Indian Feminism

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Indian FeminismHave you heard the song “sajna ji vari vari” from Honeymoon Travels? Next time you hear it try and concentrate on the words. This song is all about how a woman must give her all to her husband. It shows that her husband is her whole world. If you are a feminist you would really be angered by the words.

Feminism comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and moral philosophies concerned with gender inequalities and equal rights for women. Feminists have divided feminism’s history into three ‘waves.’ The first-wave refers to the feminism movement of the nineteenth through early twentieth centuries, which dealt mainly with the Suffrage movement. The second-wave (1960s-1980s) dealt with the inequality of laws, as well as cultural inequalities. The third-wave of Feminism (1990s-present) is seen as both a continuation and a response to the perceived failures of the second-wave.

However this bias against women is very prevalent in India. Boys are preferred any day over girls, in all aspects. Even today in many rural areas in India, the families only want a boy child. In fact in some very backward areas female infanticide also takes place. People are so dissatisfied with a girl child that they actually kill them. There have been cases where these new born girl babies have been thrown in the well or drowned in milk. Does this justify the standards set for a civil society?

Pre-colonial social structures and women’s role in them reveal that feminism was theorized differently in India than in the west. Colonial essentialization of “Indian culture” and reconstruction of Indian womanhood as the epitome of that culture through social reform movements resulted in political theorization in the form of nationalism rather than as feminism alone. Historical circumstances and values in India make women’s issues different from the western feminist rhetoric. The idea of women as “powerful” is accommodated into patriarchal culture through religion. This has retained visibility in all sections of society; by providing women with traditional “cultural spaces”. Another consideration is that whereas in the West the notion of “self” rests in competitive individualism where people are described as “born free yet everywhere in chains”, by contrast in India the individual is usually considered to be just one part of the larger social collective, dependent for its survival upon cooperation and self-denial for the greater good.

If women are treated so badly in India then why are so many of our Hindu goddesses female? Is it not ironic that on one hand we treat these goddesses with reverence and on the other hand women are not even treated as human beings in society?

When a girl needs to get married, the boy needs to select the girl. And in most families once the girl is not even asked whether she likes the boy. If both have to live with each other then why is only one given a choice? I think if the girl also selects the boy then half the problems people face in marriage will be eliminated.

Many of the women are now working. They have reached every possible professional height at times, are even higher than men. They are more patient and are able to handle more responsibility. Even if a woman is not working she has a full time job as a housewife. She cooks food for the whole family, takes care of the house, handles the children and many more things. Don’t you marvel at those women who work and do all these things? The face is simple. A woman can struggle and work like men in corporate offices but men can never do the kind of house work a woman does. And yet we don’t value the women of our country.

Women in India have reached every possible dimension. They are in no way backward to men. In fact in some fields they can do much more than men can. A woman gives birth to life. Without them the world would not grow.

Anjuri Nayar

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