Why You Can’t Be A Feminist If You Deny Class And Caste Privileges

Posted by Simran Keshwani in Society
October 18, 2017

“I am a feminist because of my upbringing.”

This statement, which appears to be very rational, came from a man who is at best a liberal who refuses to acknowledge privileges. It is actively echoed by a lot of women. Their solidarity may extend to gender, but not to class. Maybe because it is sexy to be a feminist, and damaging to profits to be anti-class and caste. Such men (and women) are part of the problem and here’s why.

Of course, the discourse one sees and hears at home matters in shaping our worldview, but the statement that feminism is based on upbringing is flawed.

What about those who grow up in underprivileged areas and do not have access to cultural capital and sound upbringing like we metropolitan elitists do? What about orphans? Refugees? People, who may not have had access to the same neat ideas of progressive liberal upbringing? As per this claim, they shouldn’t be feminists.

Anybody who uses the concept of “right kind of upbringing” is de-facto referring to all that they’ve received as part of a system that guarantees privileges, that drive on the backs of the underfed and exploited.

The way I see “upbringing” – it refers to an elitist nexus between having the right kind of social and cultural capital, owing to your ancestral inheritance (such as caste privileges which translate to amassing power and a share in wealth, pedagogy, etc).

“Why do you connect this with capitalism and wealth?” is what I was asked.

There are very viable (and deliberately socially engineered) differences between a kid whose ancestors were wealthy zamindars and an ST (Scheduled Tribe), and the kind of ‘upbringing’ the two have had. There is a history of exploitation that one must keep in mind addressing any question on inequality indices. To say that there are no differences between elitists and those below poverty line (BPL) is at best a statement only a crony capitalist would make.

Very often we tend to discount privileges while ascertaining somebody’s behaviour and ideological strands.

Also please tell me what is the “wrong kind of upbringing” and who makes us the locus standi at any point to infer from somebody’s subjective life experiences? The way I see that statement, it creates a clear categorical binary – any theory that’s based on an us vs. them, to me personally, is systemically divisive.

We are more than ever embedded in the privileges the system offers us – which is why any deconstruction of the system is radically opposed, called cynical and ‘myopic’.What the sensitive liberals want is even more humiliating – for somebody outside of the self to be responsible for the mess. If you want to be a feminist, recognise how your privilege works in oppressing hundreds of men and women daily, and how your complicity and denial are part of the problem.