Society ought to be congratulated; feminism has finally become an issue worth talking about. Campaigns for women’s rights have highlighted systematic and social inequalities. Prolonged and continuous awareness have thrust women’s issues onto a global stage. Worldly causes such as International Women’s Day and the UN’s HeForShe Campaign have reached the eyes and ears of millions.
And yet, we still have countless men and women reluctant to proclaim themselves feminists.
Some say that it’s because of the negative connotations associated with the word. Not all females appreciate feminism’s bra-burning- angry-woman’s association. Not all males appreciate the feminist’s giving-women- preference-over- men mindset.
This attitude, whilst misinformed, is not unfounded. The word feminism itself implies a largely female priority. That’s not the issue. Achieving equality has to come by empowering the oppressed group, which unfortunately, happen to be female. If the opposite had been true, perhaps we’d have maleism in place of feminism. But in our day and age, the word and cause is undoubtedly feminism.
Thus, feminism is certainly not when men think “Men are more important than women” nor is it when women think “Women are more important than men.” Feminism should be when both men and women acknowledge that “We are equally important as each other.” Because we all have every potential to contribute meaning to one another’s lives, it’s from this understanding we implore equal dignity and respect for everyone. As such, feminism is just a nuanced understanding of intrinsic human value and principle.
Women were not made inherently inferior. Rather, society historically constructed women to be instrumentally inferior. A larger man could plough the fields faster than a woman. In comparison, only a woman could breastfeed a newborn and look after the kids. Fast-forward to the 21st century and pushing some buttons operates a harvesting machine and babies can now be bottle-fed. In countless ways, gender has now become irrelevant to a person’s instrumentality and value as a result of technology. What now remains an issue is empowering men and women to pursue ambitions that conflict with gendered norms initially created by biological limitations.
Whilst gender stereotypes are not exclusive to women, it’s arbitrary to argue we don’t live in a patriarchal society. The gender pay gap is real. There are more male than female politicians in parliament. There are more male than female CEOs. It’s even proven that global domestic productivity is severely inhibited by not harnessing the talents and potential of women throughout a more gender balanced workforce. But to create a more gender-balanced workforce, more women are simply needed in fields dominated by men. Key to uprooting this entrenched societal norm is by empowering women with self-belief and ambition to overcome any obstacle, particularly gender bias.
Identify any marginally successful woman and you’ll find their gender was not an excuse to fail or reason for special privileges. They relied upon their own hard work and resilience to succeed in their chosen fields. And whilst harder for women because of historical precedents, it is passion and drive that helped them to disregard gender bias and focus on achieving their goals. What’s more, their value is based off their contribution to society. Gender, whilst integral to identity, is by no means the reason one should succeed or fail. Or be the reason a person should not be able to contribute to society to their highest potential.
So let’s consider gender inequality a hiccup in the road. If we arm women with self-determination and ensure equal opportunity, there is nothing to stop a woman from reaching her desired destination, even if it was paths previously only tread by men. Their success paves the way for other women to follow in their footsteps and succeed also. It’s through this enormous, collective effort we are well and truly on the way to creating a more equitable workforce and society. Apply this theory to a necessary male counterpart and the result is no different but equally as good.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, next stop; feminism.
Images sourced from The New York Times