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?


srijithunni said...

Brilliantly put forward, Hip Grandma..Feminism is one most misinterpreted word.. Like you said a feminist is one who stands up and voices her opinions freely, think freely and commands respect due to her thought process. It should not needlessly get mixed up with profession and work..That is so sad..
I remember once in our college days, we were having a dicussion in our class and one girl remarked that she doesn`t want to become a housewife and sit home and look after their babies.
Being a housewife is not lesser work in any way. At the same time men, should also understand that all women are not made out to be housewives.
A thought provoking and enlightening post.!

With Best Regards,
Srijith Unni.

Hip Grandma said...

srijith:I always believed that feminism has more to do with the mind.I think of ladies of the previous generation.Their role in the family was marked out.But they made their presence felt even without ever venturing out of their homes.A home makers job is definitely not easy and a career woman juggles both but rarely gives up her duties as wife and mother.

mahadevan:well said sir!women need to be accorded the respect and place they deserve and be treated as partners.That is what feminism is all about.

Ashish Gupta said...

As a man, my opinions on feminism are usually not taken into consideration in discussions, hence nor do I offer them usually. Kind of feminism that women chose to speak in general, on blogs and news, is mostly of extreme kind, a descriptions with which authors will surely differ, probably calling me MCP in return. May be its your age or intelligence, but this is one the rare kind post on this topic that I cannot help agreeing and smiling at. First time on your blog but will keep checking now. - Ashish

Sunil Deepak said...

" , cleaning, the bearing and rearing of children etc. are not considered as ‘work’- not by her family or society but by the woman herself."
Perhaps the fact that often there are maid servants (in India) doing this kind of work also influences?

Pradeep Puranik said...

Feminism for me is the view that women are inherently equal to men and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Feminism is the realization of such equality, and not a fight for it.

Male dominated society? Sometimes I wonder why women had to accept the social male dominance? Why did they agree to be socially suppressed? Why did they not realize that they are social equals? Why did they allow it to be a male dominated society?

And today we see women taking to the streets with anti-male banners and slogans. Womens' liberation movements strongly try to regain the grounds lost by ancient women. I wonder if such demonstrations mean anything.

Anyways, a thought provoking post.


PK said...

Feminism is defficult to define. It means different things in different situations. Feminism in family and workplace has different meaning. So is the response to it by men. So often Man is labelled as MCP,when he is simply obeying the dictate of his wife! Should you be housewife because its not lessor work than being a Teacher or Consultant? Difficult choices.
Welcome to blogging. We need few Grandparent bloggers.--PK

Hip Grandma said...

AshishWelcome here and thanks

Hip Grandma said...

sunil deepak:welcome here.It could be as you say but I don't think it is the sole reason.Women who stay at home not by choice but due to circumstances seem to develpo an inferiority complex which though unjustified makes her consider her role as home maker inferior.More over she renders unpaid services and it is the duty of society and family to pay her not with currency notes but thro' recognition.They can surprise her by offering to do her work on a special day like her birthday and show their appreciation in many other ways.

pradeep k.:society perhaps did not start as a male dominated one.males being physically strong started by undertaking to protect their female relatives.later this might have turnedintto male dominance.for the smooth running of families there was a division of labor and males became breadwinners and women home makers.they compliment each other and are equals.this should be understood.

pk:i have already said that whatever role a woman takes up she should herself recognise her worth.others will follow.

The Visitor said...

Thanks g'ma for writing on this topic; I'm happy that this has generated voicing of multiple views without too much of heat. The credit goes to you. I do have a lot of (conflicting) thoughts on this topic, but am unable to put them down in a cogent manner.

I added a comment on this post to even both sides. :)

Hip Grandma said...

the visitor:If you can come up with your opinion in the matter may be I could include it in another post that I plan to write.

The Visitor said...

G'ma - I have taken an inordinate amount of time to reply, basically because of the multitude of opinions prevailing.
At the beginning I would like to state my underlying assumptions regarding women and men: I believe that there are inherent differences between them - physical, physiological (biological) as well as emotional. Given the above assumptions, I feel that each is capable of doing some tasks better than the other.

Now I would look at the question (of feminism)from 2 perspectives:

1. in the public domain (society) - here I would say feminism is about having equal opportunities to education, jobs, promotions, wages etc. and there should be no discrimination on the basis of gender.

2. in the personal domain, i.e. family life - in this area, I feel that the specific people of the family should have the understanding between each other to arrive at a suitable working arrangement. Under such circumstances there are a lot of situations where the parties involved need to compromise on (sacrifice) their stand. Usually it is the women who have to do it. It would be worth it (for the women) if there was some 'appreciation' for doing this. But in reality, to sacrifice is expected behaviour of the woman, and any deviant is thought of as a 'bad woman'. This is a pressure that women have lived with and are still living with. This situation should change.
On the home front women should have freedom of choice to do what they want to in life (free from parental pressure of what they want their daughters to do).
In their role as a wife they should be valued as an equal partner in the decision making process of the family.

