Thursday, September 28, 2006

Feminism as I see it

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?

23 comments:

artnavy said...

Hats off to the maid!
Education does not necc bring wisdom. But wisdom can exist without education.

eve's lungs said...

I passed out from Sacred Heart a long time ago - did u maybe study with me ?

itchingtowrite said...

dignity and self respect would be a facet too. of course, some jobs are best done by men & some by women. i guess its about maintaining the balance in terms of the work load

Monika said...

I would agree and disagree with the post...

agree with the fact equality doesn't mean 50:50 always... to me it means equal opportunities, equal safety and equal respect most of all... to me it means that if a boy has chance to study till whatever point he can a girl gets an equal chance too... to me it means that if a guy has choice to choose the job he wants and the girl has an equal choice... to me it means that if the road is safe for a boy to walk on the road in the middle of the night it should be equally safe for the girl to walk on...

going by reference of the couple's example u have written to equality would be that if she comes home early she makes the whole meal without waiting for him and if he comes early he makes the whole meal (whatever he can may be a simple pulao) without waiting for her...

i don't really agree with the point the u have made on the physical strength of females... we are physically also a very strong breed may be a little different strength for if that was not the case no child birth would have happened... that is an example of extreme physical strength to me... but ya as i mentioned a little different that our counterparts...

God us made us different I agree but God never made one superior and the other inferior...

feminism to me is about being in the real world as in front of God... equals !!!

PS: again these are my personal views could be right or wrong... and sorry for taking so much of ur space this a topic too dear to my heart :-)

Kalpana said...

Any person can do any Job. It just depends on their own capabilities. A situation is one which makes people laugh, hate, work together, or anything. What's important is mutual understanding in dealing
with a relationship, be a man or a woman. How are WE is most important than any other thing. What I liked the most is the maid's boldness in dealing with her situation. Be it a Man or a Woman, God created both, the same way. It is we who differentiated everything. And WE are the people who need to change the way things are.

indianangel said...

awesome post preetha! I wanted to really agree with you on one front. Its entirely to the choice of a women to decide what she wants to pursue, there are women who are really successful in their careers and have a wonderful family too. If you are brave enough to face whatever the consequences are, and have a big heart to take things easy and light - life is always sweet. Thanks for writing this wonderful post! BTW, did u have any luck in reading my Tamil posts - I remember you asking me on how to read the widow's story that I was writing!?

Usha said...

I am amused and sometimes irritated by some of the stupidity that goes on in the name of equality - like the couple you have quoted in para 3.
Recently a friends son was marrying and someone asked if the girl cooked. the boy said "She doesn't but I am bringing a wife aunty, not a cook". I was happy to hear this and assumed the boy knew and liked to cook. It turns out neither cook in the house and eat all the meals out or depend on take away food. Wonder what they'd feed the kids when they arrive - Pizza,chowmin and chop suey?
They seemed to have arrived at a nice balance in many American marriages - perhaps our youngsters could learn a thing or two from them

Usha said...

On the issue of physical strength we have our own example to learn from.
In the game for survival while other species depend purely on physical strength, humans have used their brains to score over animals physically stronger than themselves.
We women should develop similar strengths while also equipping ourselves with basic self defense skills.

vibhor said...

i agree men and women are equal and has to be given equal rights..but then god has differentiated them...and it should be respected...

women, known as the creator, our nature is represented by women only and she is the one who has to be respected and given some dignity....
its a nature's law no one can doubt on that..

mommyof2 said...

great post..

I think most of the couples here in US try to help out each other. My hubby even change dipers if I ask him to. We don't have assigned work or anything still he would sweep & mop if I ask him to but my Indian mentality comes in the way & I feel bad asking him, even though during both pregnancies he did alot at home:-)But I wonder if his family or mom was around us he would've done the same? I guess Indian family system has alot to do with our thinking different abour women.

Hip Grandma said...

artnavy:you're right.Education does not necessarily result in wisdom.

eve's lungs:welcome here.No I did attend school in Jamshedpur.My daughters went to Sacred Hearts.Were you mona kabi's or mimi sinha's class mate?

ITW:Balancing is needed in all aspects of house keeping including work load.feminism is about recognising a woman's role and treating her as equal.

monika:I went thro'your post carefully and I don't see any disagreement.Aren't we saying the same thing in different ways?I'll write another post on the points you've raised.You will then understand what I mean.

sakhi said...

The very first thing u deserve is-a hug grandma….. :)

The problem like you mention are around the world. No one is spared in this aspect. Well coming to the behavior of a husband towards wife and the vice versa definitely depend on the mutual respect they have for their partner. But many seem to make decisions in life themselves and don’t even bother to let their partner know about it. Can there be any other embarrassing situation for a partner who learns that their partner has decided about their life sitting with some third person. This is a real irony. In such situation who should/can maintain their self-respect/dignity.

