I’ve heard one too many (neo-)liberal women/liberal feminists using the rather convenient exit out of an argument by using the ‘freedom of speech/opinion’ trope. ‘My’ feminism may be different from ‘yours,’ in practise, in tactics, in theory. However, it must be said now– when pop feminism is on a surge and people largely are in consensus (at least at the outset) that women must have ‘equal rights’– that feminism is not limited to pressing egalitarian demands upon a structurally patriarchal society/State or seeking concessions. A systemic struggle against patriarchy lies in the beyond rather than in the inbetweeness. The negotiation with patriarchy involves the raking of comforts of our gendered thinking. Thus, it is bound to make us feel uncomfortable and therefore the backlash (name-calling, ‘feminazi’ bashing, etc) is no surprise rather the lack of an opposition would have been suspect.
While it is true that there cannot be a homogenous ‘women’s’ struggle, it is also true that not all feminisms are the best versions of itself. It is important to appreciate the efforts of women from all walks of life resisting, fighting, negotiating patriarchy from different locations (socially, economically, politically) and that each of those struggles are overdetermined by their differential locations on the matrix of oppression. Yet, it is important to remind ourselves that capitalism, neoliberalism and democracy are flexible enough to incorporate ‘only so much’ of our general critique of a system which rests and (re-)creates our labour.
So, of course, the figure of the ‘boss lady’ who ‘leans in’ will not cause a rupture in the larger scheme of things as it often only manages to reproduce more labour force on which the market thrives. So its perfectly comfortable to capitalism-patriarchy-democracy to observe women to break the glass ceiling by working a little harder to fit into an unequal system and thereby becoming a ‘role model’ for other women who are left behind in such an individuated opportunist struggle. And yet, (not so paradoxically) it will create a scope for ‘debate’ and space for ‘resistance’ wherein you will be allowed to ‘condemn’ caste-based violence and at the same time encourage you to maintain your casteist anti-reparations views. It will even go on to the extent of demarcating a legitimate space for dissent while at the same time condition you into believing that all spill-over anger on the streets is a source of ‘inconvenience’ to your ‘norm’al life.
Probably there will be moments of genuine wonder and curiosity to ‘learn’ about the ‘miseries’ of the ‘subalterns,’ yet in the suggestion of their humanness will get subsumed the specificity/particularity of their difference. So the misery of the minoritarians would be a living wonder, a spectacle which we can afford to ‘watch’ from afar or even choose to ignore as a violence we haven’t ‘actively’ inflicted on the other and still get on with our lives consoling ourselves with a mental list counting the Kings/Khans of Bollywood. A list made mainly to silence an outer/inner-voice which recognises our own complacency, hypocrisy is sustaining a perverse system to exist and exploit selectively which lets and even, wants a single-dominant/mainstream feminist discourse to wipe out all the other counter-narratives within feminism, for the sake of ‘clarity/simplicity’ for precisely those against whom the feminist movement makes its case.
I’m sorry, but ‘my’ feminism was not developed to please your objective, rational minds which are ridden in patriarchy. A systemic sexism/ a system of patriarchy (I will use Teju Cole’s argument which he uses to explain American racism and apply it here), “…has had many moving parts and has been able to evolve an impressive camouflage which allows it to hoard its malice in great stillness for a long time, all while pretending to look the other way. It is atmospheric, you don’t see it at first, but understanding comes. ”
So the next time, we are out there busy discounting the struggles of a doubly marginalised woma(/y)n and are unwilling to engage with their ideas, using an “I am also a woman and I don’t think that way” trope, lets pause and take a moment to reflect on why that’s a highly individuated resistance distancing itself from questioning systemic inequalities.