Feminist Movement: One Step Forward, Two steps Backward

“It is ridiculous to tell girls to be quiet when they enter a new field, or an old one, so the men will not notice they are there. A girl should not expect special privileges, because of her sex, but neither should she “adjust” to prejudice and discrimination “

Betty Friedan

These words by Betty Friedan, the famous feminist , were the pillar of the feminist movement which she spearheaded in the 60s and 70s . Unfortunately, they have lost their meaning somewhere today. Betty Friedan’s death in 2006 perhaps ended the only glorious chapter in the feminist movement.

Feminist movements all around the world have seen plenty of highs and lows. They have had some amazing success stories like the suffrage movements – or the movement for a woman’s voting rights. But somehow, that commonsense feminism has ceased to exist now. We are suddenly into an age where exaggerated attempts to liberalize women has resulted in further inequality between a woman and a man.

Betty Friedan was the champion of commonsense feminism. She knew that the liberalization of women lies in strengthening the necessities. She was critical of the idea that men should be blamed for everything. She proposed that a woman has to stand up on her own feet and for this, she should be granted her rights. This resulted in women getting the right to vote in US . The anti-abortion law was also scrapped . Punishment for men who treated their wives as slaves and used to abuse them, was also formulated . But this commonsense feminism has been replaced , rather unfortunately , by gimmicks .

Today most women use their feminity, not as a strength , but as a weakness . Consider the case of Hillary Clinton . Till the time she was ahead of Barrack Obama , she was a winner and a person with nerves of steel . But when she lost ,they argued that it was because she was a woman . Ofcourse , Hillary herself , tried every trick of feminism in the book to woo voters . Alas ! those “tears” didn’t work . Or did they ? Look whats happening now . The Republicans having fielded Sarah Palin as VP candidate ,are saying that she’ll get the “Hillary votes” . Do they really think that women are so naïve that they vote on gender lines ? And why do these otherwise strong women suddenly become “women” when they start to lose ground ? Isn’t Palin using her family as a tool to gain sympathy ? What happened to strong words of action ?

Closer home ; our feminists are truly amazing . Every year on International Women’s day , they gather around , have an ‘intellectual’ party , hail some of the women achievers and then go back to their routines : demanding absurd rights . In this process , they conveniently forget that woman who lives in an Indian village . She works throughout the day in fields , gets beaten by her husband , is abused by her family , is treated nothing more than a child-bearing machine ; in worst case , she is forced to witness the death of her newborn child , who is a girl and is a liability. This woman isnt aware of her rights and she probably will never be . Why ? Because shes too insignificant to figure in the scheme of things . Because her rights are too simple to put forward . While the national commission for women debates on issues such as further strengthening section 498 [a] or that women should always be treated as victims in adultery ; countless women will die . They will die while bearing a child , they will die while slogging it out for her family and she will die when a powerful man of upper caste will rape her and kill her . She will die silently because shes poor and she has no voice . All the voice is concentrated among the urban women . And in the euphoria of drafting laws to protect women , we have incorporated several loopholes in them .

But not getting into the legal issues , the core fact is the direction of feminist movement today . I am no male chauvinist ; but I know that by following blindly whatever a man does and by male-bashing , women will not achieve much . They have to demand instead of a fight . They have to made aware of their rights . A strong women doesn’t need the illogical support of the basic tools of feminism i.e. her sex . She doesnt need to be in power just because shes a woman but because that she deserves it . Does anyone remember the euphoria generated by the election of our current president ? she , in no doubt , is an intelligent lady but had Abdul Kalam contested against her , would our choice have remained the same ?

Consider Indira Nooyi , PepsiCo CEO and Kiran Shaw , Biocon chief . These women have scaled heights because they showed the world that they deserve it . They didn’t demand anything just because they were women .

The problem with feminism is precisely this today . They have got it all wrong . Its distorted . Women have still lots to fight for , especially in India . Lakhs of women still languish in 19th century mindsets . They are still burnt for dowry , for practicing witchcraft , for raising their voice against male dominance . But their voices reach the high and the mighty only if they are not poor . The time has come for thinking and strong women to take the first step and stop exploiting feminism . A women is far more strong emotionally than a man ; so why not play on your strengths rather than show weakness and demand on that basis ?

As Barkha dutt wrote in a rcent article published in the Hindustan Times ;

Lets not get imprisoned by our gender ;

Female First doesn’t have to be our motto”

Mayank Sharma

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