What is Feminism and why is it important?
The word ‘feminism’ can be a scary and confusing word to some. Many people believe that feminism means hating men or wanting women to rule over everything– this could not be further from the truth chomas! Feminism simply means believing that men and women are equal, neither is better than the other and neither should be treated with more respect than the other – everyone should be equal on all levels, simple as that.
Why is feminism called “feminism” and not “humanism”?
While feminism is about achieving equal rights for both men and women, we still need to remember that women face more inequalities than men. For many years women have been seen as being less than or weaker than men. You may have even seen for yourself situations where men or boys are chosen as leaders and are given better treatment at school, work and even at home. Also think about the fact that women and girls are more in danger when they go out than men are, because women and girls are more vulnerable to harassment, rape and abuse.
Women are also more at risk of contracting HIV due to biological reasons such as having a larger surface area in the vagina where HIV transmission can happen. Women under the age of 24 are at higher risk of HIV because they have an immature genital tract that can tear easily during sex. Also hormonal changes makes women more susceptible to HIV infection. Teen girls are also vulnerable to getting pregnant, which often results in school drop-outs and it affects their future.
Then there’s the issue of sugar daddies or blessers. Women and young girls who have sex with much older men in exchange for gifts, money or status are disempowered to make decisions for themselves. They also put themselves at risk of contracting HIV as these sugar daddies often have multiple sexual partners.
So in order for equality between men and women to be achieved, more women need to be empowered and protected. Women and girls need to get to a place where they are as free as men and are treated fairly.
Why is Feminism Important?
Feminism allows equal opportunities for both sexes. Gender roles (a set of conforming rules that say how a person should behave based on their gender) can be harmful to both men and women. The popular belief is that women and girls are meant to take care of the home while boys and men are meant to go out and provide for the family. Can you imagine not being allowed to go to school just because you’re a girl? Or being forced to stay at home and look after the house just because you’re a woman? This is the reality that many girls around the world face, even in South Africa. They are restricted simply based on their gender. It is also unfair to place pressure on boys to fulfil certain roles that are based on their gender. Feminism is about allowing both boys and girls the freedom to do what they want and making sure that people are not held back by gender roles and expectations whether it be at home, at school, in the workplace or in parliament.
Women and girls are the most vulnerable when it comes to rape. It’s gotten to a point where it’s even expected that a woman walking alone at night might get raped and in many parts of the world rape is not even seen as a serious crime. When a woman has been raped, how many times have we heard the blame being put on the victim and not the perpetrator? Women are asked what they wearing or if they were drinking at the time of the rape. It’s never the rape victim’s fault chomas! Feminism is about protecting everyone’s right to not have their bodies violated. Feminism is about teaching others not to rape and not blaming people for being raped. Feminism is about ending rape culture and striving for a world where no one has to fear being sexually assaulted.
Femininity and Feminism
Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to change who you are. You can still enjoy your femininity while being a feminist. Feminism has nothing to do with how you dress or how much make-up you wear. It has everything to do with striving for the same rights men have. Feminism also has nothing to do with your gender/sex. You can be a man and be a feminist too. Feminism shouldn’t degrade or ignore men. It’s not feminism if one gender is not noticed. As long as you believe that both men and women should be given equal opportunities, then you believe in feminism.
Beyoncé once said “If you’re a man who believes your daughter should have the same opportunities and rights as your son, then you’re a feminist.” And, “if we allow girls to show their emotions and vulnerability, then we need to allow boys the same.”
We can’t call ourselves feminists yet deny boys the right to show their emotions. Whatever we teach young girls, we should teach young boys the same things. Girls and boys should be given the same responsibilities and learn to meet equal challenges so that they both know that they are capable of achieving anything they want. We need to stop saying there are ‘male’ and ‘female’ jobs. We’ve seen how capable men can take care of children (mannies – men who are nannies), just as much as we’ve realised how awesome women can be as CEOs of a company. Whatever opportunities there are available for men, there should be equal opportunities for women. Feminism should not be seen as a horrible word. The sooner we fully understand what it means, the quicker our efforts towards making equal opportunities available for both males and females.
What are your thoughts on feminism chomas? Share in the comments below.
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