There are many passionate articles about women empowerment, feminism and sexism in our culture (and in general), and I respect all of them. However, in my opinion I find most of these articles come from a divisive and judgmental perspective. Well these articles are subjective so is this one.
Below is a comment I made on a recent post about ethnic identity and feminism (Identity politics). This post is just an elaboration on the comment below to explain it further. The comment is apt for all articles which tend to divide men and women and their accountability in feminism regardless of race and ethnicity.
“I liked it....but this was a personal angle b/c the author was blessed enough to be surrounded by open minded women... however in numerous cases, women would be the first to criticize other women about their behavior, attire, even thinking and their outlook on life( not just men)... It is also impt not to divide the women (regardless of the generation) who choose to have a traditional outlook. Assuming their freedom is oppressed by men because they choose to fit in a traditional context is judgmental. Women empowerment , feminism, socio-economic equality are all impt, but shouldn't be overdone that it has an adverse effect on women to the point some of them feel intimidated to choose to fit in a traditional context... feminism has been with me from a very young age...and this is my perspective...we do need men to support our individual choices and also provide us with constructive and honest criticism...and not all women who talk about women empowerment on the surface practice it in their daily lives; talking about this and tearing each other(gossip, acting as instigators)behind the scenes doesn't constitute empowerment or feminism...de-escalating misogyny starts with interactions amongst women( again my angle)....but this is a really strong article””
When it comes to feminism, there is a radical sect to this where there are feminists who tend to portray an anti-men vibe. Feminism is not that. Feminism is not geared to be divisive between the sexes. However, it is at times over done (my opinion) and it can have an adverse effect on women and also escalate misogyny.
We as individuals come from all walks of life (life’s obvious reality), having said that, so do women. Women come from all walks of life, even within the same race or ethnicity. They all have their individuality; there are women who have a non-traditional outlook on life and there are others who have a traditional outlook on life. I am just categorizing them like this to explain my upcoming point, but there is actually no need to have categories for women or men like this if people are open minded enough to understand the concept of individuality. When assuming women who take up a traditional outlook on life, i.e. get married by 25, have children, be a house wife (just an example) are oppressed by men in their family circle, it is indirectly backing women who choose to follow this perfectly rewarding lifestyle into a corner. Unless there is concrete evidence suggesting that they have been strong armed and forced to be only a housewife and the men are putting a lid on their dreams, we cannot assume by default that the men in their lives are misogynists and oppressors. A women should be free to choose to be a house wife with no societal condemnation or choose to be unmarried until she finds someone she wants to marry (even when she is 50 or 60 - hey George Clooney did it - no double standard) and continue to focus on being a CEO of a business or a Data Entry clerk and taking life the way she wants to. Get my drift here. I am looking at men and women as individuals first. Feminism is only suggesting that women are provided the same opportunities as men and have the freedom to make decisions about their lives according to their individuality and men simultaneously support them by allowing them to do so.
Now for this freedom to flourish and sustain itself for women all around the world, women are just as accountable as men. Being a Tamilian, I can say and almost state it as a fact that women and girls are the first to criticize and condemn each other for their behaviour, attire, outlook on life when it doesn’t fit into their understanding of what is good for women in this day and age (I will come back to this shortly). Women empowerment shouldn’t be judgement based; it should be based on inclusivity. I have personally experienced this condemnation not just by Tamil women of all ages, but females across all races, ethnicities, religions etc. Now back to the phrase “women in this day and age”, the reason I bolded this is to point out that over our decades, although we have veered away from how women’s role used to be to women now being able to make various decisions on their own about their marital status, their career etc.; as Tamils or as a South Asian, we still tend to create a new status quo for each time period as to what a women should have accomplished. For instance, women now should work at a Senior position and also be a housewife with two kids by 30 and have their own house. A woman should work because she wants to and/or because she needs to because of financial reasons (same for men – no double standard). This is what I mean by inclusivity based women empowerment. On a side note, to have a reasonably balanced lifestyle (socio-economically speaking) especially in this city’s cost of living, more than one individual needs to earn something in a household.
As mentioned above, men are equally accountable for women’s freedom to be sustainable. I cannot imagine this world without men, although there are numerous times when they make me cringe, but when I compare it to the number of times women have done that, they are about the same ;-). We need men. We need men’s constructive and honest feedback, their genuine support (with unpolluted intentions) that is not transactional no matter what role they play in our lives, brother, brother-in-law, father, uncle, husband, boyfriend, cousin, friend, mentor, and guardian. Men should be free to call women out when they feel they (women) are being bias in their choices or judgement or doing something wrong, without being afraid/ concerned that they are going to be labelled a misogynist. They should not have to shut their voices because in this day and age they feel their voices would turn against them because by default no matter what they say, they are demonized and labelled as being anti-feminism. I find it interesting how men’s outlook on their daughter/sister/mother is different from their wife or girlfriend. Perhaps if men/boys try, just try to be more self-aware on how they treat and approach situations with all the various women /girls in their lives and see if they are being objective and not influenced by pride and ego, that may be a good start to de-escalating misogyny overall (even if they feel they are not misogynists or sexist). I am not saying men are angels, (neither are women), but the words misogynist or misandrist are heavy duty words and should not be used lightly. I am well aware of certain men who systemically and very slyly provoke sexism hence escalating misogyny. For instance, men also play the role of instigators to create politics among women so they can push their own agenda, and the women will come a full circle and back to the “man” to try and find their footing in the situation. By this time, a situation which could have been successful for women would now be managed by a man.
Social factors that tend to slow down feminism and escalate misogyny, most primarily include toxic interactions among women such as, gossiping, women acting as instigators, underhanded bullying etc. These behaviours stain the definition of women empowerment. There needs to be transparent empowerment among women for the plight to achieve freedom of choice and equal opportunity is strong. Talking about women empowerment and bullying each other behind the scenes is very hypocritical and very counter-productive. This actually opens many lee ways for misogyny to continue to thrive because men (who are misogynists) will be opportunistic and pick up on these dynamics and use these to their advantage. Misogyny doesn’t have to be overt, it could be systemic or discreet or systemically discreet or discreetly systemic.
Misogyny can thrive in various concealed ways as progress is made on the feminist front that is why it is imperative that women are more cohesive, less hypocritical, contradictory and less divisive with men and women. Feminism should be pushed forward in a way that it is not causing a divide for other women. Remind each other that this is a mission for all women and men.....