“FEMINISM IS ABOUT CHOICE"
The term, ‘Feminism’ was first used during 1850s in France. However, feminist activities existed long before this term was coined. History has been a witness to several struggles and sacrifices, compelling the world to be a better place for women.
Since the dawn of civilization, man, through his prowess, has subjugated the ‘second Sex' in every possible way. From holy scripts to testaments, woman was portrayed as a sinner and seductress. She was to be kept an eye upon and controlled so as to keep the society in order. Further, in pursuit of keeping its women in chains, the society refrained from any act of educating them.
Education opens up the mind, questions authority – this was too big a risk to
take. These notions didn’t take much time to be internalized in the system.
Society and it’s ways of socialisation pushed women towards the vicious cycle
of family, motherhood, social dogmas and obligations. It was when little acts of
bravery shown by a handful of women gave rise to the movement called,
Feminism stands for equality. It stands for equal opportunity, equal work
spaces, equal pay and equal standards of living for every gender. To sum it up,
Feminism as a movement stands against Patriarchy.
Patriarchy is a social system, whereby the male member of the family takes
precedence and is considered to be the head. A patriarchal society is ruled and
dominated by it’s male members. The other half of the society is kept as a
showpiece, meant to get involved in jobs requiring a lesser intellect.
However, society is evolving. As an educated and progressive society, we have
come a long way. In today’s context, it is often argued that Patriarchy no more
exists at such lengths. Many are of the opinion that, there is equal
representation of sexes in every work place, every girl child has access to
education and no more glass ceiling is left to be shattered. But given to the
reality, such a world remains a far fledged dream.
The patriarchal society has normalized gender roles to such an extent, that we
tend to worship the man who cooks, laugh at the one who maintains a skin care
routine and rebuke the crying one to man up. How many female Presidents,
pilots, firefighters, CEOs do we come across on a daily basis ? We are yet to
make ourselves comfortable with the queer community. Our inate need to
alienate anyone who dresses or behaves differently, hinders our path towards
Prejudices have been a part of human lives since time immemorial. These
prejudices result in the decay of a society. These prejudices are so internalized
in the system that we as a society fail to even pinpoint, let alone question
them. After being oppressed for years, after being deemed fit only for
household chores, our Indian women seem to forget their worth. They get
their validations from half hearted praises for their cooking and all allowance
at the beginning of every month to take care of their personal needs. At such
instances, they crumble under the desire of being accepted by their male
counterparts. The moment another fellow woman starts excelling at their job,
a fight for the most validated position seems to take a turn. A platform which
has shown this rivalry in all of it’s forms is undoubtedly, Bollywood.
Bollywood has always glorified the idea of womanhood. A woman is always
shown to be at the receiving end, giving in to the demands of men who’ve
been chasing them frantically. Perfection is yet another thing propagated by
mainstream Bollywood. Blissful portrayal of a mother being kind and loving,
working day in and out for the happiness of the child, while the father goes on
to business tours worrying about the worldly problems has been the forte of
Heteronormative patterns, normalization of gender roles, perceiving women as
objects, use of homosexual terms as slurs, victim blaming, devaluing trans lives
have spread like a disease in our society. Feminism strives towards freeing the
society from such corruption.
Society is often baffled by change. Change supposedly disturbs the comforted
and hence, Feminism as a movement has gained quite a backlash over the
decades. But the truth doesn’t change. Feminism is not an anti-men agenda. It
is not a movement which claims superiority of women over men. It’s not
termed as a movement just to facilitate smoking and drinking for women in
public. The movement is to normalize the sight of women drinking in public as
much as that of men in the society. Feminism aims at shattering the myth of
biological essentialism. It stands for ambitious women who have been labelled
as “over achievers”, for women who have to live with the badge of “easy" for
returning late from work.
Going back to the origin of Feminism, it broadens to several strands – Liberal,
Radical, Marxist, Socialist, Black, Gay/Lesbian Feminism.
The first ever Liberal feminist was Mary Wollstonecraft. She came up with her
book “Vindication of Women’s Rights" as a disagreement upon Rousseau’s
“Emily". According to Wollstonecraft, traditional political and social theories
ignored inequality and oppression in gender field and made gender relations
complicated, failing to include them in political theory. She further argued that
women in no way are intellectually backward than their fellow males. They
should have equal opportunity to education. She was completely against the
idea of one’s biology being the reason of one’s intellectual setback. She went
on to question the distinction between public and private domain, demanding
a space for women in the economic sphere. Liberal feminism thus focuses on
maintaining one’s equality through their own actions and choices.
To conclude, Feminism is about choice and being able to exercise that choice to
reach one’s full potential. It believes in change. It strives towards changing the
way society has been taught to think. It demands for every gender to be put on
an equal pedestal. If you perceive a woman in the Armed Forces to be a
feminist, then that drunk girl in the bar, having control over her own decisions,
is no less of a feminist. The woman, going on business trips, along with the
mother who is a homemaker by choice, is very much a part of the movement.
The father who saves for his daughter’s education, the groom who stands
against dowry, defying all family traditions, the aunt who let her nephew play
with the doll he wanted, the brother who supports his sister’s preferences
regardless of the societal norms – all stand as a Feminist.
Feminism is inclusive. It’s safe, it’s flexible, it’s a collective strive towards an
equal, kind, and better society. It stands against Patriarchy, thus paving its way
towards a society which refrains itself from following all unattainable
standards, the genders are expected to fulfill.
By Madhubanti Bhaduri