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What has feminism ever done to you?

Time:2017-01-09 05:54Underwear site information Click:

What Ever Feminism done

A couple of years ago, three female computer scientists from MIT decided to do a live Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on the popular internet platform Reddit. Their intention, as they stated it, was to answer questions about “what our lives are like as PhD students at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), and what we could do to get more young people excited about programming.” During the course of the live AMA, they were asked to make sandwiches (because, of course, “women belong in the kitchen”), called out for introducing themselves as “women computer scientists” and not simply computer scientists, and even accused of leveraging the fact that they were women to get attention on the site. They were asked about their underwear and how often they copied their male classmates' answers.

The three scientists, Elena Glassman, Neha Narula and Jean Yang, subsequently wrote an article for Wired addressing the treatment they received. “We decided to actively highlight the fact that we were three female computer scientists doing an AMA, to serve as role models in a field that's less than 20 percent female.” 

Of course, as any user of the internet knows, online harassment of women is not an isolated phenomenon. The anonymity that the internet provides has meant that from unsolicited proposals to outright sexual harassment, the 'creeps' get creepier when they are online. The internet is just an easier medium for this sexism and misogyny to unfold. And a very perverse part of it consists of accusing women, especially ones identifying with feminist ideologies, of either complaining too much, or as the three computer scientists were told, leveraging their 'womanhood'.

A few days ago, a post by a well-educated person (of course, male) came up on my newsfeed on Facebook. The post was hating on feminism and how it has gone all wrong because women in Bangladesh complain of 'manspreading.' For those not familiar with the term, it refers to the practice of “sitting in public transport with legs wide apart, thereby covering more than one seat.” His point was that this was not a real issue, and feminists who berate the practice are somehow a disgrace to the feminists who had fought for suffrage and equal rights. The comments in the post went on to argue how after the first and second wave of feminism, it had run out of 'real' issues and was now simply a mockery.

These are just two examples, but one gets the gist of the issue. It assumes, now that women can vote and are entitled to equal rights, there is nothing for women to struggle for. But as any woman who has used public transport in Bangladesh will tell you, men taking up more than their fair share of seats (because manly men are big and strong and take up space confidently) is a real issue. But even here, as I have had the misfortune to overhear in buses, men complain about allocated seats for women, how they are given special treatment, and how they can get away with so much just because of their gender.

Arguments such as this tend to boil down feminism to its most vitriolic: feminism is defined to be man-hating. Feminists are described as women who hate men, are opposed to family values, or just seeking attention. 

The fundamental flaw with this argument is of course that it reduces feminism (as it does individual women to a homogenous whole) to one simple thing. The nuances of different ideologies and the specific problems in different cultures and communities are all thrown out the window. That many feminists themselves have critiqued 'choice feminism' or militant feminism, or spoken out for child-rearing are not even registered. The arguments usually start with “I have no problem with the feminism of the past but…” and end with how feminism today is completely unnecessary. As highlighted in the case of the computer scientists, it is assumed that talking about gender is completely uncalled for today.

A much rarer argument goes in the line of “Sure, women are harassed, but a movement speaking solely for women and not for, say, the thousands of men killed in so and so, cannot be supported”. It claims women are not the only ones with problems. But as an article on The Economist from 2014 about how more women face gender-specific harassment online reads: “Women take online harassment more seriously not because we are hysterics, but because we reasonably have to. There is no gender equivalence in terms of the denigrating, hostile and sometimes exceedingly dangerous environmental effect that misogyny has, online or off. It has a long history and cannot be isolated from actual violence that we adapt to avoiding every day. The fact that violence has always suppressed women's free speech is only now becoming too obvious to ignore.”

Because the issues faced by women are due to their gender, it is important to have feminism. Sure, women can vote today, but as 2016 reminded us, they also face much more hostility. And this is all the more reason why it is so much more shocking when feminism becomes a dreaded word, why many men find issues with the movement, to the point of asking for a similar movement, 'meninism.'

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