a religious festival. The trolls got the phone numbers of people who spoke out in the rally and threatened to release the numbers to the public to further harass them.
I was standing outside the Vice Chancellor’s office with my friend, two teachers and a few others. As law school would have it, a few seconds of awkward silence turned into a debate on feminism amongst other topics. The female teacher stumped me with just one statement of hers–
“I don’t like being called a feminist.”
Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock is familiar with the latest trend of equating ‘feminism’ with an insult. This begs the question, why is it that we have arrived at a juncture where advocacy for equality is being misconstrued as an attack on men? A simple Google search defines feminism as ‘the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’; sufficiently putting things into perspective, without doubt about the true nature of the feminist movement.
If I had a penny for every time someone told me that they don’t want to be a called a feminist because the term is plagued, I would have matched the gender pay gap effortlessly. Emma Watson, in her characteristic suave style, rightly said,
‘...if you stand for equality, you’re a feminist.’
Hilary Clinton expressed a similar sentiment,
“Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”
The second one starts believing in the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes, I hate to break it to you, but one becomes a feminist. The corollary being that an insistence on not being called a feminist raises the question – do you not believe in equality?
Many contrarians of the term ‘feminism’ after hearing the definition, begin listing alternatives,
“then why don’t just call it equalism or humanism?”,
is an oft quoted refrain. Historically, women have been oppressed and discriminated against, feminism, began as a movement to help women attain equality. It has its own history, personality and identity. Black Lives Matter, Movement for Homosexuality, are also expressing the sentiment of equality, but they serve to highlight a unique demographics’ perspective. In similar vein, the word ‘feminism’ brings to light the rights of women, their zeal for equality, and their struggle for a world without prejudice or snobbery. With its beliefs deep rooted in equality for all, feminism also stands for rights of all genders and sexuality, and a general belief against oppression of any kind.
In fact, a recent effort of feminism has been to fight against toxic masculinity prevalent in society – the unrealistic and harmful standards that men are expected to live up to are also within the rubric of feminism. The idea that “real men” don’t cry, or that men are supposed to be well built, or that expressions of emotions are feminine traits, or that men can’t be victims of abuse, are all relics of patriarchal oppression, that men are supposed to follow. The movement is not about asserting dominance of women over men, but simply about trashing the artificially gendered distinctions of otherwise anthropomorphic behaviour.
Theoretically, it’s all good to say that women have the same rights as men; they have the right to education, the right to vote, and so on. Yet, if that’s the case, why is that even though statistically women receive more college degrees than men, they are still paid far less? In reality, women still don’t stand on the same pedestal as men. A woman writing about semen being flung on her was trolled by many, a rape survivor is shamed by society, apathy, and not empathy is the norm for women who decide to take a stand.
People who actively speak out against this unfair treatment are unfortunately termed as ‘feminazis’. This term gained momentum with the rise of extremists who support the hatred of men, who shouldn’t be termed as feminists at all.
When one talks about assertion of dominance of one gender over the other, they no longer support equality of the sexes, hence they no fit the criteria of being a feminist. Not only is it incorrect to refer to someone as a ‘Nazi’, but the growth of the term also puts the authenticity of the feminist movement in danger. The use of the term ‘feminazi’ trivialise advocates of feminism who are continuously striving for equal rights for all.
The same effect is perpetuated by the bogus word ‘meninist.’ It not only ridicules the ideals of movement, but also shows the ignorance with which feminism is approached – if one truly appreciated what feminism stands for, a call for equality of all sexes, then there wouldn’t arise a need for such a term to be made-up.
And for those still unable to conceive of the correct understanding of feminism:
Feminism = Equality
Equality = Feminism
About The Author
Nisha Gupta is a budding lawyer, MUNer, and an avid Manchester United Football Club fan. Nisha graduated from DPS International School, and is currently pursuing B.B.A. LL.B. from National Law University, Jodhpur. With a flair for words, she takes a keen interest in expanding her horizons and outlook on life through reading, and for the lives of those around her, by writing (and talking a lot).