• The Feminist Times

“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.


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

progression.


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

Indian cinema.


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





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