Feminism in India

To be a feminist in a society as patriarchal as India, one has to be prepared to receive considerable criticism and backlash. A majority of the society finds it very easy to disregard feminism as a passing fantasy or a movement with no importance in the evolution of the society.

What is ‘feminism’ really? Feminism is a movement and an ideology that opposes chauvinism. The term ‘chauvinism’ does not refer to only the belief in the male superiority. Women can be chauvinists too when they believe themselves to be better than men. Feminism stands for equality of both the sexes and hence opposes chauvinism.

If feminism is synonymous to equality, then why is it called feminism? Why is the root of the first half of the word feminine?

Throughout the history of mankind, it can be observed that women have more often been the ones being suppressed than the ones doing the suppressing.

Traditionally, women played the role of a nurturer in the unit of family. They tended to the offspring while the men hunted and gathered food. Providing for the family financially has been considered as a man’s job in most societies of the world. In lieu with these roles so assigned, women were encouraged to take up the responsibilities of managing the household while men had to cultivate the land or provide other services with the aim of earning an income for the family. This was a system of co-dependence.

However, ,much like the Varna system, this harmonious co-dependence turned sour as the mobility reduced. Women were now considered incapable of taking decisions regarding the family or the finances. They were denied an education, political rights and financial rights. In India, especially, women were subjected to a number of unfair and often cruel practices such as child marriage, sati, pardah and so on. Even in the absence of the horrible practice of Sati, widow remarriage was not allowed and the widows had to follow a strict etiquette which severely curtailed their individual freedom.

It is the year 2016 now and we can’t still say that these practices have been completely abolished.

Society doesn’t undergo a metamorphosis overnight. Change occurs over a period of time. Feminism ensures the continuity of change of women’s development in the society. It is primarily a women’s movement because they comprise a section of the society that still has to fight for their rights. The balance of equality can be achieved once women get the same opportunities and rights as men.

We live in a mostly urban society today. Many women in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai work for a living. The female literacy rate in India is on a rise. There are seats reserved for women in government offices and political organisations. Women can and do vote. So feminism mustn’t be necessary anymore.

The thing is this scenario can be seen only in urban India. Rural india is a different story altogether. Young girls who haven’t even hit puberty are still married off to much older men. The female foeticide and infanticide rates continue to rise despite strict laws taken by the government. Dowry system still prevails.
In urban areas too this disparity can be still seen. Girls might not be denied an education but their academic endeavours are limited till school or graduation. I am actually acquainted with someone who was forbidden from pursuing graduation but married off instead. She lives in Mumbai.

In workplaces too, sexism prevails. Men are often provided with more opportunities for growth on the basis of their sex as compared to women. There are times when a female employee worthy of the promotion is dismissed only because of her femininity.

Crimes against women are prevalent in the urban India. Not a day goes by when we don’t read about a case of rape, molestation, assault, acid-attack in the newspapers. The guilty of such offences often show no remorse as they consider it to be their birthright to dominate the so-called weaker sex. In response to this, we have politicians making statements blaming rapes and other forms of assault on the women’s clothing or curves or something as ridiculous and disconnected.

Even in the absence of all this, the Indian women is stereotyped to an amazing extent. An unmarried Indian woman simply can’t be happy or satisfied with her life. Marriage is yet another test that the Indian woman has to through. Can she make round rotis? Is she pretty? How does she dress? Is she a virgin? These are the questions asked.

India needs feminists and feminism. It will take a lot more time to vanquish every trace of chauvinism from the Indian society as this attitude is so deeply ingrained in the Indian culture.

Feminists are women who demand equal opportunities and rights for themselves. If such demands are not made, how will change take place? If one half of the population isn’t functioning at its optimum, how is the nation supposed to progress?

Be a happy potato ^_^

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deep
    Feb 28, 2016 @ 10:22:37

    In rural India, The traditional India we’re talking about, we still have the basic amenities of life. You can’t expect women strengthening themselves in such a society where education is not common to everyone, farming is the major economic activity. though we see the rise in cottage industries but that doesn’t mean in an agrarian economy you can expect the equality in between the sexes. It’s not possible.

    Furthermore, In India, the society is still divided in strata you’re unaware of, traditional order bring a lot of ethics in the society and they both perish to leave the society in a havoc.
    Feminism now is more than asking equal rights for women, It is about destroying what the feminist think isn’t right.

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    • theintrovertedschmuck
      Mar 06, 2016 @ 16:43:51

      So do you mean to say that women should stay oppressed? That feminism should not exist at all? I don’t agree at all. Changing people’s perceptions will definitely take time due to all the rituals and norms that are an intricate part of the Indian society. But this particular change is necessary.
      Also, in what way is agriculture a valid reason to deny women their rights?

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