Feminism, in India, is nothing short of rocket science.
You will get a whole spectrum of definitions and ideas associated with this western ideology. While there is no dearth of half-truths and stereotypes related to feminism, there are many feminists themselves who promote a very flawed perception of the ideology.
I am no expert, but I believe in fighting misinformation with facts. So, here is my opinion on what is wrong about feminism in India.
Feminism is not propaganda, not a badge of honor, and not an evil conspiracy for women to take over the world.
Feminism is an ideology and a movement, period.
What started as a movement for women’s right to vote over two centuries ago has evolved into an all-encompassing movement-cum-ideology for gender parity. The ideology is essentially against the status quo where one sex dominates the other and advocates for equality. It intends to create an equality of opportunity, which will result in the equality of outcome.
At the same time, feminism aims to break the social constructs of ‘gender’ to create a society of equals. In that respect, it is as much about men as it is about women. Take, for instance, the emotional traits of the two genders. Societal norms compel men to be strong and emotionally independent, to never cry. Feminism is about getting rid of these irrational gender norms.
The Stereotypes and Myths
There is a vast continent of ignorance around feminism in India. Some feminists portray the ideology in the most false ways, while others perceive it as an ugly concept. These are a few myths about feminism that I wish to debunk.
Feminists Hate Men
Many people, both men, and women are of the view that feminists are a group of evil women who hate men and everything about men. This is absolutely, unequivocally false. There is an entirely different term that defines prejudice, hatred, and contempt against men. It is called misandry.
Feminism does not seek to promote misandry but to create an equal society by empowering women. If you are a feminist and denounce all men, then you have got it wrong.
Somehow, we have seeped so deep into the waters of misunderstanding the two terms that feminism is now dismissed as an ugly idea. People do not wish to associate themselves as feminists or categorically discard the ideology because of this gross misinterpretation and misrepresentation of feminism in India.
Women Want to Rule the World
Radical feminism is a philosophy within the feminist ideology that calls for a radical restructuring of the society to eliminate the ‘sexual distinction’ between men and women. It argues that the age-old prevalence and perpetuation of patriarchy have marginalized women and benefitted men. Therefore, this patriarchal societal system must end.
While this perspective seeks to abolish patriarchy, it does not aim to establish an anti-patriarchy regime. Feminists who believe women should rule the world have failed to understand a very fundamental point. There is no intent to rule but to eliminate the whole idea of a ruler and the ruled.
Feminism is Against Traditions
There is a widely held belief that feminist ideology misleads women to flout traditions. People believe feminism is against the image of the ideal woman, who takes care of the household, submits to her husband, and follows all instructions.
Sati, the goddess of marital felicity and longevity, is an example of a woman who defied this definition of the ideal woman. In fact, all the working women of the 21st century exemplify exactly what feminism seeks to achieve, the freedom of choice for women.
There is no attack on traditions. The objective is to empower women to make their own decisions and carve their own trajectories.
The Erudite and Elite
From authors and politicians to social media influencers and celebrities, there are many learned champions of feminism in India.
I don’t like these feminists. Theirs is a brand of elitist feminism, an armchair philosophy about what was, is, and should be. These rather famous feminists are not the women or men who grapple with the woes of the male-dominated world.
These are elites, so consumed in their books, journals, magazines, and tweets, sitting in some comfortable corner of their home that they never come face to face with the struggles of an ordinary woman facing the brunt of patriarchy.
For them, women empowerment is speaking in a conference of educated people while wearing a $10,000 outfit and putting their views on social or print media. In the name of ‘shaping the social discourse,’ they simply pile up their lofty opinions in books and tweets. But they never bother to take action for a tangible change at the grassroots. They never use their massive social media following to create a movement for a positive change.
This erudite idea of feminism and empowerment is exclusive, and I don’t think it is of any use if it does not effect a change for the women in the lowest strata.
Feminism has become a controversy that most people try to escape. There are a lot of flawed and phoney ideas of feminism in India, some of which I discredited above. Some women simply use their gender for personal gains, playing the ‘victim card’ and honking loud horns of feminism.
These false feminists, men and women alike, and their bogus perceptions have made a travesty of the entire movement.
At the core of the ideology lies the simple notion of bringing the sexes together on an equal pedestal in society. The fact that women have always stood three steps below the men creates the very premise of this ideology. We need to bring women at the same standing as men first and then cultivate an egalitarian social structure.