I was born a feminist. Before someone misinterprets this term and calls me a man-hating feminazi, let me clarify what feminism actually stands for. It means that men and women should be treated equally. We never say women are superior or better than men. We just want everyone to be treated equally without regards to their gender.
I know some would immediately ask why this is called feminism and why not something like equalism if equality is the thing that we are striving for. It is just that we focus on the discrimination of women, on the denied opportunities and on the stereotypical notions about women. As a woman, I find it easier to identify the discrimination against women and fight for justice, so that equality can prevail.
I remember many instances of my childhood where I’d question the cultural customs and proverbs that dictate the roles of women and/or degrade women. I’ve argued so much with my mom about these that she granted me the title of lawyer. Growing up, I always thought women had it tough and men had it very easy. Without stepping into another person’s shoes, it is difficult to judge their journey, isn’t it? Let me share an incident that happened a few years ago that triggered a shift in my perspective.
I knew a three-year-old boy whose favourite colour was pink. He always wanted to be dressed in pink. His preferred toys were of pink or a related hue. He liked everything that came in pink colour. I met him two years later and was surprised to see that all his things were blue and not a trace of pink was to be found. When asked about it, he said that he changed his favourite colour to blue. Apparently, he had come to realize that pink is a girl’s colour and blue is a boy’s colour.
At first, I was annoyed by what was taught to the kid. Why would a colour be associated with a gender and why would this flawed correlation influence kids in choosing something as simple as their favourite colour? Then, I was taken aback when I realized that even little kids are changed to fit society’s stereotypes when they are just in primary school. It then occurred to me that men are also expected to do and be certain things. They are also under constant pressure to conform to some ridiculous norms.
Granted, society is explicitly more harsh on women, but men also undergo shrouded forms of sexism that isn’t always talked about. When I started viewing the world from an egalitarian perspective, I realized that in a patriarchal society, no one wins. While the way a woman is hindered is visible in plain sight, the way a man is hindered is more subtle and mostly invisible.
Society expects a specific set of traits from specific genders. It chains everyone with an anchor of stereotypes. These expectations do play a big part in enslaving women and doesn’t harm men as much as it does to women. However, irrespective of gender, being a square peg trying to fit into a smaller circular hole is always difficult. The square peg ends up having to shrink itself only to get stuck inside and suffocating.
Those who meet society’s expectations can sail smoothly no matter what their gender is. In fact, they would even be praised for upholding traditional values. Those who do not fit society’s perception of the norm are chided and considered as misfits or rebels. Society would disapprove their choices and/or try to convince them to do what is “natural” and “normal”. The problem is that the expectations are skewed.
No one can possibly perfectly fit into what the society demands of them in general. And no one needs to. We are all unique human beings with our own different personalities, likes, dislikes, interest, strengths, weaknesses, passions, fears, etc. Requiring a certain trait from someone just because of their gender is messed up. Hence, it is ever so important to build up the courage and strength to be ourselves instead of pretending to fit the norm.
Here is a beautiful poem by Nancy R. Smith that sums up my feelings and inspires me to constantly think from other people’s viewpoint:
For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong, there is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.
For every woman who is tired of acting dumb, there is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of “knowing everything.”
For every woman who is tired of being called “an emotional female,” there is a man who is denied the right to weep and to be gentle.
For every woman who is called unfeminine when she competes, there is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity.
For every woman who is tired of being a sex object, there is a man who must worry about his potency.
For every woman who feels “tied down” by her children, there is a man who is denied the full pleasures of shared parenthood.
For every woman who is denied meaningful employment or equal pay, there is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.
For every woman who was not taught the intricacies of an automobile, there is a man who was not taught the satisfactions of cooking.
For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation, there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier.
P.S. Blue and Pink are colours. They have nothing to do with gender.