Shoulders of Giants

Those of you that disagree with feminism, this is for you. This is an original write up, so if you have questions just- send me a message via the contact form.

And don’t steal things out of context. That won’t benefit anyone, and we’ll both look stupid. It’s a long read, and each paragraph connects to the next. All these discourse written here, these weren’t forged in a temple of knowledge, by intellectuals who are far removed from the beating heart of society. This, was forged in the hearts of urban culture- forged by a street dweller of former imperial colonies.

Oh and also, Trigger warnings, all of them.

“An offering from a sage and a king, means more than silver and gold. It is a seed of hope, a bud of faith.” AFI 2019, Chadwick Boseman chokes up as he honors someone who partially paid for his university education, someone who according to Chadwick is the dopest actor on the planet. “There is no black panther without Denzel Washington.” He continues, “And not just because of me, but my whole cast. That generation stands on your shoulders… through your career, the things you refused to compromise along the way led the blueprints for us to follow.”

No, this isn’t me trying to do a celebrity report, nor is it my love for african american culture leaking out. As much as I would love to talk about The Community that we the rest of the world (esp the continent of Asia) continue to systematically disenfranchise, (while simultaneously for the last 60 years steal everything that modern Anglophone cultural zeitgeist stands on from) I promise this blog post is about something else.

That’s an interesting phrase isn’t it? Standing on the shoulders, shoulders of what? Giants. For those of us who are unfamiliar with it, “Standing on the shoulders of giants” means each generation builds on the knowledge, struggle and battles of the ones before. Today you live in a world because entire generations, trailblazers and radical revolutionaries before have fought to bring it. Similarly the world you wish for and fight for today, a future generation will see. For example, Newton considered himself standing on the shoulders of the giant that is René Descartes.

What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

Isaac Newton, in his letter to philosopher and polymath Robert Hooke, 1676

By the way did you know, Isaac Newton had a vexed relationship with René Descartes, his most important immediate predecessor in mathematics and philosophy. He was typically loath to admit the importance of Cartesian ideas for the development of his own thinking in mathematics and natural philosophy. I feel like this should be made a common knowledge. Not because of their vexed relationship. But because, well Descartes is seen as a philosopher by pop culture, while Newton is seen as a physicist. When they were both, the same thing. A mathematician. Contemporary STEM and business school based education seemed to have forgotten how formidable philosophy is and how science and philosophy are pretty much buds of the same branch. Anyways, I digress.

All that being said, today’s topic kids… is feminism.

Getting back to today’s topic, first of all I acknowledge my position of privilege provided by the patriarchy. I’m a straight cisgender upper class fair skinned muslim man whose family has been one of the founding families of the capital city itself. In Bangladesh you can’t get anymore privileged than that. Me writing this is like asking a hyena to write about the struggles of its prey. I acknowledge my privilege, I understand it and I’ll remove any and all preconceived bias created by said privilege to the best of my abilities.

Second, what’s the purpose of this blog post. I will first address the modern woman who enjoys the benefits of feminism and still rejects it. And then we move to the true purpose of this post, which is to talk about some of the giants whose shoulder’s the modern cis straight upper/middle class woman, with all her freedom, stands on.

Meme title: Jordan Petersen, the moron
Meme Credit:

Now let’s segway into our second segment. It’s a pretty simple straight out logic. Every living being on this planet deserves equality and choice. We all deserve equality in opportunities, equality in treatment, equality in the eyes of the law/justice, equality in choice, equality in human rights, and equality in freedom. We all deserve the right to choose anything, be it our choice of careers, clothing, education, parenthood, who we spend the night with and who we spend our lives with, etc. etc. We all deserve a choice. All living beings deserve to choose and act upon that choice until and unless their acts explicitly harm another living being.

and that’s feminism.

Why do you call it “feminism” and not humanism or some other crap? It’s the same reason you say “black lives matter” or “LGBTQ pride”. Because females, the LGBTQ community and black lives are oppressed groups. Groups that needs to be focused on, given extra care to and paid reparations to. Saying crap like I’m a “humanist” is similar to saying all lives matter or straight pride.

