It's Time to Reclaim True Feminism

I grew up watching characters like Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada sashaying her way into a multibillion dollar company and owning it with an attitude that could give any real life fashion magazine editor a run for their money. Aren’t we always heavily inspired by strong female characters? ‘Women of substance’ they call it. Women like Samantha Jones in Sex and the City, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and Anne Hathaway playing the badass cat woman in The Dark Knight Rises. They are bold, vivacious, fiercely independent women, self-driven to achieve their dreams by any means necessary and in no need of external validation. Is there really space for such women in society, or is it just fictional? A figment of someone’s vivid imagination that makes it to the silver screen – time and time again - and gets consumed by a certain privileged section of that society?

I have heard women in high-profile drawing rooms claim that by requiring the need to be uplifted to a man’s level, you are berating the gender unintentionally. I think that what they fail to understand is, traditionally, whether we like it or not, men were given social and economic privileges over women, and upliftment is necessary to reach the status that the men inherently have.

There needs to be a realisation that you can be a feminist and a stay at home mother or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. It’s the belief and the intentions - not who you are or where you come from. At its core level it’s about equality between the sexes, wanting to be valued based on merit entirely as opposed to one gender advancing over another. The word feminist does not ask for extra privilege, in fact it condemns the need to have any in the first place. Despite this, feminism has become a word that is largely misunderstood. People feel afraid to use it. You ask someone if they are a feminist, and you are likely to see the colour fade from their face, followed by a stutter and a regurgitated spiel on why they don’t like using the word, a word so overused. 

Feminism is a belief in basic human rights that in recent times, has become controversial and gained unnecessary flak. And it strongly comes from a place of uninformed misrepresentation and stems from people who are unaware and lack interest in seeking the true meaning of this phenomenal cause. I genuinely believe that if every person was truly aware about what being a feminist entails, they would not think twice about being one! I believe that no person in their right mind would want anything but equality – whether this be in terms of pay, position, status or just the way you treat another human being.

Actresses have spoken out about the gender wage gap in Hollywood, and Jennifer Lawrence is an example that I often remember. It led me to feel that as long as you can pull in the kind of business your male counterpart brings in, you are justified in asking for that equal pay. This is where feminism steps in; the majority of feminism’s bad rap comes from the section of society who are blithely unaware of the conditions women may live in or be subjected to and instead choose to look only at the more privileged sections of Western society. They then judge the term in a narrow minded, cynical way - declaring feminists to be “man hating social justice warriors”. This is a fundamental mistake. An example: a rural woman decides to provide for her family by choice. As long as she makes that choice and acknowledges the fact that the choice is her right, she is a feminist. 

In India - where there is relentless discrimination and oppression with regards to race, disability, sexual orientation and financial status - feminism seems like the lucky cousin who got all the media’s attention. What is truly needed is equality in all aspects of life, and if feminism is the umbrella term given to the issues of gender equality, then it needs to raise awareness that it involves all women - women of colour, transgender, lesbian, below the poverty line, etc. That is what you call intersectional feminism. 

It would be ignorant to put feminism on a pedestal and belittle the other social issues existing today. As long as you are supportive and genuinely believe in wanting to make the world a better place, as long as your heart is in the right place and you are empathising whilst donating to or supporting charities and worthy causes, we are paving the way to collectively thrive. 

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