Feminist To be or not be?
Happy Woman’s Day!!
Woman’s day, it’s already gone few days before…
Yes, woman’s day is gone. It’s over. Some of you must have thought, “ohh!! Not again!
The same old melodrama about how great the women are”.
So like every year ‘International Women’s Day’ came and went, this year too. Social media was full of wishes and many elated messages about womanhood. It all lasted a day as usual and then the same old stories about women’s actual condition, started floating in newspapers. One of these was that of a 19 year old woman, Kausalya, who was attacked brutally by her own family members in Udumalpet in Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur district, because she dared to choose her life partner who was a dalit. The woman survived the attack but unfortunately lost her husband, V. Shankar. The malicious campaign against the JNU professor Nivedita Menon is another incident which shows the cost a woman has to pay to speak her mind in our society. Her lecture on nationalism in the JNU campus justifying the slogans raised by Kanhaiya Kumar on 9th march in the campus was condemned badly and for which she was criticized. Another news which raised everyone’s eyebrows was that of Aung Sang San Suu Kyi, the most beloved leader of Myanmar who made a way into the hearts of people irrespective of her gender but failed to hold the highest position of the nation because she is also a mother. Her inability to become the president of the recently declared, ‘half democratic Myanmar’, shows the irony of being a woman and that too in politics. The woman who gave all her life to restore democracy in the country and preferred to live as a prisoner in her own country rather than living in exile with her family outside was denied the position of President because of a constitutional provision that bars her since her sons are British and not Myanmar citizens. Some even suggested her that she should disown her own sons.
The stories and incidences are numerous which leave women in no mood to celebrate their womanhood rather challenges them to prove their worth instead of their remarkable contribution in all spheres of life. Even worse is the mindset of those people who hates the movement of feminism and feminists, misinterpret them as man haters, label their demands as irrational and impractical in spite of
so many brutal stories of women’s sufferings and their everyday struggles.
Puzzling perspective: destroying self concept
Apart from these prominent issues we witness such incidences of discrimination against women in our day to day lives and in our perceptions too.
One such incident took place few days back when one of my friends complained about her male classmate’s misbehavior. She said she was sexually harassed and mocked by this boy. Instead of counseling that boy the teacher said to her “You better be silent about this incident because if the matter gets open u will end up ruining your own reputation”. Another teacher told her “it’s always a girl’s responsibility not a boys fault”. Her belief in her teachers’ advice killed her own self concept. After this, she tried every possible way to look ugly, she left participating in sports events and stopped talking with all other boy students. But things didn’t change. She failed to understand where she was wrong now. She gradually yet thankfully realized that it’s not her fault but there is something wrong with society’s perspective on this issue.
I don’t understand what kind of learning will take place in a classroom where girls are subjected to such kind of harassment continuously. No wonder there is large percent of girl’s dropout from schools and colleges just due to this reason. As published in NUEPA (National University for Educational Planning and Administration) Occasional Paper 37, ‘Dropout in Secondary Education’, 2011
“Annu Jha, field worker with the NGO Nav Srishti, which brings non-formal education to girls in some Delhi slum areas, notes that one of the main reasons parents take girls out of school is the rampant sexual harassment in. Therefore, a large number of girls in India drop out of the education system around puberty. If this is the situation prevailing in the country’s capital city, one can only imagine the situation in small towns and rural areas with girls facing serious danger in their attempt to avail educational facilities.”
Most notorious ‘ism’
One day one of my friends , Anu, asked me “why are you so sensitive on women’s issues? Have you ever been suffered something Or are you a mad feminist? ” That day I get acquainted with a new word ‘Feminist’. But the way it was introduced to me made me perceive it as something negative.
Years passed I shifted from Bhilai to Indore and then to Delhi, I realized that no matter how advanced a society is, perceptions about women are somewhat similar and mostly negative. And those who advocated women’s right, the feminists, were mostly ostracized population of the society, considered as ‘man haters’, ‘family breakers’ , people with a bad character and advocating for something against our culture. I realized that this was one of the most misinterpreted and distorted terms or ‘isms’ in our society. The latest in the line of celebrities distancing themselves from feminism is Parineeti Chopra who said:
“Iam very often confused to be a feminist, but Iam not. Iam really not. I do feel proud of my gender. I do speak against gender inequality. I am the brand ambassador for Haryana’s ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign’. And I think it is very important for me personally to strive for equality, especially the industry that I come from.”