Now ,

You, who this is meant to be for. Jar jonne ei likha ta likhchi. You who don’t believe in feminism. You are from the majority faith, gender, nationality and sexual orientation. You are from middle to upper-class families. I am addressing you because you have the privilege, luxury, and platform to think and act on behalf of other women. Its because as an educated (education being a privilege) adult you can reason and unlearn. Unlike women from poor and lower social classes, who never even got a choice. And yet you say “you don’t believe in feminism”. Why? You don’t believe in feminism because you don’t know what it feels to have your education prevented. You don’t know what it feels to get beaten up by your husband for dowry. You don’t know what it feels to be abducted and forced into prostitution. You don’t know the stories of the hundreds of lower income class women that get raped and maritally raped every day. Well regardless of whether you believe in feminism or not, you are the biggest consumer of the benefits feminism has brought to this earth.

“And not just because of me, but my whole cast. That generation stands on your shoulders… through your career, the things you refused to compromise along the way led the blueprints for us to follow.”

Today you, and by you I mean the upper/middle class cis straight majority faith/nationalism woman, are going to school and universities. Today you can vote. Today your menstrual hygiene, pregnancy health, gynecological and sexual healthcare are not taboo. Today you can go to work. Today you can go out “unsupervised” to meet other human beings. You can travel abroad alone. Today you have to freedom to NOT COOK. Today you can love whoever you want to love. Today you can drive, post pictures on social media, talk on the phone, and the men in your life don’t just see you as a glorified housemaid. Today fathers don’t bury their baby daughters alive simply because she was a girl. Today you are not forced into marriage at a young age. Today you are not raped by a conquering army. Today you are not legally considered as a “property” to be owned by your husband, a property he has full freedom under the eye of the law to do whatever the fuck he wants to do. Today you will find support even after someone breaches your privacy by leaking nudes without your permission. Today we say fuck fair and lovely. Today we fight against marital rape, workplace sexual harassment, victim-blaming, and domestic violence.

All that, because of feminism. Because of THE movement that said, YOU DESERVE EQUALITY. A movement that said, you are your own person with your own thoughts and beliefs and dreams and choices. You have an equal right to education and healthcare and work and marriage and motherhood and movement. When you stand up and demand these rights- that’s feminism. Yet you still say “feminism is cancer?”. Why? Because your faith said woman should be Indoors? Because Ammu said that’s the way? Because you think the your feminist friend is crazy? It’s hipocritical isn’t it? When the biggest consumer and beneficiary of feminism rallies against feminism? It’s hilarious and hipocritical.

But things were not always so simple, these rights that you can demand today. They did not exist once upon a time. And women weren’t simply given these rights. Giants fought so you can come to stand at this point here today. Giants whose shoulders you are currently standing on.

Giants such as Begum Rokeya. Begum Rokeya who had to personally sponsor specialised vehicles surrounded by veil or “Porda” so that her female muslim students can come to her school. She fought tooth and nail for each and every student. In 1909, Begum Rokeya went from door-to-door persuading parents to enrol their daughters. She didn’t have to, she was educated and from a family of means. Yet she did, 100 years ago, she fought for you. Begum Rokeya, a giant, did not fight her entire life so you can go to an elite co-ed english medium school and say, “I don’t believe in feminism”.


Giants such as Susan B. Anthony, Maya Angelou and Simone de Beauvoir.

Giants such as Fatema Mernissi. Her book, The Veil and the Male Elite is a Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam (1991), in which Fatima rigorously, patiently and elegantly dismantled the Qur’anic “evidence” of women’s inferiority proffered by imams who demanded that men enforce submission from women. With scrupulous attention to detail, Fatima connected the degradation of woman to man, and man to the imam and the caliph. Mernissi broke down the ethnocentric stereotypes Western society had developed towards Islam, especially Islamic women. She distinguished Islamic women from the homogenized group of ‘third- world women’ that Western feminism had created. Prof. Mernissi’s work is also trailblazing in the field of inclusive and intersectional Feminism

And Giants still walk among us, today.

Fatema Seedat, who advocated for the importance of feminism in the Islamic world. However, she debates the term “Islamic Feminism” is unnecessary since feminism is a “social practice, not merely of personal identity.” Seedat believes the convergence of both Islamic and feminism creates more conflict and opens more doors for “Islamists” to interpret or misinterpret the Qur’an to suit their political needs. She believes it is important to speak about and illustrate how feminism has existed in the lines of the Qur’an. By separating the two and giving their own space, it will be more inclusive to everyone (men, women, Muslims, and non-Muslims). In the same article, “Feminism, and Islamic Feminism: Between Inadequacy and Inevitability,” Seedat explains that the existence of such a term separates Muslims and isolates them from the rest of the world and the universal feminist movement. She states in her essay the importance of sharing with the rest of the world what Islam has to offer feminism and to show the true image of Islam by not referring to themselves as Islamic feminists.

