Society

Feminism and whether it has lost its original meaning

This article explores the notion of feminism and has been written by Aditi Nandanwar.

Feminism originally was and has always been a movement for equality of women and a struggle for providing equal rights and opportunities to women. However, in recent times, people have started perceiving this concept as a movement for making women superior to men. In a society, no one gender was ever supposed to be on top of the other. Both the genders are equal and should be treated equally.

The Beginning

Some thinkers have sought to locate the roots of feminism in ancient Greece with Sappho, or the medieval world with Hildegard of Bingen or Christine de Pisan. Certainly, Olympes de Gouge, Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen are fore mothers of the modern women’s movement. All of these people advocated for the dignity, intelligence, and basic human potential of the female sex. However, it was not until the late nineteenth century that the efforts for women’s equal rights were actually recognized(Rampton, 2008).

The feminist movements are believed to have originated during the French Revolution and in western states. In America, the one incident that triggered this movement was when women delegates at an Anti-Slavery Convention were prevented from taking their seats (pugh, 1997). This incident made them question whether the status of women was legally equivalent to the slaves and hence, was followed by an uprising.

In India, the pre-independence feminist movements were usually headed by men who fought for women upliftment and atrocities going on around that time. For e.g., Raja Ram Mohan Roy fought to stop the Sati tradition practised in India. The post-independence feminist movements on the other hand aim at gender equality, question the gender-biased division of labour and highlight the patriarchal nature of the society(Mondal). Today, the feminist movement has however changed into a struggle for placing women above men. People have grossly misinterpreted this concept and hence, this has now become a ‘man V. woman’ race to the top of the society, to establish their ‘rule’ over the other gender.

The Modern Day Scenario

In today’s society, Right to Equality is a fundamental right irrespective of gender and is provided by all democratic countries around the world. In India, Article 14 lays down the ‘Right to Equality’ in the country. However, how far is this fundamental right being accessed by the people is the question. Women today are being discriminated against in their own homes and workplaces.

A lot of people think that women do not make use of the opportunities given to them and they are not ‘capable’ enough to grab them. However, I say, yes, women are capable of grasping all the opportunities that are being given to them. They are as capable as men in handling issues; be it political or social or economic. They are equally intelligent and have the same level of rationale. Every woman deserves all the opportunities given to her. The only reason why we don’t see a lot of women coming forward is the patriarchy. Most of the women who go out to work have to face a lot of challenges back at home. The laws pertaining to women in their workplace are also not so much in line with the kind of work they need to. Yes, a man and woman’s body is biologically different and we need to accept that fact. But, saying that this is the main reason that a woman can’t do a lot of things a man can do is, questioning her ability to do so.

Today, a lot of feminist groups have stemmed all around the world which are working towards women equality. Feminist groups have been in India since the pre-independence era. Groups such as the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) and Anjuman-e-Islam were popular in that period (Patel, 2010). Later on, after independence, a lot of feminist groups and organisations cropped up in the major cities of India. All of these started working towards the equal rights and opportunities for women. The ‘70s was a particularly important decade for the feminists. A lot of uprising’s and protests took place all over India on matters of wages, education, safe environment in workplaces etc. The UN declared the year 1975 as the International Women’s Year. This year coincidentally happened to be the year when National Emergency was imposed in India by the government.

After the emergency was lifted in 1977, the feminist movements became even more prominent as they brought into light all the atrocities that women went through during the time of emergency. These movements usually focused on equality on the basis of political and social agendas. The decade 1975-1985 was declared by the UN as the International Decade for Women. After the 90s, the movement has become more of a culture based. When the women across the country were provided a few rights legally, the society put a leash on them in the name of culture and religion. People started arguing that women should not be allowed to break their religious norms which were being followed since a long time. A lot of autonomous women’s groups took birth in the 21st century. These, unlike other groups, were not affiliated to any government parties. They worked mostly in bigger cities and on their own. Though they formed only a part of the movement, they were significant in the later years.

In the world, the concept of feminism was divided on the basis of ‘wants’ that changed with time. These were termed as ‘waves’. In America, there were three such waves. The first wave emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was a result of industrialism, liberal and socialist politics (Rampton, 2008). The goal of this movement was just to achieve equal suffrage rights. The second wave began in the 1960s and remained till the ‘90s. The main motive behind this wave was to achieve political and social equality for women and to give equal opportunities to them. The third wave followed in the 21st century. This time, the movement focused more on the ‘universal womanhood’, body and sexuality. It was okay for women to wear deep cut necklines, lipstick, and high heels and flaunt their cleavage. This was the time when people said that they were past the ‘feminist’ concept as it had limited the scope of the movement(Rampton, 2008).

The Concept of ‘feminazi’

A feminazi is basically a radical feminist, a person who believes that women should be given a higher stature than men after all these years of struggle. These people are usually misandristic or men hating. This word has now days become very common to mock feminists and has propped up in the recent times and is being used frequently.

This word has become popular because the feminist movement is losing its true motive of gender equality day by day. People have started pursuing this movement to put women on a higher stage than men. It’s not wrong to uplift women. But, to create a gender bias for the other gender is a whole different thing in itself. Nowadays, it’s not only women who suffer but also men. All the laws made in the favour of women are sometimes misused by a lot of people and there is no one to keep a check on them. The concept of ‘feminazi’ is ruining the whole purpose and motive behind this movement. Even though there are a few people who believe in this concept, it still affects the whole cause of the struggle.

The movement has come a long way since it started and there clearly is a very long way to go. A new phase of this movement is emerging, the ‘forth wave’(Rampton, 2008), where people are going back to the old days. But, all this has to be done keeping in mind the very basic concept of gender equality that it started with. Feminism should not be confused with the concept of making women superior to men. It was and will be a struggle to achieve gender equality in the society.

References-

Mondal, P. (n.d.). Women’s Movement in India after Independence. Your Article Library.

Patel, V. (2010). Women’s Struggles and Women’s Movement in India. Europe Solidaire Sans Frontiere.

pugh, M. (1997, March). The Women’s Movement. History Review.

Rampton, M. (2008). Four Waves of Feminism. Pacific Magazine.

 

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