You’ve probably heard about it by now – it’s one of the most vocal social justice movements this side of the millennium. Worried about how it might affect you, your friends, and your social outlook and what you can do about it? Well, worry no more – here’s a quick guide to FEMINISM.

What is FEMINISM?

Feminism isn’t really a brand-new social movement – it’s been around for decades, though its form and message may have evolved with the times. At its heart, the feminism movement is one concerned with gender equality – to get women the same rights as men.

Opponents of feminism sometimes characterise feminism as an uncouth movement of the bra-burning variety. Others point to the rise of social justice warriors on Tumblr, and their tendency to over-react to perceived signs of discrimination, as a criticism of the superficiality of the feminism movement. But feminism is defined by neither of these.

Just as we don’t define particular religious groups by isolated acts of religious terrorism, or perhaps even define animal rights activists by the misleading, controversial campaigns of PETA, one should not be quick to tar all feminists with the brush of “superficial” or “overly-sensitive”.

Feminism is about gender equality. It’s about giving women the same opportunities that men have, whether it’s in school, at work, or just generally in society.

Why won’t FEMINISM just go away?

So now we’ve established the longevity of the feminist movement. The next question is – is there really a need for it to remain?

The short answer? Yes.

Social influencer and self-proclaimed anti-feminist Xiaxue noted that there really is no need for feminism, as women are no longer oppressed by men. In support of that, she cites the fact that men have to carry heavy items at F&B service jobs, pay for the meal on dates and generally give in to women all the time.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that females have equal rights as males do. What Xiaxue refers to – and what is commonly weaponised against the feminist movement – is something known as benevolent sexism. This is defined as an affectionate yet patronising attitude towards women, and manifests itself in the perception that women need the help, protection, and support of men.

There’s definitely a thin line between courtesy and kindness on the one hand and benevolent sexism on the other. While helping a woman open the door when her hands are full definitely leans towards the “kindness” end of the scale, giving a woman an unasked-for explanation on something that she is assumed not to know (typically known as “mansplaining”) is much further removed.

Benevolent sexism is one indicator that we still need feminism, as it embodies a belief that women are helpless, and need men to guide them along in all things. But the need for feminism can also be seen in many things. We see it in the emphasis on building families and having children, where mothers are given up to 16 weeks of maternity leave, but fathers only 2. We see it in the workplace, where women are still paid less and are less likely to advance to senior management positions. We see it in schools, where gender bias affects the skills taught to boys and to girls.

There remains a need for the feminist movement even today – and that’s why it won’t be going anywhere.

What can I do about FEMINISM?

As one of the most misrepresented movements today, what feminism needs is to be afforded respect and legitimacy. Without these, there will be no weight to any message the movement tries to bring forth.

You, too, can help to do something about the feminism movement, simply by treating it with the respect it deserves. Feminism isn’t a joke word, and women who want to prove that they are just as qualified as any man should not be laughed at or looked down upon.

We get it. You might be allergic to the “feminist” label because the movement’s been attacked in the media, and the label now carries negative connotations. But so long as people continue to be tentative about it, the feminist movement will never get anywhere.

Feminism isn’t asking for male servitude, or for female domination. All it asks for is a chance, an opportunity for women to be on equal footing with their male counterparts. All it seeks is for women to be free to make their own choices, and to be respected for making those choices.

All it needs is your support, your understanding, and your voice.

Kara Quek

The article originally appeared in The Blue and Gold SMU magazine. 

Read the original post here.

Featured Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

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