“A female is a deformity – an incomplete male”, says Aristotle
The idea that women are weaker and less rational than men was put forth by Rousseau.
When scholars as influential as these make statements like the ones mentioned above, mankind tends to blindly believe them. And thus, ‘woman as the inferior sex’ has been the accepted norm for societies ever since.
Female oppression has been a characteristic feature of all economic societies– from authoritarian monarchies to feudal societies, and currently occupies a place even in the capitalist world order. Society has periodically witnessed revolution and undergone transformation, but matters regarding gender differentiation remain untouched by any of these revolutions. While men of the liberal capitalist world brag about extending universal franchise to women, they fail to realize that women are born their equals and are therefore born with this right; the fact that they do not enjoy them in the first place and need to be ‘granted’ these fundamental rights by men is hardly praiseworthy.
Before claiming to be a feminist, one needs to have a brief idea about who a feminist is and the history of feminist movements.
Contrary to ignorant opinions, feminism is not a term coined by a bunch of ‘millennials’ fighting for equal gender rights. The idea that feminism is about equal rights is in itself fallacious and certainly not what various other types of feminism advocates. It must be understood that feminism has various factions and can mean different things to different feminists.
A product of the West, feminist movements cropped up in the society at different dates on the timeline. Glimpses of the advent of this school of thought was noticed in 1840’s and 1850’s. Initially, these movements were centered around matters concerning political and legal rights, like the right to vote. While the 1920’s witnessed the granting universal franchise to women in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, feminism as a movement suffered major setbacks afterward. It was only after the publication of “The Feminine Mystique” that women expanded their horizons to focus on other areas of oppression in family and public life, and the psychological suppression of both the sexes. They attacked concepts like gender roles and the unfair division of labour, which had been justified in the past on grounds of natural capacity or incapacity of men and women. Women were restricted to household activities, child bearing and nourishing children, whereas men were expected to be the ‘bread winners’ of the family. ‘The owner of the phallus shall unquestionably be the ultimate source of authority’ was the thumb rule of society.
Women in India have often been victims to gender stereotyping. Since childhood women are told, “The knowledge of cooking is a must for women”, a statement that needs reframing in the contemporary world where culinary skills are looked upon as a must for young independent men and women instead of a duty to be performed solely by the woman of the house.
Depressing as it may sound that ‘feminist movements in India’ continue to hold little or no relevance for this land. Still under the influence of a patriarchal arrangement, the Indian subcontinent remains immune to the birth of feminist movements which when contrasted to the progress of Indians in the field of technology, economy and agriculture is perplexing.
Are men a necessary condition for a woman’s survival? Although this question may seem absurd to many now, it was an accepted fact and a feature of societies all over the world till a mere 60 years ago. Sadly, it continues to be a perceived truth in most areas of contemporary India, in parts that still labour under the chains of patriarchy and continue to disregard ideas of equality put forth by feminists.
On the other hand, the despotic and more radical side of the feminist movement aims not for equity or equality, but the domination of the female sex over the male one. Is this the ideal solution to patriarchy? Are such women willing to follow along the same path they currently criticize men for? Are all restrictions instances of chauvinism?
As a woman, and more importantly, as a feminist, the pursuit of the answers to these questions and the eventual resolution of such issues is vital.
-Contributed by Urvi Lahoti
Picture Credits: thespec.com