What is feminism?

Published: April 4, 2019

KARACHI: Islamic feminism is an offshoot of feminism which is developed by a transnational network of activists in widely contrasting sociopolitical contexts. Islamic feminists are concerned with developing an ethical reading of the bases of Islam, namely the Quran and the Sunnah, in order to find a form of religious exegesis that will support their feminist viewpoint. It is, therefore, legitimate to speak of the production of a new Islamic discourse and, in general terms, of its appropriation. A more traditional approach of Islamic feminism also argues in favour of women’s rights within the parameters of Islam, defining the religion as innately feminist.

Women have faced countless cruel forms of institutionalised discrimination, in different cultural settings, since time immemorial. This is an undeniable truth, making feminism — a movement seeking to create equality for women in the social, political, economic, and occupational spheres — laudable. There is no moral reason behind not allowing a woman to vote, denying her equal access to education and healthcare, or not giving her equal pay for the same job as a man. Feminism has addressed these deeply sexist social injustices. This is what many qualify as compassionate feminism and identify with as well, including myself.

As feminism has gained popularity in public discourse, a form of it has also been criticised for being anti-man. According to this sub-group of feminists, while misogyny is reprehensible and evil, misandry is laudable. In fact, many leading feminist theorists have even said some offensive and deeply sexist things. If these same quotes were altered using the word ‘woman’ in place of ‘man’, the quotes in question would be construed as horrifyingly sexist, yet when spoken by ‘deliverer feminists’, they are perfectly permissible.

To recapitulate, we must applaud feminism for its contributions towards making our societies more equitable and just, and less sexist although more work remains to be done, and in its bid to eliminate misogyny, misandrist talk must not be given a free reign.

Maheen Ahmed

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2019.

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