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What feminism means to me

November 27, 2008

The feminism movement started with a fight for women’s property rights, voting rights, women’s right to their own bodies, and for protection from domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape and for workplace rights, and overall to end discrimination against women. Unfortunately like it often happens, the movement threw up a fringe element of misandrists (those who hate or feel contempt for men), but then there are an equal number of misogynists as well (men who hate or feel contempt for women), if not more. In any case, I see no point associating an average feminist with a misandrist.

So what is an average feminist all about? When Amrutha tagged me to write about what feminism meant to me I went blank, because I haven’t thought about it much and do not consider myself to be a feminist, no, not even in the moderate sense. This is because when I was a very young adult, in the eighties, feminism (which was always a movement from across the seas) had started to morph into something else, what they called the “second wave” of feminism. The global feminist movement had started to make women feel contempt for themselves if they were home-makers. There was an all pervading sense that for a woman to feel worthy she had to have a job outside the home. This even though a woman worked hard at home and contributed in other valuable ways. Being part of the privileged educated upper middle class I have seen my aunts (dad’s sisters) carve out a career for themselves and my mom and her mom worked outside the home too, but at no time did they feel that what they were doing was in any way superior to what a mother did. They felt working outside the home was a choice they had made, neither a bad choice nor a superior choice. Just a choice, a way of life. There had been no pressure on them to work outside the home and nor had there been any pressure to sit at home and do housework. In this sense they were free because inspite of there being no economic reason to “work”, they did.

But things were changing with the younger generation, my generation, and maybe it was the winds of feminism blowing in our direction from overseas. Suddenly, we all became conscious of whether we had our careers chalked out before us, and well that was good. It was good to plan a future independent of marriage and kids but what I wasn’t comfortable with was talk that getting married and making babies was infradig. Educated women who gave up their jobs after having kids were disapproved of (all this in the upper middle class cocoon that I was brought up in) and homemakers were thought to be less useful than career women, almost useless in fact. I thought this sort of attitude was degrading to women. The basic spirit of feminism, which was to give women the freedom to concentrate on raising a family and/or go out to work, had started to disappear.

Ofcourse, poor women in India always slogged, both at home and outside, on farms for example or as domestics. And lower middleclass women, at least in Maharashtra always strived to get a job and add to the family income and often we used to see matrimonial advertisements calling for “working” wives. Yes, these women always had the pressure to work outside, often at dead-end jobs, but it was an economic pressure of the kind men faced. The only difference was that both the poor women and lower middle class women had to do most of the housework as well. There was no real “prestige” associated with these women working, nor “freedom”, they all longed to give up their drudgery and it was a proud man whose wife did not “have” to work. Feminism did not touch these women or their life, not in India.

It touched us, our class of society. I feel in a way that it was because of the feminist movement (and magazines which went on about superwomen) that encouraged society to disrespect home-makers. Sure, women were in a way powerless earlier (before the feminist movement) but surely the feminist movement was supposed to bring respect to women and women’s work and give them more choices? But I didn’t see this happening. I saw that the more women did what men did and the more they beat them at it, the more respected they were. I saw that they were feeling the pressure to work outside the home and raise a family as well! I didn’t feel comfortable with this. These were my thoughts many years ago, and I can’t say they have drastically changed.

A woman should get as much respect from society and from her man whether she works outside her home or within it. Only then can she be truly free.

Men have told me that they don’t have a choice. They have to go out and earn and the pressure starts building up for boys from a very young age. Sure, it does. Society ridicules any male who doesn’t work. But I am not referring to those who don’t work, because I too have little respect for lazy people who expect others to do everything for them. I am talking of home-makers who work…at home. Or maybe at other “feminine” occupations, or part-time, or do something that is less demanding, so that they have time for child-rearing as well.

It’s a tough act, balancing a career and a home, and the choice of whether to do it should be left to the woman. If she chooses to work outside, she should not be made to feel guilty because both she and her husband are equally responsible for the children. If there are no children, the question doesn’t usually arise.