From a societal point of view, women are usually subject to pressures of living upto stereotypes of the 'ideal woman'. The creation of stereotypes (role models) was probably required to have a functioning system, where roles were demarcated and there was no heartburn over who should do what. It doesn't mean that these stereotypes are necessarily right. With changing values, lifestyles etc these stereotypes are also likely to change.

We are now caught between 2 worlds, and the transitions have been fast. Earlier changes probably happened over a period of at least a couple of generations (or more). Each generation probably never had to adapt to 2 different value systems. Today we have a situation, where the same generation may have to adapt to different value systems within ther own life-time. So opinions on feminism, what are women's rights etc would also go through rapid change. Our (right)stand of today may be a totally wrong stand tommorrow (by our own perceptions).

I have been rambling; I have just given a dump of my thoughts on the issue, and there may not be a clear line of presentation or conclusions derivable from them. shows how confused I am

Finally I think that each has to find an answer for him/herself as to their stand on the issue and have a working solution.

G'ma I will take up the tag in the next couple of days.

The Visitor said...

Addendum: G'ma - just some points that I should add. Chivalry was a virtue yesterday (probably is even today in some societies), but that trait is thought of as male chauvinistic in the modern society.
Similarly to be lady-like was a virtue earlier, now it could be viewed as being pretentious and snobbish.

I am confused g'ma - not being able to arrive at my own stand.

The Visitor said...

Further thoughts - Masculine / feminine traits are considered to be socially constructed (Thinking Girl's post on Feminism) - I am still to come to terms with this view.

Hip Grandma said...

the visitor:i'm reading a book by shamuel boteach-'hating women' which talks of degrading women in the name of is written in the american context but applies to india as well.some points raised by you are dealt with in the book.i find it a good may be the last book i read before leaving for india in 20 days time.i'll discuss the book soon.

The Visitor said...

Thanks g'ma

Anonymous said...

The opposite of feminism is Masculism.

The day is not far, when men will free themselves from protecting and providing for women.

Do not you think its time women stop using their 10 year old sons as unpaid body guards and stop suppressing their emotions?

Save Indian Family

Whizkid said...

that was an interesting post g'ma. all i seek is not to be treated as shit just because i am a woman. and if anyone asks me whether i am a feminist, well yes, i am then.

Hip Grandma said...

sajna:It is important for women to understand their merit.Once they have their self esteem in place all else will follow.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully put. Equality is not uniformity.
Blog on

the mad momma said...

A lovely post. May I add, that often when I as a journalist mention that I am staying home to take care of my baby people smirk and say lucky you. Being home is now not considered a job either because we have maids to sweep and cook. But I keep a beautiful home and my son is a pleasure to interact with. there is a lot we do that calls for a lot of sacrifice that we willingly make because we enjoy the end results. sometimes work cannot be measured in the money it brings in or the number of identifiable chores either. that said, if you read my blog i think i come across as what men nowadays love to call a rabid feminist, yet I stay home....

Nandini said...

Dear Hip Grandma, I found you through Desi Pundit... I suppose I owe him many thanks.

I must say your view of feminism bothers me, because you're happy with so little: you stay in largely undisputed territory instead of taking on the contested areas.

Who but the rankest intolerants would disagree with you about women needing education? Who doesn't see that housewives (homemakers, whatever) do make a real contribution to the running of the household?

What is at issue, however, is the unreasonable burden of housework that is imposed on women *even when they choose to work outside the home*. Indian feminism - your preferred brand - has not freed women at all, we have simply ended up doing double duty!

Of course we have a choice: we can choose to assert our equality and demand that men do their share of the housework - but as you rightly point out, it so often leads to quarrels and arguments and fights that we women finally just give in. It takes far less energy to simply do the work ourselves than to fight about it all the time. And so we tie ourselves to the yoke.

You must ask: does this let men off the hook? Why is there quarrelling and fighting when men are asked to do their share? Are they congenitally unreliable? They seem to do fine in their jobs! No, these fights only happen because men see household chores as "women's work", beneath them, unimportant and easily set aside for other, more interesting activities. Women (or people who actually have been responsible for the upkeep of a home at some point) know that household chores are important, need to be done, and will not be taken care of by mummy, because mummy lives hundreds of miles away.

So that's *my* view of feminism. That is the attitude of men that needs to be changed, through arguments if need be.