I have not become a feminist after entering a girl’s college, even though I was warned about an eventuality such as this long before I took the first step into my college. No, I guess I was always a feminist in my own uncompromising and unsympathetic way. I might disregard many of the trivialities involved in the feminist movement, the almost paranoid analysis of the world power plays and the claim that each such power play shows the subjugation of women, but I cannot ignore some basic facts about the movement. So yes, I am a feminist, but I am not a typical one at that.
There are many things that I find problematic in the feminist movement, and the more I scrutinize each feminist thought the more troubled I get. There have been many occasions when I have seen people condemning the job of a homemaker, criticizing about how, when a woman is not able to make much of themselves, they end up as housewives. What concerns me deeply is the vast generalization in such an insinuation. When feminism itself demands the near anatomic dissection of every behavioral instinct known to humanity, why shouldn’t the job of a homemaker deserve the same attention?
The world revolves around the work of a homemaker. Societies have merged, converged, broken down and divided under the influence of a single act of such a homemaker. When the homemaker took up books under the influence of a benevolent husband, a generation of women of the future benefited. When the same homemaker decided to use her sewing and knitting skills for some extra money during the Great Depression, the homes of many were stabilized. When the homemaker decided to influence areas and places other than her home, families shrunk and economies became a lot more concentrated.
I suppose it is evident that while admiring the glorious beauty of the Taj Mahal, one tends to forget the apparently insignificant sweepers and maintenance men who have managed to nurture and protect the giant beautiful monument. The homemakers have suffered the same insignificance. While working non stop for a large part of the day, catering to the needs of every family member, making them comfortable in order to ensure their contribution in the economic sphere, their work has never been fully quantified, because perhaps their input is more implied and rather large. So, it’s true, I regard the work of a homemaker with utmost importance, because in a way their work decides the true course of events in the world scenario.
As I analyzed the dilemma in my head, until each little digression proved to be a tributary of thoughts in itself, I wondered what being a feminist truly means. Are we the victims of a subtle and underplayed conspiracy to keep us subjugated or are we just the same as zoo animals looking at the world through compartmentalized cages? Because it seems to me a highly unlikely possibility that every act of a man is a measure to dominate their opposite sex, and every act of ours is a vindictive act of protest against the present power equation. As a woman, I ask, why is it necessary for us to support the women’s reservation bill in the parliament? Why do we need to beg each year for a silver plate of food, when the buffet requires us to go get it ourselves? It seems reasonable to me that a reservation is made for people below the poverty line, so that their voices are heard as well. But to ask for reservation for women is to suppose that we do not have the capability to make it on our own.
I suppose women activists have their own varied reasons to screech their voices hoarse for the reservation bill, and I also understand that in way I might never truly comprehend those reasons. But what I can make out from the whole debacle is that it seems that we have been protesting against the oppressing system of subjugation and demanded the world to look at women seriously. We have proven to the world that contrary to all that ancient traditions and customs proclaimed we are indeed equal to men when it came to intellect, talent and capability. And at the apparent end of the struggle we have hitched up our skirts and moved towards to streets to demand something that we claim to have every capacity to achieve anyway.
It is true that an initial boost for women’s participation in the parliament is necessary in order to set an example for women living in near deplorable condition in the villages, and the reservation bill is just such a boost. But to demand a reservation of 33% is highly unrealistic and impractical and such an objective is bound to fall flat on its face at the end. We need reservation for women under the poverty line, for women who truly have neither opportunity nor means to get their voices heard. But to have a general reservation is to invite the elite women who in fact already have every mean and capacity to enter the parliament anyway.
I applaud the concept of the modern woman, and I suppose I have entered the identity myself. But to assume that the modern woman acts and behaves in a way that deems it satisfactory to the feminist debate is to be naïve and unrealistic. A modern woman is not only the one who wears jeans, is educated, hopes to work along with men, has a typically western notion of the world view, and turns her nose upwards when in contact with any conception that is remotely considered traditional or conventional. No, the modern woman resides in every sari wearing, ghunghat hidden, shy and demure person. We have been led to believe that an ideal feminist woman is supposed to behave in a typical way that feeds the identity of modernity that we have built up in our heads
I see the modern woman in each village lady who leaves her home at four in the morning to deliver the milk from her buffalo to the Amul factory. I see the modern woman in red ponytail tied girl who skips to school with a slate and chalk in her hand to sit under a tree and learn her a, b, c’s. I see the modern woman in each person who refuses to give dowry and stands up to domestic violence. Often the most daring feminists reside in the most unassuming physical forms, and while we try our hardest to be seen as rebellious by altering our physical appearance and spouting a few well chosen and rote learnt feminist notions, we never truly learn the meaning of being a feminist.