I personally do not believe that nurturing children is primarily a woman’s job, because I have seen women with and without the maternal instinct and ditto for men and their paternal instincts. I am not denigrating anyone without a maternal instinct, because even without the tenderness and loving care that we associate with mothering, a woman can be a wonderful mother, a guiding light so to say. Just like any father who despite being distant can be a great guide and role model. A father can also be someone who gives a child all the tender loving he/she requires. Children need loving caresses and tenderness, yes, but they also need guidance, they need role models for character building, they need to see a friend in their parents as they grow older, they need someone they can trust, confide in and respect and both parents can provide this together. Usually parents have different parenting styles (my description of parenting above is brief and simplistic for the purposes of making a point) and often their styles complement each other. Even if they don’t, what I am trying to say is that I do not think that parenting is solely a woman’s job. It depends on what each person in the relationship wants from life, and how the couple divides their responsibilities depending on their different skills and capabilities. If one partner does 75 percent of the parenting and housekeeping and the other does 75 percent of the money-making, it doesn’t mean that the home-body is anyway inferior to the bread-earner, whether it is her husband, or her neighbour who is bringing in 50 percent of the money in the partnership.

What I am uneasy with is when the parenting responsibilities are thrust on to another family member, usually an older person who is not a parent. We need to remember that when we talk of women’s rights, we should not just think of younger women, but older women too. They have rights as well. Sons often encourage their wives to work and demand that their mother take on the mothering role…I have seen this in several homes. Unless a grandmother is enjoying the child-minding, she should not be pressurised into it or emotionally blackmailed into it.

I have digressed from the main subject of feminism. That is because the word doesn’t hold too much meaning for me. I don’t like “movements” or “labels.” It’s individuality that we should all respect, whether it’s the individuality of a man or that of a woman.

Maybe one day, Masculinism will gain momentum and I am talking of the meaning of the word in its modern sense, the fight for men’s rights. Maybe one of the things that men will demand is the right to their freedom from the bondage of earning the moolah for the family! Right now if a man chooses to leave the economic responsibilities to the woman and chooses to be the home-body, he gets less respect than his counterpart who is in the boardroom. That is how the world is. Materialistic. Tending to the home, looking after children, and taking care of the family’s diet are less important than actually earning. Which I find strange. After all what are we earning for? Surely it is to be healthy and happy!

I tag Amit, Reema, Nikhil, Sakhi, and Shefaly because I am curious as to what their take is on feminism. However, do it only if the tag inspires you.

Related Reading: Women have feelings just like men do!!
The Devaluation of Cooking
Are (or were) Meghalaya and Kerala matriarchal societies?

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48 Comments leave one →
  1. Vinod permalink
    November 27, 2008 9:31 am

    Your independence of thought is most admirable.

  2. November 27, 2008 9:59 am

    Thanks Nita! You have touched upon one aspect I never thought about: independence of elderly women. A point to ponder, that. Really thought-provoking post. :-)

  3. Vinod permalink
    November 27, 2008 10:08 am

    What about the dressing sense, Nita? Would I be mistaken if I say that feminism has been hijacked by men in this respect to dictate how an emancipated woman should/not dress?

  4. November 27, 2008 10:23 am

    I got no problem with feminism. Its so much more bettter than the the other “isms” which plague this world.

    BTW, I’d love to know how many men respect housewives.

    “The global feminist movement had started to make women feel contempt for themselves if they were home-makers”.
    There is a good reason why this happened. Women were (and are) never taken seriously as housewives.

  5. November 27, 2008 10:58 am

    Well all i can say is this will all soon turn out like racism,where on one is sure what is right and what is wrong.As you said the first waves are all good the following ones aren’t.

    But it think girls now days know better and its guys as you said, who might be needing rights :P

  6. November 27, 2008 11:10 am

    I was looking for what “feminism” really is. I looked up Wikipedia and various websites through Google Search, but I couldnt figure out much what it really was. Until I read this post. I will ditch Wikipedia and first look up your blog for some authentic stuff. The finest post on feminism I have ever read, Nita.

  7. November 27, 2008 11:40 am

    As you said, I think the society has painted an image of a woman being at home and rearing kids being bored to death and then starting a new work life which solves all her problems.

