What is feminism anyway ? – Rocio Infante, Peru

Feminism. A strong word that in today’s society means so much more than just women’s rights. But what exactly is feminism?

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The word feminism originated from the French féminisme in the nineteenth century and started off as a movement that fought for women’s rights. Today, a feminist is anyone who strives for gender equality in society. Women may now have the same rights as men in some aspects, but in many places, they are not granted respect and are not treated like they should be. In some countries, this may be more noticeable, but the truth is that sexism is still something that persists in most, if not all, societies. Some people aren’t aware of it, but men are oppressed as well, even though many think they have male privilege. Overarchingly, the purpose of feminism is to end gender discrimination and for men and women to not to be stereotyped. This seems hard to achieve, but feminists believe it is possible and continue to fight for equality.

In Peru, modern feminism arose when women’s suffrage was established in 1955. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the first feminist organizations were created. Today, the movement is still quite small, but thanks to the media, more people identify with it. What is really saddening though, is to read a newspaper or turn on the TV to find yet another case of rape, domestic violence or femicide happening almost every day. In most cases, the victims don’t report the assault because of fear of their aggressor, and when the case is reported, the aggressor usually runs away, gets sentenced for a very short period of time or is let off with a warning. In my opinion, there should be stricter norms, laws and implementation of said laws to ensure the safety of women and protect them in cases of sexual, physical or psychological abuse.

What is really frustrating as well, is how sexist media and publicity can be. For example, in most commercials, women are seen washing, cleaning, cooking and taking care of children, but not men. What’s worse is that children grow up watching this and think that gender roles are normal because even their toys represent them. Men on the other hand, need to be strong and brave according to society, and ‘man up’, unlike women. Not only that, but the oversexualization of women needs to stop. Showing some skin isn’t a plea for sexual abuse. Men and women might be different, and that’s ok. We may never be the same, but we need equal rights and treatment because after all, we are all human.

In order to get a better perspective of what my generation thinks about feminism and sexism, I decided to ask a few teenagers that were willing to give their opinion on the subject what feminism means to them. Personally, I think feminism is different for every person since some feminists may be more radical than others and some even call themselves feminists when their real objective is to make women better than men instead of fighting for equality. This, of course, is a misconception, and should not be confused with what real feminism is about. I think men and women must be free to be themselves without society telling them they should act a certain way because it’s expected from someone of their sex. Sexism really oppresses people and I’m sure anyone reading this has felt oppressed at some point of their lives, whether you’re a man or a woman. Now, the transgender community suffers much more discrimination, especially trans women. Many aren’t even able to use a public bathroom without getting dirty looks. Homosexual people are also oppressed, especially because some people think (incorrectly) that they are less a woman or less a man because of their sexual orientation. Sexism has affected me, my friends, my family, and I really don’t want it to affect more people in the future,  and that is why I consider myself a feminist.

What do you consider feminism is, and do you consider yourself a feminist?

This is what a few Peruvian teens answered:

  • “Feminism is a movement that allegedly looks for equality between the two genders. In other words, it establishes that women are just as capable as a man are or more. I don’t consider myself fully feminist, but I do take feminist positions when it come to defend women’s rights and gender inequality.” -Rossella, 16
  • “I think feminism is a movement that tries to change certain aspects in society, some for good, others just because some followers of this movement (feminists) disagree with them. It’s almost like a political party. I think sexism is a big problem in Peru and that nothing is gained by favoring one part of society, so I agree with equality. But in my opinion, there are certain feminist or sexist groups that use these ‘benefits’ selectively.” -Raúl, 15
  • “For me, feminism is the support that should exist between both sexes so women have the same capability as men in society. There are people that confuse feminism with a movement that wants to put women in a higher position than men, when actually both should be treated equally. Yes, I consider myself a feminist because I support gender equality in my country.” -Andja, 17
  • “In my opinion, feminism is a position people take that goes against sexism. However, I don’t think it’s correct and sexism neither. There should be an ideology that is neutral for men and women so we can have the equality we deserve. No, I don’t consider myself a feminist” -Manuel, 19

As you can see, most opinions refer to feminism as a movement that is somewhat against men and/or only favors women. As I said before, this misconception of feminism leads to these type of opinions. However, they are all against sexism and think gender equality is something Peruvian society needs, which is true. In my opinion, media and what so-called-feminists say and do sometimes confuse people, especially youth, and therefore causing them to  think that feminism is only for women and for their own benefits. I really hope most young people understand the importance of gender equality and that gender discrimination is wrong and oppresses both sexes. We should all embrace our differences and not hurt each other because of gender, sexuality or gender identity.

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