There are a lot of myths that exist about feminism, and most of us are too stubborn to understand what it really is about--gender equality. Any true feminist would tell you that their life's philosophy has nothing to do with bra-burning or denouncing men as the lesser beings on earth.
What feminism really talks about is very simply that men and women are and deserve to be equal--in social, economic, and cultural fields. The idea that women are anything less than equal to men is what patriarchy and sexism are based on, and these ideas are as harmful for men as they have been for women.
Many women (and men too) have taken to writing about gender equality. Here are some of them you should be familiar with, especially if you are rooting for gender equality as well.
The feminist movement took a new turn in the 1960s and 1970s, with many leaders spearheading the world towards women's liberation. Gloria Steinem is the beacon of this movement, and her long career as a journalist and activist proves it. During the recent Women's March in Washington, Steinam took the stage to inspire millions across the world once again.
But if you want to understand what she really stands for, you need to read Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem (published in 1992). The book addresses the fact that people, especially women, tend to lose their sense of self-worth during their adolescence. Lack of confidence is only one of the results of the vulnerability we have in this stage, and Steinem suggests we can overcome these through guided meditation and artistic expression.
"I think we each come out of the womb with some unique way of looking at the world and if we don't express it, we loose faith in ourselves," she says in this book. If that's not going to reaffirm your faith in gender equality, then what is?
If you haven't heard of this path-breaking Nigerian novelist, here's what you need to know. With multiple degrees from Johns Hopkins University, Yale and Princeton, Adichie is an award-winning, critically acclaimed author. A hardcore feminist, she believes that we should all work towards removing all the stigma attached with being a feminist.
In her book, We Should All Be Feminists (published in 2012), she argues that feminism is all about inclusion and awareness about gender equality. She doesn't just point out the blatant ways women are discriminated against, but also the more subtle forms of sexism that social and cultural institutions take to. And this doesn't just apply to women, as she describes when she says that, "Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage."
It's high time we look beyond the word 'feminism', and actually address what it's all about. And reading Adichie can help, especially when she says that "My own definition of a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there's a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better."
This award-winning British journalist, author and broadcaster is also a member of the Women's Equality Party. This party is a collective effort by British women in politics to campaign for gender equality. If that isn't enough to make you read up about her, wait till we tell you all about her book, How to be a Woman (published in 2011) which sold millions of copies.
The book addresses all the issues the modern woman faces--from things as trifling as whether to get a Brazilian wax to wondering if all men secretly hate women. Moran's book is extremely witty, and full of hilarious scenes from the everyday lives of women. At the same time, her words tend to underline the struggle against patriarchy and its norms that we go through every day.
Here's an example: "What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be. Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course you are." And when it comes to the final act that all women are told they must gear up to--having babies--here's what Moran has to say: "Batman doesn't want a baby in order to feel he's 'done everything'. He's just saved Gotham again! If this means that Batman must be a feminist role model above, say, Nicola Horlick, then so be it."
You might just know her as the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, but there's a lot more to Sheryl Sandberg. One of the most influential people in the world, Sandberg authored a book that went on to be a cultural phenomenon. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (published in 2013) was on the top of bestselling lists across the globe, and its title became a catchphrase for empowering women.
The reason? The book deals with what women feel at the workplace--and it doesn't matter where or what this workplace is. From multinational companies to parliaments, women have shown the willingness to lead, but both the systems and the everyday sexism they face have made this a distant dream. Defining the one thing that matters most at the workplace, she says that "Success for me is that if my son chooses to be a stay-at-home parent, he is cheered on for that decision. And if my daughter chooses to work outside the home and is successful, she is cheered on and supported."
The things that stop women from achieving as much as men in the office need to be eliminated--not just for gender equality, but also for maximised productivity.
This British writer and activist is behind the Everyday Sexism Project. Now this movement seems to be self-explanatory, doesn't it? Bates came up with the idea for this project, and her book, Everyday Sexism (published in 2014) while working as a nanny and an actress. She saw that most of the kids she cared for were already worrying about things like body image, instead of enjoying a childhood.
Based on the premise that everyone should be treated equally irrespective of their gender, Bates ahs time and again said that feminism is not about women against men, but "people against prejudice". Sexism, as the major tool patriarchy depends on, is part and parcel of the social fabric of the world--and that needs to be challenged for everybody's good.
"Sexism is often an invisible problem. This is partly because it's so frequently manifest in situations where the only witnesses present are victim and perpetrator," she says in the book. That is really the reason why we, as a society, have failed so far to nip it in the bud.