Friday, July 25, 2008

Empowering Women

The world (at least the female part of it) is abuzz with noble words such as ‘feminism’, ‘gender equality’, ‘women empowerment’ and the likes. However, not many realise the actual meaning of any of these. Of course you’ll ask (those belonging to the fairer sex definitely) what is a male member of the society doing teaching the proponents of the feminist movement meaning of the words they themselves have coined? Well, I undertake the task because I am an ardent supporter of feminism myself (yes. A man can be a feminist). This I don’t do to win the approval of my lady friends or to get into the pants of unsuspecting ladies, but because I have been brought up in a family in which a woman (my mother, for the benefit of those who don’t know about my family) is the bread winner, and symbolises everything any self-respecting feminist fights for. I respect and honour most members of the opposite sex (the exceptions being disliked by their sex alike) and I seek to address this issue so as to clear the misconceptions associated with it.
First of all, feminism is NOT about male-bashing. As much as you (the ladies) may hate us (the gentlemen), it is hardly fair on our part to be criticised for everything that we do (or don’t do) simply because we are fortunate(un?) to be born male. Feminism vouches for gender equality – equal rights, equal opportunities, equal say in matters pertaining to all the walks of life. Feminism is about fighting gender oppression. It is about dowry free marriage. It is about right to live your life the way you choose (without being illegal of course). It is about her right to live…this is what I understand from feminism. Correct me if I am mistaken.
Now, wherein lays my dissatisfaction? It is in vogue to criticise men for showing courtsey towards women – we are easily labeled MCPs for opening the door for a lady or pulling the chair (or vacating one). This is not a sign of weakness on the part of the lady in question but her social superiority! We do the same (at least it is expected of us) in presence of a man who is superior to us in the social hierarchy (think the Prince of Wales for example). While it will seem fashionable, even witty, to joke about Mr. Cliton’s sexuality, God help the poor soul who commits the blasphemy of saying something similar regarding Mrs. Clinton. He will have to face the wrath of feminist lobbies from across the globe. Reason? Mrs. Clinton is obviously a lady, and a sexual remark towards a lady is tantamount to sexual harassment! This brings up another point in case, as far as India is concerned. There is absolutely no provision for men who are sexually harassed by women. Of course, on would say, that this is a figment of my imagination – no woman would abuse a man sexually (and isn’t this a fantasy of many a men?). But no. This does happen in the country that boasts of culture and tradition. Only recently a Bihar MLA was charged with sexual abuse by her guard. Then she threaten him with life if he went to the police. He did go to the police and lodged an FIR. But the FIR was lodged for threat and not sexual abuse. The case is pending in the Patna High Court.
There are other instances as well where women are treated as more than equal to men - child custody, maternal holidays, divorce & alimony…even reservation in govt. offices. Do they deserve to be treated as some OBCs. Surely they are more self-respecting than this. It is like appeasing a child with a candy bar while the parents feast on a gourmet meal. Many rape cases are judged on testimony of the ‘victim’ herself, without a fair trial. As a result there are a number of men who are doing their time in prisons. More than 60% of the rape cases that were reported in Bihar in 2007 were false. I am not saying that rapists should be let off. They should be dealt with the most severe of punishment – but the innocent should not be punished. This, after all, is the guiding principle of the Indian Judiciary. Thanks to the lopsided laws, we frequently hear about ‘husband-abuses’. It seems that the balance has swung to the other end the spectrum. This is what happens when the law ceases to be equal.
For centuries women have been oppressed in almost all the societies. And it is for the first time in the history that there seems to some hope for them to overcome this subjugation. However, their goal can only be achieved if the men cooperate with them in their struggle. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the women are weak and cannot empower themselves on their own. But lets be rational. If women could've got freedom from their enslavement without the support of men, they could’ve got it long back. Even India did not gain freedom without the support of the Brits. The question is: how do you expect us to work with you if you reackon us your enemy?


Feral child said...

I like it...from a dummy's guide to feminism to a Disclosure(Crichton's) synopsis...all in a few paras..
Point taken!

sharon farnham said...

I think women are already empowered . Today we do almost every job a amn does and some jobs better then men are doing alot of us are raising our children alone .But I didn't have to we work jobs and work at home .

puneet said...

the women are not empowered in india...we are still very much a patriarchal society

Bhaskar said...

It's surprising how many of my female friends don't like to be called Feminists. To them it's a dirty word which they equate to female superiority, misandry (misogyny, but toward men), and what they call "bra-burning feminism"

Their main point of contention is that women should not be uplifted on the basis of their gender alone.

richa said...

a well balanced article.. not juvenile or stilted at all.

Ruchira Sen said...

Controversial. I know a lot of avid feminists who'll get really pissed off about even considering the other end of the spectrum, which is partly why I agree with you.