The biggest threat to feminism is women’s attitudes themselves. Yes, it is true.
At the mention of feminism, mass rolling of eyes may have ensued. Many actually seem to think feminism is a bad word. “Kaafi feminist hai”, they’ll say in a derogatory manner, shaking their heads and thinking you are naive or delusional, or both.
The negative connotations around it need to be dispelled. Feminism is not about being superior to men. It is not about emasculating men. It is not about neglecting your responsibilities and it is not about a reversal of gender roles. It is simply about equality. Women deserve the same rights as their male counterparts: equality of opportunity, the right to make their choices, the right to be in control of their own lives, the right to be respected and the right to not be scoffed at only because they are women. How can this not be common sense?
The sad truth is, women accept injustices against themselves. Many willingly and happily conform to stereotypical gender roles. Even today, many desi women believe their only purpose in this world is to stay at home and bring up children. They believe that a career or education beyond that required to get them a good rishta is completely unnecessary. I have actually come across women who say the best thing that happened to them was getting married at the age of twenty to someone their parents picked for them, and in their opinion even that was too late.
Yes, shockingly, even today there are women my age who subscribe to such views. Of course there is a considerable amount of brainwashing at play. Or perhaps really messed up societal values gives desiwomen an easy way out of working hard towards a life of consequence. But in any case, they willingly accept roles that our patriarchal society enforces upon them. And this complicity is criminal.
Then there are the women in the Muslim world who are totally okay with the rough deal given to them in the name of religion. Saudi women still don’t have the right to drive. Even today, they are effectively confined to their homes and are deprived of the right to move about freely. The few voices of dissent are stifled quickly. The obsession with segregation and hiding women away is just getting worse, with the latest being building a women-only city for them to work in.
I’m reminded of a depressing scene in the TV show Touch, in which two “rebellious” Saudi girls pretend to be men and sneak their father’s car out for a drive. They find a woman who’s in labour on the way, and with no time to go to a hospital, they deliver the woman’s baby. The woman refuses to be taken home afterwards by the girls saying they are “bad girls” for breaking the law. (And fiction in many ways is a depiction of reality, lest this be considered a weak argument). Such brainwashing of women is terribly depressing to say the least. Not only does a considerable number of women not question these hideous injustices, they actually propagate them too.
And Pakistanis, with all their Arab envy, do pretty cruel things to women in the name of religion as well. Then there’s the extreme interpretation of hijab. Does religion really require extinguishing women’s presence, covering them up in such a way that they are completely indistinguishable from each other and pushing them into separate spaces altogether?
So among women who do have the freedom to make their own choices, it should be better, right?
Unfortunately, no. As bizarre as it is, women continually put their gender down. Years of brainwashing has led many women to believe that they are inferior to men in every way. They agree that their own gender is less intelligent, less hardworking and generally less competent than men. Unthinking acceptance of their supposed inferiority just becomes a self perpetuating cycle. When women don’t believe that they are as capable as men, they set lower goals for themselves, or blame their failings on the natural fact of being female. Their complacence just adds to the evidence the anti-feminists out there use to back their claims. Such women suffer from severe self-esteem issues and this majorly hinders the general perception of female inferiority from changing.
I really wonder why women themselves repeat chauvinist claims such as women being more fond of gossip, being vindictive or being more prone to “dirty” politics. I see men around me being guilty of these things just as frequently as women. The only difference is that when a man does it, both men and women label such behaviour as “feminine”. Why, oh why? If the propensity of both genders of being vicious is the same, how can it be made out to be a gender issues? Being nasty is a human trait, it is not limited to a certain gender. What is really frustrating is that instead of countering these stereotypes, many women propagate such biases.
So when some lady recently wrote an article about bad female managers and then went on to list qualities which apply to men equally, it made me really cross. Here is a career woman who herself probably manages people, claiming that women make bad bosses. And other women commenting on the article and elsewhere are agreeing with her. So do all these supposedly liberated women actually believe that they are undeserving of their position in the workplace, or that they would go on to make bad managers in future, simply because they are females? This display of low self esteem and self-loathing is dumbfounding.
A really dubious statistic is cited according to which 40% of bullies in the workplace are females. How is that in any way evidence that women make bad bosses, a rational mind would wonder. What about the other 60%? But that is of course ignored. A handful of women at fault are representative of all other women, when the same doesn’t hold true for men. Or such is the twisted logic. And women then go on to cite anecdotal evidence about bad female bosses. The truth is that people generally dislike their bosses, male or female. Contriving it into a gender issue makes no sense.
What I frequently wonder is why, across all societies, have women been considered second class citizens for so, so long. They make up half the population of the world, for god’s sake. Just by sheer number alone are they equal to men. Why did this injustice continue to be perpetrated for so long and why did this half of the world’s population just put up with it? I haven’t studied the history of gender discrimination, but in this day and age, the fact that women still need to fight for their rights is shameful. And it’s misogynistic women who are themselves adding to the problem.
There are enough men out there who consider themselves to be a superior specie. But when women propagate the same stereotypes against themselves, they are doing themselves a disservice. Because until women realize how misogynistic they are being by believing that the very fact of being a woman is what makes them irrational, manipulative or just a plain bad person, they will continue to be mistreated by their male counterparts.
Feminists don’t have to just fight misogyny among men. It is among women themselves that mindsets need to change as well.