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Who Needs Feminism and Why?

Aasma Fayaz for BeyondHeadlines

To be ever able to understand and conceptualize the term ‘feminism’ one needs to understand patriarchy. Patriarchy literally means ‘the rule of the father or the patriarch’ and was originally used to describe a specific type of male dominated family. Now it is used more generally to refer to male domination. Patriarchy is both a social structure and an ideology, a belief system according to which men are superior. And several aspects of a woman’s life-productive, mobility, sexuality, property and economic resources or even reproductive, are under patriarchal control. And it was to challenge such belief system that ‘feminism’ came into being. Feminism is about challenging this patriarchy which affects one and all whether we realise or not, confront or not. Feminism is about changing the gender roles, sexual norms, and sexist practices that punish you if you are a deviant. Feminists and women’s rights activists believe that gender sensitization is necessary is at all levels. Agree to that! But we also believe that gender training and sensitisation doesn’t merely imply understanding of the related concepts but also internalising them and using this understanding to transform our own ways of thinking and behaving.

Who Needs Feminism and Why?

Now the question lies “Who really needs feminism?” When in a country like ours you are considered a loser if you are 25+ and don’t have a husband and kids. You need feminism. When you are ashamed to tell your parents that you are majoring in gender studies. You need feminism. When you are discouraged to be a sports reporter because ”you don’t know about sports.” You need feminism. When you aren’t confident to express your body art and modification because it doesn’t fall in the social norm. You need feminism. We women need feminism because we still believe that “we are house wives and not home makers.” We all need feminism because the worst thing you can call a man is a woman and a woman, an animal.

While we all know that women are the ones who fall into ”oppressed” category and surely need to support feminism, few of us are aware that patriarchy also harms men. Yes, it does! And this is how:

Men are also pushed into conforming to their traditional gender roles and socially punished when they don’t.  For example, men are expected to not express their feelings because real “men don’t cry”.  They’re socially encouraged to only express their fear, pain, and stress in the form of anger and violence.  Another example, is how due to traditional gender roles, society thinks women are automatically better parents than men, despite the numerous examples of bad mothers and great fathers.  Feminism believes each person should stand on their own merit – not by how much they conform to social norms and ideals.

Feminism is as much for men as it is for women in order to free them from the sexist and oppressive beliefs that they don’t want to have. So next time your man helps you out in the kitchen don’t be alarmed. He is just being a real man!

(Aasma Fayaz is a Delhi based Social worker.)

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