Feminism Is About Freedom To Choose, Not Enforcing New Norms

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Feminism is often blamed for deteriorating the norms of society. It is considered another gender-based power dynamic that tries to oppress men and infiltrate the minds of women. It is accused of breaking the harmony of society by encouraging women to compete with me. But why doesn’t anyone understand that feminism is here for removing inequality in the norms?

Why don’t people try to delve deep into the idea of feminism and understand its goal of levelling the playing field for everyone? Feminism is here to provide people with the right to choose and not to enforce a new set of norms.

Today I came across a tweet which blamed feminism for normalising actions that are not good for women or the harmony of society. The tweet stated, “Feminism has done nothing but lie to women. Sleeping around isn’t fulfilling. Making your career more important than your family is not going to make you happy. And having children is not a hindrance, it’s a blessing.” The user who shared this tweet, Abby Johnson, is a best-selling author and speaker.

After reading this tweet, one thing popped into my mind- when has feminism said that a certain lifestyle or choice is the norm? In other words, when has feminism imposed any norm on women?

My understanding of feminism has always been about giving women the right to choose and make decisions in their lives. It is against patriarchy that has forced certain lifestyles as norms in women’s lives. Unlike patriarchy, feminism doesn’t villainise women for the choices they make, of course, leaving out those that harm innocent people. Also, feminism doesn’t advocate the supremacy of any gender. So the entire argument that the movement wants to displace men is misguiding.

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Norms of Feminism: Is there such a thing?

As far as choices are concerned, before antagonising any choice we need to consider what thought process goes behind it. This is because most of the norms in our society are set up by patriarchy and so whatever we deem as right or wrong comes from our background of patriarchal conditioning.

If we shame women for choosing careers over everything else, it is due to the patriarchal norm that women must care about their families first and then about themselves. This is a gendered thought because men are never shamed for prioritising their careers. If a woman is shamed for not having kids, it also comes from the patriarchal stereotype that women are born to be mothers. Being a mother is not only their duty but the role that defines their life. Women have has to struggle hard to have a career, education and agency in relationships and their sexual life. So before shaming women for reinforcing new norms for themselves, people need to ask, are we on an equal footing even today?

Are women given equal career opportunities? Are they not dress policed or body shamed? Is their consent respected at all the times? Yes, having a baby is a blessing, but only if a woman wants to do so on her own terms. No one else should get to decide whether it is having a family or a career that brings women happiness because it is different for every woman and accepting every choice and definition of happiness is the only norm that needs to be enforced.

The point is that feminism has never tried to impose anything on anyone. Its aim has always been to break the stagnancy of morality that patriarchy has set up in our society. Because for feminism, morality doesn’t have one definition. It is a subjective term that changes with situations and people.

Views expressed are the author’s own.