Indian Feminism

I’ve been stalking a few desi feminist blogs here (love the way she writes) and here (love the news she brings up). Reading too many is no fun (neither is reading too many of the comments, to be honest). But it’s good to be in touch with reality, as it were.

For Indian women, the ideal of empowerment seems to be the Western woman. We like to think that the white woman with her golden hair (can’t be helped that most female foreign tourists we seen in India seem to be white and blonde!) and shorts and the freedom to travel alone has no worries caused by her gender. We like to think that rape is condemned strongly, that women don’t try to put other women down just because they feel threatened by them, that the workplace is a safe and non-intrusive environment and that well, a woman has full control of her reproductive health.

Turns out that it’s not true. Congress in America can’t decide what really constitutes as rape. While religion in India seems to decide that a woman can’t give birth to female children, religion in the West seems to decide that a woman can have no control of how how many (if any) children she should have. Forget that, even men seem to feel that they get to have full control over their partner’s reproductive health. Companies in Norway have decided that women should justify longer bathroom breaks with red bracelets. Even American women aren’t safe from the all powerful, all explaining “she asked for it”.

There’s no lack of sexism here in America either. Where is the freedom that we Indian women were so sure we would find? More than half the ads on TV feature women wooed by mops, discussing toilet paper, obsessing over appliances… We might as well be living in the fifties when all a woman can do is cook, clean and keep house. (the men get beer and Viagra. Not all that great a deal).

What’s my point? That frightening as it may be, that better off as women in America may be in many ways, there’s still nowhere in the world where women can say, this is it. This is where I can just be who I am and feel safe. What’s frightening to me is that there is no end to how easily women can be pushed aside, manipulated, victimized and just simply abused.

Maybe it’s time for Indian women to start trying to find what defines us than to aspire to some kind of Western ideal. Maybe it’s time for some serious thought. There’s more coming up on this topic. Stay tuned.

4 Replies to “Indian Feminism”

  1. I’m with you on all counts here.

    The only thing I was thinking of was the idea of the Western woman as an ideal feminist model for liberated Indian women – that idea is limited to urban, educated India.

    Feminists working with non-convent-educated women from lower socio-economic groups work with a completely different model of female liberation. (Think Asmita for instance… or think of Jameela Nishat working with women in Old City – Their ideals of women’s lib are based on the kind of basic rights that we: you, me, several of our peers and colleagues – have not had to fight for.)

  2. You are right. I’ve come to realize that maybe the Western culture isn’t so perfect after all. But I have to disagree with you on one point. Although incidents of gender-based prejudice does occur in the West, the scale of it is quite less when compared to India. Also, it is generally accepted in the West (at least in the public media) that women should be given equal rights in all aspects of life. But in India, it is not so. Here, the women themselves seem to be against feminism. They are expected to do household chores (even the working women). So, the West might not be perfect, but it is definitely better than India.

    1. That’s true. I agree with your points. I guess my final thought was that The West, though better, is still not perfect and so we’ll be better off defining our own goals than just taking them as a reference point.

      Thanks for commenting!

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