When Snigs tagged me to write about my views on feminism, I actually felt ill-equipped to blog on this subject. For one thing, I actually couldn’t identify what is actually meant by feminism. I could see a similar echo of thoughts, when I came across Sanjukta’s status display on Facebook – “I think the word feminist has been abused so much that nobody knows anymore what exactly it means, so I’d not like to be labeled by it.” My next stop was Wikipedia via Google and lo and behold, there were phases and stages of feminism with social and political connotations and with the revelation that modern society is today in a stage of Post-Feminism.
Feminism as we have defined it over the years is passé! And feminism definitely is not the same as misandry or hatred of men. And I think this is precisely what Snigs has mentioned in her monologue when she says that she loves to do things for her man and her family not because it’s her responsibility or duty but because it is her innate female nature. Women are born to nurture and nourish, to create and consolidate and to provide the strong foundation stone on which a family can be established and sustained.
Historically, feminism was the mobilization for woman suffrage in Europe and the US during the late 19th and early 20th century and was slowly associated with the right to equality and of obtaining justice for women. The interpretations, counter-interpretations and misinterpretations of feminism slowly occurred over the century. If asked to define feminism, I would go by the earliest connotations – the right to freedom, the right to equality, and the right to justice.
For me feminism is advocacy of the right of the girl-child to be born, educated, loved and cared for, allowed to choose and pursue hobbies, and ability to define a professional career, and find one’s life-partner, and ability to stand up for the ethical and the correct ways of life and existence. For me feminism stands for the abolition of pardah, the ban on female infanticide, the right of widows to live, and of women to get medical aid. True feminism lies in the right to be able to plan your family, chose your contraceptives, and express your sexual needs and desires, which also means the power to say No.
In my perspective, the greatest success of feminism as a concept is when women themselves are ready to take charge of their lives. Time and time again, my previous posts have expressed my take on feminism. Be the post on how women exploit their gender to promote dependency of women, in general, on the men of the house, or the post on how a young widow’s lack of educational and financial independence have created unresolved issues, or the post on my liberated maidservant, or for that matter my own ironical take on married working women.
Feminism is about women, and for the women, and can reveal its true colors only when understood by women. Education, financial independence and mental strength are the keys to feminism and from here emerge all the three aspects of freedom, equality and justice. The challenge is to stop exploiting the role of feminism in our lives. Being free doesn’t mean that we can flaunt our independence and throw away customs and traditions; being equal doesn’t mean that we give up our right to cook, clean and care for our loved ones; and demanding justice doesn’t mean that we misuse dowry and sexual harassment laws.
As women we need to be dignified and intelligent in our approach while remembering that feminism has primarily originated from the word “female” and hence it’s our prime responsibility to keep the female within us alive and vibrant and fulfill our roles as the other half that makes the “whole” world go around!