There is something that has been baffling me for some time now – a disclaimer that I’ve seen as part of a lot of posts from women – “I’m not a feminist.” The irony is that all these posts have been ones about women empowerment, safety for women, equal opportunities for women and similar themes. Now you understand the reason why I’m baffled. I’ve been under the impression that all these are themes which come under the huge umbrella of “feminism”. No, let me rephrase that. These are all themes which any human being should stand up for, but themes which are of particular importance to feminists because not every human being stands up for these.

Most women use this disclaimer because they have no clue what this word really means. Even independent, free-spirited, strong women I’ve known have been using this disclaimer every time they had to speak about injustice faced by women, almost as if they were scared of the backlash from men. I won’t blame them completely because with or without this disclaimer, I’ve seen a huge number of men, even highly educated ones, making comments like “Now the feminist bitches would come with their stupid ideas”. From when a feminist has been considered someone worthy of being called a bitch (I feel bad for the female dogs by the way) is yet another thing that has puzzled me.

The more I thought about this “safe disclaimer”, the more I realized that “feminist” is no longer looked at as a positive word. Chauvinistic men who hate women being equals definitely have a lot to do with this negative connotation attributed to the word. But as much as I hate to admit it, women have played an almost equal role in the degradation of this once-noble word. I’ve seen so many women in the comments sections of Facebook posts generalizing all men for the crimes and wrongs done by some men and abusing all of them. I’ve seen these women being totally ungrateful to the love and support they have received from the decent men in their life. I’ve also seen these women make any issue which has nothing to do with gender seem like a case of gender discrimination. (Almost the same way people of our country these days seem hell-bent on bringing in a religious/caste angle to every issue. Let’s not start an argument on that though.)

What these women who portray themselves as crusaders of feminism and these men who hate “feminist bitches” need to understand is that feminism is in no way a movement led by women who hate men. In fact, only a few days ago, those at Merriam-Webster dictionary had to tweet the proper definition of “feminism” to correct an American political activist who explained the term in a very wrong manner in a recent speech of hers. Let me give the proper definition here as seen in the most reliable dictionaries.

“The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

“The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes” – Oxford Dictionary

“The belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state” – Cambridge Dictionary

Please tell me – which one of these definitions advocates hatred towards men? It was never about hating or even outdoing males, it was only about being considered an equal. Isn’t that a genuine desire for any human being? And now some will come with the explanation, “Why do women want to do everything a man does when they are created physically different?” It’s not about physical difference or trying to do everything. It’s about being given the right to choose what we want to do. It’s about not being eliminated from the list only for being a woman, even when there is no physical constraint to be considered.

Or is the partial use of the term “female” in the name of this movement the problem? Because if it is, then no one can help you get over this problem. Why do you think a movement called “feminism” had to be started in the first place? Don’t you get it? Centuries of inequality in the power relationship of males and females (except maybe in very few cultures) was the only reason why such a movement was needed in the first place. If females were always considered equal to males, no one would have even thought of such a movement. It was only the increasing wish of females to get out of a suppressed environment and be a part of everything just like their male counterparts did, that formed the base of the movement. If they didn’t, as early as in the 19th century, I might not be sitting here writing my thoughts out without fear, a lot of you women might not be enjoying a life where you have the right to have education and a career, so many powerful female leaders might not have come to the forefront across fields. (Once again, let’s not argue with the examples of a handful of female rulers from the pages of history, because that just does not hold up in the bigger picture.)

Let me end by making three very simple appeals:

1) Dear fellow women who have degraded the word “feminism” and insulted all of us – Please stop using this word to spew out your hatred for males and offend them. There are a lot of people working hard to achieve equality for females even in this century in very noble ways, and you are definitely not helping with this attitude or behaviour.

2) Dear fellow women who use the disclaimer “I am not a feminist” out of fear that you would be judged as a male-hating terrorist – When all of us shy away from acknowledging the real meaning of this word, only because it means something else in someone else’s dictionary, we are reinforcing the wrong meaning. If you have to explain it a hundred times, do it. Do it whether it makes a difference or not. But please, don’t be scared or ashamed of wanting to be an equal.

3) Dear men who hate feminists – Scroll back up and read the definition of the word “feminism” and understand that some women who misuse the word and call you “pigs” are not reason to hate all men and women (I repeat, MEN AND WOMEN) who are feminists in the right sense of the word. Because when you do that, you are behaving just like these women who internet loves to call “Feminazis”. If you believe in treating women with equality, you are a good human being and that makes you a feminist too.

Yours truly,

A proud feminist