Fear of feminism
Naima Nuren Khan

Our society requires women who understand the need for feminists and men who support feminism

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Discussion of certain issues, although vital, should be initiated with the consideration of possible ignorance, retorts and chuckles; feminism is one such issue.

However, that does not restrain me from exchanging views on such a subject because it is these civil debates that spread ideas, share knowledge and bring focus on matters that are neglected, despite being vital issues worldwide. It is quite intriguing to realise the lack of awareness and misconceptions, of a large portion of the youth in our country being heedless to the prominent issue of feminism.

Often, in modern times, the response to a man claiming to be a feminist is met by a sarcastic remark or a frown. Much to my surprise, eminent women also skilfully try to avoid being called a feminist.

Many influential, high-profile women who “run the world” are disapproving and shy away from being called a feminist. Apparently one of the significant reasons is that they, along with numerous individuals, do not know the meaning of the word and hence the confusion and hesitation arises.

 Feminism means the advocacy of equality of gender. If you believe men and women have equal rights socially, politically and economically, then whether you accept it or not, you are a feminist by definition.

It is misinterpreted as being a movement that wants to blithely take power away from men and give it to women. In reality, more people live feminist lives even if they don’t use that word.

Much of aversion to feminism may have come with the notion that it constitutes animosity with or hating the male gender. However, in truth it is about rectifying the systemic inequalities and does not portray men as the enemy. Hence, advocating for equality, in terms of “feminism” may occur redundant to some with the existence of humanism.

So is it? I say no. It can co-exist. While humanism and feminism are both ambassadors of equality, humanism is a much broader term and feminism is specific in comparison; just like the existence of general medical practitioners doesn’t make a specialist doctor unnecessary. Similarly both concepts are essential and their existence benefits the society.

Another notion about feminism that creates aversion is that feminists are opposed to marriage and motherhood. Although in reality, feminists actively fight for the rights of mothers, and many feminists are married and embracing the joy of motherhood. 

Feminists realise the importance of a woman in establishing a family, recognise the significance of a happy family, which can be strengthened through the equal well being of both sexes.

Upon asking a few friends about their view on feminism, I was appalled to discover that very few knew the actual meaning. Most of them simply had a vague idea of women being against men. It added to my shock when a friend looked in disbelief when I said that a man can be a feminist as well. Yes, a man can be a feminist. Anyone who believes in the equality of genders is a feminist. Many men are feminists and are proud to be so.

Some consider feminism as a means for women to play to their advantages. However feminism does not believe that women’s actions are above criticism and can be excused because of the discrimination they have struggled.

Discussing feminism with individuals my age, one response delighted me. Upon being asked, Ahmed Rabib, a student of NSU said: “I believe that women and men should be treated equally, they should have equal opportunities, and hence I am a feminist. I don’t believe they are weak by default, but rather our society makes them weak, starting from their own homes.”

This young mind realised how discrimination is instilled in us even by our family, which then is passed on as a custom, a tradition; from saving the good piece of meat to sacrificing the right to education for the sake of our brother. Feminism fights for such basic rights for women, to eradicate such absurd traditions in society. Feminism does not believe that women are exclusive of men. It supports the idea of men and women co-existing with mutual respect and understanding while strengthening the relationship by building equal rights for each other.

Although men and women are both interdependent in all aspects of life, and should suggest a balanced social importance in terms of gender, the treatment of women, in our patriarchal society, still suggests substantial inequality.

Hence, we need feminists to speak out against the oppression of women, which deprive them of their physical, political, economic, educational, and social rights. Feminism does not demean any gender. It advocates the co-existence, co-operation and need for the sexes to exist with equal rights in harmony.

Yet, in this day and age, women are still shackled by discriminating minds, confining women within domestic walls with physical and verbal assault. At such a time, we need feminism.

Our society requires women who understand the need for feminists and men who support feminism. We need feminists who are both women and men. 

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Naima Nuren Khan

Naima Nuren Khan is freelance contributor