Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The F- Word

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows exactly on which side I will be when it comes to the big feminism debate. The idea that there are people who don’t believe in equal rights for men and women, people who claim it isn’t nearly as bad and we feminists should stop making a big deal about everything is so absurd, I find it generally difficult to process. 

However, there is another, relatively more hidden and smaller debate about the feminism like an old dirt road lurking behind the main highway. And today, I want to understand that argument. 

I know people who avoid labelling themselves as feminists because feminism the word is controversial, because ‘we support equality for all genders and not just women’s rights’ , because feminism is an umbrella term for man hating, angry, frigid women who can’t get a man. Ha Ha Ha No.

These are the people who feel more comfortable using terms like Humanists or Egalitarian. I personally know a lot of men and females too who understand that feminism isn’t equivalent to misandry (aka Man hating) but still find feminism controversial because not everyone understands this difference. From what I understand they don’t want to send out a message that they are open to man hating. People who are even scared of identifying as a feminist, even though if you strip away all the negativity and judgement around this word, they are feminists.

Personally, I am a feminist and not a big fan of the idea of using substitute labels when we are working towards the same goal – gender equality. Feminism does stand for gender equality but by the manner of uplifting women because it is primarily the female gender that is more oppressed. It seeks to question the patriarchy and by extension remove the social barriers and gender roles enforced upon both men and women. To the people who say they are about gender equality and not women’s rights, I must say the first step towards achieving either is the same. To the people who don’t like the fact that feminism includes the word ‘fem’ which is so close to the word females, you do realise you are being inherently negative of females. 

As I have made it abundantly clear, I don’t like hiding behind words so as to not appear extremely aggressive. But that is also because most of my encounters with feminism have been liberating, empowering and polite debates, hardly aggressive. It has been an overall positive experience. I am fortunate to know people who don’t ignorantly spread hatred under the banner of feminism. But you might not have had the same luck. I am willing to acknowledge that some feminists have extreme view points and can be unbelievably horrid people. You don’t want t associate yourself with the feminists you know who may happen to be negative people. I understand and I won’t hold it against you. I won’t even try to explain how they are not real feminists. 

I have to come to understand that even the more absolute words have a personal context that is not very easy to get rid of. And as much as I like to believe that a collective is not defined by its members, it is true that a collective can’t truly exist without its members either. And feminists, as individual members under the umbrella term of feminism are humans. They are brilliant and vicious and spiteful and caring and complexly human. And all the different types of feminists means there are different types of feminism and not everyone’s encounter with them is same. 

I understand; because people not understanding each other has contributed to at least some percent of this mess. And irrespective of my stand in the past, I not going to insist you call yourself a feminist. But I hope you understand that other terms, especially the recent one being meninism, also has its baggafge. And if you want to use humanitarian, or egalitarian or any variation thereof in order to work for gender equality (and mind you, not the patriarchy’s definition of gender equality), please you are most welcome. If you wish to break gender roles, stereotypes, fight the patriarchy (which is the problem here) go ahead full speed. If you however, are going to spend your time on this ridiculous debate and attack feminism (the real one, the non man hating one, the women supportive one, my feminism) and try to negate whatever progress it has made, you and I are going to have a problem.

I have spent a good portion of my evening giving a neutral stance on the feminism V/s Humanism debate in the hopes that this never comes up again; because while everyone is busy picking sides, we are all forgetting the real problem here. What does it say about us that we so worked up about something that is essentially a bunch of letter strung together. A word’s meaning lies in its actions, doesn’t it? And we are hardly contributing to the action – an entire post gone and I haven’t once talked about the action behind the word. It doesn’t matter whether we go left or right, as long as we are stuck on the dirt path instead of the highway, we are never going to get to our destination – which is a gender equal world.

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Other useful Links

Tim Hautekiet on 'Identifying as a Feminist' who by complete coincidence said the same thing I just wrote a year earlier.
Daniel Fincke on 'Why we Humanism and Egalitarianism need Feminism'


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