"I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up" – Malala Yousafzai
The above quote emphasizes how Malala has brought passion and drive to the feminist movement. Persevering in her fight for girls’ education, there are many lessons to take away from her actions. We all fight over what the label ‘feminism’ means but for me it’s all about empowerment. It’s not about being more powerful than men, it’s about having equal rights with protection, support and justice. It’s about very basic things.
This can be taken as the true meaning of feminism, Feminism is ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.’ Therefore, it does not mean that women should have more power than men, or have more rights than men. It simply means that, in all aspects of life whether it’s in a working environment, in schools or in social situations everyone should be equal, regardless of their gender.
Therefore, the goal of feminism is not to be more powerful than men, but to be equal. Hating men is actually called misandry (ingrained dislike against men). Many people think badly of feminism for this reason. As with any movement, there are radicals who call themselves feminists and portray it as a man hating ideology. But the whole movement cannot be defined by only a
small fraction of its members.
True feminism accepts women who are independent and build careers and don’t have children as well as women who want to get married and be stay at home mother. It’s important to know that there is nothing wrong with the traditional norms about family and marriage. Feminism also accepts women who like pink and wear makeup and dresses even though these are commonly seen as feminine.
What feminism is against is the generalizations that all women like the color pink and wear makeup and dresses. Feminism is therefore a source of empowerment for women that supports both men and women and understands that both genders have social issues that must be fixed. On the other hand, if we look into modern feminism around South Asia, we see how feminism is involved in life altering campaigns. For instance, campaigns that support the abortion of unwanted pregnancy and reproductive rights allow women to have the freedom of choice. Progress is being made, but statistics show that it is also very slow. There are many South Asian women who aren’t talked about much these days but have done great services to their communities and the world.
These are the hidden figures in history. Kumari Jayawardena is a great feminist activist who is fighting for the rights of women, but if I mention her, not a lot of people would know who she is.
Sarojini Naidu, who advocated
for women’s civil rights and anti-
imperialism was also an Indian poet and a fierce proponent of the Indian independence movement.
Feminism and freedom were at the core of her ideology, having helped to establish the Women’s Indian Association in 1917, which sought equal rights like the right to vote and represent. Naidu was also involved in the creation of stri dharma, a magazine that presented international news from a feminist perspective. She is an inspiration for all South Asian women. From colonial times, women have made highly visible contributions to the Sri Lankan economy. Today, they play a crucial role, not only as workers in tea plantations but also in public sectors and garment industries where they have won equal pay for the same work as men. And there are many important women’s organizations in Sri Lanka which are dedicated to bringing more equal rights to women.
This is the twenty-first century, and equality between men and women has improved massively over the years. But we still have a long way to go and certain social situations are still challenging. Sometimes I believe some people get put off by the inclusion of the word ‘feminine’, and therefore do not wish to be a part of the label. If ‘equalist’ is the more popular word to use, perhaps there would be more people who would be willing to label themselves as feminists, and therefore speak out about the topic to make a change.
There are people who believe that we do not need feminism today, but nothing could be further from the truth. Women have struggled for equality and against oppression for centuries and although some battles have been partly won, such as the right to vote and equal access to education, women are still disproportionately affected by all forms of violence and by discrimination in every aspect of life. It is beyond not okay.
Feminism means a million things to a million people, especially because it is such a misunderstood concept. But we don’t need to go to everyone and tell them what the true meaning of feminism is, they should be able to understand on their own.
Today, feminism is a celebration of what women have already achieved and accomplished despite all of the roadblocks placed in their way and of what we can
still do today, tomorrow and always. Feminism does not mean hating men or not wanting to get married or conform to traditional gender norms. Feminism is about having the freedom to make decisions. To make this happen, we all have a part to play. Feminism is for everyone. Let us work together to ensure that everyone everywhere has equal rights and equal opportunities, regardless of their gender.