More than Meets the Eye: Feminism through the Kaleidoscope

Oh, how far we have come as a race! Revolutionising life through progressive technology that facilitates medical services, travel styles, access to education and so much more. Looking back on our history, we should be proud of where we stand today. However, our history is also full of shameful acts we have committed over the years, and unfortunately one of the fundamental changes that would truly allow development is taking us ages to fully execute. Despite how far we have come, discrimination is still very much with us, and it is baffling to see the human race attempt development in such a disorderly manner. But true evolution is unattainable because we lack the proper foundation. If we as earthlings can’t work together, then we will never reach our full potential.

As we hungrily attempt to continuously climb the ladder of evolution, we retain a man-made set-back in gender equality all around us: girls are refused educational rights in many countries; women are looked down on while being taken advantage of in work environments; different religions force female subordination through their teachings and even lead to the implementation of laws that clearly favour men.

There are many people who believe that women are the lesser of the genders and even though there are also those who disagree, all around us there is proof that the former mindset prevails. Renowned writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie expressed many relevant statements during a TedxEuston talk that she gave. She shared that she had been approached not only by a male journalist but also by a female academic who both shared the opinion that being a feminist is off-putting and generally improper. Realistically, these opinions are indeed so imbedded into society that many men and women see no other way of living. These are women and men that have been conditioned into thinking a certain way about a woman’s general appearance and conduct. Granted, judgement as a general phenomenon is unavoidable, but its execution should not be centred on gender.

As recently as the beginning of March 2017, 74-year old Polish member of the European Parliament, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, stated that women don’t deserve equal pay, using arguments to back his statement up such as: women are smaller, weaker and less intelligent than men. This is the type of counterargument that is out there in regards to gender equality; this is the type of counterargument against the cause to achieve gender equality that was brought forth on the European Union Parliament platform. What neutral party can hear that and deem it justifiable? Korwin-Mikke added, “Do you know how many women are in the first 100 of chess players? I tell you: no one.”

For such a global level of inhumane exposition, the only sanctions enforced by the European Union Parliament President Antonio Tajani were suspension from parliament for ten days, no daily allowance for 30 days and prohibition from representing the parliament on conferences and forums for a one-year period. For degrading half of the human species on an international platform, Mikke would barely feel a scratch from his punishment. It is a complete under-reaction in response to the level of affront directed at the part of the population that brings babies into this world. He even went on to say that international women’s day is a communist invention and that the left wants to promote women because women like to be protected.

Many were shocked that in this day and age we still have people in prestigious positions that think this way. It doesn’t shock me because for things to be maintained the way they are right now I realised that this mentality must subsist within many of the people we trust to conduct society. I am yet to understand how it is that even when such thoughts are exposed, we still allow the people that harbour them to coordinate our affairs and remain highly-held within the society. Mikke is only one of many; before he became the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump was exposed for degrading females and female genitalia in a recording. Despite this and so many other sexist characteristics, he won the election and now heads one of the world’s superpower nations. There are literally outspoken chauvinists out there that are still in respectable positions.

The fight for women’s suffrage by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many more in the last couple of centuries; the ongoing fight demanding equal pay for equal work regardless of gender; the elimination of pressure on women to look a certain way, dress a certain way, have a certain role, have a certain type of hair, etc.; these are feminism issues. What is the basis of gender discrimination? What are the motives behind the close-to-inexistent political representation of women in most of the world? What explanations have been brought forward as to why in some parts of the world the female gender has zero access to education? What is the reasoning behind women’s lower pay grade for the exact same job? What other reason can be behind all of this if not a superiority complex? In psychology, this complex is known as a defence mechanism that compensates for an inferiority complex; it conceals feelings of fear and inferiority. Why else would the world feel the need to constantly require submission from women?

Another justification behind the gender inequality is that men and women are too different to be considered equal. During her talk, Chimamanda also pointed out that in the past it was indeed sensible for men to rule the world because, “human beings lived then in a world in which physical strength was the most important attribute for survival… but today we live in a vastly different world; the person more likely to lead is not the physically stronger person, it is the more creative person, the more intelligent person, the more innovative person and there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, to be creative and to be innovative.”

As Ms. Adichie put it in a nutshell, the word feminist comes with so much negative baggage. There are many people that consider themselves feminists and discuss the concept with different approaches. From this, it stems that groups of people either box themselves or are boxed into certain criteria, and only then can they be feminists. Many (both men and women) attack the notion feminism itself, claiming that it is a biased paradigm and that if it were really about equality it would be named differently. What this idea does is only to unveil the ongoing attempt to hush those speaking out against the harmful prejudices that women are forced to face at different degrees in different places. Logically, feminism has to be biased even if not in its manifestation but definitely in its cause; women are more discriminated against than men, so that is bound to be the standpoint from which the topic is addressed.

