Today, feminism has become such a common topic for debates and Facebook and Twitter wars. However, feminism, which advocates women’s rights on the grounds of gender equality and stands for women’s liberation, has often been misunderstood or misused. With Merriam-Webster, a leading US dictionary, declaring feminism as its word of 2017, debates and discussions revolving around it has gained greater momentum. While many women and men are applauding this, there are some who are sort of miffed with the news.
Merriam-Webster, which describes feminism as ‘the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes’ and ‘organised activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests,’ explains that the outcome is the result of a series of events like women’s marches, new TV shows and films on women’s issues, women from Hollywood being vocal about sexual assault and harassment followed by others, #MeToo movement and so on.
The word was first entered in an English dictionary in 1841, by Noah Webster, when it was defined simply as ‘the qualities of females.’ But over the years, feminism has undergone immense transformation. While women all over are vocal about their rights as feminists, we speak to men to know what according to them is the true essence of feminism:
Everyone perceives feminism, in his/ her own way. Well, to each its own, but for me, feminism is looking and behaving with my female counterparts equally without any bias in my mind and my actions. Since there has been so much said and done, using and misusing this term, I believe the essence of feminism is lost. While we have females who are heading the world’s biggest MNCs, we also have women who face marital rape and are ignorant towards their own rights. There is a huge gap between what’s being said and done, which can only be filled by not only making females aware about their rights but by teaching young boys that gender doesn’t define one’s existence.
~ Shashank Kaushik, Media Professional, Chandigarh
“For me feminism, definitely doesn’t mean bra burning women or those who want to roam around without shaving their legs and underarms or anything that makes them men haters. Feminism, to me, is treating all the genders equal (including the queer) — you can’t shout ‘feminism’ and suppress or body shame another woman. I have seen women fighting for their rights with all their might but the moment ‘being a woman’ gives them some advantage, they do not want to miss the chance. You can’t cry over not having a period leave or not having a special seat in the bus and then talk about equality. Feminism is all about being fair to yourself and to other genders as well. ”
~ Vivek Pal, HR professiona. Delhi
“What we see now is an evolved form of the wave of 1990s feminism, which focussed more on questions of sexuality, personal expression and fashion choices. I agree and support women’s rights and women’s equality movement because I identify myself as an egalitarian but I consciously distance myself from the label of ‘feminist’ because, like many other political movements, particularly in the 2000s and the present time, the feminist movement has been captured and eaten away by the fringe extremists who are using obsolete arguments and false narratives and pushing for a misandrist society. This has resulted in unfair and unequal legislation, affecting hasty and ill-debated amendments of the criminal laws and has mostly caused a widespread dislike and hatred of the feminist movement. The present day apologists of the modern face of feminism have tried to defend it by saying that feminism also works for men’s rights, which if historically analysed is a dishonest position. What the apologists fail to understand is that while there is absolutely nothing wrong with a movement promoting women’s rights, an attempt at including the extremist misandrist fringe instead of distancing them is dishonest and inappropriate which will ultimately kill the movement.”
~ Sattwik Majumdar, Advocate, Calcutta High Court, Kolkata