Dear humans of the world,
You’re probably tired of hearing this, of seeing it splashed across a t-shirt in bold colours, of hearing the echoes in every high school/college corridor, of seeing it painted on giant canvases, on the back of a car, on a make-up bag, graffiti-ed onto walls, declared on grand stages to a conflicted audience.
I am a feminist.
I have a brother, a father, uncles I love with all my heart, I have friends of the male species who I will never trade for anything in the world. But I am a feminist.
I do not think all men are monsters who deserve to be castrated. I do not think all men are over-privileged brats, I do not think men have never been the victims. But I am a feminist.
Because you see these things are not mutually exclusive. To be a feminist isn’t about hating on men, or pointing out their flaws. In fact, it has very little to do with them. And maybe that’s why its misunderstood so. Yes, it has the word ‘fem’ in it, yes it focuses mostly on women. But you see, it was not a choice. The feminist movement didn’t arise because someone woke up one day and decided they’d like some controversy to spice up their lives, it came about because it was needed. You can tell me this is a new age for women. You can tell me we have come a long way from the days where a widow was burned alive at the pyre along with her dead husband.
But can you honestly look 12 year old me in the eye as she tugged at her shirt while walking down the street to her cousin’s, not daring to make eye contact with anybody on the road lest they see it as an invitation: to come closer, to jeer, to casually brush against her shoulder. Can you face the girls in Saudi Arabia who died in a school fire in 2002, because the policemen refused to let them run out to safety since their heads weren’t properly covered, even beating them to make sure they acquiesced and tell them the feminist movement has been rendered obsolete? Speaking of Saudi Arabia, how about the fact that a woman has to be over 45 years of age to be allowed to travel without the consent of her male guardian (father, brother, husband). Can you call me a feminazi for wanting that to change?
Women in Egypt can now finally initiate the legal proceedings for a divorce without a cause. Praise the lord? Not so fast, like all things (except those handed to some–note my use of some–men) this came at a cost, a very hefty one at that: they must renounce all claims on the couple’s finances AND repay the dowry (yes, dowry, the money they gave the man’s family for giving them the privilege of changing their last name and leaving behind their home). At least it’s better than in Lebanon where a women cannot file for divorce on the basis of domestic abuse without the proof provided by an eyewitness–even a doctor’s certificate attesting to the injuries being caused by physical abuse is not cause enough.
Feminism was not a choice. It is not a choice. It is not something young women say to be ‘hip’ or cool or to appear more socially conscious. It is not a designer label to be sported according to the current trend. Feminism is about the fight for marital rape to be outlawed, for women to be allowed a child’s custody in Bahrain and not be dependent on a sexist, unfair judge citing the most trivial of reasons as proof of them being unfit for parenthood; it is about the women in Tunisia, Iran, Israel etc being allowed to pass on their citizenship to their children instead of that fundamental right being granted only to fathers; it is about people in India STILL needing to be told not to murder little baby girls. It is about being given the choice to wear makeup, to not wear makeup and to not have our competency be judged for it. It is about wanting to be paid the same amount a man would be for doing the exact same job and not being made to feel like a greedy gold-digger for asking for it. It is about ending the obsession with labels based on the length of a skirt, the height of a heel or the glitter in her eye shadow.
I understand why it may be off-putting to men. But like I said, just because I want females to be given a right doesn’t mean I want it taken away from the men. Just because I talk about the brutal raping of 18 year old Oksana Makar in 2012 doesn’t mean I do not condemn Emayartani for raping SIX teenage boys, becoming the first Indonesian women to be sentenced to jail for rape–who instead of being penalized for her violation of the laws against rape was instead sentenced under Law Number 23 2002 about Child Protection.
I am not saying a woman’s life is more important than a man’s.
Feminism is about equality.
Some might say women and men are different, created for different purposes–and yes that is true, we’re all different, aren’t we? But women are not asking for fantastical things like the genetic power to decide on a baby’s gender. They are not asking for things simply because a man has it–they’re asking for basic rights every human should have. They’re asking to be allowed the freedom to explore said differences, to touch, taste and test their limits and adjust them where possible, to be allowed to breathe without having to worry about building a ‘reputation’ or ‘propriety’–things that young men rarely find themselves burdened with, while a girl is given constant reminders since the day she turns 10. They’re asking to be allowed to do the things they were created for, to find their own purpose instead of having it told to them.
Feminism is not about judging other women for the choices they make and the causes they support, you do not become ‘superior’ because “she’s not even a “real” feminist”. That would destroy the whole purpose of this movement.
Feminism is not a threat to anybody other than the oppressors. We are not taking away a man’s right to vote by being asked to be allowed that right as well. Feminism isn’t about yelling out ‘MYSOGINISTIC SEXIST PIG!’ at every unsuspecting male passerby.
Don’t you dare reduce a centuries-old struggle for freedom to that.
And don’t you dare tell me to shut up now and go make a sandwich.