Sunday, September 16, 2007

Being Feminist...

I came across a rather interesting blog a couple of days ago. In fact, what attracted me in the first place was the URL rather than its content. It is called beingfeminist.blogspot.com. When I read the latest post, the content interested me too. I bookmarked it, making a mental note to go back in a few days. One of the blog authors, Christina, is an old friend from my days in WCC, Chennai. It was quite by accident that I discovered that I knew the author. Anyway, what really caught my attention was the blogpost titled, "NRI husbands, homemaking and domestic violence...." Hmm...what can I say? The authors are really passionate about what they say, and aren't scared to speak their mind. I must compliment Christina for having said things many other women wouldn't dare say.

That said, I also believe that the views expressed in the above post are not sacrosanct and can be criticised, countered and debated upon. I think Christina is perfectly right when she says that the concept of being a homemaker is so ingrained in the psyche of some women that they cannot imagine themselves as anything else. I personally know many such women. An aunt of mine is so dependent on her husband that she is incapable of stepping out of home and buying vegetables to cook. She is so terrified of getting lost, being harassed, being slandered or being kidnapped (among other things), that she prefers to stay in the safe haven of her own house. She thinks I am a rebel because I went abroad and lived alone for a year and a half. But, have we ever stopped to think why such women exist? What makes them so timid and diffident? Is it society? Family? Chauvinistic husbands who expect their wives to cook and clean for them? Yes, all these factors definitely contribute to the problem.

But, we must not forget that half the problem comes from the women themselves. I personally know many women who regarded a post-graduate degree as a passport to an NRI husband, and consequently, a better lifestyle. Other women who create that mindset are mothers, grandmothers, mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. It would not be an exaggeration to say that women are other women's greatest enemies. Working with other women can be unbelievably complicated. The same holds true within the family. It would do us some good to reflect upon what we tell our girls in their growing-up years. Mothers and grandmothers advise the girls to learn to cook and clean, to groom herself well and get a degree, any degree, so that she can find a suitable boy. It is therefore not surprising that we bring up our men to expect complete submission from their wives. Ever heard a mother tell her daughters to study well so that she will be able to find a great job and a stable career? Somehow, marriage seems to be the be all and end all of a woman's life.

Ok...so what am I saying that is different from Christina's views? In her rants against a male-dominated society, Christina asks how men can be husbands to homemakers. She wonders how a woman can discover herself in dishwashing and mopping of floors. I simply think it is unfair to blame the men for the state of affairs. Ever wondered why a man must work? Ever wondered why it is shameful for a man to take up the performing arts or choose to be a homemaker? No. We don't. The problem is precisely that. As women, we are so caught up in the web of our feminist lives that we forget to stop and look at the other side. Nobody ever questions the necessity of a man's work. It is expected that a man earn his bread and feed his family. It is very easy for us to blame the men in our lives for everything that goes wrong with us. But, think about this. Are men not human beings in their own right? Do they not have the right to want to be homemakers? Can they not cook and clean and take care of kids? Why is it that feminism thinks that women are people but that men are necessarily evil and are out to ruin our lives?

Believe in equality by all means. I completely agree with Christina's views that marriage is not the only thing in life. I also agree when she says that women must not lose themselves in dishwashing and dirty diaper. But, I feel sorry for men when she launches her tirade against them for accepting a homemaker as wife. I think being a homemaker is a more difficult job than feminists would have us believe. Whether you are a man or a woman, try staying at home for a week. And yes, get rid of that maid servant, forget your morning newspaper. Cook, do the dishes, sweep and mop the floor, cook a delicious meal, wash clothes, put them out to dry, remember to get them back in the evening and fold them up, clean up the kitchen after dinner and do the remaining dishes before you go to bed. You will find that your brain is probably more active then, than after a long hard day as a software professional. Mothers don't do this work because they are forced to. My mother would probably feel insulted if someone offered to pay her for this. So would yours; whether she is Indian, American, European or African. Mothers do it because they care. Don't believe me? Ask your mum.

Finally, the question of domestic violence. I completely agree with Christina on that one. Men who beat up their wives, or subject them to emotional abuse deserve to be hanged. Everyone makes mistakes. I won't blame parents for getting their daughter married off. The ideal solution would be the universalisation of love marriages. But since that seems at least a couple of centuries away, I would settle for asking parents not to advise their daughters to "forgive and forget" or "adjust" to such bullshit. A man who beats up his wife deserves no sympathy. Nor do parents who condone such behaviour.

1 comment:

Sudhanthira said...

Amrutha...should compliment on your write up! i enjoyed reading it..u have quite a flow..:-)

But if i can comment on a few of the things that u had written...

"It would not be an exaggeration to say that women are other women's greatest enemies."

i have heard this before. many times over! And i have always felt a little sad about it. Not because women seem to be women's greatest enemies but because of how the world perceives it! i ma sure u would agree with me amrutha when i say that all of us are conditioned by the society..both as men and women. We learn things everyday...we observe..we imbibe...sometimes we question...but more or less we do abide by the general outline. I am talking of the usual majority! So these women whom we see as 'enemies' are very much influenced by this society. This doesnt mean i justify them. i do hear you...but generalising that women are women's greatest enemies is, i would say, taking it a bit too far. The first feminist wave began with the women. The women's day rally was by the women. many of the social workers today are women. Pandit ramabai who worked so hard for women was a woman.The problem (on a larger note) is not the individuals but the patriachy at large. The androcentric and sexist society that we live in today has problems with accepting women who are 'normal'. Does this mean what every woman does is justified? no way...anyone who doesnt give another individual the right to exist freely cannot be justified. ur anger on women who make it difficult for other women is fully voted for..but my point is, the very statement that women are women's greatest enemies is soaked in patriachy. If u had noticed, our society has a very cunning way of putting the blame on women..."ha..u dont fight..u dont shout back..u dressed like that...u dont support ur kind..."...stuff! i am sure u have heard these. U see, when we say that women are the ones who are doing half of it...we are totally neglecting the factor of intense patriachy!In aknowledging that...we start empowering women...we sensitise them...and the men as well..that's where the mutuality aspect comes in...

secondly,i am not blaming all the men. i am simply blaming the ones who proactively ask women not to work. i am simply blaming the ones who do not realise that working and paying for one's own bread is necessary for every civilized person. and i do hear you...they do have problems. they do struggle with stereotypes...and yeah i am very very very open to the thot that men may want to cook and clean. infact, i want that! men and women should take equal partnership when it comes to housework. and otherwise as well!

thirdly, "Why is it that feminism thinks that women are people but that men are necessarily evil and are out to ruin our lives?"

really? does it seem like that? I am sorry if it did. i do believe men are human beings as well..and no they are NOT evil! :))

and yes, i agree housework is hard...very hard and very important! and that's why i say men should be equal partners in that!!

enjoyed ur blog!!
keep writting and be in touch!

regards,
christina
:))