Monday, November 17, 2008


I have been tagged by Indian Home Maker for my views on Feminism.

A difficult question, and tough to articulate. First thought, and the obvious one, is equality.

Was it feminism on display when my mother resumed work a couple of years after my birth? In those days and times, it would have been close to revolutionary. Especially since I realise she was probably the only lady amongst our social & family circle, who was a working wife (forget working mother). Would it not have been tough, juggling family and work, both? It sure was. And was she happy about it? Overall, yes, because she had the ability to decide to work if she wanted, and also because her professional qualifications were actually put to use where it mattered - not just in the home & kitchen. More than that, there is a sense of happiness driven by having contributed - and not in equal measure, but a lot more - within the home and outside.

What else is feminism? I think it is the ability of making your own Choice: the choices of education, higher studies, choice of vocation & career, the choice to love, to marry who she wants, the choice to have a child or not (though I think this one is a joint decision), the choice to work/ not to work after having a child, and making all the important choices that would go into bringing up the child/ children.

Feminism is not about whether the woman is allowed to either stay at home, or work *and* take care of the home. It is about a situation where the man & woman together decide who will earn the dough and if & whether someone needs to stay & care of the home - and if so, who.

It is also about equality, and therefore, it is NOT feminism when you see a trophy wife sitting at home vegetating - even if it is her choice. It is not feminism when the only contribution to the home is trips to the shopping mall, because it is degrading not only to her but to the rest of womanhood - and even if it is her choice alone.

Which therefore brings me to Independence. Feminism is also about being independent as well as contributing. A woman, to be an equal partner, has to contribute in some manner to the relationship - either in monetary terms and/or the home. The moment the woman is not bringing something to the relationship - except sex - she loses her power, her bargaining capability, and may I be controversial, her respect. Because one can demand equal rights only when one is equal in other terms too - otherwise any demand met is merely charity.

The day the woman depends on someone (anyone - her father/ brother/ husband/ children) more than the man in the family does, that is when talk of feminism becomes hollow.

Feminism also takes me to another view point, and that is about traditional pressures put on women by society, about looking good - Beauty. It is acceptable for a man to be ugly, bald, unfit, uncouth or loud, but not for a woman to be any of these. And the woman needs to be fit, maintain herself, look good, remove unwanted body hair, and generally keep herself pretty for masculine consumption. To me, feminism is also about women being able to (which they are not, today) be 'themselves', just as it is acceptable for men to 'be themselves'. The day equality happens will be when a woman can carry a paunch to a party and her husband is complimented for great cooking. And all of this, without any sarcasm or condescending behaviour.

Feminism is just a way of thinking. And its not just women, but men, who also could be feminists.

I think feminism is only a fancy word - for equality, for being fair, for being humane & human.

And, like earlier, I am not tagging anyone, but since you are reading this, would love to have you pick up this Tag - if not already done!

(If feminism is about choice, so should be 'Tag'-gism ;-) )


rain girl said...

"feminism is only a fancy word".

well written and certainly debatable. you make sense. their should be a maleism also... but yes, women still have a long way to go. we should try for equality, and not puling down the other sex.

Meira said...

Good one.
And thank you for the wishes :)

Indian Home Maker said...

'The moment the woman is not bringing something to the relationship - except sex - she loses her power, her bargaining capability, and may I be controversial, her respect. Because one can demand equal rights only when one is equal in other terms too - otherwise any demand met is merely charity.'
Yes it is controversial, but I agree with this too. And I find sometimes there is an effort in Indian families specially, joint families, to keep the girl without any bargaining capability. My newest post is about this.

At other times, a boy's family feels that a girl who is too self assured will not be 'obedient', will not 'serve without questioning'... so her very self reliance becomes an issue.

Vinod_Sharma said...

I have never fully understood what feminism really was all about. In the West, it is already about post-feminism.

I don't know what label will fit Michelle Obama. She's got it all, and there is no conflict between the sexes that the term 'feminism' sometimes implies. When Barack Obama says "We've both got more we deserve", it is that blend in which both 'feminism' and 'maleism' (that rain girl has mentioned), are completed.

Anonymous said...

I never liked the word feminism. I always saw it as another word to divide. This is the way I see things...

Men and women are wired differently. That is a FACT! From the beginning of time, men were the providers and women were the nurturers. That is still fact today. It is only because society has perverted this difference that we see a so-called 'feminist' movement. Men overreached with their role, leaving women itching to break out of it. That is just nature's response to things. But, in this breaking out, women are now the ones overreaching and they don't see it.

I am all for equality. Women should go ahead and get their job, live life, and do what they want, but they should always be aware of the difference between men and women. It will never disappear. A man likes when a woman is there to take care of him, sex the shit out of him, and treat him like a king. If a woman has her mind on other things (like a job that requires enormous amounts of time) that has become apparent to the man that it is more important than him (regardless of whether or not he is overreacting), he will become resentful and find it in someone else. It is the natural order of things. The same for women. If men don't engage them in conversation, love, security, and make them feel like queens, women will search for it in someone else. Again, it is the natural order of things.

There are definitely roles that each gender plays, but the problem becomes when one or both try to overstep their boundaries. In my opinion, this breaking out is really one trying to equalize the roles. People just need to be aware of what their natural roles are and how to adapt that to the world in the 21st century. Times have changed, but nature has not. Simple as that.

As for your beauty comment, both genders need to maintain the sexy. I don't care what anybody says! We cannot avoid physical attraction. To suggest otherwise, is to deny nature. If someone 'being themselves' means he or she not giving a damn about their appearance, then the world will treat them as such.

Just my five cents.

P.S. The senior citizen, Indian Home Maker, talks about in her blog needs to get a job!

Does it matter said...

@ rain girl
Oh yes, we DO have a long, long way to go.

@ meira
Thank you, and Welcome..

Very true.. Assertiveness arises out of independence, and one way to retain control is to ensure lack of independence. However, its so much a social issue we have here..

@ Vinod
I guess the reason why we do not have (or talk about) maleism is because there is probably no need for one. Affirmative actions, or thoughts, are needed for the underprivileged alone..

@ Shiggs
Interesting views, you bring a Western viewpoint to this. But you need to realise, we in India are still far far away from some of the most basic of courtesies that need to be given to women. And it is not a legal thing - all the laws exist. But when society is wired in a particular way, there is so much resistance to change. Re the beauty/sexy part you mention, that is the double standard we have in India - it is only the Women who are expected to maintain themselves for their men - the reverse is just about starting here. Regarding the "men were the providers and women were the nurturers", I think that probably merits a full debate in itself. But I do think we have evolved a lot from the cavemen days of hunting and providing, so while there are some physical differences - I think we might have evolved out of/ outgrown this specific difference..