The world is divided over a lot of important matters. While some are openly argued upon, others, like politics and religion, make everyone in the room uncomfortable. Feminism happens to fall in the latter category.
But why this resistance to talk about an issue that not only calls out to our morals but also asks us to be respectful of our fellow human beings? Let’s dive in.
What is Feminism?
There is a weird trend among us humans. We tend to repeat what we hear without investigating the truth of the matter. And while it makes sense to trust the people we are close to, most of us blindly repeat everything we hear from even random acquaintances. That’s how gossip spreads – through human naiveté. Misconceptions work in a similar way.
Any discussion on feminism is fundamentally flawed unless we understand what is at the core of the belief by returning to its origins.
“Feminism is a sociopolitical ideology and movement that aims to achieve equal political, economic and personal rights for women.”
In less twisted words, feminism stands for equality, and asks us to treat everyone with respect and give every human equal opportunities.
Now you tell me, is that really a bad thing?
A Brief History of Patriarchy and the Curse of Womanhood
While anthropologists of ye’ olden days have thoroughly convinced us that the supremacy of man over woman is a natural thing that can be linked back to the stone ages where men hunted and women foraged, recent studies have found evidence that have given rise to a different theory: a society of cave dwellers where men and women were equal.
Women in the Paleolithic Age were not only equal members of the tribe, but they also actively took part in hunting. This deduction is based on studying similar skeletal fractures in both male and female skeletons, and the fact that lack of hunting tools necessitated hunting in large numbers to bring down larger prey.
Women hunted, they had multiple sexual partners (watch this TED Talk, if you don’t believe me), they had equal say in where the tribe went and who was included in it, and they shared child rearing responsibilities with the males in the tribe. But things took a serious downturn for women with the advent of agriculture.
Where children were once raised collectively by all adults in the tribe and women usually had children with multiple partners, the possession of land gave rise to the concept of inheritance, which in turn changed the way men and women interacted sexually and reared children.
With the rise of Patriarchy, the value of a woman degenerated and rested solely upon her ability to reproduce. And to ensure that the land and herds were passed down to the rightful heir, society shifted from polyamory to forcing women into monogamy.
As centuries passed by, women stopped having value as human beings altogether. Polygamy became a tradition in most parts of the world with status in society attached to the number of wives in a harem.
Steeped in Patriarchy, with the world having marginalized them and their needs, women were taught to be docile creatures – obedient and receptive. The more empty-headed you were, the more validation you accrued from society.
Human beings are paradoxical creatures. We crave to be known for our uniqueness yet we cringe to set one toe out of line (because the herd might take offense and outcast us). Unfortunately, the desire to be accepted in the herd overpowers 9 out of 10 among us. No wonder we are taught outdated concepts by our parents that were passed down to them by their parents, and so on back to a few centuries when those concepts were actually valid (how insane is that!).
Patriarchy was a smart dog. It piggy-backed on this brainless human flaw, and now thousands of years later, it has managed to convince us absolutely that women were always meant to be beneath men.
Patriarchy made the world prefer birthing a boy over a girl. It gave rise to tagging your husband’s family name after yours, thus dissolving your identity (because when was the dining table concerned with what it was called?). It told women that their rightful place was at home by the hearth, tending to their children because it was the noblest profession in the world (after all, it made no sense to allow the dining table to experience the world).
With just the right amount of validation, Patriarchy slyly made everyone believe that women cared nothing for matters like who was elected to power (so removing the necessity to give them a vote) and how to feed her family with a paycheck (giving rise to total dependence and the inability to leave an unhappy marriage).
Being a woman was equivalent to being a Black in the slave trading days – born with the greatest disadvantage of them all.
The Rise of Feminism
A few paragraphs above I talked about humankind’s greatest flaw – herd mentality. But I also said something critical: it overpowers 9 out of 10 people.
What about that one person who decides to think and investigate the truth of the matter?
Feminism, like every great movement that has ever gripped the world, began with these 1 out of 10 individuals do decided to challenge the prevalent notions of what and who a woman should be.
