By Firoza Dodhi
I am so excited by the chance to write this article. The issue of the twenty-first century Feminist movement as well as both the trials and successes faced by its champions is important to me. I understand the importance of not wanting our identities to be exclusively allocated to one cause, one movement or notion—but I think announcing our commitment to being Feminists is necessary today.
Feminism to me encompasses so much: things such as allowing women equal opportunity in the workplace; ensuring every female feels safe and respected because of her femininity and not defenceless against the patriarchy because of it. In the same breath, I believe it also encompasses such things as allowing men to have equal paternity-leave as their wives without questioning their masculinity and teaching young boys that loving art, loving dance and loving peaceful things does not equate effeminateness.
The media and popular culture began to more widely draw attention to the changing dynamics of Feminism after Beyoncé’s proclamation during her 2014 VMA performance. Later on, humanitarian Emma Watson’s United Nations speech echoed an idea I am going to repeat on this blog today. The definition of a feminist shared by these two women reflected here, is as follows: “a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes- the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”
I had the opportunity to attend an incredible presentation hosted at University College London about Discrimination and Bigotry. What I learned there, echoed in my mind as I began this article. It frightens me that when I begin to enter: “why feminism...” on the search engine Google the first hits that come up are: ‘is bad’ and ‘is bullshit.’ Society makes it so simple to create standards or norms, which when consistently encouraged, become restrictive. We perpetuate societal stereotypes in the blink of an eye. We as a species become so inclined to follow the pack where it often is simplest to follow the most commonly accepted denominator. This can give way to biased stereotypes, which, coupled with: hatred, anger and an unwillingness to change, create a cycle of oppression. Derived social subtleties are used to create a consistent force of discrimination.
This interesting phenomenon dictates that there is a difference between males and females. When considering the concept of gender equality it is important to acknowledge the difference between being in a minority and marginalizing individuals. Marginalized amongst other things, is a synonym for: ostracized, side-lined, and demoted. There are countless stories being shared of the girl-child demeaned, forgotten and destroyed. Places such as China, which implemented a one-child policy that often had parents who bore a daughter abandoning her—or worse. Places such as Ghana, where childless or widowed women are suppressed by patriarchal gender norms—ostracized and labelled as witches. Places such as India, where a young woman was savagely raped and died – just one case of an unreported plethora—for travelling unaccompanied in the evening.
I am so adamant that a change can be achieved though.
The brutal rape and death of medical student Jyoti Singh in 2012 in the Indian capital of New Delhi sparked a media flurry. The subsequent mass media attention that came from her case is indicative of a major change. During a summer programme in 2013 I argued with a classmate about the "point" of gender equality: I mentioned this case. It had shocked me. It had hurt me. But most of all it had moved me. Its severity and its impact are and should forever be undeniable. The BBC Documentary India’s Daughter, brought to the forefront one of the most prolific cases of gender inequality in the 21st century; it became a much needed plea for action to those who have lightly tread around the issue for decades. In March 2015 lawmakers in India banned the documentary. This year on International Women’s Day, Huffington Post writer Arti Patel aptly summed up the relevance of the film: “yes, it will make you bitter, and yes it will make you upset. If there's one thing you can do on International Women's Day this Sunday, it's to educate yourself on why these problems in India continue to exist.” Although as far as I understand the ban has still not been lifted nearly four months later, the documentary has become an international phenomenon. Her name was Jyoti Singh and she has lit a light in India and across the world. What will come from this light is for us to decide.
Stay tuned for parts two and three!