The rise of the feminist movement in the early 1900s in the West was a liberating and a revolutionary movement for women: the drive showed the modern-day women a dream about the right to education and voting to equal job opportunities, wages, reproductive rights and social acceptance as equal humans. Taking women from being a second-grade citizen, equally responsible and respectable members of society, feminism have achieved more than most of the other movements in history. The West has shown the evidence that when women are accepted as equal humans, the society progresses and developments in the recent century vouch for the fact.
The fifth wave of feminism, however, has greatly deviated the feminists from the vision and purpose of feminism as the wave is focused more on presenting women of today as ‘victims’, whereas their previous century counterparts were more enlightened, empowered, liberated and socially accepted. By portraying women as oppressed and marginalized, the focus of most of the feminists in Pakistan has shifted from the practical struggle for women’s rights to merely raising slogans and holding placards occasionally, shaming men and holding them responsible for the crimes against women. Feminism should not be equated with misandry. Feminism is an ideology and its foundation is deeply rooted in humanism.
According to renowned feminist and social scientist Kamla Bhasin, who recently passed away, ‘I know enough women who are totally patriarchal, who are totally anti-women; who do nasty things to other women, and I have known men who have worked for women’s rights their whole life. Feminism isn’t biological; feminism is an ideology.’ Patriarchy and misogyny are social evils, grounded into the Agricultural Revolution, when depriving women from land possession and giving them passive roles was the only way to keep property under a family’s control. With the inception of ‘Me Too’, the feminist cause has been sabotaged with little or no benefit to those women who are actually oppressed and need support.
Women in lower classes are more liberated financially, and they are usually self-sufficient as they do not have a support system. Feminism in Pakistan in its early stages was visionary and productive. From Fatima Jinnah to Benazir Bhutto, many reforms and laws have helped women achieve substantial rights and their place in society. Feminism has achieved some measurable gains for the women of Pakistan in the past, such as the right to work in medical fields, participation in democratic governance to being appointed as judges, and getting equal job, health and education opportunities. But with the emergence of the liberal fifth wave of feminism, the movement seems to have lost its purpose and focus. Privileged and resourceful women activists with slogans as petty as “Apna Khana Khud Garam Kar Lo ” and as controversial as “Mera Jism Meri Marzi” have portrayed women of Pakistan as mere puppets. They propagate an impression that all men are responsible for crimes against women. This has created a general rift and divided the public into feminists and anti-feminists making the fifth wave ineffective.
So, what’s the way out to compensate for the damage? The solution is complex but very easy to do. Instead of portraying and labelling women as victims and targeting men, feminists should work to empower women, urging the power stakeholders and legislators to make laws that will ensure a safe environment for the women in Pakistan and ensure implementation of the laws against harassment, forced and underage marriages, domestic violence, dowry and all other such evils that make women feel unequal and unsafe in their own homes. Most important of all, we should start raising daughters to make them strong, confident and self-sufficient enough to take charge of their lives, instead of brainwashing them to feel inferior and victimized. It is our collective duty and responsibility as a society to provide them with a safe environment and equal opportunities and protect their right to freedom of expression and the right to choose for themselves.
Strong women do not play victims. They take responsibility for their lives and stand up for themselves and the women around them. They refuse to be unheard, silenced and docile. Strong women do not blame others only for their problems; instead they deal with their issues and confront their oppressors, including those women who try to bring them down. Strong women do not whine; they take action. Strong women are not born, they are created. About time we start raising a breed of strong girls.