For centuries women have been fighting worldwide for equality. Some societies have already welcomed the idea while for some others it’s still a far-fetched goal.
In my opinion, our country stands somewhere in between. Our problem is that the entire concept of masculinity in Indian society, unfortunately, is based upon exercising control over women.
A man needs to know how to control his woman, a man needs to be a guide to a woman, a man needs to know how to take care of his woman. These are some of the unfortunately common assumptions in our society.
How can such a society welcome concepts like equality and liberation for women without being threatened internally, when the definition of masculinity is based upon its superiority over the other gender?
But, I believe we have welcomed the notion of equality in Indian society. We have given women what they asked for in terms of equality by resorting to the feminism of convenience. As the Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi puts it “Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional female equality.” She further explains “More troubling is the idea, in Feminism Lite, that men are naturally superior but should be expected to “treat women well.”
Men and women alike are happy to see men taking care of a child or doing household chores as their choice and optional behaviour. Women feel that they are lucky to have husbands who help them at home doing things that maybe they are not supposed to do. But we do not realize that we are only feeding the idea of men having the control of doing these things as a matter of choice.
By using the word “allow” men in our society feel they are different or even that they are feminists. By allowing their wives to dress a certain way, by allowing their women to stay outside up to certain hours, by allowing their women to have friends from the opposite gender. Men, in turn, are taking control by “allowing” or giving “permission”. They ensure that they still remain the authority, and this way they keep their male egos intact.
Hence, in order to introduce the idea of female equality in a society like ours, we need to first define masculinity in a different way. We need to free the definition of masculinity from the parts where female freedom depends on it. Only then can we introduce the female gender as unique, separate and one which does not need to have authority over it. Then we can treat it as equal. Because as long as we keep telling our boys that they should accompany their sisters to the market, or that they should protect their wives etc. they will never ever treat them as their equals, and it’s not even their fault.
The feminism of convenience or feminism lite as quoted by the Chimamanda Ngozi needs to be uprooted not only from the male psyche but the from female psyche too. The word “allow” has to go. The two genders need to be defined again as equal and separate from each other, in a way as they are, unique in their own right.