    Once media starts to address issues which are more substantial like respect whatever is it that you do to lead the life that you wish to, then women might also start to look at feminism in a very different light and not just mere ‘ leave the house and start working’.

  8. Vinod permalink
    November 27, 2008 11:44 am

    Here’s something that is related.

    worldconnectors.nl/upload/cms/Naema Tahir Muslim Womans dilemma.pdf

  9. November 27, 2008 12:21 pm

    @ Aathira

    “..I think the society has painted an image of a woman being at home and rearing kids being bored to death and then starting a new work life which solves all her problems.”

    This was real in the 1950s suburban America. Betty Friedan experienced it and captured it in her classic book ‘Feminine Mystique’. The book is considered a turning point in feminism. If you want a more pop culture reference, look for a DVD of ‘Far from heaven’, a film set in the 1950s with Julianne Moore as the silent, apparently happy housewife baking cakes and keeping her white-picket-fenced house.

  10. November 27, 2008 1:53 pm

    Vinod, thanks. However there are others who think like this, although perhaps a minority. I simply wrote this straight from my heart.

    Amrutha, thanks.

    Vinod, I am not sure what you mean, but I have never associated dressing as such with feminism. If we look at it from an overall point of view, a person, whether male or female, should have the right to dress with freedom, within the country’s legal framework. If a person, male of female, chooses to dress in a what others consider a seductive manner, I see it as a problem of the onlooker’s morality, not of the person who is wearing a particular thing. I mean, if a a man or a woman cannot stand the way someone dresses, keep away from that person, that’s all. And I am sure that person will also be glad about it. No one has any business to impose their views on the other.

    rags, society does not respect housewives as much as it respects those who work outside the home, and strangely I find this among conservative people too, those who keep their women at home! Society includes both sexes, and people of all ages. Therefore it is natural that women would prefer to work outside the home and all the power to them!

    Vishesh, some guys only! :)

    Gopinath, this is how I look at feminism although I have written how it began and what it basically means. However the new waves of feminism are very complex, too complex and boring for me to write about here! I just wrote about which part of the new type of feminism affected me adversely and why I never considered myself a feminist.

    Aathira, it’s all individual. Some women are indeed bored to death! In fact I have a good friend who says if she were at home for half an hour she wouldn’t know what to do! I think women should follow their calling, whichever it is…because finally it is about being happy. What I find sad is when women are torn in two…they want to be home and be with their children and they want to be at the job as well.

  11. hoku permalink
    November 27, 2008 2:11 pm

    Nita@ I am a bit scary of the girls who are ‘feminists’ , so I usually try to avoid such girls and discussion on that topic. But I liked the way you handled the topic. Great job.

    IMHO tending to the home, looking after children, and taking care of the family’s diet are equally important as earning. Just think in economic terms how much you need to spend in case you outsource them.

    BTW I wanted to be a ‘house husband’. Is that a sign of Masculinism ?

    Ahh, that is where I don’t agree. You cannot place a value on a person taking care of the home and children and cooking and equate her with a maid. These cannot be measured in monetary terms. That is the unfortunate thing in our society, we see everything in material terms. If you do want to measure it this way, how about seeing how much a person spends on medical treatment because of eating out? Or what a child can suffer due to neglect (by a maid)? And well, if you wanted to be a “house husband” (which I am sure you are joking about), then it just means that you are not being one because you are trying to conform to society’s expectation of you. :) – Nita.

  12. Vinod permalink
    November 27, 2008 2:27 pm

    Vinod, I am not sure what you mean, but I have never associated dressing as such with feminism

    Nita, I think my question wasn’t precise enough. Is there a (psychological) pressure among women to not appear retrograde by dressing in a certain way?

    In other words, if a woman freely chooses to dress traditionally, does the feminist movement, in its waywardness, consider that an oppressed person? I find this particularly true of the way feminists tend to characterize muslim women when they, out of their free will, choose to dress in orthodox religious attire. Have you experienced or are aware of anything similar in India?

