By Naina Sharma
(This article is on demand by Blogurnalism reader)
Feminism is no easy concept and at the same time way too distinct from what we call a patriarchy. In simple words, feminism can be defined as a movement towards establishing equal socio, political and economic rights between men and women. Patriarchy on the other hand, is a system of society where men or dominant or rather preferred. Complexed through varied definitions and waves of developments, feminism and patriarchy have evolved and require constant modification pertaining to the manner in which they are perceived, as they may or may not be befittingly applicable to the changing society. While some relate the present demands of the feminist enthusiasts to the historically imbibed patriarchy, some others simply see it as an over-rated concept which is distorting the balance of the men-women relationships.
RIGHT TO CHOOSE OR RIGHT TO EQUALITY?
We can sense that something is certainly not going right when we hear the Delhi Metro filled with announcements like- “Please vacate the chairs for ‘women’ and the differently abled”.
Treating women equal to disabled people is definitely not right on so many levels and certainly not what modern feminists would have wished for. This is just another paradigm which conveys the extent to which feminism has been misconstrued in our country.
While the definition of patriarchy is quite clear, Feminism is most often differently defined. When feminism means rights for women, the benchmark shouldn’t be set or restricted to the rights enjoyed by men. It calls for equality which applies for both the genders. If a woman did not get voting rights through the universal adult suffrage until late 20th century, feminists in today’s era wouldn’t have demanded rights similar to those belonging to men but because sadly, the basic rights are always enjoyed by men, it is quite often interpreted as a hunt on men’s rights.
Feminism, as interpreted, is not about snatching rights but by distributing them at an equal pedistle and then leaving it onto a women’s capacity to decide whether she wants to exercise those rights or not. What cannot be denied is that rights have been curtailed through pressumptions regarding women’s actions both in the public and private sphere. It is not about freedom to earn, or freedom to work after marriage but solely about freedom to ‘choose’. Choice has never quite often remained in the hands of women, owing to the patriarchal structure and once given the power to choose, it would then be upon the two genders to support and co-exist in the most suitable way.
HARMS OF FEMINISM: PHYSIOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS vs PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS
There are a few ways in which feminism can do more harm than good to women in the longer run, going against its own objectivated Grail. Though a movement with a wis intent, it has created a world where women as viewed as victims. And this is where women need to move beyond the boundaries of patriarchy. What once existed cannot continue to define women as a victim forever. They are and need to be strong enough to let go off the patriarchal barriers. You can be a woman and not be a victim. Women don’t have to hide under the umbrella of feminism when the world, law, judiciary views woman as an equally capable adult. if you have the perception that the world is out to get you.
A woman who can let an entire human out of her body is strangely considered to be quite fragile and infantile. Thanks to viewing it as a battle rather than step towards empowerment.
Prolonged dependence on feminism as a label has created a sphere of competition between men and women. This has created more problems than solving many where life has become a race for the two genders to decide on who is better rather than filling the gap of what the other lacks. Well, there is definitely more to a human than his /her gender. If a man is a better cook than you, he is so because he is talented, this hasn’t got much to do with him being a man. Just like women don’t wish to be shouted at as defined through male dominance, similarly, men don’t wish to be dominated either.
….. SO, SOLUTION, PROBLEM, BOTH OR NONE?
The problem doesn’t lie in giving women an option to choose- to choose between being an homemaker or a working woman, what creates issues is when women try to change themselves drastically in order to satisfy the societal demands of the feminists. If feminism isn’t confused with disrespecting men or trying to bow them down, if it is a call for equality, then so be it.
If the extreme feminists wish to outrun all the chivalrous acts of men and if feminists wish to not be treated in a coy manner then again there exist two categories of women. One, who would want to be treated with care and two, who do not wish to seek men’s help in any case. Remember, if a man helps a woman it shouldn’t be treated as a favour and it is women who need to understand that for it is a two way street. Since men are in many ways dependent on women, if women accept the same it wouldn’t do any harm to their feminist goals.
Personally, more than getting entangled in a term which has been constantly changing its meaning over years, I would wish to be a female who has the freedom to choose and treat the requirements of both genders as equal. While patriarchy talks of male dominance, feminism doesn’t speak of female dominance at all. One speaks of superiority and the latter of equality, at least in terms of actions. So yes, in order to boost the process of shedding supressive male dominance, we do need feminism as a catalytic initiator. Once the job is done, it is upto the women to lead a life which neither looks upon them as victims nor as self centered. So, yes feminism to an extent is a solution to patriarchy. But yes, only to an extent. Remember, the idea is too hyped that only a handful would know of Matriarchies existing in parts of Kerala and Karnataka. Yes! Matriarchies exist too. And yes, men are feminists too. So feminism isn’t a battle between men and women, it is a movement for women- a movement which can flourish better in cooperative cognizance between the two genders, thereby shunning patriarchy in the process itself. Patriarchy is not the only problem feminism must deal with. It is in fact the non-patriarchal societies who endorse feminism way more than the rest, suggesting that feminism is being applied today, under the situational considerations of the past decades. The concept needs alteration for women in a modern society aren’t victims. They have the rule of law to solve problems more than any book on feminism would.
(Picture Courtesy- Factmyth.com)