Behind the veils of feminism

Plabita Baruah

Well, before I start this piece…let me make it very clear that my idea of feminism has nothing to do with man-hating. So go on men, you too can go ahead reading this and in fact I would urge you to read on as this commonly avoided issue needs to be discussed and understood. And people who cringe at the very word ‘feminism’… let me make it clear to them: you don’t hate the idea of feminism; you just don’t understand it properly.

So, to start with, the most intelligent species on earth can be classified on the basis of their physical and biological difference as man and woman. And as far as history can trace back there has been no evidence from “whoever created us” that one half should dominate over the other. Difference in the physical structure may divide the type of work that one gender is more capable of, like being the physically stronger sex; the male species can do physical labor with better ease than females whereas on the other hand, things like the special power of giving birth to a new life is something only the females are blessed with.

Now since we have always seen the world as a male dominant place, I could think only one reason so as to why the majority of the male population see themselves as a superior gender. Maybe they are not intelligent enough to understand the logic that being physically stronger does not give them the permission to do so. But then again both men and women have been created without difference in the functioning of their brains which leaves me with only one probable option to blame—our system and our society!

Let me give an example here. Some time ago I and my husband had to go to Guwahati for some work and booked a hotel for overnight stay. As we parked our car in the parking lot, a man approached us telling that he would wash the car for Rs100. We immediately agreed thinking that after travelling such a long distance on the broken dusty roads (we all are aware of the road conditions here!), the car too deserved a bit of pampering. I took out a hundred rupee note from my purse and gave the man.  And guess what? He immediately turned towards my husband and said with a bright smile, “Thank you Sir”. First I couldn’t make anything out of the thanks which was given to  my husband whereas I was the one who helped him with my money (my own hard earn money being the working woman I am). Then it slowly dawned upon me that it was almost his reflex action to think that between the two of us of course it’s the man who has to be the bread-earner and that the money I was giving away was actually his money. You may ward it off as a small incident but it was not small for me. I was hurt. And I didn’t blame the man for it.

I started realizing that this mindset was molded in every one of us right from childhood. As a child I was lucky enough to have that family where your mom is in the same profession as dad and both of them treated each other with equal respect. I saw my dad share household chores with my mom and all important decisions were made after mutual discussions and planning. But even as a child, I sometimes wondered why dad never helped mom when we were at our grandparents’ home. When I was a little older, I once overheard a conversation between our maid and mom where the maid was describing what a monster her husband was. He used to come home drunk every night, beat her up while she had to clean and cook for him every day. That night I asked my mom why the police didn’t take her husband away. (At that innocent age, all I knew was that if a person is bad the police will take him away and put him behind the bars). My mom’s long sigh indicated that she had no answer to my question.

            And then when I was big enough to take career decisions, I had a relative who literally told me that being a girl it was not a good option to go out of town to study by staying in a hostel and that I should start behaving in a more girl like manner (whatever that means!) to get a good boy to marry. But thanks to my super parents my life’s priorities were in the correct order… studies, higher studies, job and then  marriage, that too my choice being the first  choice.

So the problem lies exactly there. In the mindsets of people who make up our society. Right from childhood we teach our boys to be a man. We teach them to be ashamed of anything related to feminine. We ridicule them by comparing them to girls.

Don’t play with the doll… Are you a girl!!

You play with girls at school!!

A girl scolded you!!

Stop talking like a girl!!

Don’t be afraid like a girl!!

And you can always keep adding to this disgusting list….

So right at that innocent age we literally fill their minds with a poison. A poison that gives them the illusion that it is a shame to be anything like a girl. And as these innocent minds grow up their minds are filled with more poison, often by the older dudes who teach them how to see girls as objects; objects to be viewed, judged, bullied and used for their pleasure. Maybe I have got on some of you gentlemen’s nerves by now, but trust me when I say that, this is the scene in majority of our societies. Anyways, no offence meant to the good Samaritans.

And then under the best of circumstances a girl may after good educational qualification secure a good, respectable job. But however independent she might be after entering the bond of marriage she is told to leave her home and live in her husband’s home. And I don’t seem to see any rational logic behind this. A girl with the same qualifications and earning as much as her husband has as much right to decide whether she wants to live with her in-laws or not, as much as the boy can decide about living with the girl’s parents. And you need not be reminded of how the daughter-in-law is treated no more than a servant in many households. (For that I am lucky to have understanding and caring in laws; but not everyone is!!) I have a friend who had the strongest dreams amongst my engineering friend circle who wanted to join the air force. Her determination was like a moral boost for the rest of us. And now after the so called perfect arranged marriage, I met her as the perfect Indian ‘bahu’ who gave up her job for the sake of marriage, always clad in sarees and ornaments (she never wore anything other than jeans earlier), cooking and cleaning for her in-laws the whole day. I was astonished and of course, angry. She killed the girl who always wanted to fly so high and achieve so much in her life. And I know if you are reading this, you too can relate to so many similar examples around you because there are so many.

And if I start with the atrocities on women around, this piece will never end. And it doesn’t even need to be penned down. Every normal human is aware of the daily atrocities faced by a woman, starting from catcalls the moment she steps out of her house to more heinous crimes like rape and murder. The newspapers carry news on crimes against women daily, daily without fail. And as responsible citizens we chose to ignore everything after maybe a long sigh to carry on and compete with the rat race called life.

And that is the very reason feminism is important. It is absolutely important if you desire the well functioning of a society. And for people following the newest trend of say no to feminism, please learn that feminism in not female superiority over men. The truest definition of feminism is, “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” and “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” It does not mean women should receive special treatment or men should be put down in order for women to rise. It means treating all human beings as equal irrespective of their gender (how hard is it to understand?)

And people, who think that feminism is no longer necessary because a few handfuls of them treat their better halves as equal, note that even in today’s modern society even half of this so called equality does not exist. And that is why we need feminism. We don’t need a separate queue because we seek undue advantage; we need a separate queue because we dread to stand in the same queue as men. We need feminism because women still have to deal with catcalling on a daily basis. We need feminism because child marriages and honor killing are still common. We need feminism because the girl child is still aborted and dowry is still a prevalent custom. We need feminism because taking a quick look around you will make you realize women are still ‘the stay at home’ parent. We need feminism because being a woman I am still afraid to step out after dark and have to be more cautious all the time than my male counterparts. We need feminism because rape cases refuses to cease. We need feminism because our society teaches girls to be more careful instead of teaching boys to behave. We need feminism because women are shamelessly objectified in T.V commercials, video games and other such ads and people are cool with it. We need feminism because I have people around me who think that a man should get to be the leader in every workplace activities. We need feminism because people easily get away with different forms of abuse and other such crimes. We need feminism because I have got people around me, both men and women who do not believe in equality.

And we need feminism because it’s still a man’s world!!!


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