    Regards

    Vinod, well, in India, there is a psychological pressure on women to dress in Indian clothes, particularly as they grow older, and even in modern families. This is unlike say China, where women wear wear western clothes even in the rural areas. If a person is wearing traditional clothes of her own free will, it’s a different thing, but often women don’t and do it out of social conditioning. I have felt this pressure many times and I am sure many Indian women do too. I don’t like it but I bear it. For example if I wear shorts in the height of summer to go and buy vegetables what do you think will be the reaction? Chinese women do it, and they are an oriental society. If a woman discards the traditional dress, and there is no reaction from society, that means there is no oppression. If the society “approves” or “disapproves” it means there is oppression. So I guess it does come under women’s rights and therefore feminism. In this sense I guess I am a feminist, because I believe that every individual should be free to dress the way he/she wants. Today I would never wear skimpy clothes, not because I think its wrong, but because of years of social conditioning. One is simply not used to it and I will not be able to carry it off, not in India at least. Women who are in sarees get a lot of respect in India. – Nita.

  13. November 27, 2008 3:28 pm

    LOL…found this!!!

    http://www.mensday.in/

  14. November 27, 2008 3:35 pm

    and my blood certainly boils when i come across something like this…

    http://pndt.gov.in/writereaddata/mainlinkfile/File117.pdf

    But i am not sure if i am feminist or not!!

  15. November 27, 2008 4:20 pm

    What you have written about the rights of older women is a very valid point. I have never approved of the grandmothers (either the wife’s mother or the husband’s mother) being used in this manner. The way their (mine too) generation has been brought up many of them fail to object. They simply see it as their duty and slog on. I have a neighbor of 58 who takes care of her little granddaughter of 7 years, while her daughter and son-in-law are in US, making a career for themselves. There are many more like her in their twilight years who are helpless and unable to object. In some cases the grandfathers are not supportive either and are not ready to understand the extra load of work on the older women.
    About the homemakers, it is not only the newer generation even in mine, the general tendency is to write them off as useless. In my state I find a large share of the women ‘working’ Of course I work too, in my home. But very few people are ready to accept the homemaker’s work as ‘work’!! For me it is just a matter of my choice and I simply chose to be a homemaker. Remarks ranging from how my education has gone to utter waste to people asking in bewildered tones, ‘but what do you do?’ not to mention the zillion times people ask the stupid question ‘Do you work??’ … I have faced them all.
    Feminism for me is about being allowed to be myself (even if that is with the pots and pans). Yeah I have done the tag too!! :-)
    Oops did I make a too long comment??

    Shail, welcome to my blog. :) I too know someone well who had to look after her grandson during the first 10 years as parents were in London and working. She really suffered a lot but did it nonetheless. I think couples who cannot take care of their children shouldn’t have any. – Nita.

  16. Joss permalink
    November 27, 2008 4:29 pm

    Great post, Nita! India, Europe, United States … it’s the same story everywhere, although here in Britain most women go out to work as an economic necessity these days. Very few, middle-classes included, have the option of staying home with the kids for long. On this subject, I thought you might be interested in reading this passage from Barack Obama’s book, ‘The Audacity of Hope’.

    “For the average American woman, the decision not to work isn’t simply a matter of changing attitudes [feminist ideology]. It’s a matter of making ends meet.

    Consider the facts. Over the last thirty years, the average earnings of American men have grown less than 1 per cent after being adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, the cost of everything, from housing to health care to education, has steadily reisen. What has kept a large swath of American families from falling out of the middle class has been Mom’s paycheck. In their book ‘The Two-Income Trap’, x and y point out that the additional income mothers bring home isn’t going to luxury items. Instead, almost all of it goes to purchase what families believe to be investments in their children’s future – preschool education, college tuition and most of all, homes in safe neighbourhoods with good public schools. In fact, between these fixed costs and the added expenses of a working mother (particularly day care and a second car), the average two-income family has less discretionary income – and is less financially secure – than its single-earner counterpart thirty years ago.

    “So is it possible for the average family to return to life on a single income? Not when every other family on the block is earning two incomes and bidding up the prices of homes and schools, and college tuition. x and y show that an average single-earner family today that tried to maintain a middle-class lifestyle would have 60 per cent less discretionary income than its 1970s counterpart. In other words, for most families, having Mom stay at home means living in a less-safe neighborhood and enrolling their children in a less-competitve school.

