According to the Cambridge Dictionary, feminism is “the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way”. Going by this definition, I can call myself a feminist. Indeed, I am one.

I may not shout slogans or brandish placards, but I try to highlight through my writings women’s contributions to society and to civilisation itself. If anything, it is to drive home the point that, given the opportunity, women can realize their full potential as professionals, artists, poets, photographers and whatever they dream of becoming. I draw inspiration from the words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the soldier and statesman who founded the Republic of Turkey and transformed it into a modern secular nation:

Humankind is made up of two sexes, women and men. Is it possible for humankind to grow by the improvement of only one part while the other part is ignored? Is it possible that if half of a mass is tied to earth with chains that the other half can soar into skies?

It’s a long and hard road to achieving social and economic equality for women around the world. I believe, however, that everyone can help pave the path towards this goal by showing a greater respect for women. The lack of such respect really lies behind all the abuses, physical and otherwise, that women have had to endure from men throughout history.

I am fortunate to have learned from early childhood to comport myself in a respectful manner when dealing with women. It is a legacy from my late father, who was born and grew up in a small Muslim fishing village in Zamboanga City, Mindanao. His family belonged to the Tausug tribe, which is known for producing warriors. He was an army officer when the phrase “an officer and a gentlemen” had not yet gone out of fashion. He never uttered a harsh word to my mother and sisters and always treated them kindly.

This show of respect and benevolence towards the opposite sex would influence my mindset as an adult. I consider men who abuse and mistreat women and children as the worst of the human species. Sadly, the world teems with male chauvinists and misogynists of every shape and colour. Not all of them are cruel to women, but they share the same misguided and atavistic view that women are inferior to men.

Simone de Beauvoir, the French author and existentialist philosopher, had a resounding message to such males. “No one,” she wrote, “is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.”

~ Barista Uno

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