Sometime back there was a video being shared and reshared on social media platforms where a female in jeans and a tshirt walks in New York City. She receives so many comments and looks that amount to street harassment. In response to the video, a similar experiment was carried out in New York. Firstly a female walks around in jeans, a skinny and cardigan and then in burqa. No one says anything to her and no one looks her way when she’s wearing the burqa. The video ends with the question, ‘What do you think? You be the judge.’

And this is why we need feminism
Jeans and tshirt in no way fit the definition of indecent or revealing. And even if it does, can we say a person deserves to be harassed simply because she’s showing too much skin? Are we saying that in order to protect women from being harassed, we should make sure women are covered from head to toe instead of punishing the wrongdoers?

This blame game is exactly why females continue to be an oppressed lot. If a girl is raped, people are quick to imply she asked for it by wearing a skimpy outfit or that she behaved inappropriately. If a girl is harassed while she walks home in the night, people would rather say, ‘she should know better than to walk alone when it’s dark’ than create a safe environment where people, regardless of their sex or age, can live safely, whether it’s day or night.

Some people, even women, would say harassment can be avoided. Avoid wearing revealing clothes, avoid dodgy places and pretend you don’t notice. It isn’t easy to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to street harassment.

However, more than the difficulty of ignoring harassment, it is necessary to address the issue. Further, feminism and social equality is much more than street harassment and what women can and shouldn’t wear.

Feminism is needed because in various ways, we all create a gap between males and females. For instance, a female gamer or female IT professional is treated as a rare and unique creature. Similarly, a male nurse or teacher is also treated as a rare and unique creature, but often in a negative way. It is this labeling of careers, colors, outfits, vehicles, literature, films and songs that builds a wall between men and women. Starting from the smallest and most innocent of sexist comments, we, as a society, slowly give way to social inequality.

Looking at the broad topic of gender equality, it is important to address inequality that exists in a large scale. Even today, work place gender discrimination occurs. In some cultures, women are still seen as sinners or are considered unclean. Domestic violence against females is excused as ‘a husband’s right.’ Females are questioned on their purity and virginity. Although completely biological, some religions don’t allow women on their period to enter places of worship.

This is why we need gender equality
We need feminism and gender equality so that an individual isn’t treated depending on his/her sex. We need feminism and gender equality so that people don’t feel unworthy simply because they were born female. We need feminism and gender equality so that humans are treated alike and with respect and kindness.

However, we don’t need feminism so that men can be discriminated against. We don’t need feminism so that women can be treated better than men. Feminism can’t be about special treatment.

This could be why feminism and feminists are often criticized. While ideally feminism and feminists promote gender equality, it seems like they want society to treat women better. However, when the battle of activists turns into a want of being better, the entire purpose of feminism is defeated.

There is also a question of what social equality is. Does social equality mean that women can urinate on roadsides simply because men do so or that no one can urinate on roadsides? Does social equality mean both men and women can walk around in skimpy outfits?

It is easy for us to raise placards, take part in rallies and scream for social equality. It is easy to ask, or demand, for social equality. However, it isn’t as easy to change society so that there is equality. An effort needs to be made and to do so we all need to have a clear understanding of what social equality is and how it can be achieved.

“I believe gender equality is a hard thing to achieve… I think it’s proper to reach gender suitability.”
MJJ Namal Dias

“Remove the word ‘gender’ from anything and you achieve equality. That is the purest form, no words, silence, let it happen.”
Gihan Fernando

” The only reason why we talk of women’s equality is because women are not treated equally. Had the society treated them equally as they do with men, we won’t be talking about it. It’s something which has been talked about for centuries, and yet not being practiced. My personal opinion is the topic ‘women’s equality’ is just an attractive topic and nothing else.

Politicians talk about it, women activists talk about it, the general public talks about it and that’s it. I think it’s time to leave the discussions behind and start acting on it, at least to initiate. Human beings should be treated equally, and it is a fundamental right. So, I think it’s something they are entitled to. I really don’t think one should even ask whether women should be given equal treatment because it’s a right!.”

“Gender equality is too broad based a phrase. Roles that we play tend to be ‘gender preferred,’ making substitution difficult.”
Kelum Samarasena

“If equality represents equal pay and job opportunities and losing the glass ceiling then equality is amazing. But I dislike it when women use equality as an excuse to bash on men and show that ‘women are the best and men are useless.’
That’s what most so called feminists do anyway.”
Sakuni Weerasinghe

“From a human point of view, women should have equal rights, but in business maybe the glass ceiling isn’t that bad, because we, women, can’t stay back for long hours even though some women do stay. Even with paternity leave and all still its better when the mother is there.

In my experience, guys whose mothers have been working moms prefer their wives to either be housewives or come home early. They don’t like coming home to an empty house. In marriage, I think both should do household work, raise the kids and work too because now one person bringing money isn’t enough.”
Ruchini Peiris