The definition of feminism as in The American Heritage Dictionary is as follows – A doctrinethat advocates or demands for women the same rights granted men, as in political or economic status. 2. The movement in support of such a doctrine.
My opinion in the matter are entirely my own and I am in no position to claim that it is the correct one. I have trained my mind to think in a particular way, to approach life in a certain manner and to define things the way I understand them. They need not be identical to what youngsters perceive and my only request is to think on these lines.
When we talk of equal rights for men and women what exactly do we mean? I know of a family a young couple where the husband is supposed to sweep and the wife has to swab. If the husband has to rush to work, the house is neither swept nor swabbed. In the same family the husband agreed to prepare rice since it was easy and the wife took it upon herself to prepare the dal and sabzi. If she came home early she would do her bit and wait for the husband to come home and prepare rice. Both would be tired and the allegations and counter allegations would follow and they’d go to bed without eating. I do hope they have now grown out of this stage and have matured enough to understand that equality doesn’t necessarily mean a 50:50 division of every odd job in the house.
Equality on the other hand means that men and women who constitute society have mutual respect and each group appreciates the other for their contribution and input. A woman may be a home maker or career woman depending upon her personal choice. She should be confident about the importance of her role and carry herself with a dignity that commands respect even from her worst critics. Long back I watched a programme on DD-1 – “ Aurat kaam nahin karti” in which it was satirically pointed out that cooking , cleaning, the bearing and rearing of children etc. are not considered as ‘work’- not by her family or society but by the woman herself. Unless we bring about an attitudinal change all this talk about feminism is not going to benefit anyone.
It is heartening to see middle and upper middle class families at least in urban areas educate their girl child at par with their boys. Education does broaden one’s outlook and even if the girl does not go out to work there is no doubt that she will be an asset to her family. She may in all probability have a say in important matters and equality will automatically follow. It is equally disappointing to see educated females behaving like dumb dolls and being treated as if they are a piece of furniture in the house. Nothing in life comes for free and the sooner one realizes it the better for them. If one wants to be heard he or she has to stand up and speak and speaking does not mean screaming.
One’s cultural background does play a role in shaping one’s mind but whatever the culture one belongs to self respect need not be compromised. My ex - servant’s husband had bought her a gold chain weighing around 40 gms. He kept on boasting about it and making sarcastic remarks about how she had brought nothing from her mother’s house and he was the one who had given her anything of worth. She gave it back to him in the presence of a witness and has not worn it since. Her words were “If you don’t realize or recognize my contribution to this family I don’t need your gold.” She went on to list the benefits the family was deriving on account of her including the fact that the rent free outhouse that they were living in was given for her services as house maid. The minute she stopped working, the family would be on the pavement she claimed! To my mind she comes across as much a feminist as anyone else.
Being a feminist does not mean finding fault with every arrangement in a male dominated society. For instance nature has made female physically vulnerable and it may be prudent to avoid certain situations. An intelligent mind would have no hesitation in doing so. After all nature has been fair enough as far as the mind is concerned so why not put it to good use?