A few days ago, I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker on Shalia’s podcast called ‘We’re All Queens’. Below I have put into words my answers to some of her insightful questions.
What does feminism mean to you?
To me, feminism means exactly what it is, which is the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. It means equal rights, opportunities and freedom to both men and women. Whilst people have made the word subjective to their own meaning it has resulted in many feelings uncomfortable with the word or even calling themselves a feminist when they do believe in equality of both genders. Feminism was initially established because of lack of women’s rights and it was aimed at giving women the same rights as men. However, over the years with more understanding, the aim and main goal of feminism has shifted to not just addressing inequality of women but men too.
How we can establish gender equality?
Whilst we have made significant and credible improvements and we are changing; this does not mean we have established change where absolute equality of both genders has been achieved. This means we must continue the mission and give the issue more attention because a change like this is revolutionary. The issue is ingrained in the form of sexism in our systems, working environments, our subconscious and our psychology. For us to establish equality we must create awareness as the basic foundation and then encourage people to speak about their experiences and their opinions. This is where feminism comes because the main aim of feminism is to listen to both men and women and come together to give equal rights to both genders.
What social stigmas are put on women?
One of the unrealistic social stigmas that women have to suffer as a result of is people questioning their ability to lead. If we look at the Prime Ministers of the UK in these last 100 years the UK has only had 2 female prime ministers: Margret Thatcher and Theresa May. Furthermore, the number of females to males in high authorities in the parliament, not just in the UK but other countries too including America, is lower than men. How is it fair for men to make significant life decisions on abortion, maternity leave and their lives without women putting their wills and opinions forward?
Women are always labelled as weak. A woman goes through 57 units of pain during labour where the maximum pain endurance for any human being is 45 units. Yet after this mentally and physically agonising experience women are ready to do it again. If this does not show strength and bravery, then I don’t know what does.
Women often have to hear things like ‘be like a man’, ‘forget you’re even a woman’ or ‘you can’t because you’re a woman’. Why should a woman forget she’s a woman to accomplish or achieve? Women are good enough and worth it by just being the individualists that they are. They do not need to pretend to be something else because they already possess everything it takes. They should embrace their authenticity, qualities and even their weaknesses.
What social Stigmas are put on men?
Social stigmas on men which include being strong and masculine is making men and the people around them suffer. I don’t understand where this incompetent idea of crying makes you look weak comes form. Crying is a natural form of expressing emotions whether it's as a result of pain or happiness. Men are forced to pretend to be strong, brave or confident when in fact they are feeling the natural human emotion of vulnerability and weakness. They are forced to suppress their emotions as a result of these stigmas. These emotions may then build up and explode in toxic forms such as aggression and anger.
What makes a man strong is not how many weights they lift in the gym or how long they can hold their tears in but being free and comfortable to express all their emotions. Their ability to process ideas and how they treat others is what makes them strong not these superficial ideas manufactured by society. Hence, we must stop stigmatising men so they can express their emotions without being ridiculed.
There was a study done on a group of trainees’ who would then go work with young boys and girls. They were asked to come up with words which describe young boys. It was found that along with other adjectives the ones which were also used included: violent, lazy, bad listeners, trouble makers, and rude. Before even working with these young boy’s people have constructed these low expectations of them and these clear stereotypes. If they are treated like trouble makers or rude then that is the behaviour that they will reflect; then when they commit to these standards, we as a society implement on them, we just say ‘he's just a typical boy’.
Why is equality beneficial to both genders?
Women have traditionally been expected to stay home, cook, clean and look after the children. Although this is changing, especially in western culture however in most countries this is still what’s expected of women. The fact is women are not made to stay home and look pretty for their man to arrive home, women have so much more to offer to their homes and society. Women should be encouraged to go explore their potential outside home. She should be encouraged to be involved with carrying her family financially. This will simultaneously benefit men because the pressure of having to meet family demands financially will be taken away from them. Men should then be able to participate more at home and also spend more time with their children. This will create a balance which will result in happier individuals and better relationships. Research has found that a good balance in individuals life results in less conformation to alcohol and smoking. Moreover, individuals are less likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression.