The one question I get all the time when discussing gender equality is “Why do we say ‘feminism’ when we are talking about the equality of genders?” I have been thinking about this for some time as well, since I hear this question a lot, and the answer I found is not an easy one to disentangle. Allow me to explain my thought process and let’s think this through together.
Most times I talk to people about feminism, they say that the word feminism is a sexist way to approach the issue of gender inequality because it breeds inequality by making women the sole focus. Their main argument seems to be that there are many different aspects of inequality in our society that affect not only women but also men. I don’t disagree; it is correct that gender inequality also affects men, but there are two points I would like to make regarding this.
My first point would be to look at the issue of gender equality from a historical point of view. The term “feminism” was coined in 1837 by French philosopher Charles Fourier. The term was used by all the movements associated with the political, social, personal and economic equality of all the sexes. The reason for the focus on women at the time was obvious: the state of women’s rights at the time did not allow women to have a job, to vote or in some countries, even to choose their own spouse. Naturally the movement focused on women’s rights rather than equality for all the sexes, thus explaining the term in people’s understanding of the word but ever since those days when the terminology first surfaced, the aim of fighting for equal rights did not change.
The second point I want to flesh out is about the current situation of equality in the world. Even though the feminist movement started in the mid-19th century and there are many changes in the world with regards to equality of all the sexes, there are still many things to be done. This may sound trivial to you but this is the reality even in 2020. Can women have jobs now and be economically independent? Yes, this is now possible as opposed to maybe a hundred years ago. Do they get equal pay as their male peers? Unfortunately, no, and this means there is still a long way to go. Let me ask another question: can women vote now? Yes, it has been possible for some time now, but not everywhere around the world, which is a huge problem. And even when they can - are parliaments composed of equal number of members of different genders? Still, no. There is still a huge amount of male dominance in politics and this needs to change.
These were just two examples of how the inequality of all genders is still an issue which hasn’t been resolved to this day, and as you can see, there is a tendency of women being the targets of this inequality more than men. This reason makes it logical to use the word “feminism” to show people where this inequality is leaning towards. I am not saying that men don’t face systemic obstacles in their lives, but this doesn’t negate the fact that half the population on this planet is still being discriminated against simply due to their gender…
We are growing as a society with time but the changes we want do not occur as fast as we hope. I am hopeful that there will come a time where society will be equal for all genders and use of the word “feminism” will be a thing of the past. Until then, let us try to make our world a better place by not judging each other and by treating each other with respect.