On this International Women’s Day, let’s recall the gruesome past and relearn the importance of feminism. In the past, women were denied fundamental rights, treated like products, oppressed in every way possible. Oh! But, before we dive in, are you someone who goes like “feminists are coming, RUNNN”, “lol feminism is cancer”, “It should be Human’s day”, “……………..but I’m not a feminist”? Then we are here to help you educate yourself. You can be better than this!
A RECAP –
The Suffrage Right: Universally, women didn’t have the right to vote in elections till 1840. In many countries and regions, the right to suffrage was denied just because “they are women”. They had to earn this right in 1920.
Wage Gap: Even during the 1950s, female full-time employees were paid much lesser than males. In the same company, for the same position, that too in the United States! Imagine how the scenario would be in other parts of the world.
Child Marriage: In developing and under-developed countries, even a few years back, families would marry off girls way sooner because their education, career, or right to voice was not essential for them. And when we say “way sooner”, it means aged 11 to 14. Many of these marriages would cause health complications, ultimately resulting in the death of child brides.
Sati Pratha: For centuries, women were conditioned that their life holds no value as an individual when their husband dies. Before 1829, in the Bengal province of the Indian subcontinent, widows were burnt/buried alive after the husband’s death.
Restrictions For Higher Education: Even during the early 20th century, universities didn’t accept female students. Education was only available for middle and upper-class women, limited to language, social etiquette, and classical courses.
Discrimination In Job sectors: High-paid job sectors discriminated against women. Companies would publish print-ads with separate job-listing for women; roles identical to men, however, unequal in salary. For higher-positions, women wouldn’t even be considered.
The scenarios are different; the reason behind those, however, is the same – the misogynistic mindset of patriarchal societies. Women were easy for them to dominate, violate, invalidate and objectify. Because what could they even do? They were not financially independent to sustain life on their own. It was after the feminist movement in the 1960s when women started joining the workforce in large numbers. So before looking down on feminists, get the facts checked and get your definition right.
So, what does feminism mean?
Feminism is the set of activities and ideologies that aim to drive social, political, economic, personal equality for people regardless of gender, elevate gender stereotypes, and establish educational, professional, and interpersonal opportunities and outcomes for women, equal to their male counterparts.
Feminism does not mean Man-hating or female supremacy. However, it only agrees that for centuries societies have given men the position to dictate, make decisions for women, and be unfair.
The Importance of Feminism
- Legal Rights: Without the contribution of feminist movements, women wouldn’t have had the right to suffrage, get into contracts, own properties. Though the first wave only considered elite women, gradually diversification and inclusion articulated.
- Right To Education: Feminism has contributed to every aspect – making education available for low-income women, women of color and increasing the subject range, seats for females students in universities for higher education.
- Sexual Abuse/Violence: The victims of sexual abuse would live painfully without receiving justice, getting shamed, victim-blamed if feminists didn’t protest.
- Women Health Issues: The social stigmas related to women’s health issues like menstrual hygiene, PCOS, cervical cancer are disappearing as women are opening up and making others aware, thanks to the feminist movements.
- Equal Pay: If feminist movements never happened, despite possessing the same skill sets wouldn’t get the chance to work, let alone receive equal pay. Feminists made it possible.
- Pink-Tax: Precisely, tax on sanitary products no longer exists in some countries because of the feminist movement. Even in developed counties, low-income women don’t have access to sanitary products, and the sexist tax makes it worst!
- Minority Groups & Underprivileged Women: Without the activation of feminist beliefs, the struggles of women who don’t come from privilege would go unnoticed, and the violence against them would go unpunished. If feminists never got into action, there wouldn’t be any end to discrimination and sexism against minority groups of women and women in general.
Feminism Is Not Limited To Women
Even men with the stated ideologies are feminists. As Feminism progresses to wipe out gender-specific roles, women now have the liberty to be with a struggling man without explaining to society. Men do not have to be the only ones paying. And do you know what do we talk about the least? It’s sexual violence against boys and men. Without the activation of feminist waves, they would have gone unrecognized as well. Bernie Sanders, Harry Styles, Ashton Kutcher, Ian Somerhalder, Chris Martin, John Legend are the proud feminist male public figures of the 21st century.
Throughout the centuries, few individuals blessed the world with their contributions that created big impacts and accelerated change. Let’s take a look at some feminist figures whose contributions are indisputable and whom history must remember forever.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772 – 1833)
The father of the Indian renaissance Movement
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was one of the greatest feminists from the Indian Subcontinent. Despite coming from privilege, he pinpointed some of the societal inequalities and religious practices that dehumanized women to many extents. His initiation from the grassroots level escalated the abolishment of Sati Daho Pratha – forcing widows to jump on their dead husband’s pyre. Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s watch groups protected women. He enlightened the elite Bengali classes with his journalism to get them involved in the process. The result – Sati Regulation Act of 1829. He also played a pivotal role in abolishing child marriage in the community
Marlene Dietrich (1901 – 1992)
The Hollywood Hotster who wore suits and pants
There was a time when wearing pants was forbidden for women. That’s why, in earlier produced movies, women only appeared in dresses and skirts. The tables turned when Dietrich broke the taboo and chose to appear on-screen wearing a suit and pants. Can you imagine that she almost got arrested for her public appearance wearing pants? Nonetheless, Dietrich brought in a new wave of fashion which is now rolling all over the world. She is one of the earliest feminists of Hollywood who contributed through fashion.
UN women’s advocate for political participation
Suits starer Meghan is a feminist since childhood. 11 y/o Meghan watched the Ivory Liquid Soap TV commercial, which didn’t sit well with her. The commercial indirectly signaled that only women should be doing the dishes. It incited the feminist in her, and little Megan wanted to do something about it. She wrote letters to Hillary Clinton (The first lady at that time; a feminist), News Source Linda Ellerbee, Attorney Gloria Allred, and the soap manufacturer, P&G. The result? Meghan received letters of encouragement, and P&G changed the word “Women” to “People” in the tagline. Meghan faced discrimination even in Royal Family due to being a woman of mixed race. However, she kept her head high and left behind the Royal life with Prince Harry.
The Pakistani teen advocate of women’s right to education
Well, not a teen now, but Malala did what was unimaginable considering her circumstances. Her family received threats for continuing her education. Taliban Gunmen shot her in the head at the age of 15. But, the girl survives and becomes the universal advocate for access to education, empowerment, and equality. Malala lives in every girl; every girl from that community lives in her and exemplifies the ongoing fight – the fear, the struggle, the desire for equity. She has been helping women in the community through her Malala Fund.
Are you a feminist for self-serving reasons (read: only on Facebook)?
As we near the end, please ask yourself if you only pretend to be a feminist on social media while looking down on women who don’t come from privilege and dismiss their struggles in real life. We see so many women and men sharing feminist posts who in real life support the abusive men just because their experience with them was good, and women who don’t voice up against injustice on other women as it won’t benefit them. As you understand the importance of feminism, we hope you won’t shape it into pseudo-feminism and drive away from the real ideologies.
Lastly, we thank all the fathers, brothers, husbands who encourage the women in their lives to do everything, go a step ahead, discover and explore novelty and don’t make it look like “they are allowing” it. We thank all the men who stand up for women and violation against them, even when not related by blood. Women’s day is more than the celebration of womanhood. It is a reminder of the past and the present on how society gives room to injustice against women. We need to keep reminiscing this to make the future better for women of all backgrounds – all races, all classes, all beliefs, and all body shapes.