The political aspect of Feminism came to the fore in the twentieth century. In this modern age, feminism indicates the women’s movement and it also focuses on the advancement of the social role of women. There are two important beliefs linked to this ideology; the first is women are being disadvantaged based on sex and the second is that this disadvantage should be overthrown. Patriarchy is deemed as a sole target of Feminism and the dominance of men is perceived as a threat to women’s emancipation. Till now, the world has witnessed four waves of feminism.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the women’s movement played important role in commencing a campaign for female suffrage, the right to vote. This period is known as the ‘First wave’ of Feminism. The ‘first wave of feminism’ was influenced by liberal principles.
Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” gave impetus to the second wave of feminism. The second wave of Feminism acknowledged that legal and political rights were not enough to solve women’s issues. Friedan maintained that the real cause behind the unhappiness and frustration was the limited role of the woman to housewife and mother. There are various types of feminism such as liberal, social, and radical.
Wollstonecraft’s “Vindication of the rights of women” was the first text of modern or liberal feminism. Wollstonecraft argued that women and men should enjoy the same rights because they both are human beings. She further claimed that the ‘distinction of sex’ should not be important in social and political life‘. Socialist Feminists hold that the social and economic structure is a stumbling block in the way of women’s emancipation. They maintain that a social change through a revolution will bestow the women with liberty. Similarly, radical Feminism has its objections and opportunities. Early radical feminists like Eva Figes and Germaine Greer introduced another dimension of Feminism. Figes maintains that patriarchal values are penetrated in the culture, morality, and religion of society. The central tenet of radical feminism is the belief that sexual oppression is a cornerstone of society.
Another radical feminist and Canadian author Shulamith Firestone goes further to say that Women are left at the mercy of biology. She thinks that women can achieve emancipation by ‘transcending their biological nature and escaping from the curse of eve’. She terms pregnancy as a burden on women and offers the way of abortion or contraception. She further suggests circumventing pregnancy through artificial reproduction in test tubes.
First of all, we have to know the way of thinking of Non-believers and believers because it determines the foundation of feminism like ideologies. Many non-believers and some Muslims who do not emphasize faith think that the mind draws a line between right and wrong. They think that the division of right and wrong is possible through common-sense and it is a natural trait in human beings. Non-believers give whole credit to their thinking and experiences for the establishment of any ideology. They have excluded God from the scene.
An in-depth analysis shows this is not the case; all the robbers, plunderers, assaulters, and abusers have mind and common-sense. This is God who has categorized the do’s and don’ts. He has introduced people to advantageous and disadvantageous. He has designed the system of punishment and forgiveness. He mentions what is good and what is not. Mere common-sense is not enough to take the right track on its own. Allah’s guidance and knowledge of human’s limitations are needed.
The fear of Allah bars Muslims from doing what our mind or in other words ‘common sense’ calls true. This is what is mentioned in the Quran, Allah says:
“Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you, and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not” (Quran 2:216).
In this verse, an important thing is mentioned that we don’t have surety that what we do is right or wrong. As it is a crucial part of our belief that Allah knows better, then his prescribed way of life can never be altered with man-made ideology whether that is feminism or something else. So, for a believing woman, it is important to know that Islam provides a very effective framework for a successful life.
In Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s words:
“Apni Millat par qiyas, Aqwaam e Maghrib say na kar
Khas hai tarqeeb mein, Qaum e Rasool e Hashmi”
( Judge not your nation on the criteria of Western nations
Special in composition is the Hashimi Prophet’s nation )
Now, let us talk about the nature of the recent spark of Feminism in Pakistan and its dangerous impact on Pakistan’s social fabric.
Unfortunately, the recent emergence of feminism presents an extreme side of feminism and it seems radical. The baseless and immoral slogans like “my body, my choice” has weakened the case of women. This form of feminism has given the impression of Women vs Men. It has diverted the attention of women from demanding rights to defeating men. It has shown that men are obstacles in the way of women’s rights. Ironically, in a society like ours where people were unfamiliar with feminism, they are directly being exposed to an extreme type of feminism.
Firstly, by dint of illiteracy and little knowledge of religion, radical feminism can create a clash with extremists from a clerical version of Islam. In our society, we have two extremes liberal and religious but we don’t have a midway that is Islam. Our women need to understand that an alien ideology that is at odds with our religion will not work. Secondly, blindly following an alien ideology will lead the women astray. It can generate some objectionable demands or campaigns such as the “Free the Nipple campaign”. In 2012, filmmaker Lina Esco started this campaign. The campaign urges that “it should be culturally and legally acceptable for women to be topless”. Similarly, demands for lesbian and gay marriages can also be expected. Thirdly, feminism can distort our family unit as some of the feminists take child-rearing as a curse and emphasize the avoidance of pregnancy. Fourthly, useless slogans and demands can have stark consequences on young girls who are lacking maturity.
Another question arises that where are the feminists making mistake? A very valid and interesting answer is given by Yasmin Mogahed, in her book “Reclaim your heart”. She writes,
“The master, who has defined a woman’s worth, has taken many forms throughout times. One of the most prevalent standards made for women has been the standard of men. But what we so often forget is that God has honored the women by giving her value in relation to himself, not in relation to men. Yet, as western feminism erased God from the scene, there was no standard left but men. As a result, western feminist was forced to find her value in relation to men. And in so doing she had accepted a faulty assumption. She had accepted that man is the standard and thus a woman can never be a full human being until she becomes just like a man”. She further writes that “What she (woman) didn’t recognize was that God dignifies both men and women in their distinctiveness not in their sameness”.
Muslim women who are finding Feminism attractive, need to shift focus from men to Allah. It is all about the standard or benchmark they have set for themselves. At the end of the article, I would like to clarify that rejecting feminism doesn’t mean rejecting women rights. No doubt, women are facing multiple issues at the domestic and the societal level, but the point is, feminism is not a panacea to their sufferings rather it is Islam that is the way out.
About The Author
Wali Ejaz Nekokara is an independent researcher and a freelance contributor. He Graduated from School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He focuses on international issues, social and political issues of Pakistan and issues related to interpretation of Islam. He is interested in poetry and is an admirer of Allama Iqbal.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale 47