    “That’s not the choice most Americans are willing to make. Instead they do the best they can under the circumstances, knowing that the type of household they grew up in has become much, much harder to sustain.”

    And yes, you’re right – the working woman usually ends up keeping all the domestic and childcare responsibilities when she goes back to work. Doing both paid work and work at home is a tough thing to manage, and most women I know feel they do neither properly.

    Joss, economic necessity is something else ofcourse and it is the couple’s decision. As long as it is, why should anyone else interfere? However I think quality of child care (creches) in the US and the UK are of better quality than in India and perhaps this reduces the guilt to some extent. – Nita.

  17. vinod permalink
    November 27, 2008 4:47 pm

    One thing I’ve learnt from this is the burdening of grandparents with the children in the interest pursuing a career being a misguided product of feminism. That’s new to me, both as an academic point as well as as an awareness of the family state in India.

    Vinod, this is not a product of feminism. Feminism does not say that one has to burden grandparents with the kids responsibility. This is just plain selfishness. Feminism certainly asks women to explore their inner needs and satisfy them…and it automatically means that her partner has to pitch in with his share of the work. He is the father, right? Making grandparents take care of the kids is also to save the father his share of work. – Nita.

  18. vinod permalink
    November 27, 2008 5:57 pm

    Thanks for pointing that out, Nita.

  19. November 27, 2008 6:02 pm

    I dont differ from your point of view, and will gladly do the tag as soon as i make my moron brain think of something. But i will do it for sure! :)

  20. hoku permalink
    November 27, 2008 6:09 pm

    Nita@ probably I could not make my point clear.
    I fully agree with you that house keeping and other responsibilities are now way any less than earning money. In fact house keeping, specially keeping children is much much harder. It requires hell lot of patience, love, affection and hard labor. Its much easier to earn money. What I wanted to convey is even in very materialistic term home makers save lots of money which adds disposable income to the household.
    Ok I am probably a failed Masculinist(!).

  21. November 27, 2008 6:14 pm

    Interesting post, Nita, though I disagree with you. I don’t think feminists (atleast today) think of homemakers as a poorer category; I think it is important to keep in mind that social conditioning and necessity may force many women to be homemakers even if they would like to do otherwise. When there is a child involved, in 99% of the cases, it is women who give up their careers. Even if we say it is a woman’s choice, it is worth considering why only she makes this choice. (And no, it’s not just biology, since most children would be weaned by their first birthdays).

    I’m taking the liberty of posting this link here: http://inastrangeland.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/re-imagining-work-part-1/ which talks very well of the frustrations women face in being unable to reconcile home and work. To me, clearly, feminism is needed until we reach a society where such questions don’t come up.

    I didn’t say only feminists Apu, I mean the society. When you say “social conditioning” you have actually agreed with me. :) And I am not saying that women don’t give up their careers, ofcourse they do! And ofcourse feminism is needed. I never said it isn’t. In this post I have explained why I don’t like feminism and why I don’t need it. I am not talking about whether we as a society need feminism or not, because considering that in India we haven’t given women even basic rights, if there is any country which needs feminism, its India! And yes we need feminism until the time you said we do. – Nita.

  22. November 27, 2008 11:11 pm

    Nowadays in most of the families I’m seeing the trend of having old grandparents to look over kids while their parents go and work. Thats too bad! First u bring up your kids and then their kids??? When do they get rest?

    I have seen the tag :) I will do it surely.

    Reema, I agree. Shoving the responsibility of one’s own kids on to one’s parents is sad, particularly as which parent can tell their child No, I can’t? Can any of them refuse without it affecting their relationship with their kids? If they can, if they truely want to do it it’s fine and wonderful for everybody, but how many really want to? Or really can without it affecting their life, their health? That is the question. And also I have seen that parents dictate to the grandmother how to bring up the kid, leaving detailed instructions and get annoyed when they are not followed? What the hell is this? If you want to bring up the kid your way, you need to do it yourself. – Nita.

  23. November 27, 2008 11:12 pm

    And nice idea tagging Nikhil. It will be really interesting to read a serious post on his blog that too on feminism!

