Feminism: At its core, feminism is the belief in full social, economic, and political equality for women. As simple as this definition is, it is astronomical how it flies right above many heads!
I had a conversation with a friend a while ago about lawn tennis. He said something about women not being able to compete against men because they lacked the dexterity and speed that men naturally possess. Of course, that struck a nerve and I immediately went into attack mode. “Nonsense! It is this kind of mentality that has oppressed women from time immemorial and continues to oppress us. By the way, have you watched “Battle of the sexes“? The antagonist of the movie thought those exact same thoughts and got his ass whooped by a woman!! And the movie is based on a true-life story, look it up!”
The fundamental difference between the sexes
Then he said I was getting him wrong. He explained that the pace of male lawn tennis was a lot faster than that of the female counterparts, generally speaking. Those are facts, whether they can compete against each other to him was now based on technique and training. He went on to say that in terms of entertainment he actually prefered the pace of female lawn tennis because he could keep his eyes on the ball. I calmed down a little and thought more about it. Then I came to the conclusion- the biggest issue with feminism is the failure to acknowledge the fundamental difference between the sexes. And of course, there are also varied definitions everyone has for the word.
It is more than obvious that biologically, we are different. Given that both sexes are built uniquely, there are things that would be peculiar to either sex. As mentioned earlier, men tend to be a lot faster and stronger and what not. That does not mean there aren’t women who are equally as strong. And that is by the way besides the point. The entire equality argument is based on individuality. Everyone should get a fair shot at something if they so desire regardless of their gender.
Men need to be allies in the feminism movement
I have the feminism argument a lot with my husband. I may be struggling to do something which requires a lot of physical strength. And then I’ll call him and ask for help. He’d help ungrudgingly (or so I think), but on his way out he’d mutter, “and you call yourself a feminist”. Dude no! I never said I was as strong as you are. I mean, if I really wanted to, I am sure I’d have found a solution to my problem. Meaning if I choose to do the same task you do, I better get paid exactly what you are getting!
It is not that most men are sexist. Like Atte, they aren’t at the far end of the spectrum when it comes to equality between the sexes. But they aren’t championing the cause either. And that to me, is a problem. Men should want their female counterparts who work as hard, play as hard, to get what they are getting.
We cannot lump all women into one box because every woman is different. There are a lot of women who can’t be bothered with activities that society considers to be “masculine”. There are also women very much interested in those activities. If a woman decides to be anything that requires physical strength, she should not be discriminated against because she is a woman. Rather she should be assessed based on her capabilities and strengths. That- is feminism. You ask “but why is the focus on women?” Because from stone-aged days women have been relegated to the back and treated like second class citizens.
Religion and culture vis-a-vis feminism
Some people may think this feminism talk is beginning to sound like a broken record. Women are now getting the recognition they deserve. Can we now stop? True progress has been made. However, in this day and age, there are still some cultures that do not promote the education of a girl child. Now, why would anyone think that their son should get an education but their daughter should not?
Religion is used as a weapon to suppress women in some societies. In our Christian African context, we cherry-pick Bible verses to foster the male agenda without seeking subsequent verses which hold them up to the same Godly standards. You’d hear men say all the time, “the Bible says, women submit yourselves to your husband”. So? Who said a feminist can’t be a submissive wife? And while we are quoting Bible verses what about the subsequent verses? What verse you may ask? This verse right here, “husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”. How many men have the same kind of sacrificial love for their wives as that which Christ has for the church? I wonder what verses Muslims, Buddhists and all other religions use but I’ll be sure to ask my dear friends Nazdar and Sadnah.
Society has submerged this word in a pool of so much negativity that it is a slap in the faces of our predecessors who fought so hard for the basic rights of women. For instance, your grandmothers’ and mothers’ right to vote. Aren’t you glad that your mother’s voice now matters? It also is an insult to all the little girls who hope to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts.
When writer Chimamanda Adichie rose to the global stage with reasons as to why we should all be feminist, I had such high hopes that she had really made clear what feminism was and was not. I was sure that the elaborate illustrations from her childhood, would inspire everyone to join in on the feminism movement. Yet almost a decade later, memes on social media tell a different story. The saddest part is these people have clearly listened to her break down the reasons for this cause, still choose to spew ignorance on the internet.
Feminism is not a fight against men
Another problem with feminism is that some people think it is a fight against men. Literal and metaphorical fight. It is true that there are women using the word for their personal vendetta. But what cause doesn’t have a few bad eggs? I watched a video of a woman who first, verbally assaulted an older man. This man managed to keep his cool. She went further to attack him physically with a broom, followed by an office chair. It looked like a WWE fight. At this point, the man lost it (as he should) and gave her back her own medicine. In as much as I do not condone violence, I have no problem with anyone who does not start a fight but finishes it.
The perpetrator’s friends who call themselves feminists took to social media, insinuating that the man was being misogynistic. Using all sorts of #liberatewomen, #womenareequaltomen hashtags and more. Well, the man agreed on the equality part so he clearly was defending himself. Do not pick a fight and hope to win because you are a woman. That- dear women is not feminism.
Feminism does not take away one’s role in a home
A friend of mine said to me once, “I really am not a feminist”. Appalled and confused I asked why, because I know she supports equal rights for both sexes. She went on to explain that she would like to carter to her husband, and take care of her home and on, and on… How does catering to your husband stop you from being a feminist?
Everyone has their role in a partnership, friendship and relationship (Click here to read more) based on the parties involved and their agreement. Women generally are more nurturing and therefore tend to be primary caregivers. This does not mean that there are homes where the man is not the nurturer. Again, we are back to individuality. If a man and a woman see themselves as equal partners, they will split tasks so that one person does not slave, while the other folds his arms and legs like a chief somewhere. So if your role is cooking, do it not because you are a woman, but because that is your contribution to your home.
It is true that the feminism movement has come a long way since 1848. There has been progress in many dimensions. Women are beginning to seize their power and stand up for themselves. Yet, there is still a great majority of folks who have a problem with feminism. I’d like to think that it is a semantic issue and also stating those fundamental differences between the sexes. I may be naive to think those are the only problems, but hopefully, we can keep having these conversations trusting that someday, everyone will be on board for equal opportunities for the sexes.
Do you live in a patriarchal sphere? Is this still a mans world? Are you a feminist and what have been your experiences? How can we recruit everyone into the feminism movement? I look forward to reading your take and views in the comment section.