By Hadiqa Khan
I’m sure you’ve come across the statement ‘Feminists hate sandwiches’ multiple times on the internet or in the middle of light hearted banter amongst your friends and family. You’ve probably also heard that the sandwich is the worst thing that has ever happened to feminism (closely followed by Bella Swan as the second worst thing). The internet memes, such as the one below, did a great job of perpetuating this idea.
This may come as a shock to those who have made 9GAG practically their bible but feminists as a group, DO NOT hate sandwiches. What they probably dislike is the way the sandwich ‘joke’ is used to demean the many qualities and talents women posses by reducing them all to the notion that women belong in the kitchen and are only good for making sandwiches.
Feminism, through the years, has attracted a lot of negative attention. The anti-feminism movement is probably as strong as the feminist movement itself. That is because the anti-feminism movement feeds on certain myths and misconceptions which do not resonate with feminist ideologies but have taken hold of society.
The following are what I consider to be the top 13 misconceptions (or Sandwich myths because they are all as removed from reality as the sandwich story) surrounding feminism.
1. Feminism is a monolith.
Feminism is a vast ideology with numerous branches, some of them with conflicting goals and viewpoints. The various branches of feminism include Liberal, Radical, Third-World, Muslim, Catholic, Marxist etc. However, most people tend to assume that all feminists are radical feminists, and that feminism as a movement only consists of one single school of thought. However, feminists may agree on some principles, and may disagree on others.
2. Feminism is against housewives.
Feminists believe that women should be able to do what they wish to do without being discriminated against; they believe that a woman’s career choice should be respected, regardless of whether she chooses to be a lawyer or a housewife.
3. Feminists hate men.
The vast majority of feminists do not hate men. Some radical or cultural feminists may argue that women are superior to men, but that is only a small portion of the movement.
4. Feminism is not needed any more because all women have equal rights.
This may be true in theory, but not in practice. In Pakistan, men still get paid more than women. Women are still beaten and killed for the sake of preserving a family’s “honor”. Sexual harassment and rape is still considered to be the fault of the victim. In some areas, women aren’t even allowed to vote. So no, women still do not have equal rights.
5. Feminists don’t believe in marriage.
Again, feminists believe that women should be able to do what they wish to do without being ridiculed for it. They are not against women getting married, having children, etc. However, what feminism is against is only viewing women as wives or mothers, because that locks women in just one gender role. So what feminists argue is that women should be able to get married and have children, but that they should not only be thought of as wives or mothers.
6. Feminism is making women “un-feminine”
Femininity itself is a social construct, which differs from place to place. However, feminism does not aim to make women “masculine”. It argues that people should not think in binaries of “feminine” and “masculine” and that there are many shades in between. If a woman does not fit into the category of “feminine”, it does not make her less of a woman; similarly, if a woman is “feminine”, that does not make her any less capable than a man. “Femininity” and “masculinity” are themselves subjective concepts.
7. If women want feminism, they should not expect men to open doors for them nor should they be able to jump queues.
Practices like the one mentioned above grew out of the belief that women are fragile and that they need to be protected; feminism does not believe in that. However, what most people fail to realize when they make this argument is that when women refuse to jump queues at banks etc., they are often harassed, usually on the pre-text of that they refused to stand in the line made for them. Furthermore, practices like holding doors open for others or giving way to others are common courtesy and should be practised by both men and women.
8. Feminism aims to make women superior to men.
As I mentioned earlier, some branches of feminism, like cultural or radical, do believe that women are superior to men, but that is only a small number. Feminists just believe that men and women should have equal rights, and that they should be treated equally.
9. Feminists are looking for special treatment and favouritism.
Feminism is against favouritism since it implies that women are weak and need help to get by. No branch of feminism promotes this.
10. Feminism is not compatible with our culture or our religion.
As mentioned above, feminism is not a monolith, and doesn’t necessarily contain only “Western” values. Black feminism, Third-World feminism, Islamic feminism etc. all interpret feminism according to their own cultural and religious values.
11. Feminism destroys families.
Feminists are not against families, nor are feminist women opposed to having children. However, feminism does argue that men and women should raise their children together, and that the pressure of being the “bread-winner” should not necessarily have to be burdened by the men alone. Thus they argue that people should be who they want to be, whether they be house-husbands or working wives. That in itself does not destroy family systems, but only opposes stereotypical gender norms within the context of families.
12. Feminist men are gay or feminine.
There is a commonly held belief that men who choose to fight for women’s rights or identify as feminist tend to lose their “masculinity”, or are gay. This is, again, an incorrect stereotype, which just goes to show that most people think that only women can or should fight for women’s rights, and that no man could possibly identify with them.
13. Feminists overlook men’s rights.
Patriarchal values lock both men and women into certain gender roles. (For those who don’t know, there is a difference between sex and gender. Sex is what one is born with biologically, while gender is socially constructed). It is these patriarchal values that state that men are incapable of taking care of children and should not be given their children’s custody in the case if divorce; it is these values that force most men into silence after they are raped, for fear of losing their masculinity; it is these values that oppress both men and women. Feminism, by opposing patriarchal values, may in fact promote men’s rights as well.
In the end, feminism stands for equality between men and women. If one believes in equality, one is a feminist.