What comes to your mind when you’re asked about feminism? Is it a fight for women rights? Is it women educating society about their rights? Or is it going on a wild goose chase? There are many ways to explain feminism but the most obvious one is equality of men and women, not ‘sameness’ in every aspect. Many people believe that they‘ve solved feminism issues but in many areas women are fighting to reclaim their space in society, freedom of speech and demanding justice from the system. It’s a fight to not live as a second class citizens in their own country, a fight for basic rights, access to education and health services. Women are facing emotional abuse, forced marriages, domestic and physical violence and sexual harassment every day. They are considered inferior to men and this is not natural and desirable for an orderly society.
Many people in Pakistan dismiss women march assuming that it is foreign funded and such women have intentions to promote western culture. Most women march beat around the bush, leaving elephant in the room. Many consider it against family or cultural values. There are billions of people who both externally and internally do not stick up for the idea of women having equal rights and opportunities as they believe that they’ve already reached the equality of men and women. The patriarchal traditionalist orthodox abandon feminism as western idea menacing traditional social structures.
There are people who believe in equal rights but perceive feminism a movement that doesn’t go with their personal beliefs or values. It’s immensely comprehensible that our certain outlook on feminism are embedded in our own personal and direct experiences. If we have personally encountered inequality, we know beyond doubt that it exists.
There are thousands of reasons that people loathe the expression feminism and feminist movement. One of them is that feminism has been identified as intimidating women. Many people worry that men will lose out of power, authority, control and above all economic opportunities. It’s also believed by the people that feminism will destroy religious beliefs and established gender roles because of certain expectations of men and women. We expect men to be assertive, leader, provider, strong and driven, and we expect women to be supportive, emotional, helpful, sensitive and fragile. We see men as taking charge and women taking care. It’s not because every single one of us is a misogynist. It’s simply because men taking charge and women taking care is what we have been exposed to throughout our lives. If we flip the roles of men and women, it might feel awkward but one should flip it to test it, to see the world differently because many people feel that feminism will bring negativity in society, culture, marriages, power, authority, dynamics, jobs, business and economic opportunities.
Now misogyny is usually comprehended as prejudice against women. You’ve been blessed with liberal husband, benevolent father or a kind brother who doesn’t think misogyny isn’t present in the world. There are men out there who say that misogyny is designed to keep woman under control by controlling her activities, friends, finances, property, choice of marriage, divorce, child birth, physical and domestic violence. All these behaviour accentuate inferiority of women no matter how educated or liberal an individual woman may be, as we are living in a world where half of its population is penalized by the other half which highlights the injustice and imbalance of legal system.
Most of us are not educated enough to understand that Islam came to protect the rights of women and to raise their honour and status in the society. Islamic perspective says that women have been granted their rights but they have not been given to them due to lack of knowledge. Before Islam women were treated like commodities and were not allowed to own property or contribute to society. They were treated as inferior, oppressed and unequal to men. These stereotypes mystify Islam with cultural practices and fail to acknowledge that Islam has empowered women with unprecedented rights.
Islam proclaimed that pursuit of education is mandatory on every man and woman. Women are allowed to use her natural talents and skill sets to pursue knowledge in different areas of life to contribute positively to society. Women held venerable positions as teachers, scholars, scientists and physicians throughout Islamic history. Woman has the right to work and spend money as she wishes, to manage all her assets and to own a property. It’s not compulsion to spend her money on her family.
A man must still spend on his wife and provide for her regardless her financial state. Woman has the right to choose her husband and to keep her original name once she’s married. She can’t be forced to marry someone she dislikes which is a cultural practice and is prohibited in Islam. In the same way, woman has the right to seek divorce. Islam placed great emphasis on the importance of respecting women. It’s an obligation of men to treat women with kindness. Women are fighting to reclaim these rights and to demand justice from the legal system.
Woman making woman aware of the rights that they’ve been deprived of. They deserve a type of political action known as feminism. It’s not about hating men or adopting western values nor it’s against religion and it doesn’t want women to be superior to men. It’s about equal rights and treatment under the law. Women demanding protection, education, voting right, to be treated equally in the workplace and at home. These are some basic rights which’ve been taken away from them and feminism is a platform by which they’re reclaiming their rights by spreading awareness against unfairness and unrighteousness.
In Pakistan where feminism is considered redundant by many, imagine what Pakistan would be like if we all contribute positively towards this mechanism, leaving no stone unturned. Visualize a Pakistan where teenage females doesn’t commit suicide if they get pregnant, where a widowed woman is not forced to leave her own house, where a divorced women is not shamed, if she chooses to live alone after divorce, where women are not harassed at workplace and even if it does happen, they can take their case to the authorities without any fear, where women are not considered unequal to men if they work to feed their families, where women are bosses, where women are paid equally to men, where girls can complete their education, where a woman is not forced to marry a guy whom she dislikes, where women are not forced to have children, where women can walk freely in the parks, markets or on the streets without worrying about acid attacks by anyone.
All this can be achieved through feminism, by pleading the government to spend more on women’s education, health, by putting women as board members of the company to make working conditions better by making the other party face legal consequences, by accentuating women’s milestone in media, by deserting media to portray stereotype about women and by funding NGO’s that are working towards feminism.
As a society, it’s important to understand that men can do certain things well and women other things. Men and women are complimentary to each other, it would be wrong to compare apples to oranges. No nation can rise to the heights of glory without its women standing by its side.