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It’s well into the second half of 2020. By now, almost everyone in the world would have heard the phrase “equal rights,” whether it be for women, LGBTQ+, and the movements that work to make them happen. But not many people know what these movements truly mean: what is their exact aim? What are they fighting for? Why are they fighting at all? When you have lurid articles and videos such as “Victims of False Allegations: Men Hating Modern Day Feminism” diffusing through media of all forms, many seem to be derailed from asking questions that really matter. I’m not saying that similar events have or will not actually happen, but, like everything else in the world, there are both negative and positive sides to every movement. It is up to us to focus on the latter while keeping in mind that extremities are bound to occur along the way. Unfortunately, extremities and outliers are often those that gain the most attention from the media and the public, which is also perhaps why these movements face a lot of bias for what a small fraction of their supporters have done in their name. One such movement is feminism: often portrayed as being led by stubborn, forceful women that are impossible to reason with — and of course, many believe it.

Well, the truth is that it is not that simple.

There is more to this ideology, and it’ll only take you five minutes to scroll through no more than a few articles written by those who understand what it means to be a feminist — and chances are, they not just written by women. If you’re confused about what I just wrote, read on. This will be one of those articles that’ll clear up your misunderstandings about feminism, and, hopefully, turn your prejudice against it into budding, genuine respect for the movement.

To start off, what exactly is feminism? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” or the “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interest.” To elaborate, it is a belief or ideology that promotes equal rights for women at home, at work, anywhere and everywhere in society alongside men, who should be noted, are not excluded from participating. Also, notice that both definitions do not specify it as being “by women.” It is therefore not a hate movement against men like some may believe it to be. Rather, the whole purpose of it is to ensure that all genders are on equal ground and given the same opportunities as one another.

To get a better picture of this supposed equal ground, imagine this: you are a corporate manager, and you have a choice of choosing between a male and a female worker for a promotion. Without looking at their skills or experience, what is your initial reaction? Did you instinctively pick one over the other? If so, think about what made that choice for you. Was it because of the qualities that you have associated with either gender? What are these qualities? If you need to, write them down under the headings of ‘male’ and ‘female’, or ‘men’ and ‘women’, then mark the ones which you think are desirable qualities in your imagined workplace. Once you’re done, step back and mull over whether any of these qualities can be switched to the other heading by thinking about the people in your own life. Are there people that have strictly ‘female’ or ‘male’ qualities? Or are there those with a mixture of qualities from both genders? Chances are the latter will be the most abundant, which just leaves a couple of questions for you to think over: which gender now has the greatest number of desirable qualities, and does it prove your initial choice on who to promote, or does it overturn it entirely?

Regardless of the answer, you must’ve felt at least a lingering sense of unfairness since you were making a choice without actually going through the workers’ résumés. Don’t worry though, the point of this scenario (and there is a point, I promise) is not to make you feel bad for being true to your instincts and unconscious mind. The point is that it might have made you think about your biases, thereby prompting you to find a reason for such biases, and hopefully and consequentially, sending you on your way to overcoming them. This exact point can be said to be the embodiment of feminism — to help people realize the connection between a relatively simple, unrelated scenario such as the one described above, and in their everyday lives where relationships are formed based on personalities rather than someone’s gender. The rules are fundamentally clear: look at who and not what sex they are. In doing so, equality in the forms of equal pay, equal treatment, and the same kinds and number of opportunities can be achieved. This is the goal of feminism.

Now, as you may have guessed, achieving this is harder than it sounds. If it was easy then feminism would evidently not have grown this big over the past few decades, and there will be no such terms as “equality,” “inequality,” and “discrimination” in Merriam-Webster or any other dictionary for that matter. It is a tough task to spread its manifesto and convince everyone around the globe of the imminent importance of equality, even in this age of social media. Perhaps it is the indignation towards this difficulty and the ignorance of those who do not fully understand feminism that some of its advocates seem persistent on calling for greater support, or have been vocal about criticizing anyone or anything that may come across as misogynistic.

And, sometimes, they can go too far.

Destructive criticism, false allegations, even shunning other people when they do not agree with the movement’s values are just a few of the things that people claiming themselves as ‘feminists’ have done “for the sake of the cause,” but whether they did have its values at heart or otherwise ultimately do not justify their actions. Putting others down does not lead to equality; similarly, bullying others into supporting feminism does not achieve its overall goal of making the world a fairer place for all genders. In other words, a fair cause does not justify unfair actions.

It should be noted that the above examples are the more extreme cases regarding feminism. Unfortunately, with the spread of the movement throughout the world, many ‘feminists’ are falling into this ‘extreme’ category – so much so that they may no longer stay as outliers, but become the central, most abundant group. In which case, there is nothing to stop feminism from being defined as a tyrannical and hypocritical ideology led by similarly tyrannical and hypocritical people. The only thing we can do to stop this is to remind ourselves and others of the true aims of feminism and what exactly these aims imply, all the while learning from the mistakes of these ‘feminists’ so that such extreme cases do not repeat themselves ever again. Everyone is different; some can be very passionate about maintaining their ideals and in having other people agree with them. There’s nothing wrong with this, but there are times when thinking about others, listening to their point-of-views, and reaching a civilized understanding – however long this might take – can do wonders for yourself and the world around you.

The last common misconception about feminism is that it supports only independent working women and women leaders. If you search for pictures of modern-day parades or protests such as the International Women’s Day march of Jakarta held in 2019, you would see that a whole array of people, both men and women, supports this movement: students, political leaders, stay-at-home parents — and feminism, true feminism, does not discriminate against them either.

Now that we’ve cleared up all of these misunderstandings, how has your view of feminism changed since you started reading this article? Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of feminism and are able to see from the feminist perspective, even if you decide not to actively support it. I’m not asking you too either. Believe in what you think is right, but remember to keep an open mind. After all, the world becomes a better place when people are able to see the two sides of a coin, regardless of which side they land on.

An aspiring writer and a nerd in almost every sense of the word, with a deep interest in books, film, anime, manga, and games.
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