Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Yes, I'm a Feminist!

F for Feminist
Photo: fanpop.com
Yes, I am a feminist with a capital F, and if I’ve managed to scare a few men by my admission, then I’m all the better for it.

Feminism has long been regarded as a dirty word by both men and women. Society has made women believe that subscribing to feminism is akin to being misandrous, and women are afraid of being branded a feminist for fear that being one will chase all the good men away. If those are the reasons most women hesitate taking on the feminist label, then this entry should assuage those fears.

The feminist movement exists to redress a social wrong perpetuated against women - a social wrong that assumes women are less than men and should be treated as such. Since the beginning of time, women have been relegated to the background, and when they fight to assert themselves, they’ve been punished, criticized or derided. Why is that?

Why is it that women in certain countries are prohibited from obtaining an education, or driving, but men aren’t? Why is it men could vote in the 19th century without any resistance, but suffragettes had to fight for women’s right to vote? Why are cases of rape and physical abuse of women treated with deplorable levity, and in a manner that suggests the women asked or deserved to be disrespected and violated? Why are women, in some places of worship, forced to wear skirts and/or cover their heads? Why are women still paid less than their male counterparts for the same job in this present day and age? And why do corporate boards have so few women sitting on them, which in turn begs the question - what happens to all those smart, intelligent and capable women in the workforce?

In most workplaces, gender bias aka sexism isn’t glaring, but take a look closer and you’ll see it exists, albeit in a subtle form. It takes the form of someone walking into an office and assuming you’re the secretary simply because you’re a woman. They make no attempt to ask if you are, but automatically assume that as the only woman in a room full of men, you’re the secretary. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a secretary, it’s just that people deem women incapable of leadership.

Gender discrimination may take the form of a male colleague irreverently dismissing a female colleague’s legitimate argument by picking up a newspaper to read because, in his mind, she’s in no place to argue with him, a man. I can bet a million dollars that if he were having the same argument with a male colleague, he wouldn’t dream of touching a newspaper, let alone read it.

Another form of gender bias focuses on a woman’s behavior. If she’s assertive and doesn’t suffer fools gladly, she’s called disagreeable, rude and bossy because men believe that women should be docile and reserved. But if the tables are turned, would the same adjectives be used to describe men who are assertive? The answer is no. Instead what would be said is that they have leadership qualities. What many people fail to understand is that whatever behavioral trait a woman exhibits at any given time is only human, and shouldn’t be viewed as bizarre or unbecoming of women.

In this present day and age, where men and women hold jobs in the corporate environment, I think it’s only fair to ask men to do their own share of the house work which entails cooking, cleaning and child rearing among other things. No modern man should ever think it’s enough to bring home the bacon, and then put his feet up at home just because he’s a man. If any man still holds on to that mindset, he needs to know the 1950s want him back badly.

On a positive note, in 2004, the Norwegian government mandated that at least 40% of board members of public limited companies be women to ensure they made it past the glass ceiling into the C-suite. This policy has considerably improved the gender disparity that plagued several boardrooms in the past and encouraged many more European countries to institute similar quotas. Hopefully, the rest of the world will take note and follow suit.

The fundamental belief feminists hold is that women are no less than men; therefore they deserve to be treated fairly and as their equal. I don’t believe the hogwash that feminists are anti-men and/or shrews. On the contrary, feminists believe that the strengths of both genders can be amplified and their weaknesses diminished when they work hand in hand and not against each other. And until gender equality is achieved, feminism will remain a force to be reckoned with.

For every action, there’s an equal but opposite reaction. In the case of feminism, the reaction is getting fiercer, I think.