Feminism. Why is it so hard to associate oneself with this ideology? The label “feminist” comes with a stigma in our society. If you don’t believe me, try mentioning that you are a feminist somewhere on social media and wait for the string of hate-filled comments. So what is feminism really about? How does one go about defining it or can it be defined? Is it about who will prepare the meals in the house and take care of the children versus who will leave the house to work every day? This feminism ideology came to light when females were oppressed and thought of as the weaker sex as compared to men, both physically and mentally. As is the nature of history, definitions evolved through time. Women before our time fought for the right to vote, right to work, and the right to gain education. One can say that these issues are still prevalent in our society today, but it is no doubt that new meanings have been added over the years. Women are able to work for the most part, but equal pay is still an issue. Women can vote, but their opinions are not always valued. Most women are able to get education, but other responsibilities are often imposed on them to guilt them into changing their priorities.
Unfortunately, when we think of feminists, we think of hostile women marching on the streets whining about who will warm the food. Why is it that a woman holding a picket sign telling men to warm their own “roti” is the defining image of a feminist today? What about the women who actually struggle on a daily basis? The woman who goes to work in an environment where she is subject to harassment by not only men but also women is somehow not the face of feminism on social media. What about the mother who has a PhD and still chooses to stay at home to take care of her children? Is she less of a feminist than the mother who chooses to focus on her career instead of her children? Feminism isn’t about being a superwoman who can do it all (take care of her family, gain a degree, and have a successful job). It is about a woman’s right to choose how to live her life. If a female chooses to be a homemaker rather than a breadwinner, she is not any less of a feminist.
The problem with modern day feminists is that they have an image of a perfect female according to their ideologies. They try to fit every woman in their set criteria. Although these feminists claim to be fighting for the rights of females, they systematically take women’s rights to choose away. For example, the European and American media has taken the issue of the hijab and distorted the reality many times. Feminists in the west seem to think that a woman wearing the hijab is a form of oppression, and as a result it is advertised as such to young Muslim females living there. Over the years the hijab has been depicted as a form of oppression in the western society and feminists have tried to “free” women from such oppression by protesting, propaganda, and the utilization of social media platforms. In doing so, they took away the Muslim women’s right to choose how to dress. Not only this, they also restricted her freedom of religion. Not all girls that wear hijab are oppressed and need to be saved by the west. As a tribute to the feminist ideology, feminism should not be universally defined. Rather, each woman should bring her own meaning to it. Setting rules and standards that only applied to females is part of the mentality that women before our time fought against.
Surely, one cannot talk about feminism without talking about men. Men have a pivotal role in all of this. Due to centuries of oppression, women started fighting for their rights. This is not to say that the oppressor has always been the male gender. Females have oppressed each other, perhaps even more than men have since the beginning of time. While men set the standards, women upheld them. Men defined the rules, but women applied them. Often, females are much harsher on each other than men are. Women often judge their counterparts based on how they dress, how they talk, or even how they choose to live their lives. Men are not completely innocent, but the blame cannot be placed on them entirely. Females often lack the tribal attitude that men have towards other men. In order for feminism to work, women need to see the entire picture rather than their own problems. Who makes the roti is a personal problem, but having the right to gain education is a societal issue. Blaming men should not be a pillar of feminism. If one truly wants to be a feminist, they should learn to work with men to attain gender equality rather than villainizing them.
Speaking of villainizing, feminists are often done so by men of religion. There is a small part of our society that lacks the understanding of where feminism and Islam mix together. In their minds, these are two conflicting matters. Apparently, a feminist cannot be a good Muslim. This part of our society conveniently forgets about the women in the Prophet Muhammad’s (P.B.U.H) era. These women were homemakers, but also teachers, leaders, and politicians. They fought wars and lead people into battles. These women chose how to live their lives. They can be used as examples even today, not only for Muslims, but for non-Muslims as well. They are great role models for young women. The issues these great women dealt with were far greater than the issues that modern day feminists seem to be concerned about. Nevertheless, there is no excuse in Islam to oppress women. Feminism is embedded in the history of Islam, yet it is rarely brought up. Could the issue be that history is being studied and interpreted by men rather than women? If women interpreted Islamic law and Islamic history, perhaps feminism would have a different face in our society.
You see, true feminism isn’t about women having the right to talk about their personal problems in public. If a husband cooks and cleans the house, that is great, but it shouldn’t be the goal of a feminist to never wash the dishes in the house. The burden of a true feminist is immense because the true feminist has much higher aspirations and concerns than the “feminist” that would rather argue about making “roties” and warming the bed. A true feminist has vision and wants to move forward alongside men rather than by stepping on their necks. They are leaders with the potential to make our society better because they believe in justice and equality rather than privilege and class. True feminists, whether male or female, are rare to come by. It is easy to become absorbed in the artificial feminism that plagues our society today. It is about time to rethink feminism, and move forward with the true ideologies in mind. The outcome will surely be a more just and inhabitable society.