Feminism more than a hashtag

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Women marching in Chiang Mai, Thailand to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day - Photo courtesy of Mizzima

Upholding feminism is a fight that will continue to go on even if certain glass ceilings have been broken in our country, writes Syerleena Abdul Rashid.

All too often, I hear people say how feminism in the 21st century is becoming unnecessary.

Certain groups and individuals who believe such fallacies think so because quite a sizeable number of modern women have jobs, and some hold very high positions in office or in the corporate word. They feel women should stop complaining and move on – as if our job is done.

Well, it isn’t.

When people hear the term feminism, they tend to associate it with rather negative connotations – they see a woman who is rude, overly self confident, egoistical and basically someone who hates men.

Well, we don’t hate men – we just hate inequality and being treated like ornaments that exist only to complement the male ego.

Men too are on the losing side in this – “men, while benefiting from being the dominant sex, also have a stake in overcoming the restrictive roles that deprive them of full humanity”.

Feminism is also regarded as a men’s issue because patriarchy is harmful to male self-actualisation. In simpler terms, feminism is the “radical notion that women are people” and far more concerned with “combining forces to create equality for everyone”.

It is a commitment that we have to see certain achievements accomplished especially in areas where gender discrimination and other forms of gender bigotry must be wiped out. But then, how can we effectively do this?

For a start, let’s focus on two things: firstly, making a conscientious effort to eliminate the use of words or language that solidifies patriarchy. It is obvious that one of the major obstacles women face are those presented to us by our male counterparts.

To some extent, they are the ones standing in our way and preventing us from climbing the social ladder by imposing man-made rules: “a women’s place is in the kitchen or best suited to raise children”, “a women can only ever amount to being a deputy or an assistant” and other fallacies that make women raise an eyebrow or two.

Women need to educate men and men need to educate other men to make them understand that it is important to keep certain words and jokes in check.

Secondly, is for women to make a conscientious effort to somehow change their appearance. No, I’m not suggesting slapping on tons of make-up. The sad truth is that women are seldom taken seriously unless we look “right”.

Yes, there’s this issue with make-up – it has to be applied a certain way (don’t look like you’re trying too hard, but make sure it is clear you’ve made an effort and that you’re wearing the exact right shade of eye shadow). Then, then there’s the issue with how our clothes fit. We are often reminded to choose our attire and preferably ones that complement our body type (choose dresses that are not too tight because no one wants to see your muffin top or “VPL”).

The fact of the matter is that young adults – the very same generation that will eventually lead our great Federation – have all grown up in a world where social media interactions are the norm; advertising and magazines (ok, webzines) and porn (yes, porn) are all available at the click of a button.

It is a double-edged sword that comes with technology which amplifies the importance of physical attributes and sex; we are often bombarded by these things to the point most of us can no longer differentiate what’s right and what’s wrong.

I dare say that, in the 21st century, objectification is not only acceptable, but it is rapidly becoming more accepted and people have forgotten that we should be fighting against it. Not embracing values that will drive us further apart.

Indeed, a movement of powerful women is obviously threatening to the male ego, but before you start calling us men-hating gorgons, we only want to amend patriarchal values and eliminate the inequalities that exist in our society.

Upholding feminism is a fight that will continue to go on even if certain glass ceilings have been broken in our country. Gender bigotry can still seem like an impossible obstacle to overcome but one should always remember that drawing attention to this (by never shutting up, for instance) can sometimes be enough to get people on-board.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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