Radical feminism: Is it confusing the fight for equality?

Whereas feminism involves the idea of equal treatment, scholars have described radicalism as a perspective within the movement that calls for a radical reordering of society, in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts.

One Samira Isimbi recently shared a tweet with concerns on why marriage officiants have to ask the groom to kiss the bride.

Her argument was that both parties should be given the liberty to participate in the act instead of authorising the man.  

 

“Do you guys realise how problematic it is for the pastor or priest to say ‘you may now kiss the bride?’ which is only addressed to the man not the woman. I mean did the woman give you the consent to kiss her? Let both of them participate in that action (you may kiss each other). Society will never let us rest and we will keep disrupting the patriarchy,” her tweet read.

 

Many went on to criticise her, arguing that she was taking the case for equality to the extreme and that this was no longer a fight for equality, but war against the opposite gender.

 

Feminism as a platform has enabled women to be amplifiers and the voice of those who are oppressed. Net photos

Whereas feminism involves the idea of equal treatment, scholars have described radical feminism as a perspective within feminism that calls for a radical reordering of society, in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts.

Isimbi’s case is one of the several scenarios that prompt many to question whether feminism is aimed at fighting for equality or a mere disguise for misandry.

Writer Samantha Carrillo is of the view that feminism represents much more than just extreme stereotypes.

It is said that feminism is not a movement to rid all men from the earth, it is a movement for a better world. 

“Don’t confuse feminists with radical feminists who punish men for being men. Listen to the feminists that want people to treat each other with equal respect and have an equal presence and rights in society,” Carillo states.

She highlights that true feminists don’t seek to bring others down; they want to see the world be a better and equal place. Feminists strive for equality, it’s that simple.

“The world we live in has long seen women as objects rather than the talented and capable individuals that they are. It is time that we all acknowledge the beneficial impact that women and feminism can have if given the opportunity.”

It all starts with being mindful and respectful of those around you. Feminism is not a movement to rid all men from the earth, it is a movement for a better world, she adds.

Clement Kirenga, a gender activist, explains that the concept of feminism is different according to altered waves (first, second and third), so women are also not a homogenous group, for they are faced with different issues in different places over different times.

First-wave of feminism was in early 20th century (1900 to 1959), focusing on women’s suffrage, property rights, and political candidacy.

Second wave was in 1960s to 1980s, focusing on reducing inequalities in sex, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, and official legal inequalities. The third-wave was in 1990s to 2000s, focusing on embracing individualism and diversity, whereas the fourth came in 2008 to present-day, focusing on combatting sexual harassment, assault, and misogyny.

Kirenga is of the view that promoting women’s rights through women movements can bring quicker changes, however, he is against radical feminists who seem to profoundly fight for women’s and girls’ rights without engaging men and boys.

“I believe in women’s rights first but I also think in contexts like Rwanda, many women and men have embraced ‘men engage’ as a better approach to easily reach gender equality,” he says.

“Men and boys can also be agents of change even more than some women and girls who are ‘gate-openers’ of patriarchy that slows down achieving gender equality. This, to me, is a sustainable approach,” he adds.

Kirenga highlights that if feminism is well understood and is not radical, liberal feminists or social Marxists can empower women and girls by dismantling patriarchy system through women’s solidarity, role modelling, supporting one another to access human and financial resources through education, finance with an aim of having one unified women and girls’ voice.

Bertin Ganza Kanamugire, a gender activist and founder of Afflatus Africa, is of the view that feminism is a broad issue that some misinterpret as a platform for superiority, yet it’s about equality for both men and women.

Feminism is good to empower women but needs more clarification because even men don’t have the same level of understanding about the issue, he says.

He notes that feminism as a platform has enabled women to be amplifiers and the voice of those who are oppressed, however, “taking this ‘overboard’ is what has brought about cases of gender-based violence and femicide among other issues.”

Kanamugire believes that no one (both male and female) should see this journey to equality as a threat because having this mind-set is where all the trouble starts.

He considers that all people see it as a fight to build a robust nation, “let us all treat each other with respect, men should treat women with respect. We should treat our wives the same way we wish our sisters, mothers and daughters to be treated.”

Recognise feminism for what it is

Taylor Demarco, a communications major, writes that there are always going to be extremists in any movement.

This goes farther than feminism. People will believe any Muslim is a terrorist; they will be frightened by a Christian and intimidated by a person for the colour of their skin. Why is it that we focus the attention on the extremists and generalise the entire movement by them instead of listening to the actual message? She wonders.

“Fear is an amazing tactic to use on society when you want complete control. People will listen to anything that reassures them when it comes to fear, even if it’s hateful. We should all be familiar with what feminism means at this point,” she writes.

“Feminism does not mean they are ‘angry’ or ‘unattractive’ women who haven’t showered in three weeks. Feminism does not mean compliments men give are ‘insulting’. Feminism does not mean women hate men. A feminist’s goal is to achieve gender equality for all, nationally and globally.”

Annette Mukiga, a feminist, doesn’t agree that women go overboard; how do you go overboard when claiming for equal rights and opportunities as a human being, she questions.

Demanding fairness in the way women are perceived and treated is a demand for justice. However, when there is resistance to the demands being made; of course there will be people who are willing to latch onto anything to justify their stand, Mukiga explains.

“That is not to say that there aren’t misunderstandings from both men and women on what gender equality means; for example some believe that gender equality pushed for by feminists and gender activists means that tables will be turned and women will be in dominance, or have supreme power over men. This is a big misconception; what feminists want is shared power in everything, fairness and justice for all, not based on who you are or where you come from or your religion,” she says.

For her, these ‘overboard’ demands are necessary and good for women empowerment in the long run, because she believes gender equality is not going to happen by women demanding what society is comfortable in giving.

She, hence, supports women to continue challenging male privilege and patriarchy in order to achieve equality.

“I salute those women who are willing to go an extra mile to demand the change we want.”

Mukiga highlights that engaging both men and women is key to achieving gender equality.

“I am glad that there is an increasing momentum to engage men and boys by raising their consciousness on promoting women empowerment and gender equality; this is needed for the journey towards change to be as painless as possible. Engaging men and boys also contributes towards sustaining the changes.”

She also believes that identifying and working with male allies to act as models for positive masculinity is key. Also, education of both girls and boys and integrating gender equality studies in education from a young age would go a long way in changing negative social norms, giving both sexes the capacity to live up to their full potential.

“That said, ‘men engage’ is just a strategy and not an end in itself. Gender inequalities remain a women’s issue and women should take the lead in driving for change and be supported in that journey,” she says.

“May we continue to demand for more because women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” she adds.

What’s your take on radical feminism?

Radical feminism isn’t the best way to fight for equality. For a country to develop, or equality to be achieved, it doesn’t call for supremacy from any gender. Men and women should support each other in all aspects. Gender norms should be eradicated completely and men should take part in eradicating them as well.

Brenda Mbabazi, Student


I think equality should dwell in our societies but it should be upon us to ensure that it is sought in the right ways. Yes, women deserve equality because through their rights they have received proper education, owned property, held great positions in public offices, among other things. When we all achieve equality, we foster growth.

Alex Mucyeza, Drone pilot


I think its misleading many people into thinking that feminism is against equality. Some people choose to go to the extreme and this is why so many people are shunning feminism out of fear that it is all about female dominance.

Emmanuel Kigenyi, Lawyer


I understand all people have different perspectives but seeking equality with radical feminism is not the right way. What we need is equality, not competition.

Olivia Karungi, Administrator

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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