In case she escapes infanticide or feticide, the girl child lives and waits till she is either abducted, killed in the name of honor, gang raped, made a victim of acid attack, injured in domestic violence or forced to commit suicide. This is what our patriarchal system has to offer women. At the time when gendercide and violence against women is on rise, the proud citizens of our country are not willing to free themselves from the shackles of misogyny.
Karl Marx, in his Communist Manifesto is known to have said: “A spectre is Haunting Europe – the spectre of Communism.”
Similarly, I believe, that a spectre is haunting the Muslim world and the sub-continent – the spectre of feminism.
Mention of the very F-word, feminism, is enough to scare people away in the subcontinent. Why is feminism treated like a swear word even by the most educated people in our society?
This is because of a bunch of myths associated with feminism.
1. Feminism is misandry
It is so annoying when people slam feminism just because they believe it‘s the hatred of men. Precisely, feminism is a political movement as well as a philosophy geared towards exposing, establishing and defending equal economic, political, and social rights for women. On the other hand, misandry is the hatred or extreme dislike of men. The difference between feminism and misandry is as transparent as the dissimilarities between the theories of Simone de Beauvoir and Valerie Solanas.
Simone de Beauvoir argued that women themselves need to overcome the social and psychological barriers to their equality. In her book, “The Second Sex”, while drawing on existentialism and Freudian psychoanalysis, she shows how women have always been regarded as “the other” by men. She encouraged women to work one on one for their equality with men and to work together as a group with a common set of goals.
However, Valerie Solanas provides a considerable example of misandry in her book called SCUM Manifesto. She believed in complete automation or destruction of the male sex. She called a man an incomplete female, a walking abortion who is aborted at the gene stage. She encouraged women to simply leave men and believed that if they do so- all men, the government and the economy would collapse completely.
The accusations of man-hating and female superiority have always been used to put down the feminists. It is only a way to draw back all the attention to men, shun the debate for women rights and force the acceptance of this male-centric society.
2. All feminists are anti-marriage
Not all feminists are anti-marriage. As marriage is still a very strong institution in South Asia, most of the South Asian feminists are not anti-marriage. It is because of the tarnished history associated with this institution that various feminists have been criticizing it in the past. It is true that most of the second wave feminists have opposed marriage but feminism in general doesn’t “preach” anything against marriage. It is just a matter of personal choice.
Besides, all those men who assume wives to be pretty little obedient girls with no life of their own should better go on a marriage strike themselves.
3. Feminism demoralizes women
A wild, rowdy and sharp-tongued woman wearing plunging necklines, high heels and strapless anything is partying away her life. She is prone to violence and her hostile attitude is becoming a stress for her family. Nobody wants to marry this self-centered shrew. We hate her and she must be drowned to death.
Side by side, there is this egocentric and narcissistic working woman who cares about nothing but her career. Her children are neglected, her husband is disappointed, and she is unable to keep a balance between household tasks and her work. Hence, she must be house-arrested for her crime.
This is the “exaggerated” image that the media, Bollywood movies and the Pakistani Drama Serials portray about independent women. This unrealistic portrayal of feminism is nothing but disapproval of equal rights to women. Accusing feminism for spreading vice in the society is acknowledgement of patriarchy. In Pakistan, moral values are often associated with adhering to conventions and culture. Who wants to follow this culture of the men, by the men and for the men? De-programming of this “gynophobic” culture is the agenda of feminism.
4. Feminists are anti-femininity
Very often, in our society, girls wearing makeup and high heels are expected to prove themselves as “raging men” only because they are seen as lacking commitment to feminism.
This decades-old debate was first started by the second wave feminists who declared the whole culture of feminine appearance as oppressing. This notion was later challenged by the third-wave feminists who see usage of makeup as empowering. Whether, one agrees with the former or the latter, we should counter the clichés about both ‘ugly feminism’ and ‘lipstick feminism’. If a feminist chooses to wear make-up and have long hair, it doesn’t make her any lesser than the one who thinks adopting a man-like-appearance would liberate her.
However, what gets us into this debate is the gender binary which needs to be challenged. Who decides what is feminine and masculine? Femininity and masculinity are socially constructed notions. We must understand the clear distinction between “sex” and “gender” in order to eradicate gender stereotypes.
5. Men can’t be feminists
Men who call themselves feminists or stand for women rights are usually labeled as sissy, effeminate and gays by other men. These anti-feminist men are unconsciously suffering from castration anxiety. Speaking of women rights and supporting violence against women puts their masculinity to question. They are unaware of the fact that they need to be part of feminism because gender stereotypes attack them as well and also hinder male behavior and attitude.
6. Feminists are fascist cult leaders
According to Simone de Beauvoir “One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one.” Throughout their lives women are” brain-washed by the society” and forced to behave and think according to the generally acceptable norms concerning women. Women’s dependence was first established when men presented themselves as the “privileged” beings. Women, in response accepted this situation until it was reinforced by the women’s movement and consciousness raising groups.
Hence, feminism is only an eye-opener and strives to free women from their exile in the world of men. Cult leaders are those patriarchal demon devotees who reduce women to a reproductive object and presuppose her position to be that of an economic dependent.
At the peak of the British Imperialism it was often said that “the sun will never set on the British Empire“. Fortunately, this very sun is now quiet alien to the United Kingdom. The collective efforts of the feminists would rain down all the myths about feminism and the cloudy and dusky “Male Imperialism” would cease to see the sun. Till then let the Britishers enjoy saying “Our King is a Queen.”
About the Author
Sehyr comes from Lahore, Pakistan. She studies English Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London. Sehyr is a Technical Writer and a trained Indian Classical singer. She has performed at various music festivals and conferences including All Pakistan Music Conference. She was awarded the first prize at All Punjab Folk Music Festival held in Lahore. Sehyr is currently working on a research project under Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on minority group rights. She often contributes to the The Dawn and The News International. She is a feminist who prefers using the ‘female’ generic pronoun. To her, art is a way of life which promotes peace, love, harmony, and insight. Sehyr stands against intolerance and discrimination of any kind!