    Serious post huh. Your have high expectations Reema! :D – Nita.

  24. November 28, 2008 12:18 am

    I’m not sure why grandparents looking after their grand-kids is a problem. Have any grandparents protested?

    First, most grandparents do want grand-kids. Second, if they are retired, it’s a good way for them to spend time with their grand-kids. It saves money and trouble associated with leaving grand-kids at daycare center.

    So, it’s a win-win situation, and I think if people are critical of grandparents playing a role in raising grand-kids, that criticism is misplaced. Is that a projection of some guilt on the part of critics? If the grandparents love doing it, why should anyone have a problem with it?`1

    Amit, I meant grandparents who are “pressurized.” We are not talking about those who do it happily. And I don’t know what you mean by “guilt”, because my daughters are a long way off from getting married and I intend to help them with child-rearing when they do, because I love kids. This article is about those grandmoms who are pressurized. I have seen this close-hand, not in just one isolated case, but about three. And in two of the cases, the parents were not even involved in looking after their kids! Not even a bit. I think that’s shameful, even if grandparents are taking over the role. I have seen their health suffer, their life suffer, and the burden of guilt they said they felt if they didn’t do it. These cases are just in my close circle, and I know even more cases who are acquaintances. Grandparents doing this is very common in India and I would say at least in 7 cases out of 10, the grandmoms are emotionally blackmailed or pressurised. – Nita.

  25. November 28, 2008 1:05 am

    Nice post! I would completely agree with you. If you decide to have kids, you bloody well take care of them and not pawn them off on anyone else. Growing up faced with all the supposedly feminist views having a family AND a job as being ideal (mostly my peers represented that view), I couldn’t help but reject the idea. You cannot combine a fulltime outside job with raising children, especially when they are small. You will be forced to leave them either with strangers at a creche, or with a family member. In that case the decision to have kids was a selfish, immature one to make. You either make sure you can spend enough time with your kids, or you do the grown up thing and either wait, or don’t have them.

    I have chosen for myself, I will not have kids. I’m simply not made for it. But if in case it would happen anyway (by “accident”?!) I will give up whatever I can and make the best of it. Simply because I feel that’s the right way of doing things. If not working is going to make you and your kid starve, it’s a different thing. But if there is a choice, even if it means not having a big car, spacious house and all the luxuries possible, it should be an easy one to make.

    hedonist666, thank you for expressing what I felt so directly. I agree with you. It is a question of being responsible. And also giving up the little luxuries of life for the sake of a human being. – Nita.

  26. November 28, 2008 8:48 am

    @Lotusnova Amit

    Maybe u dont know such protesting grandparents, but like Nita I too know such examples of suffering grandparents personally. At 70+ years u dont want to have a children related responsibility. All one feels like doing with grandkids is to play with them and spoil them a little.

  27. November 28, 2008 9:04 am

    Reema and Nita,

    My experience has been quite different from yours wrt grandparents taking care of grand-kids and I haven’t seen any of those grandparents pressurized to do it.

    So we are not talking about those who don’t mind it! :) – Nita

  28. November 28, 2008 9:43 am

    Nita, thanks for the clarification; somehow I understood it differently. Of course, if you’re saying you don’t see the need for intervention in your own life, that’s quite different. I still don’t get why you don’t “like” feminism though – there will be a lot of things not applicable to you, but which have relevance to society, no?

    Also, I totally buy your point about grandparents – while some do it willingly, on some there is direct or subtle pressure – especially if they are financially dependent on the son. Here too, it is usually the grandmom who is disproportionately burdened.

    Apu, feminism is relevant for society, surely you have read my posts in which I have written about women’s rights, which I consider human rights? This post is what feminism means to me and I don’t like it, for me, for myself. I have a right to reject feminism in my own life, because I have had a liberal upbringing and have not suffered dowry related woes, discrimination at the workplace, discrimination at home etc. But feminism doesn’t distinguish between those who want to embrace it and those who don’t. It wants to apply the same yardstick for all. This is not the kind of feminism I like because I think true feminism would give the freedom of choice to women. I don’t think it does, this feminism also wants to “rescue” those who don’t need it! :)
    And yes grandmoms really have it hard and glad to see you agree with me on that, although I think you actually agree with me on the other points too! :) That point you brought out about financial dependency is right, many simply are fearful of being neglected.
    – Nita.

