Recently, I have come across a lot of the posts on various social media websites as well as online publications which have posted a thing or two about feminism. A lot of these have attempted to establish the relation between feminism and men but have failed. One of the major online publication here in India had put up a post on its website portraying men and the ‘impact’ feminism has on them. I couldn’t help but look at the images it posted in shock, after all it was a national publication.
The post it put up on its website consisted of photos which showed men with a cloth around their mouth (to signify that because of feminism they have been wrongly accused for the things that they did not do). In short the post highlighted what some of the critics of feminism have termed ‘men hate-ism’. While it is true that some men might have been unjustly accused by feminists of the crimes that they did not do and also some women have used it to their advantage, I want to clarify that whoever does so is not a feminist. A bigger much broader problem that persists in our society is to blame
Regardless of what one may come across when reading or researching about feminism (and one may come across a lot of confusing stuff on the same), feminism is NOT ONLY about women. Those who believe that it stands for ‘empowering
women’ are mistaken. That is women empowerment which is no way related to feminism. However, the definition of feminism has no doubt been complicated by various theories and various class, caste and regional discourses. But these categories just cannot be done away with. However, there are some of the key elements that feminism stands for.
Feminism is NOT ONLY about women. Yes, women figure prominently in the movement but one has to ask why it is so. Women since centuries have been oppressed by men (sometimes even women themselves, but I will further clarify this). Various religions, institutions and even our language have been framed in a way that demeans women. The so called sciences and in particular the medical sciences have also played a major role in this.
The thing that feminists throughout the world have in common is their fight against patriarchy. I believe that people are so confused in the concept of feminism nowadays that they totally ignore what it is most important feature. Patriarchy, some of you might be wondering what is this ‘patriarchy’ and what has it to do with feminism and how can men be feminists?
Let me define patriarchy first. Patriarchy is the age old social construct according to which there is an emphasis to the males and according to it females, are biologically, physically and mentally subordinate to men who are seen as tough, masculine and hardened individuals. The gender roles are defined in this
way. The female is seen as bearer of children and do the household work (though this work is not regarded as the masculine work). According to the subsequent gender roles that are ascribed to the gender binary which patriarchy helps to enforce, men of the household are expected to work and provide for the family. It is also their duty to provide for the family. Women cannot work outside the household.
The whole system works on a very intricate system of power relations and socially constructed and accepted (made to accept socially through various institutions, laws, language etc) mechanisms. Think this over, how could patriarchy effect men? The same way it asks the females to be ‘feminine’ (be gentle, loving, caring, good mothers, sisters, and daughters) it also asks the males to be ‘masculine’ (be tough, not to cry, not to behave like women, not to be gentle and not show their emotions because it is what women do).
An example: Suppose that there is a middle class family consisting of a husband, a wife and a daughter and a son and a grandmother. The ‘man-of-the-house’, works and provides for the family. His wife is an ‘ideal wife’ who doesn’t ask too many questions and goes quietly around minding her own business which includes the bringing up of the children, doing the household work and doing the ‘seva’ of her mother-in law. The children go to school but the daughter is kept a check on. There are limitations and rules on her going out of the household. She cannot be outside the household at night and has a curfew. The son doesn’t have any such restriction
and is relatively given more space than the daughter. Extra care and attention is given to the clothes of the daughter and she is asked to not mingle with boys. She is given dolls to play even though she likes to play football. Same applies for the son as well. The son is asked to play sports even though he has absolutely no interest in them and wants to learn cooking. Further, the mother-in-law has a tussle with her daughter-in law which sometimes even involves beating her (sometimes herself or sometimes she asks her son to do so). The son is the ‘man-of-the-house’ only in theory, in reality it is his mother who exercises control over the household
It is patriarchy and gender roles that have created these invisible walls all around us. Feminism asks who created these walls, why they were created and then strives to break them. Feminism doesn’t care if you want to dress up like a ‘man’ or ‘woman’ or anybody else. It asks you to be yourself. You can dress up as you want, think as you want and even question your prescribed gender roles. A man can manage a household, a woman can work wherever she wants. You can have any kind of sexual orientation and preference. It doesn’t judge you for being you!