We women don’t think we are above men; we don’t want to take over the world and make men’s lives miserable. We are not a conspiracy to spread anarchy. Here’s my take on feminism and what it does, and does not stand for.
When I started standing up for my rights as a human irrespective of my gender, I was ten years old and unaware that I had just signed up to be a part of a much bigger movement Feminism. Over time, as with every movement, feminism has divulged into extreme radical and subdued versions and everything in between, faced open criticism and opposition, and has been misinterpreted and misrepresented to distort its meaning. Recently though, the misrepresentation of what feminism stands for has increased so much that I felt like it was time that someone clarified what we feminists believe in. Here are a few myths about feminism that I would like to bust:
- What we believe in: Equal merit warrants equal opportunity
We want everyone to be eligible for all jobs, college and school admissions, promotions and careers if they are good enough for them, based on an unbiased and fair selection process, irrespective of their gender. What this means is that women should be eligible to be carpenters, mechanics, soldiers and politicians, and men should be eligible to be nannies, beauticians or whatever else they choose to be.
What we don’t believe in: Reservation for jobs or roles if there is equal opportunity.
We don’t believe in prioritizing merit over any other parameter, as long as the starting point remains the same. What this means is that we believe in equal opportunities for both genders to pursue their ambitions right at the start, to eliminate the need for reservation to level the playing field at a later point in their lives.
- What we believe in: Sexual harassment is a crime and must be punished.
We believe that any form of sexual harassment is a violation, and must be punished adequately. We also believe that victims are never “asking to be raped” and it is NEVER their fault. We believe in a society where both men and women are not just eligible to a career of their choice, but in one where they feel safe pursuing these careers, no matter how odd the hours, how remote the locations or how tough/easy the work. We believe that rape and other forms of sexual harassment must be punished by a fair court of law, like all other crimes.
What we don’t believe in: Exaggeration of punishment.
We believe that all those who directly or indirectly facilitate sexual harassment must be punished, if their crimes can be proved in a court of law. The rapist, the police officer who refuses to file a complaint, the parents who blame the victim, etc. must all be punished. What we don’t believe in is raping men to show them “what it feels like” or going out on streets targeting men because the world is unfair to women. We recognize that anyone, irrespective of their gender can get raped, that harassment is heinous no matter who it is doled out to, and don’t subscribe to victim blaming or “an eye for an eye” mentality.
- What we believe in: Freedom of choice
This stems from all that I have said above. We believe that the way someone dresses, what they eat, who they interact with, whether they drink/smoke/have premarital sex must be their choice. No judgment must be passed on these choices, and even if it is, it must not be based on their gender (for example, smoking is harmful for everyone and not just women). This judgment, especially when made based on gender, must not dictate terms of their lifestyle, their peers and most importantly, not be used as an excuse to blame a victim of sexual harassment.
What we don’t believe in: Freedom of choice trumps everything.
We don’t think women should get away with murder by the virtue of their gender. We don’t believe in celebrating femininity by putting men down, or by boycotting sanitary products. We don’t think that women should have the sole right on their children, but we believe that they should not be the sole bearer of their responsibility either.
Feminists are trying to separate gender from rights, freedoms and duties that a human being enjoys, not make the female gender more important than the male one. Feminism is about equality and the only reason it is called feminism is because historically rights of women have been suppressed, and the trend continues in the present. Feminists don’t believe in reverse sexism, but in its elimination. And we promise we will stop talking about “women’s rights” and start talking about “human rights” as soon as the society regards women as equal members.