India, an amalgamation of thousands of years of civilization is also a country of exceptional diversity. Today it is a State with over 122 major languages, more than 2000 ethnic groups, and every imaginable religion, geography, income, and education level. There is no singular India nor is there a singular image of an Indian. It is but obvious that a concept often misunderstood, such as feminism, will have invariably many exceptions.
With regard to feminism, India holds a wide range of cultural paradoxes: the worship of goddesses and the barring of women from temples; respect and pride in relation to Indira or Kalpana but disdain for working women; a woman’s virtue valued above all else amidst a rampant rape culture. And in between many gendered inequalities, there are women who have risen. There is no singular image for an Indian, nor is there one for the status of women in India. This is what complicates feminism in India.
In a surrounding where every accomplishment, big or small is accompanied with ‘good enough for a girl’ or ‘great for a girl,’ I have always wondered why Bharat Mata gets to be a country and not have to listen to ‘ladki hoke bhi country ban gayi’ (it’s a great deal to be a country even after being a female).
For that matter, one of the cultural paradoxes highlighted in the continuous statements made by Indian feminists to bring out the irony that exists in the worshipping of Maa Kaali, Maa Chandi and Maa Durga alongside the highly patriarchal society is a subject we have all pondered on.
In our country, of the men who recognize the importance of women, most of their support extends only till the issue of female feticide. Women are seen as ‘life givers.’ This restricts their importance only to the cycle of reproduction. Their equality is measured in terms of numbers with sex ratio indexes. And as long as the ratio nears 1:1, their interpretation of equality is satisfied.
The only way women can establish that they are as capable as men are, if given access to the same resources, is by completely disassociating themselves from the image of a mother, a life giver. Perhaps that is why radical feminists advocate the concept of reproduction by technological advancements and not human body. I am not supporting their ideologies, just making an attempt at understanding why they chose to swing too far.
Between feminism being an insult and male bashing-an Indian feminist’s favourite 24 hour pastime, there is a lot that needs to be straightened out. And it needs to be straightened out because all of you who hustle for equality, will hustle for feminism too and your Bharat Mata needs that strength.
1. Feminism is not male bashing,
The biggest misconception about feminism is that it is about hating men while it has nothing to do with biology. Feminism is as much an ideology as liberalism or socialism. A man, despite his assigned character of strength, roughness and practicality can be a feminist and a woman, despite her socially assigned character of compassion, love and kindness can be sexist. Martian men and Venusian women may indulge in battles of the universe, but on earth the battle is between equality and patriarchy. We are not fighting men but the misogyny that prevails in the society irrespective of the gender that advocates it directly or indirectly, subtly or not so subtly. Contrary to the notion of it being anti-men, feminism does not disgrace a man by disrespectful statements like “Men will be men” or “All men are the same”or “A son is a son till he gets a wife”. That is the voice of patriarchy.
2. Feminism is not female favouring.
We should stop fighting for women equality, women aren’t just equal to men, they are much stronger. After all, they are life givers.
Feminism as an ideology only advocates the fight for gender equality. The need for fighting for equal rights for women has emerged due to centuries of patriarchy. A platform where the same rights and same opportunities are handed to all the sexes is the end goal of feminism.
Feminists do not expect reserved seats in buses, they do not expect reservation in educational institutions based on superiority of the gender. The only reason our country has reservation for women is because at the grassroot level, there doesn’t exist the quality of opportunities.
(note: we should stop claiming women are life givers and embrace biology)
3. Feminazi and feminist are two different terms.
The continuous male bashing and female favouring also led to the coinage of the term feminazi. Feminazi’s advocate that men are inferior to women which is complete 180 degrees from the principal of feminism. However, very conveniently, modern-day patriarchy uses the term feminazi to escape the reality and seriousness of the feminism movement.
4. Feminism is not modernism.
Feminism advocates for equality not shedding your culture and tradition. This however, poses a threat to India’s cultural values. The veil system, the traditional setup of the mother managing household chores irrespective of her profession or even eating after all other members of the family do have all been inculcated in us to such an extent that we have accepted it as the way of life-the acceptable code of conduct. Centuries of patriarchy now exists in details of our daily lives, much like the hidden cockroaches from the mortein ads. This is when we need to look back at our complex history and accept that Sati was a part of our culture and so was the ban on widow remarriage. Getting rid of them were the starting steps of feminism in India and we need to walk the rest.
In a country where girls are killed in the womb, dumped in bins, scalded with acid and harassed and murdered for dowry, we need feminism.
In a country where every second female is being raped, we need feminism.
In a country where many girls still do not go to schools because their brother’s education is supposedly more important, we need feminism.
Your Bharat Mata needs feminism.