The Oxford dictionary definition of feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of equality of sexes”.
The “equality of sexes” – part of me wants to end this piece in the next line or two. It seems so straightforward to me. Apologies for any naivety, but if you believe in the fundamental principle of this equality, then does that not make you a feminist by definition?
As Canada’s Prime Minster Justin Trudeau explained, “if you’re a progressive, you really should be a feminist because it’s about equality, it’s about respect, it’s about making the best of the world that we have”.
Before I go on, let me just remind you that I don’t claim to be an expert on this topic or any other topic I write about. This is entirely my opinion, my perspective, and thus it is subject to my own personal bias. There is no hidden agenda.
I started this post with a formal definition of feminism, but of course most of us know that there are different movements within feminism. I’m not writing this to educate you on what feminism is, nor is this a lesson on the varying forms of feminism. This is simply a message, from me to you, to tell you that being a feminist is okay. There’s no need to feel afraid to say it – it’s time to let go of the stigma.
It surprises me that today we (when I say “we” I’m mostly referring to men) still shy away from associating ourselves with the feminist title because of social perception. Listen, guys, I can genuinely appreciate it. You don’t want to openly say “I’m a man and I’m a feminist”; you’re concerned that it will make you look less masculine or that people might laugh. But honestly, just ask yourself what’s actually the big deal with it?
Here’s one way of considering this:
Would you want your mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend or wife to be given fewer rights and opportunities because she’s a woman?
I’m guessing the answer is no, right?
See I never really used to think about these things when I was younger. The more I learn and the more I become aware of the current state of society, the more I realise that I feel very strongly about the equality of opportunity. I’m really not a big fan of regressive ideals and practices.
In 2009, I became an older brother (what a time to be alive). At the time of writing, my younger sister is seven years old. I want her to have access to the same opportunities as any other girl or boy around her. She should be treated with the same respect and given the same liberties as others; whether she’s applying for jobs, sitting in a male-dominant meeting room or even if she’s just walking down the street.
But inevitably I know it will be tough for her, especially as a young, Muslim, Pakistani girl. We’ve got a long way to go – especially in the Asian community. Being raised in an Asian household isn’t easy, but (typically) girls may find it even tougher and more restrictive than boys might. One thing I hear, sadly too often, is that the son is given more freedoms than the daughter of the household. The daughter is perceived to be in need of greater care and control, but the son is given greater trust and fewer boundaries.
This has got to change over time.
I understand that our parents look out for our best interests, and yes, of course there must be a balance between freedom and parental guidance. Just be mindful of the lessons you teach others as a result of your actions and words.
I aim to teach my sister that she has just as much ability, opportunity, freedom and potential as me – I want to show her that she can be or do anything she sets her mind to. All I can do, all we can do, is continue to strive for a fairer society; one based on unity, not division.
So don’t be afraid to embrace the title of a “feminist”. It doesn’t make you a radical. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with every intricacy and detail of different feminist movements. It definitely doesn’t make you any less of a man. It just makes you pro gender equality, and ultimately that’s all that really matters.
“I’ll keep saying I’m a feminist until there’s no reaction” – Justin Trudeau.