“Gender equality is a shared vision of social justice and human rights. Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.” – Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, at the High-level Thematic Debate on advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, 6 March 2015 at UN Headquarters in New York.
Gender equality is based on “the view that men and women should receive equal treatment, and should not face discrimination”.
For gender equality to prevail, both the sexes should be treated equally. There is no equality when women are less privileged or being looked down upon. Women can do what men can, and if not everything, we can do some things even men cannot do. We have qualities that many men do not possess.
Women are under-privileged and have been suffering from gender inequality for centuries. This is why the feminist movement was brought into action. Feminism is the belief that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men.
But why is feminism still a controversial topic when all it stands for is equality of men and women?
“Feminism; the radical notion that women are people” reads the T-shirt I am wearing in the picture above. Women are people and deserve the same social, economic and political rights and opportunities as men.
That women are still regarded as inferior by many in our society is clear from a number of injustices: inequality in social privileges and job opportunities, the sexual violence in and outside home, less recognition for the same work done by both the sexes, unequal ratio of men and women in politics, stereotypes of how a woman should look and act, no identity for women often regarded as the wife of xxx, not providing education for young girls, heavy household chores, body-shaming. The list goes on. Just as in many other societies in the world, there are prejudiced opinions about the way women in our society act and dress.
Somebody once asked me why I am a feminist when I am not abused or ill-treated within my own society. Feminism is not about just one woman, but about women as one. There is no woman who has not suffered from gender-inequality in her life just as there is no man who has not enjoyed gender-bias privilege. There are celebrated feminists living in the most forward nations in the world where women are now respected and are treated as equal to men. Why do they still raise their voice for feminism? The question answers itself.
There are men who turn defensive and even aggressive when feminism is talked about. In my opinion, the reason they show this misogynist attitude is because they feel insecure about the superior status they claim. Women’s capabilities and emotional strength threaten men. Many do not want women to be given the same opportunities and respect they get, for they know they cannot dominate if women succeed too. Some men get offended because they do not even understand what feminism stands for. They have a preconceived notion that feminists hate men and seek superiority over them.
Accepting feminism neither makes a man look feminine, nor women look masculine. You need not compromise your femininity or masculinity to support feminism. Feminism has no gender. If the cause is to change how the world perceives women, that does not mean men should not support it. Feminism is not a movement against men; it is against a patriarchal society in which women are considered and treated as inferior. In other words, men can be feminists too.
Men need to acknowledge us beyond our body. Women are compassionate, triumphant, positive, bold, passionate, strong, ambitious, hardworking, intelligent, independent, empowered, enlightening, sexy and inspiring. We are achievers. To be acknowledged for all these good traits in us, we women raise the feminism issue. We need the male gender to accept us as capable individuals and respect us the same way they want to be respected. They cannot create the stereotypes of a “beautiful woman” and a “good woman” as boxes to keep us in.
Feminism is not a trend to seek people’s attention. Feminists do not want women to be treated with actions evoking male dominance over women and our young sisters need to remember who went before us and on whose shoulders we have stood to achieve the right to share social platforms.
Because of the spread of feminism and education, the world is becoming a better place for many women and we are now respected and achieving equality with men. But everywhere there are still silenced women dominated by men. No country in the world is a women-safe place yet.
Stand in solidarity with the women who are still being ill-treated in every home, in every region, in every corner of the world. Stand with us against rape. Feel for us, and the pain women who are raped undergo and the post-rape life women live. Stand in solidarity with the aspiration to raise boys and girls the same way. Stand up for the socially, politically and morally just call for equal rights and opportunities for women and men.
So to those who have been misunderstanding the whole feminism thing, I repeat: we neither claim superiority over men, nor seek attention and profit. We ask only for equality. If you still think this is too much to ask for, then you do not accept women as people. And women will not forgive you for this; we will simply bring the battle to you with even more determination.
*Author Bio: Tenzin Woesel is from New Delhi, India. Woesel graduated from the University of Delhi with a degree in English Literature. She has interned at the Times of India and is currently a blogger and writer at Thought Catalog.