Feminism & Today’s Woman

What is Feminism? Is it doing everything in world around women? Not really. It’s actually just looking at the world with a woman’s perspective in mind. After all, just as every other man, a woman too is born into the world. Today’s woman is demanding (and I have purposely avoided the word ‘asking’) her share of the pie.

Be it the East or the West, these problem is universal, even though the extent and situation may differ. But somehow the individual idioms of women’s lives around the globe which felt so personal and particular have been, in profound and often startling ways, similarly structured and imagined. These women have been self-limiting and cautious. They have imbibed injunctions not to want, not to desire, not to do unless that doing was within strictures of nurturing others and enabling them to fulfil their dreams. Whether it was ironing the spouse/partner’s shirts, remembering whether flour was needed or the baby’s nappy needed changing, women came upon their own internal patterns, which put them as midwives to the activities of others.

Today however things are on the verge of change, more so in the West still. Ambition is encouraged. In principle abortion is available. Sexual preference accepted. Women can borrow money in their own name. Collect child support as mothers. Daughters grow up believing the world is their oyster; that they can enter it as principals, not guests. They don’t anticipate that harassment may await them, equal pay may still be a dream, poverty a reality for many, that a hypersexualised culture will dog their attempts to feel comfortable in their bodies and childcare will flay them when they come to reproduce.

As their expectations clash with experience, they will be encouraged to see their difficulties as personal; the trumping of the feminist revolution by the “have-it-all woman” has privatised their experience, engendering a sense of individual failure if it doesn’t – as it can’t – all work out. Sexual violence, physical abuse at home, infanticide of girl babies, abortion denied and sexuality controlled. They may begin to see links between their own privileged circumstances and the injustices which are perpetrated on women around the world as a form of control. Hearing the struggles of women to challenge obedience, poverty, the denial of sexual rights and systematic rape and violence, they may understand the tools by which devastating relations between women and men, and women and women, are wrought. Their window into seeing the entrenched nature of female infanticide – or as it should be termed, murder – of baby girls in India or of the so-called corrective rape of lesbian women in South Africa or the sexual violence that happens in Egypt may allow them to think about the social nature of the still unequal struggle for women’s rights in the west.

As vision or as critique, feminism has touched the lives of everyone. It has been the touchstone for modernity. In the west, the women’s movement has influenced all . It has transformed education, how sons are brought up, acceptable sexual practice; it has enabled westerners to listen to children and be part of a trend in which personal experience as a testimony is appreciated for what it tells us about all of our lives. Outside the west, as women have taken up education or earning money for themselves, social and sexual relations have been threatened. Sexual violence has increased, becoming an instrument of social control and terror. And for some extent, even divorces. Probably, the shackles of dogmatic mindset are tougher to break in the East, especially India than anywhere else in the world.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. saadia k
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 11:04:56

    Lovely post. You highlight many of the issues facing women with nuance and thoughtfulness, so thank you for that.

    I especially appreciate your paragraph on the privatization of women’s experiences, as it is something that troubles me, as well — it renders women, as individuals, disenfranchised, and as a community, invisible. One can only hope that as young women come of age they realize that there is precedent for their deeply personal experiences, and others they can turn to for support, and that those who have been through it, will extend themselves in kind.

    We must assert ourselves as a community in order to advance this struggle.


  2. Being an Indian Woman
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 14:55:33

    Dear Saadia k,

    Thanks for the comments. Frankly it is that we don’t nurture our daughters in the same way we do our sons. And thus, need to share some blame of the matter of becoming so grave. The society is chauvinistic and still not much being done to make it realise what is fair?

    For instance, even today we would not like our unmarried sons to get married to a widow/divorcee but a vice versa is acceptable. We would not want our divorced sons to get married to an unmarried girl in the best case scenario. And the cycle gets so stern going forward that a divorcee with an issue or two, usually find it tough to settle down again.


  3. preeti
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 03:08:10

    Another classical example of the gross misuse of Dowry Act (498A) back in India is the case of television celebrity, Suhaib Ilyasi. India’s Most Wanted television host was in controversy after the dispute over his daughter Aaliya’s custody rose soon after Ilyasi’s wife Anju committed suicide on January 10, 2000 in Delhi. While his mother–in-law, Rukma Singh wanted custody of the child on the ground that she had the right under Muslim law, Suhaib Ilyasi had taken the plea that his marriage with Anju was not solemnized as per the Muslim law but had been a civil affair. His sister-in-law Rashmi Singh came from Canada after six months of her sister’s death and filed a complaint with the police against Ilyasi, alleging that he used to torture his wife Anju for dowry.

