By Prerna Kundu
Edited by Nandini Bhatia, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Feminism as a movement has been around for a long time now. The first wave of feminism began as a movement demanding suffrage rights for women in the 19th and early 20th century. A major recognition for equal women rights was in the form of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. Described as an international bill of rights for women, it came into force on 3 September 1981 and has been ratified by 188 states. Since the 1980s, various viewpoints reacting to feminism have emerged, including those who question the relevance of feminism in the 21st century.
In developed countries such as the United States, celebrities such as Lana Del Rey, Shailene Woodley and Taylor Swift have recently rejected the feminist label because they “love men,” or “don’t think of things as guys versus girls.” So as women, do we really need feminism? And what does feminism even mean essentially?
Women need feminism. Being a feminist does not mean you think women deserve special rights, it means you know you deserve equal ones. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you think women cannot speak for themselves; it means that you realise that even though some may be lucky enough to, there are still many who cannot. Feminism doesn’t view all women as weak, it recognises their strength and wants the society to do so too.
In a nutshell, feminism stands for equality. The movement isn’t anti-men, it is simply anti-injustice. It does not seek to raise women on a higher pedestal than men, it strives to create a level playing field for both the genders.
Men too need feminism. Not every young boy should be forced to like sports or violence, or taught that crying is ‘unmanly’ or laughed at for wearing pink. We raise them to be ‘strong’ and never show their vulnerable sides and as collateral damage, they also end up with very fragile egos. This very ego is hurt or feels attacked when grown men hear about feminism. They deem it an attack on their masculinity, and oppose it. Instead, let us teach our boys the importance of feminism from a young age. Let us support them and not squash out their gentle tendencies. Let us allow them to be who they are. And feminism, as an idea, is the only movement that can encompass both men and women under the umbrella of equality and solidarity. If we want the idea of feminism to move forward, let’s not treat men as an opposition, rather let’s teach our young boys that feminism is an idea they too should endorse, with pride.
Feminism means being who you are and embraces and supports all roles that women play – as mothers, daughters, sisters, career women and most importantly, as humans. A stay-at-home mother needs feminism as much as the CFO of a company. If feminism started looking down upon certain sections of women, or started telling women what to do, it would be no different from sexism. Feminism does not stop you from being a princess, it simply tells you that nothing should stop you from being a knight in shining armour, if that’s what you want to be. A campaign on the internet titled ‘Women Against Feminism’ has recently garnered attention. On its Facebook page, a girl proclaims, “I’m against feminism because I’m feminine”. But when did a movement striving for equality get restricted to a movement for those who cry foul against lipstick and look down on those who choose to wear make up or heels?
Feminism means fighting for the oppressed. You don’t have to be a victim of patriarchy or injustice in order to join hands against it. Many societies all over the world refuse to recognize women and men as equals. But does that mean only these communities need feminism? All of us need feminism. Misogyny exists even in so called ‘free societies’, you can give women and men the same rights, but that doesn’t necessarily make them equal in the minds of the people.
We should all be feminists because fighting against objectification and discrimination and violence against women isn’t simply the job of women; it must also be the pursuit of men. All men may not be a part of the oppression against women, but all men should be a part of the solution.
We need feminism. Men need feminism. Women need feminism. It’s high time we realise, feminism is not just a gender issue – it’s an issue of humanity.
Prerna Kundu is a first year Economics Honours student at Sri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University. A part of the debating society, she is fascinated by politics and economics. Her love for reading is nurtured by an inquisitive nature and her favourite genres are historical fiction, classical literature and fantasy. She loves to travel and dreams of trekking around the world once in her life.