I'm a feminist. To be clear about that: it doesn't mean I hate men, I happen to like them quite a lot. And it doesn't mean I want to oppress men and for women to take over the world. I don't. I'd see that as simply another form of wrong, much like men running the world is. All being a feminist means to me is that I'd like women to be treated as equal in terms of their rights, their pay, their status. Men and women will still be different. Different but equal. I could just as easily call myself an egalitarian as a feminist, as that's the way I see it.
And I dislike when men or women attack feminism and confuse it with misandry. They're not the same thing. Or say that we don't need it anymore, as that battle has been won. It hasn't. Until we live in a fully equal society, feminism will continue to play an important role.
No, I don't believe I'm oppressed. But then again, I'm an educated, professional, who writes opinion pieces in the media - I'm pretty hard to oppress. But there are many women who don't have my advantages and I don't think I should pull that ladder up behind me, just because I'm doing all right. If any women need feminism, we all do.
The word feminism, however, may be a bit of a problem. It's viewed as toxic by some, which creates a difficulty for its core message on equality. And it sort of indicates you must be a woman to be one: feminist implies feminine. It takes a very secure man to describe himself as a feminist. So the word may exclude men from its ranks, which is unfortunate.
Maybe it needs rebranding, because viewing it as purely a sisterhood is short-sighted. Feminism needs male allies, just as racial equality needs white allies, and the LGBT movement needs straight allies. I was taken aback to see Mark Ruffalo, a self-proclaimed feminist, being criticised on twitter for sharing his views on feminism because he isn't a woman. Personally, his view of feminism is far closer to mine than Beyonce's, and I've no problem with him expressing it.
You can be white and anti-racism. You can be straight and support LGBT rights. So there shouldn't be any problem being a man and supporting feminism. But the word itself may be an obstacle to that. You're not a blackist, if you are pro racial equality, so why are you a feminist if you support gender equality? Shouldn't it be possible for anyone to be against sexism and pro equality? Most men I know are uncomfortable in the presence of casual racism, even though they're white. Why then is casual sexism so much more acceptable? The female equality message hasn't gained the traction it should.
All over the world, women live segregated, in appalling circumstances at risk of violence and abuse. Often voiceless and powerless in their own societies. Shouldn't we all be anti-sexism because of that? In the same way we were once anti-Apartheid?
Here in Ireland, things are clearly not that bad - but women are poorly represented in positions of power, in government, and at senior levels in business and the professions. Is that because women are less capable? No. But attitudes still need to change if we are ever to achieve full equality. Attitudes to women, but also attitudes to feminism.
And to all those women, who say they don't like or need feminism, I say this: Don't dismiss a movement that fought for your right to vote, to access contraception, to keep your job after you married, to say no to sex within marriage, to have equal pay. All things you were denied once. Just because you were a woman.
If you benefit from, or believe that those things are right and good, then you're a feminist, whether you like it or not. Out and proud, brothers and sisters.
Sunday Indo Living