  29. vinod permalink
    November 28, 2008 2:51 pm

    your wide angle of india i assume does not include mumbai, are you concerned about the other sex because the terrorists are males.

    This didn’t occur to me! :) Infact your statement is really funny. – Nita.

    (This is not the same Vinod, who is a regular commentator here)

  30. November 28, 2008 4:04 pm

    I not only liked your post, but also the replies to the comments. Agree with everything. For me feminism is Humanism.
    And yes men too need to shake off the shackles of expected machoism, and expectations of being protectors and providers.

  31. November 28, 2008 8:55 pm

    Nita,

    I really like this post. It is very, very mature, one can feel you made a great mother, wife and a career woman at once, and you have understanding for all these any also other roles.

    I enjoyed reading the comments too.

  32. November 29, 2008 12:35 pm

    Hi Nita,

    Well put. I agree with the gist of this post – women have the right to be equal to men. I dont know whether the term “feminism” is apt though – i’d rather coin a new term here – “equalism” and say that I am an “equalitist”! (To put things into perspective; I am a male in my mid-twenties and I consider myself as modern and having a “balanced” view of things).

    One among the many forms of equalism is gender-equalism (which IMO has been given the term “feminism”). We, in India, can achieve gender-equality only by erasing the oppression of women by men and society, which has been happening for several generations. This is only possible if men and women work towards this common goal. Unfortunately, several of the self-proclaimed “feminists” deviate from this path and instead indulge in men-bashing. The Indian blogosphere is full of feminist blogs which scream “All men are b*****ds” (pardon the expletive).

    I also agree with the comment that women should have the freedom to choose whether they want to be home-makers or have a career. I hate it when home-makers are looked down upon .. and when young women are peer-pressurised into aiming for hi-fi careers. However, in keeping with the concept of gender-equality, doesn’t this freedom rest with men too? I am an amateur blogger and photographer. But, if I were to give up my techie career to pursue my interest and passion, would society accept me? Would the same feminist woman accept as a husband, someone who cant even feed and clothe his family? I think not!

  33. December 2, 2008 12:02 am

    Nita, I somehow did not get the pingback and so I thought that I was not the Amit. :)
    I don’t know what to write about Feminism although I liked your take on it. Its much more than just the “equality” definition.
    I would like to do this tag. This is definitely something thought provoking.

    Amit, the reason I chose you is because of the kind of subjects you write on. :) – Nita.

  34. December 3, 2008 11:09 pm

    I had missed this post, and read it today!
    Great post and on a topic I often wonder about. When asked, I reply, I am a humanist. Not a feminist.
    I agree with your views completely, but could never have expressed them so coherently. :) Next time, if asked to clarify, I will give people the link to this post.

  35. ahumanbean permalink
    December 4, 2008 12:08 pm

    Nita, Nomad…the root of the issue is that in a very male-dominated society ( read: 98% of the planet), the word humanist doesn’t ‘take’.

    I am super-duper proud to be a feminist, but a humanist first.

    Caveat: In my Wise Old Age I’ve accepted that 98% of men understand feminism to read “anti-men, anti-males in society” and therefore immediately collectively gather into a defensive-offensive anti-feminism huddle. This leads to a remarkably swift deterioration of any dialogue into a monologue/rant by the average Joe.

    I’m far more cheesed off with the young-Indian-male-shouting-into-NDTV cameras than the baby-faced youngsters who were so brainwashed ( apparently due to extreme poverty in their hometowns, what a surprise there) into the gun attacks. Let’s label things for what they are!

  36. December 4, 2008 12:38 pm

    I was wondering if feminism in a patriarchial society would be different than feminism in a matriarchial society.

  37. December 4, 2008 12:51 pm

    indianhomemaker, Axinia, Nomad, thanks for your comments.