Although the feminist movement truly kicked off in the late 19th century, stirrings of this idea had started to flame a century before that. Enlightenment philosophers like Jeremy Bentham, Olympe de Gouges, and the famous Mary Wollstonecraft were among the first to speak up strongly against the prevailing social inequality based on gender.
Feminist historians have divided the timeline of the Feminist movement into 3 waves. The First Wave (late 19th to early 20th century) mainly dealt with the sociopolitical aspect of Feminism and the fight to gain the right to vote. Until then patriarchy had convinced everyone that women were too dumb to understand the workings of politics. This made the fight long and hard, but victory blessed the righteous, paving the way for great leaders like Margaret Thatcher.
While the First Wave was mainly restricted to the Western world, involving white women, the Second Wave spread farther out and sparked the movement in developing nations. The fight was now for social reforms and breaking the rules patriarchy had laid down for women.
This time period dealt with issues like unequal pay, reproductive rights, family rights etc. No longer was it okay to club a woman over her head and abuse her because she belonged to her husband or father.
The Second Wave taught women to be independent and fight back against the bullying of Patriarchy. All of you strong ladies out there in the world who were brought up with the right to say “no” have much to thank this phase of the Feminist movement for.
The Third Wave of Feminism began in the 1990s and continues to this day. It is about learning from the failures of the Second Wave and fighting against Anti-feminism.
Radical Feminism vs. Anti-Feminism
The present day scenario of the Feminist movement is a mixed bag of surprises and face-palm moments. The biggest of which are Radical Feminism and its antithesis: Anti-Feminism.
Let’s start with Anti-feminism.
How many of you have heard of “Women Against Feminism”?
After all we have discussed so far, this idea is equivalent to “Blacks Against Free-the-Slaves” or “Women Against Rape Laws”. It makes no sense whatsoever!
The ideology of Women Against Feminism is that women don’t need to fight for their rights any longer because we already have them. This is what I call the Classic Moron Logic!
Anti-feminists are mostly white women in affluent nations who are reaping the benefits of the Feminist movement of the past but who are too short-sighted to see the rest of the world where girls are still married off to men 20 years their senior and who are forced to live like cattle behind veils.
These are the ignorant peasants of our world who, if they had been born just a few centuries before the rise of Feminism, would have fondly stood up for Patriarchy and told off their daughters if they wanted to marry for love (because who does that when you can marry rich?).
Now let’s talk about the antithesis to these morons: the Radical Feminists, or what I call The Amazon Warriors.
Radical feminists hate the system and the hold of Patriarchy. They want to exterminate male supremacy and they are willing to take up arms for the cause.
The ideology of Radical Feminism is sound, which is that Patriarchy created a domination-submission dynamic between men and women that allowed men to exploit and control women to their advantage, and which must be opposed and abolished. But Radical Feminists go about fighting it in all the wrong ways.
Instead of trying to positively fight against Patriarchy, Radical Feminists want to show the world that not only are they as good as men (in everything), they have bigger balls than them.
If a man can fuck around with a hundred girls and not care a wink, a Radical Feminist can do it too. And dare any man open a door for her. Does he think she is so weak that she cannot do it herself? She will show him his place and slam the door on his fingers on her way out!
Is it difficult to understand why so many people are against Feminism these days?
Radical Feminists have taken the focus away from all the hard work their predecessors put into the movement (because of which they have the independence to be such bitches now) and have turned it into an all-out war against men.
Feminism and the Modern Man
Where has all this left the modern man? To understand that let us go back to Patriarchy.
For thousands of years men have enjoyed dominating over what they believed were the weaker classes (women and subordinate men). They were born clutching a winning lottery ticket. And they were raised to believe they were superior.
All that changed with the advent of Feminism.
As women fought for their voice and rights, and earned the independence we have today, the dynamic between men and women changed. Patriarchy started to lose its hold.
Feminism taught men that they were not naturally superior. And being born a man did not give them the right to walk all over their counterparts: women. This led to a moral dilemma.