Despite what some think, feminism is not in any way restricted to women. A feminist can be anyone that encourages gender quality and promotes unity within the society. A feminist values and respects both genders equally. Two years ago, actress and United Nations ambassador Emma Watson launched a campaign in which she asked men to fight with women against discriminatory behaviour. She pointed out that many view fighting for women’s rights as synonymous with man-hating. To dispel this, she clarifies that gender equality is everyone’s issue and that both men and women must work together in order to achieve balance. Men are victims of gender inequality also, because the society also has them imprisoned in gender stereotypes. Watson believes that progress can be attained by working together towards a better future.

My entire argument rests in one single word: logic. Clarity is essential in every aspect of life; whenever one beats around the bush, society experiences a slight inhibition from progression as a people. The more straightforward we are, the better for humankind. Ergo, where I stand on the matter is intentionally evident. There is a logical thought process which should lead to a logical course of actions, but for reasons beyond understanding society functions based on apparently illogical ideology. Women and men are equally humans, therefore should be treated as equal humans. Women and men may be different in physical features, but who or what exactly determines that one’s features are above another’s? On the contrary, because of our differences we should be equally important. For a species that claims to be extremely intelligent, we seem to ignore the logic in an issue as basic as gender equality.

Things could hardly be clearer than that. Yet, women are being told what to do with their bodies, being told how to live and being denied recognition of efforts where it is due. There is the constant attempt to control women and their existence, and the worst part is that most women have succumbed to it and feel that they can live no other way. This creates further hindrance to the cause of promoting equality.

Emma Watson was recently criticised and accused of anti-feminism because she posed for pictures in a see-through top for the March 2017 cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Watson vocally responded to the criticism, saying that feminism is about giving women a choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation. It’s about equality.” As long as the choice is theirs and not entirely due to societal pressure, it should be respected. As long as the choice does not bring harm to others, it should be tolerated.

I consider myself feminist, and my understanding and application of the notion is as a choice; the ever-so-coveted choice should remain within the margins of a woman’s wants, and whichever the choice made, equality between the genders should never waver. By this, I mean that a woman can decide her destiny, choosing to be what she wants (housewife or judge) and choosing to express herself whichever way she pleases (nudity or modesty) without the judgemental stereotypes that follow either extreme.

Realistically, it is impossible to completely eliminate stereotypes and in fact many stereotypes stem from truths (not just stereotypes referring to women but also general ones about different people from different walks of life). However, some of these preconceived notions are unfortunately harmful and should indeed reach the point of abrogation. Returning on-topic, they are harmful because they hinder evolution and stomp growth as a gender and as a society.

The current state of things means that we are inhibiting our own progression by setting ourselves backwards and suppressing potential contributions to advancement. Imagine the heights humanity could have reached by now if we didn’t try time after time to climb over one another in an attempt to subdue each other; slavery, colonisation, dictatorships and wars fought with this exact goal as its purpose. Remembering our history, discrimination has never contributed positively to humanity.

Instead of crying over spilt milk, however, let us focus on a more effective and permanent solution: re-orientation. As a child, unaware of prejudices, I observed the world and I could never quite get my head around the discrimination I would notice. This has shown me that all of this is not inherent but in fact constructed; it is not a natural reality but a nurtured one, and in the same way that we nurtured this mindset, we are capable of nurturing a new one. The values instilled in our young ones contribute to behaviours that are exhibited later in life. This is valid for both male and female persons. Parents can bring their children up teaching them that equality is not questionable and that superiority complexes are indeed signs of weakness. The roots of our problems are in the upbringing and in the foundation upon which the young ones are taught.

The most efficient resolve would be the re-orientation of future generations. This would require not only efforts made by families but also the help of the media and general public by stopping the projection of prejudiced images which affect thought construction and the formulation of opinions. Degradation and disrespect hinders human advancement. Women become demoralised and, because some people feel superior to others, regular altercations occur. The world must relinquish obstructing characteristics that are simply erroneous and offensive. We, both men and women, are the only ones that can sculpt a better future for ourselves. These issues should not be issues at all in the first place and it is long overdue that we, as a people, unite for the greater good.

As I read in an article titled ‘We shouldn’t fight for “gender equality”. We should fight to abolish gender’ by George Gillet for the online media house NewStatesman, “Gender is defined by the World Health Organisation as “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women”. In other words, while sex refers to biological and physical characteristics, gender describes the behavioural roles that we associate with these features… The problems which surround gender encompass far more than a conventional inequality – our archaic belief in the concept of gender itself undermines ideals of personal freedom and liberation.”

As Gillet stated in his article, “Gender is flawed – no set of social scripts will ever represent the wonderful diversity and intricacy of human behaviour.” Feminism is a lot more than gender-based; automatically, by promoting the freedom of one gender, there are ripple effects that indirectly free the other gender(s) as well; it represents subject matters that affect us all. Feminism is the promotion of choice.

Hava Nwamaka Nwakageo Rosenfeld


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