By Kahina Ghediri
As one passes by Alice Walker’s saying: “Womanism is to feminism as purple is to lavender”, he/she may misleadingly assume that all women are necessarily feminists or at least pro-feminists. In fact the word feminism might have been derived from the terms “female” or “feminine”, albeit, its followers and proponents are somewhat surprising. To our amazement, it has been revealed that while some women do not agree with the Feminist profile and tend to organize anti-feminist campaigns, there happen to exist men who tirelessly defend women’s cause. To phrase this differently, many male activists devote themselves to serving women’s rights more than females themselves. This indeed, proves that one needs not to be a woman in order to be labeled “feminist”. The most striking example here would be The Dalai Lama, who announced during a September 2009 speech at the National Civil Rights Museum: “I call myself a feminist. Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights?”
Historically, as we follow the development of the feminist movement in different arenas, we uncover an endless number of female figures who antagonize feminism as a movement ,as an ideology and as a term altogether. Queen Victoria, for instance, describes the movement as: “Mad, wicked folly of Woman’s Rights” .The American conservative activist “Phyllis Schlafly” also declares in the same context: “The feminist movement taught women to see themselves as victims of an oppressive patriarchy….Self-imposed victimhood is not a recipe for happiness.”
It is worth noting that females who are anti-feminism are not inevitably anti-women. To pursue this idea, different women define feminism according to various social, and cultural outlines, hence their refusal to feminism is attributed to highly personal reasons. In this regard, the Nigerian novelist Ifeoma Okoye explains that she refuses to make a man or a group of males bear a collective responsibility of other oppressive men. In Okoye’s words:
“I do no support feminists who antagonize all men and who feel that any woman who does not antagonize men is not a true feminist. Not all men are chauvinists. Not all men are against women and those who are not against us are for us.”(2000).
In relation to women who oppose feminism, the British writer Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey argues that she refuses to follow feminism simply because she is satisfied with her femininity as it is, so she puts it this way: “It seems to be the fashion nowadays for a girl to behave as much like a man as possible. Well, I won’t! I’ll make the best of being a girl and be as a nice specimen as I can: sweet and modest, a dear, dainty thing with clothes smelling all sweet and violet, a soft voice, and pretty, womanly ways. Since I’m a girl, I prefer to be a real one!”
Nowadays, some young ladies are tweeting a hashtag “women against feminism”. These girls bear papers which convey their justifications to why they deny feminism. Some females attribute their refusal to feminism to considering the fact of fighting men and seeking equal rights with them, in its own right, a recognition to men’s superiority over women. Yet other ladies explain that they would rather use the term “humanism”, for the term “feminism” yields a sense of separation, divisiveness, alienation and segregation based on gender. In truth these two arguments seem to be fair enough to be welcomed even by feminists. Nevertheless, their claim that feminism is no longer needed because women have already achieved all the goals they sought through it, is a rude and a selfish attitude. Do all women in the world truly enjoy the rights that certain women attained thanks to feminism? The answer is obvious “NO”. Let’s remind these ladies that whilst women in certain zones of planet Earth enjoy a descent status in society, there still exist millions of women who strive to get a living in the most humiliating conditions, thousands are thwarted from access to schools and from the right to heritage, millions of women are homeless, and an infinite number of females are raped, abused and killed. So you still think women do not need feminism anymore?
Apart from women standing against women, Arab men have long been stereotyped as patriarchal oppressors. In other words, Arab men are portrayed as haters of Arab women. Ironically, the first to introduce the feminist movement to the Arab world was a man. Besides, whilst lots of men in the Western world -like the American Baptist Pat Robertson-criticized and fought the movement of Women’s rights in the West, the Egyptian lawyer Amine Qasim pioneered in advocating Arab women’s rights to education and liberty.
This variety of tendencies both males and females have towards feminism has to do, to a large extent, with the way one defines the term “feminism” , and this happens to be the result of the socially shaped perceptions of the movement . Henceforth, pro-women and pro-feminism are not synonymous; in that, many males are pro-women and pro-feminism altogether, yet a lot of females are pro-women, but are anti-feminism. However an anti-women can never be a pro-feminist be it male or female. Moreover, In regard to this dilemma of pro-women, anti-women, pro-feminism, anti-feminism, it is not astonishing to see men defending women’s rights, on the one hand, and women standing against women, on the other hand. This justifies that the over-generalized consideration of men as haters of women can be true in some extremely customary oriented attitudes related to narrowly built traditions, but not to a whole culture or to a given religion. At this point, it is important to note that in most of the cases the eternal enemy of a woman is the WOMAN herself, and this argument brings to our minds Madeleine Albright’s quote: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.