IN CLASS TODAY: “NEITHER THE KITCHEN NOR THE PARLIAMENT HAS A GENDER"

Updated: Apr 17, 2021


Despite its different strands and groups, Feminism as a whole believes in the

equality of genders in every aspect of life, elimination of any kind of inequality

based on sex and protection of the interests of the marginalised sections of the

society through education and adequate opportunity.


Today, lets talk about quite a prominent part of this movement, namely

Radical Feminism. Radical Feminism arose out of second-wave Feminism in the

1970s alongside, but mutually exclusive from Socialist and Marxist Feminism. It

is radical insofar as it claims that the root of women’s oppression lies in the

biological realities of our bodies and seeks the liberation of women through

education and eradication of all social and cultural norms that enforce

women’s inferiority to men. Radical feminists further claim that the central

issue is the subordination of women by men within the private and political

spheres. According to them, women’s oppression persists not simply because

of the superiority associated with men, but because of the role women have

played historically in the nuclear family. While men headed off to work each

morning, women typically engaged in what is termed as social reproduction

such as the biological reproduction of children and the day-to-day chores of

doing laundry, feeding the family, getting children ready for school, and so on.

Even in recent decades, as women have entered the paid workforce, they have

still tended to be saddled with the “second shift", carrying out social

reproduction at home after they return from work. This whole concept,

namely Biological essentialism is condemned and protested against by the

Radical feminists. They opined that it’s the reproduction cycle which acts as a

tool for subjugating women. They raised a question against the very biological

roles of the two sexes and almost shook the very foundation of the male

dominated society.


Radical Feminism is often brought under scrutiny because of their radical

outlook towards the process of reproduction. It is often argued that men and

women have been made in unique ways, anatomically and are designed to

perform biological functions which are specific and different from each other.

This is how the society and the system works, such is the opinion.

Speaking of the 21st century, Biological essentialism still stand as a hindrance

before women getting to reach their full potential. Giving birth is a natural

process, and women do play a prominent role here helping in the way of

evolution. The society however tends to treat her nothing more than a

reproduction machine. Her worth within the family is valid only until she

conceives. Socialising a girl child into believing that her sole purpose in life is

attaining motherhood is one of the reasons behind the decaying society.

Since the feminist movements, women have somewhat got a better place in

the society. In most middle class families of the urban areas, education for a

girl child is being prioritised over marriage. Getting married or pregnant

necessarily doesn’t mean the end of her career, any longer. This progression,

however good a sign, is tinged with the evils of a patriarchal society.


For a clearer vision, lets look through certain examples. The society, still today,

is so harsh on working mothers. A working mother is expected to be a

multitasking machine, extremely skilled at juggling between her work and

home. The moment her child fails to perform well in their curriculum, the

working mother is labelled as an over achiever, who criminally puts her career

over her child. However, the child’s unsatisfactory performance at school is

never blamed upon the father. He is the man of the family, who needs to keep

his career in the forefront even if that means neglecting his own child. Our

society still puts the pressure of child rearing entirely on the mother without

even considering how much her work might mean to her. A working mother

she to overcompensate in some way or the other to the society since it has

been kind enough to let her work. Even on days when she isn’t working, it’s

never a holiday for the mother. Since she remains at home, everyone gets rest

while she goes on to make sure that everyone is comforted and fed. Till today,

domestic chores are considered primarily to be done by the women of the

house, while their spouses are supposed to ‘help’ in the chores. A spouse who

helps in preparing a meal, supports his wife’s working life, picks up the children

from school is worshipped by the society, while all of these are expected from

a fellow working woman.


In such a scenario, the predicament of a homemaker is nothing but worse. The

society bats an eye to her daily contribution to her house, and eventually to

the society. Her labour is not considered valid since it doesn’t add up to the

GDP. Even she has been socialised into thinking that since she doesn’t help the

family financially, all she does is sit at home and do ‘nothing’

The society seems to patronize a women’s labour by claiming her as a

multitasker. Such a tag naturally pushes one to strive towards perfection. A

fear of underperforming and losing her worth is instilled in every woman. The

hard work which she puts into juggling home and work is used to project her as

a superior being, whose every work oozes perfection.


However, this attempt isn’t a philanthropic one. Instead of considering woman

as a human, society enforces its unrealistic expectations on women claiming

that she can handle it all. But is that the case, really ? Perhaps not. After a long

day at work, a woman necessarily does not need to be all jolly, ready to get

into the kitchen and serve the family. She too gets tired and vulnerable, very

much in need of good rest, just like the man of the house. It’s not only the

mother whose duty it is to hold the family together. Narratives such as “she is

a mother, she doesn’t get tired" are not only toxic, but also approves

exploitation of so many women within the middle class households.

Feminism strives towards realising that Biological essentialism is not only

limited to reproduction. It’s a well planned mechanism developed by

Patriarchy, distinguishing man and woman on the basis of not only anatomy,

but also emotions and spheres of dominance. Neither the kitchen nor the

Parliament has a gender. Gender can’t decide one’s limits, work place and

credibility as a human being. Before pertaining to any gender, we are humans

first, and Feminism is all about treating all as humans, irrespective of their

genders.


- Madhubanti

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