Scrolling down on social media a few days ago I came across a strange username with the prefix ‘Equalist’. Apparently, the girl who uses this prefix is against feminism. She sees ‘equalism’ as superior to ‘feminism’. For her certain feminists feel threatened by the idea of equalists. She says, “Maybe certain feminists have realized that people have started to see right through the lies and hypocrisy of modern feminism and pseudo feminism.” This made me dig into this debate a little more. I found certain reasons as to “Why the term Equalism cannot replace Feminism?”
According to the Women, Peace and Security Index, 2019 by Georgetown University, India ranks 133 out of 167 countries. The indicator is based on the parameters of inclusion, justice and security. Along with this, India has etched its name as one of the most unsafe countries for women in the world. Living in India, we actually do not need any indicator to ratify this. We are the prime witness of what happens to women around us. So, in this light we expect women to be the torchbearers of feminism. But the reality is different and a lot of the women are actually against it.
Misconceptions about Feminism
Many women do not identify with the idea of feminism due to the deeply rooted idea of patriarchy. Though it stands for equality, it is seen by some as anti-men, a movement that intends to assert the superiority of women over men. Hence, they attach negative connotations to feminism. A feminist is stereotyped as someone who smokes, drinks heavily, abuses shamelessly, does not believe in the institution of marriage, does not wear pink, and loathes men. But feminism is far from this gaze.
What could have possibly led to these misconceptions? Why is a feminist seen stereotypically as one against men or equality? How is this stereotyping fueled by misinformed celebrities? In a country where film stars are seen as idols, misinformation given out by these stars proves fatal. Popular stars like Kareena Kapoor do not associate themselves with feminism. They assert their belief in equality oblivious to the fact that feminism does stand for equality. When we say feminism stands for equality, many are not convinced.
Many women do not identify with the idea of feminism due to the deeply rooted idea of patriarchy.
Why not Equalism?
Equalism as a broader idea looks at everyone in the same light. It advocates that human beings are fundamentally equal and therefore entitled to equal resources. The idea of equality historically popularized masculinity and brotherhood. Even today it is the cornerstone of many Constitutions. Be it the French Revolution or the US Declaration of Independence,1776, the idea emphasized is, “All men are created equal.”
Thus, a concept which historically denied women personhood cannot be used to define the Feminist movement. Though an equal society is important the first step to it is attaining gender equality. No country in the world can yet say that they have achieved gender equality. how can anyone advocate being an equalist when the playing field has not been leveled in the first place?
Adichie, a Nigerian writer, highlights the importance of why one must advocate feminism and not equalism. She writes, “Why does it have to be you as a woman? Why not you as a human being? This type of question is a way of silencing a person’s specific experiences. Of course, I am a human being but there are particular things that happen to me in the world because I am a woman.”
Feminism is inclusively evolving
Feminism has not disassociated itself from other issues. Associating it with only equality of women defeats its purpose. It has become inter-sectional and addresses the issues of caste, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc. In the same vein, it works to liberate men from the toxicity of society. Apart from patriarchy, it has broadened its focus towards ‘kyriarchy’, a social system built around domination, oppression and submission.
Do we really need a broader term of equalism to associate ourselves with when we know it cannot achieve equal goals for everyone?
Feminism has come a long way. It is still a tool to give an extra boost to women along with other marginalized people who were denied equality historically. Hence, substituting it with the concept of equalism would be like overlooking the centuries of struggle.
Therefore, the perception of feminism needs to be changed. Feminism fights not only for ‘us’ but for ‘them’ as well. The only enemy here is the structural oppression which affects every person in one way or the other.
A man tied in the shackles of patriarchy needs a voice too, which feminism provides. Hence, viewing it only in a negative light would steer one away from the reality of inter-sectional struggle. We live in a highly unequal society. Do we really need a broader term of equalism to associate ourselves with when we know it cannot achieve equal goals for everyone?
Simran Dhawan is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.