In a time where the tides have turned due to Trump’s inauguration, racism and sexism have begun a rampant march, tearing through societies’ valiant attempt at tolerance and peace after the second World War. The F-word is considered a profanity now more than ever. There have been occasions where I, myself, have experienced saying it to acquaintances, watching their eyes go wide, seeing understanding light up their eyes, or just simply getting a long, patronizing “Ohhhh”. I can’t utter the word, not without being judged. I can see them changing their perception of me, even as I anticipate their eye-roll. Oh no, did you think I was talking about ‘fuck’? Nope, saying fuck is the norm now. People have been desensitized to the meaning behind the word. But utter the term ‘feminism’, and looks turn judgemental. Wariness comes to the forefront. Thoughts in the head fall into place, categorising you into predetermined stereotypes society has set.
“Feminism – the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”
– from Merriam Webster
“No more”, said the people, emboldened by a six-time-bankrupt billionaire with the vocabulary of a 12-year-old. He has set the precedence that prioritizing one’s own needs are paramount. Why? Why has a caricature of a boy become the face of the United States of America? The people have claimed that they believe his honesty without a politician’s slithering deceit. And they revel in it. They idolize his self-righteousness, his conviction in voicing everything he thinks without regard of the consequences: that women are not equal to men; that religion determines your entire character; that childbirth is a choice men should make; but mostly, that self-interest is chief, to hell with the rest of the world. This mentality is arguably one of the factors that pushed Brexit forward, but it should NOT be the same motivation driving the F-Word.
Feminists are “whining”
I will not delve into the meaning behind the term “feminism” here as it has already been previously discussed. So, why has feminism deteriorated into the realm of social stigma? Angry statements defending one’s own right to not be “grabbed by the pussy”, or the freedom to choose abortion, are viewed with more prejudice and growing backlash than a white male making casual jokes about rape. As stated in this article, many believe that equality has already been achieved and feminism is simply nit-picking, an incessant buzzing of a bug. For instance, battling misogyny. Every argument voiced makes it seem petty and a double standard to male sexual objectification.
Yet, why is Trump, a bigot in all sense of the word, able to say the things he does with less repercussions than a feminist defending her or himself? And why did I bring him into this discussion at all? Because if you think that feminism is no longer relevant, these are cases in point as to why the feminist fight is not over.
Bad Public Image
The statistics above prove misconception about the movement as being the dominating problem. Yet, it is irrefutable that these predetermined concepts of feminism are the fault of media portrayals and feminists themselves. Opinions can be expressed more freely nowadays with the help of social media: Feminazis who skew the view of feminism, or simply, feminists who are too angry from all the prejudice and belittlement. The #FreeTheNipple movement, while advocating the rights of women to breastfeed in public and to fight sexual objectification, became fodder to celebrity sites that misinterpreted its meaning. While the movement itself might seem ridiculous, the pre-existing stigma it aims to combat is equally ludicrous. Hence, this provides a conundrum: the internet as a double-edged sword. Feminism has never gained more traction nor received more criticism.
Feminism is Biased
Furthermore, the F-word has provided a stereotype of men-hating women. Sadly, this misconception is largely contributed by the fact that the fight always seems to emphasize women’s rights because more existing laws protect the interests of men. This contradicting fight for equality, only advocating for women, show the movement as being biased.
The disparity might not be apparent in Western countries, but in Muslim-majority Malaysia, the divide is significant. Feminism might change society’s patriarchal structure and threaten the Sharia Laws. Polygamy, for instance, is still legal and practised in Malaysia with Kelantan having the highest polygamous marriages. Some states do not even require husbands to obtain their wives’ consent to marry another wife. This results in opinions that target the other sex, when in fact, the precedent laws are in themselves highly discriminatory. Feminism as a social stigma predates the meteoric rise of the internet and social networks. The status quo was being threatened, and this was a tough pill to swallow.
Women are Trying to Push for Superiority
An overarching fear of feminism stems from the belief that the F-word is about superiority over men, not equality. This effort comes off as superiority, but might actually be equity. One of the better debates about feminism and the fight for equality (while not overreaching into the bounds of superiority) can be summed up in the picture below:
The feminist movement have at times seemed biased due to the unequal demands put forward. Yet, herein lies the greatest problem: we are predominantly of different biological construct. Is it fair to demand similar leave for women, even though maternity leave provisions have to be taken into account? Is it fair that more women than men usually obtain custodial rights in cases of divorce because they are the childbearing counterpart? Does that not go against the very structure of egalitarianism? This attest that gender equality and feminism ideologies might no longer be enough to encompass modern society.
We are currently in a new wave of feminism: the wage gap has mostly been closed but will only achieve equity in 2152; the battle for women’s right to vote was victorious; and only Saudi has yet to allow women to drive. We now stand at a crucial and delicate point where the specifics have to be further refined. This article states that we are profoundly of different sexes with different needs, and as such, the principles behind feminism and gender equality need to evolve. Perhaps feminism has depreciated, perhaps the stigma against the F-word has become too deeply rooted, perhaps a new movement needs to be conceived; but the fight for women’s rights and equality is far from over. If you believe that, then you should not be afraid to say that you are, indeed, a feminist.
More statistics regarding views on feminism can be found here.
Written by Delyn Choong
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of the editorial team at IGNITE.