Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saving Feminism from the Feminists

We celebrated International Women’s day of 2014 last week. The week leading up to March 8th, newspapers and online news portals carried a great deal of writing on feminism and women’s issues. The writers, described as leading feminists wrote lengthy articles villainizing men in general who stand in their way to emancipation thus reducing feminism to gender battles. This concocted understanding of feminism has done more harm than good to women. Feminism as a movement originated in the early 19th century and has evolved into various schools of thought. There was a time in history when being a feminist was fashionable. The word feminist tagged along with your name would give you instant recognition in the west. Sadly, that notion of feminism, where a few rich women form a club, drink tea and discuss women’s issues to become feminists has permeated Indian feminist movements right now. Rebecca West, the 20th Century English writer, who witnessed feminist movement at its peak in the west, once said- “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” Lacking original thought, feminist movements of today are doing a great disservice to the cause they are fighting for.

The idea of a man for a feminist

Today’s feminism is fast reaching a point where there is no place for a man in its world view.  He is essentially viewed as an obstacle, an ultimate outsider.  The very idea of a man bringing his thoughts to the feminism discussion begets scepticism.  The emancipation of women is thought to be a world where men are kept at a distance. What good has this done to the feminist movement? This is not to undermine the fact that women have been oppressed throughout history by men and were viewed to be inferior. But feminism which fights against male chauvinism and for a world where men and women are treated equally in all respects cannot do so without involving the men.  

Feminism can no longer afford to be the cult movement involving a few elite members of the society claiming to work for the “downtrodden”. Moreover it cannot afford to be a movement by the women, of the women and for the women keeping men totally out of the process. The “leading feminists” of today should take note of this and work towards a more inclusive feminist movement.

The idea of emancipation of women

Shang Wang a popular Taiwanese stand up writes rather humorously- “Why do people say "grow some balls"? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you want to be tough, grow a vagina.” Most feminists would agree. I am all for show casing equality by this means of dark comedy, without reducing the feminist movement to gender battles.  

Revolution enough?

A popular writer in this blog (click on the hyperlink to read) complains that her 12 year old son doesn’t like pink because it is a girl’s colour. That she laments is not good for a world where feminism as a movement has progressed. This bothers me. Stereotyping is bad but what’s worse is feminists trying to make the world a unipolar place. If Pink is a colour to which women find easy to associate, so be it. Feminists needn’t make us feel guilty just because men find some other colour appealing. A world where men and women think the same is a boring world bereft of any progress.

Dorris Lessing, Nobel literature laureate of 2013 writes in her novel ‘The Golden Notebook’- “Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: 'You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.” 


Let’s not teach our children our prejudices. Let’s not aim to create a unipolar world. It’s not about women’s victory. We are evolving into a world where women are achieving splendid heights in their personal and professional lives. This has helped change the radical mind. Trying to make this change a gender fight without respecting the inherent differences of both the genders, will make the change impossible. . Gloria Steinem, American journalist rightly says “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men”.

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