By Almas Shamim

No, we aren’t talking about “Fuck” here, though, we could do that as well. ‘Fuck’, or let’s be more technical and call it ‘sexual intercourse’, seems to be a lesser taboo today than it was a decade ago, maybe, but any discussion around it continues to turn heads and raise eyebrows. So, yes, we’ll talk about it, but let’s begin with a different F-Word- something that meets with too much hatred and discrimination, and is as big a taboo (if not bigger) as sex.

You may have guessed it- yes, I’m talking about ‘Feminism’.

The much spoken about, the much extolled and the much criticized ‘feminism’. For some, it is the Holy Grail and for some there couldn’t be a bigger slander. Of course, we are all entitled to our own opinions, but, we must ensure that our opinions are well informed and not based on any ignorant portrayals or beliefs.

So what is feminism? Is it ‘blaming men for every problem under the sun’? Is it ‘demanding men to do household chores’? Or is it ‘labeling all men rapists’?

THIS seems to be the general perception surrounding feminism, which, sadly, is not true.

Contrary to popular belief, feminism does not mean placing females at a higher pedestal than men. It does not translate to female superiority and definitely does not call for male bashing. What feminism does mean is ‘equality’. As a movement, feminism calls for equal social, political, cultural and economic rights for women. It only demands that a woman be treated as an equal to a man.

Any person who says that such a demand is baseless because women already have all the rights, is only living in denial and needs to come out of the cave that he/she resides in and look around at all the injustices being meted out on women for the simple reason that they are women. Be it killing of the female foetus, be it demanding dowry from a bride, or be it maltreatment of a woman after she is widowed, there is a definite bias against women. To deny it is a sign of cowardice- cowardice to own up the mistake that we humans have been committing for ages.

Our society is highly patriarchal and gives too much importance to men. Women have always been looked at as some ‘thing’ that just has a supportive role to men. Feminism, here, does not call for a role reversal. It, in reality, calls for a balanced role assignment, where both men and women are equally important and both are supportive to each other. In this way, feminism is not a movement that is beneficial to women alone, but also to men.

Imagine a society where only men could be earning members of their families, only men could drive vehicles and only men could go out to the market for buying groceries. On the one hand, it would undermine the potential of women, underplaying all that a woman could do (besides being highly claustrophobic!), on the other hand it would place too many responsibilities on the men- they would literally be running around outside the house with hardly any time to spend at home. Feminism, in its demand of giving equal rights for women, also places equal responsibilities on them, so that the world runs smoothly with both halves of the population- the men and the women- complementing each other, rather than one subjugating the other.

It’s imperative that we understand what feminism is, and how important it is for both women and men to be feminists, so that the world moves at least one step closer to be the fair place it should be.

So, what are your thoughts about this F-Word – Feminism?

Almas Shamim is a public health specialist with a great interest in sexual and reproductive health and rights, and feminism among Muslim women. She currently works for an international humanitarian aid organization in New Delhi and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.