Loujain al-Hathloul, She has been kidnapped by the Saudi government for advocating women’s right to drive in saudi arabia. Loujain al-Hathloul went on to stand for election in Saudi Arabia in November 2015 – the first time women were allowed to both vote and stand in elections in the state. However, despite finally being recognized as a candidate, her name was never added to the ballot. That’s strange information, isn’t it? Women weren’t allowed to vote in saudi arabia until 2015. Loujain was detained along with 11 other women rights activists since May 2018. She was held incommunicado with no access to her family or lawyer during the first three months of her detention. During that time, Loujain was beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed, and threatened with rape and murder. In her first trial session on March 13, 2019, she was charged with promoting women’s rights and calling for the end of the male guardianship system. Read that whole paragraph again. I’ll wait.

Zehra Doğan, a Kurdish artist and journalist and author from Amed, Turkey. She is a founder and the editor of Jinha, a feminist Kurdish news agency with an all-female staff. In 2017, she was sentenced to 2 years, 9 months, and 22 days in prison for “terrorist propaganda” because of her news coverage, social media posts, and sharing a painting of hers on social media. Her painting depicts the destruction of the Nusaybin, town in southeastern Turkey, after the clashes between state security forces and Kurdish insurgents.

I really can’t believe I have to write certain things in 2020. Things such as all living beings deserve fairness, all human beings deserve equal rights-opportunities, class segregation should not exist, capitalism is causing the climate change mass extinction, mental health illness is a pandemic, democracy is the only answer, no more cults of personalities, demand accountability, identity (race, class, nationality, religion) politics can be harmful, monogamist hetero-cis-normative love isn’t the only type of romance, children deserve better parenting, religion-police-borders only duty is to oppress the lower class, extrajudicial killings/vigilantism should not exist, we should aspire to dictate society by unbiased-educated-fact driven decisions, gender and sexuality are different things,
if you think no gender is inferior to cis straight men then you are a feminist.

At the end of the day, whether or not you believe in feminism or not. We still will. We will still advocate for equality and choice. We will still scream that-

  • Feminism is intersectional (1). Feminism is identity conscious, It understands the struggles certain identities (class-caste-wealth-ethnolinguistics-race-religion-culture) create and the privileges certain identities provide.
  • Feminism is body positive. Be comfortable in your own skin.
  • Feminism is not misandry (2). Feminism is an egalitarian movement which benefits all genders, males included. It benefits men by advocating against patriarchy, toxic masculinity (3), suppression of male rape, mental health shame etc.
  • Feminism means breaking down the status quo set by race, gender, class, religion etc. It means only you get to decide what clothing you will wear, who you will sleep with, what actions you will take. All adults are free to take any actions until and unless your actions are harmful to another living being. Feminism gives you autonomy over your own body. Feminism is pro choice when it comes to motherhood.
  • Feminism knows all forms of consensual sex work is real work and should be decriminalized. Feminism has no room for SWERFs (4). Feminism is pro sexual liberation. Feminism does not slut shame.
  • All human beings that choose to identify as a women are women. Feminism has no room for TERFs (5). Feminism is gender inclusive.
  • Feminism understands consent.
  • Feminism understands that rape is not an act of sexual nature. Rape is an assault motivated by the attackers need to project power and self ego. Rape is never the victim’s fault. Never.
  • Most importantly Feminism, just like black lives matter (or LGBTQ pride, or Bangla language movement or the Palestinian struggle), is the struggle of one marginalised, disenfranchised, repressed group of human beings to get recognised as equals and to get equal treatment. Equality does not mean equality in punching, It means equal respect and fairness. Feminism is a war of liberation, as a Bangladeshi you should understand what that means.

(1) Intersectionality
The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage
(2) Misandry
dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men (i.e. the male sex).
(3) Toxic masculinity

Toxic masculinity refers to traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men.
Acronym for “Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist”. A person who espouses to be a feminist but who does not believe that
women engaged in ANY form of voluntary sex work should be included in the fight for equality, especially in employment or salary parity.
(5) Terf
Short for Trans-Exclusionary-radical-feminist. A group of women that, belong to a vagina cult and believe that if you were a woman and are now a man, you are disgusting and have taken the easy way out of avoiding the oppression of the patriarchy. Or if you are a man that is now a woman you are similarly disgusting and are trying to infiltrate the cult. (This is straight from the urban dictionary!)

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