Many people, those who claim they understand feminism but actually don’t regardless of them believing otherwise, may argue that if feminism is all about equality, then why don’t we all just call ourselves egalitarians? Today, for you and for us, I write on the age-old question: What exactly is feminism?
On one fine day, when I had seen a young man finish off his disposal cup of coffee and later throw it on the road despite a garbage bin just laying two inches away from him- I walk upto him, pick up the cup and throw it in the dustbin right in front of him, having made the most intense eye contact in the meantime. I recount this story to my friends once, and they slow-clap in appreciation, letting me know that I am “Such a feminist!” While this is not the first time in my life that I have had to hear myself being called so, but one of the few times when it had been for such an unbelievably irrelevant reason. Most people, in fact and unfortunately, do not, even though widely heard of, understand what feminism is but they, however, miraculously understand who “feminazis” are.
Feminism, in the most common definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities: it is known as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. Many pseudo-pundits, if not now, at one point in your life will happen to argue that since most women are physically “weaker” than men, equality between sexes cannot be achieved. Can we have a little fact-check here? Feminism at its heart and centre is about equality of men and women, not “sameness.”
Parboti Roy, an academic of Gender Studies, says, “If you notice most of the “isms,” that is humanism, equalism or egalitarianism, they talk about human rights in general. Why feminism stands out is because it actively advocates for women’s rights while making sure the rights of men are retained.”
To make it clearer, here’s me drawing a parallel. You’re the only member in your family who’s not had dinner for the night, and you protest, saying, “I want food! I want food!” Your family members join in and sing along, “We all want food! We all want food!” But no, they all don’t want neither do they need food, only you do, only you. Your family members, in this case, are egalitarians, and you, my friend, with pride and honour, should call yourself a feminist.
People who are typically adamant to dissent from the idea of feminism usually associate it with women trying to achieve superiority through the movement. While Bangladesh was ranked first for gender equality in South Asia by WEF, we all know what little truth the fact holds.
It is an easier fight for women in the western countries since theirs are actually a democratic nation, where partaking in movements would not get you arrested and voicing your opinion not killed. This is why because feminism is relatively still a new concept in Bangladesh, people understand what they want to from hearsay. Feminism, according to every definition in every dictionary, rather wants women (and gender non-conforming people) to have equal stature as men, not superior. Many think that feminists hate men, find reasons to pick on men and love “putting up statuses,” or in my case, pick up disposal coffee cups and throw them into the dustbins.
Ms Parboti shares her thoughts on how people perceive feminists as women who’re tomboys or smokers. “They think women become feminists just to seem smart.”
This is why these days, despite believing in equal rights, many hesitate in addressing as well as at times take umbrage in being addressed as feminists, fearing the kind of judgement or criticism they would have to receive.
While it is true that feminism as a movement has lost its momentum because many people in the West have sullied the message of feminism to fulfill their own agenda, and that’s wrong, nobody’s saying that’s right, one has to understand that radical feminism is not the true spirit of feminism, just the way terrorists are not true face of Muslims, rapists not the true identity of all men.
But in the meantime while the West has been divided in an unfortunate debate of whether feminism is irrelevant in today’s world anymore, one cannot deny how relevant it is in our country. When we see the kinds of Rubaba Dowla, we comment on how she must have used “other means” to reach such a height; when we see the kinds of Wasfia Nazreen, we comment on how she must have had a lot of luck on her side; when we see the kinds of Joya Ahsan, we comment on how she left her husband for a world of glitz and glamour. We feel threatened on social media, patronized at office, harassed at police stations, anxious in public rides, where else do we go? More importantly, how longer do we go this way?
Feminism, in the most common definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities: it is known as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.
Because plenty people are born imbeciles, I may understand why many of them ask why we still think Bangladesh doesn’t give women their rights, especially when “the country has been always run by women.” It critical to realize here that just because your mothers and my sisters and our friends may have equal pays at work, are rarely mistreated or never harassed doesn’t mean majority women get to live that, for the lack of a better word, luxuriously.
This is why so many men and women don’t seem to get the whole point of feminism because most of the times these people’s unambiguous views on these issues (feminism) are rooted deeply within their own individual and direct experiences, rather than on any data, research or science surrounding the issues.
Once in a while, they will, however, come across Justin Trudeau, who says “Everyone should be a feminist,” and the same people who once didn’t understand feminism or hated feminists, would suddenly mature into pro-feminists, not understanding feminism anyway.
Because feminism as a mission and an idea seems too idealistic of a state to reach, it makes sense when you think of the world as a platform of give-and-take where women cannot, by law of manmade nature, attain equality, since there always has to be one who always gives while the other takes (in majority cases).
This is why when people ask me, I tell them that if God had a universal language- it would unequivocally and apolitically be called feminism. God, if there is any, should be a feminist.