    Kiran, I quite liked the idea of “equalism.” And yes, men too suffer the consequences of this gender role looking down thing. The creative fields overall are considered not as prestigious – nor for men that is. Unless they make it to the top league.

    ahumanbean, true, men tend to be scared of the word “feminist” because of a few aggressive people. and yes I agree iwth the second part of your comment and by a cooincidence I am writing something related to that. Hope to publish it late today.

    Nandu, I doubt that there will be feminism in a matriarchal society because a true matriarchal society means that women will dominate and men will need the help. In fact there is no true matriarchal society in the world, and for that you can read this post of mine here.

  38. December 4, 2008 9:58 pm

    Thanks Nita. I will go read the post.

  39. ahumanbean permalink
    December 6, 2008 8:26 am

    Coool! I look forward to your post then!

    In the meanwhile:

    http://www.facebook.com/n/?group.php&gid=37165432771

  40. December 12, 2008 11:22 pm

    a topic close to my heart and one I’ve written about time and again. i’ll agree with you. in the 4 years i was home, i got very little respect from even my own female contemporaries. its sad that ‘feminism’ needs to define my choices and that I must bear the burden of their choice or guilt or whatever – of choosing to work. In much agreement with this post of yours…

  41. Milind Kher permalink
    March 8, 2009 10:26 am

    For me, feminism means two very simple things. One is giving them the equal opportunities they desreve, and the other is giving them the respect they deserve.

    In terms of developing talent and creating leaders for the future, nobody can do it better than women, because it is they who have havean innately nurturing nature. This is precisely what enables them to sustain relationships.

    How well women are treated is the barometer of how developed a society is. India, with the likes of Naina Lall Kidwai, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Chanda Kochhar, is off to a good start, but we yet have a long way to go..

    • March 8, 2009 10:36 am

      Milind, yes, we have a long long way to go. The women you mentioned are from elite families. The best way to evaluate whether a society is making progress where womens’ rights are concerned is to check the status of the ordinary woman. Despite the law most people in our society think there is nothing wrong in giving dowry, giving more food to boys, aborting females, the girl’s family spending on marriages, spending more money on a boy’s education, not allowign the same freedom to girls and so on. Its when the majority of people in society (both men and women) start realising that all these things are wrong, that one will see the results on the ground. The truth is that the feminist movement has never really succeeded in India.

  42. Milind Kher permalink
    March 8, 2009 11:24 am

    Nita,

    You are right. The feminist movement is yet confined to the elite. However, to make this a reality, the people who have the influence and means must strive to make a difference rather than focus on Page 3 appearances.

    • March 8, 2009 11:42 am

      Milind, I didn’t mean that the feminist movement is confined to the elite. I meant there is no feminist movement worth the name in India (feminism as such originated in the west), whether in well off families or middle class or poor. Female foeticide, dowry, inequal treatment of boys and girls etc happens in elite families. In fact stats show that female feoticide and dowy etc often increases with increase in income! If there are women who have made it in life, I think they are exceptions, and often confined in any significant numbers to particular states.
      You will get more information on this post:

      http://nitawriter.wordpress.com/2008/11/05/give-some-credit-to-maharashtra/

      P.S. Also when you mention page 3, these are the superrich, often celebrities and they lead a different, westernized lifestyle. And when it comes to inequal treatment and dowry etc, you will find it even in the richest families in India.

      • Milind Kher permalink
        March 8, 2009 11:56 am

        Nita,

        I appreciate what you have written. I visited your site too.

        Maharashtra cannot be used as a benchmark to view the treatment of women, because then the rest of the nation would suffer in comparison.

        The freedom and encouragement given to women here have seen exceptional people such as Malati Tambe Vaidya, Lalita Gupte, Kishori Amonkar to name a few. This is not confined to Marathi women. People like Anu Aga ,Sulajja Firodia Motwani and Geeta Piramal have also done very well for themselves.

        Very few states have produced so many women achievers.

        • March 8, 2009 12:43 pm

          Milind, I said exactly that – that MH cannot be used as a benchmark (although in different words). Only a few states are ahead where women are concerned. So ultimately we are both saying the same thing!

  43. Cool permalink
    April 4, 2009 9:07 am

    Very interesting post.
    Here is another take at feminism by Dr HenryMakow.
    HenryMakow.com formerly know as Savethemales.ca

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