Gloria Steinem often said, “A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.” In the modern age, the glory of feminism is often masked by the norm of cultures, the believed dissolution of its necessity, or the unjust ignorance that comes from feminist opposition. Feminism is not the belief in superiority over man, but rather, the advocacy of equality on the basis of political, economical, and social liberties. It is with women and men alike, that aspirations have turned to gold; ambitions that were once dreams became reality when strong beings pursued equality in America.
But what about around the world?
In India—historically infamous for subjugating women’s positions amongst society—the idealism for change has been slowly coming to fruition. According to Jugal Kishore Misra, who contributed to The Indian Journal of Political Science, “Although women constitute 50 percent of India’s population, perform two-thirds of the work and produce 50 percent of the food commodities consumed by the country, they earn only one third of the remuneration and 10 percent of the property or wealth of the country.” Trying to negate such preposterous circumstances will take an entire nation coming forth to abolish notions set thousands of years before our current time.
But as history has proven through writers, inventors, activists and so many more—the transformative occurrences of one mind or even a few, can revolutionize the idealism of a society.
The greatest aspect upon discovering neglect and unjust conditions in India, is that people are seeing them; when the truth meets their eyes, it is then that some rally for change. Empowerment and gender-equality seem like far-fetched notions to the one-track mind. Though these concepts take a collective to enact, they only take one person to see.
In India, steps are being made and women are making an effort to fight for their deserved valor. As of June 2016, the first batch of women fighter pilots, comprising three cadets, will be inducted in the Indian Air Force. Neerja Sethi who was born in India and began her college education at Delhi University before pursuing opportunities in America, holds a net worth of 1.1 billion dollars as an IT and Outsourcing executive. Her feats as both a woman and Indian-born have been recorded by Forbes as record-breaking. Commit2Change is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating orphan girls in India. They are set on rescuing girls who have been exposed to violence in every form, and hope to rehabilitate young females impoverished and abandoned by their families and the government. Many of these transformative leaders seek to create a cultural revolution in which regular people—not just political officials—can reform backwards idealism that has caused a chaotic social disruption to their country.
But it takes the help of more than just women.
“I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.” Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl who defied the Taliban and survived a gunshot to the head, continues to fight for equality in education for women. Her platform has touched the hearts of many and is on the forefront of dramatic changes to be made in the Middle East towards the treatment of women and their education. She is not discourteous towards men, but rather, asks of them for their assistance in striving for equal instruction as she says, “Change is possible in Pakistan if fathers and brothers stand up for girls’ constitutional right to education.” Yousafzai is never prejudicial to a particular gender, but calls for peace created by a united front.
You see, there is hope for change, if only a few can transform a whole. And those few don’t have to be just women or just men; they must simply be human.
Personally, I am not one to label myself as belonging to a certain social classification. I am human. I live on the same world as do 7 billion other people. I need water. I crave love. I yearn for joy. Just like anyone else. But being a feminist does not mean excluding one sex for the sake of proving another. It is what man and woman alike refer to themselves when they aspire to see and create transformative justice that unites a world into a more peaceful state. They seek freedom from oppression. They seek a fair chance. They simply want what they deserve. And one thing I’ve learned: feminists are human too.
Women and men alike are capable of extraordinary things. We can be leaders, writers, aspirers of good. It doesn’t matter whether we are male or female when we become these things; it simply matters that we stay human throughout them. For helping people, being kind, and striving for what is best for ourselves shouldn’t take a label to make them worth pursuing. It is what we do with that label that makes it worth the journey.
-Kiran Bains Sahota