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.

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