As we have already discussed, human herd mentality causes 9 out of 10 people to blindly accept whatever their parents teach them, and boys were till then raised to believe that they were worth more than lesser humans (like women) and thus, must learn to dominate over them. Then Feminism came along and it flip the script, telling them that men and women are equal, and it asked them to stand out from the herd, think for themselves, and see the truth of the matter.
Thinking doesn’t come easy when all you have done your entire life is follow blindly.
This gave rise to 3 different types of men:-
These are the herd folk. They absolutely refuse to believe that women are equal to men because men have more muscles than women (duh!). And in the jungle the lion rules over the deer.
They like the women in their family to be docile and good housewives, and believe that a respectable woman does not resist her natural femininity in being a good wife and mother. In fact, when they read about a rape case in the newspaper, they naturally assume that the victim must have been walking around in revealing clothes and looking men in the eye, which good women don’t do.
The Unconscious Sexists/ Pseudofeminists
Unlike the misogynists from the above category, these men do understand that all human beings are equal, but when push comes to shove their actions still place them firmly in the herd.
They are alright with women being independent, pursuing higher education, being a bread-winner…but not their women. They prefer soft-spoken, feminine types who earn less than them and who meekly take their lead without any opposition. I had a male friend who was like this.
For a very long time I thought he was a Feminist because he would always speak pro-Feminism and share posts on Facebook that supported independence in women. Until one day I realized he was not.
This young man would say he supported a woman’s right to make decisions about her life but the very next instant tell me that I was just acting out because I told him I did not believe in marriage or want to have my own kids.
He would support the “Free the Nipple” movement (which I do not agree with) but tell me to sit like a woman because I always take up a lot of space when I sit.
Men like him, the Pseudofeminists, like to believe they are feminists because it makes sense to them logically, but the herd mentality is too deeply ingrained in them to overcome reflex judgement.
These men truly understand what Feminism is all about and they know in their hearts that women are not inferior to men. They acknowledge women as their counterparts, and are willing to walk with us as true equals.
While Anti-feminists might think they are closeted gays or men who want to fuck the feminist hot chick by pretending to be a feminist, the Feminist man is a true Equalist and always stands out in his actions.
They are ideal men who will fight with you back-to-back and not feel emasculated by your success. And while at it, they will still hold the door open for you, which brings us to…
The Case of the Missing Chivalrous Man
Chivalry is such a beautiful word. But it did not always mean opening doors and pulling out chairs for women.
In the Medieval Age, chivalry was the code of a knight, which dictated that a true knight showed courage and always helped the weak. The weak in this context could be physically disabled people or the poor. But the purpose of chivalry was to set a positive example for everyone and show it through actions (not words).
The brilliant thing is people did learn by example, and soon every man was embodying a knight in shining armor (the root of the phrase). And though the practice stemmed from Patriarchy, it was not about telling someone that they were weak. Instead, it was about showing that you cared.
When I see a young man giving up his seat for an older gentleman or pregnant lady, I see chivalry. When I see someone (man or woman) helping a blind person cross the road, I see chivalry. When I see a doctor holding a swinging door open for a patient, I see chivalry.
Chivalry is a beautiful, unspoken act of kindness and compassion, and it doesn’t have to be gender-defined.
Unfortunately, it seems to be vanishing in this modern world of ours. And to understand why, let’s look at Radical Feminism once more.
The Radicals hate everything that Patriarchy spawned. Chivalry was not spared its wrath.
Chivalry was rejected when a man tried to offer a Radical his seat in a crowded train because how dared he! Didn’t he know she was perfectly capable of standing for an hour like all the men beside her?
Chivalry was scolded when a man offered to carry his Radical girlfriend’s bag. And it earned a sneer when a stranger held the door open for a Radical on his way out.
Is it difficult to understand why the men of our generation aren’t chivalrous anymore?
What Does the Future Hold?
As with any movement, Feminism will keep evolving. And though we do not know where it will go, and what form it will take, one thing we can be certain of is that the dynamic between men and women will never be the same again.
Join the Conversation
Feminism has affected all our lives. Do share your side of the story.
What are your views on Feminism? Should we let chivalry die?