FEMINISM AS WE KNOW IT by Hauwa Saleh

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You can’t avoid the ongoing debates on feminism even if you tried, it’s everywhere both online or offline.  Those in favor of the movement call it a necessity those against it on basis of ‘religion ‘, ‘culture’ , or ‘fear’ think there are ‘better ways to fight for women’s right’ than taking on the label even when they do not provide solutions or ‘the better ways to fight’ . When you look up the word feminism in the dictionary, you will come across different definitions with the most popular being ‘the belief in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes.’ 

Feminism contrary to popular belief is like any other ideology and therefore comes in different types and degrees. And everyday online we come across debates arguing about which one is real feminism and which one is fake. And usually ‘real feminism ‘is seen as the feminism that doesn’t demand much, where women are satisfied with the little rights they are given and don’t call out the men that infringe on their rights. ‘Real feminism ‘is said to be gentle in its approach and handles issues in such a way that it doesn’t make the patriarchy feel bad about itself and its actions and inaction which contributes to the suffering of women across the globe. ‘Real feminism’ is also believed to be a movement that fights for both men and women notwithstanding the fact that most men by their mere existence have privileges that many women can only dream of. ‘Real feminism’ believes that for the woman’s battle to be taken seriously she has to twist and break it down in such a way that it neither threatens men nor make them feel bad , and it should carry them along even with the fact that the movement itself was coined to liberate women . 

There are a lot of reasons why people are against feminism , some argue on religious basis claiming that by virtue of religion ‘ there is no such thing as equality between men and women ‘ though a lot of them seem to back down from this view every time issues of racism , tribalism and classicism comes up because ‘all human beings are equal and no one is better than another in eyes of God and man ‘ it makes you wonder where women are placed on ‘the human scale’ . Some also argue that feminist are ‘angry and bitter and hate men ‘therefore they should not be taken seriously, the term ‘misandry’ is being thrown around to describe the women ‘who hate men and use feminism to push their male hating agenda ‘and according to this people, women have no reason to hate men whatsoever and they can’t seem to prove how misandry affects their lives like the way misogyny affects the lives of women all over the world. Others argue that feminism has come to destroy the fabric of society and take away our cultures by pushing women out of the house where they ought to be and into the workforce where they ‘rub shoulders with men and focus on fighting for unnecessary things such as leadership roles instead of focusing on domestic issues .’ Others argue that feminism is demonic or doesn’t solve any problems but instead adds to it and some argued that feminism (third wave feminism) has changed into something unrecognizable and radical and is therefore unacceptable ignoring the fact that earlier ( first and second wave feminist) feminist were just as radical and were not praised or supported in their own time .  And some argue that women are not facing any oppression at all and it is all in the imaginations of the feminists fighting for these causes. 

Whatever the reason is, people want feminism to die without providing better solutions to solving issues of sexism in our societies, in fact, feminist or not women are being attacked for speaking out against these issues even if they are openly anti feminist. A common argument on basis of religion i.e. Islam in northern Nigeria is the believe that because Islam has granted women their rights about over 1400 years ago, it is unnecessary and against the teachings of Islam for women to demand for these rights that are obviously not being granted by Muslim men and they also ignore the fact that these rights are usually only granted in ‘theory’ and there is a difference between written rules and rules that are actually being followed. Rules written and left written are as good as nonexistent rules. 

The world as we know it has a ‘sexism and patriarchal problem’ men in our societies by their sole existence as men are given privileges that women cannot dream of from their houses to the society in general . Women are usually raised to serve men in a lot of cultures, girls right from childhood are taught how to handle ‘their household duties ‘while their brothers are allowed to relax while their sisters labored and served them. When it comes to marriages, women are counseled over an over again before and after the ceremony while men do not have to go through the same counseling process. in terms of divorce , women bear the consequences , they are blamed for ‘destroying ‘ their marriages , and are usually stigmatized in society while divorced men are pitied and do not have to face obstacles when trying to get into another marriage . In some societies, domestic violence in different shades and degrees are accepted and justified by both men and women alike. And worst of all, there is a general disrespect and disregard for women in the society whether they are married or not however this disregard is worst for unmarried and divorced or widowed women, it is quite common to hear that single women are denied apartments to rent while single men are given without any question asked. And also unmarried women are seen as ‘less than’ because a woman’s value lies in her affinity to ‘men’. Female children in some communities are being treated as the ‘lesser children’ in fact women have been divorced and maltreated for giving birth to female children disregarding the fact that it is the man that determines the gender of the baby . In fact, in some communities there is a kind of shame attached to giving birth to female children. 

It is easy to understand why men can be against feminism, imagine being born a boy and throughout your life you are taught that you are superior to others on no other basis but your gender, your mother treats you like a king and you are told that ‘you are the boss of the females around you’ and even when you grow up to be useless in society, you are still seen as more than a woman that has achieved so much. So even if nothing works out for you, just the fact that you are a boy is enough. And then one day someone comes and tells you that that is not the case, that you are equal to your sisters and other women. That you are not special. That the privilege you are born with needs to end and everything you have will be divided between you and your sisters. It will only be natural that you will protest and find ways to prove them wrong. You will get every evidence under the sun to prove that that is not the case and discredit this movement that is trying to ‘bring you down ‘. But in attempt to hold on to your privilege you are harming others, you are harming your sisters that are being treated less than, your actions or inactions are doing more harm than good. So it doesn’t matter if you have never hit a woman before, the fact that you shut down women that try to talk about it all makes you just as bad. And that is why you aren’t any better than those doing the hurting and that is why just because your desire to hold on to your privilege is understandable, it doesn’t make it right. 

As for women, many are raised to believe that their value lies in their relationship to men and because they have internalized that, they would do anything in order to keep their proximity to men. And instead of seeing the men that created and benefit from this system as the enemy, they see the women trying to fight for them as the enemy and use their energy to fight them instead. 

 

To be Continued..

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