By the time I finish this sentence, a woman from the United States of America would have been sexually harassed or degraded in some way. In a country as modern as the United States of America, one can only imagine how badly women are treated all around the world. So here I present an article I once often used as a speech, titled ‘Feminist’.
Humph, I know some of you might be thinking, why is a guy, like me, talking about feminism? What would I know? The feminist movement has been so badly misunderstood that people think it is a movement supporting misandry. The movement in its entirety has been misrepresented in the media by a small number of influential people using the movement for their own agendas.
The media has largely influenced society and is a major cause for a large proportion of sexism in the world today. The music, film and literature industries overtly sexualise and degrade women in the most blasphemous of ways solely because sex sells. Women are nothing but sexual objects, objectified from lyrics and music videos, to their roles in novels and on the screen.
Society has set a standard of “likeability”, a standard of social norms continually encouraged in the film and literature industries. “Likeable” women are conformed to be sensitive, fragile, weak, and gentle, who follow the whims of men. This has led to a social stigma where women are perceived as incapable of doing many things. To do something “like a girl” or “like a woman” is to do something in a way that will lead to little outcome, in a way that is slow, incorrect, disastrous, pathetic, or all of the above. Rarely have women held important roles in movies to better represent themselves. Sadly enough, Hollywood has generally always been lacking diversity, in race and gender. In recent years, 93% of popular films were directed by men, 80% were written by men, 70% of speaking roles were given to men, and in 2014, 88% of box office hits featured a man in the leading role, and it has been surprisingly decreasing. This is when the graduation rate of related fields is 50-50 for men and women.
It doesn’t end there. We all know women face misogyny, harassment, everywhere. However, we ask victims of sexual harassment and rape, what they were wearing. Victims who had the dignity or boldness to bring to light their persecution and injustice. We blame women for being victims but we don’t blame men, who can wear whatever they want, why they scarred these women.
What’s worse is that society has been increasingly normalising “rape culture”. Victim blaming, sexual objectification, disagreeing with the harmful effects of the many forms of sexual violence, these are all behaviours associated with this “culture”. Another two, slut shaming, where women are taught that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that men are or criticised for how they dress, and trivialising rape. Oh, this irks me the most. It irks me every single time when my own classmates, who have the privilege of education, joke about rape whenever as if it was normal.
Governments have tried various methods to end harassment. Malaysia itself has implemented women-only coaches on trains. What if, instead of telling what women should or shouldn’t do or trying to protect them from men, we instead taught men to respect others and their boundaries?
We can’t continue to blame society for the issues that plague us, because what we fail to realise is that we ourselves, are society. The only way we can truly become a modern one is if we break the barriers of stereotypes and societal norms and form justice and equality among everyone through fairness and respect.
Respect is a very, very strong word. Respect is what we need today to improve society. If men respect women their rights, and women respect men and their rights, the world would be much more, just. Whichever God we believe in, we all come from the same one, strip away the fear, underneath it's all the same love
However, we should be proud of the development we have made so far. If it wasn’t for feminism, Malala Yousafzai wouldn’t have been the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for standing up for girls’ right to have an education in her country, Pakistan, even after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban. And celebrities like Emma Watson, Cate Blanchett, Beyoncé, Daniel Radcliffe, Taylor Swift, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Reese Witherspoon, Benedict Cumberbatch, and many more wouldn’t be here to stand up for gender equality, inspiring a whole new generation today to believe in the equality of human rights.
The feminist movement may be flawed, but it is a movement run by humans, and humans are inherently flawed themselves. It is a fact we must accept. The movement is still representing the change the world needs for the better. People may have misconceptions on what truly is a feminist but you know what I understand from the word ‘feminist’? An inspirational quote by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Feminist, the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.