On Feminism

Feminism means different thing to different people. These meanings are sometimes diagonally opposite. If for some equal rights, if not more, are the ultimate aim for feminism; others are willing to give up some rights if it guarantees that idea of ‘family’ will not get undermined. Not only most of the men, but a substantial number of the women – even university educated one who are first beneficiary of feminism – are hostile to feminism. Some of them see it as an out-dated and stuffy (esp where MTV/TOI rules) idea while for others, it has become a playground of extremists, and like fundamentalism and communism, it has nothing useful to say for them. They also feel that it has become ‘institutionalized’ and it asks for conformism to its rules and regulation, and thus it has turned into some sort of communism.

When a woman life becomes empty, she longs for a man’s love.‘ said one early feminists. In this view of feminism, men are rendered as cold-hearted exploiters. Another modern one says, “They call me feminists whenever I try to differentiate myself from a doormat or a prostitute.” Between these two statements lies a complex social history behind feminism.

This books shown in picture traces the evolution of feminism in England and gives some useful historical facts. It does not explore, due to the limitation on its size, why feminists are scorned at by their own sex. On these matter there is very nice book review available here. ‘If feminism failed to transform the private lives of women’ said reviewer because women considered and still considering feminism ‘as too uncompromising, as involving too much exposure, too much conflict at a personal level’.  On top of it, it demands that woman should be ‘insensitive, in a way, to other people by making the private somehow public‘.

In India, picture has not been that scary for middle class women. The relative sanity of Indian civilization is due to the lack of  idea of Satan and Witch. No Eve and Serpent was there in our mythology. But surely, our picture is disappointing esp among the educated woman who looks much weaker than their uneducated counterpart in India. I can say with some surety that rural women, with little or no education, are much stronger than their urbane counterpart. What is more depressing is to see young educated girls, low on their self esteem, longs for  flowers than laurels.

Unlike western world, in India, feminism was started by men and has been constantly supported thereafter. In my generation, most of the educated females are not even aware what feminism stands for. I haven’t heard any girl talking about feminism in any given day or time. It was not at all surprising to notice that ‘International Woman Day’ passed without any serious discussion in India.

Some have argued that the Western feminism can not be imported into India without modification. They say that it should be seen as ‘human right’ at beast. More on this distinction, among other things, can be found here.  

Despite of eloquent praise of women in our literature, sacred text and laws, the constant tutelage of women is visible in every public domain. Despite of all this, feminist are mostly jeered at by other women. One can only wish that ‘these younger women feel differently in ten years or so, when they will find themselves juggling family, hoousework, and a job‘. They may also realise that ‘they need to re-invent feminism to suit their own experience.‘ And they better reinvent it. You can not become a woman without having a clear definition of feminism.
Dilawar
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Author: Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

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