Feminist, humanist or both?

Courtesy Emma Watson and the fantastically inspiring #HeforShe movement, #feminism is trending again. I went through some soul-searching recently to work out whether or not I wanted to be associated with that term. Not the cause, mind you — there’s absolutely no doubt that I am a feminist, the way feminism is defined. But the term, “feminism”, itself.

Feminism is a difficult term for half of the world’s population to attach itself to, isn’t it? For the same reasons that one would champion the use of gender neutral terms such as “chairperson” or “player of the match” instead of “chairman” and “man of the match”. Surely this logic should work in reverse?

Is “humanism” a better substitute?

Well, not really, because, as I discovered, while the ideologies of feminism and humanism overlap to some extent, they play a fundamentally different role in societal evolution. And both are relevant and necessarily required to co-exist for progress to happen in critical areas of inequality and discrimination in the world today.

At a very high-level, feminism is all about gender equality and correcting deeply rooted gender imbalance. While great strides have been made and, personally, I feel gratified to have been a beneficiary of this great social change, the sad truth is that fundamental gender-based inequalities are still all around us. Whether in the workplace or in society, voices and movements of change are required in order to get to a world where women earn equal wages and girls get the same access to education as boys.

Humanism, on the other hand, is about equal rights for all human beings (men, women, transgender, straight or gay) accompanied by a dogma-free basis for free thinking. This ideology challenges the limits of societal structure by challenging some very basic elements of the social fabric — marriage rules, as one example and religious faith as another.

It turns out that you can be one and not the other — ex: you can be a feminist, without being a humanist or vice versa. Or, you can be both.

Which is where I’ve landed up. I am a feminist. And a humanist.

I just wish the term could have been more intuitively inclusive ….

P.S. Turns out this is quite a common conundrum. One of many interesting posts I came across as I was researching: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/7-proud-feminists-who-arent-apologizing-hillary-clinton?trk=pulse-det-nav_art

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