After holding so many conversations with my colleagues, peers and associates about women empowerment and feminism, I have come to realise that people do not really understand what feminism or women empowerment is about and what these movements stand for, more so, some don't even know half of the treatment women in the world are subjected to, thus they tend to be against it not based on facts but because of mere ignorance and it broke my heart. It broke my heart because I thought of that young girl in Sudan who is subjected to genital mutilation because culture says so, that woman who is her partner's punching bag and is afraid to walk away because society would deem her a failure for walking away from her marriage, a broken marriage for that or because she doesn't realise how strong she is,or how about that girl who cannot go to school because she is a girl and culture forbids it or because she is menstruating but doesn't have the right utilities to use so she can go to school because those utilities are over priced, vat taxable and rendered a luxury good by the government.
So I thought let's go back to the drawing board, what really is feminism, what does it stand for and what are some of the misconceptions about it.
Feminism is the advocacy of women rights on the basis of equality of sexes.
Taking it into context IWDA (International Women's Development Agency) says "its about respecting diverse women's experiences, identities, knowledge and strengths, and striving to empower all women to realise their full rights. It's about leveling the playing field between genders, and ensuring that diverse women and girls have the same opportunities in life available to men and boys."
So feminism at its core is about equality of men and women not the strive for "sameness" . It is imperative to understand that equal does not mean same as is insinuated by society today. More so feminism does not entail a quest to overthrow men and gain supremacy over men, that wouldn't be equality. The issue here is equal rights and equal access to opportunities. Thus to measure a fight for what is right and what every woman is rightfully entitled to as a mere power struggle between men and women is rather unfounded and a misguided argument altogether.
Feminism is about choice. It's about women having the freedom and right to choose how we behave, how we speak, act or present ourselves. For the longest time, as women we have been told how to behave and present themselves by society,culture, religion and the world over, they took our power, our identity, our uniqueness and the ability to choose who, what and how we want to be.We fight to be treated equally, to be respected, to be treated as equal and respectable members of society and to be offered the same opportunities as men. Why should an opportunity be awarded based on gender?
In addition to the above, I was intrigued to also discover that there are types of feminism. To me, feminism was just feminism until I came across Judith Lorber, author of The variety of feminism and their contributions to equality. Judith Lorber distinguishes between three types of feminism, gender reform feminism, gender resistant feminism, and gender revolution feminism. To elaborate further, she highlights in her typology that gender reform feminism is rooted in the political philosophy of liberalism with its emphasis on individual rights. Gender resistant feminism focus on specific behaviors and group dynamics through which women are kept in a subordinate position, even in subcultures which claim to support gender equality. Gender revolution feminism seek to disrupt the social order through deconstructing its concepts and categories and analyzing the cultural reproduction of inequalities.
The above also highlighted why feminism is so misunderstood by the society, why so much focus on just some aspects of feminism more than others however this tends to minimize the impact feminism could have on the world as it shrinks the bigger picture thus leading to the mushrooming of misconceptions about feminism and so much backlash in society. I have discovered that some of the common misconceptions I have come across, experienced or heard tend to lean more towards the gender revolution feminism because this form of feminism disrupts the social order of things which makes society feel a bit unhinged because well everyone and everything should and has its place right, well not anymore. Some of the misconceptions I have come across are:
Misconception one: the rise of women is the fall of men
''Equal rights does not mean less rights for you, its not a pie.''
One of the greatest misconceptions about feminism is that it is a movement to "dethrone" men, that the rise of women must mean the fall of men, which in turn had made a lot of men not to be part of the discussions surrounding women empowerment.The world needs to understand and be constantly be reminded that this is not a men issue but a world issue, a culture issue and a society issue. By granting women the rights they deserves, it does not mean less rights for anybody else, it is not a competition or power struggle.
Jane Galvin Lewis said'' one does not need to be anti man to be pro woman,'' and I couldn't agree more.
Misconception number two: feminists hate men
I agree some women may feel that they hate men from their encounters with men which have not been very pleasant, whether or not their feelings are justified is not for me or anyone to decide, however to say all feminists hate men because they are against some of the treatment women are subjected to because of men is unfounded. I agree that some women have been subjected to the most inhuman and horrifying experiences at the hands of men thus feminism fights for justice in such cases and that such cases should not happen again or be allowed to happen but that doesn't amount to feminists hating men, it amounts to feminists fighting for justice. But do we have everything against men who think they are entitled to certain privileges,rights or treating women badly based purely on their gender yes, we do just as I am against women who support such conceptions. It's not a men problem we stand against, it's a world problem, it's a society problem, it's a culture problem and in some cases it's a religion problem.
Misconception three: feminism undermines the significance of men.
I know that understating the struggles and significance of men and overstating or over emphasizing the struggles and significance of women has been normalized but that doesn't necessarily mean it is right. Both species are equality as important and honestly we need each other to make this world go round. Feminism is not a fight about who is more important or who is more significant, I don't know what you have heard but that is not what feminism is about. Feminism is about awarding women what is rightfully theirs, their voices, their choice, their opportunity, their uniqueness and respect.
These misconceptions come to be partly because we are not including men in discussions about feminism and women empowerment. Going forward we need to include both sexes in discussions surrounding women related issues and empowering women, it's a world problem so we it will not take just women to fix it but the world but until the world understands what this movement is about and what the problem is, we will continue to fight about this for generations to come.
So get involved and keep it Gucci alright.