Welcome to the world of social media. A world where the quantity of information exceeds the quality, and the quality of arguments – exchanged on the basis of the huge pile of irrelevant information – is excruciatingly low. In this world, there are individuals who ‘comment’ on a status about safety for women expressing the opinion that ‘’men also get raped’’. And unfortunately, this counter to women rights does not restrict itself to the virtual world, but deeply swims amongst real people in the real world.
Let’s get one thing straight before we delve into specifics – Men’s Rights are NOT a counter to Women Rights. Now let’s see why:
THE PROBLEM OF OPPOSITES’
The opposite of more is less, high is low and up is down. And the opposite of Boy? Girl. Our teacher telling us that one gender is exactly the opposite of another when we are 5 years old is when social conditioning begins to tell us that the world is a battle of the sexes. Feminine qualities are read as exactly the opposite of masculine qualities and boys begin doing everything to suppress their feminine side just because they feel it’s completely the opposite of the behavior they are expected to have. It’s the same with girls who suppress their masculine traits in the fear of being socially castrated.
The truth is that the opposite of a Girl is Woman and the opposite of Boy is Man. In order to understand this better, let’s look at the ‘manly’ virtues or characteristics which society feels are held by men – courage, responsibility, authority, sacrifice. Women (obviously) display the same characteristics as well. When a woman displays these characteristics, she will feel like a ‘woman’ not in the sense that she feels very feminine, but in the sense that she feels like a mature individual or grown up, and not like a girl. And, it is the same with men and boys. Every individual has both feminine and masculine traits, thus these are the opposite of opposites, and they are in a harmonious blend.
So firstly and fore mostly, lets eliminate the ideology that women’s rights are an opposite of men’s rights because women are the opposite of men.
AREN’T WE ALL HUMANS?
When we talk of countering Women Rights with Men’s rights, it is essential to realize that we are all human beings and gender inequality and patriarchy has affected both genders with equal impact. That’s why it is very widely stated that women’s rights are human rights. So whenever someone attempts to counter a feminist by saying that they are ignoring 50% of the world population, it will serve well to remind them that they are the ones ignoring the 50% human beings that feminists are working for too.
Patriarchy has given birth to problems of toxic masculinity, sexual aggression, sexual assault and mental illnesses amongst the male gender. Therefore, boys and men are not just allies in the modern feminist movement, they are a part of it. Boys and men are and can be feminists. And feminism, unfortunately, cannot be replaced with ‘humanism’ but we’ll come on that a little later.
Thus, since we’re all in this together, let’s make sexism our common enemy rather than turning against each other.
PATRIARCHY DIRECTLY AFFECTS WOMEN
We are all in this together and everything, but now is the time to look at the numbers, frequency and intensity. Patriarchy is known to directly affect women, as it indirectly affects men. This is presumed as fact and evidence tell us to believe that women are the oppressed class. While some may point out that there is something fishy about individuals willingly calling themselves oppressed, it should be seen as a beautiful movement where disadvantaged human beings are joining hands to fight a battle against their oppressor – not men, patriarchy.
Women are paid lesser than men on a global average. There are less women leaders as members of parliament in the world. Women corporate leaders are much lesser than men and the list can go on.
Therefore, it is important and beautiful that the world is pushing for greater gender equality and women empowerment. It is a time of dedication and celebration rather than a time of pointing fingers and accusing feminists for being inconsiderate or exclusive.
THE ‘F’ WORD
Maybe it is the F-Word that is ‘Feminism’ or ‘Feminist’ which encourages some of our sisters and brothers to assume that we should bring up men’s rights as a counter to women’s rights or start reminding ‘feminists’ that it’s the international men’s day.
History behind the word ‘Feminism’
The word ‘Feminism’ evolved in the 1900s with the suffrage movement wherein women demanded the right to vote. Of course, men were not a part of this movement as voting was a right already granted to them on the basis of gender. Soon, feminism became a movement of women of color, disabled women and women belonging to poor economic backgrounds. And now, feminism as we witness it, is an all-inclusive movement advocating for total equality amongst every individual in the world. Gender Based Issues, Issues between the rich and the poor and racism issues are not exclusive of each other anymore. Therefore, feminism is a dynamic movement continuously evolving with time.
Replacing ‘Feminism’ with another word
So you suggest that why we don’t replace the ‘f’ word with something more inclusive like ‘humanism’ or ‘equalism’? Because we cannot – by fact and by substance. We cannot change the word in substance because this dynamic movement has stemmed from the efforts of several women who sacrificed their blood and sweat to work towards inheriting their birth rights or rights which should have been theirs in the first place. Changing the word will disrespect and negate the works of noble individuals and insult the legacy that has worked its way up to evolving into a movement which works for the rights of everyone.
We also cannot change the word ‘feminism’ because of basic fact and logic. The logic that girls and women are the oppressed classes and taking away the name will take away one more right of representation. Also, the obvious fact that ‘Humanism’ and ‘Equalism’ mean entirely different things and cannot be used to refer to dynamic movement which strives for equal rights for everyone. Let’s take a look at what they mean –
Humanism – The term humanism was first used during the Renaissance when new ideas were being born and Europe was undergoing a major revolution of thought. Humanism, itself, actually emphasizes the importance and value in human reason, attributing human achievement and successes to humans rather than a supernatural entity. Humanism essentially focuses on how wonderful the human mind is and how humans need not rely on an invisible entity to conduct their lives. Humanism celebrates the innovative and progressive ideals that were being introduced and celebrated during the Renaissance.
Equalism – Equalism or the concept of an individual being referred to as an ‘equalist’ will only make sense in a world where people are equal to each other. An equalist will believe in the status quo of equality rather than striving towards it. Equalism will exist in a world where individuals are treated as equal to each other.
Therefore, we learn that we don’t have to fight based on our gender, but fight the common enemy that we find in patriarchy. The discussion of Men’s Rights along with Women’s Rights is completely justified and plain sensible, but using it as a counter to demean Women Rights, is not.
Aarushi is a 19-year-old Law Student based in New Delhi, India. She is the founder of a student-led initiative for educating girls called SDG5. She is passionate about working for gender equality and for a better world.