I am a millennial, and I am a female, writing articles for an online blog. Ask anyone, and the first thing that comes to their mind would be, “She probably is another feminist”. Well, I am not.
A New Paradigm Shift: Mutated Feminism Sentiments
Emma Watson’s speech on feminism at the U.N. headquarters was powerful and inspirational. Yet, her quote, “If you stand for equality, then you’re a feminist” offers us a little more than a glimpse of her wit.
While it would be difficult to deny that feminism has its roots in gender equality, recent feminism sentiments would prove that the social movement has mitigated, to the point where gender equality no longer seems to be the goal.
Contemporary feminism in the 21st century is underpinned by the motto, “anything men can do, women can do, even better”. From former President Barack Obama’s infamous comment that women are “indisputably” superior to men, to Hillary Clinton’s vow to become the first female president, not only do these political strategies align with feminist ideas, but they have intensified the movement and prompted feminists. To do what? To win glory in this competition built on gender terms; to demonstrate the possibilities of a matriarchal society; and ultimately, to accentuate women’s intrinsic abilities left unrealised and oppressed previously.
Feminism sparks unhealthy competition and rivalry between the two sexes in bid to climb up the gender hierarchy. Nevertheless, what we truly need is understanding needs and challenges of, not only women, but also that of men. Only then can we open doors to an equal playing field. We need mutual empathy, not hierarchy.
A Case of a Crude Generalisation
I do not think I can explain the challenges women face any better than what we have witnessed through social movements. The MeToo Movement, through testimonies of sexual harassment survivors detailing their struggles, has reflected just how helpless women can be in these situations. The lesser known, but equally revolutionary PayMeToo Campaign in the UK, has challenged the gender pay gap problem faced by women. The Power2Her Campaign in the EU region aims at empowering women to participate in politics.
Of course, these social campaigns have successfully put women’s issues in the limelight, lobbying government and politicians alike to cater to women’s needs. However, more importantly, women no longer only feel their struggles and pain. They can now better resonate with the notion of feminism as they embrace their new status as victims of patriarchy, shaped by stories publicised by these social campaigns.
As feminism dominates the gender discourse, men’s issues have been neglected. According to the BBC, men’s suicide rate is 3 times higher than that of women in the UK, echoed by similar trends in the US, Russia, and Argentina. While the reasons behind this phenomenon are complex, gender stereotypes have been found to be a significant factor hindering men’s mental well-being (Schumacher, 2019). That being said, men are less likely to express their emotions and are less likely to seek help and consultation (Schumacher, 2019). This mental health issue is only a tip of the iceberg of the gender-specific issues faced by men.
Reducing gender discourse to challenges faced by women alone is both unfair and discriminatory. We need a united front to achieve gender equality, not prejudice against men.
“The Future is Female?”
So what if “the future is female”? A female-dominated world – is that what we really want? Gender equality means liberating both men and women from gender-related constraints, stereotypes and opening doors to a more equal level playing field by catering towards gender-specific needs. Not hierarchy, not superiority. Let us make the first step by putting aside our differences, understanding and empathising with each other.
Schumacher, H. (2019). ‘Why more men than women die by suicide?’, BBC, 18 March. Available at https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190313-why-more-men-kill-themselves-than-women (Accessed: 1 February, 2020).
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