Feminism: What on Earth does it actually mean?

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Today I am going to talk about a topic very important to me; Feminism. However, I won’t exactly be saying why we need feminism (there will be another post addressing that crucial, crucial topic), rather I will simply discuss what exactly does Feminism mean.

Majority of people believe that all feminists are angry, spiteful, men-hating women (the concept of men who are feminists is just too mind boggling for them to even acknowledge, at least in my part of the world) with hairy legs and armpits. Yes, many women are and there’s nothing wrong with that, but that doesn’t mean all feminists are like that. The belief that what all feminists are striving for is female dominance and to show all the men the backseat is deeply rooted in their excuse of a brain. If you want to put this to test, the next time you meet someone new, or even your friend that doesn’t know you that well, state that you are a feminist and I swear, you will either get laughed at, or mocked, or both, once they’ve recovered from the shock. And then the patronizing jokes start…

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I experienced something similar a few months ago, when I was visiting a friend and her family took me out for dinner. The conversation steered into this direction when the mother asked me what were my plans for the future, and I answered with a simple “I want to be a lawyer who will hopefully fight for women rights.” That caught the attention of the brothers and father, who then started provoking me by saying things like “what exactly is it you women need, when we are here [to provide for you]?” and “Why do you hate men?” and, after I answered these questions hotly, “oh my, men need someone to stand for their rights too! Why should we be expected to work out for these six-packs?” and lastly, later that night after the whole debacle, when I was eating a Magnum one of the brothers commented “Zara are you sure you want to eat that Magnum? After all, a man might be the founder of the ice-cream.” Needless to say, it was a very lively night.

Now let me reveal to you a secret: Feminism only wants women to be treated equally. If you’ve recovered from the shocking revelation, let’s move on.  If you believe in equal human rights for both men and women, you are a feminist. Yes, you read that right. And hopefully you ARE  a feminist instead of a misogynistic a-hole. Sorry I’m not sorry.Image

It is as simple as that. Once again, repeat after me: ‘feminism = treating women as equals.” Now keep repeating it until every other insane/stereotypical definition of feminists and feminism leaves your brain. Thanks.

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17 thoughts on “Feminism: What on Earth does it actually mean?

  1. Raiha says:

    Spot on! A feminist movement is REALLY needed in Pakistan! Pakistani men are so irritatingly sexist, there are sometimes moments when I want to lug a brick to their heads. Violent, I know, but seriously what’s their problem?

  2. Anonameous says:

    Hi Zara… I’m from India, and here, as in Pakistan, sexism is so ingrained into the psyche of men AND women, that it’s become the norm. When I was a kid, my mom (who I think is very liberal in her own way) used to give the last chapatti to me, instead of my sister, cos I was a male. At the time, I thought it made sense, but now I feel really bad about it. And then there was my dad, who used to come from work, expecting food to be ready at the table… he even used to insist that my mom serve him food, even though it was literally at his arm’s length! Even at a family gathering, the men always ate first, while the women were expected to be servile. So gradually, I started calling bullshit on the “norms”, and assumed that I was a feminist.

    But then I started reading up on feminism and evolution in chorus, and it struck me that the ideologies were not in accordance with each other. One of them, IMO, was flawed… and I’m a firm believer in evolution.

    For starters, there is an evolutionary reason why patriarchy is the norm. There’s no reason it has to be so in this century, but natural selection has hard wired our brains in a certain way so as to conform to gender roles. I’m not saying that social conditioning has no role to play though; It’s a 50/50 trade off between social conditioning and genetics. Men’s brains are contrastingly different from women’s. Yet, feminists argue that “women are not born, they are moulded”.

    It’s just the stubborn refusal of feminism to accept the differences between men and women that irks me. There’s this one feminist called Betty Friedan, who wanted to do away with “feminine mystique” . If she advocated such ideas in primeval societies, mankind would have been extinct within generations. Then there’s one of my feminist friends who has as her facebook cover photo, a bunch of shirtless men, flooded with comments admiring his well toned torso. That’s fine by me, but then to go around condemning guys who have bikini clad models as their desktop wallpaper is just hypocrisy.

    And how would you justify custody in case of divorce? Feminists also justify splitting the assets equally; This kinda defeats the argument they make for a “financially independent woman” doesn’t it?

    I realize that I might be whining a bit too much about this feminism thing, so I’ll just stop :p . But my basic point is this: Marriages are based upon partnerships, which is why they work; Even in the presence of the harshest social conditioning, 60 out of 100 men will be better with tools, and 60 out of 100 women will be better at caring for their kids. Please don’t misconstrue that as a sexist remark… every human being is entitled to his/her (her/his?) choice of lifestyle, and I respect that. What we have right now is a bunch of feminists trying to ape men, and glorifying their “Might is right” attitude. What we need is for men to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of the opposite sex in shaping who they are…. more understanding, less power mongering…

    • Zara Jan Durrani says:

      Hi,

      Thanks so much for your comment. It was quite interesting to read what you thought of the idea of feminism.

      Firstly, I completely relate to the anecdotes you state from your household and culture, because it is exactly the same here in Pakistan. However, my father is very liberal and made sure that me and my brother are never treated differently, so I guess the way I think is credit to him.

