Once again on feminism
Recently, unlike before, I have somehow been coming across a lot of wordpress blog posts on feminisms, and so many healthy and some unhealthy discussions in the comment section. I would like to believe that maybe we are in a new age of intellectual revolution and wordpress is playing a part in it by providing a ground for such voices to be heard. Miriam’s freshly pressed blog on Yahoo’s New Female CEO stirred in me yet again a drive to let out what I feel about this issue.
I have been a feminist all my life, and seriously I find it surprising how any intellectual and rational person cannot be one. I don’t find it necessary to go into explaining why and how I am a feminist despite a lot of derogatory connotations associated with that word and a plethora of negative stereotypes attached to the people that word refers to. This doesn’t bother me because over the course of time I have observed that most adults are very resistant to change. It’s very unlikely that through my argument here I will be changing a sexist person into a feminist, or a humanitarian. Most probably all my article will be able to do is to preach to the choir. However, the best I can hope to achieve out of this is to not let young minds (if there are any reading this blog) that are yet to be instilled with polluted ideas on gender stereotypes to spiral into the same type of ignorance. Most importantly, I don’t want any young feminist souls to feel alone as I often did while growing up despite an immense support from my sister, who is also a feminist.
I vividly remember the days when I was a young teenager bullied by my classmates for having a short hair. There were days when it would go off the limit, not only would I be called a boy, but some would even say that I didn’t belong to either of the gender. Sure, I did understand what they were trying to imply, and yes it did hurt. But what used to hurt the most was understanding that the world around me had such petty ideas on freedom, choices, and most importantly what being a specific gender entails. There used to be times when I simply wanted to grow my hair, but I refused to do so for the fear of being deemed as a loser in my own eyes. A lot of people comply to the rules that are set up by the society, and they have fear that’s opposite of mine – they often fear to go against the society’s idea of what it means to be a man and a woman. However, being a rebel that I was, I chose an entirely different route, and in choosing that route I was also compromising my happiness in a very peculiar way. I am a feminist because I don’t believe that I should have been forced to make such compromise, and a lot of other women who simply act “womanish” by society’s standard to act that way. Those days, I used to seek out in every human a part that was feminist, and it was rather disappointing how difficult it was to find people that could relate to my concerns. If it was not for my sister, and very few feminists whose books I came across, or whose column in newspapers that I happened to see, my soul might have been crushed.
We often let go of the choices that are made by some people that are not favorable to women or a specific group with a pretense that they are simply exercising their freedom. However, freedom is a very complex idea. Can we really be completely autonomous and enjoy an absolute freedom when what we have become as an individual is so heavily dependent on the environment, and the society that we’ve been brought up in? Sure, everyone in a similar environment doesn’t grow up to be identical. Everyone assimilates the information from the society in a different way and that makes every individual unique. Nonetheless, it won’t be surprising that people get predisposed to certain ideas that have been bombarded to them since their birth. The way our society is structured, ever since our birth, everything we do, and every choices we make, in one way or the other, is so heavily dependent on our genders. Bear in mind that most of these are not natural rules that nature chooses for us, but rather human made rules that we as a society chose a long time ago and continue to choose them. As for example, there is no solid reason why women should continue to have longer hair than men, or only women should be wearing makeup, or why men cannot wear nice flowery skirts, why a girl child should only play with certain types of toys etc. Are these human made rules about what being a man or a woman means enough for us to crucify some people for simply enjoying their freedom to be who they want to be?
Just as how freedom is important aspect of survival, so is self-esteem. It’s not simply enough that the choices we make in our lives are what we perceive as independent ones, they have to be respectful choices for both ourselves and others. Isn’t this the argument that’s made for not giving choices to people to commit suicides and making drugs illegal in so many places, even though it’s their own body that they are abusing/violating? However, why is it okay for women to willingly compromise in so many aspects of their lives, and be the victim of the rudimentary customs and traditions simply in the name of enjoying free will? Would all those women be making similar choices if there was no societal pressure to act certain way, if they didn’t have a fear of being a social pariah on making particular choices, if they didn’t have to choose between having a good relationship and having a successful career, or if they didn’t have to choose between being athletic and being perceived beautiful?
The answer is not that easy after all. By asking all these questions, I am in no way blaming men alone for creating such a difficult scenario for women. I can’t deny that there are a lot of generalizations made about men as well that are also very limiting, and sometimes completely wrong, and offensive. It would be hypocritical and, in my belief, against any ‘true feminist’ ideology to place all the blames alone on men’s shoulders because by doing so we’d be tacitly implying that women were not capable of making changes that had to be made. I believe that it’s not a matter of having an ability or a lack of one, rather it’s a matter of having a willingness and a lack of one. There are several reasons that impact on our willingness to change the status-quo. Out of these reasons, as I’ve discussed in this article is that we (both men and women) are unwilling to give up the perks of some of these stereotypes. If only we were willing to open up our eyes, and approach these issues with logic rather than baseless arguments, maybe we’d be able to see the world as it is. If only we were willing to see a person as an individual rather than a man and a woman, we’d truly be able to appreciate how unique each individual is. If only we didn’t narrow down a person’s existence into baseless generalizations on the specific group they belong to, maybe we’d be able to see things as they are. Aren’t really our differences as individuals, and similarities as human beings greater than our differences between, and similarities within groups?