    The case took bizarre turn when Anju’s brother Prashant Singh and father Prof K P Singh took a diametrically opposite stand and described the allegations against Ilyasi as “rubbish.” Prashant told Express Newsline:`whatever my mother and sister Rashmi are stating against Suhaib Ilyasi is a lot of rubbish. There is no truth in their statement or in the charges filed by the police against Suhaib Ilyasi. If you are holding Suhaib responsible for Anju’s suicide, then my mother and sister are also to blame, as they unduly interfered in their family matters.

    K P Singh, a retired IIT professor, agreed with Prashant. “My wife and daughter are breaking up my family”. Both Anju’s father and brother allege that Rukma and Rashmi have given statements against Suhaib Ilyasi as `they wanted custody of baby Aaliya. When Suhaib Ilyasi delayed that, they put him in trouble.’

    Anju’s mother Rukma Singh had changed her earlier statement given in January, 2000, in which she had stated that she did not suspect any foul play by Suhaib Ilyasi. However when Ilyasi refused to give custody of his daughter, she change her statement and alleged dowry harassment against Ilyasi.

    It has been alleged for long that Dowry Act (498a) in India is being consistently misused by clever women for extortion and blackmailing. The NCRB records suggest that during 2005-2006, 94% of the 498A, 304B cases filed by women or by her relatives were primarily to settle scores.

    Section 498A in itself is, however, not meant to deal specifically with dowry — it is commonly considered to be a ‘dowry law’ because domestic violence against a wife related to dowry demands is considered to be within the scope of ‘cruelty’ envisaged by the Section.


  4. Being an Indian Woman
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 10:33:17

    Dear Ms Bhatia,

    Thanks for your comment or should I say comments? After all you put out the same one 11 times. 🙂

    A one off incident that you have indicated here would just one of the so-called misuses. And am wondering how sure are you that Ilyasi’s father-in-law is saying the truth and not his mother-in-law or sister-in-law. As personally I know neither of them, I would prefer to give all of them a benefit of doubt here.

    I would rather here focus on the NCRB records that you are pointing out. Please can you give the data rather than citation from what probably looks like a media report. Stats really can be different. I will also point out a report to you here which stated that the conviction rate under 498a was just 2%. While all reported that, none went into detail: Of 100 complaints filed under 498a, only 11 actually were seen going to court (with the rest settled at various states, like Women Cell, Out-of-court settlement). So even if 2 of these 11 matters are conviction, the conviction rate is close to 20%!!

    Let me point out something to you here. Filing a case and fighting it remains equally difficult for a woman despite the so-called gender biased laws. Laws are not written for specific cases and thus always have a room to maneuver and loopholes. These laws were first and foremost brought into existence following those pressure cooker deaths — incidents which were occurring not to settle scores but to fulfill dowry greed. And sincerely by reading what you wrote here, am sure you haven’t had a similar case in the family, which in one way is Good!

    Please open your eyes around the society. We are giving education to our women but not awareness. Women across the world are being subjected not just biases but also crime. Isn’t it high time we join forces to fight it than squabble over a dated news report referring to an incident neither actually know about?

    Good luck!


  5. Roshni
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 10:53:20

    I am at a very peculiar stage of life. I am in a matrimonial dispute and despite my trying hard, my husband wants to do nothing with me or our child. It was almost a year like that when I went to CAW and the FIR came through. Now the matter is in court for Bail (498a/406). While we had given all the bills, etc with us, the other party did not even admit those items were given and thus, the discussion at AB stage appears to be going against us.
    Further, my lawyer says that the courts are now lenient in such cases at AB stage unless there is an injury/irreparable damage to the girl. In my case as the harassment is mental, there cannot be any proof per se despite all the bank receipts for expenses, bills, etc.
    I am just amazed when I read about gender biased laws, etc. I haven’t seen any of it and really can’t say it is not hard for me.

    Thoughts appreciated.



    • Being an Indian Woman
      Aug 17, 2010 @ 11:02:35

      Your dilemma is correct. Today AB comes easy in most cases if you fight as courts have become lenient.

      The lawyers also understand the changes coming in and thus, would advise you to settle it and give a no objection to bail or even an outright full settlement. Reason: It is not only that they will get their fee, but also that you will in less hassle. Why blame the lawyer and legal system, if you decide to fight. They are the tools and call for their oiling, even though it is morally correct.

      The odd part is that if you prefer to settle to limit the hassle of going though the legal strugggle, then you are blamed to be money seeker! The other party while saying this don’t realise that they were also willing settle, for otherwise there would not have been any settlement.

      A fight is never easy Roshni. We all have our battles to fight in our lifetime. Just pick them justly. I will suggest — fight tooth and nail if you think you have a reasonable chance to win but not for the sake of fighting. And for that you need to also review the reasons for the fight. The more genuine the case, the stronger the motivation to stay firm and not continue the fight for stupid revenge. Good luck!


  6. Hypnotherapist
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 17:46:52

    Hello everyone,

    I very much enjoy your website, keep up the good work!
    Tell me what you think of my theories regarding hypnotherapy!


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