12-Sep-2008

why feminism

How is feminism still relevant in 21st century India? Women seem to have made great progress. The middle class Indian woman has never had it better.
She can study, she can work, and she can aspire to be whatever she wants. Since this is the idea most young women have, the idea of feminism seems irrelevant and even outdated.
To understand the relevance of feminism, we must first understand what feminism is. The word feminist comes attached with a lot of preconceived notions. A feminist is someone who simply believes that men and women are equal. Nothing more, nothing less. And feminism is about women making their own choices, standing up for those choices and accepting the outcomes of them. How can that be irrelevant or outdated?
Beyond the glossy picture of liberated young women who live the way they want to, there lies a harder, harsher reality. Even today we struggle to live a life we choose, constantly justifying our choices and looking for validations and approval. It is still not OK to be single after a certain age, premarital sex is a big no no and a single woman with an active sex life? God forbid!
Women in small towns and cities are not safe using public transport.
We still get groped and abused when we use public transport or attend a crowded event like a concert or a game. We constantly have to be on the alert and in more cases than not, we will be misbehaved with. Our problems do not end here. The number of rape and molestation cases has grown exponentially over the years and the conviction rates are abysmally low. The lack of sensitivity among law enforcement agencies while dealing with such cases is disturbing. The Mumbai New Years Eve molestation case is only one among the thousands others. A large section of society tended to blame the women themselves. Another such example was when the crowd misbehaved with the IPL cheer leaders, the authorities claimed that the women were themselves to blame because of their "provocative clothes”. This "asked for it" mentality clearly demonstrates that the 21st century Indian society is not quite equipped to handle the 21st century Indian woman.
read more .Anytime a crowd or a mob misbehaves with a woman, the focus is inevitably on the question why rather than the incident itself. She was a little drunk, she really shouldn't be dressed like that, she shouldn't be going to such places...A few common arguments that we always hear. All of this makes us feel as though gender sensitivity and gender equality are rather distant dreams.
Stereotyping women and gender roles in the media is another very serious problem. Take any movie where a child has an important role to play. The little boy is naughty and clever and adventurous while the little girl is portrayed as sweet, caring and good.
Look at the ads... the little boy comes to his dad with his first salary, the little boy tells the dad that he has more letters and the insurance scheme is called "baap ka naam roshan karega"! The boys want to be pilots, doctors lawyers, the girls want to be teachers, nurses or models.
In cartoons and comic books, there are no popular super heroines and almost all well known children's literature has male protagonists.
Whether media influences society or society influences media, gender stereotyping is a dangerous trend.
The lack of women in upper and middle management roles in corporate India is glaring. This has more to do with attitudes and perceptions of the decision makers than a lack of talent among women. “They don't network enough, they don't put in long hours”... a few common arguments we hear but perhaps a revision of the necessary parameters considered for these posts has to change.
A majority of the women in this country still live the life forced on them by their fathers, husbands, and society. The privileged few of us who live the lives we choose are the exception rather than the rule. Until every woman is independent and free, until every girl born is welcomed into the world without feelings of burden and despair, feminism will be relevant.
When people ask about the relevance of feminism, the question that must be asked and answered is, sure we have a voice but are we being heard.


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