I just wanted to ask Parineeti “then what the hell do these feminists do if they don’t advocate for gender equality, like you are doing? And why this apprehension from being called a feminist?”
Why we need feminism?
In spite of the blame for being a feminist that too from a girl I decided to be one and be called as one forever. For this, reasons are numerous. I realized there is nothing wrong in being a feminist; in fact our society needs many. Some where I read,
“Feminism is not about making women stronger. women are already strong. Its about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”
But in spite of all the attempts since ages one of the most obnoxious truths prevailing in our society is the degrading status of its ‘other half’, the women. Gender inequality is one of the most perplexing issues seen in all societies and ages. According to an article published in ‘The Hindu’ newspaper in June 2014 titled “Women need to thrive, not just survive” written by journalist Meena Menon,
“35 years after the ‘Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women’ was adopted, some countries like Iran don’t recognize feminist organizations, Russia has a problem with sex education, India conveniently denies armed conflict and caste, and everyone is reluctant to acknowledge sexual rights for women, differences in Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI)”.
The UN Secretary General’s campaign ‘Unite to End Violence Against Women’ cites data to show that “50 percent of sexual assaults in the world take place against girls who are under 16 years of age, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime, between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, and 60 million girls are married before they are 18 years old”.
India known for its cultural heritage and respect towards women is not far behind other nations in its stereotypical approach towards women’s emancipation. India known for its diversity is equally diverse in its perspective towards women’s worth. The status of a woman’s education, health, safety, marriage, property rights etc. all varies depending on the region which she belongs to especially in a conservative atmosphere of India. On many issues like female infanticide, child marriage, rape, marital rape, domestic violence, property rights etc. the various concerned groups are still at loggerheads making the stand of society on such issues ambiguous. The current scenario of increasing rate of crime against women specially violence and cases of sexual harassment puts the nation on alarm and calls for extensive sensitization and interventional measures in favor of women of our society. Hence, we need feminism and shameless feminists.
Sarcasm: Sin in disguise
What when boys do it sarcastically? The boys about whom my friend complained often used to stress on word ‘Dick’ while pronouncing Emily Dickinson’s name and then used to laugh loudly. One day one of my teachers asked in wonder that have you people never heard about about ‘Elaine showalter’, the Godess of feminism? I never thought that replying yes in enthusiasm will end up these boys murmuring “yes you must have read this theory while your stay in Nagpur’s Ganga Jamuna (red light area of Nagpur)”. I was furious but it was just a dirty joke, also do I have any proof of what they said? This sarcasm is sin in disguise.
Share Story, Sensitize Sons
I believe as a ‘teacher’ or as a ‘mother’ a woman is most powerful to influence young boys’ mind and to develop a positive perception about women in their minds. The ways can be numerous but gender sensitization has to be started right from childhood.
One of the famous NGO ‘Breakthrough’s’ campaign share your story with your son actually showed that how mothers can sensitize their sons by sharing their own stories of suffering sexual harassment in daily lives. We need a force of teachers and mothers who can morally train young boys to manage their testosterone levels rather than putting the blame on girls for motivating the boys. This initiative by ‘Breakthrough’ is a bold step.
‘Inclusion of men’: Ray of Hope
The inclusion of men in the emancipation of women is most significant now. A significant change in the last 10 years has been the increasing focus on involving men as partners in gender equality. There is a broader community realization that gender equality cannot be achieved without including men in this mission. The ‘MenEngage Programme’ and the ‘HeforShe movement’ are some of the initiatives by UN women to rope in men to speak up against violence and be partners rather than adversaries in the process. The change can be seen at many instances like the Nirbhaya Case in which many men jumped on the streets of Delhi to demand justice for Nirbhaya. Also, there are many men who have shown enough strength to work and advocate for the rights of women which is definitely a ray of hope.
With such initiatives to sensitize society towards feminism and feminist rights will leave us, not celebrating Woman’s Day at the end. In fact then every day will be celebrated by women and every day will be a woman’s day; indeed ‘A happy woman’s day.’