Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Is It Alright to be a Feminist?

By Sreynet Chhem

This blog was developed as part of the Voices of Youth blogging internship assignment requirement. Views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.

© Tyler Feder
Why is everyone hesitant  on being called a feminist?
Are you a man-hater if you are one?
What does feminism even mean?

These are some questions that I believe people have been asking themselves when hearing about feminism. Feminism, by definition, refers to the belief in social, political, and economic equality of both sexes. The term is  seen to derive after  three major waves of women's movements at various points  in  history to fight for equality.

The first wave, famously known as the ‘suffrage movement’, lasted from  the end of the 19th to  the beginning of the 20th century. It was established in four powerhouse nations including the US, UK, Canada and Netherlands to fight for women's rights to vote. Beginning in the 1960s and prolonged till the 90s in the United States, the uproar of the second wave was to fight for sexuality and reproductive rights.  The focus was also to push the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees social equality for both sexes. The third wave of the feminist movement emerged in the 1990s to address the critiques of feminism, as well as attempt to reach out to women of color, transgender women and sex workers. Despite these revolutionary highlights written down in gender studies handouts, "Feminism" is instead considered by some to be a harmful ideology due to longstanding misconceptions.

A good misconception has been made under a term called Feminazi. Feminazi, an alternative way to call feminists, is used to belittle the group by many men on the Internet. These men believe the real objective of feminism is to put down men and worship women. They believe it to be a sexist comment hidden behind gender equality to shame men for various reasons. A feminazi is regarded as an outraged female complaining about gender inequality, at least that's what men surfing on Facebook said.

A lot of debates discussing gender equality question, "Why would we need feminism if both parties are equal?" Feminism may appear to sound utterly biased toward females, but the term advocates for the rights of  every individual of all backgrounds. In the past, feminism was undoubtedly used to assert women's fight for equality against the patriarchy, male dominant societies. During the period, everyone in patriarchal society had seemingly been valued "equal" until the three waves of feminism arose battling for equality. In 21st century, the term feminism has revamped itself into a greater concern beyond women. The oppression created by the patriarchal system issues performing masculinity role and characteristic set for every man while in women’s case, femininity. In contrary to what Feminazi being defined, a feminist takes up a role in believing that her husband can stay home and look after their children while she’s the one who goes to work. She believes that her husband does not possess aggressiveness when he's mad. She believes he deserves as much love as her in the public. As a feminist husband, her husband perceives that his wife deserves to stand on the same level of her hard work. He thinks his wife should receive equal income as other men like him. For himself, he holds a mindset that feminism is not about women feeling pressed by men on many matters, but also men feeling responsible with the patriarchal norms limited them at a macho’s description. As simple as it could get, anyone who is a self-proclaimed feminist just loves the idea of being able to express who they really are regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or race.

Feminists believe everyone deserves to create their own identity. People are allowed to define who they are and live with it peacefully. Any man  can wear makeup or be fragile and cry over something. Any woman can have her  hair cut short or stroll comfortably in baggy jeans.Women are allowed to take up leadership  positions without being called  “bossy”. Meanwhile, men can pursue their dream jobs such as being a makeup artist without being questioned by others on their sexuality. None of these stereotypes matter. Feminism simply promotes self-love and leaves out any labels applied on one's body and mindset.

The other area that feminism speaks out against is  "objectification".  This is when a person is treated or viewed as an object, primarily in a sexual way. As a feminist, I believe this happens to  both men and women. For example, many famous entertainment pages on Facebook can been participated in this trend. Many sensual contents regarding women’s physicality can be seen posted frequently and featured on the page of its millions followers. As for men, some talk shows appear to be doing the same thing by featuring stereotypically masculine men for the sake of female-dominated audience. These talk shows are quite entertaining to keep me on my seat for hours, but bringing shirtless guys on shows is a huge turnoff for me especially when it's just not helpful in defense for the objectification of women myself. Objectifying men is just as wrong as objectifying women, but it's an understated problem that needs more attention. Objectification gives a huge pass to the culture of sexism. And being a feminist, we celebrate humans on being themselves rather than being an object.

So, what is your thought on the word Feminism now? Do you think the term is redundant in the patriarchal world? Are you still hesitant  on being called a feminist?

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