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  • Writer's pictureK S Deepak

Feminism: A diamond in the diadem or a bandage of equity

Feminism has had a rough time depreciating itself from a topic trying to cause a change in the fundamental aspects of present society to being a topic that everyone uses but none has any clues on its value. It has become the hat everyone tried and hence has lost its form.

Feminism has become more of an advertisement strategy and, many a time, a royalty for some. I am afraid its wings and feathers have been plugged out today, and it is nowhere an ideology now.

This topic has not just sprouted in my mind from thin air but rather from my experience while commuting through the Delhi metro. Delhi's Metro coaches are designed so that either of the extreme coaches (generally the first) is reserved as a women coach, and in every coach, few seats are reserved for women. However, often I find that some women take the seat for granted and do not give it to someone who needs that seat more than her. Older people who struggle to stand and often stick to the pillars as if they are glued to them so that they do not fall would find the seat more beneficial than a young woman who, despite seeing this, sticks to her reserved seat as if the seat has been a royalty provided to her. Nevertheless, again this is just a tiny fraction of women.

In another instance, some older women from villages of Rajasthan with their traditional attire and bangles stacked to their elbows entered the metro. Seeing their face, it was evident that they were experiencing this transit for the first time and were very nervous about it. Nervous from the hustle-bustle of the urban life, they aggregated to one corner of the metro coach. Even then, none of the women in the reserved seats stood up. Instead, the boys sitting beside them gave their seats to them.

This experience made me think about how is feminism balanced with equality.

“What good is an advantage if not given to the disadvantaged”

After all, it is not equality but equity that a society like ours should aim for.

The course of feminism in India differed from that of the western journey. In the stone age, men were responsible for hunting, and females were responsible for gathering and as ironic as it may sound, humans survived more from gathering than from hunting. Fast forward to the early Vedic period, women indulged in decision-making bodies like Vidatha and Samiti. Afterwards, the rights and responsibilities of women took a downward path and had a nose dive during the Guptan era with the advent of Manusmriti. This dwindling downward path saw few uprises in modern times called waves of feminism, with the latest being the fourth wave of feminism. This roller coaster ride transformed from 'Power with women' to 'Power over women' then to 'Power to women' and is again trying to reach 'Power with women'.

Often, when asked about the younger generation's views about feminism, they point out or spew out radical feminism, which is not what Indian society is trying to achieve. They are often unaware that primarily it is the liberal feminism which forms the cradle of women's rights in India.

But then we also find a special form of feminism particularly in the backwards classes. This is something those Indian women from stigmatised sections of society face, leaving them to choose between their matriarchal fight and the fight for social justice. Not much of choice, isn't it? This is known as Black feminism.

Feminism, in its journey from WID (Women in development) to WEED (Women empowerment, environmental development), must not become a royalty that the urban sections of women inherit and take for granted. Instead, they should be taught to let go of their reservations in the event of situations where they find those privileges from society in case they find someone who would find it more useful. This is the only way we could mould back the shape of the hat of feminism.

“If the flutes are to be distributed to those who knows how to play it then why not give the seats to those who need it?”

At last, as Simone-de-Beauvoir writes that "one is not born but becomes", the time has come for this quote to have a paradigm shift in its implied meaning of women as gender being a social construct to a meaning of annihilation of typical social constructs and become a citizen of a just society.

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