The culture and traditions of India are highly regarded the world over. Even before Independence, feminism has been a part of our history, yet, today, India doesn’t seem to bother much with feminism. And we obviously need it in our patriarchal society.
Over last few decades, things have definitely changed for the better for women in India, be it education for the girl child, or women stepping out of the domestic space for jobs. However there is a major concern that needs to be addressed—the mind set which most people of our country have towards feminism.
Many people (including women) hate feminism because there are so many misconceptions about it. Feminism is complicated. At first glance, it looks very simple; the advocacy of women’s rights, and the equality of all genders. It all started to help women who were treated unfairly in society. Feminism is not about hating men. It is not about competing with men in every possible field. It is empowering women to choose the way they want to live their lives, on their own terms.
In rural India, women face several challenges in their lives. To many, making choices (about themselves or others) may seem like a luxury. Many struggle to have an education. Few will reach as far as managing or working in a small shop on their own. Marriages are forced on so many young women; only a few of them are lucky enough to be unmarried till the age 18, because some parents are afraid of and abide by the law. Most of these young women will suffer unhappy marriages, with no hope to get out. Some people will even sexually harass these women, in the name of marriage, and a secure home. Feminism is needed to empower women in these situations, making them aware of the opportunities they have.
Coming to urban areas, women have different issues to deal with. Here, most women are ‘allowed’ to pursue higher studies, but this is just so they top the list of ‘most eligible girl’ in the matrimonials. After marriage, many woman will still need to take permission from their husbanda and in-laws to pursue a career, or even just to visit their own parents or friends! A woman will be judged if she wants to delay having kids to focus on her career; she will also be judged if she quits her job to raise her children; she will even be judged if she continues her job after having a baby, which makes her an evil mom. A woman is constantly being judged for being bold, sometimes for being polite, or for just being herself.
Feminism is a fight against major issues like female feticide or sex-selective abortions, the dowry system, and violent sexual crimes like rape. Feminism can help every single woman feel comfortable and confident in her own skin, her colour, and the shape of her body. Though every woman has her own definition of feminism, one of the most important parts is when we women stop judging other women for her choices. It’s when we embrace womanhood with pride.
We need feminism to help women take charge of their lives, and not care about what others think.