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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2793

Is feminism a dirty word?

By Tharany Rajasingham M.Sc

We are being bombarded with debates, blogs and articles on sexism, feminism, women’s right and gender equality on every other form of media. Although women empowerment and feminism is debated throughout the year and will be debated until the day women are treated an equally empowered human beings but the topic reaches its peak during the first week of March leading up to March 8 annually.

Whatever the intentions are with these articles one cannot help but to notice that there are a lot of misconceptions and ignorance in terms of what is feminism not only in the minds of men and unfortunately in the minds of some women.

The word feminism was coined by Charles Fourier back in 1837 and the first wave of feminist movement took stage in the nineteenth century. It was through these movements undertaken that women have come as far as we have in this day in life but unfortunately the notion to express one’s opinion on gender equality could rub off wrongly on some people especially the men who would rather have their women under their sleeves. It was the acts of broad minded men who pushed for gender equality back in the days and then eventually these men encouraged and supported the women in their households (wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, etc) to take part and stand up for what they deserve.

Women and evidently men have fought long and hard to provide the female population the opportunity to get educated, vote, better health care, social status and respect through the feminist movement. Lobbying of ‘feminism’ has been stained progressively due to the ignorance of what the movement’s intents are. Many have labeled feminist, feminism and all that advocates for women’s empowerment and women’s rights as a campaign to deprive men off their rights and to be dominated by women.

“I myself have never able to find out precisely what a feminist is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat”- Rebecca West

To an ordinary spectator (men and women) feminism becomes synonymous to women’s way of demanding supremacy over men but that is not its objective. It may seem like some feminists want to "break down" the concept of different genders whereas others simply want men and women to be equal regardless of gender and be treated as human beings. The first is too abstract, even if the goal is the same and people can’t really relate to the first but most related to the latter. Root cause of the misconception and misinterpretation of feminist movements is that there are many different types of feminism which exists (liberal feminism, cultural feminism, social feminism, socialist feminism, and radical feminism to name a few). What falls under the category of feminism and feministic movements varies from country to country- a group of American feminists from the 60s who burnt their bras are very different from the group of feminists who are struggling to stop sex selective abortions in India while the post-modernist feminist is very different from contemporary feminists.

The similarity in these differences is that these movements are to set women and men on level ground and treat women equally and provide them with their basic human rights. As Lena Dunham said “the idea of being a feminist- so many women have come to this idea of it being-male and not able to connect with the opposite sex-but what feminism is about is equality and human rights. For me that is just an essential part of my identity.”

Feminism is to empower women globally, to make them aware and provide them with their basic human rights. As cliché as it may be national women empowerment starts from within each individual households. Instead of discriminating the women in your households not because she is not resourceful but simply because she is a woman start treating her as your cohabitant. Consult with her and ask her for her opinions and perspective on things. When you engage in these types of interactions you might realize one of two things either that she has a knowledgeable understanding or she needs more knowledge to understand.

“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” ~Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler. So feminism is actually a movement not to overpower men but intended to place women on level ground to return her stolen rights to be homo-sapiens! Gender equality starts with women empowerment and as mentioned earlier, we need to understand that empowering women is not going to make her dominate men since she does not have an equal status to men in this society yet. Empowering women will only bring her a level higher on the ladder so she stands on level grounds to shape and build the society along with her male cohabitants. Even once we clearly understand the core purpose of the movement I personally feel that labeling strive for gender equality as feminism should not exist as the word (not the movement) on its own is deviating from the main goal which is gender equality.

- Asian Tribune -

By: Suhasini Udayakumar
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