What feminism would include was equal status, equal opportunities and women empowerment. A general outlook would define feminism as a fight to provide gender equality in order to uplift women. While it has been a struggle in this society to be treated as equal to men, we must ask ourselves if this is the only meaning of feminism. I would like to differ in this context. In my opinion to take off high and cover the complete sky, wings of feminism need a new element and an additional feather. It’s high time to think and analyse the disparity and consider that despite of the various efforts being done, the situation is not changing and still women are considered the weaker section of the society.
It is rightly said that every problem has a solution but it must also be realized that every problem has a root cause too. To curb a problem, the problem’s root cause is needed to be identified first and only then can it be treated permanently to ensure that the problem doesn’t fester again and again like a virus destroying the whole society.
For knowing the root cause, it is time we take a look at the journey from when to where? Its traces can be found back in history. Even Satyug, the Yug of Shri Ram, was not untouched by this painful issue. Whether we see the character assassination of Ahilya or the Agni Pariksha of Sita, every single time the women were being judged by the male dominant society. Time and time again, women have had to payback for the mistakes of men. To satisfy the ego of these men, women have had to question themselves and prove their chastity. A woman had to do several things to prove how loyal she is to a man and she is supposed to go beyond any limit to keep the patriarchy happy and satisfied. It was the misdeed of Kauravs but the history blames Draupadi for being the reason behind the biggest battle of centuries. Through all ages, it has been the easiest trick in the book to be judgmental about the women in a society and to put them accountable for caused misdemeanor.
The crimes against women have been rampant through history. The list of cruelties against women spill off the tip of my tongue. We can’t forget customs such as the practice of Sati, the practice of child marriage, and even Kanyadan. All these customs are deeply rooted in our culture and drenched with the idea that women have no separate identity beyond the men in her life. Women have been expected to need support of men in their life to survive and those who have tried to spread their wings and fly, they have been cut off and an example has been made of them so that they don’t inspire such transgression in others. The powers of patriarchy are rooted in women being submissive and dependent. As long as this order is established, they can never come out of the shadows.
When we come towards the customary laws practiced in our society, even there we can be witnesses to gender biasness. All the sanskars are being made to favour men and according to scriptures, mokshaprapti can also only be attained when a male child will do the funeral rituals. In order to fulfil the desire to attain moksha, crime of female foeticide has long been rampant in the society. I will agree that the legislations like Pre Natal Diagnostic Act have been made and sonography is made a punishable offence. Theemphasis has been on restriction of this practice but does this suffice? The answer is a bold no. Even today, there are regions and sector of society where this heinous and brutal act of killing female foetus is committed. God forbid if by any chance the birth of the female child is to take place in those regional sects, the families don’t break a sweat in resorting to giving up the girl child or in the worst cases, throwing her away like trash. This has continued and no law and enforcement mechanism has been able to control it. I agree that much work has been done and several times this issue has been debated to figure out if it is about bringing legislations, educating people, spreading awareness or increasing and focusing on female literacy rate so that this malpractice could be curbed but this could do nothing because it is all about the mentality and till this mentality does not change, nothing can be changed. The self realization is critical.
The era has evolved and today more people have an education. This has helped in broadening our minds. In the current times, there are a few people who believe in carrying a single girl child and many who do not differentiate between a son and a daughter. They care about the upbringing of their daughters no less than that of a son but now a different challenge arises. Is this the change we want because despite of this revolution, a daughter is judged at various aspects whether it is about staying with her parents or performing the cremationrites of her parents? Every single time she is reminded by the so called members of the society that she is a woman without the social authority to take actions that has traditionally been the rights of the men.
This is the time of pandemic where the country is in a very devastating state. The whole nation is suffering because of COVID 19 and thousands are falling sick and dying from a virus of which there is no cure yet. In this tough time, our when nation is facing lockdowns, everyone is contributing and standing together whether they are front line warriors , health workers , cleaning staff , police etc. They are working day and night to bring their nation out of this havoc and we offer our respect to them. Yet, nobody is talking about the housewives who are managing their home day and night without any house help. Women have managed to turn this lockdown into a family vacations, cooking and cleaning relentlessly so that everyone can be patient and calm in this difficult situation. A few people are contributing their salary; savings, pension etc but these women are contributing their labour and paying house maids so that their livelihood isn’t hampered. Wouldn’t we agree that they deserve a word of appreciation at the very least?
It is clear to see that the root cause behind the misery of women has been hiding in plain sight. It is not only about discrimination against women or seeing women as a weaker section of the society. It’s all about the mentality and outlook of society towards the women. I strongly believe that no legislation and no enforcement mechanism could curb this problem unless and until the society would stop being judgmental towards the women.
Let us realize that our small contribution could make a huge difference. Putting in these small bits of effort towards making women happy and offering them our heartfelt appreciation for all the support could give them a stronger sense of self and raise their self-esteem. It is important that we recognize that the burden of emotional labour too falls on the women in a family as well as in a society. In a society, we see too often women managing their feelings to maintain the balance of scales. Take a look at most families and the truth is that women end up compromising more emotionally to offset the negativity in a situation. Even more obvious it is to see that the society downplays the labour that these women put in to run a house and entirely ignore the cost of emotional labour they put in to make the family unit functional and happy. All of this is unfair to women and these actions of injustice can be seen more clearly during the current lockdowns imposed. The least we can do is acknowledge and appreciate their tough jobs often based on personal sacrifice. We as society need to recognize and appreciate women. We need to build them up and give them a world that genuinely values their efforts. When women have a world that not only offers them the liberties it offers a man but also praises their labour like it would for a man, we will have given a new dimension to the word feminism.
There will not be any need then of forming separate queues for men and no more pink vehicles would be required because the women will safe and contended in this society. Then no fear would stop them from soaring high in the skies. Before expecting something however, we must remember that a movement for women must start from women. Before we expect the society to change, we women will have to bring changes in our own mentality. Once we will stop devaluing our labour and our sacrifices, we will no longer be considered the weaker section of society and nobody would be able to question our strength. That day the world will witness true feminism.
Author(s) Name: Pooja Shukla (Research Associate, Competition Commission of India)