      To an extent, I agree with what you say. Yes, men and women are different. Yes, there are some feelings that might come naturally to women, such as that of nurture. And no, the fact that you said that ’60 out of 100 men will be better with tools, and 60 out of 100 women will be better at caring for their kids’ is not entirely an ignorant and sexist remark. It might very well be true.

      That being said, I am a strong believer that the way you are nurtured counts the most. In India and Pakistan, we grow up learning that men are always stronger, that they always have the last word, and that maybe there wishes are more important. I cannot tell you the numerous times I have heard a newly wed wife complain to a ‘phuppi’ (aunt), or her mother-in-law that her husband is always out till late with friends, and the response she gets is ‘Haan tou kia hua? Mard hai!” (So what? He is a guy, after all).

      Now, that seems quite unfair to me, does it to you? That’s just a very minor example and I don’t need to tell you all the other sexist incidents that occur on a daily basis in the Pakistani culture, because it’s almost the same in the Indian culture.

      Basically, as a modern young woman who is educated and liberal and, well, sane, all I want is for gender roles not to be quite so harsh. Yes, a woman might be better with kids but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have a career. As in my case, my father proved to be both the mother and father. Thus, it should be okay for a man to stay at home and cook and clean and look after his kids, while the wife goes to work. Of course, as you said, partnership is very important for any relationship to work, which is why both the partners need to understand that any decision taken should be consented by both of them and, most of all, both the partners should be happy in making the decision. A man who doesn’t allow his wife to work because he feels it threatens his manhood and leaves him feeling emasculated, that needs to change. The fact that men, or even women, make remarks such as ‘I hate men in the kitchen. It’s so unbecoming,’ because they feel only a woman should be in the kitchen, that needs to change.
      Most important of all, people who literally trivialize important issues such cat-calling, leering, treating women as objects and even attempts at rape by very simply stating ‘boys will be boys,’ but continue to blame the woman, who is obviously the innocent victim here, by picking at her short skirts or heels or open hair or something as stupid, that needs to change.

      I don’t think for a second that all men are dogs, but it is the society around us that puts men on a pedestal and makes most them believe that they can get away with anything, and the truth is, many times they do. It is the society, the brought up, that shows men that women are weak, they can be ruled over, that they are the cause of all mischief.

      What I want is for women to be treated like normal human beings with normal, non over-sexualized body parts, who can also dream/aim of going into the army etc. Similarly, I want women to be able to CHOOSE their future, their destination. If they want to be housewives, great. If they want to have a high powered career, again, great.

      I know this thinking is extremely radical for cultures such as in Pakistan, and that if the revolution is to come it will take a long, long time. But if one person starts thinking a bit differently, like I did, then the revolution is at least one person closer.

      I hope you understand what i have been trying to say here, and once again, thanks for your post.

  3. Anonameous says:

    Ahh… so you seem like a pleasant feminist, unlike others who like to twist my words just to prove a point. But you know, I still wouldn’t put the blame (entirely) on the mother-in-law for her apparently sexist remark, cos she seemed to be looking out for the wife as well. It’s not like if all the women went up to the streets chanting “We are equal, independent, capable” and so forth, that things are bound to change. That’s not a revolution, it’s just a gimmick. As unfair as it is, it’s still men who control the majority of resources and wealth distribution.

    I’m not sure what’s caused this skewed hierarchy, but my best guess has got to be religion (or the misinterpretation of it?). But trying to eradicate religion from our countries or even discouraging an attempt to use religion as a moral compass… lol that’s just inconceivable. So what else… I dunno… growing up in a wife-beating society kind of has its effects the outlook of the kid as well, doesn’t it? Maybe if people stopped looking down on divorcees, it would benefit the child. Or maybe not… would a single parent alone be able to raise a child? and it would also take quite a stepfather to take kindly to raising an impostor kid. I don’t know, I’m very confused about this issue…

    Moving on, I think another problem is utter disregard for humanities based subjects like gender studies and anthropology by the education system. Science is great, but people tend to overlook the fact that it has broader applications than just for building bridges or routing networks or whatever. This is also reflected in the lack of civic sense amongst Indians; And yet we keep calling “the white man” as ruthless imperialists.

    Okay, I’m digressing at bit here… but in a nutshell, yeah, it’s like you mentioned, social conditioning. Especially upto the age of around 20… after that I personally doubt that any reform is even possible. As for the people who trivialize the actions of eveteasers, their excuses don’t even make rational sense to me; It’s more of an emotionally charged response that they’ve framed in their minds, by picking on cues throughout adolescence, from parents, friends, media etc.

    Still, I’m pretty pessimistic about what lies ahead… I doubt that a revolution is ever going to happen, but I am hopeful for a social reform.

  4. Youngafricanvoice says:

    This is beautiful, I’m only 17 years old and have just recently started exploring feminism and all its sects and aspects. I’m studying to be a lawyer starting in September and my ambitious plan for the future is to expand feminism in Africa. I want to be part of or to found an organisation that works for women’s rights in Africa and see where that takes me. I’m still immature in the subject, but i love reading posts like this!

    • Zara Jan Durrani says:

      Hello there!

      Thank you so much for your feedback; I know I am quite late but I was very caught up with…well.. life, I suppose.

      But thank you nontheless; I love your ambitions and hopefully you will get there! All the very best to you!

      Zara

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