Feminism vs Equalism - a Clarification

August 31, 2015 Written By Harnidh Kaur

The most consistent and vitriolic critique I receive when I claim I’m a feminist isn’t my mother telling me I’ll never marry anyone. It is, in fact, a reaction to the use of the word ‘feminism’. There’s a reason I call it the F word. It makes people cringe. It brings out emotions, and ideas that contradict and confuse.

So. WHY why do I insist on using the word ‘feminism’, and not ‘equalism’?

Because we haven’t earned the right to use that word yet.

The word ‘equalist’ is a slide into complacency. Being an ‘equalist’ makes you totally inoffensive. Equalists tend to be afraid of conflict and want to be liked. Men, specifically, who call themselves equalists are wilfully ignoring the challenges women STILL doface, despite years and yards of progress.

When we talk about equality, in a lot of cases men already hold the standard that women are trying to achieve. Pay gaps? Being afraid of walking down the road after 9pm? Having the government have a say in your reproductive rights?

For all the talk of inclusivity, these are specifically issues that women face.

Gender stereotyping affects men as well as women. Men are just as important in the discourse. But when we start talking about equality for men, it often comes to dominate the conversation, simply because men dominate the gender equation by virtue of having a penis, apparently. This derails any attempts to discuss the ongoing inequalities faced by women.

Women need space to talk about what’s happening to women today; women need our own conversation about issues that are unique to us.

Hence, feminism.

Some day, we will be able to just trust people to be sensible human beings and look out for each other. That’s when I’ll proudly call myself an equalist.

We don’t live in that world, though. Not yet.

Feminism is simply the radical notion that your sex, gender, skin colour, choices within the legal ambit, social strata, country of origin, and any such subsidiary classification does not exempt you from having access to basic human rights, dignity, and respect. This does not exclude men. It, in fact, actively involves them in the breakdown on patriarchy.

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Also, the word ‘feminism’ has a historical weight. Within it, it encompasses the struggle of hundreds of years in which thousands of women have taken part. To discard the word itself leads to a movement away from the crux of the matter- the fact that we’re trying to bring the oppressed classes to par with the traditionally dominating, not pulling the dominating class down to a subordinate position. A common misconception claims that women ‘want to take over men’. There’s a massive difference between the paradigms of subordination and distinction. And these paradigms need to be kept in mind when the word is used.

So there. I hope this helps.

For a quick reference, this is what I call a Newbie’s Feminist Manifesto.

 

My feminism doesn’t force

me to disregard my femininity

it doesn’t make me choose

between being comfortable

in my own skin, and being a

paradigm of capability, and it

doesn’t call my ability to love

and to be loved a weakness, for

it isn’t, and it does not demand

from me a decision that makes

me unhappy just to check off

points on a list that slots me

onto boxes of stereotypes and

bigotry, no, my feminism is only

mine, and that’s why it empowers me.

Feminism vs Equalism - a Clarification

August 31, 2015 Written By Harnidh Kaur

The most consistent and vitriolic critique I receive when I claim I’m a feminist isn’t my mother telling me I’ll never marry anyone. It is, in fact, a reaction to the use of the word ‘feminism’. There’s a reason I call it the F word. It makes people cringe. It brings out emotions, and ideas that contradict and confuse.

So. WHY why do I insist on using the word ‘feminism’, and not ‘equalism’?

Because we haven’t earned the right to use that word yet.

The word ‘equalist’ is a slide into complacency. Being an ‘equalist’ makes you totally inoffensive. Equalists tend to be afraid of conflict and want to be liked. Men, specifically, who call themselves equalists are wilfully ignoring the challenges women STILL doface, despite years and yards of progress.

When we talk about equality, in a lot of cases men already hold the standard that women are trying to achieve. Pay gaps? Being afraid of walking down the road after 9pm? Having the government have a say in your reproductive rights?

For all the talk of inclusivity, these are specifically issues that women face.

Gender stereotyping affects men as well as women. Men are just as important in the discourse. But when we start talking about equality for men, it often comes to dominate the conversation, simply because men dominate the gender equation by virtue of having a penis, apparently. This derails any attempts to discuss the ongoing inequalities faced by women.

Women need space to talk about what’s happening to women today; women need our own conversation about issues that are unique to us.

Hence, feminism.

Some day, we will be able to just trust people to be sensible human beings and look out for each other. That’s when I’ll proudly call myself an equalist.

We don’t live in that world, though. Not yet.

Feminism is simply the radical notion that your sex, gender, skin colour, choices within the legal ambit, social strata, country of origin, and any such subsidiary classification does not exempt you from having access to basic human rights, dignity, and respect. This does not exclude men. It, in fact, actively involves them in the breakdown on patriarchy.

Image Source

Also, the word ‘feminism’ has a historical weight. Within it, it encompasses the struggle of hundreds of years in which thousands of women have taken part. To discard the word itself leads to a movement away from the crux of the matter- the fact that we’re trying to bring the oppressed classes to par with the traditionally dominating, not pulling the dominating class down to a subordinate position. A common misconception claims that women ‘want to take over men’. There’s a massive difference between the paradigms of subordination and distinction. And these paradigms need to be kept in mind when the word is used.

So there. I hope this helps.

For a quick reference, this is what I call a Newbie’s Feminist Manifesto.

 

My feminism doesn’t force

me to disregard my femininity

it doesn’t make me choose

between being comfortable

in my own skin, and being a

paradigm of capability, and it

doesn’t call my ability to love

and to be loved a weakness, for

it isn’t, and it does not demand

from me a decision that makes

me unhappy just to check off

points on a list that slots me

onto boxes of stereotypes and

bigotry, no, my feminism is only

mine, and that’s why it empowers me.

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