Feminism means equality for all

There is a huge misconception that to be a feminist is getting out with a pink hat, yelling and shouting at men with anger, and, furthermore, it is misconstrued that feminism only affects women.

Although many well-known people like Emma Watson, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and the Dalai Lama have talked about feminism and tried to get the message of the unheard ones across, feminism to this date is still considered synonymous with man-hating.

Simone de Beauvoir wrote, “The first time we see a woman take up her pen in defense of her sex” is how feminism started. Involving a wide range of women, first-wave feminism began during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to defend the political rights of women. Back in the day, let alone being politicians, women weren’t even allowed to vote and were considered to be second-class humans. Some faced a variety of abuses such as they were locked in factories, working over-hours under unsafe conditions, breathing chemicals, being sexually abused, and, still, were paid less.

Because of the ownership of men over their wives and children, women didn’t have a say in their own, nor their children’s futures. As a result, women created unions, arranged secret meetings, made plans and organized protests to gain their political rights, but in return, they were beaten and imprisoned. After years of torture, women over 30 who owned houses were granted the right to vote, but that wasn’t enough; women were running out of options to make themselves heard, so one of the many, a real life hero, Emily Wilding Davison, threw herself in front of the kings derby horse and sacrificed her life and earned the right to vote for the rest of her fellow sisters she left behind.

First-wave feminism ended with the allowance of women to have the right to vote all over United States. Although there were iconic feminists like Voltairine de Cleyre and Margaret Sanger who defended the sexual and economic rights of women during first-wave feminism, second-wave feminism is when socio-economic equality also got added to the “must defend” list.

Second-wave feminism refers to the period of activities done in the early ’60s to late ’80s against social and economic discrimination toward women. Betty Friedan criticized in her book, “The Feminine Mystique” (1963), which was considered to be one of the most influential books of the 20th century, that women could only find fulfillment through childrearing and homemaking. Friedan said that women are in a false belief system to find identity and meaning in their lives through their husbands and children.

Second-wave feminism was also the time when the phrase “Women’s Liberation” was mentioned the first time in the United States. Even if second-wave feminism fought for the equality of women, feminist and intellectual African-American Gloria Jean Watkins addressed in her book, “Feminist Theory From Margin to Center” (1984) that the movement didn’t give enough attention to race, class and the issues that divided women.

The third-wave feminism began in the early ’90s as a response to the failures of second-wave feminism.

Feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. It is true that feminism focuses on women’s rights more than it does on men’s rights, but that is because women are still suffering from politic, economic and social inequality more than men do.

What people choose to ignore is that feminism stands for every human being who faces discrimination because of their gender. When a man is being sentenced more just because of his gender, feminism should be there. When boys are taught not to express their feelings freely or not to cry so they don’t look less of a man, feminism should be there. When fathers are being valued less by the society as parents, feminism should be there.

It is common to hear people say, “If feminism defends the rights of both sexes, why is it called feminism?” or “Yeah, that’s a good way of selling the word,” when they hear it stands for equality. In situations like this, people who identify as feminists, including me, get aggressive easily and, unfortunately, after a while, this intellectual debate turns into a war zone of people who desperately try to force their thoughts on one another, and it doesn’t take long before the word that was supposed to bring people together, causes separation.

Even when feminism is as basic as the defense of the simplest human rights, the word is still being scandalized, considered to be filthy and feminists are judged to be bitchy, aggressive, isolating, anti-men, loud and nasty women who don’t shave or get married.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls this the danger of a single story. In her feminism speech addressing the UN, Emma Watson says, “It is time we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals. Because the reality is that if we do nothing, it will take 75 years before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children, and at current rates, it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls will be able to receive a secondary education.”

If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are, we can all be freer, and this is about freedom.

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