Feminism is one of the famous ‘isms’ to have gained attention in the last few decades because of increased conscience for the equality of women in the public space.
In India, we have seen an increase in the number of educated women who are independent and don’t tolerate any violation of their moral and legal rights. Many argue that it was feminism in the west that inspired the protests in India, but there’s a long history of people in India who not just identified the deplorable treatment meted out to the female gender but also went a long way to improve their condition.
But the form of feminism has taken a different course today. The movement which grew as a demand for equality for women has mostly become an uproar by modern and educated women demanding equal pay in the market and sloganeering unabashedly against male chauvinism. Today some men avoid talking about feminist issues as they are afraid of being blamed as culprits. Also, a lot of women are interpreting equality in strange dimensions just for personal comforts. This write-up is just an effort to draw a picture of the discourse feminism has taken today, how people perceive it and some of the possible gaps where this simple ‘eight letter’ word deviates from its meaning.
There are still innumerable cases of sexual assault on women. 93 women are raped in the country every single day. But at the same time, there are several laws that provide security to women. A large number of NGOs and other organisations are also operational that work for the betterment of women.
The participation of women in the public sphere has also increased considerably. From chief executives of big organisations like Indra Nooyi at Pepsi Co. and Chanda Kochhar at ICICI Bank to many more women who are showcasing their skills and leading the way. According to me, many parents today worry more about financing their daughters’ education than dowry. Broadly, awareness and consciousness about upliftment of women has increased a lot. At the same time, we have witnessed some peculiar trends in this era which are demeaning the very core of feminism.
Women today are bold and assert their opinions. They speak up against the men who torture and assault them. But somehow in the wake of this resistance, I think, there’s also an intense hatred towards men. I think there’s an attempt to project every man as a rapist or villain.
According to me, this behaviour is more pronounced among ‘elite’ women for whom male bashing has become an integral part of them claiming the ‘feminist’ title. This hostility towards men has become so pronounced that male hatred has been largely misunderstood as an important trait of feminism.
There are various laws in India related to dowry prohibition, sexual harassment of women at workplace, etc. These laws were obviously framed to provide security to women. But who would have thought that these laws would be used by some women to gain personal benefits which is evident from the fakes cases of rape, dowry, etc. lodged now and then. These cases should also draw our attention towards the men who are victimised at the hands of these false allegations.
What is it about thinking of the girl as the victim every time and blaming the boy? It has, kind of, become the norm to punish a man no matter the measure in which a man and a woman are involved in a controversial matter. The history of oppression of women doesn’t give us a license to have a gender bias when it comes to doing justice to a situation. Equality of gender is not just meant for women, it applies to men too.
Feminism has deviated quite a bit from its sole motive, and some women have started interpreting it as per their convenience. It’s almost like they want both sides of the coin to be with them. These particular women want equality but expect a man to lift their luggage or vacate his seat in a crowded city bus. Also, for them a man paying their bills is chivalry, but the opposite would be a humiliation to them. If they get divorced, they expect their spouse to provide for their future expenses. There’s a need for these women to revise their weak concepts about feminism or cease to claim themselves as one.
In reality, if a girl is brought up the same way as a boy, she has the same responsibilities towards her parents as her brother. So a woman, apart from claiming her share in the parents’ property should also realise her responsibility towards them.
There’s great need to talk about the unprivileged women in remote areas who perhaps don’t yet know the word feminism. More than half of the population of India still resides in villages. A lot of women living in rural areas still don’t get a primary education. Recently, an article was published in a leading newspaper about a woman in a village whose husband died, and the son passed away a short while after that. The son was survived by his wife and two kids. After having lost the only earning male members of the family, the woman took up the challenging task of carrying forward her family business of iron forgery which is conventionally a male driven business.
In a society where even professions and business are stereotyped as per gender, she was mocked, at and had to struggle for customers initially. But she and her daughter-in-law didn’t lose hope and worked very hard to look after their family. They did the commendable task of challenging and transcending the narrow mindset of patriarchy.
The voice of such women seems to be somewhat missing among the agitation of women from the middle and upper-class who don’t seem to relate with the larger picture of feminism.
This has also raised a predicament that feminism is meant for educated, literate women. The feminist discourse has become more nuanced with time, and we now talk about insidious ways in which gender discrimination, rape culture, etc. works.
Feminism across India can have different meanings because of the diverse cultural and economical backgrounds women belong to. The sooner we realise it, the easier it would be to cater to the complex issues of women in a multiethnic country like India.
India has still a lot of people with a conservative mindset. Women are still judged if they smoke or drink. According to me,
there are women who smoke/drink only to portray it as a sign of feminism by doing something that stereotypically men do is a symbol of equality which is absurd. Smoking/drinking is one’s personal choice and has nothing to do with feminism.
Some women don’t know the actual meaning of feminism. Some understand but pretend to be naïve for their advantage while there are some who desperately need to get the real benefits of it. This form of indifference has still kept women cornered in many walks of life. Also, debilitating men more than required has made feminism a thing for women and something that men have no business with.
When we talk about equality of gender, it applies to both men and women. Men should be as much a part of a feminist movement as women. After all, when men develop a progressive view about women, there will be an automatic decline in their suppression. That can happen only when there is harmony, not hatred among the two genders.
Feminism like other ‘isms’ is something we cannot impose on anyone. Nor is it a word which has to be stressed upon every moment to make people realise its importance. It should come naturally to a person to treat every gender impartially. Obviously, it is difficult to realise that in a multilingual, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country like India, but even Rome wasn’t built in a day.