Now coming to the example of the maid is worth applauding. Being feminist doesn’t mean we have grouped ourselves as someone separate. But few really understand it very wrong and end up messing their lives.

Now to just give best example of a person who has lived all such roles of feminist and is dignified, self respecting, confident, achiever, social activist and one of the most influential women is Oprah Winfrey. She is the one among the contemporaries.

And the X-factor which we all lack in India is-“DIGNITY OF LABOUR”. Once we realize and have respect for such…we would never be discussing this again. Hope all this sounded meaningful.

Hip Grandma said...

kalpana:I agree.one has to stand up for what one feels is right.No point crying hoarse unless one is willing to do it.What is important is mutual respect.

indianangel:Thanks Prasanna.You've understood my point.No I could not access the tamil blog.My son in law has offered to help.

Usha:Is'nt it amusing the way people mix up the issue?Women can make up for the lack of physical by equipping themselves mwntally.The effort should be in the right direction.

vibhor:Equal rights in most things but the biological role is different isn't it.One cannot exist without the other.Where then is the inequality?Isn't in the minds of men and women?

mommyof2:Things are changing for the better in India too.All the best.

Archana Bahuguna said...

I am so much totally with you. Feminism asks for men and women to rethink old meaningless traditional schools of thought and begin treating each others as individuals, more importantly human beings who are a little different from each other in very many ways. And to remember they have equal rights and duties and deserve EQUAL respect.

The Inquisitive Akka said...

That was a good post!

passerby55 said...

My friend was back from visitng her daughter and SIL who live close by.

She found four used tea mugs lying on the dining table. she inquired about the four mugs and was about to lift and put them to wash. when her daughter said,"dont; do it mom".

the daughter explained. that both husband and wife made their own tea and cleaning their own mugs was each one's duty, all his mugs he washed on his weekend,

my friend said, "why not clear the table and put the mugs in the sink, well the daughter said, "they are not mine"...


a lot has been said here. a post which has provoked so many views.
but for me feminism the whole concept of it has changed. i dont; see myself doing many things which my mom and mil did. not that they dont; complain, and i too have my own set of complains.

starry nights said...

Well written post Preeta.I think as you do, being a feminist in my mind does not mean sharing equal chores, in my mind I think if I am home early I just cook the meal without thinking whose job it is because we all have to eat. same thing when the kids had to be taken for basketball or tennis or math tuition. If I was home early I would or else my husband did.there was no outline of who has to do what. I think equality lies in how we percieve each other.the husband should not look down at the woman and think she is beneath him.I think it has to do with dignity and respect for each other and also to be able to listen to each others views.

Hip Grandma said...

m j:Thanks for your delightful hug.I could almost feel it.You are right about oprah winfrey and I too think she's a good example.If anything one has to bring about an attitudinal change about the division of labor in society be it man made or accorded by nature.once we understand that men and women compliment each other everything will fall in place.

archana:I somehow expected the youngsters who read my blog to blast me left and right.Thanks for understanding me.

IQA:Thanks.

passerby55:your friend's daughter is perhaps newly married.She needs to grow.Iwould not want dirty cups on my dining table 4 days at a stretch.Don't you think our mothers were as much feminists as we are?

Lalitha:that's what I wanted to point out.I'll do another related post soon

The Visitor said...

G'ma - you have 2 posts on the same topic - is it deliberate or a mistake? I thought it was a mistake. But, now I wonder whether I missed the small print somewhere (where you'd mentioned that this post was meant for women to comment and the previous post for men to comment on). If you'd not mentioned it anywhere, then I think its amazing that the comments have segregated clearly into the 2 posts. LOL.

Archana Bahuguna said...

And I know you get a lot of tags but ... you have been tagged again.

passerby55 said...

Preeta,

i thought you have uploaded one of the same post for males to comment and another for females...

was that in your mind, or is it only an error...

V N said...

I am reminded of a Reader with a Doctorate in Womens Rights and with whom I was travelling once to a Conference on Womens Rights again, where she was expected to present a paper. I was amused when she kept the mobile switched off at night, lest her hubby made a call, and found out that shes travelling with me in a train past midnight. Hmmm...

Hip Grandma said...

the visitor &passerby55:It was a mistake. Actually I tried to publish the post at 11 in the night and it did not show up in my blog.I published it again and still it did not show up. I saved the draft and went to sleep.The next morning I saw that it had not only been published twice but people had commented on both.So I let it be.

archana:thanks for tagging me I hope I have done it justice.

Velu:Education cannot help unless one is confident from within.what a contrast from the uneducated maid mentioned in the post.