A feminist, by definition is someone who stands for equality between the sexes. But in this very global world, the noise surrounding feminism has reduced it to an extreme movement a la Andrea Dworkin. If someone acknowledges they're a feminist to any base, the reaction will be divided; some will castigate them for being anti-man and some will praise them for being morally committed to a right cause. But how do we explain to people that feminism isn't just about claiming our rights as women and human beings, it's also about eradicating the prejudices that society itself has created against men.
The idea of a rape culture is more prominent in patriarchal societies like India or Pakistan. The collective attitude towards women is that they're less than men, both physically and mentally and therefore there should always be a man to guide them in their lives. This cultural misogyny has been so entrenched in these ultra religious tribal societies that it's impossible for women to have a choice or even an opinion; turning down an arranged marriage can get you killed, refusing dowry can lead to your scarring for life etc. This isn't just men oppressing women; older women, in a very misguided bid to honor tradition and culture, contribute to the patriarchal disdain against young women who make their own choices. As evidenced by recent honor killings in Pakistan, the contempt demonstrated by entire families against a female victim, shows that women and men are on par when it comes to discriminating against the free spirit. Religious indoctrination has contributed to alienating female voices more than any other movement in the world.
It would be wrong to call all women feminists or even to think that most women are siding with the just cause. In these patriarchal countries, the dissemination of widespread sexism is almost as important as uneducation; how do you subjugate open minded, assertive women? You cannot. But in this world where female education is becoming a pillar to assert our civility and humanity, these patriarchal despots use their religious tenets to dismiss the free spirit. This comes as no surprise because we all know that countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia base their opposition to women's freedom on their sacred book, the Holy Quran. Some detractors of feminism often call feminists Pro-Islam bigots, but feminism itself is about free will. Therefore, it's impossible, in my humble opinion, for a feminist to have a soft spot for religions that have always clamored for male superiority and female oppression.
The world has a long long way go to for the achievement of equal rights/equal parity but what should already change is the way we react to already established definitions. Therefore to make it even clearer, a feminist is someone who believes in equal rights and in the pursuit of equal rights. Anyone who claims to be a feminist and espouses religious leanings, is in my opinion, hugely hypocritical.
This post was submitted in response to Growing Up Girls.